By Ademola Adegbamigbe
Today, 17 November, it is exactly 27 years that General Sani Abacha overthrew Chief Ernest Shonekan, the Interim National Government (ING) President. That was 17 November 1993. He mounted that throne on 2 January 1993. Before then, he was the big boss of United Africa Company of Nigeria.
While some claimed that the former ING President resigned voluntarily, not a few Nigerians are ready to swear by Sango and Amadioha combined that Shonekan threw in the sponge when the cold snout of a gun was pointed at his temple by a soldier with twitching mustache. With knee jack reaction, Shonekan resigned, thinking that his children and wife, Margaret, still needed him badly!
What happened was actually predicted by the late Chief MKO Abiola, winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
By the time the late Chief MKO Abiola was fighting to retrieve his electoral mandate, the annulled 12 June, 1993 presidential election, former military President, Ibrahim Babangida had stepped aside. Chief Ernest Shonekan had become the Interim National Government President. Worse Still, General Sani Abacha who made it appear as if he was shoving Shonekan aside so that Abiola would step in as President, played a fast one on him and pro-democracy combatants. Abacha stepped in and stayed put, daring anyone to challenge him!
What, therefore, was the role of Babangida in these? In an interview with TheNEWS, published in the hard copy of 6 June 1994, Abiola explained: “Yes, you see, I believed and still believe that IBB left Abacha behind deliberately, for Abacha to take over under what I later believed was called turn-by-turn.”
How did he know that? TheNEWS probed Abiola further and he argued: “It doesn’t require an oracle to know that. If you leave a man among thirty women and you say one of the women is the head, it’s not convincing. But the man is the one with uniform; he didn’t allow the so called head of state to address the armed forces, for once. The whole thing was a ruse. The whole idea was, well as I told you, I’ve learnt a lot. You wait for my memoir. It will be very, very interesting. Well, I don’t know how much time I will have in the next few years. I have a daily diary which I’ve been keeping in the past eleven months.”
Abiola, unfortunately did, not live to write that.
When this magazine asked Abiola further why he wrote some letters to General Babangida, he (Abiola) responded thus: “That is like asking me that recently I went to see Nzeribe, I went to see Ojukwu. I know. I wasn’t alone. When you’re in politics, you get all manners of conflicting advice. And depending on the balance of the advice available to you, some things really look sensible. I consulted people. The day I went to Nzeribe, I wasn’t alone. You saw the pictures, some of our governors were there. I did not drag them, and they were all smiling. It took months of persuasion for me. You see, I’ve learnt that if you really want to be President of Nigeria, you must be able to leave your door open to anybody who wants to come to you. if he wants to talk to me, why should I not talk to him? What has he done that many people have not done before? He has never been put on trial. You see, even if he were until he’s found guilty, the presumption of innocence is still there. If he wants to see me why can’t I, there are people outside there, I’ll still see them tonight.”
Below is the Abiola interview in full, entitled:
Now, I am Ready for The Worst
When the Chief of General Staff, Lt. General OladipoDiya addressed the press last Thursday, he described the winner of 12 June as a joker. He advised him to forget his ambition to realize his mandate. In this interview with The News, M.K.O. Abiola says he is ready to realize his mandate
In the past six months since you spoke to THENEWS, a lot has happened: a grand coalition (NADECO) has crystallized around the 12 June mandate. How do you assess this new initiative?
I am not privileged to speak at this point on NADECO, the mandate and so on. This struggle is now structured. Within the structure, certain things must take place. Pronouncements must be cleared within the structure and to the extent that you ask questions on matters that have been cleared, of course, I would answer them clearly. It’s not in my nature to start hiding behind my fingers, raising one finger and hiding behind it is not my own way of doing things. But you see, when you work in a team, you must be a team player. Being a team player involves certain amount of discipline. I couldn’t have worked for South African progress all my life and be part of anything that could be construed even remotely as threatening the integrity and the sovereignty of Nigeria. Those of us who have gone round the whole world know that Nigeria means a lot, not only to those of us who are Nigerians but to all African people everywhere – all those people in the world who believe that Africans would one day be able to aspire to anything almost equal to the leadership of the world.
