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Date: Sat, 11 Jul 98 09:49:37 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Article: 38710
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.6098.19980712121527@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** africa.nigeria: 1964.0 **/
** Topic: BOLA IGE SPEAKS **
** Written 3:30 PM Jul 8, 1998 by baba in cdp:africa.nigeria **

From: Ibukunolu Alao Babajide <Arilesire@email.msn.com>
To: Babatunde Harrison <baba@igc.apc.org>

Bola Ige speaks

Interview, 8 July 1998

The younger generation of Nigerians lack guts: Bola Ige

Chief Bola Ige, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) recently emerged from detention, courtesy of the new Head of State Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar and charged that the new generation of Nigerians are not doing enough for the struggle. In this interview with Assistant Editor, OBI NWAKANMA, and SANYA OSHA who teaches philosophy at Ladoke Akintola University, Ogbomosho, Chief Ige is his vintage self. Excerpts:


Terrible. I was picked off from the SSS headquarters in Ibadan here, like a common criminal. Put in a loads van. . . .

You were picked up from this house?

Yes. Though I drove with them from here. And then on a Tuesday, three days later, they took me to Markurdi just like a common criminal, hedged in between two hefty men. For thirteen hours, they drove to Markudi. They didn't know the road to Markurdi, I had to show them.

Did you think at this time in your life, that you would be picked up. Was it a possibility you envisaged?

Oh yes. The military have no respect for age or experience. They never had, anywhere in the world. I never deceived myself that they couldn't. The only thing in which I took consolation was that anytime anyone hurts me without reason they would be doing themselves harm.

So You were psychologically prepared for the turn of events?. That's what you're saying?

Oh yes. I had never at anytime thought that they would never detain me. And as August 1 drew nearer, I was sure they'd pick me. They didn't want me to be around when August 1 took place.

What did you do with your time in Makurdi?

I had plenty of time to think about the present situation in Nigeria and to look at the structure which the military were already imposing on Nigeria.

And your conclusion?

My conclusion was that the military must be opposed with everything and whatever they may have done as far as these structures were concerned must be dismantled.

You sound ever so trenchant.


What gives you the courage to challenge the military?

The only thing that anyone has against the military is the determination that you'd not subject yourself to military rule. Once you have that determination, it is as strong as any armour. It's the people who do not know what democracy is that are afraid. It's your generation that is absolutely gutless in spite of your good education. It's tragic. I can't understand why people like you are afraid to fight them. Education equipped us to fight evil. I don't know what your education taught you. We were taught that anything that is evil must be fought. Whether moral, political or social. You know for us, money was unimportant. Our name is the thing. And what people perceive of us. And you'd see that none of us is rich in material things. . . .

Which generation are you talking about?

My generation. Do you know any of us that is rich?. In money terms? Do you know any of us that is rich? Give me an example.

Allison Ayida. . .

Its only after he left government. . ., but have you heard that he's involved in multi-million naira deals?. Have you heard that he is involved in lobbying for contracts? He's, oh yes, chairman of many companies, but that's for his experience and brain.

Okay, there must be some truth in the fact that my generation must have learnt from yours. We may be manifesting through the violent ethos of our time, some strain picked up from an earlier generation, your generation.

You did not learn from us at all. You probably read us, listened to our lectures. But you allowed people who had no heritage to tell you that the generation ahead of you was worthless. You didn't learn from our generation at all. If you learnt from us, you'd know that we had guts.

How do you translate the inertia of political activity at the grassroots. . .

What is the grassroots?. I hate when educated people like you mouth such words. What is grassroots democracy?. Which school of politicl philosophy have you read it, tell me, the modern or the classical schools?. You're using an emotive word that the military installed in your head as disinformation. Like homegrown democracy, like grassroots democracy. As an educated person, how do you define grassroots?

Well, at the level of the community, especially in the rural communities, the contentions are different from the urban politics, which is what seems to me to be the reality of Nigerian politics. The people seem generally disconnected.

Why is it that it is in Yoruba land that people have refused to vote in these times? Is it not as a result of political awareness?. Go and ask in Ogbomosho, they'd tell you that since the Army came, they've not been able to pay for the school fees of their children. Those are political judgements. That their wives now pay to get cards in hospitals. Those are political judgements. It's the educated ones who take money and go to meetings. The so called illiterate ones don't. And they are the ones whom when you tell, don't go to vote, and they don't. It is the ones who have gone to the University, whom they give N200 and they go and vote.

I mean, there is too much cynicism among people. They seem to have lost all hope.

Cynicism against what?. Since we are at it, is it cynicism aginst me?. No, there was no cynicism against Bola Ige when he was governor. It's not cynicism aginst the UPN government. They continue to pray for me, because their children went to school free. They went to hospitals free and the parents saved the money, and they were able to buy clothes and corrugated iron sheets for their roofs. It's cynicism against the sterility and barreness of military rule.

There's what I think is the failure of the intellectuals in the Nigerian society ...

I don't know about failure in what you call the intellectuals. I know that the military has not allowed intellect to flower. And for me, there is no surprise about it. A military regime lives on brute force. And actually people you call intellectuals who're coralled into government, I don't call them intellectuals, I call them prostitutes ...

People like Aboyade ...

