Revving critical national issues as Madueke launches autobiography
No doubt, the story of the 30-month Nigerian Civil War of 1967 would remain a critical point for discussion anytime Nigeria is being examined in history to project for a better future. So also the agitation for restructuring and June 12, 1993, presidential election, acclaimed to have been won by the late business mogul, Chief M.K.O Abiola but annulled by the then military Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. These issues seem recurring and cannot be overlooked as they impact on national discourse.
Twenty-one years since Nigeria returned to civil rule, those factors that led to the civil war, the unending agitations for restructuring and the perceived domination of governance system by a particular section of the country are still visible markers that still haunt the country and continue to stifle its development. As a matter of fact, most of the issues have not been adequately tackled much less put in proper perspectives in a manner that could have helped in reshaping the nation’s growth and development.
These factors were part of issues that were publicly deliberated upon, when former Chief of Naval Staff and one-time Military Administrator of Anambra and the Imo State, Admiral Allison Madueke (rtd), launched his autobiography last week. It is entitled Riding the Storms, with God in My Sails at MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos.
Many of the dignitaries that graced the event, among whom were retired and serving military officers, politicians, governors of Imo, Anambra, Enugu and Lagos States, leaders of socio-cultural organisations, university dons, diplomats and two royal fathers – Alake of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo III and Obi of Onitsha, Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe, expressed hope for a better Nigeria if only those who run the country’s affairs could take some necessary steps.
Narrating the story of how June 12, 1993 presidential election truncated his military career 25 years ago during the regime of late Gen. Sani Abacha, the author, Madueke, revealed why he was sacked unceremoniously from the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC). While noting that the factors that led to the annulment of Abiola’s mandate are still very much visible, Madueke said it was because of his support for the release of the acclaimed winner of the most free, fair and credible election that he was fired.
The author said he decided to tell his story so that no other person would tell it for him, saying, “When you have been in public office, all your actions can be interpreted in different ways. I will tell you a story. The one that comes straight to mind is the incident that led to our retirement and my fellow victim is here (Rear Admiral Akin Aduwo). One of the stories in this book is ‘The Arms Deal’ published by Classic magazine. It was two weeks after I had been retired, and I was inspecting a project in Lekki when I saw the story. Two of us agreed not to talk to the press, and that was what we did.
“Now to justify our sack, stories were spurned that I was importing arms in naval ships and that, when they landed in Apapa, the security came, and before they came, they were told they had been sent to a warehouse outside Lagos. And when they traced it, they only found a cigarette seller.
“…I was accused of joining forces with MC Ali, the then Chief of Army Staff. But, as we have it here, many months after I was retired, we were in Enugu and a journalist met with us and told us that the negative newspaper publication was given to them to syndicate to newspaper houses but no media house accepted to publish it except one.
“So, that is the reason I have to come out to say what really happened. From all intents and purposes, we took a stance that was for the benefit of this country, and we agreed that, if we were sacked, frankly, we don’t belong to this place (Provisional Ruling Council). So we went; we’re still here. Some of the people who sent us home are no more alive.”
Madueke also stressed the need to restructure the country so as to give more responsibility to the states. As a former military administrator of two states, Madueke is in a position to speak based on his experiences. He said the 36 states of the federation have been excluded from major affairs of governance that should impact ordinary citizens positively, noting, “Nigeria would continue to wallow in problems until it is restructured.”
He argued that restructuring is not a physical thing but a policy structure, saying the exclusive list that contains what the states cannot participate, thus putting too much weight on the Federal Government to the exclusion of the states.
“With the way we are running as a unitary government, the problem linked with previous administrations will continue until we restructure this country,” the author warned.
Giving instances, Madueke recalled some of his ordeals, particularly his inability to repair some roads during his days as a military administrator because they were designated federal roads. He noted that states should have a lot of resources to be able to repair bad roads in the country, while expressing concern that the quality of roads in the country is abysmally low.
According to him, “It is difficult to stay in Abuja and know the roads that have gone bad or the ones that should be done in Nigeria. When I was governor in Anambra State, I could not do some roads because I was told they were federal roads. Roads are built in other countries for 30 or 40 years without anybody touching them. As long as you have the resources to build roads, there is no reason why you cannot build roads that will last 20 or 30 years. Nigerian roads don’t last more than five raining seasons and they are all bad. Why? It is because of how the roads have been designed. Have they been designed to carry small weight? Have they been designed to carry trailers and oil tankers?”
In his opening remark, chairman of the event and former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Aduwo (rtd), said one outstanding character of Madueke is his detribalized nature when it comes to appointment as “he always goes for the best without placing sentiments on ethnicity, religion or relationship.” He revealed that it was his ingenuity that prompted he appoint as naval attaché to the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States.
Emphasising the need to chart a new path for the country if it must progress and meet its aspirations, former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd) said Madueke had revealed a lot in the book and it is a must-read for all Nigerians who are thinking of charting a better path for the country out of its present predicament. Also, a former Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Professor George Obiozor, who read the citation and presented the book, said, “Madueke’s life has been wonderful and his candour acceptable. If you read the book, it really shows that the author is very educated.” The renowned diplomat also recalled those years when all the ethnic groups that make up Nigeria blended and related as one unlike what is obtainable today.
While reviewing the book, Prof. Paul Egbuna Modum, a bosom friend of the author for over 68 years, said two greatest achievements that would outlive Madueke are his doggedness to complete the construction of Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNN), Akwa, while he was serving as the Military Administrator of Anambra State and the completion of Imo State Airport during his tenure as administrator of Imo State. He also commended Madueke’s contribution during the Abacha administration, saying, “The author’s contributions, especially his courage to speak the truth in defense of the mandate of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, which Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd) annulled, are outstanding. It was his courage to stand for the truth that eventually truncated his carrier in the Navy.
Professor Modum and Oba Gbadebo emphasised Madueke’s passion for the need and commitment to redesigning the present governing structure of Nigeria.
Also, a member of Abacha’s PRC, Major General Chris Ali (rtd), rated Madueke as one of the finest officers Nigeria ever produced, adding, “There are two officers from the eastern part that we respect. They are both accomplished. They are both well trained. They are both gentlemen. They are the hallmark of leadership from the character point of view. Admiral Alison Madueke is one. The other is General Ike Nwachukwu.
“Anyone of these could have been chief of army staff or chief of naval staff in the UK or US, and they would give the right leadership. So, I want to say I am impressed with Admiral Madueke’s intellect in the book. I’ve not read it, but I know what he stands for. He’s the kind of man you’ll like to go to war with, and, if he’s at your back or moving you forward, you’ll see, and have confidence that he’ll achieve his objectives. In the Nigerian Defence Academy, they teach you about General Montgomery. We have our own Montgomery in Nigerian military. We have our own Ike Nwachukwus. We have our own Alison Maduekes. There is no need for training our men through the character of other people. You tell them about our own heroes. That’s how you build the national consciousness in your country.”
Also lamenting the state of the nation, President-General of Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze, Chief Nnia Nwodo, said the issue of Nigeria must continue to be discussed until the country attains its utmost. To him, Madueke has raised some critical historical points and analyses that would be of immense help to those in the struggle to set Nigeria on the right path must-read.
Other dignitaries at the event were Dr. Pascal G. Edozie, former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, Nigerian singer and songwriter, Onyeka Onwenu, erstwhile Minister of Cooperation and Integration in Africa, Dr. Bimbola Ogunkelu, representatives of governors Lagos, Enugu, Anambra and Imo States and representatives of Chief of Naval, Air force Staff, and Chief of Defense Staff.