Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The David Jemibewon Exclusive 2: “What I know about the recent coup scare in Nigeria” + My disappointment with Ango Abdullai & the education system


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General David Medayese Jemibewon (CFR, mni)

In this second edition of our exclusive encounter with General David Medayese Jemibewon (CFR, Mni), the General shared his fear for a Nigerian political elite that lacks objectivity and candor when political leadership is on the burner. The Iyah-Gbedde, Kogi State (North Central Nigeria) born elder statesman regretted ever fighting for the unity of Nigeria in the 30 months Nigerian civil war, claiming that, with the way things are going in the polity, the efforts of heroes past (which he is equally among) seems to be lost to the perils of now.
General Jemibewon 77, who retired into education business as founder of Jemibewon International Academy—Iyah-Gbedde, is equally angry with the rate at which mushroom universities without quality spring up in Nigeria despite the presence of a body like the National University Commission. On the imminent coup scare revealed by Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Buratai last week, Jemibewon, an old horse in the trade of stratagem gave his verdict to Asabeafrika. However, his response to the ramblings of Professor Ango Abdullai on the possibility of having Professor Yemi Osinbajo succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in the event of death in 2019 will shock you.
Jemibewon is a former Governor of Western State of Nigeria under late General Murthala Mohammed’s regime between August 1975 and March 1976. He later became the first Governor of Oyo State after Oyo; Ogun & Ondo were carved out of the old Western States. He ruled Oyo under Obasanjo’s military regime between March 1976 and July 1978 before he was promoted as Adjutant General of the Nigerian Army towards the end of 1978.  He came back to limelight in 1999 when he was appointed Minister of Police Affairs under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s civilian regime, a position he held with transformative strides till year 2000.
Enjoy the excerpts in this second part of our encounter with the General.
 The Chief of Army Staff General Tukur Buratai recently raised the alarm that some politicians are approaching the Army seeking for a change of government from the present democratic structure. As a General and statesman, do you fear we might experience another coup in this country?
The GDA & The General
(Laughs) Anyway, I am not too sure that going back to the military (rule) is the solution. And to be honest with you, I don’t know the solution. But I don’t think the military is the solution. If anything, the military has contributed to some of the problems we have. Even though I come through the military establishment; sometimes I ask myself this question ‘the various military governments we had, did they really come out for the good of the country or there were some underlining personal ambition?’ This is the question I keep asking myself.
(Cuts in) I think you are asking yourself a very critical question.
General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika...'At times i feel ashamed of the legacy of the military in Nigeria'
Because if the military did the right thing and for the good of the country, we ought not to be where we are now; so to think of the military (coming back to rule), I don’t think that is where hope lies. I don’t think so. I don’t see the military taking over. Like I said, I don’t know the solution but I don’t think the military is the solution. I don’t see it happening.  For Buratai speaking out on this matter, I think that is a good one from him because we are now in a democratic dispensation and the military should not be seen interfering in politics. Politicking is not their job. I am in total support of Buratai’s position.   
Last year while chatting with you at your country home, you said you think Mr. President had a big dream for Nigeria but his health might be a challenge as age is no more on his side. Sir, right now the Northern Elder’s Forum led by Professor Ango Abdullahi has said that should Mr. President’ health fail him in 2019, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo would not be allowed to contest. That even if Professor Osinbajo is allowed to finish the President’s tenure if the worst happens, he must not be allowed to contest in 2019. That the politics of power sharing must take precedence over every other sentiment?
The GDA engages the General
To be honest, the reference you made to Ango Abdullahi I haven’t read it. But if he did say so, I will be very surprised and disappointed. If he did say so; because I think we have reached a stage in this country that we should interpret the constitution and provisions of the law as the drafters of such laws intended. So, I am not too sure if there is any provision that says if a political appointee or elected officer comes from one particular part of the country, in the event of him relinquishing that position, we must go and bring somebody from that same Geo-political location to continue his work.
But that is exactly what the Northern Elites are saying through Professor Ango Abdullai, they want rotational politics over the constitution. They fear that since it happened with Yar’adua & Goodluck Jonathan, it could as well happen with Buhari & Osinbajo?
General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika...'This country cannot move forward if the political elites continue to think like Ango Abdullai'
Honestly, this is one question that I find very difficult to say anything other than what I have said. For example, one has to be very careful otherwise, it could almost amount to wishing the President death and I will not expect anything, than to wish a fellow human being death; and in particular, under the same circumstance we are today. It is unfortunate that some people who have had great opportunity in this country that this country has brought up sometimes do make statements that are very diminishing. But like I said, I haven’t heard it until I heard it from you this evening. So, I am still using the word ‘if’. If he indeed said that, because I don’t see any reason why you should lie to me…
(Cuts in) At all, sir
General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika....'I am really disappointed with Professor Ango Abdullai's statement on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo'
But if he did say that, then, he is not helping the country and he is a very, very matured person. An elderly person who has held very, very important positions; he was Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University. And if it is true he said that, I don’t think he is helping this country.
When you see what is happening in the country especially the corruption  among political elites and you juxtapose that with the survival of your own children and grand children, do you feel troubled as an elder statesman?
