Retired Cornel GABRIEL AJAYI was once a Nigerian Soldier who was arrested and charged for treason by the then military head of the Gen. Ibrahim Babangida for standing for the truth.
When the team of TOP SOCIETY MAGAZINE engaged him in an interview session he didn’t hold back any word in differentiating the military leadership and that of democratic governance, we also touch lighted the state of insecurity facing the nation and the inefficiency of Nigerian Policing system.
Guess what? Given out some solutions on how Nigerian security and economy traits can be put to an end if only the government can buy into these ideas.
Sir, as a security personnel and a senior military officer, how do you think we can tackle security challenges in Nigeria and its economy?
Firstly, it will not be right to refer to me as a security man. I am a retired and commissioned military officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I was commissioned to the core of the infantry, trained to shoot, trained to kill, trained to capture ground, trained to secure, trained to defend the territorial integrity of Nigeria, to deter aggression and when deterrence fails, to bring the entire war into conclusion favourable to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So you could say that my concern is principally and primarily on external trait to the nation rather than internal trait to the nation.
The Police and the DSS are actually responsible for internal security and survival of the nation. As a military man, l am in a position to render assistance. That is what the constitution says – Aid to civil Par. My primary duty is therefore for the defence of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the external aggression. In truth, there could be external sabotage operation internally to assail or decay her from inside.
On the basis of assisting the Police in maintaining security is why you see Soldiers doing the security job with the Police. When you talk of internal security l believe that the trait to our economy is externally induced by internal contradictions, so as the economy of Nigeria is challenged security wise, so the economy of other nations.
You see, many people do not know this, the finances and the economy of the world thrives on 40 per cent of proceeds derived from crime, oil bunkering, cocaine pushing etc. People turn blind eyes on all these things, though we have money laundering laws. If America wants to enforce money laundering laws their economy will nearly collapse because their economy thrives on these illegal trades.
In our country people are not security conscious. People go into unnecessary spending. You can see people waste so much money on burials and unfortunately our business is not on the productive sector. The security challenges we have in Nigeria is on production and consumption. When you talk about the oil business, it is still facing the challenges of consumption and not really for production. Some people may ague with me, after all many of the companies that are producing use diesel to power their generators which is an aberration because we are supposed to have electricity without interruption. Under normal circumstance these companies are supposed to spend on only by products of oil and not diesel.
When you look at security, you will consider the challenges on the productive sector of the business economy and the productive sector of business and economy of Nigeria. How far have we gone on this is the question because Security is the responsibility of everybody. The standard security knowledge is lacking here. For instance, a child can call the fire service if he is properly educated on the hazards of fire. How come kidnappers live with us and we don’t know them? The Police will always think we know them but it is not so. There’s one man who’s just been arrested whose name is Evans. He could be called and looked at as a Pastor, an Evangelist, an Alhaji, Shirk or camouflage himself in that guard of Ecclesiastical or lslamic Order and we will still look at him as a nice gentle man, without knowing what he does for a living. People cannot determine who he is except by propaganda which is baseless. The real person in him will be hidden from the public because Nigerian is not a security conscious nation.
The only country that is security conscious in the whole world is Israel and that was born out of experience. Unless we demystify it, the use of our brain and wisdom to look into such areas will not be possible.
Our men of God also have contributions to make; our traditional rulers have contributions to make because in the past, some Kings were commanders of their own Army. Security is the totality of the defense mechanism and not something to be left in the hands of a few people, Police and DSS but the baby of everybody. Unfortunately, we are yet to start securing ourselves.
You called me a Security man, a Soldier is not a Security man but a defender. Security is in the hands of the people, DSS, Police etc. The point l am making is that since all of us come from the same society, we have the same duty. It‘s just the diverse training that makes the difference. The aggregate of this leads the aggregate of the Security of the nation. Thank you.
Looking at the recent performance of the Police in the efforts they made to arrest the notorious kidnapper Evans, will l be correct to say that the Police is beginning to get it tight in terms of national Security?
You see, I have a different feeling about that, I think the policing system has to be restructured. It has to be departmentalized. We just have to have a police system that will be workable. Arresting just one man, arresting Anini or a single notorious man does not make them great.
If the country can equip, cloth, feed one hundred thousand police men properly so be it not to have two million or more hungry looking men without hope and aspiration.
A part of our problem today is one of the things learnt from the colonial masters, the believe that we are serving the government instead of serving the people.
