PROFESSOR TAM DAVID-WEST
Professor Tamunoemi Sokari David-West was born on August 26, 1936 in Buguma, Kalabari, Rivers State. He has had a long and distinguished career as an academic, virologist, civil/public
servant and administrator. Professor West was educated at a number of universities around the world; beginning
with the University College, Ibadan, now University
1956-1958; Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA, 1958-60 (B.Sc); Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut,
and McGill University, Montreal Canada, 1964-66 (Ph.D).
He began his teaching career as a consultant virologist and senior lecturer at the
University of Ibadan in 1969. He
was appointed professor of virology, at the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, in 1975.
Professor David-West has served his nation in several capacities, beginning with his
appointment as Commissioner for Education and member of the Executive Council of Rivers State, 1975-79. He was
appointed a member of the 50 man Constitution
Drafting Committee setup by the Federal Military Government
under General Murtala Muhammed in 1979. He also served the General Muhammadu Buhari military government as Federal Minister of Petroleum and Energy, from 1984 to 1985.
Professor West was retained as a federal minister by the General Ibrahim Babangida regime after the palace coup that removed
From January 1986 until September 1986, Professor West served as the Minister of Mines,
Power and Steel in the Babangida regime before being dropped during a cabinet reshuffle. Following disagreements over
matters of conflicting interest, Professor West was jailed for one year by the Babangida junta for allegedly accepting
a gold wrist watch as bribe, from a foreign business man, while he was petroleum minister. That decision was adjudged controversial and a plot by the junta to humiliate David-West. Today, Professor Tam David-West continues to be a prolific writer, critic and commentator
on public policies and wears his prison experience as a badge of persecution for speaking
out about “the sleaze” he believes took place in that regime.
About Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, former senior editor and correspondent at ThisWeek magazine and
Guardian newspapers in Lagos, holds a BA from the University of Ife (now
Obafemi Awolowo University)
and an MA from the University of Lagos.
A freelance writer, journalist, poet and novelist, he is the author of The Missing Link, a novel about "the last man".
Paul Odili is a Lagos based journalist. He currently works at the Vanguard Newspapers as the
Assistant Editor Politics.
Prof; I would like to
begin our discussion with the issue of leadership. Is leadership the trouble with Nigeria?
DAVID-WEST: Nigeria’s problem is not that of follower-ship. Nigeria’s problem is the problem of leadership. If you have good leadership, it will energize follower-ship.
First, we are not lazy. We are not a stubborn nation with set ideas or mindset. Nigeria’s problem is squarely a problem
of leadership. Chinua Achebe hit the nail on the head in his small,
but very profound book, The Trouble with
Should one place the blame
on the long years of military rule?
DAVID-WEST: To say that the failure of leadership
should be blamed on the military is just a safe, convenient excuse, as it is to blame all our problems on colonial
rule. When the Nigeria-Commonwealth association invited me for a lecture, I had my title: “Fighting with the Past.”
We are always fighting with the past instead of correcting the present – “Oh, we are like this, because Britain subdued us for so long; we
are like this, because they gave a greater majority to the North. We are like this because the military ruled us
for so long…. It’s all vacuous nonsense!
We are enabling failure by our constant reliance on an alibi. The British
came here with their own programme; they didn’t come here as a humanitarian body. They were very honest. Even in
1914 when Lord Lugard amalgamated
North and South, he was honest about his intentions. He used the word “amalgamation,” and for those who studied
elementary chemistry, there is a difference between “amalgam” and “compound.” Britain never colonized Nigeria in order to create a compound
of a nation. It amalgamated the various ethnic groups for its own interest.
Now, the British handed over to Nigerians on October 1st, 1960. This is April 17, 2005, and we are still
complaining about and blaming colonial rule; we are obviously
not serious, then! It is precisely the same thing with blaming the military…no military government has come to
power without Nigerians hailing it as “the new Messiah!” So one begins to ask – at what point did the messiah become
the villain? We are not serious, not serious at all!!! And then we have this nonsensical mentality that the best military government is worse than the
worst civilian regime. That’s stupid! Nigeria’s problem is to be blamed on Nigerians and begins with leadership; sadly, we have had only two
examples of non-leadership crisis.
One was during Murtala Muhammed’s
administration; his style was unique. And whether one likes it or not, Buhari’s administration; Muhammadu
Buhari’s regime was only the
second example of a successful leadership. I believe that if Murtala had lived longer, however, history would have judged him differently. Fortunately, he died very
early. He came at a time when Nigeria needed discipline. And he provided it. I served under Buhari and Idiagbon,
and Murtala Mohammed, too as
Commissioner of Education in Rivers State
from 1975 to 1979. I worked with Buhari,
and I can stick out my neck anytime to say that there is no leader present in Nigeria that is like Buhari, like General Muhammadu Buhari; none. Obasanjo
is a very poor, poor, distant…I can’t even call him second. Why am I saying this? Buhari gave leadership by example, not sermons. He gave discipline,
and possessed personal discipline. Without personal discipline you can’t get anywhere.
Prof, you served Buhari and later, Babangida. Buhari was accused of civil rights abuses by Babangida who appears to be planning a come back after Obasanjo…
DAVID-WEST: (cuts in) If God loves Nigeria… Alright, I’ll come to the topic of Babangida. I shall compare Buhari,
Babangida, and Obasanjo without any apologies. When Buhari came into power, I believe that it
a time of triumph for Nigeria. Buhari is
as straight as a needle. He brought corporate, societal discipline through War Against Indiscipline (WAI), and such a good thing will always survive -- like cork in water; it can never sink. Now, something
as simple, but necessary and projecting orderliness as queuing in lines has been established in Nigeria. To me, that’s a great credit
to that regime! As ministers under Buhari,
the greatest amount of money we could spend without giving account was N200, a month. Anything more than that,
you had to give account. Finally, Buhari
increased it to N250. I remember we clapped and thanked him in the Executive Council meeting. When Buhari moved into Dodan Barracks, he never changed the furniture or the curtains.
When I asked him why, he said: “Look, they are usable. Why spend money unnecessarily?”
Others would have awarded contracts. As Minister for Petroleum, I had
very good relationship with him. I had a hotline with him. One day I went to visit him, and he asked me what I
would like to drink. I told him I wanted Fanta. He called his steward and said: “Please bring Fanta for the Professor.” The steward left, and for good five, ten minutes, he didn’t come back. Finally,
he came back, shaking, and said: “Commander-in-Chief, there is no Fanta.” So Buhari
laughed and said: “Professor, there is no Fanta in Dodan Barracks,
so let’s go on with our interview.” (Pauses) Listen to this: there was no Fanta in the fridge, not in the entire Dodan Barracks!
