- Diya explains the reason he thinks President Muhammadu Buhari is on the right track
- The former military governor of Ogun state speaks on relationship with late Gen. Sani Abacha
- He also highlights the reason corruption has been prevalent in the country
General Oladipo Diya (rtd) in a no-holds-barred interview with The Sun declared categorically that President Muhammadu Buhari will not only successfully complete his first term of four years, he will run for another term in 2019 to complete his constitutionally allowed eight years.
Diya also opened up on his dilemma over the agitation for Ijebu state in 1996, and why it was not achieved when he was 'number two' citizen of the country.
Read the excerpts from the interview below:
Do you think the 1985 coup that brought Gen Babangida to power was necessary, looking at the fact that the corruption which Buhari was fighting then is what Nigeria is still battling with now?
It’s so sad that Nigeria is still battling with the issue of corruption. But I was too junior at that time to comment or give opinion on issues like that. In the military, junior officers only obey laws and order. You don’t have opinion or comment on decisions. You’ll get to a particular rank before you can express your opinion, especially on tactical matters.
As a retired Lt General and former number two citizen, what do you have to say on the disrupted war against corruption and the crisis the country is facing today as a result of corruption?
The way I will look at it, government as late Chief Obafemi Awolowo said, is a continuum. Government is there. And there is a reason for government to exist. And problems would always be there for government to solve, otherwise why do we have government. Problems would always be there. It is unfortunate that people believe that once somebody comes and spends four years in government and leaves, that is the end of everything. No! Otherwise, you will have nothing to campaign about if there is no problem at all, Nobody will come to say I will do this, I will do that.
If the war against indiscipline embarked upon by Gen Buhari in 1984 had been sustained, what do you think Nigeria as a nation would have become by now?
Well, it depends on the person there. I mean, when I was a governor, one day I heard a governor had been removed and redeployed. We wondered about what he did that could have led to his removal. Later, we heard that he approved a contract without the knowledge of the State Executive Council. You know we have State Executive Council. And certain things must pass through the State Executive Council before they are approved. So, if you implement certain projects without the knowledge and approval of the State Executive Council then you have committed an offence. So, when you hear that a governor has been removed because of that offence, it makes you to be more careful because you don’t want a situation where you will be held for such offence.
When late General Sani Abacha was the Head of State, he introduced War Against Indiscipline and Corruption, but after his death a lot of high level corrupt acts carried out by his government were exposed, do you regret being his deputy then?
Well, I thank God that I served innocently and fairly. And up till today, nobody has been able to raise an issue that General Diya did this or that. That alone gives me a sort of satisfaction of the mind, and a consolation. When you are talking in terms of corruption and all sort of negative things, nobody could say General Diya was involved.
Would you ascribe that to the kind of discipline you got under Buhari?
Yes. I served under Gen Buhari. And I knew Buhari would not tolerate any rubbish from anybody.
Are you saying that was the type of lifestyle you imbibed while in the military?
Yes; to the glory of God. And I still believe Buhari is still the same now. So, I’m happy.
Now, looking at corruption and the havoc it has caused in Nigeria, how will you describe the latest effort by President Buhari, bearing in mind that some people are already complaining that it is bringing hardship?
I have nothing to say, except to just appeal to everybody to be patient with Mr. President. Buhari is going to spend four years. And after that, he is going to spend another four years. He has not spent a year out of the first four years and people are already complaining. All I will say is for our people to just be patient and support the president.
About 20 years ago, there was strong agitation for creation of Ijebu State. What actually happened that Abacha could not honour you with the creation of the state, whereas Ekiti got it?
At the time the agitation for creation of more states started, people from the old Ijebu Province applied. But unfortunately, at the time the agitation for Ijebu State was going on, leaders of the Ijebu at that time were not in agreement with Abacha’s government for whatever reason. They were right for demanding for the creation of a state for Ijebu because among all the 12 provinces in Nigeria during the colonial era only Ijebu Province has not become a state. Some provinces have gotten up to two or three states each whereas the Ijebu province is still merged with Egba to be one state. So, they were right for demanding for creation of a state.
