As a lawyer of over 30 years in the bar and a consummate politician who have whethered the storm since the politics of the second republic, Chief Dipo Jimilehin knows his onions.
Having served and cut his political teeth under the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, during the second republic he was exposed to the rudiments of politics of ideology and consistency, which made him to remain in the same political party-the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which came after 15 years of military rule in 1998.
As a the secretary of the defunct Constitutional Conference Commission set up by late head of state, General Sani Abacha ,Chief Jimilehin has taken his time to study our practise of politics and concluded in this interview with Executive Editor, Tunde Abatan and News Editor, Charles Okogene, that Nigeria may have lost robust and ideological based politics to the undue influence of money.
This development, he said ,has destroyed the nation’s leadership structure thereby denying it of good materials in the political parties from where good leadership could only emerge.
I want you to take a retrospective look of what happened in the days of the military rule and where we are now; can we say its worth it?
What I found is that year in year out rather than for things to get better politically, things are not. They only advantage that we have now is that it appears we have got a stable, uninterrupted period of democracy, from 1999 to date. That is the only achievement from 1999 to date. It is supposed to be from 1979 but there was a coup in 1983, it was interrupted. Then there was a National Assembly in 1989, it went up and on till 1999. The political parties that emerged then were based purely on ideology. In fact, Ibrahim Babangida achieved the two party system, one to the left, one to the right, so at that time I knew there were manifestos, constitutions of the parties that were elected, there were constitutions, what we have today is that we have gladiators, the money ones. We had money bags that time too but not money bags as such, not like what we have now, people will just come from nowhere. Like what happened in Ogun State. No ideologies, but fetish things, oath taking. I made bold to say that Ladi Adebutu spent a lot of money, Buruji spent a lot of money, when the two combined together you find that I don’t think APC spent anything close to it but all that went to the drains PDP lost in Ogun State, but then I blame it on the docile masses, to them whoever has the money let him come. I think that is the major problem. Money politics. You must have money for you to come into politics otherwise you are not there. So that is where we are now.
But how do we get it right?
I think we should begin to discuss. First of the entire clamour now for restructuring even when we restructure, what about the gladiators? Because the attitude of people is that politics is a means to the end. So it is very difficult to say. Look at the situation now, the emergence of All Perogressives Congress (APC) comes into play. About 60 to 70 percent of members of APC were in PDP. They just woke up one day and said they were going to APC, people of strange bed fellows coming together, the only ideology, the only objective was let us form a strong party to defeat PDP, I stand to be corrected. The majority of them were there, take for instance Buhari and Atiku were once together, Atiku was one of the people who started APC. Atiku, Saraki and others moved from PDP to form APC. I think erroneously Buhari was only going for one term knowing full well that Buhari was going to stay there for another term they all moved back, knowing that they were going back to PDP result wouldn’t have been otherwise. So this is the doubt, how are we going to get it right? May be we have to go back to the drawing board, look at it again and at the end of the day.
Drawing bard like how?
That we are not playing party politics, it is individuals. Like Tinubu is the one on APC he decides you go there and he goes. In our Ogun State the policy is that either you are supporting Ladi Adebutu or you are supporting Buruji. If we say we are supporting PDP and the two of them were aspirants for instance, and it is a talk of who pays the piper dictates the tune. So until and unless we go back to the drawing board to the policy of ideology again.
But do you think we can remove money politics again?
That is our problem, that is the problem. We cannot, I was telling them don’t be surprise, before we knew it Buruji surfaced from nowhere, took over the structure of the party. Ladi challenged him, he fought and took over from Buruji up till the national level. The only way he was not only able to take it was at the state level, it is all money politics. Then I told them it is not unlikely another person takes over, we had a lot of people who came from the US from Canada, from Britain they had a lot of money, they wanted to contest. In those days even without money I went to Chief Obafemi Awolowo, I said I wanted to go to the House of Representatives, he said No o, you can’t do that, how do you want to start from the top? You have to go to the grassroots and become a councilor. So I had to go to Ijebu Ode and became a councilor then I started to move on but far from it, you can’t get that today.
But the elders would say go and cue up…
No, when they say that, it all boils down to money. They would take their money and say go and cue up, but when you get to the primary, it is the winner that still takes all. It is the highest bidder, so I really don’t know because they would say you must have the money. Even when Atiku came, I don’t know how much money was involved.
I want to draw you to the events of now, the current balkanization of Kano Emirate into five emirates what do you think that thing portends for the nation, looking deep down do you think it has any message for the country or it is just a Kano affair?