If you send Buhari a memo, within a few hours you’ll get a reply. Throughout that particular regime, General Idiagbon, without fail, to the country and
the world on national television: “This is the amount we made, and this is what we are spending.” Transparency
and accountability… I went to work seven days a week because my leader would be there. He would always telephone
me. On Saturday and Sunday, I staggered my staff. If that regime had remained in power; if Babangida had not overthrown it for selfish, personal reasons,
we would not be in the mess we’re in now. As for Babangida - he was about to be retired -- let him deny it! We were touring in Jos. Buhari said: “Those who don’t like our discipline should please
leave the Army. I have two alternatives: either I am killed or I go back to my village as a farmer.” Buhari, as Head of State, not as a megalomaniac
President, made profound statements. The very first bold statement he made was: “This generation, and indeed, future generations of Nigerians have no other country other than Nigeria. We must stay here and salvage it together. ”
Few Nigerian leaders have made statements that have been immortalised,
like Lincoln and Kennedy. And most of these statements are impromptu. Buhari talked of a fifth columnist and now, I can make the connection. How did the British know that Umaru Dikko was in the cage? If British Intelligence knew ab initio, Dikko would
not be caught at Statton Airport; the whole affair would have been frustrated from the beginning. Somebody in Nigeria leaked it to them to embarrass
the government. I do not support Dikko
being caged, but I am showing you the dynamics of the system…
Would you then say Buhari played into the hands of Babangida?
DAVID-WEST: Babangida had
no programme. I worked with him. He is a public relations man. He is glib. He has the gift of the gab. I don’t
think he is very intelligent. The economy was looking up during Buhari’s time. We were down, and everything was done to bring us down. There was the rumour that they would
overthrow Buhari within three
months. When we cut our oil price, we shook the world. They wanted to price us out of the market. For the first
time, a despatch rider had to take me to Dodan Barracks. Buhari
was once Oil Minister, so he knew the intrigues. I told the Commander-in-Chief: “We have three moves. First, don’t
move. Second, shave off exactly the same price as the competitors. Third, shock the world!” He laughed and said:
“Shock the world to show them we can survive; shave off two dollars!”
We shaved off double the amount that the rest did, and consequently,
they panicked. Britain never expected this nor Norway. Those people who wanted to bring us down never expected this. Buhari, I can walk through fire for him. That’s leadership. Sheikh
Yamani had to fly in here to
Lagos. We had
to meet later in a secret place on the outskirts of Geneva --the world press was focusing so much on me. I had to change cars three times for camouflage.
Then we sat down to negotiate whether Nigeria would get in line. I said we would not do so. I asked the British Oil Minister: “Mr Walker is it
true the Americans gave you two billion dollars or one billion dollars to undercut us?” He laughed it off with
an: “I hope it is true….” But I noted that he never said an outright, “No.”
From what you are saying,
you and Buhari stood up to the most powerful nations in the world.
What then explains the cult of mediocrity in Nigerian leadership?
DAVID-WEST: The cult of mediocrity and corruption came with Babangida. Babangida
claims credit for what he didn’t do. In the history of OPEC it has never happened that one country was singled
out and given an increase of a quota of 150,000 barrels a day. When we accomplished this in 1984, Zik sent me a letter, and that letter is
more important than anything: “From an old-timer, one of your greatest admirers, Zik.” Beautiful handwriting… “You are easily one of the most
efficient ministers produced by our country Nigeria. Zik.”
So to round up on Buhari -- had every one of our major projects become tied to oil barrels, Nigeria would not have had any problems.
We would have been able to make the IMF
irrelevant… and I can tell you that we were in the process of doing so. We had already received N2 billion through
what I called our “repayment strategy.” London Financial Times of May 1984
said it was an extraordinary strategy. If Babangida had not overthrown Buhari, Nigeria should have seen the light. I told OPEC that counter trade was a programme for survival. Saudi Arabia traded with billions of
dollars worth of crude oil not in their quota; they started before us. We had all everything, numerous resources,
yet our industries were closing down. We had no spare parts industry; there was no money, and the plan of certain
nations was to overthrow us. But we shocked the world with good leadership and good programme.
Now take the issue of oil bunkering. When the Buhari government came to power, on record there were 18 registered
bunkerers. Many people misunderstand
bunkering to mean oil-lifting. Bunkering is like going to fill your car at the petrol station. We had over one
thousand illegal bunkerers.
Buhari, Idiagbon, and little Tam David-West; we fought these illegal
operators to a standstill and dismantled them. Today, however, almost everybody in government is a bunkerer. There was a law created by Buhari in 1984: anybody found bunkering
would face capital punishment. I had over 20 letters from Amnesty International to please ask the Head of State
to reverse the law. But I replied: Oil is the jugular of the Nigerian economy. I don’t like blood. Those who want
to destroy Nigeria by destroying its life source oil, have no right to live. The law is still there, but bunkering
has become an everyday practice by those in government.
So everything changed
once Buhari was overthrown?
DAVID-WEST: Yes. Babangida
had no programme. Admittedly, he is a good PR man, and this has cost the nation dearly, because of his self interests.
One of the reasons he gave for overthrowing Buhari was that Buhari
was applying 40% of our revenue to the servicing of debts. Babangida complained that this amount was too much. But the first budget Babangida was to broadcast to the world was the same amount --
40%. The brilliant Navy man from Lagos in council observed this, as I similarly noted it. He looked at me and smiled then mentioned it
to Babangida who said: “What
page is it? Take 10% off.” Yes, is that a leader? Buhari inherited what Buhari
had set in motion. When Buhari
was forcibly removed, we had some money in an Austrian Escrow Account through counter trade between the Austrian
company Voest-Alpin and Nigeria. When I, Tam David-West, went
to inquire about the money, I discovered that the money was used up, and I reported this to Babangida and Abacha. (Pause) “Today, I don’t know where that money is. Babangida is a man suffused with personal ambition, a terrible megalomaniac. They call him Maradona…Babangida is not a Maradona.
Babangida is the most predictable
man I have ever worked with. All modalities broke down during his time. Let me give you an example. To buy Nigeria’s oil, you must own a company
of at least 20 staff members, and a turnover of at least $100 million. You must have a refinery or a long-term
contract with a refinery established not less than ten years. Babangida broke all these rules. Nigeria’s crude oil was sold and bought like palm oil or groundnut oil in supermarkets.
This dovetails into the
issue of corruption that Obasanjo is fighting today…
DAVID-WEST: He is not serious. Obasanjo cannot fight corruption. Babangida institutionalised corruption. (Points at a picture.) That’s me in the picture, in Black Maria for wristwatch
and coffee. (Laughs.) Corruption became a state policy during Babangida’s time, and Shehu
Musa said it very well: “In
Nigeria it is not that officials are corrupt, but that corruption is official.” (Laughs.)
