Note: General Ogbemudia wrote one of the most insightful reports on Niger Delta issues, before the insurgency in 2006.
26 September 2011
An elder statesman and former governor of Midwest/Bendel State, Retired Brigadier-General (Dr) Samuel Ogbemudia, on September 17, 2011, turned 79. He spoke to select journalists in his
home on a number of personal and national issues. Christian Okeke brings the excerpts. Abuja
Growing up, did you have the dream that one day, a man from your South-South zone would become the president of the country?
If you follow events as they happened, you would notice that I was in the forefront of those fighting to get Dr Gooodluck Jonathan elected as president. When he was Vice-President, we were all there to ensure that he was made Acting President. To me, it was one of the dreams come true that a southerner, particularly of his age, became the president. So, I see him as the arrowhead of those who had come, as John the Baptist, to prepare the way for the younger generation to come.
What are your expectations now that he is in office?
The expectation is in two forms. One is that the people of
should support him to succeed. Two, he himself should appreciate that support and follow the route charted for him. Nigeria
Do you think having a military background has anything to do with succeeding or not succeeding as president of the country?
No, you don’t need a military background to study or understand the system of buying and selling. You don’t need a military background to know that
must be safe for people; protect their lives and properties. You don’t need a military background to have food security; you don’t need a military background to have social security. So, security being man’s first problem, you don’t need a military background to solve it. Nigeria
Some people are of the opinion that the crisis that the country is having could be a prelude to the country breaking up. What’s your take on that?
Every day, every week, every month and every year, people come up with different ideas. There are those who pray to have us broken up because they are tired of it and they want to go to their enclave to be somebody to be reckoned with.
won’t break up as far as what I read on the wall is concerned. The handwriting on the wall hasn’t got that. Nigeria
You supported the emergence of President Jonathan at a time when others were threatening to make the country ungovernable for him if he eventually emerged president. Now that he is president, we have seen an escalation of crisis. Do you suspect sabotage?
I do not. First and foremost, democracy, which we operate, allows for different views on a particular subject. Once upon a time I was in
when Davies Steel said, “Our next task is to bring down the government of Thatcher.” Freedom of information allows for all those statements. London
That something is happening which was purportedly prophesied on sometimes before only puts before the government that challenge to stop it, to clear it, to remove it because you cannot have a country without any challenge. I don’t believe that there is sabotage. Those who want to make the country ungovernable, they are pitching their tents opposite the tent of the majority of Nigerians and when they face them, they cannot cope.
Government cannot abdicate its responsibility to protect the lives and properties of the citizens. It must feed the people: that means full and comprehensive return to agriculture with the involvement of all the three tiers of government and the private sector, is a must. We need power; we need rail. Then we must add roads. Other traditional and even new functions of government follow like education, health, communication and others. I am happy with our stride on communications, but we need to revisit our educational and health institutions. We also need to pay more attention to sports.
What is your reaction to the spate of bombings in the country?
From being a very peaceful society, we have gradually grown in violent crimes and now it is bomb blast. When the police headquarters was bombed, even though we suspected terrorism, I did not expect that it was by a suicide bomber or that there was foreign collaboration. Now, all doubts have gone with the bombing of the United Nations headquarters here. Clearly, a person drove the car. From what we now know, including the very recent discovery by the SSS, Nigerian terrorists have foreign collaborators. The circle of international terrorism is now complete in our dear country. It is the single most important challenge facing government and the people.