And if you are aware of my pronouncements on the issue of South African emancipation, on the issue of pan-African ideals – event the support for African sports which to me are examples of means of promoting and enhancing the African personality, to me, the presidency of Nigeria must not be something I should want to attain at the expense of the sanctity of the sovereignty of Nigeria as a unit. It’s a very delicate issue. There’s something delicate about some ambitious elements who because they have done it so easily before for 24 years believe it’s business as usual. That we would all continue to be. You see, it’s blood that I’m concerned about. It’s useless shedding blood. If you want to have a baby – either by caesarian or by natural birth, there must be blood. But it is controlled in a way that it neither has to hurt the baby nor the mother in most cases.
So, you see, the NADECO approach…like I told you when I spoke to you here, I did not vote for myself. Well, I voted for myself unlike Tofa who could not even vote for himself! But all I had was only one vote like you had, like everybody else had. So those who voted, who brought about the victory should actualize the mandate. Remember, I made that point several times. They kept on saying that why don’t you go and do it yourself? Well, I said oh! I didn’t do it myself on 12 June, we all did it. That went down and people are now ready to claim their victory. I’m ready to do all anybody in my position should do who want to see progress for this country. And there will be no progress for as long as the soldiers continue to ride roughshod over us. I will give a thank you message to the press tomorrow (26 May) about what happened on Monday (23 May). You see we are in a continuous colonialism, a local imperialism of a cult, a small group, I mean 99 percent of the armed forces have never taken part in politics. Only this small group, who have forced themselves not only to the country but first of all on the armed forces. It’s not because they are very brilliant. I mean Abacha did not pass the staff college. If he did it should have been in front of his name: Psc which means that here is an officer who is not really expected to have been promoted a Lt.Col. He became General and even…..
When I asked him, I said wait, put yourself in my position, Sani, how can I be sleeping and people are waking you up. I was the one voted for, how could you make yourself head of the state. He said you see, I know, but I want to rule. Why wouldn’t he want to rule when he could become a General without passing the staff college. These people…they won’t do anything and I told you that day. It may look that he is doing it, but he will not do it and by the grace of God he won’t do it. You see, Yorubas say if you give a ram to a masquerade, you give the ram together with the rope. NADECO is the body you should talk to about the actualization of the mandate. What is there in stock for the Nigerian people by going for the mandate, I can discuss that the policies and everything is being reviewed from time to time. I did a detailed work on my way to Johannesburg and back. I can make a copy of it available to you. These are things that are mine. I just didn’t wake up one day and say I want to become president of Nigeria. I wrote Farewell to Poverty in my own handwriting, the draft of which is still in this house. I sent it to the party for review. Of course, many of them didn’t even read it. But you see, if I want to do something there has to be a purpose to it. What is the conclusion: We have already seen it. Forty years ago, the vogue was free education, we didn’t have a single drop of oil for export then. Today it is school fees everywhere.
But for scholarship, I wouldn’t have had education. I wouldn’t have been where I am today. So here are people who are blocking the opportunities, the gateway to our future. When they say violence, they are doing violence to everybody – in the markets, the woman selling on the streets or on the road is being waylaid, you know. People are stealing, naked stealing, just because they carry these guns. ‘Ten years ago, Sani Abacha said that hospitals had become consulting rooms, they have now become mortuaries. Thousands of people are dying every day. Nobody wants blood but everybody wants new born baby. So, you see, when he took power, before then I sent him a paper. The Way forward. He said I should give it to Diya. I gave it to Diya. I sent it through Senator Tinubu to Diya. Diya assured me he gave a copy, he gave the thing to him. But after his broadcast when I saw him, he denied Diya ever gave him the thing. Okay anyway, he didn’t give him the thing. But you said you want to form this government, what type of government ? He said he wants a government of big names. I said what does that mean? He said look at Jakande….like Awolowo did, like Awolowo with Gowon. I said there was no election, then. You can’t have Hamlet without the Prince. I was the one elected. There is no big name anymore. Until the next election, the only name is mine….It’s like wanting to be a Christian without believing in Jesus. Oh Paul was his good apostle, he wrote many epistles to the Corinthians , to Galatians to Ephesians and all that. But he’s not Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ did not have to write a single epistle to anybody. Of course, sermon on the mountain: blessed are the peacemakers for they shall see God and all that. He was the apostle of God, He was the prophet of God like Mohammed Sheikh Ibn Ali Abubakar and all that. They are all very important . There is no big name in presidential politics apart from the flagbearer who won the election. But the guy didn’t want to be politically educated. So, I said let me call my people who supported me throughout the country and ask them whether they want me to abandon the mandate. No, he said once the military do a coup, that is the end of the whole thing. Let me find out from the Nigerian people first, if they agree. I don’t know if you were there at that meeting. I asked them and they said no way. Hold on to the mandate. So at that point I would have expected Kingibe to say No, count me out of this mandate Oh! Bla…..Bla….. Bla…. But he got up to make some statements that when it is time for him to make up his mind, he will be accountable to his conscience and his God.
