Dr. Victor Omololu Olunloyo, former Governor of old Oyo State at 81 is still a delight in his intellectual prowess as he was over three decades ago when he sat at Agodi government house Ibadan. Though he told this reporter that he was not feeling well, in this engaging interview, he spoke eloquently and passionately about the current economic crisis, the Niger Delta and Biafra agitations and other issues. Excerpts:
You said Nigerians should pity President Muhammadu Buhari instead of vilifying him over the political and economic crisis in the country at the moment. How do you mean?
Buhari is both a lucky and an unlucky man. He has been in power at a time when Nigeria was gentler than this. There was a time he lost an election and he was caught weeping. It is now that he has won that he should weep. He should weep not for himself, he should weep for Nigeria. The problems that face him and his cabinet are gargantuan. Yet, he has been fully exposed to the problems. My own line of reasoning which is logical and non-parallel is that he has been governor of nowhere else but Borno State; he knows the terrain, he knows the people but there was no Boko Haram then. He had been Minister of Petroleum at a time of N2.8 Billion saga which is now chicken feed compared with what both civilian and military people steal. It used to be said that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man, but the judiciary has been poisoned by the politicians through bribery and corruption by the legislature and the executive. Lawyers are the beneficiaries of these because they have made tons of money. Similarly, it has been said that the ministry and civil service are the last hope of good administration in this country; people like Asiodu, Ayida, Ebong and the Arch priest of the civil service, Sir Simeon Adebo; of whom we may never see the like again, a head of service who rode a Morris Minor or the administration of Awolowo which covered nine states now, no Deputy Governor, no First Lady, no array of cars and they worked three times a day. In the morning they worked in the legislature, in the afternoon, Executive Council, in the evening, the party secretariat, it was near his house. He was a visionary. As far as I’m concerned in my own judgment, I liked him very much, everywhere he was, Oke Bola, Ikenne or Park Lane, I always visited him even without appointments and he always attended to me.
In the case of Buhari, he was minister of petroleum. Perhaps, the major problem of the three being faced in the country is the almost wicked rise and fluctuations in the price of oil, diesel, gas and kerosene which affect everything. This cost of fuel and then the nearly cover up of the fraud through subsidy… They are brilliant Nigerians. One of the most brilliant Nigerians in banking was Ajagbusi Ekun, Oba Dele Olasore, the Aloko of Iloko; if you go and read his book, you will be shocked to the bone marrow that the subsidy thing, he forecast it 29 years ago before it happened. I’m not surprised about events in Nigeria. The year he was made Managing Director of First Bank and announced Banker of the Year, he was removed largely for speaking the truth. 29 years now. So, one should feel sorry for Buhari.
But he was a former Head of State…?
Cuts in… He was a former Head of State, he was a former governor of Borno, he was a former petroleum minister, I don’t count PTF, I think my friend, Abacha felt he was restless and wanted to keep him busy. So, the three most important problems facing Nigeria today, he had been there; head of state, how to run government, running a mono economy-oil and he’s trying to change things by appointing honest people like former Governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi going into Solid Minerals, some nations don’t have liquid minerals, only solid minerals like coal in South Africa for generations. But now, he is faced with all these problems; insurgency in the Niger Delta, Boko Haram, the Chibok girls; in two years they found one girl. One of the most frightening things is that people with big names, people we regarded as aristocratic, well educated, people regarded as good soldiers in the military, Alex Badeh is national and international disgrace; Fani Kayode; I don’t want to comment on Falae. I feel sorry for Buhari, if they appoint you to carry a very heavy load, it is then you should cry. Nigerians are very funny, they would congratulate you, they would wax record for you. There is no room for him to sleep. Last time, he had a poor Attorney General, Chike Ofodile who gave Buhari a bad name by backdating death sentences and Decree 4 against the Press. All these were mistakes and he must have learnt from his mistakes. But we have to sympathise with him. The variations in the policies are too severe. Air travels, David Mark, I used to mock him that he has two names, one from the Old Testament, David and the other from the New Testament, Mark. He used to say air travel, communications is not for the poor, forgetting that he comes from a poor, non-descript part of the country. Great men, Idoma but they are marginalised, there was no telephone in his town.
