The David Jemibewon Exclusive: “How our Generation messed Nigeria” + My ideal ‘Restructure’ Project

General David Medayese Jemibewon (CFR, mni)

General
David Medayese Jemibewon
(CFR, Mni) an elder statesman and one of the
founding fathers of this great country 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  Police Affairs Minister under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s civilian regime, a position he held with transformative
strides till year 2000.

He is reputed to be the minister who
created and institutionalized the Police
Service
Commission (PSC).
Jemibewon at 77 has retired into teaching and child counseling with his new
position as Rector,  Jemibewon International Academy Iyah-Gbedde—Kogi State, North
Central Nigeria.
Last Thursday May 18, General Jemibewon who was on his way to
Ekiti State for late General Adeyinka
Adebayo’s
funeral had a stop over at Ibadan to speak with your Africa’s
Number 1 Celebrity encounter blog, Asabeafrika.
The General who opened up to us in a two hours no hold barred exclusive at a
recreation center in Bodija GRA made lamentations for his country Nigeria and
equally put his own definition of the word ‘Restructuring’ in in the public
domain. Take a seat with your favorite snack and drink as you enjoy the General
David Medayese Jemibewon exclusive on
Asabeafrika
.


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Sir, we are very honored and
privileged to meet you today in the city of Ibadan?
Thank you
very much. You are welcomed.

The GDA meets the General

Right now, Nigeria seems to be
fraught with a turbulent political season devoid of quality direction and
clearly in need of urgent re-direction. While some are talking about a sick President
confined to the hospital bed in the last couple of weeks, others are crying
over a polity fraught with economic and political corruption coupled with great
ineptitude. As one of the founding fathers of this country, especially the
western region project, how do you feel with the polity at this point in time?

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika…’This is not the dream we had for Nigeria in our time’

Anyway,
thank you very much for all the beautiful things you said about me; to be
honest, my view is that if you see 10 Nigerians and you throw the same question
to them, they may not necessarily have one view. People may have different
views. But based on your question and my personal view, is that, Nigeria is not
the dream we had for it. But of course I am aware that there were people before
me, there were people of my group and there were people who came after us. I
say this because opinions may vary, but I do know that some years ago at the University of Lagos, in the law session
of the university. There was a seminar, and a book that was written about Nigeria by somebody who was a politician
before independence, and a little period after independence, to be precise.

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika….’We taught Nigeria’s roads will be paved with gold at independence’

I
think someone by the name H.O. Davies. And his imagination of
how he pictured Nigeria if Nigeria became independent, was like
even our roads, will be constructed with gold. But years after independence and
we fell Nigeria was not making progress, that dream became a mirage. But when
you now compare today to the time I am talking about, you will find that Nigeria was in fact, a great country then.
So, certainly, Nigeria is not moving
along the path of the dream some of us had for the country. But again, we will
continue to pray. We shouldn’t be tired of praying. But, just merely praying
won’t be sufficient. There must be some actions to support the possibility of
the realization of our prayer.

Let me ask you this question, your
age group which included General Yakubu Gowon, General T.Y. Danjuma, General
Olusegun Obasanjo and the rest had political responsibility thrusted upon their
shoulders at a younger age. For instance, you started controlling the Western
States which is an amalgamation of almost six states in present day Nigeria at
age 35. What was your own Nigerian dream like and at what point did the dream
got derailed?

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika….’In the military, we had command hierarchy’

I want you
to realize that we were not politicians. We were appointed. And we were
appointed by the professional body we belong to, that is the military. And the
military has its own way of doing things and the fundamental foundation of the
military is discipline. Discipline. And when you talk of discipline, discipline
involves partially everything good. If you are disciplined, you wont lie, if
you are disciplined you will not be corrupt, if you are disciplined, you will
follow the rules. So a man with such training background whatever position he
finds himself, he is likely to imbibe and practice those principles through
which he becomes whatever he becomes. So whosoever was appointed, or given
political appointment under the military, took to that appointment, took to
that position all these training. Not only that, there were people to
supervise. If you were appointed military governor for example, some higher
authorities are responsible for putting you there. And they must have
considered some factors before putting you there.