But Aboyade was not in government. He was a consultant technocrat. He'd give it to them as if he was doing a research, and say to them, it is this way. He never was responsible for any policy. Never. He was a technocrat.

Describe a bit of what life was like in Makurdi Prison.

I wouldn't call it punitive. It was hateful. I think they meant that I should suffer, that's why they sent me to the worst prison. The life of a detainee is worse than that of a convicted criminal. No access to newspapers. No radio. They wouldn't even allow the warders to talk to me, can't even come to my cell unless accompanied by two other officials. . .

So, how did you hear of Abacha's death?

I was never told that Abacha died. It was the inmates when they were singing ... I didn't even know that they were singing for my benefit. They were singing:God na helele. . . God na waya O!. I didn't make anything of it, in fact, I thought Nigeria had won a football match. It was the next day that one of the warders said, just for my benefit: Abacha died like a poisoned rat and he was buried like one. It didn't mean anything at the time. But the words sounded poetic. It was the next day that it struck me and I started singing Erun Olurun bami O. Erun Olorun bami O. . . . and I was shivering. I was awed by the mightiness of God, that Abacha could be dead, and I alive in prison. But that's how I knew.

Now to the political question. Where do we go from here? General Abdusalam Abubakar seems to have offered the olive branch.

Em. . . Only God knows how many people are in detention in this country for political reasons. The SSS, DMI, they just pick people who they percieve are opposed to the regime. Only God knows who are in detention. Almost every week, they pick up somebody, who they drop at the inter-center. Take for example - Obasanjo, Beko, Chris Anyanwu etc have been released. But there were forty-six people in that trial. Why have they not released the rest?. Why haven't they released Kunle Ajibade for instance?. That's one question we should be asking. Why haven't they released the rest?. George Mbah is still there. It's supposed to be Obasanjo and Yar Adua's coup, but the others said to be accessories to the fact are still in jail. Obasanjo is out. Does it make sense?. I hate fraud. And I think that action is fraudulent. And you young ones should reveal the fraud!

One person you met in jail is Kunle Ajibade ...

And he didn't write the story. He refused to reveal the source of the story that was published in The News - that's his crime. . .he's living in terrible condition. Makurdi prison is acknowledged in the Prison department as the worst prison in Nigeria. Only people to be punished are sent there. For two years he was not allowed the use of a bed or a mosquito net. He had to be taking chloroquine injection every month because of malaria! But now he has the use of a bunk. I'm telling you the condition he has to pass through because he has refused to buckle to the military, to break the oath of his profession. He's a great guy.

What must now be the shape of the struggle?

Every young man or woman who has any education whatsover, must make it an act of determination, not to accept military rule. They must breathe it, drink it, eat it. That no civilised country accepts military rule. And Nigeria must be a civilised country. The second is to look at the example of other good countries, not countries like Gambia—Nigeria should be like USA, China, India, Canada, Germany, Britain. Those are countries Nigeria should seek to be like, not Gambia, Niger and Sierra-Leone. It's an insult.

Well you have been quoted as demanding an apology from the government headed by General Abubakar, I find that interesting.

Actually, I think the way it was worded is not right: what I said is that I have not been told what I'd done to be sent into detention, and that although I appreciate that the Head of State ordered that I be released, but that the government ought to tell me why I'd been detained. And if they don't do that, they should apologise. . .

And if they don't?

What can I do?. Afterall, they refuse to carry out court orders. This is a jungle of a country. Terrible country. . .

But you love it so much?

I love Nigeria. I was brought up to love Nigeria. That is why it hurts so much that people who do not know this country are messing it up. And at the rate they are going, I'm afraid Nigeria may break up. . . (The Network news comes up) Tonite at Nine at Ten O'clock? Look at it emblazoned right behind the newscaster! There is suposed to be a director of news. And the man just sits there! (sighs). Any way, I was saying, at some point. . .yes, because they're creating so much imbalance within, that I recognise that, the way they are going, the centre may not be able to hold. . .

The military as a monolith, does it not save it from breaking up?

How does it save it?

They work, as they've done so far in government, within their own terms. They cohere. . .

Should a government whose perception and reason are different from the people they are governing, should they be in government? Well, that's why I think that at some point, the thing will break up. Suharto, I understand, was forced out. Why do you not see that the Nigerian situation is not different. If you study the history of Latin America, you'd understand that history is being replayed. Is Latin America not largely democratic today?

Therefore, we must have hope?

No. I haven't said so. I'm saying that the things that have happened in other countries will happen in Nigeria.

Colonel Umar has called for the probing of General Abacha's government. What do you say?

I've no opinion in such things. I'm interested in the fundamentals. In the mountain of rubbish which Abacha left behind, that must be cleared out.

What is your expectation of General Abubakar as we approach October 1, 1998.

First he should know that he cannot build anything on what Abacha left. And because of that, what he should do is to look for credible Nigerian leaders, and there are many of them, all over the country, to form a government of national unity. And because Nigerians want the principle that nobody has the right to annul any election, make Abiola head of that government of national unity. But they should give them a specific time, to put everything in place, for us to sit down and write a new constitution for Nigeria. They must throw into the waste paper basket the 1995 constitution which fortunately, Abacha never had the opportunity of signing into law. The constitution never saw the light of day, so they must throw it out.