General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika...'This is not the Nigeria we hoped for'
That is why I said from the onset that the way this country is going was not the great dream we had or the hope we had for the country in our own time. Honestly, things have really gone bad that I couldn’t agree more with something I read in the newspaper last week and I didn’t bother to ask (questions) because it coincides with my own feeling. General (Alani) Akinrinade was lamenting, having to have fought in the civil war. Because when you look at the way the country is going today, you ask yourself, ‘what did we fight the civil war for?’ We fought it for the unity of this country. We fought for the progress of this country. But today, can we say we are united?
No, sir
General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika....'This country, Nigeria is not developing. I am sad'
Can we say the country is developing?
No.
So, what did we fight for? Those who have died, virtually, they died a wasted death and for those of us who are living, just imagine. We are lucky not to have died. We would have died. Yes, ‘our heroes past have never died in vain’ but honestly, I am not too sure that merely reciting that (in the national anthem) makes anything, possibly happening. I think a lot of people have died in vain. I don’t know whether that answers your question.
General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika....'I strongly believe a lot of our war heroes died in vain'
Yes, sir, to some large extent, it does  
Take for example, today; the roads are worse than they used to be. Education which you have emphasized has been bastardized. So many universities but no quality and yet we have organizations put in place to control education, what are we doing?
Yes, I was coming to ask you about education, you invested in education with the establishment of the Jemibewon International Academy in Iyah-Gbedde, whenever you travel and see some of these mushroom universities by the road side, what comes to your mind?
The General & the GDA sharing sad expression for Nigeria
I don’t know, I just hope that your journey from Lagos to Ibadan is not in vain (Quite for a while and breaks it with a sarcastic laugh). First, tell me one single thing that you feel proud of in Nigeria.
In fact, I can’t mention one right away because the whole scenario is muddled up
The General explaining a point to the GDA
Everything has gone banana; the education you just mention is worse. They are still approving universities. And there was a time I sat down; when we were cadets. From the day you entered the military training school, the British instructors who were then training us, will tell us the number of cadets that will pass for that year for the course. They will tell you the number that will pass. For example, we were 28 cadets including myself and they told us only 14 will pass. Even Britain, they control the number of lawyers they produce annually, the number of engineers they produce per year, in their universities. The reason is; a man who has been well educated, his hopes have been raised for good life, for employment. When he comes out of the university, in order words he has a vision. He has hope. He has objectives. And if he cannot meet his hopes, he becomes dejected and he may be anti-society.
General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika....'If a system trains a graduate and cannot engage the graduate in one meaningful exercise, that system is a dead system'
This is why the advanced countries plan how many people go to their professional bodies, how many people go to certain institutions, it is so planned that when they come out there are avenues for employment. Of course if you train a man up to that level and he comes out and his aspiration is not achieved, his ambition is not achieved and he becomes somebody roaming around; he starts asking himself questions and he might be a de-stabilizer of the society because he is angry with the society. So, that is the situation in our country—universities everywhere. Some of the students who passed out of these universities, a lot of them can hardly write their names. And yet this country must compete with other countries of the world. So I don’t think the proliferation of universities is good for our country but I can also tell you that it is the Nigerian malaise. If you go to a street and somebody starts selling dodo. Within six months, go there again, you may find half of the street is selling dodo. So, every tom, dick and harry want to own a university.
So, what could be the solution?
General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika...'I am sad the way and manner our education system has gone bad'
There are bodies that recommend the approval of these universities, there is a national body called the National University Commission. I don’t know how they make these recommendations. Honestly, I am sorry; I am almost not being coherent because I cannot explain.
I can see your pains sir. I can see you are disappointed with standards?
General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika...'I cannot explain the role of NUC in regulating the Nigerian Education system'
I just cannot understand because the National University Commission ought to have a plan to say ‘alright, from now to the next ten years we should not have more than so-so numbers of universities approved’. And because of the nature of Nigeria-socially, religiously, tribal or ethnic wise, you can now structure these universities in such a way that it will take care of everybody. You could say ‘alright, east-west-north, this is the number of the universities for now’. ‘Religious bodies, this is the number of universities for you’. And you guide it and ensure you get a consensus so that it is seen as a policy and everybody follow through. Today, from where you come from, I don’t know where you come from and don’t bother to tell me. If you establish a university there, somebody next to your door goes to apply, he too wants a university. It doesn’t work like that and that is a major problem.
The issue of the churches establishing universities with exorbitant school fees that scare away the poor man in the church is another issue. Do you think that is morally OK?
The GDA giving General DM Jemibewon a copy of General Sam Momah's book; Nigeria:Beyond Divorce after the encounter
Number one, if the church has a university, they have an objective. And the fact that you are a member of that church cannot limit their condition because they ought to have conditions. If you establish a school today, the school is not meant for members of your family alone. What I am trying to say is that even if there is Christian university, there is no reason a Muslim cannot go to a Christian University. There is no reason a Christian cannot go to a Muslim University. But we should have control mechanism to determine how many universities to be allowed to birth and ensure standards.
(To be continued)

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