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika….’If you are appointed as MILAD in the Military your sense of responsibility is guided by a superior command’

First, how reliable are you?
How competent are you? How imaginative are you? How resourceful are you? Haven
said that, haven considered all these, if they think you are worthy of that
office, they will then ask your service chief; if you are in the army for
example, they will ask the Chief of Army
Staff
weather he can release this particular officer. If it is in the air
force or the Navy, it is the same thing. Because an officer can be excellent
but his service may need him more because they already have a vision for his
future. The Chief of Army staff or
the Chief of Air staff or the Chief of Naval Staff may decide that ‘look, I can’t release this officer’.
But of course the Head of State is
the Head of State, if he insist in
his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief,
they may release him the officer. In some cases, if the service can’t release
this officer, the C-in-C will say ‘ok, give us somebody pretty close, who has close qualities to this
chap’.
So, you find out when you get there and you are conscious of how you
must have been selected, you are not probably the only one. You will want to
make sure you do well. In other words, you don’t fall short of the expectation
of your superiors who entrusted the responsibility upon you. That is to say
‘doing well for yourself, doing well for your family, doing well for your
organization and doing well for your country’. Once you believe in all these,
you cannot but do the right thing and do it well.

Do you see this same command system
in today’s democratic dispensation. If the military could ensure such a
disciplined command mechanism, do you think the politicians and their
godfathers are using their own command structure to better the lives of the
electorates; because despite what you just said about the military structure of
political command, Nigerians still believed that the military ruined the polity?

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika….’Nigeria is losing her crop of good leaders’

Certainly I
don’t think there is. It has diminished. I do not want to rule out the fact
that there must be some good people still within the system. But, do the young
ones really listen? And if you take note, on almost daily basis or let me put
it this way, on regular basis, this old people who saw yesterday and created
the path for today, they diminish on a daily basis. I am here now for the
burial of General Adebayo who is
gone, General Ogbemudia is gone. Last
week I was in Lagos, General Bisoye
is gone. And few others like that. I want to believe that in the political
setting too, many people are gone. You are not likely to see the type of people
who had great commitment for this country like Awolowo, Sardauna of Sokoto, Zik of Africa, Mbadiwe, I
am just mentioning few names. But, like I said, we will continue to wish
ourselves the best. Things can always get better if we put a passionate effort
to nation building.


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Let us take you to the most
consistent political issue of the moment which is ‘Restructuring’. The whole
campaign began I think from the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and today,
there seems to be a chorus in all corners of the country. For some,
restructuring is all about going apart while others sees it as re-organizing
the economic priority of the country. Sir, what does restructuring mean to
General David Jemibewon?

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika…’I strongly believe in Restructuring’

 Incidentally,
I believe very strongly in restructuring. And I have called a retired officer
like me but most junior to me. He retired as a colonel, and as a result of the
discussion I had with him; it is quite close up to a year now, we are preparing
a paper on restructuring. And my intention is, at a certain time, I am going to
call few people that we should discuss on restructuring and take a position.
So, it is in the works. What we are trying to do at the beginning is to try to
define what restructuring actually mean. Because at the moment, people are just
making statements at will. And like any debate, there will be those for and
those against.

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika…’A lot of people don’t know what Restructuring means’

But I think we need to establish some basic principles. What do
we understand by ‘restructuring?’ what method should we adopt for
restructuring? And how do we restructure? I think these are the basic things
that we need. Just merely talking, talking without advancing or suggesting how
the restructuring should be done and what exactly do we mean. Some people for
example, they believe merely saying that each state should be responsible for
whatever is available within its boundary, to them that is restructuring. But
that may not be exactly so.

So what is your own definition of
restructuring?

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika…’I have some new guidelines for restructuring to be released soon’

In fact we
have produced some guide lines that we want to follow. Even these six political
zones people talk about; it was a kind of restructuring or structuring. But
then, the question I will want to ask; ‘are we saying by these six political
zones, we have attained a perfect structure or restructuring?’ certainly not.
So we need to sit down. Or appoint some people to actually come out with an
idea of ‘what do we mean by restructuring?’. Because it is when we all agree on
a certain procedure, or definition, that we can now say ‘how do we get there?’
so, in my thought, which I referred to much earlier with the colonel from my
state, we came with the idea that the best way to go about it is to accept a
definition of ‘restructure’ that we mean. I know that it is not likely to be
possible for the entire citizen of the country to agree. But since we are talking
of the north, we are talking of majority.