Unfortunately for them at that time, there was this NADECO (National Democratic Coalition) which was strongly opposed to the government of Abacha and formed mass resistance against military rule as far back as 1994, agitating for the actualisation of June 12, 1993 presidential election. NADECO leaders then were mostly leaders of Ijebu people, including our reverred father, late Chief Abraham Adesanya, who was a former senator and leader of the NADECO. People like Chief Ayo Adebanjo, even this our father from Ayepe-Ijebu, late Onasanya and many others, were leading the strong opposition against Abacha’s administration.
Above all, our revered royal father, Oba Awujale, was very outspoken in the struggle for actualisation of June 12. In fact, they named him Oba NADECO at that time in the government circle. They all had their reasons, but Abacha was not happy that these people were giving him serious headache at the time. How can he create a state for people who were committed to fighting his government to stand still. This was the main reason Abacha found it impossible for him to do.
Whereas the Ekiti people were not like that. The Ewi of Ado- Ekiti mobilized all the Obas in Ekiti and they came on solidarity visit to Abuja to see Abacha. So the Head of State and all around him were impressed with the visit. I knew immediately that he would surely create Ekiti State for the people. You know, I, Oladipo Diya brought Prof. Aluko to Abacha to work with the government. So, during the time of the agitation for state creation, Aluko encouraged the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti to come. And all the Obas in Ekiti paid solidarity visit. Prominent people from Ekiti like General Adeyinka Adebayo(rtd), Aare Afe Babalola were not found in any opposition group and they all worked towards the actualisation of Ekiti State. Both Baba Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo(rtd) and Chief Afe Babalola were not in NADECO at all.
Now, tell me, if two groups of people are asking for something from you. And leaders of one group are committed to fighting you, the other group does not give you any problem, instead, expresses some level of support for you, would you give those who are committed to giving you strong opposition and asking you to leave your position of authority? That was what happened on the issue of Ijebu State. The opposition from leaders of Ijebu in NADECO was very tough. I said they used to call this same Awujale, Oba NADECO, instead of Oba Awujale, you can understand my dilemma. While Awujale was also agitating for creation of Ijebu State, he was also insisting on having the state capital in Ijebu Ode, while the people of Remo were saying they don’t want their identity to be lost to state creation. They want the name to be Ijebu- Remo, or Remo-Ijebu State.
The Akarigbo of Remoland even said recently that they want it to be named Awolowo State if the capital must be in Ijebuland, and if it must be named Ijebu State, that the capital should be in Remo. Abacha was only laughing at them because he didn’t want to create a state for those who wanted him to vacate his seat. That is the whole truth.
How did you feel on that day in 1996 when states created by Abacha were announced and none was for your people?
Because I knew earlier that the Head of State was not interested in creating a state for people he saw as giving him problem, I was not surprised.
Some people said you were making efforts to make Odogbolu, your hometown, the State Capital?
(Cuts in) Not some people. It was the Awujale himself; because he made a broadcast. You know he is our Baba. Whenever he talks; as a father he jokes a lot. So, any time he talks and cracks those jokes I would just laugh. He was the one who said that Odogbolu wanted to be capital. What type of thing is that? Would I say I would not allow a state to be created if the capital is not in Odogbolu? What kind of nonsense is that? How can I say that? In fact, even if it is Odogbolu, is Odogbolu not in Ijebu? That is not an issue at all. As a father, you should be happy that it is in Ijebu. But, like I said, he is our father.
General Oladipo Diya (rtd), a former Chief of General Staff (CGS), was Nigeria's vice president under the late General Sani Abacha's regime as Nigeria's head of state.
He was arrested for treason in 1997 and would have been eliminated but for the death of his boss in 1998 as he was given a presidential pardon by Abdulsalami Abubakar who took over from Abacha.