Desmond Mgboh, Kano
Colonel Yakubu Bako (retd) was the Military Administrator of Akwa Ibom State from December 1993 to August 1996. He was a diligent officer during his time and one of the few dramatic personae that made the General Sani Abacha years tick.
He was also accused of complicity in an alleged plot to overthrow General Abacha, and was imprisoned, but later discharged and pardoned after which he resumed a civil life in Kano State.
In this interview, he spoke on a range of topical issues, among them the incessant killings and banditry in the North, the need to drop non-performing security heads in a bid to stem the incessant killings in the country, the recent Executive Order by President Muhammadu Buhari, the planned sharing of Abacha loots among the poor and the intrigues of 2019, among others. Excerpts:
2019 is fast approaching and, of course, there are anxieties and concerns, so what is your reaction and feeling in this regard?
Let me start by saying that I have also read so many versions of permutations regarding the next elections. Some people are of the opinion that it would be tough, others are afraid it would be violent just as there are those who are strongly of the view that it would be peaceful. I think that what is happening now, in my view, would allow one to have a true picture of what would happen in 2019. The reason I say this is that there are some alignments and realignments still going on in the polity among the members of the political class. Some people are moving in and out of their parties. I think that until the alignments and realignments are concluded and exhausted, it will be hasty to make a hurried prediction of what it would look like come 2019. Out of the APC, we now have the Reformed APC. Among the members of the APC, there are those who say that they would not go with the Reformed
APC. Until such realignments within the political parties are stabilized, there is no way one can make a concrete analysis of how 2019 is going to play out.
From where we are today, how prepared do you think the Buhari administration is to play by the rules of fair play and others?
The nature of politics to expect in 2019 would be largely dependent on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). If Prof Yakubu is sincere, definitely he is going to conduct a very credible election for Nigeria. But if he is not sincere, then we are going to have some problems. His sincerity is key to 2019. I was once in INEC. I was once the Chief of Logistics in INEC and I know the intrigues and power play that goes on within the electoral commission. Most of it would depend on the chairman and his team. If they want to say, I want to be independent, then you will see that they are not likely to be influenced by any political party and that would inevitably be of benefit to the country.
Many people would like to know about the present political standing of Buhari in the North. Is Buhari still as popular as he was in 2015? Is he still the Buhari, who is a myth or has he lost many grounds in the region?
In 2015, the attitude of the people in the region was “let’s get Buhuri and we would be able to have change. And let us not vote for the incumbent president”. As of today, I can assure you that with all the intrigues going on in the political landscape, Buhari must have lost some of his support in the North – when I say the North, I mean the North, North-West and the North Central. Certainly, Buhari has lost some of his old support base.
But in your view, why do you think he has lost support in these places?
Well, my guess is that it may be because of what is happening in the country right now. Do not forget that there have been a lot of killings and some people, rightly or wrongly, are associating it with his failure to…. Some people are feeling that he is not taking the matter as seriously as he would have done. And the issue of killings in the North is not limited to the North Central alone, even in a state like Zamfara, that is in the North-West, there are also a lot of killings. This has given the impression that he is not serious in containing these killings. And the seriousness is not for him persay to go to the front. The seriousness is for him to give a directive to those who are concerned to make sure that the killings are stopped.
President Buhari has made for himself a number of new political rivals in the North. To what extent do you see this as contributing to the slide in his popularity in the region?
It depends on how you look at it now. But generally, it cannot be denied that the totality of support for Buhari has been divided and is down.
Many of the state governors have voiced out that they do not control the police in their state and should not be ascribed with the title of Chief Security Officer of their states. As a former Chief Security Officer, how do you see this objection?
Well, let me say that it would be wrong to compare a military administrator with a governor. In our time, ours was just a one-way thing. Where the Commissioner of Police is not toeing the line of the central government, the military administrator would go to Abuja or to the central government and complain and the Commissioner of Police would be sort of disciplined – let me say it that way. But right now, the political situation has made it difficult for the democratically elected governors to be in charge of their states in terms of security. This is because the Commissioner of Police takes directives from the AIG and the AIG takes directives from the Inspector General. My own take would be for each governor instead of being combative against the central government, you can always meet the Commander-in-Chief and draw his attention that this and that is what is happening in your state and I am sure that the Commander- in-Chief would be able to call the situation to order. I feel that it is a give and take situation. Once there is a problem, especially on security, you should present it to Commander-in-Chief and certainly, he would do something.