But what he said was that you had previously met Abacha before his (Kingibe’s) appointment.
A: It’s not true. Wait, I met Abacha before the coup and I sent him The Way Forward. A copy of it will be made available to you. Get it from Bola Tinubu. You will see how I itemize how he will call Nwosu, declare the results, reassemble the tribunals and all that. That was the only way forward.
But apparently, you didn’t discuss it with Kingibe and if you did, it wasn’t clear because in the interview we had with him…..
A: Wait, wait, wait. How can I, why will I not discuss with Kingibe? Kingibe knew that our own agenda was to actualize my mandate without bloodshed. And part of the agenda was that this guy will take over the government and finish what is left of the Interim Government by the end of March in the meantime while we form our own government. In fact, that was my own understanding. That was why I wrote to him. You will get a copy of it.
And he made a broadcast which did not reflect that: So I said what is happening? You asked me to bring a proposal. He said it was not given to him. Then I asked Diya, Diya told me it was a lie he gave it to him. I believe Diya. Then later I said wait, how do you now want to form a government after an election has been held and you are not the one elected? He said you see, when coup comes,….. I said well, okay, let me find out from the people who elected me. Their leaders will come and meet me. You said I shouldn’t have meetings, I want permission to hold a meeting, that I was reporting back to him the following day. The meeting took place on Sunday till about one o’clock in the morning. The first question I put to them: Do we surrender our mandate? They said no way. Those in favour of surrendering our mandate should raise their hands. Nobody did. Those who want us to uphold the mandate, everybody did including Kingibe himself. Do we deal with these characters now? Eighty percent said No. they said what do I think? If we cook a pot of soup and said we should all come with our plates, he will give us bit by bit. Where I come from I will not bring any place to the person. That is what these characters want us to go and do. There was a loud ovation for that analogy. But still I said those who say …Then Kingibe said if we don’t follow Yar’aAdura, people will go in and monopolise this again. I said for how long? Shonekan’s one lasted 82 days. This one will probably last 10 days. It’s only if we join them can they last six, seven months. Even those who join will regret doing so. Because you cannot be a democrat and become a servant of a dictator. They said Chief Awolowo did the same thing. I said this is rubbish, it was an emergency situation then. The ship of state was virtually adrift. The only man came in and rescued it. When he saw the army still wanted to stay put, he abandoned it. He abandoned the thing for them. He was doing a national duty. We are not in such situation now.
What explains the mutual distrust between you and Kingibe?