On Buhari, people are already saying he is clueless like Jonathan. What’s the way out?
If they are saying he is clueless, who has clues? You can’t trust the civil servants entirely. When we were overthrown in the first republic, many of them took land in Ikeja. I’ve been in about 50 parastatals, All Defence and Technology agencies in Nigeria; Oodua group, WNDC, foundation members of NIPSS, Confab, TIC, Board of National Merit Award. I know the country very well, and I don’t have any land in Abuja or Lagos or abroad but I’m happy but I’m sad that the man who first made an impact on the Civil War was killed in front of his house, Gen. Mohammed Shuwa. Many of us have served Nigeria meritoriously both as military and civilians and nothing to show for it but we will be happy if those in government would improve on what we did. I don’t like the head of state being in trouble as he is now. A junior colleague of his in the military is being found with billions of naira and buying houses or renovating them worth millions for his son. In the Military, there are hopeless ones amongst them in the civilians, there are also hopeless ones amongst them. During the civil war which was very well conducted by Gowon, there was a time we had only one million pounds left in foreign exchange and it was cocoa money. Cocoa now is almost confined to Idanre. The schools are hopeless, Oyo State came 24th out of 36 last year. Though Ibadan and some other towns have been beautified, but education is very important. As for Buhari, I’m very sorry for him. There are many people who can assist him in unofficial capacity. There things they could contribute and the roles of traditional rulers. The last election was of the bribing of traditional rulers and bribery by all the parties. You cannot put the whole of the problems on Buhari’s neck or it will break. And the APC is a synthetic which party contains CPC of Buhari and a small faction of the party, ANPP, ACN and many others like Atiku who recently wisely suggested reconstructing of the country which is a sing song several times. There is a lot of sense in what he says I don’t think there is equity, there is still murmuring in so called Biafra though nobody should be talking of Biafra now but group of eastern states. it took a long time before any Ibo man could become leader of any of the Armed Forces, Alison Maduekwe was the first as head of Navy. Though the character of Igbos, they belief in the small villages and they are well knit and when it come to economy and they do not care about small posts. Look at Pius Anyim, former Senate President, the number three man downgraded himself to later become Secretary to the Government distributing Exco memos. That should not happen. One of the finest gentlemen who have occupied the post, we have many like Enwerem and my friend Chuba Okadigbo but Nnamani was one of the finest of them as senate president. So, people should leave Buhari and stop talking about his inadequacies because he has been prepared. That showed the nature of the complexity of this country; even when a man is honest or ostensibly so, and has been prepared for the office which he occupies and other offices where there are transcendental problems like Niger Delta, breaking of pipes, oil, downstream, upstream and the Chibok Girls and Nigerian Army can only free one pregnant girl after two years who may have been infected with HIV, I don’t know. It’s a disgrace. I think it’s wise for Buhari not to have gone yesterday to the Niger Delta. Let me give you the reason why it was wise not to have gone. The day they were going to kill a head of state; they killed one head of state in Ibadan before my very eyes. I was driving my wife from the University of Ibadan to UCH when soldiers stopped us and told us that this would be the last time we would see such contingent, of this head of state. I have heard from Dahomey that he would be killed and he himself had heard, Ironsi; and he made a broadcast; he was coming for an innocuous meeting of traditional rulers of Nigeria which had been almost fossilized. He said: ‘I have heard, despite, the ugly rumours about my person, I’m nevertheless embarking on that journey’, and I laughed. The people who came to slaughter him were sharpshooters. They brought Murtala Muhammed and Theophilous Danjuma; these are soldier’s soldiers. He was told and he walked into it, just like Benazir Bhutto, beauty, brain and education. So, they might have killed Buhari yesterday, but if they killed Buhari, they would just kill the man, the problems of Nigeria will not be killed, it will get worse, and nobody might retaliate, we don’t need to retaliate, he will just be quietly buried and the problems will be there and they will get worse and worse. So, anything anybody knows that its the truth, that it can help, he should bring it out to help Buhari out. There is no question of changing to military and having Barde as Head of State; there is no question of bringing a Fani Kayode to be Vice President. He is my boy, I arranged a decent first class burial for his father for I was his follower, I always followed him; our popular dish was Eba and Turkey. When you come from a third generation of aristocrats, there are certain things that must not be found with you. You must not be accused of stealing. In my family, we can’t be accused of stealing.