Babangida bastardised all the
rules. He has not been able to account for $12.5 billion of Gulf War oil windfall unearthed by one of the greatest
economists, my friend, Professor Pius Okigbo. May his soul rest in peace... I was in Dodan Barracks when the report was submitted -- over 100 copies. Later Obasanjo said they were lost. All of them lost!!! Obasanjo cannot do anything, because Babangida financed his election. General
T.Y. Danjuma was the one who said he would play Andrew (go on exile)
if Obasanjo was not elected.
Danjuma bailed out, saying:
“I cannot work with you. The government is run by a clique, like a cult.” No, Obasanjo cannot fight corruption. You don’t fight corruption
with theatrics, histrionics. You don’t fight corruption selectively. It is cosmetic.
How is it cosmetic?
DAVID-WEST: I’ll explain why. The late Chief Sunday Afolabi was an accounts officer
in this university (University of Ibadan). He later became Deputy Governor to the late Chief Bola Ige in the old Oyo State.
Great political heavyweight… He disagreed with Bola Ige and joined the NPN.
Great Awoist… Obasanjo was not popular here among Yoruba
people. Afolabi made it possible
for him to be taken seriously. Now, if Afolabi was not so highly admired, no Head of State gives the position of Minister of Internal Affairs
to an outsider… Obasanjo gave
it to him. Buddy-buddy,
chummy-chummy… Then when Obasanjo appointed Bola Ige
into his cabinet, talkative Tam David-West, I said: it is like putting cat and mouse in the same basket. Obasanjo knew that there was no love lost
between Ige and Afolabi. Now Afolabi is paraded as a thief, via the ID Card Scam. When did
he become a thief? Did he, all of a sudden, become a thief? Who appointed him to his post?
Another example that exposed Obasanjo was that he orchestrated the disgrace he meted out to Afolabi to take place at the time the Commonwealth Heads of State were gathered in the country. I’m not
condoning corruption, but razzmatazz diverts attention from one as a serious person fighting corruption. It is
the same thing with Balogun
(Inspector-General of Police). It’s a great indictment on Obasanjo. Machiavelli says you judge a prince by the type of people he appoints as ministers. . Birds of
the same feather go together. You appointed Tafa Balogun, Inspector-General
of Police; you gave him double promotion, and in October 2004 you gave him a CFR, the third highest national honour… He rigged the elections
for all of them. Rivers
is 3.1 million in 1991 census, but Obasanjo and Odili had
over two million votes; that is to say that 2/3rd
of Rivers State is adult. Demographic heresy!!! When
did Obasanjo find out that
Balogun had become a thief?
It’s an indictment on his personal judgemental competence.
Let’s talk of transparency,
because it appears to boil down to that. How transparent is the incumbent regime?
DAVID-WEST: There is no transparency; it’s opaque. Obasanjo’s regime is not transparent. How can it be transparent?
But the Minister of Finance
is publishing monthly allocations to states and local governments…
DAVID-WEST: That doesn’t impress me. For banks to get fresh mint from the Central Bank, they have to pay…to
bribe. I have evidence from two banks. Central Bank is also dripping in corruption. There is no transparency. I
was indicted in the case -- the Federal Republic of Nigeria Vs Tam David-West -- on charges that I signed off $57
million to an American company in New Jersey; a company I had no interests in whatsoever… and I was jailed. So
issues such as this impact me, perhaps, more than it does other Nigerians. I have been jailed for life, and then
the Judge admitted he was wrong. The only thing that was held against me in terms of corruption was the charge
that I drank tea and accepted a wristwatch, which was not true. But for that, I was sentenced to life, which was
later reduced to 20 years.
If Obasanjo wants to fight corruption, let him begin with himself. Buhari was detained for 40 months by Babangida. It was so sadistic. Buhari’s mother died when he was in detention, and Babangida never let him see his mother. Buhari told Babangida:
“You have kept me here for 40 months; I challenge you tell the world what my corruption is.” He equally told Obasanjo to tell the world of his corruption
in PTF. If Buhari was corrupt as the head of PTF, Obasanjo would not have waited to knock him off from the election. In Obasanjo’s case -- the only way I can respect any President is
for him to declare his assets in public.
I just read that the tax
returns of American President George W. Bush were made public. Presidential spokesman Fani-Kayode says Obasanjo makes N30 million a month out of Otta Farm; however, he did not mention whether tax had been
paid on it…
DAVID-WEST: The Bible said: Hosea,
sow the wind, reap the whirlwind. Obasanjo should, as a farmer, know that where a farm makes N30 million a month, one can sow the wind and
reap the whirlwind. (Laughs.) Fani-Kayode
has no antecedent of democracy; we all know what his father did. If he tells us that Obasanjo’s farm makes N30 million monthly, he should also tell
us how much tax he pays. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Let Obasanjo publish the certified tax he has paid the state; from Otta Farm alone, N30 million profit is multiplied by 12. I call such wealth photophobic wealth. Photophobic, because such wealth is
afraid of light. Fani-Kayode tends to open his mouth to defend
the indefensible as when he tackled that great man Col. Abubakar Umar. The question
that should be asked of him is this: out of the N30 million profit made by the president, how much of it is taxed or declared as assets? We desperately need transparency
on transactions of this nature…
Nigerian Tribune published that in Aso Rock, N14 million in pound sterling, deutsche marks and dollars were found in Obasanjo’s daughter’s room. The stewards working there were arrested and locked up. Their family raised hell
and The Nigerian Tribune got the story. There was a protest that it was not true, so the Tribune published the name of the girl - the daughter. And
what about Obasanjo’s cousin
-- the then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence -- Makanjuola and his N450 million scandal? He received a mere slap on the wrist; just a pat on the shoulder
and told to go.
Compare that with the Prof Osuji 55 million naira matter. I do not condone the man’s behaviour; but he had intended that N55 million
for the purpose of making more money for the operation of his ministry. He was not taking the money home to Abia or Anambra State; he was simply a victim of the system. He didn’t learn how to be corrupt at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. They
taught him how to be corrupt in Abuja. Everyone knows that in Abuja, the taking and receiving of bribes is the norm. So why does Obasanjo have to make such a drama out of it? Balogun took billions of Naira while Fabian Osuji was paraded and disgraced for only N55 million.
If you want to fight corruption there must be transparency, there must
be equity, there must be justice. And the light turns on you first. He who is going for equity must have clean
hands. Neither of these people have clean hands; perhaps, only Ribadu of EFCC, because
somebody charging with such force like he is cannot have a skeleton in his box. But this same system charged Deputy
Senate President Mantu and
others, and allowed the Senate to clear him; that is, the man becomes the judge in his own case? Why could he not
be charged to court as in the case of Osuji and the others? There should not be selective justice. What we are witnessing is the establishment
of personalised law…and what I refer to as personalised laws are laws directed or targeted at a particular person.