There was no mutual distrust. If I distrusted him, I wouldn’t have picked him as my running mate. I don’t call a dog a monkey. You see, during the primaries, you read it in Sunray, Observer, The Punch, he (KIngibe) said it was not conceivable for a Southerner to become president of Nigeria for a long time to come. But to me that was his view. He’s a politician. But after the primaries he lost. Very narrowly, but he lost. In politics majority of one is enough. That was what Winston Churchill said when he came back after defeating Clement Atlee by a majority of two. One is enough it’s a majority. I won. So I was busy planning my campaign meeting with various bodies – Christians, blacksmiths, transporters, traders all over the place, and that was the priority. I was consulting people about V.P. too. It boiled down to: Is it Kingibe, is it Atiku, is it Paschal Bafyau or Bala Takaya and so on? That is my duty to do. To pick my running mate. Everything considered, I picked Kingibe. At that time, he was an ordinary member of the party. He had already lost. Again, that is politics. He was not the flagbearer. Although he produced the horse, I was the one who rode that horse in Jos. That is the winner. In politics, the winner is the winner. But I picked him and I offered him. He accepted the offer. Most of you are students of law. A contract is formed when an offer means unqualified acceptance. That’s what they call consensus addidem. There was no problem, he accepted the offer, so obviously he must have eaten his words about election of no Southerner bla….bla….bla…because I didn’t win the nomination to lose the election. I fought every ine of the way. I have never lost before in my life. And I have never failed to achieve my objective too before. If you know where I was coming from, it’s like somebody coming from 24,000 miles below sea level and flying now at 60,000 feet in a Concorde. That is what God has done with my life. So when Kingibe came on board, I took him up, I gave him a copy of Farewell To Poverty. Any criticisms? He said No. any input? He now called his own team to join my team. It was obvious who the candidate was. You’ve worked with me before. I work with everybody I respect – everybody but there will be no doubt as to who the boss was. Absolutely no doubt. We went into a campaign. I financed the entire campaign. All the resources I made available. I have a purpose. I want to alleviate suffering and poverty in this land forever and set us on a permanent course for progress.
I did that with my life. I can do it for the entire country. You cannot have progress without accountability. What the army has really is power without responsibility. You see, I can’t blame a butcher for not being a good surgeon. He doesn’t touch the animal until the animal is dead anyway. It’s like a Pathologist or what they call morbid anatomist. By the time he sees the patient, he (the patient) is dead. So he would just tear the parts apart. That is what soldiers are like. Soldiers are not meant to rule. To them opposition is not only meant to be defeated but destroyed. Because it is treason. If there is no opposition in government, you have a megalomaniac in your hands.
But it does not appear as if you carried your running mate with you all the time?
Do I have to carry him on my back? He’s in the aircraft with me every time. When we change into Rivers State dress they will change him and change me too. Look, there was an election to win. We are not husband and wife for God’s sake. Carry running mate along?
Don’t you see it rather metaphorically? That there was crisis of confidence….
Did we……Did he ever express a disagreement of policy during the campaigns that you heard of?
Well not in that sense. But when the coup came which was much later…
A: Listen, what created the katakata (crisis) was the annulment. Everything was singing and dancing. If we were sworn in and I am glad we were not sworn in, I must tell you. I am very very glad I did not become president on 27th August,
I wouldn’t have known the country enough not really the way that I know it now.
Do you want to illustrate your new realization?
There are a lot of things… You see, if I had gone back to university for the last forty years I wouldn’t have learnt what I learnt in the last eleven months.
Do you feel betrayed when Kingibe took up appointment under Abacha administration?
I said he shouldn’t have done that. I don’t feel personally betrayed. I felt the people were betrayed. You see, he had an opportunity at the meeting I called that Sunday to come out openly and say for personal reasons which he told me later in this room after his appointment has been announced. I’m coming back to the issue of Abacha mentioning it to me. You see, he could have told those who supported us as part of respect for them. But he didn’t. And I went to Abacha’s house on the day before the announcement of the appointment after we’ve discussed and he (Abacha) was still adamant on going ahead with cabinet of big names. I tried to persuade him, you see, I went to his house the following Monday and I was ambushed by television cameras. I am a big boy. I couldn’t cover my head, because it didn’t change my protocol at all.
A few weeks of cheap popularity at my expense. I am a big boy. Big boys don’t cry, my friend. So I smiled at him. I mean if rape were inevitable, a wise woman would lie down and enjoy it, unless the rape were being perpetrated by a eunuch then it becomes a burden. But I know the whole thing is a waste of time. You only fool all the people some of the time or some of the people all the time. You can’t fool all the people all the time. He asked me to come nearer him, I went nearer him and we talked. But what I said was not relayed on television. It was just the picture and people started to imagine all sorts of things. I’m a big boy, I walked into it. That’s part of politics. He thought he could achieve something. When stories were then being circulated that I gave list of ministers, that I was settled, I phoned him: Sani, tell your press secretary to tell the world that I was not settled, that I did not give you any list of ministers. He said, yes , oh yes, it would be done. Six days, seven days, no statement came, since I did not sell my mouth to the washman I had to tell the world what really happened. And they did not again say it. So, Chikena!
