Lt.-Col. Ejoor: On that point, the implication is that the Civilian Government will have to come back.
Col. Adebayo: What we are doing is that we are trying to get a solution for us Military people to rule, the question of civilians coming back is a different exercise altogether. You repeal all the Decrees made that affected some of the powers of the Regional Governments.
In fact Decree No. 1 is one of them, there are certain parts of Decree No. 1 which should be repealed…. We can go through all the Decrees that have been passed, that will solve our problems and bring the Regional powers back to the Regions….
If we agree on that I see no reason why we should go through the functions and the powers of the Supreme Commander because at the Supreme Military Council a joint decision is always made but unfortunately we could not meet since July 29 and there are areas in which the Federal Executive Council in Lagos could meet without the Regional Governors but on things affecting the Regions the Regional Governors must either attend the meeting or be consulted before passing it into law. If we all agree that we repeal Decrees that affect Regional powers and leave the Supreme Military Council to continue and the Federal Executive Council to continue I think half of our job is done.
Lt.-Col. Ojukwu: Again, whilst I agree with Bob I think what he has said has not gone far enough. It has not gone far enough in that before January 15 certainly the Armed Forces were one. These are crucial to whatever we decide to do and, therefore, whilst I agree that the Supreme Military Council should stay, I feel that here we must write it down in our decisions quite categorically that the legislative and executive authority of the Federal Military Government shall be vested in the Supreme Military Council because previously it had been vested in the Supreme Commander.
Col. Adebayo: No.
Lt.-Col. Ojukwu: The actions have been such.
Col. Adebayo: Actions, yes.
Lt.-Col. Ojukwu: If we are not going to get ourselves into another friction, I think this must really be spelt out, 80 that, what I envisage is that whoever is at the top is a constitutional chap, constitutional within the context of the Military Government. That is, he is the titular head but he would only act when we have met and taken a decision. It is in fact for that reason that I suggested yesterday, so as not to get it confused ever again, that whoever we choose should be the Chairman of a Military Council. Indeed, I have gone on to say or rather I would like to say that he should again be a Titular Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and that he shall perform such functions as are performed by a Constitutional Head of State. By so doing we have limited the powers, by so doing our people will have the confidence that whatever he says must at least have been referred to us all and that we are doing it in the best interest of the entirety rather than saying that this chap is there he is a Northerner and suspect every action of his, this chap is there an Easterner, he must be pushing only Eastern things for the Eastern good. If we spell it out as I have just said I think we would go a long way.
I will go further and I will give you the papers of what I suggest.
Papers passed to Members of the Supreme Military Council
Major Johnson: Before we go into the details of this, I would like to add one or two points…. We must first of all face the social problems in our country.
What you have just enumerated, I am sure, in principle has been the intention of the Federal Military Government since January. General Ironsi, all of us will remember, used to say ‘Look, it is easy to be a dictator but it is not easy to try not to be one.’ There are several occasions when he would say ‘Look, we all take these decisions’ even at Council meetings and putting his hand down he would say ‘any comments.’ I am sure this has been the genuine intention of everybody in the Military Government, nobody wants to be a dictator. I know there could be technical hitches, that in practice we have deviated from it but from what you have said I am sure it is the intention of every military member here, nobody has got any personal aspiration, we are all just longing to get this country back on its feet. So, the decisions being taken jointly I am sure is everybody’s welcome.
The nomenclature now is something different. Again, I tie this one up with social. This is why I believe, let us remain with the nomenclature we have got. Supreme Military Council, Federal Executive Council, Regional Executive Council, these are what we are talking about but it is within us. We have said now that we must start this thing from the top. If we know we want unity eventually which we know cannot be built now it is from the top and if we do not show the genuine intention right from the top I do not see what we are going to pass on to the lower people. Those of us here now should know how we want it to be functioning. We know we have agreed, we are going to put it down there that Supreme Commander you will be the man in Lagos to do normal day to day things that were done by the Ministers and this should be carried out with Members of the Executive Council in Lagos. He never takes any decision by himself for all I know although there could be some hitches as I have said and things to include the Regions the Regional Governments will come in and if it is not important they send a memo for them to comment. We say this is what we have agreed upon and it goes on. I do not think we should deviate from this….
Gentlemen, it is not anybody’s intention to remain head-up in Nigeria, it is not anybody’s ambition that he wants to be Governor. It has come on us and we are doing national service now for our country. When they talk about the history of Nigeria because after all 10 years in our lives is a long time but in the life of a nation it, is a very small time. We are going to pass away one day but what are we going to give to posterity, that is what we should think about now. Personal ambition, what this man should be or that man, we must forget it.
I welcome what Col. Ojukwu said, we take a joint decision, that is what we have been doing but the nomenclature I say, let it remain….The only thing I would like to add is because of the state of the Army itself today I would like to see an effective Commander of the Army. I would like to have an effective Commander and on top of that I would like to see that we break the command of the Army into Area commands. I hate to use Regional commands, I would say Area commands and have effective command on the Area commands and then an effective command for the Army itself. That will assist the Supreme Commander himself from going into detail on Army matters. He can still be the Head of the Armed Forces but that will assist him in going into detail on Army problems. I do not think personally that the Chief of Staff (Army) is effective. He is the Staff Officer, I was Chief of Staff, you were Chief of Staff and you all know that we want somebody who can really command, go to the ground everytime and see that the Officers and the troops are doing the right thing. That is what I would like to add to what I said before but I think the nomenclature should remain.
Lt.-Col. Ojukwu: I will object completely to that last one. We started by agreeing that nobody can effectively command the entire Army. Any attempt to put somebody and say he commands the entire Army is ‘eyewash’ it does not work, not in the present circumstances. Therefore, we must accept that the Army would be Regionalised whether we like the name or not we all understand what we mean by that.
I do not think what we need at the moment is Supreme Commander because Supreme Commander does involve commanding. I think what you need is a Commander-in- Chief who is just titular so that people will take orders from people, at least, they have confidence in. Whoever you put in Lagos, I say this, will not command the loyalty of the East if that person is not acceptable to the East, this is the fact of to-day. So many things have happened and we do no longer trust each other.
Lt.-Col. Hassan: This is taking us back on the whole issue of Nigerian history….
Lt.-Col. Ojukwu: I said there should be a co-ordinating group to which each Region would send somebody but just for the facade of Nigeria there should be a titular Commander-in- Chief not a Supreme Commander which involves and which means somebody who commands over and above the various entities. Perhaps after we have created and generated certain confidence we could again have a Supreme Commander but it is not feasible to-day this is w hat I am saying.
Lt.-Col. Hassan: With respect, to summarise the whole thing the Eastern Region will not recognise whoever is the Supreme Commander in the form of association we are now in and it means a repetition of the whole history of Nigeria when the politicians were there, to strive to put either a Northerner or an Easterner at the top. It must be an Easterner for the Easterners to believe or a Northerner for the Northerners to believe. To summarise, the Eastern people will not recognise anybody in Lagos unless he is an Easterner.
Col. Adebayo: I do not think we should put it that way.
Mr. T. Omo-Bare: I would like to make a statement. I would like to request with respect that we adjourn to private session and iron out this matter because there is a lot involved in it. We cannot sit here on this round table and divide Nigeria because the talks are moving towards Regionalisation of everything and I do not think it is safe and we are right to divide Nigeria up on this table. If we retire into private session we might be able to thrash it out there. We will be able to say everything in our minds and then come back with a Resolution.
Lt.-Col. Gowon: If that is agreed we can retire then.