Sunday Magazine

Gen Williams: APC, PDP delegates chose money over integrity

Major Gen. Ishola Williams (rtd) is a onetime Commandant, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Nigeria Army. In this interview with JOHNSON AYANTUNJI, he talks about his fears for Nigeria with the way and manner presidential flag bearers of the parties emerged. He said that it is a shame that delegates chose money above integrity and character, security challenges confronting the country. He is of the view that the Nigerian Army is over armed. He bares his mind on the Sunday June 5 attack on Owo as well as sundry issues

 

The two major political parties – APC and PDP just had their conventions to pick their presidential candidates in Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar, to slug it out in 2023. What do you make of this?

 

My fear is this because of the situation you have presidential candidates above the age of 70 years. We all know about the health situation of the APC candidate. Not much is known about that of the PDP candidate.

 

The PDP candidate will choose a South Easterner as his running mate while that of the APC has an obligation to choose either a Christian or Muslim from the North East.

 

Man proposes but God disposes, the English man says. If anything happens, in the case of PDP either through infirmity or death, or serious sickness like the case of the Late Yar’ Adua, the power will go to the South East. If it happens to the APC, power will go back to the North. The Southerners, which one will they prefer?

 

The second one is that if you hear that a country is stable, it is because there is constant attempt and continuous attempt to establish equity and fairness. The presence situation in Nigeria is that the main ethnic groups keep fighting for power because of the federal constitution that we have today, we are lucky that the Supreme Court has ruled on the autonomy of the Local governments, bringing some subsidiaries into our federal system.

 

Secondly the amendment by the National Assembly which is circulating through the States House of Assembly now has to some extent increased some subsidiaries into our federal system.

 

Therefore, we are in a situation in which we should not abandon the rotation between North and South, not Constitutional, but it has become the norm for equity and fairness. With that said, when  people said this and that…

I ask a simple question. Why do we have the Federal Character Commission? Is it not for equity and fairness? It appears that from the two conventions, the delegates who said they were representing us have lost all sense of respectability, all sense of choosing character and integrity. They should be ashamed of themselves, especially those who collected money and voted against their consciences. I am sure every one of them collected money including those who voted for their candidates. To certain extent too it is a shame on them, they voted because of the money not because of the character and integrity of the individual. If we do not stop this now, we are going to create a culture that one day it is only people who have stolen wealth, who can become president of Nigeria, who can become the governor of a state, or even the local government chairperson, especially with the autonomy now. Is that good for any country?

 

It has to stop. I keep telling people that Nigeria has no problem with leadership, Nigeria has problems with followership. I ask a question, is there any country in the world where leaders drop from heaven. The leaders come from the people themselves, either through activism or middle class or elites. I do not believe many people say that the democratic system has been completely monetized and Nigeria can prove that with some of the candidates.

 

If we can have a third force and the third force can produce a candidate from the South East that can galvanise people all over the country, who is younger than the two candidates, who has proved himself in good governance. That has always been difficult in the past. We all know why. What the big parties do is to create confusion in dividing the other parties since they are all like delegates.

 

There are a lot of people too who make so much noise about national interest, but just to attract attention to themselves and for the money they will get. Look at the case of (Kingsley) Moghalu who lost the ticket in ADC (Action Democratic Party). You can imagine what will happen.

 

The Labour Party is divided in itself between the supporters of Peter of Obi and the other fellow. We all know that we need a third force. We need a credible candidate to stand as presidential candidate for that third force. I can’t say it right now but you know in politics six months is a long time, anything can happen.

 

On Sunday, June 5, a church was attacked in Owo, Ondo State, where 40 people were killed and scores injured, and we have Amotekun, what really happened?

 

It looks as if we do not learn lessons from the past. When Amotekun was created, it was created because there was a need for governors to have control over the safety and security of their states. It was clear to all of them that community comes first in making sure that the safety and security of the community is guaranteed. Who gets killed first?

 

It is the community and when there is a situation like the case in Owo, who gets killed first, it is the community themselves. It is not an invading force. The people just came into the com-  munity and into the Church, where did they come from?

 

As usual when such things they say they are Fulanis. Where were they, they are hiding in the forest. Remember that Ondo State government itself ordered everybody out of the forest of Ondo State and deplored Forest Rangers who were supposed to patrol the forest where those people come from?

 

How come that the community did not know? If there is an Amotekun intelligence system which is supposed to exist, how come there was such a big gap? Was it an inside job?

 

Or some people knew and did not say anything until it happened? Are members of the Community themselves, led by their Baales or Chiefs keeping their ears to the ground, and seeing strange things happening and not informing the Amotekun intelligence system? You know in other countries, when such things happen the head of the security will either resign or be fired.

Mum has been the word since Sunday….

 

The Head of Amotekun will resign or the governor will sack him. Olowo of Owo will sack the Baale.

