David Madayese Jemibewon who would clock 80 years on Tuesday, is a retired Nigerian Army Major General. He was the governor of the defunct Western State and Oyo State. The Jagunmolu of Ibadan was appointed Police Affairs Minister under President Olusegun Obasanjo. He schooled in both England and United States. In this interview with Gbenga Aderanti, he talks about life as a military officer, corruption in the police force and the Amotekun security outfit.
How does it feel to be 80?
I feel good healthwise and thankful to the Almighty for His care and protection in spite of all the dangers and crisis one has traversed over the years.
It is indeed God’s doing. I am not sure there is any special feeling associated with 80 years, if there is, maybe I may start to experience it as the days roll on.
At what point did you join army?
I joined the Nigerian Army, known then as the Queen’s Own Nigerian Regiment in 1961 as a cadet officer and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in April 1962 at Aldershot, England.
What were the reactions of your parents?
I did not inform my parents about my enrolment into the Army. I had gone to Britain, got commissioned and back before my parents became aware of my enrolment into the Army.
How true is the belief that the drilling soldiers go through helps in prolonging their lives?
I don’t know. However, there may be some logic to support such a view because of the rigorous exercises in which soldiers are often engaged on daily basis.
You fought on the federal side during the Nigerian civil war. All those who have written about it said it was a terrible experience. What was the experience like?
Certainly, it was a very terrible experience. Initially it was thought it was going to be similar to field military exercises the troops often engaged in periodically and sometimes yearly.
However, when casualties were being recorded on a daily basis from sector to sector, it became obvious that we were in full civil war.
Officers who were like one family and who lived in the officers’ mess, being the home of single unmarried officers, became suspicious of each other and one another.
Trust was destroyed, confidence lost and the feeling of brotherhood among officers was destroyed, and till this moment it is yet to be fully regained. This lack of trust has destroyed our country and malice has engulfed every strata of our political landscape.
What should we do in this country in order not to repeat that experience?
A lot has been done but we do not seem to have made progress in establishing a healthy and progressive country.
Some governments have made efforts and recorded some progress but the sum total of our efforts as a nation has not been good enough.
The idea of Federal Government Colleges was to inculcate at the early childhood the idea of one and united Nigeria irrespective of one’s place of origin.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to reap the full positive benefit of this noble experiment. Those who draw back our progress as a nation should be punished for the disgrace they bring to our country in governance, businesses, professions, universities etc. Tribalism, corruption and outright stealing, has led to underdevelopment of the country.
Who were your contemporaries in the army?
Some of my contemporaries are no more with us. Those that I’m aware are no more include Gen. Joe Garba, Cadet Omosaiye, Capt. Gin, Capt. Auna, Capt. A. R. Aliyu, Col. A. R. Mamudu. May the good Lord grant their souls eternal peace, amen. Others who are still with us are Gen Abdullahi Muhammed, Gen Tony Hananiya, Capt. Ephraim Okpara, Fola Oyewole
How close were you to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and Alabi-Isama?
As close as a junior officer could be to his senior. Both officers were and are my seniors. I served under Obasanjo as a military governor.
I did not experience the opportunity of serving under or in the same unit with Col. Alabi-Isama. However, I can attest to the fact that Alabi-Isama was a competent officer, a first class officer and all-round sportsman.
He was very close to General Akinrinade, an officer who enjoyed great respect among junior and senior officers. The two were very close.
The civil war was not fought from one front. The general story of the war may be similar but by the time you move from one sector to another, the story or experience may differ.
I did not serve under General Obasanjo nor did I serve under the same sector with Col. Alabi. Furthermore, courtesy and military tradition forbids a junior officer getting involved in an argument between two senior officers on a matter of this nature.
Don’t forget that at a time after the civil war, I was the Adjutant General of the Nigerian Army (today’s Chief of Staff, Administration).
You served as Military Governor of Western State and Oyo State as well as Minister of Police Affairs. How did your experiences help in shaping you?
Those positions afforded me the knowledge and understanding of human behavior and how large organizations such as government works.
It taught me how to listen even if you know and are aware that what your guest is saying is rubbish. Give him the chance to talk and let him leave with the belief that he had made some contributions even if he made no point.