It is plain injustice.
Well, I do not expect much from a government that is personalised in
any case. Obasanjo behaves
like Louis XIV: “I am the state.” I have a letter here from Obasanjo, signed by him (shows
me a handwritten letter to him from Obasanjo). I had personal respect for him in the past, but I can no longer work for him. I cannot work for
someone in a situation that is fraudulent. Why? First, he said Abiola was not the messiah. But it appears that he is glamorising himself as the messiah, which he is
not. Secondly, he has been around for 20 years. Tam David-West as a Nigerian refuses to accept that for 20 years
Nigeria has been held at a standstill. What is being implied is that for 20 years after Obasanjo left the seat of power, Nigeria has been unable to produce
anyone other than Obasanjo,
himself. That is laughable. Nigeria, my country, is not as decadent as that. I refuse to accept it. All we have is personalised leadership.
I am even ashamed that these people are not themselves, ashamed of themselves. Everybody knows that the lastg election was rigged. Former US President Jimmy Carter came in 1999,
and left without congratulating Obasanjo
up until today. George Bush has not congratulated him, and this, to the extent that when Bush was to be inaugurated,
Obasanjo was not even invited
as the Chairman of the African Union.
According to Fani-Kayode, Obasanjo was
invited, but chose not to go.
DAVID-WEST: If Bush had invited Obasanjo, he would have raced to attend his inauguration. Bush did not invite him.
Can you comment on corruption
and retention or otherwise of the immunity clause in the Constitution?
I do not support the retention of an immunity clause for a governor or the president. An immunity clause should
be removed completely. I mean, why should we address the governor as your Excellency and his wife as her Excellency;
does the Constitution recognize graduated citizenship? So there is no reason whether you are select or an elect;
if the first citizen and first lady are in power to steal from the nation, why should there be an immunity clause
for such corrupt individuals? And all this razzmatazz about anti-corruption; if the people I mentioned are the
only ones in government that are corrupt then we have a government of angels. I have said it before that public
servants should declare their assets in public, and there should be a clause stating that assets not declared either
deliberately or in error shall be forfeited to the state for ever.
What role does ethnicity
play in the crisis in the country?
DAVID-WEST: Ethnicity was originally the magic wand. Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani. Of course no one talks about the
Ijaw…as if the group does not
exist. The Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba say they are pushed to the wall. But the Ijaws have constantly and always been at the wall. You don’t have to push us. (Laughs) I go back to the First Republic. Ethnicity played a major role then. At that time, could we have escaped it? If one wants to be
intellectually honest, odious and reprehensible as it was, one had little choice in galvanising the people. But
the tribal drum has been beaten for far too long. As much as we needed the tribal drum to galvanise, to mobilise
the people, we should have known where to stop; sentiments such as “the North for the North” expressed by Sardauna, for instance…Nkrumah actually
galvanised Ghana in the same manner.
Was it not Zik who gave a lecture: “Tribalism as a Pragmatic Instrument for National Unity?” That was a fantastic
lecture. And a great man... These divisions and diversities …is it not said that “though tribe and tongue may differ,
in brotherhood we stand”? Then we said: “Remove it [the emphasis on tribe or ethnicity] as if when they are removed
the problem has been cured.” Nonsense.
Or the amusing case of Nigeria Airways changing its elephant logo and never taking off again! We are always too
superficial and superstitious. Ethnicity, for this generation of Nigerians no longer works, because people have
woken up to realise that touting the ethnic group card cannot and will not get anybody far. One might be an ethnic
hero, but never a national hero. So whoever wants to come to national prominence should be playing down the issue
The Nigerian civil war, to me, was a blessing in disguise. It was traumatic,
because we lost a lot, but Nigeria woke up to a certain
knowledge. That Biafra was defeated,
to me, is a non-issue. Arthur Nwankwo
said in his book, Nigeria: the Challenge
of Biafra: “Until the contradictions that made Biafra possible are taken care of, Nigeria has anything but a rosy future.” Why can’t we sit down and see the lessons of Biafra? Nobody really wants Nigeria to disintegrate, but on what
grounds are we going to stay together? It cannot be Nigeria, good or bad. We must talk. We argue that Britain created the situation we are in; but how long are we going to complain, instead of sitting down
to examine the reality of our association? Why are we not asking the basic, significant question -- how are we
going to keep the country together?
But the Nigeria-Biafra
War still rankles, at the highest levels in Nigeria…
DAVID-WEST: Civil war, reconstruction, reconciliation etc. Are we reconciled? Have we been reconstructed? When
I hear a great man like Justice Oputa
-- my principal, one of the greatest -- say that the Igbo are still marginalised, that people are still behaving
as if the Civil War is still being fought…it is true. I am not supporting a Biafra come back; however, Nigerians
have failed to sit down with honesty, sincerity and seriousness to examine what made Biafra possible; what made
it collapse in the first place…
What workable system do
you recommend for Nigeria in order to move forward?
DAVID-WEST: Let me say the unsayable.
I advocate a confederation. I stick out my neck to say this. I have written about it; a confederation. Detractors
of the system might complain that this is akin to The Satanic Verses. That is their business. Are we not sorry
for ourselves that after so many years we are still discussing the possibility of going back to the parliamentary
instead of the presidential system? I was a member of the 49 member panel that drafted the 1979 Constitution. When
we opted for the presidential system, it was not because the United
States had any influence in the choice. We opted for
the presidential system, because Nigerians desired it. The majority of memos sent by the public recommended it;
the preponderant majority of Nigerians wanted the presidential system. Murtala Muhammed in
his inaugural address to the CDC (Constitution Drafting Committee) gave us a carte blanche: from a non-party to
Nigeria is not serious. Sadly, we are neither sincere nor disciplined in this country. If the Nigerian
system is failing it is not because it inherently is a failure, but that Nigerians themselves are enabling failure.
How can democracy or federalism succeed without discipline? Federal character…how is that implemented? After putting
everything into due consideration, as General Gowon said in his first broadcast: “there is no basis for unity, but for a confederation.” And we were
there before. When in the First Republic,
agriculture was a major success – the cocoa, pal moil and groundnut industries were booming; there was clear revenue
allocation, derivation and distribution for everybody. But then, the oil boom occurred, and my Papa, Chief Awolowo became deputy to Gowon as Commissioner for Finance. The man who earlier said that
Nigeria is “a geographical expression” was now serving in a regime that advocated keeping Nigeria one as a task that must be
done. This was an outright contradiction in terms (laughs).