There has been a national clamour for the replacement of the nation’s current security chief as a step to ending the escalation of killings across Nigeria. What’s your take on this sir?
If you follow the number of requests or demands for the replacement of service chiefs, I think we would be having new service chiefs every three and six months time. Having said that I will decline to support a situation where you leave a non-performing service chief in his position. The Commander-in-Chief should be able to review the situation and say….
(Cuts in) In a nutshell, do you feel we need to change our present service chief?
The Commander-in-Chief is the one who knows what they have been doing. Are they doing it right or not? If he feels that they are not doing what he wants them to do I see no reason he should not change one or even all of them.
You are a Nigerian and the role of the service chiefs is to protect you. In the light of the rampant killings in different parts of the country, are the service chiefs performing well enough to be allowed in office?
But the service chiefs are usually not in the frontlines. They have the commanders….
But the bulk falls on them as service chiefs?
My opinion is that the moment any service chief is found wanting, they should just sack him. Straight. There are no two ways about that. There should be no sympathy and there should be no-taking-it-easy situation. It is a straightforward thing. Any service chief found wanting should be sacked, he should not be allowed in that office for 12 hours, talk more of 24 hours. I support that 100 per cent.
There is a move by the administration to share the money repatriated from the loots of General Sani Abacha. There is also the criticism that the timing, a few months to a major election, is suspicious, what is your response?
The big question is who are you sharing to? Is it to the poor or is to those that are involved? Is it going to be shared to those who made it possible for the money to be repatriated to Nigeria or is it going to be shared to the poor?
They said it would be shared to the poor.
How then do you define the poor? (pause), or are you going to the villages in search of poor Nigerians? So many questions …who are those to manage the distribution of the money? I could have preferred that they say, “this is the Abacha’s money returned; let us do a project that would benefit every Nigerian. That is the way I look at it. Or they would say, “ this is Abacha’s money returned. He is from Kano. Let us construct a standard gauge rail line from Kaduna to Kano so that it would benefit anybody coming from Kaduna to Kano and back. The beneficiaries would be everybody, rich and poor, all Nigerians.
There are lots of concerns about the recent Executive Order signed by President Buhari, empowering the EFCC to seize property under investigation. The order appears to be a little bit dictatorial and militarized in nature. What do you feel about the order?
There is no democracy in the world that you would not find a little bit of dictatorial tendency. Even in the US, which we all look up to as democratic model, there is this small tendency to undermine rights in face of national interest. I was there. Throughout my four years there, my phone was tapped. Is it right? And the FBI has the right to come and arrest you and keep you for weeks in the face of national interests…. In that case, national interest takes priority over personal interest anywhere.
Looking at the content of the Executive Order, do you not fear that the implementation would be abused, don’t forget that in Nigeria, we know how to abuse everything?
No! The President should be able to check the abuses. What I think the Executive Order would do well is that it is going to help minimize the rate of media trial
Finally, do you have this fear that come 2019, if Buhari loses the election, there might be trouble in this part of Nigeria?
Look Buhari, himself as a person, if he loses the election, he would pack and go back to Daura. Buhari as a person would not shed the blood of a chicken to win election. He would not want to shed the blood of an individual to win election. No! Maybe his supporters…. Like what happened in 2015, if 2019 comes out and he sees he didn’t win the elections and he says “yes I have accepted this result,” there would not be trouble. It is if he says “No!” I don’t agree with the results….
So you are saying that with his supporters, there might be trouble if he does not come out hurriedly to accept the elections results if it is unfavorable?
Yes, like we had in 2015. If Jonathan had not come out hurriedly to accept the results of the elections, there might have been trouble in some parts of Nigeria. My take, therefore, is that the same should apply in 2019. Whosoever loses in the elections should make haste to concede defeat like what we had in 2015.