Brigadier-General Ajibola Kunle Togun (rtd) is a nationally acknowledged security guru. During military President Ibrahim Babamasi Babangida’s regime, he was one of the duo of Halilu Akilu who was Director of Military Intelligence and Togun who was the Deputy Director General of the State Security Service (SSS). During President Babangida’s state visit to Oyo State at that time, it was widely believed that Togun’s influence made Babangida to visit Saki, his home town. A university graduate before joining the Army. Togun received training on security in Nigeria and abroad during his military career. A fearless and feared soldier, Togun is known for his frankness and bluntness in telling the truth not minding whose ox is gored. He is at times controversial and misunderstood.
In this interview conducted in Yoruba by Opeyemi Salaudeen, the publisher of Heritage Echo and translated into English by Akinbola Osunsami the Editor, Togun spoke about his career in the military, the dwindling standard of education in Yorubaland and the advancement of Nigeria.
Sir, what were your experiences in the Army?
In the first place, I joined the Army after graduating from the University of Ife. I was sent to Kaduna for officers’ training from November 1968 to February 1969 and I fought in the Biafran war. Three or four military governments ruled Nigeria while I was in the Army. I served in the Federal Guard (now Presidential Guard) at Dodan Baracks. I have experience of what happened at that time. It was that time that Gowon was toppled. I was in Bonny Camp when Gen Murtala Muhammed was assassinated in 1976. He was murdered behind the fence of the Presidential Guard. But before he was assassinated, I went to late Gen Joe Garba who was the Commander of the Brigade of Guards at that time that they were violating security by the so-called low profile that they adopted at that time. This was because there was no security escorts for the Head of State and the service chiefs. I went to him at three different times but Gen Garba asked me to shut up.
There were four battalions that formed the Presidential Guard at that time. After Gen Murtala Mohammed was assassinated, the then Chief of Army Staff, General T. Y. Danjuma phoned my office and asked to speak to the commanding officer, I was the acting commanding officer then.
I answered the call, he asked if I had men and I told him that I was arming my men then. He told me to send a company to secure Army Headquarters.
I said “Yes sir”. He said “permission to use your office as my temporary headquarters” and I told him, “you are welcome sir”. I ushered him into the commanding officer’s office. Shortly after, all the officers and soldiers in Army headquarters joined the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Gen. T. Y. Danjuma in Bonny Camp. The senior military officers that joined COAS in Bonny Camp included Gen Alani Akinrinade, GOC of 1 Division then, Gen Domkat Bali, all principal staff officers in Army HQ then including Gen Ibrahim Babangida who was a Lt-Col then.
While plan was on to go and recapture Radio Nigeria, Babangida volunteered to go and talk with Dimka to surrender as Dimka was his personal friend. He came back and told the COAS that Dimka refused to surrender and the COAS ordered “If Dimka refuses to surrender, get the civilians out of Radio Nigeria and blow the place up along with Dimka. That was how troops were assembled, which moved to recapture Radio Nigeria where Major Rabo of Army Engineers was arrested as the first coup plotter to be arrested.
I was there when Gen Obasanjo was asked to become the next Head of State, which he refused but was prevailed upon. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua was a Lieutenant-Colonel then, he was promoted to Brigadier-General and appointed Chief of Staff to Gen Obasanjo. I saw governance that time and when the question came up that time of what was Nigeria’s problem, I mentioned it that time that Nigeria’s problem was lack of continuity and that was why there were abandoned projects all over the country in the states and federal levels. This was because Nigeria has no national interest. At independence, our leaders ought to have sat down to establish a national interest for Nigeria. All policies are to have the national interest as centre of focus. For example, Gen Gowon at a time, put Africa as centre of Nigeria’s foreign policy.
With Africa as centre of Nigeria’s foreign policy, what were the diplomatic, economic, social or cultural gains for Nigeria that time?
During my course at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru near Jos in 1990, my research paper was on “Security Implications of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy.” Ambassador Yola was a Directing Staff at NIPSS that time. He disagreed with me on Nigeria not having a National Interest and Nigeria not tasking her Ambassadors. I made it clear to the Ambassador then that one of our domestic policies is self sufficiency in food production, we are supposed to calculate quality of each food items we are to produce yearly (yam, cassava, maize, guinea corn, millet, categories of beans, etc) to be self sufficient in food production.
We are to calculate the quantity of fertilizer needed to achieve the quantities of food items calculated.
We have a fertilizer industry in Onne which we have to task to produce the quantity of fertilizer needed to achieve our goal. One of the main components of fertilizer is phosphate and we have to calculate the quantity of phosphate we need to produce the quantity of fertilizer needed annually.
The Republic of Togo is blessed with abundance of phosphate. This is where tasking of our Ambassadors (missions) comes in. Our ambassador to Republic of Togo is thus tasked to put his diplomatic machinery on Togo to sell a specific quantity of phosphate to Nigeria annually to meet our self sufficiency in food production.
On food security, there is the need to task our ambassadors. Those of them posted to countries that have companies and corporations that specialize in food preservation, our ambassadors need to be tasked to get such companies/corporations to invest in Nigeria purposely for preservation of our food items (yam, tomato, potato, pepper, etc). A lot of our food items rot away annually.
What are we pursuing without National Interest?
When Threat Analysis is carried out on National Interest, it will yield, countries, organizations, establishments that the National Interest would oppose or not favour their own interests are referred to as hostile. Groups, organizations, countries, establishment whose own National Interest would favour are referred to as friendly.
Those whose own National Interest does not oppose or favour are referred to as neutral. Further analysis on external hostile and friendly groups, countries and organizations will yield formulation of foreign policies. Defence policy backs up foreign policy.