It can be regarded as a Kano affair because every ethnic group will have the same problem. It is left for the people to decide. When we were in the constitutional assembly we were even clamouring the clearly defined role for the Obas, the traditional ruler in the politics. It is along that line, Oba Tejuosho fought for this one. The role of the traditional rulers was to control the people, payment of tax, not to pertain in politics. There is a difference between partisan politics and the traditional roles of the traditional rulers. The governor would say that I am in charge of the state, I am the chief executive, I am the security officer, the traditional ruler is there so their own role is supposed to be limited. So what is happening in Kano may not happen in Benue State, they have their own system there, in our Ogun State we have our own system.
But a similar thing happened in Oyo State where the outgoing governor installed so many Baales to cut the wings of the Olubadan…
It is happening everywhere, not only in Ibadan. Look at Ijebu land. Before there were only about eight or ten traditional rulers, there was a local court. Then we called them Oba mewa, it was a kind of a local court. But when Awujale came all those Baales, every nooks and crannies, villages, he would say go and install them. Look at Ijebu Igbo, there was only one traditional ruler in Ijebu Igbo but now in Ijebu Igbo we have about ten of them. Everywhere we used to have Baale we now have Obas so the motive is not known.
Now in Ijebu Igbo we have about ten of them, everywhere we used to have Baales we now have Oba, it is then left to the government to allow it. The government in Ogun State allows it, the Oba in Ibadan kicked against it, that is why I said it differs from state to state.
From my background checking I found that you are a strong member of PDP, did you believe Atiku won that election?
In going to court, Atiku has his facts and figures. I am not in the position to say he won, in every election there are irregularities, we have to wait and see. The matter is before the tribunal but it is not in my position to conclude. Why should PDP find itself in this kind of situation, a party that was doing well before, we have deviated from the pattern the party was using before. Naturally just like now, people are saying Buhari has won, they are looking for what to gain. We have more political jobbers, political jobbers will always go for the government in power. Immediately PDP lost, political jobbers moved away. When we were in the national constitutional conference, we thought that military intervention was rampant and we must do something about it. It was adopted, it was the initiative of the 1994 Abacha constitution, two issues there, there was the federal character, it was adopted and embedded in the 1999 constitution. The other thing was the military takeover. It was in 1994/95 constitutional conference that nobody should take over the government. It is there in 1999 constitution that even over period of time he can still be brought back to book, so we said we cannot allow military intervention in our democratic system. It was there we said whether you belong to the NPC AG, APP or NCNC, let us come together to form a political party, that is what you find in the original PDP. There you have the likes of Adamu Ciroma and everybody coming together, but because of selfish reasons you find everybody saying Ekweme has found his own agenda, you find the likes of Bola Ige said we are withdrawing we are forming APP. Again you found the likes of Arthur Nzeribe, Adedibu saying no o these characters are there, we are going to form our own.They formed AD but that ideology was the reason PDP was the party that tried to curbed the actions of the military, then the 1999 election came. Obasanjo won without the support of the south west and only in 2003 the things came from south west until the political jobbers left PDP and the roof began to leak and that is why we found ourselves in this position. Like I said, Atiku, Saraki and a host of others, Kwankwanso, Tambuwal, Amaechi, Okorocha, when they did that and they later came back to PDP otherwise their coming back to PDP would have helped the situation but unfortunately it was the other way round.
You have identified political jobbing as the problem of Nigerian politics. How do we stop political jobbing?
Until or unless the head of the affairs can say you are a political jobber. But political jobbers patronize those who have won within the parties. You wait and see what is going to happen in appointment of ministers. Look at the transition government of Dapo Abiodun, he has brought in Lemo as a member and so on and so forth. That is a sign of change. If you are consistent, you are not likely to get anything. People like us, for me I have never changed political party. People have been telling me, what are you still doing there? Come over. When we were doing the June 12 struggle, Lai Mohammed came to join my legal team I coordinated for Abiola then. Boss Mustapha came round, he practiced in Yola, Kingibe gave him letter to come and join my legal team. I was relating with GOK Ajayi and Rotimi Williams, Aka Bashorun came in then that we don’t want Rotimi Williams, we ran into problem, Abiola even told us Baba is my lawyer, referring to Rotimi Williams. At the end of the day we held a meeting. Rotimi Williams said Alao what is your problem? This our case we should split it, I am a lawyer and also a politician. Alao, you are just a lawyer, you are not a politician, let us go on two legs before Justice Dolapo Akinsanya and go on two legs to justice shogun.
Continues next week…