Way out of Niger Delta crisis?
The problem of the Niger Delta is a military problem, insurgency there is very severe; they were indulged at one time, they were given money, amnesty, then money like protection money if they don’t break the pipes. Then my friend, Fasheun and OPC were asking for counterpart funds like that here too otherwise they will fall the pipes too. There are people I have great respect for, they
Shouldn’t be doing that. I think it should be an all out war, they cant be building under high tension wire and breaking pipes, when they know it’s a mono-economy, the country can collapse. Some countries have collapsed. Yugoslavia collapsed- Serbia, Herzegovina and others, broke into many parts. Nigeria can also break like that. They say Nigeria can’t break, it has some inner strength, there is no inner strength, its an amalgam of tribes, some of which are still going naked; there are uncharted part of the country like that Sambisa Forest that is intractable like that Guilder game, Ultimate Search.
Agitations for Biafra?
It doesn’t appear they have followed Gowon’s idea of ‘no victor, no vanquished’ and the three Rs. What we can do is to speak out, we should not keep quiet. We cannot place everything on the shoulders of Buhari. Fortunately, he has a brilliant Vice and some ministers too. The only thing is that Fashola is overloaded; they should bring out somebody to join him. We engineers marvel that this is the second time they are bringing a lawyer to that key ministry with no chemistry or biology or Physics background. Bola Ige was the first. It’s not good enough.
In 2010 in Ibadan, you delivered a powerful, brilliant paper on why Jonathan, from the minorities should be supported to contest the Presidency in 2011. With his poor performance, do you regret your action?
I do not regret, but I’m disappointed because he lied to me five times. It was Obasanjo who came to me; Obasanjo is my kinsman and perhaps the closest person to my mother. I’m an Owu man with strong connections with Abeokuta. He told me you are the only one who can solve the problem. I asked him, ‘what’s the problem’, he said: ‘we are in quagmire. The man who was supposed to write a letter to the senate can’t write. How can one solve the problem’. I said: ‘give me a week, I will solve it. When they make Constitutions, they have discussions, committees, what Obasanjo asked to solve, I simply went into my library where we are now to look for the solution. The solution had been written 37 years earlier by Rotimi Williams. Whoever you are, man or woman, Gandhi, Ironsi, Presidents do die through natural causes or violence like Bhutto; they die, all human beings die. Chief Rotimi Williams wrote a clause in the CDC as chairman of Obasanjo’s Supreme Military council cancelled it. I read further, the governor of Cross River in 2001, Donald Duke, was a member of the committee and he recommended that there should be acting President. So, I wrote my paper of brain work and patience and went to Abuja only to be told that I would wait for two days for an appointment. On the day I was to see him, I was being operated upon at an Abuja hospital for my prostrate. By the time I went back, they said the president had come and gone but that he would come back. He later came back and thanked me profusely promising to fly me abroad for treatment which he never did until he left office. He promised me five times, he phoned me in Ibadan and never did anything for me. What he did to me was terrible, I’m ashamed of him. He was also a disappointment for his people. I remembered the heroes like Isaac Adaka Boro. Unlike Psaro Wiwa, Ledun Mittee was a more responsible leader. Boro was a hero of the Niger Delta unlike the types of Tompolo which we have now. The British had foreseen these things, and this was what brought about the Wilkins Commission, so I’m ashamed of him.