Retired Maj. Gen. Paul Ofouma Omu (OFR), Otuke of Isoko land and president General of Isoko Development Union, was the first head of the military tribunal constituted to recover public properties in 1984. The former military governor believes the military could not help but bastardised the Nigerian constitution and that no coup ever happened without the urging of civilian politicians. He spoke with Patrick Andrew.
Many have condemned the constitution put in place by the military, some have said that the military bastardised the constitution, do share this thought?
To some extent it is true because the constitution came out during the military regime so whether we like it or not the civilians can say so that the constitution has been bastardised by the military. But the thing is that a military man believes in a central organization-unitary system so there are so many things that are un-federal which are in the constitution. It is the hope of this conference to identify and correct them, once and for all.
Besides, the type of government we are running-the presidential system-is very unwieldy, very expensive and we cannot really sustain that for a long time. If they are saying there no enough money yet the cost of running government is going higher and higher, then it does help matters at all. So, it is important to try and discuss seriously how to cut down on the cost of governance.
For instance, it has been identified that we have too many ministers. The constitution says that you should have one minister per state and we have 36 states and one per zone, that means plus another six bringing it up to 42. Then you have junior ministers who would have their own aides. I mean this unwieldy and really disturbing because it goes down like that with the governors, everybody down the line having special advisers, special aides, even chairmen of local governments are appointing special aides. This makes the cost of governance right from the top to the bottom unbearable.
In your comment, you did say that behind everybody military coup there was civilian agitation, but someone countered you that only two coups were staged against civil administrations and that the rest were military against military sponsored by its contractors?
What l said was very simple that civilian politicians instigate coups. They used soldiers to stage coups and wars too, they use soldiers to fight wars. Civilian politicians decide when wars should stop and once they say the government has agreed to the end the war the soldiers will pack their bags and leave the war front. It is the politician that decides.
What the man who countered me said, he agreed that some coups were sponsored by civilians and that the military coups against the military administrations were sponsored by contractor friends of the military. But who are the contractor friends? They are still civilians. So, it was not a debate between himself and myself and when he said that l knew that he has contradicted himself.
Do you see any positive light from this conference if you take to heart the fact that recommendations of previous conferences were not implemented? Are not worried?
No, l am not worried. The only area of concern is whether the legislature will accede to our request for a referendum. But we will put pressure on them. We will be very conclusive in our recommendations and the whole country really wants a change. Except somebody doesn’t want a change but we want a change for the better and that’s what the president wants.
It is not that those recommendations were dumped away, no there were actions taken in some aspects and they wanted us to go through them, then prepare our minds so that when sit at the committees we will know where to start from.
So you confident the recommendations will be implemented?
Yes, l am very confident and l think the president is confident that he will ensure that the recommendations are implemented.
If the military is to combat insurgency, do you think the present military structure has the capacity to do so?
We have the capacity. The problem with fighting insurgency is not like fighting a foreign enemy where a war is declared and everything that moves on the other side is an enemy and you fire. Here it is like an internal security and you can see during few operations people began to cry ha haaaaaaaaaaa.. the civilians have been killed and all that. Sometimes the insurgents used civilians as shield and operate within civilian population.
Of course, when you release a bullet you don’t ask it to come back so there is always collateral damage. Apart from the enemy something else happens you can’t differentiate between the enemy and others when there is insurgency. This situation gives no little problem. So it has nothing to do with motivation. Though I don’t how the military is motivated now because l am not in service but l think the government is doing its best.