Also policing should be a local affair, some of them are not even as security conscious as they should be. There is a problem, we have security management problem, security command problem, we have directive problem. What is the national directive? IGP, what is the mission giving to the IGP, what about the police men who killed innocent people, how many of them were arrested, I had what the commissioner of police for Lagos state said and it hit my heart and I pitted and sympathized with him.
I put myself in his position and I know he is frustrated. We blame sometimes but they are not given what they required to work with. We have to take care of their welfare, for instance when they are on patrol you should give them hot tea to warm them up and encourage them.
Some of them are killed during operation and the government cannot raise money to take care of their families, and those wounded cannot get good medical treatment, we need a compact policing system that can conveniently take of our security personals, the sense of nationalism in our security people should be so tight that they would be prepared to lay down their lives to work for the government. How can a man lay down his life for the government, who is the government? We need to understand that we are not serving the government but the people, if I say I’m serving the federal republic of Nigeria many people will laugh at me because it was what happened in the colonial era, when they were serving the queen and that is why they still oppress the people their suppose to protect.
When you arrest it doesn’t mean you should put someone to torture. Whatever you do, you must give account of to your maker, it doesn’t matter if you are a police, solder, teacher etc.
I did see anything they have done in the arrest of Evans, that is their job anyway. They need reorientation that will change the concept of serving the government instead of serving the people.
A single man will be given fifteen police men to guide him because he is a Politian or highly placed individual, but what happens to the common man who thumb printed to bring him to power. There is no need for a commissioner or a minister to have special security squared.
You should serve the whole people and then when the environment is secure, you don’t have any need to send special squared to any special people. We must build policing system that will ensure no more security traits.
They are so many Evans in all areas of life. We have Evans in politic, we have Evans in economy, in business, in banks etc, the only difference is that he is been caught, he represents what is everywhere.
You go to the market and what you see is counterfeits drugs, and every Nigerian is a doctor. Somebody will tell you that is was what he used to cure so and so sickness, and you go and buy it because the medical system is so expensive. Since people cannot go to the hospital, they patronize fakes, quarks and things like that.
I have experience this because I live with the common people, I grew in the village, I went to village school and when we were students in the secondary school the water we were drinking in our school they can even use it to cook today.
They inequality in the system is added to the level of insecurity in the nation, for instance the major fight of the government of the day is fight against corruption, but corruption. But Injustice gave birth to impunity, impunity gave birth to corruption so what do we do? We need a new Nigeria, this should born in the minds of everybody, without that we will continue like this. You cannot eat your cake and have it.
As a military personel your experience in government of the military and today you are experiencing democracy. How can you compare these different governments?
In the first place, I want you to understand that the military regime was a regime of expediency.
Before I answer your question let me make this explanation. It is just the word military government that makes the difference, the system is still the same because you had the chief judge who was not a military man, the only institution that is lacking is the parliament, the national assembly, the state assembly but the executive is still there because what constitute the executive is the head of state, infact the same people and the same bureaucracy we have in the army that we have in the civilian regime. There term used as a legal or historical term called aberration. You cannot compare what has no basis in law.
Infact you cannot compare military and civilian regimes, as far as I’m concern there is nothing like military regime, so you cannot talk of comparison.
I gave a lecture at the army day celebration of 1994 Bunny Camp when I was adjutant general and I said that you cannot establish a government based on the principle of defence or to grab the machine gun.
If you establish a government with machine gun and grenade then that is military government and any other group can also rise up, grab the machine gun and take over.
One thing you journalist in Nigerian don’t understand is because you still have the Nigeria army. There is no country in the world where the military ruled that the army is surviving today, the armies of the countries that have been governed by the military are no longer surviving.
Today in Uganda they have the national resistant army because the original army of Uganda has been killed, in Sudan, it is not the original army that is there now. Even in Ghana, Benin Republic, Togo, Congo Democratic Republic, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia- the original armies have been destroyed.
Come closer home to Liberia and Sierra Leon, where are their original armies? They have all been destroyed and even The Gambia has destroyed their original army.
The one and only country that experienced military ruler ship with their armies intact up to date is the Nigerian army.
