WILLIAMS: No General Can Unduly Influence Buhari
ANYONE that says someone, military or civilian, can impose anything on Buhari does not really know the man. He is a very difficult person to influence, except when he is convinced he was wrong and you are right; he must be convinced about something before you can claim to have influenced him. You will remember when he recently met with the Peace Committee and they were telling him about the rule of law on corruption and stuffs like that, he listened to them quite alright, but didn’t he insist that he would have to go after those who had taken from the national treasury what they shouldn’t have taken? And that he doesn’t care about who they are? That shows you the kind of person that he is. And he seems to be particularly determined along that direction.
Of course, in other areas of policy directions, others with necessary experience in certain areas of decision the government has make, Buhari has to listen to them and he would be influenced based on the informed advice. And I suspect that might be the reason why he has been taking his time in the last three months; to be able to sort himself out along that line. Eventually, I believe he would come out with the best policy and appointments under the current situation. That’s why some of the hues and cries do not necessarily bother him.
Are you saying that the populace has nothing to fear about retired military officers hijacking this government?
Well, I am a retired general and I have not visited Aso Rock, talk less of meeting the President or influencing him. I don’t know how many retired generals that are trooping to Aso Rock to influence the President. But the point is that, if for purpose of doubt, such thing happens, it must be a very negligible number of generals. Secondly, anyone who seeks to influence Buhari in a way different from what he has promised to do in office, be rest assured that he would not listen to that person. To me, I strongly believe that influence of retired generals on President Buhari is decidedly very limited. In any case, most of these people you are talking about were not even with Buhari in the last 12 years. Were they? Were they even the people that made Buhari become President? We must have to look at issues very carefully. If the visit of former heads of state is what is appearing worrisome, Buhari cannot just shut the door against everybody. Don’t also forget that the President is occupying the property, Aso Rock, of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not private property. There is limitation to the extent he would refuse to see certain individuals.
Don’t you think the President has been running a close administration, reminiscent of military regimes?
No, I don’t think so at all. The thing is that many of you have failed to understand these issues. Of course, there are certain steps one feels you should have taken, but he has failed in doing so –– for example, appointing ministers and putting in place the Federal Executive Council (FEC). But at the same time, I believe that he has a kitchen cabinet and up till this moment he has not disbanded the presidential advisory committee, headed by Ahmed Joda. At the same time, he has been making some key appointments.
here are certain key positions where he has made appointments. And the people that he has put there, except in few cases, are people one would not fail to appreciate. I am talking of the appointment of Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) group managing director, as well as, the recent appointment of the managing director of the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) Ahmed Lawan Kuru, among other similar appointments. These are what we should look at. Now, there are some controversial ones too, which one does not agree or see the sense in. For example, the one of Lawal Musa Daura as the Department of State Security Service (DSS) boss. I do not agree with that because the President is breaking with the tradition. And I do not believe he cannot find somebody in the hierarchy of the DSS system, who still has few more years to go before retirement, to appoint as the DG, instead of bringing back somebody who has retired some years back. The case of the Independent National electoral Commission (INEC) chairperson is another case in point. I don’t know what made the President to discountenance what the former INEC boss, Prof. Attahiru Jega, had put in place and replace it with this present lady there, Mrs. Amina Bala Zakari, even though, she purportedly retired in June. Why did you have to do that kind of thing? What surprises me is that there are so many qualified Nigerians at home and abroad, who can do the job effectively.
Despite your military background, you have been in the forefront of enthronement of democratic values and the rule of law. Do you suspect any act of despotism, judging from the body language of the Buhari-led administration?
We have passed that stage in this country. Even from the way the civil society movement operated during the military regime, which is not comparable to the administration we have now, he will never attempt to even do that. Why? Right from the word go, he has realised that people are looking at him like the way they are looking at him in the 1980s, and he is trying to prove them wrong that the period 1980s is different from the period 2000s.
We are in a new age, this is the 21st Century and there are certain things that have gone with yesterday. The environment in which he is operating now is different from the environment of the 80s when military government was fairly tolerable in Africa. But nowadays, it is not always so. People will stand very much against any attempt at dictatorship or any kind of thing. Not only will the civil society movement in Nigeria act, the international community will support them. It is not going to happen.
Are you saying that that no one has anything to fear about this administration becoming dictatorial?
Yes, but you will be surprised too that many Nigerians also believe that there should be discipline. Some have been calling openly for war against indiscipline.
Yes, some people are talking about indiscipline, but we just have to be frank with ourselves; some of us can be very difficult, if not openly irresponsible. I have never seen a people, except Nigerians, that would know that they have to be at a place at a particular time, and would willfully leave late for the place, only to start rushing all over the place, creating chaos along the way and taking the wrong way. How many capital cities have you seen in the world where people drive on the opposite side of the road, motorcycle will ride on the wrong side of the road, LASMA and police will just be looking at them. So, the point is that Nigerians themselves know that we want discipline. You go for workshop and the time is 9:00 am, but they will not start until around after 10:00 or even noon.
But when some of these things are being implemented, it is people like you in the civil society group, that normally talk of the rule of law and human rights.
Well, but you see, what is on ground is that most of civil society groups make me laugh, because some of them too, in their behaviours and attitudes, can be very irresponsible to the extent that if they get some money from somewhere to make noise, they make noise. Some are just making noise for the sake of it, to be heard or just for the journalists to know they are making noise. But their noises are not making any change in the society at all. However, my worry is that the government has joined in the noise making. The government spokespersons must discontinue inundating the public with ‘we are going to discover the loot; we are tired of hearing that. If you recover it, come and tell us how much you have recovered. You don’t have to talk everyday.