These are another area of tasking of our Ambassadors. Those appointed and posted to hostile countries, organizations and groups are tasked to get them friendly. Same applies to neutral ones to become friendly.
Nigeria nationalised British Petroleum because of Rhodesia. It became independent and changed its name to Zimbabwe. I am aware of millions of US dollars given and spent on Zimbabwe, at the end of the day, they had never supported Nigeria. The same happened with Angola. Throughout the fighting, Nigeria supported MPLA with money, materials (weapons and ammunition), we trained their youths in education and got them qualified in medicine, various fields of engineering, law various fields of medicine, accounting, etc.
What is our relationship with Angola today?
All those resources expended on Angola have gone down the drains – Father Christmas. Same with Nigeria’s role with ECOMOG. In post ECOMOG operations, Nigerian contractors were expected to handle repairs of damaged infrastructure in Liberia and Sierra Leone. All the money spent on ECOMOG operations brought no gain for Nigeria. These are what happened when carrying out administration without putting our national interest into focus. In the USA, you can’t become president and say that you are going to run the government with your own ideas, you have to continue in line with the country’s national interest focus.
What advice do you have for Tinubu and his men?
They do research at NIPSS. Let Tinubu ask for various research papers on security, economy, education, agric, commerce and many others. HE should study and use them. You don’t use politics to run National Interest of your country. The National Assembly doesn’t help much. It’s only money, money and money. How much did they vote for themselves. They are there without pursuing the interest of Nigeria but their own selfish interest. Imagine Akpabio had forgotten that he was on camera when he told the Senate that money had been paid into their accounts to enjoy two weeks break.
Why does National Assembly pad budget? When governors campaign, on what do they do it? Do they fulfil their promises? Very few of them make efforts at doing so.
The chairman of Ijebu East Local Government in Ogun State, Wale Adedayo is now fighting his governor and telling him – give me my allocation. Other chairmen buckled down and went to prostrate to the governor. Why should governors keep local government allocation and say they will be spending it on their behalf? It is wrong. Only about five states give allocation to their local government. Let’ governors release allocation to local governments or else, the Federal Government should pay it straight into the local government accounts. There are three tiers of government – Federal, State and Local. No one of them should stifle the other. If the local governments don’t have the right, the federal government will not be giving them allocation. This kind of cheating does not happen in civilized environment. That’s part of what’s not making Nigeria progress.
Is it the way US that we are immitating run its own system, which we are copying?
Segregation and discrimination are part of what is killing us. Me, I don’t know how to tell lies. My late father, Rev. Bolaji Togun, was a clergyman and one day he told two of us, his children: “If you are tied to the stake and you are told that if you tell a lie, you’ll be freed, if you tell a lie, you are not my children. But if you are killed because of telling the truth and the truth becomes obvious after many years when your bones have become white, your bones inside the grave will become a hero.
Most of our political leaders have heart of stone, I always pray God to soften their heart and remove selfishness from their hearts.
See our education in Yoruba land. It is towing rearward position. When results of WAEC at national level is posted on social media, Yoruba states take rearward positions. This has downed the academic glory of Yoruba land of yester years. Education has degenerated beyond expectation in Yoruba land.
I have personal experiences of the fall in education. There is a man brought to me who had financial problems. He has two of his children in secondary school. One was in SS1 and the other in JSS 3. The two had to come and live with me. I am the one teaching them after school daily. The two of them know nothing in the subjects they are doing in the school. The one in SS1 in the first term came home with 9%, 11%, 13% up to 15%.
In the second term, he came home with between 15% and 21%. In the 3rd term, I did not see his performance. At the beginning of the next academic year, he came to tell me that he was promoted to SS2. I went to see his principal who told me that it is the Ministry of Education that did their promotion; that they send their scores to the Ministry which takes final decisions. I asked to see his scores. The principal showed me scores of forties and fifties. I told the principal that they assist the students to send good scores to the ministry, so the ministry would think the teachers are doing some good work.
Many young men who wish to get recruited into the police, military and paramilitary organizations bring their forms to me for endorsement and filling of Guarantor’s section. This is where I realized that their WAEC results are questionable. Some could not read the instructions at the top of the forms. There is the case of one who brought his recruitment form to me for endorsement. I found that the youngman had six A1s in his WAEC result. I asked why he wanted to go into the Army as a recruit and not go for NDA as an officer with that result. He kept quiet.
I took a plain sheet of paper and wrote on it that he should go and write out for me, the chemical equation on reaction of sulphuric acid and iron oxide, and that of sodium oxide and hydrochloric acid. After I finished my endorsement of his form, I came out and found that he just stood with the paper in his hand. HE had A1 in Chemistry. I asked him to tell me the definition of photosynthesis.
He said “photosynthesis simply defines…” and kept quiet. He had A1 in Biology. I then asked him if “photosynthesis simply defines is good English as he had A1 in English language. I asked which secondary school he attended. He gave me the name of the school which I never heard about. I told him that he was helped with his WAEC papers and that those who did, ruined his life.
Most of our children in public schools and some private schools help their students in WAEC and NECO examinations. I can say categorically that this happens throughout Yoruba land.
Another aspect of dwindling educational standard in Yoruba land are the caliber of teachers we employ, particularly NCE holders. There is the part time NCE courses organized by the National Teachers Institute. Most of the NCE holders who qualified through this system were helped to attain this qualification. Many of them cannot speak single correct English sentence.
They cannot write note of lessons. They were recruited through local governments into the Teaching Service Commission. Some of such NCE holders are teaching in secondary schools.