The reason is that the military intervention has always been in the tiny minority of the military with their civilian collaborators. The period of military rule in Nigeria was a period of hostage so you can’t compare the life of people who are in hostage with the people who are free, no matter how floured the democracy is, there is still one principle there….the principle of subject to review after a period of time. This review is the election, the period of transition, weather election is rigged or not everyone will go for the next election just as the acceptable terminal of this present government is still 2019. For instance, we are running toward the end of the present administration and nothing will stop it.
There is no a president who can on his own say that there will be not election or handing over on the 29th of May unless the constitution is amended by the parliament and the due process followed and of course put in the constitution, signed to law and then made official that we may not be able to hand over on such a date.
You saw how IBB was changing the goal post because by then Nigeria was under hostage. Freedom is freedom weather controlled or partial freedom. Please you should never ask for comparison at all because there are no bases for that no matter how good it may seem to be, we were held hostage.
The only Military take over that has succeeded was the Egyptian military take over on 1952. When they took over they had a mission to make Egypt a Republic as against being a Monarch.
The free Egyptian Army officers told the most senior officer-General MAGUIP to be the head of state two years after that. In 1954, the effected the change that gave life to the present Egyptian Army by handing over to Colonel Nasar.
Colonel Nasar made a profound decision and tendered that all officers who wanted to join him in the government must drop their uniforms. He declared that those who wanted to wear uniforms remain in the Military Service. This was how the present Egyptian was formed and why the Egyptian Army has remained stable.
Two years later, Nasar formed the Egyptian Socialist Welfare Party. General Anwar Sadad who was a Lt. Colonel in 1954 became the Speaker of the House of Parliament of Egypt which deliberated on policies and government matters.
In Nigeria when the first Military government took over the Parliament was dissolved. Though there was no way the Parliament would have remained, all the same, if the polity would have been different if the Military took over in January 1966 and by March or April organized election and put in place the Parliament even with a Military Head of State and do the Presidential election before the year runs out. May be there may not have been the crises that led the civil war in Nigeria.
One of the charges for convicting me was that l never liked the Military regime and to be frank l never liked it. One of the books written by Lt. Gen. Ockran, a Ghananian, he talked about the evil in Military regime.
Don’t ever compare Military regime with civilian regime because on is hostage while the other is democratic. If you are held hostage by a kidnaper, no matter how rough your house may be or how difficult things may be with you, it cannot be the same. You can see that from 1966, we had a group of Kidnappers who kidnapped the nation and made them hostage and people started to fight and negotiate to get it back, so the period of Military rule was a period of hostage and we were all prisoners of war.
The Generals you talk about in history did not take over by grabbing the machine gun. General Charles De Gull, General Washington, General Churchill, these men served their various nations by effecting fundamental changes. They didn’t run a kind of relay where Military Governors were in power. They didn’t have the same principles and policies. You can only compare democracy now with the first republic – 1960 to 1966, then you compare 1999 till date. Remember there was an interlude of January 1966 to January 1970 which should not be included.
At what point did you join the Military and can you share your experiences with us?
I had an obsession to serve the Military since 1962 when l was in primary six. In fact in 1964 when l was in class two in the Secondary School my father used to call me Major. I used to love the story of David because he was a great man of valour and a man of God and my grandfather wanted me to be a Pastor and of course my father was an accomplished teacher from the 1940’s and his name is synonymous as a teacher in the whole of Ijesha and Ibadan. Till he died he was still a Headmaster. He wanted me to be a lawyer but what the Bible said about lawyers did not please me. The life of David pleased me so throughout my days in the Secondary School l was called Jet Bomber.
When we were to pass out of school the principal wanted all of us to go in for various professions so he made available forms for us to fill. I filled the form and also told him l wanted to be a Soldier or a Journalist. By January 1969, the first job l got was to be a Reporter with the Nigerian Tribune located at Adeoye Ibadan. A friend who was working there took me down that day to meet his brother who was an Editor as at that time. As people were coming that morning to take exam he said l should wait and join them and that day Professor Ayo, the prolific writer and l were there. I then got the job to work as a Reporter but my obsession to be a Military man never seized.
I got the prospectus of NDA and applied and they sent me a form for the 10th Regular Course. I wrote the examination at University of Ibadan and passed without even knowing l was going to pass. I was called for interview without knowing anybody and was taken and that was how l joined the Army. You can see there was no bribery and no godfather or help from any person. I was outstanding in the Secondary School and even in sports. I was the President of the Christian Students Union at that time.