Awolowo was forced
to rethink his philosophy, and finally changed from derivation to a Federation Account. That’s why we are suffering.
So, to go back to your
recommendation of a confederation, sir…
DAVID-WEST: Why do I say we should adopt a confederation? In a true federation, the centre cannot be so powerful
as to dictate to the federating units. What we have is not a federation. It is a monocracy, wearing the veneer
of federalism. When Obasanjo
can, like a schoolmaster, ask a state governor to do
this or I’ll deal with you, to the extent of even sending soldiers to a
party chairman to force him to resign, then it’s time to rethink our sad situation. Since we are unable to practice
true federalism, we must then go confederate.
But if we have a sincere
leader who applies the federal constitution, won’t you accept that?
DAVID-WEST: Indeed, I shall have no problem, whatsoever, with this. If we have a sincere leader, the structure
will come together. A statesman thinks of the future while a politician thinks of the present. Most of our leaders
only think of the present. Nigeria has no future with them, and to avoid further disintegration, the only recourse is in forming a
Should the confederation
you refer to be based on ethnic groups or the existing states or the former regions or the six geo-political zones?
DAVID-WEST: Without a doubt, ethnic nations.
Religious conflicts continue
to dog the nation. There is the issue of Sharia, and the recent call to Jihad by the Muslim North…
DAVID-WEST: Nigeria is a very interesting phenomenon. Nigeria is like a one-act play, like a broken disc permanently stuck in a groove. Detractors often claimed
that my leader, Buhari, is
fundamentalist. We’re talking of religious conflicts? Obasanjo has much to do in fuelling this. He has fuelled the situation inadvertently or by act of omission
or commission, or by too much political calculation. Since Independence, how many Muslim Heads of State have we had? Balewa.
Murtala. Shagari. Buhari… None of them made Nigeria an Islamic state. All the Muslim leaders realised that it’s a no-go area…
But Babangida dragged the country into the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries) in 1986…
DAVID-WEST: Babangida did
the OIC thing to validate himself
to the north. You know, for a long time, Babangida could not go to Sokoto.
Babangida was doing everything
possible through the help of his father, Sultan Dasuki…
Why do you refer to Dasuki as Babangida’s
DAVID-WEST: Babangida is
Dasuki’s boy. After the destruction
of Dodan Barracks during the
Orkar Coup, was it not Dasuki who visited him and advised that
the government must move away from here… Babangida wanted to surreptitiously rope us into the OIC. He never succeeded. That was the basis of the quarrel between Babangida and Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe. Please
do not be afraid to print this. It is true. Babangida wanted a yes-man, and so he appointed Admiral Aikhomu as his second-in-command. To the extent that Babangida himself never got over the OIC matter shows that it is not possible to play around with religious conflict.
Unfortunately, Obasanjo has added more to religious conflicts in Nigeria. Obasanjo said
that Nigeria is not a secular state. It’s there in print: Nigeria is not a secular state because we have many religions. Is that not silly? A country is a secular
state because there is no state religion. Sani Abacha was
a Muslim but he was able to arrest and detain a firebrand Muslim fundamentalist in the North. Dasuki was a Muslim, but Abacha dethroned him as Sultan because of injustice. Now, in Obasanjo’s case, what is happening? Sharia was established. The Constitution is clear. There can be no state
have a state religion neither can Imo State have a state religion. Obasanjo allowed Sharia a free ride; he said he was looking for a political solution. He should have gone
to the Supreme Court, but could not, because he was afraid to lose the Northern support. Whatever ambition he has,
it will not come. His ambition to run for a third term; he should forget it.
that you have mentioned the third term…
DAVID-WEST: He should forget it. Nobody is supporting an additional Obasanjo term; if so, he should name them. It’s just an ambition he has. Mandela told him: Don’t try it!
He should take a leaf from history. De Gaulle was told to go on and on in France. He said: “No, I will not. The
graveyard is full of indispensable men.” Abacha was my friend, but I wrote a four-part essay in May 1997 entitled, “Flattery and Transience” in
which I quoted De Gaulle. I am saying the same thing to Obasanjo. Much as I am disillusioned with you, I don’t want you to die. But I warn you that the graveyard
is full of indispensable men.
Let’s discuss the collapse
of the educational system in this country; because as a long-standing professor, this directly concerns you...
DAVID-WEST: The collapse of education started in a really palpable form as a turnout of the Civil War. The
Nigerian government overreacted and nationalised education. Oh Catholic Mission, Caritas did that… We cut our nose
to spite our face. The moment we nationalised education, we sowed the seeds of decadence. You do not Nigerianize education.
It’s a universal thing. Oh missionary school… We collapsed it. Then we began the UPE system. I was Commissioner of Education in Rivers State at the time. Universal Primary Education (UPE) was launched September 1976. Let us examine the insincerity involved in this. Free Universal Primary
Education -- that was the initial document. Then government suddenly demanded that the “F” be removed. (sighs)We are not sincere.
Then we come to the matter of universities. When it is time to select
the literature courses, the tribal marks of who wrote this or that became the issue. It is truly tragic. The decadence
in the university system…the federal government stifled the universities… I tell you, if the University of Ibadan
gives my son full scholarship to come and study here, I’ll will not support it. It’s as bad as that. The education
system should make the bright brighter and the less bright, bright. Our system makes the bright mediocre, and the
mediocre a failure.
You used to be Minister
of Power; but Nigeria still does not have a steady power supply, despite the incredible amount of money pumped into it
by President Obasanjo…
DAVID-WEST: I was Minister of Mines, Power and Steel for only nine months. It’s the same lack of seriousness,
I have talking about. Was it not the same Obasanjo that gave Anenih
so much money to build roads then later asked -- what have you done with all the money I gave you?” He never sacked
him; yet the roads were never completed. Nigeria is more interested in budgeting, and not in results. Let’s take the case of Ajaokuta Steel. I am sure they tore off that page of the visitor’s
book where I wrote: “I will not approve more money for Ajaokuta. Let this stay as a monument of our idiocy.” In 1986, it a most beautiful place…fantastic! The
Russians that remained there; when their vodka finished, began to drink kai-kai (local gin). To show you how unserious we are, Itakpe, with the natural resource of iron ore is only 90 kilometres from Ajaokuta; but Nigeria prefers to travel to Brazil and Liberia in order to buy iron ore. Why? Simply because somebody
is gaining from the enterprise... Budget. Budget. Budget. NEPA will stay like this even if we privatise. Because, what
is it, that we are actually privatising?
How do we address the
Niger Delta crisis where you are from?
