I saw hell in Abacha’s prison –Diya

  • Saturday, June 25, 2005 -
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Honourable Wole Diya, member, Lagos State House of Assembly and younger brother of former Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen Oladipo Diya has been around the corridor of power for some time now. He was arrested over the alleged plan by some military officers, led by his brother, Oladipo, to topple the regime of the late military despot, General Sani Abacha. Though, he was eventually set free by the Special Investigation Panel set up to investigate the culpability or otherwise of the accused persons, he suffered greatly in the hands of his captors, who allegedly tortured him to “confess” involvement in the plot to unseat the late maximum ruler. Wole, may have since put the bitter experience behind him as he now seats comfortably as a member of Lagos State House of Assembly. In this interview, he recalls his experience in the hands of the Abacha “boys” and the reforms he would want in Nigeria’s polity. Excerpts:

 

What informed your decision to join politics?

It all started during my university days when I actually participated in politics. I remember vividly that I contested an election in 1989 for an executive position in the campus. Since then, I made up my mind not to go back. That eventually prompted me to join partisan politics. Thank God since I started, I have no regrets.

 

There was rumour during your first tenure in the legislative chamber that you took advantage of your brother’s face-off with late General Abacha. Was that what made it possible for you to win?

That allegation is not true. I started partisan politics before my brother travailed in the hands of Abacha. It’s on record that I contested for an election under the platform of UNCP in 1987 as a chairmanship aspirant in Shomolu. In  1992, I won election to the House of Assembly under the platform of the Social Democratic Party. It was also cancelled.

Furthermore, I contested in 1999 election to the House of Assembly and I won before I was re-elected in 2003. Although my brother is one of the influential men in Nigeria, I can tell you authoritatively that he detests politics. He is a military man to the core, notwithstanding that he supported me financially during my political campaigns.

 

You are representing Shomolu Constituency II, what are the projects you’ve embarked on as a legacy for the coming generation?

I sponsored several bills in the house that have been passed. Those laws will be of immense benefit to my constituency. Over 14 roads were given a face-lift  recently. They include Osho, Akilo, Bashorun, Olorunkemi, Oremeji to mention but a few. Many of the unemployed youths in my constituency have been employed by the state government, especially by LASTMA and other related agencies. The water log from Igbo Igunun to Popoola has been cleared several times.

Furthermore, I have personally employed the services of some youths to clean the environment so as to avoid epidemic.

 

Any plan to contest in 2007 election as a legislator at the federal level? Your supporters have been spreading this rumour in your constituency.

God Almighty determines one’s life. But when the time comes, my people in my constituency would determine my next move. Suffice it to say that I have interest to serve as chairman or better still to go to the House of Representatives. Does that answer your question?

 

How do you assess the leadership of Honourable Speaker Jokotola Pelumi at the Lagos State House of Assembly?

He is doing his best. Although, he would have been impeached few weeks back but the house later resolved the issue at hand. I can tell you authoritatively that we are working in harmony. To the glory of God, work is progressing in the house.

 

Let us talk about General Oladipo Diya (rtd) and for record purposes, tell us, is it true that General Diya was never interested in No. 1 citizen’s seat? Is it also true that that coup allegation was a set up by General Ishaya Bamayi to tarnish Diya’s image in the presence of Abacha?

I salute General Diya’s courage. My brother was not an ambitious leader as being speculated by the media. But believe me, he was a fine military gentleman. The fact that I was arrested alongside him in his house in Abuja still lingers in my memory. I was in the prison for 18 months. During my travails, I was kept in solitary confinement. It was after Abacha’s death that General Abdusalami Abubakar released me. That was after the tribunal set-up to try us found me not guilty to the different charges brought against me.

 

What was your experience like in the prison?

Abacha’s prison was a hell. I think Nigerian leaders should wake up to their responsibility. All the prisons nationwide should be given a face-lift, the earlier the better for Nigerians.

They should seat at a round-table for deliberation personally, I don’t support the idea of churches and mosques paying tax.

 

How would you assess President Olusegun Obasanjo’s style of governance so far?

President Obasanjo has not done badly, but he needs to address the situation at hand as it affects the electorate, especially the local government allocations which he had withheld since April last year. After the apex court of the land had given judgment that he should release the funds, he has no business holding on to it. I think President Obasanjo has no moral right to still hold on to that money at this moment.

I would join eminent Nigerians like Chief Alex Ekwueme, Anthony Enahoro, to join Gani Fawehinmi who had spoken against the delay to release the money. This is very important because the electorate who voted him to power are being subjected to untold hardship.

 

Do you think it is justified for President Olusegun Obasanjo to distribute allocation to other tiers of government?

The share of allocation in Nigeria always gives me concern. For instance, where  Delta State receives more than one billion Naira monthly  Lagos which has the largest population receives less than one billion

Agreed that oil as the major source of revenue to Nigeria is found in large quantity in their area, but the federal government should be aware that these states’ population is less than some states like Lagos.

Lagos State being the major commercial city in Nigeria contributes 90 percent of total revenue generated by the federal government, that is excluding oil revenue.

From the ports alone, Nigeria makes between 30 to 40 billion Naira yearly. It is advisable for the federal government to look into the possibility of increasing Lagos State’s allocation because of the large population.

 

You once spoke glowingly about Gov. Bola Tinubu in the media. Do you think he is the messiah Lagosians have been waiting for since the exit of Alhaji Lateef Jakande as governor of Lagos State?

Gov. Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a man of honour. As a leader, I respect him a lot. His style of governance is worthy to be emulated. He can compare favourably with Obafemi Awolowo and Alhaji Kayode Jakande. He has been doing his best to better the lot of Lagosians in critical areas like transportation, education and other spheres of life. Forget what his political opponents are saying. Believe me, if there is third time, I am convinced that Tinubu will beat his opponents hands down at the polls in Lagos State.  I think he should be commended than being condemned.

 

As a politician, what are you doing to assist the downtrodden in your constituency?

Since I started partisan politics, I have assisted over three hundred down-trodden in my constituency. I gave them soft loans ranging from N5,000 to N20,000 to start a retail business in their vicinity. I do visit these people often to ask how their businesses are faring.  I think that is what a good leader should do to help his electorate.

 

Tell us the secret of your success?

It is God. Nothing is possible without God. I give him the glory for being faithful to me in all my endeavours.

 

How was it like growing up?

I come from a Christian home. My father was very strict but it was fun while growing up with my brothers and sisters. When majority of our peers were learning trade, my father endeavoured to send us (his children) to school so as to be independent in future.

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