 

It happened a stone’s throw away from the palace…

Then, the military will remove all the commanders and heads of the security agencies in that area and make them face court martial. If they do not take disciplinary measures like that it will continue to happen.

 

But that has always been the case?

 

Nothing has happened; the  Amotekun Commander is still in office, all the heads of those agencies are still there. No disciplinary action has been taken against anyone for the number of lives lost, and the number of people hospitalized.

 

We move on and then we say that we are investigating, everybody believe that it is the Fulanis. You know the interesting thing when they now come up and say it is not the Fulani, it is our own people, the thing will go quiet.

There are two sides of the story now. The Governor is saying that the people came from Kogi, which road did they pass that the Amotekun did not see?

 

Other than this, the Amotekun has been known to stop truck loads from the North with strange people, carrying daggers or anything and send them back, seizing whatever they are carrying. Recently they stopped one, they said were carrying ammunition. How did those ones get through?

 

The issue is that when things are happening and people who are supposed to be in charge of command and control situations, nothing happens to them.

Why is the security and safety architecture so poor?

 

I have said so, so many times about what to do, but it appears the National Security Adviser, advising the president and the president himself have been adamant.

 

It appears the president and the security adviser do not want State Police. They are trying to convince the president that they are not needed. But Amotekun has proven very clearly that it is needed.

Do you know what would have happened in the South West if there was no Amotekun. Like I told you the last time, it was too late for the South East when they established Ebube agu.

 

If they had done it around the same time that Amotekun was created. Like it was in the South south when Nyesom Wike was creating his own outfit like the Amotekun in Port Harcourt and he was backing them up. Good the governors are backing them up. Oyo is an example. Makinde is serious and he is making sure that Amotekun is working.

 

During our last dialogue, it was said that you cannot take politics out of security, because security needs funding to be done by politicians and some would say separate security from politics. Are they justified in saying this?

Look! Look!! Do not let anyone deceive you. Taking politics out of security is not true. Politics gives direction to safety and security. They just tell the president something and he repeats it, even though he is a retired soldier. Why do you make a governor the Chief security officer of his state? Why is he Commander in Chief if you take politics out of security? Why does he have a National Security Adviser? Why do governors have security advisers? Anybody telling you politics and security are different, that person is talking nonsense.

 

It was on the crest of the president being a retired officer and that he would be able to deal with the insurgency, banditry and what have you, but that has not been the case and it is so for the past seven years. It is too late to talk about that now.

 

He has less than nine months to go. Leave the president out of it, he is tired. He does not know what to do anymore. For the past two years I have been saying that if the gover  nors do not take charge of the safety and security of their states, nobody is going to take care of it.

 

The Prelate of the Methodist Church in Nigeria was abducted recently and after the payment of N100 million ransom he was released and he alleged that the military is complicit in his abduction. Do you share this view?

 

The Chief of Defense Staff himself came out openly and said that the military has been found to be complicit in some of these crimes. I have also said so many times too that there is something wrong with the Counter intelligence system of the military, of the police and they need to fix it.

What is so interesting in this is that is the DSS (department of State Services) doing its job?

The DSS is supposed to be an intelligence outfit, mainly to get intelligence that ordinary people cannot get, to see the things that ordinary people cannot see, especially within the territorial area of the country and that is why they are all over the country.

To me it looks as if they like competing with the DSS boldly written on their back and front like soldiers and policemen. They do not live up to their mandate and expectations. Again it depends on political direction, it depends on the NSA.

 

How has the military fared under civilian dispensation?

 

The Chief of Army Staff has been very honest with himself. He cried out that I need help. He told old soldiers, retired officers that if you think that you can help us please come. We are open to ideas that we can use to be able to tackle some of these problems.

 

But the first thing I will tell him is that it is not his business to run after terrorists and bandits. I did tell him in Minna last December, Please tell the Commander in Chief , separate the Mobile Police from the Police and create an independent Mobile Police and retrain them as Police Commando.

They will be responsible for handling terrorism and banditry. The State Police will provide the information that they need. This independent Mobile Police Command will back them up.

 

But the Police have a Counter Terrorism Unit aside from the Mobile and regular Police. They are to counter terrorism as the name implies. That is where the confusion lies. People like creating jobs and jobs for everyone, It is like Lagos State Neighbourhood Watch. Tell me what they are doing?

 

They are not doing the job they are supposed to be doing. You find them at the traffic junction controlling traffic.

 

No! if the neighbourhod Watch were working properly, they are supposed to be taking care of the Okada people (Motorcycle Operators) before the police. That is why are they called Neighbourhood Watch. Some of them are not supposed to be in uniform.

 

But Nigerians love uniforms. Not for anything but because of what they want to do with it – to show off and to extort money with it here and there. They have a Commander, Director General or something like that.

