ORKAR'S BROTHER EXPLODES: THERE IS NO DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA
Until Saturday, July 9, 2011, when Tavershima Olayinka, Orkar, an architect, and second son of the late Major Gideon Gwadza Orkar, got married in Ogbomosho, Oyo State, not much had been heard of the family of the man who led one of the bloodiest revolts in Nigeria's political history: the putsch against the General Ibrahim Babangida military dictatorship.
On that day, the name, Major Gideon Orkar, came alive once again as Tavershima took former Miss. Adeola Rachael Agboola, his heartthrob, to the altar.
The epochal event not only pulled the entire Orkar family to the ancient town, it also drew eminent Nigerians from all walks of life. One of the leading lights of the Orkar Family that graced the occasion was Dr. Joseph Targma Orkar, a retired accountant, prolific writer, author, politician, and elder brother of the late Major Gideon Orkar. Despite the expansive spirit of the moment, the older Orkar, who holds the traditional title of Kpamor, took time off to field questions from THE SUN on his late revolutionary brother, Major Gideon Orkar.
Dr. Targma Orkar, at different times, commissioner for works, commissioner for agriculture and commissioner for water and electricity under the defunct Governor Aper Aku's administration in Benue State, paid glowing tributes to his revolutionary younger brother, who was executed on July 22, 1990, for his role in the bloody bid to oust General Babangida as military president.'My younger brother was a saint,' says Dr. Targma Orkar, author of 15 books, and a former national vice chairman of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN. 'He was a prophet. Yes. He lived like a saint and …we are happy that he was able to do that which he did.'
The senior Orkar rubbished the notion that the revolt led by his brother failed, insisting that the late Major succeeded in his mission substantially. 'I still tell people that Gideon's coup succeeded,' he asserts. 'Success is measurable. It doesn't have to be 100 per cent. The extent to which he went was successful. Some people said because he talked about excising the North, and I said that is not so. There were some people who were dishonest and didn't play their roles.'
He expatiates his position saying that the revolt led by his younger brother not only brought to the front burner some of the thorny issues tearing Nigeria apart, but which people were often afraid to discuss, some of them have also come to fruition. The senior Orkar then did a critical appraisal of the state of the union and submitted that if he had his way, indeed, if it were possible for his long dead brother to resurrect and still come as his revolutionary self, he wouldn't mind encouraging him to stage another coup. His reason: the more things seem to get well in the country, the worse they often become.
Well, as they say, the taste of the pudding is in the eating. Please enjoy the full interview.
What do you do for a living?
Farming but I put in so much time now authoring books. I have now written over 15 books, textbooks, to promote the Tiv language. I have also digressed into one or two others.
Why did you write so many books on Tiv language? Are you afraid that Tiv Language will die?
That is true. The fear is real. If you go among the Tiv community, if you are a Tiv person, when you listen to how they are talking now, it's no longer the grammar we knew. Also, there are others who don't even speak it at all. You go to some families, they speak English, even the English is some kind of 'broken'. They don't even know it well. When I was writing, I just wanted to make literature available to the Tiv. I am writing books on inspiration. The revelation was coming to me gradually and it sent me into researching the Tiv language, knowing the rules of the Tiv grammar. Then, when I developed them, I saw there was need for me, and people generally, to write books, so that people could learn.
Were you a university lecturer or something?
No, my profession was accounting.
You have a doctorate?
Honorary doctorate in literature from Thailand, Panama, partly because of my books.
Are you a chartered accountant?
I am not chartered. I am retired. But I am a chartered politician (laughs).
You are the immediate elder brother of the late Major Gideon Orkar?
Not immediate, there is one that followed me. He is also here. I am number five in the family. There were three others, and Gideon was number nine.
I want us to do a recollection of your last meeting with Major Gideon Orkar.
When I was released from prison detention in Gboko, after the Buhari coup of December 31, 1983…
I was in prison detention and got released in 1985 after I had spent one year, eight months.
Why were you detained?
They (the Buhari/Idiagbon military dictatorship) were investigating us, those of us in government. I was a commissioner during Governor Aper Aku's regime.
Commissioner for what?
I was the state commissioner for works, later commissioner for agriculture, and, lastly, commissioner for water and electricity in Benue State. Later, I became the national vice chairman of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN. With that kind of political exposure, and the positions I had held, they wouldn't let me roam about. I believe they thought if we had the opportunity, we could plan to overthrow them sort of. So, they kept us in prison detention so that we wouldn't be free to move. They didn't even allow us to have access to any stationery so that we won't be able to communicate with one another. So, it was one year, eight months of mental and psychological torture. But I was released because they found nothing against me. When the other people were applying for them to start operating their account after our release, I did not have to apply because my account was dormant.
Dormant, even as a commissioner?
I had stopped being commissioner for one year. I was flat broke. At the time, they were changing the (old naira) currency, I did not have a naira left anywhere in my jacket. I didn't have money. We didn't embezzle money. We didn't steal money unlike what we see these days when people see governance as meal ticket, to feed their greed. We never did what these people are doing now.
Can we have your recollection of your late younger brother, Major Gideon Orkar?
When I came out of detention, Gideon visited home and he came to my house. I think it was August or thereabout, before the end of the year. We were able to talk. In fact, we lamented what was happening in Nigeria. It was just like brothers, like other concerned Nigerian citizens discussing the state of the nation. If he had anything in mind, I wouldn't know. I didn't know that he had something in mind.
So, he was passionate about the problems of Nigeria?
He discussed all night with you?