Papa gave us the opportunity to develop ourselves, he made us know the importance of studying and today l have a Library where l read so many books covering all the disciplines of the world. I did not have a good time in the Army because from the beginning to the end everything l met was wrong. My job in the Military was not easy because from the very beginning to the end every experience was wrong so l started hitting my head against the wall. One officer met me on one occasion and when we were talking he said, Gabriel l am surprised you were able to reach the rank of a Colonel, l thought you would have come out as a Captain or Major. He said so because he was one of our teachers in NDA. He also pointed out that l was the only person who used to ask terrible questions. He remembered vividly when l asked why a Section should be ten, why not eight or twelve so we can call it a dozen. How did they arrive at that?. Till today nobody has been able to answer that question and l doubt if anybody in the Military knows why a Section should be ten men.
I will stand my ground and question so many things and in fact that helped to make my stay in the Army difficult. You can see that the Colonial heritage is till pledging on us. I ran into various turbulent winds in the Military but it was June 12 Election that nailed my Military coffin. If there was no June 12 Election, I would still have gotten to the rank of General. It was when they annulled June 12 Election that l was so aggrieved that it could happen to anybody. How could one single person cancel an election held by a nation?. The same person could as well wake up one day and slash the size of the Army and send as all away and nothing will happen.
When they were planning to pull the rug under the feet of the agitators l was a good candidate to use for a coup for a challenge of the annulment of June 12 Election so l became a victim. My Commander who was my immediate Boss, Ishayi Bamaiyi put my name, though l have forgiven him. He was indeed an unprofitable master but l was a profitable servant. He really dealt with me severely, l was tortured, dehumanized, disgraced, dishonoured and thrown out naked to the market place and that was the end of my career with the Army without reward, without compensation, without anything, haven served this nation for thirty years. I feel very sad, you see l showed you a petition and twenty two years after, we are trying to write another one to the Vice President and l pray this gets to his hands so that he could look into our case again with the Minister of Justice. I really didn’t enjoy the Military but l served to the best of my ability while l was there. I believe by Biblical projection that whatever you want to do, do it well. I like to let the people know that the first thing l did after l came out from NDA was to study the Bible to know what the Bible says about Military course and one of the things in the Old Testament is that they are not supposed to shed the blood of war in peace time. It is Moses law in the Book of Leviticus to the children of Israel. The Second thing is that we should not do violence to anybody. When John The Baptist was preaching, the Soldiers were afraid and asked him “What shall we do”. He told them, as Soldiers do violence to no man neither accuse anyone falsely and above all, be contempt with your wages – that in the Book of Mark Chapter three, verse four or there about. St. Paul writing to Timothy said “No Soldier on duty entangles himself with civilians, but obey his Commanding Officer. Civilian affair has to do with the government, and we are not supposed to overthrow the government. The Bible tells us in Second Samuel that it is like seed of divination.
I followed the injunction of the Bible for my Career but unfortunately l did not succeed in my Career as a Soldier. Today, God has given me so much knowledge and wisdom, a lot of things l would have done for the government l couldn’t do because l was not given the opportunity. I can’t go to the Army Head Quarter and say l want to advise them on what to do because of my rank as a Colonel, they will say, what he has got to offer us. But if l were a Major General, they will say – Oga come inside. I lost greatly, the nation lost greatly and the Army also lost greatly by what happened to me. I don’t want the government to change the commendation of Mr. Justice Chukwudifu Oputa in the Human Rights Violation investigation Commission called “Oputa Pannel”. Once they review that recommendation to the government, we’ll be relieved. My passion is never again will that kind of a thing happen in Nigeria. We were innocent people. If not for the Heroic cry of everybody in the nation, the vibrancy of the Press in Nigeria and the presence of the International Community, America and Canada that made them to review the various death sentences.
We are asking the government to do something so that future generations will have the nostalgia that there was a Vice President who did justice. One of the things that put me in trouble during Abacha’s regime was that l wrote him to de annul the June 12 Election and the Title of the petition was “Let People Say There Was a General”. They used it as a case for Treason against me when they found the paper in my office. I am not a happy Soldier today because l’m not fulfilled. God gave me a lot of talents but l can’t use them because l don’t have the opportunity. I remain on my own on this uncompleted building in this remote part of Ogun State in Lagos.
Every Soldier is subject to 3 D’s, dismiss, discharge or dead – everyone knows that. As far as near the uniform you must pick one of those D’s. Thank you.
Thank you Sir. It’s nice talking with you.