DAVID-WEST: If Nigeria corporate was unfair to the enclave called Biafra, it is 100% unfair to the Niger Delta. I advisedly extricate Niger Delta from Biafra. We were in Biafra. The issue of oil started the Civil War and also ended the Civil War. Ojukwu, Biafra, the East, in general, had all reasons to be annoyed;
but Nigeria never bothered to look at the reasons, so they tried to secede. Ojukwu shouldn’t have been encouraged
or wouldn’t have had the courage or the assurance, but for the presence of crude oil. And all the oil wells would
have been in Biafra except the ones
in the Midwest, which they overran
anyway. Oil gave Biafra the confidence
to secede. And what did Gowon
do? Exactly 24 hours after getting the intelligence report on Biafra’s
secession, he created the 12 states and carved out the states whose loyalty changed to the federal government.
So oil started the civil war and oil ended the civil war.
Now, to address the plight of the Niger Delta; Nigeria is the most inhuman country
in terms of governance when it comes to the Niger Delta. Just like the 2nd World War energized the colonies to ask for independence, when our boys went to Abuja and saw how the wealth of the Niger Delta
has transformed the place to an ultra-modern metropolis, the bottom gave away. They didn’t want to come back to
the squalor of their daily lives, so the restiveness changed to a bloodbath. Quite simply, the bubble burst.
We have had Isaac Adaka Boro, Ken
Saro-Wiwa and now Asari Dokubo. Do you support Asari Dokubo’s statement referring to Awo as a devil? What is to be done as Lenin asked?
DAVID-WEST: Asari Dokubo overstated the point that Awolowo was a devil. After he made that
statement, I called him. Asari
Dokubo used to stay at my home.
He sat where you are sitting right now. His mother and my mother have the same father. I told Asari Dokubo that he overstated it. Awolowo was not a devil. The policies of the government that he [Pa Awolowo] served at the time were unfavourable to our people… which is why many believe they (the policies)
were problematic …By the way; the policies of every government since that time have also been unfavourable…
There is a difference between Adaka Boro and Saro-Wiwa or Asari Dokubo. Adaka Boro was fighting the Ijaw cause, and he held the federal government to ransom. The
federal government might have subdued him without addressing the problem, but like a mushroom, it will surely grow
again. Later on Adaka Boro joined the federal forces. How did
he die? Did he die a natural death at the war-front or did somebody kill him? History will tell… But let’s get
to Asari Dokubo who invokes Adaka Boro. There
is a difference. Asari Dokubo is a creation of the present government;
Odili’s government, Obasanjo’s government. They created the
militia to rig elections for them in 1999, and they equipped them with arms. Asari Dokubo has spilled the beans. Adaka Boro was equipped
from outside by those who believed in the cause he was fighting. When Asari Dokubo started
he was articulating Ijaw aspirations
and frustrations not the PDP’s.
In 2003, he said he would rig for Odili
but not again for Obasanjo.
Odili reneged and rigged for
Obasanjo. There was a parting
of ways. Odili and Obasanjo created a Frankenstein monster
which they can no longer control.
Now, we come to Ken Saro-Wiwa; a very brilliant man, but he was not originally an environmentalist. Ken was fighting for an Ogoni nation, but the environmental aspect
came to oil the fundamental thrust. He was clever and brilliant. He made a beautiful video, and went abroad to
Kyoto, Japan. That universalised his struggle,
and made him an international personality. The original thrust of Ogoni nation -- which could not sell internationally -- took the environmental aspect that sold and is
still selling. Now the environmental aspect couples with the Ijaw agitation. That’s the scenario. Can we succeed? Yes. Will I live to see it? God knows. But one
thing is certain, until Nigeria wakes up, one of the greatest problems of the 21st Century will be the problem of the minority Ijaw people. Anybody who takes money and does not fight the Ijaw cause will be eliminated. The Federal Government has murdered sleep.
Is it not the failure of Nigerian state that led to the sprouting of ethnic militias?
DAVID-WEST: Of course, yes.
Do you support Asari Dokubo’s ideas and methods?
DAVID-WEST: I subscribe to his ideas completely, but methods, no. I am not a violent person;
but I recognize that those who do not want peace, or make constructive change impossible make violence inevitable.
This is a truism of life. The Nigerian state has failed my people, if we have to be personal; that is why the ethnic
militias have come out with force. And these ethnic militias; the government cannot wash their hands completely
off them, because they set them to rig elections in 2003. Asari Dokubo gave a major interview where he exposed the government for equipping Ateke Tom; Rivers State government
cannot wash off its hand in the creation of Ateke Tom and Asari Dokubo, as they made it possible for them to come to power. There were some places in Rivers, Niger delta,
where nobody but the PDP might venture. So I’m enjoying the irony that exists; now that the election is over and they have
won, they have turned their backs on the boys who supported them and have begun to challenge them. Just like the
World War II was the catalyst for the independence movement in the colonies, much the same thing is happening here.
I support the principle, the ideology; I also support Egbesu; which Ijaw man will not support Egbesu?
you give us your own concept of Resource Control?
DAVID-WEST: Resource control on the surface is deceptively attractive. Why am I saying that?
The principle is valid and is possible, because we do not have true federation. During the First Republic, we
had derivation as our formula; there was palm produce in the East, the West controlled cocoa, the North controlled
groundnuts: Let me digress, Asari Dokubo had no business to call Chief Obafemi Awolowo a devil. You know Awo was one of the great heroes Nigeria has ever produced,
but you see -- he over expressed himself, and that is what I am trying to come to. During the time of Awo, when he
was federal commissioner of finance, the derivation principle changed to federation account, so Asari Dokubo had only a shadow of what
happened. But there is no question that Awo changed the derivation, to a federation account, because and that is where we take
offence. The Cocoa, groundnut and palm produce industries were no longer doing well, because oil production
had become all the rage and the focus of government. People also became aware of the potential of oil, and they
prepared to seize the opportunities. And that is why my governor, Dr Peter Odili, when he was launching Mrs. Awolowo’s book,
he said Awo
was the father of resource control. However, that is incorrect. Awo was not the father of resource control, and
was historically wrong. Awo, Zik, Ahmadu Bello met a successful situation where the regions were very wealthy and there was no federation account.
So come to the question of resource control, I would say that even if you
make Tam David-West, an Ijaw man, the president of Nigeria, I cannot sign 100% control of the revenue to the oil
producing states, and the reason is that we must be our brother’s keeper. So if you say that the people who produce
oil should control their resources, it is not possible, and we have to be realistic. Somebody said ideals are important
in politics, but when the chips are down, it is practicality that determines constructive action. Therefore, I
would want my people to ask for royalties on crude oil; that is a huge amount of money. They cannot ignore the
fact that the federal government has to have a say in the production of crude oil, because the oil companies signed
a contract with it. If the oil companies are providing social services in the oil bearing communities, it is because
they want a sense of community; but that is actually the responsibility of the federal government. All the oil
taxes go to the federal government, even the oil royalties go to the federal government; and there is no part of
the contract between the federal government and oil companies that says these entities should take up social responsibilities.