It was not all night. It was all over even before 10 p.m. He came briefly for an hour or so, and we discussed.
Okay, let's go back to 1990, when was the last time you saw him before the coup?
It is difficult for me to say when.
Maybe a week or so before the coup?
No, it's not that close. Maybe a month or two or three..
I want you to do a recollection of your last meeting with him… The things you did together, the things you said together, and his departure…Did he leave you imagining that something earth-shaking was about happening or something was going to get wrong somewhere?
All we discussed was how Nigeria was being ruined and the state of the nation. In fact, if it were now, if Gideon were alive, I would have been the one to call him to stage a coup.
To stage a coup? Even in a democracy?
There is no democracy in Nigeria. We have a form of civil rule but there is no democracy. If you are not keeping to rules of democratic rule, you are not democratic. And that is the state in Nigeria today. Democracy has its description. It's a government of the people, for the people and by the people. And this government is not by the people, it's not for the people and it's not of the people. There is too much of rigging, too much of falsehood, too much of stealing. The fact that Jega sat on television, in public view, announcing the election results didn't make it free and fair, credible and transparent.
What is your grouse with that election?
The same massive rigging that took place in 2007. Jega made us believe he was bringing a system which would make that kind of thing irrelevant, but he didn't. It was the same thing of snatching electoral boxes and that sort of things. Back in Benue, some people were caught with ballot papers, some people were caught snatching electoral materials, snatching ballot boxes. I tell you, they did not even stay overnight in detention. They were released and they went back to perpetrate what they had done in the first election. There is no truth in Nigeria, all that you have is shambles.
These people are not credible and they cannot run a credible government. Just imagine Dimeji Bankole (immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives), he was arrested and they were talking about N32 billion or is it N40 billion he took as a loan to share between himself and his colleagues in the House and you find somebody as high in the hierarchy as David Mark (President of Senate), and others, calling on Goodluck Jonathan to bring a political solution. Political solution to criminality?
People say David Mark will naturally be supportive of Bankole because what the last Senate did under Mark was worse than what was perpetrated in the House under Bankole.
Listen, when David Mark and others came in four years ago, they were investigating the power sector. If you recall, they were bringing revelations upon revelations. Messy things. But what happened after all those sordid revelations? They just swept everything under the carpet! I was told that Obasanjo said that was how they got the money to rig election. That was what made them to get in to the National Assembly and stopped the probe. How can we allow a thing like that to happen in a country, boasting of an aspiration to be among the world's 20 emerging economies by year 2020? How can we? It's very bad. It's horrible, treating criminality as family affair! In more serious nations like China, not only would those thieves have been rigorously tried, they would have been executed long ago! But here, it seems, the bigger you are able to steal, the more popular you become. No wonder, everything is grounded.
Rather than calling for a coup, wouldn't you rather call for a reinforcement of democracy and our national institutions along best standards?
We have called for that several times, and we are still doing so. But those who have been stealing our money and are in authority will never listen. They will never allow any meaningful reforms or reinforcement of our democracy and national institutions, like you said. That is why changing a country like Nigeria usually comes through a revolution because the powers that be will never allow you to get them out. Many of those people here were afraid of Buhari because they believed if he came in, he would send them to jail. So, they did all they could to rig the (last general) elections.
It's like you don't subscribe to this belief that the worst form of democracy is better than the most benevolent dictatorship?
You see, we are talking of military, not tyranny or dictatorship. During the military era, people felt that they were not free; that they were not electing people as it's done in real democracy, blah, blah, blah. Even now, there is no difference. There were certain things that the military did which we were happy about. Take the creation of states that they did as an example. They did it primarily to bring government and development closer to the people. Now, when they talk about creation of state, people spend money.
What about reviewing the constitution. Efforts were made, I know, when Jerry Gana was either the Minister of Information or so. There were volumes of reports that we, even at our local level, had inputs. But when the time came, again, it was as if nothing had been done before. They went to the extent of wanting to present their amendment at the National Assembly; then, they said Obasanjo had inserted the third term clause, and there was confusion everywhere. All that they should have done was to remove that third term thing and bring out what was being presented to the National Assembly in its original form. But they did nothing like that. They did like nothing had ever been done, and spent a lot of money again. So, this is Nigeria.
If there is a good person, who comes in with good intention, he will do something. See what Jerry Rawlings did in Ghana and Ghana is better for it. Once upon a time, Ghanaians were here, in Nigeria, picking food from dustbins. But once Rawlings struck and restored sanity, they disappeared without notice. They went back because their country was now okay. The country is now very okay in terms of democracy and responsible governance.
Are you saying we need a Jerry Rawlings solution?
Yes. When we (NPN) were overthrown in the 1983 coup, when I was going to prison detention, I told my family I had done nothing wrong. I told my family that if they investigate well, they would discover that I didn't do anything wrong. But if they want to kill those of us who participated in government in order to correct Nigeria, fine. I am ready to go. So, even now, if they come and they want to sweep some of us who may be free, if they want to sweep us along in order that our casualties will help Nigeria, let it be. I am telling you Nigeria is worse than Ghana, and it's sad.
What tribute do you pay to your younger brother on the occasion of his son's wedding today?
My younger brother was a saint; he was a prophet.
Yes. He lived like a saint and we are happy that after he had left, his children have been able to continue with their education and have been able to attain the level of educational qualifications they have proudly acquired, even to the stage of one of them getting married, today. The one that got married today (July 9, 2011) is the second son. The first son lives in America and hasn't married yet. We hope that he, too, will marry soon, and the other ones too.