 

He too likes wearing a uniform. If they are really working, some of them will be Okada riders who will infiltrate the okada riders. Every state has a ministry equivalent of the ministry of Interior at the federal level.

What are the min-stries of Home Affairs doing? People are not doing what they are supposed to do. There are so much corrupt minds. If money does not come out, forget it whether people get killed or not.

They leave everything to the police. One interesting thing about the police as far as I know is that the Police used to collect money monthly from all these Unions.

They allow them to grow wings to do whatever they like. In Lagos some years back, I do not know if still happens, if the Danfo driver knows that he would go scot free if he had an accident. Why?

Every month the Danfo driver delivers to the Police and the police too know how to cover them up. If that continues to happen, how do you expect the danfo driver, the Okada riders to behave?

 

Two days ago (Tuesday, June 7, they stood up to the Police at Idi Araba and where throwing stones at the Police over the enforcement of the ban on Okada riders. Is that a proper thing to do?

 

They do not respect the police. Police! In the Francophone country, you dare not do that. Just go to Cotonou and go and misbehave, they will just blow the whistle and you are arrested. The Police have lost its respect.

Again, money. Many people have done the studies and they calculated how much all these transport unions collect every day – Okada, Danfo, millions, every month billion, no taxes. Can you imagine, they are collecting more money than Lagos State does monthly.

Can you imagine if Lagos state were collecting taxes on those money made by those unions. But Lagos state will leave them alone, because of politics. They can use them for politics.

 

There are so many things that are happening and they are becoming a culture, and the politrikians like I call them not politicians who are playing tricks and not politics are creating an environment for this culture to be entrenched in our society. We have the worst organized system in the world. How can a group of people be collecting money without control?

 

They are modifying it now, they call it the Park Management System.

 

They are joking. They are not serious. Which park are they managing? Have you been to the parks to see some of these parks, they are not maintained.

 

At least the one in Agege they are building remains uncompleted. The one Ambode spent a lot of money on in Ikeja, of what use is it?

 

Still talking about the military, even if they have the best of the equipment and their morale is low, they still cannot perform well, what is your view on this?

 

To me the military is over armed for what they are doing.

What do you mean?

 

They do not need all those sophisticated equipment and hard wares. They do not need all those Tucarnos.

 

Like Brigadier General Gumi (rtd) although he is a medical officer said, it is not the Tucarno that will stop the terrorists. I read one shocking one even though it has been written long ago, a helicopter went to a village in Southern Kaduna and killed about 32 people.

 

A Helicopter. I do not know whether it is a fake news. Where did the helicopter come from? How come nobody knew? Our intelligence system is not working well; counter in-  telligence system is not working well.

 

 

Is that when they have the information, they keep it to themselves or even leak information to the terrorists. Early this year in Kebbi State, about 52 vigilante men were killed in ambush in Kebbi because they were going to take on the bandits by surprise, those ones got wind of it and waited for them to come and attacked them.

 

It means like a story I read one or two years ago in which a commanding officer, told everybody to put their mobile phones on the table before they go on operation. The telephones started ringing after they has left on the operation. He told the intelligence boys to pick the phones and talk to those people.

 

They were terrorists asking those boys when are you leaving, where are you passing through. There are some soldiers and very few have been apprehended from the announcements that have been handing information to those terrorist.

What about the Prelate of the Methodist Church who said that the military is complicit in the kidnapping. The place they took them to was near the military location. The Chief of Defense Staff himself said so. It means that something is wrong with your counter intelligence.

 

What is your view on the general situations in the country – inflation, killings, and abductions?

 

All these challenges and problems here and there is a question of subsidiary. If you can solve a problem as the local government level, solve it, if you can solve a problem as the state level, solve it, if the local government cannot solve it, go to the state. Most of the problems can be solved at the state level, you do not need to go to Abuja.

 

But that is the way our Constitution is configured.

 

Yes even those in Abuja are not looking at subsidiary as a conflict management and resolution mechanism. They are looking at it from control of money. How much percentage will go to the federal government?

 

That is why you have a situation in which Amaechi could afford to cancel a university in the south south and build a university in Daura and within the period of seven years, the institutions that have been placed in the president’s home town – polytechnics, military hospital, university and what have you. It is nothing but abuse of power, abuse of opportunity.

That is why it is good for states to control their resources and contribute money to the federal government for defense, foreign policy, central banking and so forth. If a state does not develop it is not the problem of the federal government. Also, it will force many states to merge, especially in the North.

 

The Orosanye Panel made recommendations that some ministries, departments and agencies (MDA) doing similar things be merged or scrapped, the government has even issued a white paper on it, but government is yet to implement them…

 

The president say go ahead with a particular policy. That is where the civil service and the civil servants come in. It shows you the power of the civil service. If they do not want anything to happen in this country,

 

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