However, in the interest of community, goodwill, and the well being of the producing states, they must accomplish
that. Now, if one takes oil companies to court, because they have not invested in social services, the case will
be thrown out, because of they signed an agreement with the federal government that protects them. My people in
the oil producing communities are greatly deprived, no doubt…and should ask for royalties.
Would it help if the indigenes
of Niger Delta are given substantial positions on the board and management of NNPC? And your proposition on payment of royalties;
do you have a percentage in mind?
DAVID-WEST: I believe 75% to be a conservative amount...at the very least. Now, to put indigenes
board and management will not solve the problem. What if the people you put there are more interested in their
pockets than in the welfare of the people? Really…appointing people into positions is not the solution; rather,
it is the commitment of those who will represent us that is of utmost significance. And one of the problems we
have is that although we have great brains, great leaders, we also have charlatans, who when they see the millions
of dollars they can make illegally, they forget about the millions of people that are suffering. What is needed
is for the formula for sharing to be uniform; but the formula standard changes in the case of royalties.
Can you clarify the difference
between Resource Control and the payment of Royalties?
DAVID-WEST: When we sell our 2 million plus barrels of crude oil, per day, in petrodollars, the
accruals go to the federation account. Royalties go to the oil producing communities in proportion to the number
of barrels produced in a particular area. For example, if Rivers State produces five barrels
of crude oil and Delta State produces ten, the royalties received will differ accordingly. I do not support this
method, however. Every month, we have a meeting of finance commissioners, and the NNPC presents what is to be shared;
royalties according to barrels produced. But what I am saying is that the payment of royalties should not depend
on the number of barrels produced by a particular community. So I would like my people to fight for that; but over
and above that, it is one thing to make money, and another to manage it well. And I want to ask whether any of
the governors in the oil producing states, in clear conscience, can say that they have ploughed back for the development
of their various communities, the money received on their behalf? I do not think any of them can do that. They
have become multi-millionaires and billionaires.
So how does one solve that
DAVID-WEST: Take them out. Nigerians should have the courage to say no to money, and if that
happens then we shall have a good chance at democracy. But, for now, democracy is for sale in the country; it will
soon be auctioned at the stock market...
What is a practical way of
taking them out?
DAVID-WEST: Let’s begin with the basics. We should educate the people of their rights; encourage
a healthy, moral attitude toward money. Unfortunately, this becomes impossible as a result of pervading poverty
in the country. I suppose what it comes down to is that the people should identify and fight bad leaders in the
oil producing states.
Are you proposing rebellion?
DAVID-WEST: Yes; rebelling against a bad law and bad leaders is an act of God. Any bad leader
that who becomes wealthy when the people’s lives have not changed should be removed.
Are we not right back to Asari Dokubo’s methods?
DAVID-WEST: There is a difference. Dokubo stated in his rhetoric that he has lost hope in the Nigerian state, and that his
people, because they have not been treated fairly by Nigeria, are no longer
part of the system. I am saying that if governor A is operating system B and corrupting it, remove him.
Take him away, kidnap him; just don’t kill him. But he should not be allowed to remain in office.
Since Nigeria’s independence, the on-going political reform conference will be the fifth attempt
to re-engineer Nigeria; do you think this conference can rise to the challenge of putting Nigeria on the road to development and growth?
DAVID-WEST: Whether the present exercise will take us to land of Canaan, I doubt
very much. And I am not even going to give myself the luxury of being cautiously optimistic. Rather, what I have
is a feeling of déjà vu. First, we have all agreed that the country has a basic structural problem,
and so there is the need to sit and examine the situation. Should the country break up? The majority of Nigerians
would say no, and so the question becomes -- under what conditions are we to exist as a corporate body? That, I
believe, is the issue. But you would find that in this land of contradictions and insincerity, those that are gaining
from the present imbalance will always work against it. The people involved in this conference do not really have
their hearts in it. Those involved in its set up are, on their part, not sincere; this present conference is no
different than past exercises in farce.
I do recall that General Murtala Mohammed, with General Olusegun Obasanjo as his deputy, set up the
Constitution Drafting Committee on the
18th of February
1976 to produce the 1979 Constitution. If you read the inaugural
address by Murtala Mohammed we were given a blank cheque to examine the structure of Nigeria; there was no
limit to what we could observe. I am particularly embarrassed that Chief Richard Akinjde and Prof Ben Nwabueze who
actively participated in the drafting of that Constitution, in fact its final stages, now say it is not a peoples’
Constitution. Must the entire country come out in force during its drafting for it to belong to the people? The
American Constitution was drafted by 55 people well over 200 years ago; what I am saying is that there is nothing
wrong with the 1979 Constitution. And there is the specious argument that since it was crafted under the military,
it is, therefore, not a people’s Constitution.
No allowance, no jamboree was allowed, no five star hotel; all of us were housed at the federal
guest house in Lagos, for 11 months. Justice Mohammed Uwais, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, acclaimed
that it was the best Constitution; before him, Chief Olu Onagoruwa said it was the best ever Constitution, so what are they talking about? Now instead
of politicians implementing the Constitution, they have come up with a sterile argument not to. It is so dull;
when will we wake up? However, one good thing that can come out of what is going on in Abuja, is that, just
like the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa panel of violations of human rights demystified the military and exposed the country in its immorality
and weaknesses, this conference will come out with something nobody expects. It is going to throw up a lot of stench
than we expected; after that, if the government does not solve the problems brought up, another conference will
no doubt be convened.
The 36 states -- in some people’s
view -- are too many and should be reduced to minimize waste and inefficiency; do you agree?
DAVID-WEST: No, I do not agree that the number of states should be reduced. I am sorry that
I have to reject this position, but in many cases, our intellectuals are fraudulent. How did the 36 states come
about? It arose as a fall out of the 2/3 of 19 states issue to make things easier. That is why I insist that our
intellectuals always look for quick fixes. Do you know, and this is true; that when General Muhammadu Buhari came into power, it was suggested
that 19 stars should be placed on our flag. I have the letter I wrote to them advising against putting 19 stars
on our flag, because we would not only be copying the American presidential system, but the American flag – the
star spangled banner. And what if we have more states would the number of stars on the flag increase? We always
run away from the fundamentals. Supposing there is a decision to reduce the number of states; what becomes of the
19 star flag? The reason the states are not doing well is not because they are states; they are not doing well
because the federal government is stifling them. The moment we practice true federalism and each of these states
have a breath of life, they will succeed.
