Former police commissioner, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim Babankowa, recounts how the police raided Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s Kalakuta Republic. He also speaks on issues concerning the National Conference, among others. Excerpts:
I share the belief of those that say it is not necessary. It is absolutely unnecessary. Whatever that comes out of the conference will eventually return to the National Assembly for ratification otherwise you have done nothing. It is like constitutional amendment. In Nigeria today, we are living on a fake and false foundation. The Constitution is supposed to be the supreme law guiding this country, but the Constitution we have now is not a people- oriented one; it was foisted on us by the military.
If you remember; during the Sani Abacha era between 1994 and 1995; there was a constitutional conference which saw members being elected by the grassroots and were in the conference for months and produced a Constitution. The members were people of honour, people of impeccable character. The members were housed in the present Apo Legislative Quarters then. It has been sold out now I am told. They produced the document which was supposed to be our Constitution.
After that tedious exercise, there were some grey areas and people advised the government of the day that there should be constitutional review committee to look at the draft again and iron out the grey areas. One person from each state was taken; aside that, eight people were taken from the constitutional conference, four each from the South and the North to join the review committee. And the reason was simply because the eight were party to the drafting of the Constitution from the beginning and if there was anything that probably was not clear to the review committee members, these eight could be of help. And so the Constitution was produced. I was a member of that review committee representing Jigawa State.
The report was submitted to General Abacha. Four days to signing the draft, he passed on. The government of Abdusalami Abubakar came and, instead of looking at it and if need be get another committee to look into it again, it threw it into the dustbin. I think that action was a terrible one. Not only that, he now organised a committee of not more than 10 to 15 people to draft a new one…(loud laughter) and that is the 1999 Constitution we now operate. That is why I said we are operating on a false foundation.
What I would have expected this government to do was just to bring out the draft Constitution of the Abacha era and take a look at it again because there is nothing that can ever be discussed that you cannot find in that draft Constitution. And this is why I am of the opinion that this action of government is of no use. We are just dancing round the circles. This conference is of no use. So you will rather go for that 1994 draft Constitution rather than the new one they are contemplating now. Yes. I will go for the 1994 draft because it was done by all Nigerians.
We are just about wasting resources, time and man power in this exercise. This one has already been done, reviewed and amended, all you need to do is, especially if you need to review it again, form another committee and let it look at the areas you feel may not be necessary.
What is your take on the defection of some PDP governors to the APC?
I think it is a good thing that the PDP governors are merging with the APC. This will narrow the problems of politicking in the country. It will now be just two major parties in the country like you have in the U.S and the U.K. But let us wait and see because you can never totally rely on Nigerian politicians.
Why did you say so? You find out that someone is in a political party today, tomorrow he is in another party, the next day, he returns to his previous party. Another time, he goes to form his own political party. It is only in Nigeria that you see this happening. You don’t find it elsewhere. I think once you say you are a member of a political party, the normal thing for you is to stick to that party like it is done in other climes. Where did you hear that a Conservative has joined Labour in the UK? It is unheard of. So let us wait so that time can be the judge of all the decisions taken so far.
With this merger, do you see the strength of the ruling party reduced? Even if it is one governor…….. Let us take Kano State, if it is only Kwankwaso who will be moving his people into APC, it will definitely affect the PDP not to talk of when you have five governors. In Kwara State, I was watching on television where the chairman of the PDP was saying the whole of the party in the state has merged with APC, will that not greatly reduce the strength of the party in the state? So I think this is the first danger they are going to face in the last 15 years.
How true is the claim that APC is mostly populated by Muslims and are more influential in the party? I don’t think that is true. I don’t know why we always like to play the religious card in politics. It is damaging to our democracy. I think what we should be talking about is who has the capability to move the country forward. Whether he is a Christian, pagan or Muslim should really not matter. We should be more concerned about what he is bringing to the table.
This sentiment of religion or ethnic colouration should not be brought to the table because these sentiments, on the long run, is one of the reasons why we are where are presently. If we have a pagan or even an atheist who can do the job of taking us to the next level, why not try him? General Gowon a Christian ruled this country for eight years. He is from the North but nobody raised any alarm because he was doing the job. I schooled in America where you can abuse an individual, call him a monkey or donkey, he might not be bothered, but say something negative about his country, America, and see what happens to you. That is the kind of value they place on their country.
So we should put our country before any other thing; not ourselves, tribes or religion before our country. We are always marching backward instead of moving forward. You met the late Fela Anikulapo in the course of your job. Yes I did. I must say the man was extremely talented, very talented indeed except that he was using his talent in a way that I don’t think was right. He was said to be harbouring all sorts of girls including daughters of highly placed people. I liked him as a person. And you led the team that raided his house then.
Oh yes. I led the team. I was in Mushin Division then. Kalakuta Republic was located within the division. I was asked to lead the team to Fela’s house by the IG. Isa Adeju was the commissioner of police. The IG through Adeju asked me to lead the team. Kam Salem was the IG then.
What was the basis for the raid as explained to you by your bosses then? The information received by the police was that there were children particularly girls who ran away from their parents and were living with him. That was the allegation. It was said that there were High Court judges daughters among those living in his house. They made complaints to the IG and that is why we raided the house in order to rescue the girls and also to arrest Fela for harbouring them.
I thought that arrest had more political undertone than criminal? Not at all. Forget about his songs which were political. That was not the reason for which he was arrested. He was arrested mainly because of the reason given earlier. He was in his usual pants when we arrested him. We took him to Alagbon. Which of the events during your career would say was the toughest? The first of them was the Tiv riot where six of my colleagues were beheaded. This was 1964 or 65. The second was the Tafawa Balewa sight. What I saw that day was terrible.
The third was the Maitasine riot in Kano during the Shagari era. We discovered a mass grave.
Do you have any regret? Not at all. I have served my country. I have satisfaction of that service rendered. If every policeman would put as much as I have done, Nigeria would not have been what it is now. People are no longer working to help the country; all they are after is money. Everything in this country has been devalued. The level of corruption in our country today is something else. Corruption has become a fashion, but I know it will not continue like this because there will be change somehow.
This change you are talking about, is it the one APC is talking about? Yes. By the grace of God, they will change this country. They have good intentions for Nigeria. The late Abacha was your friend. No, he was not really my friend. He was my junior in secondary school. He respected me highly just as I did to him as well. You see the noise about Abacha being corrupt, I tell you, it is because he is not alive. If he were alive, I can tell you, there won’t be anybody talking about this.
Like the corrupt leaders we have in this country presently who have done more atrocities even worse than Abacha, they are alive and nobody is saying anything about them. They can say anything about Abacha because he is not alive. If you take one of the leaders, I don’t have to mention any body’s name, and you open him up and see the kind of damage he has done to this country, it will triple what Abacha has done. The way the country is run now, if you are not corrupt you cannot go anywhere. That is the way things are done now.
I have two things which I thank God for. I have patience. Whatever you do to me I will leave you to God, no matter how bad it may be. I have contentment. I stay within the limit of my resources. That is why I am always happy. I have no fear of somebody coming here to come and kill me. I used to have a policeman at my gate, I asked him to go.
Are you fulfilled. 100%. If I pass on today I will die a fulfilled person. I have no regret in life. Are you ready to die here and now I swear to God, if it comes now, I am ready. What am I looking for again? Money? What am going to do with it? House? Wife? Whatever that is being done with money in life I have done it in my own small way. That is why I said I am contented. God has blessed me with age and good health and kept me alive and upright. I have trained all my children to the university level. What else am I waiting for? Let me die now if death would come.