So, you see, I went to see him about this cabinet of big names. He was still going on that if Gowon could succeed, he should be able to do it. He would just sit down there and they will be doing all the work . I want to rule and all that. As I was going on then, he said I might consider giving your V.P. a job in that government . I laughed. I thought it was a joke. My V.P. is elected. No 2. Citizen of Nigeria, who the hell are you? He has no number, Abacha! I mean in the real order of president, who appointed him judge over us? I thought it was a joke. Walahi! Talahi!! How can anybody, you see, you build a house roofed with zinc in my village and naming ceremony is to be performed in a thatched house. Is that progress? How can somebody, having been elected, having been elected No 2 become whatever he is under a military. I thought it was a joke. Until I heard the announcement…..I heard it, when Baba himself, look, that morning of the announcement, Sam Mbakwe was here talking about the mandate. I said I couldn’t believe that. Did he tell you? No! why would he tell me such a thing. He won’t do it. He has already accepted. But they said they thought this man was only joking yesterday. He was not joking they said. He eventually told me that you know, some of them are finding it difficult to maintain their families bla…bla….bla…and so on…
Can the 12 June mandate be realized without the vice president elect?
Well, eh! eh! There is nothing that God cannot do. If the vice president-elect decides not to be available, that is too bad. You see, if you look at the results of the elections, look at it, the election was one of a national reconciliation and really, it was national reconciliation day: 12 June. Look into Kaduna state, SDP controlled only four out of 18 local government but NRC hardly had their own third on 12 June. And in front of Tofa’s house I beat him. I mean the polling station there. In his ward, his local government, everything. Even in Tofa village, I beat him. You see, that is God’s work. It was God that did that God did not require the permission of Kingibe or anybody. For as long as I am alive, the ticket is well. Okay, if Kingibe was so essential to the ticket, why didn’t it I die since he left. So you see, let us be very clear. You see, the vice president is my running mate. He kept saying the mandate belongs to the two of us. It’s a lie. The mandate is mine. He was my running mate. Read your constitution well and see the practice. You see, a president tells the vice president what he wants him to do period! It’s not a joint presidency. Is anybody in doubt about that? So, you see, at the appropriate time I have a very large heart. I have nothing against anybody. So, you see, this is a time for reconciliation. Most of those who want 12 June are not SDP, they did not even vote for me on 12 June. They are ordinary Nigerians and of both political persuasions. That is why my government will be government of National Reconciliation. Everybody who is competent and capable and is able to assist in bringing about a new nation that will smile to the world for the world to smile back at us with their investments which will employ our people to make life better for all Nigerians, give substantial employment to everybody and give us the future that we need to be able to walk proudly into the new century, will be welcome.
When is this government coming up?
It will be coming up very very soon indeed.
It will be coming up very, very soon. I think these are questions you should ask NADECO. You see, eh, eh like I told you, you must work within a team. I have answered quite a lot of your questions which are within my personal jurisdiction to answer. I know the answer to the question you’ve asked, but I’m not privileged to let you know. Because you see, if you knew too much in advance about NADECO, although you tried to scoop it, but you see, but if you knew too much in advance about it – and you didn’t have too much advance notice about it – it didn’t just appear suddenly like that, it was worked upon….
Yes…..but the week before NADECO issued its ultimatum calling on the government to leave and give the mandate to you by the end of this month, you were going to address the nation, the people to form a government. This never came….
Listen! Listen!! It was a draft. It was not signed, you see, if the bucket is full of water, a single hand cannot carry it to the head. Nigeria is a big country not a banana republic. I think quite a lot, which I commit a lot of things into writing and I circulate to people to comment upon. I don’t know which of the copies you picked up. I haven’t even had time to read what your expose was. Exclusive, as you call it. But you see, you just got one of the drafts. I kept improving on it. The 38-page one which I wrote before going to Johannesburg and back. I had about 22 hours in the aircraft. So what should I be doing? I left home with my wife so I can’t be discussing with her on such a long journey. You see, I like writing. I wrote the thing, faxed it to people. It’s in the context of what they say, will there be a release. Then they said, ain’t you the one who has been doing this and that, let us do this for you.