Unlike some of your contemporaries who are still active in politics, you seem not to be interested in politics anymore. What is responsible?
When democracy was reintroduced to governance in 1979, some of us came in hoping we could help in sanitizing the political arena.
It turned out to be impossible. In fact, the situation today is worse than 1979 and each year seems to be worse than the previous years.
Incompetence, inefficiency, stealing, corruption in every sector has assumed alarming dimension. Some of the behaviour we thought can’t be associated with Nigeria are now a daily occurrence.
See what we read from the enquiries going on in Niger Delta Development Commission. It is a shame.
Corruption in the Police has always been an issue. As a former minister in charge of the force, what is the way out?
Whatever I will be saying here are contained in one of my books titled: THE NIGERIA POLICE IN TRANSITION (ISSUES, PROBLEM AND PROSPECTS.
As I said earlier the policeman in Nigeria is a human being and a Nigerian, so he is bound to be influenced to some degree by same factors being a citizen of the country.
However, I must say that corruption in the police is over-exaggerated. When corruption is reported, the police conduct investigations, offender is charged to court, it takes years to conduct trial and at the end, either the offender is freed and gets fined a ridiculous fraction of what he stole.
What do you expect the police to do? The police get discouraged and disappointed. Then of course most members of the political class in various parties seem to be competing for the ‘most corrupt’ trophy.
Just like any other growing institution in Nigeria, the Nigeria Police needs re-organization. I have always been an advocate of what I call community policing which I believe will be one of the best ways to police not only Nigeria but other nations considering the present geometrical rate of crimes and criminalities.
As I have always been suggesting, I will recommend the decentralization of the Police into (a) federal/national police, to take charge of the Federal territory and Federal laws.
(b) Zonal Police Command to be under the Deputy Inspector General of Police and which shall control the geo-political zones of the nation (Southwest, Northwest, South-South, Southeast, North-Central and Northeast Zonal Police Commands respectively).
This will make it almost impossible for state governors to have overbearing influence on the institution as a zonal command will be made up of many states as are in the zone.
What was that experience you had as police affairs minister that you are not likely to forget in a hurry?
The Nigeria Police going on strike. I had warned a few weeks earlier of the possibility.
You are a lawyer; tell me the most difficult case you have ever handled?
The profession of law is not limited to court appearances. The practice of legal profession is very versatile and it embraces many specialized branches. Litigation is not in my area of practice.
You were one of those that fought to keep Nigeria together. Recently, you endorsed the Southwest security outfit, Amotekun.
Many have argued that some could use it to disintegrate the country. Why did you give your support to such an outfit that is perceived as regional?
When I was the military governor responsible for the administration of Oyo State, one of the three states carved out of the then Western State, we introduced Oyo State Road Safety Corps.
The Nigeria Police made efforts to ensure the Federal Government did not approve it. However, with the support of the then Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, the late Gen. Shehu Yar’Adua, it resulted in legal confrontation between the federal government and one or two state governments.
With this, in my mind, I knew the Amotekun states were on the right lane of the law. Let’s ask ourselves few questions: what type of government does Nigeria operate?
Federal system…that is central government, state governments and local governments. Each government has its legal framework and it is limited to its defined constitutionally defined territory.
Again, the answer to this question can be found in the preface of my book THE POLICE IN TRANSITION. “Every modern state in the world is governed by laws contained in a constitution drawn up for the good; orderliness, peace, unity and development of the state and her citizenry’’.
Outlined in the constitution is the role of the police as the agency of the state vested with the maintenance of public peace law and order as well as the protection of lives and property.
I gave my support for the regional security outfit considering the objectives of establishing the outfit. The principal objective of any government is the protection of lives and wellbeing of its citizens.
This must have informed the establishment of the group. I believe the increasing rate of crime and criminalities in our communities is partly an indication that the Nigerian security system is overstretched.
Hence the need for every community to organize themselves and provide some level of protection, safety for the wellbeing of its people.
Hence the formation of JTF, vigilante groups, Amotekun etc. These groups work in tandem with the Federal Government and security in protecting her citizens.
I, therefore, don’t see anything wrong in the formation of Amotekun under a federal setting. It has my full support.
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