What is your own model of true
DAVID-WEST: My own model of true federalism is not different from what the rest of the world
is practicing, but the one that we do not want to accept. As a virologist, I have studied what the experts have
written about federalism in their books and it makes a lot of sense. Sadly, even some of the political scientists
are not being sincere; otherwise why would they quarrel over whether there is a true federalism or not? The concept
of true federalism that I subscribe to is a federation of several units where the central government must not be
so powerful that it dictates to the states; once you have that, you have a unitary government.
In Nigeria what we have is a unitary system of government, and I will give you three instances
of Unitarianism. In a true federation each of the units must have free reign to develop its resources. I am not
advocating that each state controls all its resources; however, there should be a sharing formula between the state
and the central government. But where you have the central government so powerful that it can dictate development
to the states, and can even punish, in disregard to a court order, (like in the withholding of funds for local
government as in Lagos state) that is contrary to a federal practice. In a true federalism, the central
government controls defense, finance, foreign policy; but when it comes to the nitty-gritty of day to day state
governance, they have little to say.
Recently, I was going through papers for the 1979 Constitution. One great
expert wrote that when you have a concurrent and exclusive list it becomes a problem. But this can be solved if
we are operating a true federation. It is not just the practice of true federalism that is false, our democracy
is also false; there is no franchise. We rig and rob to get into office. The last general election in 2003 was,
perhaps, one of the worst-rigged in the history of the country. And what has been shown is that the electorate
is irrelevant. When this happens, we do not have a democracy.
Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe once said that Nigeria got its independence on a platter of gold. There is a view that not fighting a war
of independence robbed the country of the opportunity to develop the right leadership cadre for the challenges
of nationhood; do you agree?
DAVID-WEST: Yes; it is correct that Nigeria got her independence
on a platter of gold, and we never had to fight for it like some other countries -- like America,
for instance, and others. But this does not suggest that we should not value it. Does it mean that if we had something
on a platter of mud we shall value it more? If we had something on a platter of gold, should we not be thanking
God that we did not lose lives? The same argument was used against Zik; that because he was not detained, he was not
a good leader. My question is this: must one go to jail to show good leadership? We should thank God for the way
we got our independence; but that does not suggest we should be reckless, profligate, careless and irresponsible
like we have been. That argument is as untenable as when some people say that the best military government is worse
than the worst civilian government; was it not written that “on forms of government, let men contend…”? I am not
promoting support for a military government, but we keep going through these clichés, and as a result, do
not even bother to sit down to examine our problems.
Can you say something
on the Anambra Crisis about which former PDP chairman
Audu Ogbeh wrote
to Obasanjo that Nigerians were disgusted with the picture of federal
policemen aiding the burning of government buildings?
DAVID-WEST: That’s one of the greatest minuses of the Obasanjo regime. They are many. I don’t know Ngige. I don’t know Uba.
What happened in Anambra
State, I saw
on television; I read it. Nigeria has never had it so bad. Government encouraging lawlessness! And this is, of course, because Uba is being financed by it. Take the case
of Balogun. Did he do all these
things without Obasanjo’s knowledge?
I seriously doubt that. Obasanjo
knew all that was happening. How can somebody go and burn down monuments as we saw on television as remain unpunished?
That was purely disgraceful and an outrage. The country cannot replace some of these things even in our lifetime.
Statues were burned. This should happen again, because that’s the beginning of the end. What happened in Anambra State cannot be tried in the western states. If it did, the government would be a goner.
But heavens have not fallen;
the Supreme Court has pronounced judgment on the seized Lagos local government funds, but the Federal Government is not obeying…
DAVID-WEST: There is no rule of law in Nigeria. Obasanjo does
not abide by the Constitution. He has contempt for the courts. It’s all a farce. Obasanjo and his government are above the law. That’s why they
do whatever they like. The Supreme Court, the apex court ruled against you, Obasanjo. You have no right to behave the way you are. What jungle is this? Is this the country that produced
Zik? Is this the country of
Awolowo, Soyinka, Achebe, Awojobi, Tai Solarin? Obasanjo has
no greater stake in Nigeria than any of us. If the president of a country cannot respect the Supreme Court, then who does he
expect will respect it? What kind of role model for the country is he? Chief Rotimi agonised over this until he died. Lagos State is a good example of executive recklessness and irresponsibility.
How do you respond to
the charge that you are anti-Igbo?
DAVID-WEST: Let me disclose something to you. My father’s mother is Igbo. And
my maternal grandmother is Igbo. When I was a Minister, somebody said I don’t like Igbo people; that I took the
petrochemical plant to Rivers State.
I told Ike Nwachukwu who was
the governor of Imo
State at that
time. I told Ike: “You are married to my cousin Gwendolyn, and I like you a lot. Tam David-West cannot take a stance
against ndiigbo.” The record
shows that the petrochemical plant is supposed to be in Eleme. One day I went with Ashland to one Igbo community, and they warned me that I would be attacked for “my anti-Igbo stance,” but
I went ahead. (Some big Igbo stalwarts, great names, wrote to Buhari to remove me. Buhari
doesn’t know how I managed to get a copy.) So I told the community after they finished airing their complaints,
I said: “Eze, I cannot hate
the Igbo. I have Igbo blood in me. My father’s mother is Igbo.” The Eze said: “Aah,
come and take land.”
Do you support rotating
DAVID-WEST: Zoning is not a panacea; zoning has its origins in insincerity. If we had a true federation, we
would not suffer these issues. The rationale for zoning appears to be logical, but it is only superficially attractive;
specious. The country is asymmetrical in geo-political formation. If we don’t have checks and balances, those with
an advantage will continue to have that advantage while others will be marginalised. Zoning gives the impression
that we are creating local presidents, zonal presidents. I told Abiola
to see himself like Moses in the Bible; he showed that a candidate can emerge who can win across Nigeria. The civilian politicians are
so marginalised now, they have abdicated. The only one with some whimper in him is Dr Alex Ekwueme. We formed a group, Obasanjo came and inherited it. Now the whole PDP is militarised. We are simply echoing the practice of the
military subverting the system to make money and using that money to subvert the political system under the guise
of civilians. Zoning is not the answer. The future is dim. From this dimness, God in his infinite mercy will bring
light, and the light will consume every one of them. A day of Noah’s Ark will come. Most of them will perish and God will select into the Ark of Nigeria those that will
populate the new land after the water had receded. It will come. But the present structure we have cannot take
So Nigeria’s democracy does not excite you…
DAVID-WEST: There is no democracy here. What we have is a monocracy. Nigeria is a failed state. Our democracy
is false. Our federalism is false. Our elections are false. Everything about us is false. The only thing that is
not false is the name Nigeria, which, in any case, is a foreign creation.