Some Nigerians felt you developed cold feet.
You see, my feet are not cold. Nigeria does not belong to me alone. Nigeria belonigs to all of us. There are many elderly people in Nigeria who seriously mean well for this country. And you know, as a man who believes in God, you are forced to seek advice or even pay for it. That is the purpose of faxing people, having messages hand delivered to Kano, to Sokoto – everywhere, copies of these things for their comments. They are exposure drafts. What they call green papers abroad. You see, we are so used to military where everything is done in secrecy.
When you were abroad – after the purported annulment of the mandate, you kept saying you were in contact with a General, I guess it’s Abacha….
I don’t want to discuss about the General I was talking about.
The question I want to ask is whether the General gave the impression he was not part of the annulment?
I had the impression that he was not happy about the annulment. The statements made by some of them before was distancing them from the continuity of military regimes. You read some of them. And even when I was about to come back, they said, well , let us deal with the Babangida boys first, they can cause trouble for you. We don’t want that bla…bla….bla… And when I arrived, they brought my AirFrance plane to the presidential lounge to off-load me. I was given the impression that everything was…..a read carpet was on. What else do you want? I got the impression this is really – a pro-democracy element within the regime. Anyway, maybe they changed their minds. But the people have rejected them. And there is no hiding place now. They have overstayed their welcome.
You once told us in an earlier interview we had with you, that you’re not ready to die for…..
Wait….Wait….Wait…. Don’t ….Don’t…..Don’t start to talk about death. It’s because…..
I say wait. Don’t….i don’t want to flog that anymore. If you ‘re dead you would not be here now.
Okay, you believe in procedures..
I believe in due procedures…
In due process, okay. You don’t like shedding of blood and you won’t like to rupture Nigeria’s sovereignty. But as the same time, in a week’s time there might be two symbols of authority and the second one will be organized by you. How do you reconcile that?
It will be reconciled. Look, it’s not organized by me. Again, you seem to like the politics of personalization. It will be headed by me all right. Yes. But not organized by me. It is organized by the Nigerian people. Those people who boycotted the yeye election of last Monday and those who will boycott the one on Saturday by which time there will be a coherent political voice in this country. I can assure you of that.
How many ministers in Abacha’s government have started walking back or are trying to walk back to you?
I will not discuss that. I will not discuss that. It’s not fair.
Have you been in contact with the NRC the SDP and members of the ..?
I’m in contact with every Nigerian including yourself. You know I don’t turn anybody back in this house. My house is like a polling station. We never lock the door.
Given the fact that you were elected on the platform of the Social Democratic Party, this party has been banned, all democratic structures dissolved, don’t you see that as eroding the manadate?
Now way, the mandate is of the people. The people have not been banned in which case there will be no Nigeria. In any case, if the mandate has been eroded, why has there been no peace in Nigeria since the annulment?
The people reject the annulment. The people reject those who announced the annulment. It’s like Nigeria since then, has been like a beautiful girl who was married by a foolish father to a eunuch. Because that eunuch would wash her in the morning, wash her dress, cook for her. What type of husband would that be?
You promised about two weeks ago when you went to Ibadan that after forming your own government, you are going to convoke a Sovereign National conference (SNC). What if that SNC decides that maybe Nigeria should no longer exist in which case you would no longer be able to exercise your mandate?
No, listen! An SNC is called by a Sovereign nation. No nation has the right to decree itself out of existence in international law. There are certain limitations. It is clear most Nigerians do not have a sense in the present arrangement. There is no doubt at all about that. How do we live together so that we can be happy to be able to realize our full potentials as a people? How will the constitution be? The social contract between the nation and the individuals with the union groups that make our great country in such a way that everybody could be able to hold his head high as we used to be able to do and say: I am a Nigerian. Most people cannot say that now. And there has to be justice. A system where some people are destined to be hewers of wood and carriers of water is not a just system. You see, our national motto does not contain the word justice. It’s Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress. You see, you cannot have peace without justice. All those are the things that are to be restructured.
Don’t you think former president Babangida has a role to play in all this?
I don’t know? What role will he want to play?
There was a time you wrote a letter to him….?
Yes, you see, I believed and still believe that he left Abacha behind deliberately. For Abacha to take over under what I later believed was called turn-by-turn.