The General sharing a joke on ‘marginalization’ with the GDA

What would majority understand by
‘restructuring?’ so, we need to understand that. Then, how do we go about it?
Because in our view we felt that probably, Nigeria should have between 12 to I
think, 16 regions. And we will arrange the present states in Nigeria; and we give reasons for doing
that. And we do it in such a way that we feel that if A is not good enough, we make use of alternative B. So, I think that is where we should
move to now. I think some years ago, there was a language that was gaining
ground in Nigeria called marginalization. People will say ‘oh, we are marginalized’. But many
years before that time, nobody was using that word.

You are correct sir

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika…’Restructuring is a Normal Life situation occurrence’

Until it
gained ground—marginalization, and
every part of Nigeria became marginalized. You understand? (Laughter) So, we
all became marginalized. And so it became meaningless. So, this is why we think
we should sit down and decide what is restructuring? What exactly we mean by
‘restructuring?’ because you see, in every human behavior, in every human
activity, there must be restructuring. 
Individual, family, organization, there must be restructuring. I am
making this absolutely elementary, go to your room, in your own house. There
are times you re-arrange the chairs in your sitting room.
I totally agree, sir. Changing of
direction et al

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika….’Even at times, you restructure your room’

You are
re-structuring that room. You go to your room; sometimes you change your bed
from where it was before; that is re-structuring. Sometimes you take your own
car to the work shop if you want it re-sprayed. You tell your mechanic, ‘please, service it and re-spray it for me’,
that is re-structure. Do you know a poor man who is a sensible; you may think
he is rich. He could have one single shirt. When he goes to work in the
afternoon, in the night he washes the shirt. The following morning he presses
it and wears the same shirt he wore yesterday and when you see him looking trim,
and beautiful, you think he has six types of that shirt but it is one shirt. In
order words, if you have no money and you have sense, you may be better than
somebody who has money but has no sense.

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika….’Only few people has sense with their money’

And only few people have money and
have sense. Ok? So restructuring is a natural thing. In fact, anybody who does
not believe in restructuring, we should assume he is virtually dead; because
you want to restructure to make yourself better, to look better, to look
healthier. How can you then say if they are to restructure there would be war,
war where? Restructure is part of our national policy. Take for example, during
the regime of General Yakubu Gowon,
when they were to start National Youth
Service Corps
, people taught this country will break. But today if you
cancel NYSC there would be trouble.
You know that?

Yes, because there will be no room for
cultural assimilation

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika….’In Nigeria when you bring new ideas, people attack it’

So anytime
you introduce something new into this country, instead of people to come in
with ideas, they just start to attack it. For example let’s go to Obasanjo’s Political Conference in
Abuja, personally, my views on this six political zones in Nigeria, I have
never felt that it would remain. It was a good idea but there was no scientific
approach to it.  If you look at the map
of Nigeria, by mere land size, the
North; although strictly speaking there is no more north now but people still
talk of North-East-West. If you look at the North on the map, it is almost four
times the South in terms of land area. Then you now say whatever the number of
states in the North must be the number of states in the South. Then, why did we
create those states in the first place, why didn’t we stick to our provinces?
Did you understand? Why did we break it? And the way the northern states are
today, if you really say you want fairness and that state creation was based on
population and land area, then, you probably need more states in the north than
we do have today. But with the economic situation we found ourselves today, is
it worth it?
No. Total No.

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika…’In my estimation, my state, Kogi has no reason to be a state’

For me, if I
make a suggestion now, people will think I am mad. Kogi state should be dissolved.
You mean even your own state?
Yes. But
that is personal opinion. But the truth is tell me, what can we say have been
achieved in Kogi State as a state since it was created
(Cuts in) But they are paying civil
servants?

General Jemibewon to Asabeafrika….’There is no gain running an entity that is not self sufficient’

What is
paying civil servants? Are they being paid in recent times at all? And when
they pay the civil servants, where does the money come from? Is it not from the
Federal Government?
Yes, sir.

The Encounter with the General @ Bodija

So, what is
the essence of you having a state that is not self sufficient, a state that
cannot pay itself. So, I think some people must come together in this country
and define what restructuring they have in mind when they say Nigeria should be
restructured. What are the contents of this restructuring? And which body or
who are those to be entrusted with the task of restructuring. They should even
make it a debate at the National Assembly but unfortunately, it is not
originating from there. We are not moving forward. We need to move ahead and
make the country work
 (To be continued)

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