How did you know that?
It doesn’t require an oracle to know that. If you leave a man among thirty women and you say one of the women is the head, it’s not convincing. But the man is the one with uniform; he didn’t allow the so called head of state to address the armed forces, for once. The whole thing was a ruse. The whole idea was, well as I told you, I’ve learnt a lot. You wait for my memoir. It will be very, very interesting.
Well, I don’t know how much time I will have in the next few years. I have a daily diary which I’ve been keeping in the past eleven months.
But if you’re going to rule Nigeria for four years, you still have a hell of a job to do.
You will be part of the rulership. You’re joking if you think I’ll put all the load on my head alone. Do I look like an over-burdened person? I have so many companies, but I still have people running them.
Recently, you wrote some letters to General Babangida. Why did you have to write him?
That is like asking me that recently I went to see Nzeribe, I went to see Ojukwu.
Yes, these questions are important.
I know. I wasn’t alone. When you’re in politics, you get all manners of conflicting advice. And depending on the balance of the advice available to you, some things really look sensible. I consulted people. The day I went to Nzeribe, I wasn’t alone. You saw the pictures, some of our governors were there. I did not drag them, and they were all smiling. It took months of persuasion for me. You see, I’ve learnt that if you really want to be President of Nigeria, you must be able to leave your door open to anybody who wants to come to you. if he wants to talk to me, why should I not talk to him? What has he done that many people have not done before? He has never been put on trial. You see, even if he were until he’s found guilty, the presumption of innocence is still there. If he wants to see me why can’t I, there are people outside there, I’ll still see them tonight.
The Eastern Mandate Union has come out to say that the military government should quit. But it gives 30 June at least 30 days after 30 May which NADECO has given. This has kind of reinforced your position although there’s a slight confusion.
As far as I’m concerned, these are questions you should ask from NADECO. I’m ready and willing all this time, but you know, there are so many ways of handling things. 30 June, 12 June, it’s not something that we should really bother too much about really. I shouldn’t lose any sleep about that. I’ve been ready from day one. If I weren’t ready I wouldn’t have gone all this way. Some people were saying that the mandate was dead. I laughed. I kept assuring you when last you spoke to me. There is no way you can kill the mandate without killing Nigeria. And you see, I can understand from looking at your experience of life-because you are in the media which is considerable, compared with the people of your age group. But which is still a little behind ours. There are some areas in which you are better than I am. You may have more clothes than I have but I have more rags than you have.
It appears that you will agree that there is a new Abiola now with his own hidden agenda?
No! No! No! What Abiola has been is the same Abiola. Wait, let me tell you this. I am a very pragmatic person. I do not go around knocking my head against a brick wall. If I had been doing that, I wouldn’t have arrived up till now. In three months time, by the Grace of God, I would be 57. I have some pretty good ideas of how to get things done in the best way possible. But you see, you cannot clap with one hand. I’ve always told you that during the campaigns.
In a retrospective sense, what do you think has accounted for your new resolve?
It took time to get people together. In an atmosphere where all parties have been banned and SSS people are doing what they are doing, it takes time. Give Jack time. You see, the mandate won’t run away. And that was the point I was trying to relay to you last time. You see, what will normally take ten days, if you want to do it in one day you won’t survive till the next day. Some things are simply impossible.
If you want a live baby and you want to be sure of it – even if the lady co-operated from the moment you set your eyes on her – it would take at least nine months. Some things just can’t be rushed. Human beings, we are very responsible people, you must weigh the options and so on. It’s the first time in the history of any African country that responsible, accredited, highly praised political groups come out and say: you are soldiers, go back, enough. Ah Ah! It’s not something people like Papa Ajasin people, like Chief Bola Ige, people like Chief Anthony Enahoro. I mean people like Professor Anya Anya, people like Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe whow as a number two man in this country before, Ndubuisi Kanu was in the SMC for a long time, they know how vicious this military government can be. People like Balarabe Musa. People like General Adebayo. These are very senior Nigerians. For them to be convinced that wait, this is important, it takes time. They say a man convinced against his wish is of the same opinion still. We are all ready now, worst, I am ready like the Ever-Ready battery.