Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1989 May 5 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Interview for Daily Times of Nigeria

Document type: speeches
Document kind: Interview
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: Dr Ogunbiyi, Abbobe Obe, and Onyena Ugochukwu, Daily Times of Nigeria
Editorial comments: 1015-1030.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1771
Themes: Conservatism, Economy (general discussions), Education, Higher & further education, Leadership, Foreign policy (Africa), Commonwealth (Rhodesia-Zimbabwe), Law & order, Autobiographical comments, Women, Autobiography (marriage & children)

Interviewer

You have obtained everything since you were first appointed Leader, or elected Leader, most people now will agree with that. Are you setting new agendas for the next decade? Are there battles you still want to fight?

Prime Minister

As you complete one vision and one dream and one programme, other objectives of course always arise and we have to remember that there are lots and lots of people whose personal ambitions and hopes have not been fulfilled and obviously they want a rising standard of living. [end p1]

And the great thing about the way in which we have operated, it is not Government that has produced the rising standard of living, it is Government by having the right taxation policy, the right soundness of finance, the right trading policy, the right incentives, has enabled people to be enterprising and they have done the business, started up the business, and as they have prospered themselves, so the resources have been there for taxation to prosper others.

So that is the framework in which we operate but it is a framework which allows people themselves to achieve their dreams for their families and in doing so takes the whole standard of living of the whole country up and therefore you are able to do things in the environment, things in raising the standard of hospitals, in raising the standard of research.

And education for the young, you want educational opportunity but you want it worked out too with industry. Because you know there is a tendency when people go to university and get degrees that they tend to go, not into business, but they tend to go into the professions, which of course is a business, but we want the very best brains into business as well.

So it is enlarging opportunity and raising standards the whole time. [end p2]

Interviewer

Will you be seeking a fourth term?

Prime Minister

Well, one does not think, I have been asked how long will you go on, some people say to the year 2000, some say a fourth term. I say we will take each year and day as it comes.

Interviewer

Looking back over the past ten years, are there things that you would do differently if you were starting again?

Prime Minister

I think always with hindsight there are, because with hindsight you know a lot of things which you did not know at the time. But one thing, which was the critical thing, I would have done precisely the same, which was to set out our objectives and our course of action and to say: “Look, it will be difficult in the short-term, but it will give benefits in the longer-term”. That was right and then it was absolutely right through the very difficult years, and they were the first two and a half to three years and they were very difficult, to stick to them because we believed in them and never once did we retreat to the politics of expediency, never once, always the politics of conviction: this is what we want to do, this is why we want to do it. [end p3]

There was always a reason why and of course we are very grateful that we used the media in order to get over the reason why. And you cannot do it without the cooperation of people. It is no good people thinking we will change the Government and everything will happen and we shall not be able to make any effort. The results come from people making the effort.

Interviewer

When you talk of hindsight, it has been suggested that people thought that you admitted not knowing much about Africa when you became Prime Minister. Would you say now, after your experience of so many visits, far more visits to Nigeria than any other British Prime Minister, what things did you discover there and how much has your original perception been altered?

Prime Minister

I knew when I became Prime Minister, I knew Northern Africa and I had only otherwise been to the Gambia. And so from practical experience I did not know a great deal although we all knew from debating over the years Africa and the territories which we have been associated with for years, have been debated year in year out in the House of Commons and people have visited us, so it was not as if one started from nothing. Do not forget I had been a Member of Parliament since 1959, had seen all the problems in Kenya, had seen all the problems with Ghana, had seen the problems with [end p4] setting up a Central African Federation, so knew them all.

So it was really to go to see them just enlarged one's understanding and then of course immediately I was faced with the Commonwealth Conference and the problem of could we bring Rhodesia to legal independence, which we did.

And of course it is so much better to see it, but you know the thing that strikes you in a way is that human nature is very similar the world over and the things that you have to do for sound government are very similar the world over. Certainly people's talents and abilities may be different, but the fact that against a sound background you have got to use the talents and abilities and go with the grain of human nature is a principle the world over.

And if you have too many subsidies, too many grants coming too easily, people will not rise to that challenge and make the effort that is necessary.

Interviewer

Would you say that your opinion has in any particular way been altered from the original one that you had?

Prime Minister

Well, I think people had rather false ideas as to what my views were. I remember arriving in Lusaka, really, and there had been the most critical leaders, venomous leaders, malicious leaders, you know about what I believed, etc, etc. [end p5]

And they were quite surprised to find it was not true so it was really rather good that I was able to go there. And when I left the leaders were quite different, yes quite different, and we had managed to achieve a great deal.

But as I say, human nature is very very similar. Of course everyone wants a better life for their family, did we not all? And of course they would like it now, did we not all? But it is only through making the effort together and doing things together that you get really the satisfaction and fulfilment from it.

Interviewer

Prime Minister, General Babangida is known and has demonstrated time and again that he believes in the rule of law. When you took over the review of Britons who were detained in Nigeria without trial, he ensured that they came to trial. But then following pressures from Nigeria and from here they were released and subsequently deported. Following the rather foolish incident of the Dikko affair, we have in Major Yusufu, who still stays here in England. Is it not possible, is it not time to reciprocate on that goodwill by asking him to at least serve out his time in Nigeria?

Prime Minister

But you see, you have indicated from your question the difference. President Babangida was very good in releasing [end p6] people who had not been tried, they had been detained without trial.

Interviewer

They were tried in a court of law.

Prime Minister

They were tried in a court of law, but Mr Yusufu, it was a very, very serious offence, very serious offence indeed, and was tried before our courts and sentenced before our courts, but not just a foolish thing. Believe you me, we regard that as a safety of our streets, as a very serious offence.

And as you know, and I was down at Lincoln's Inn the other day, so many of your people have come to our country for the rule of law, it really was a serious offence and you know the total impartiality of the law.

So I think the cases were very different in seriousness and that the law must take its course. We cannot interfere. But as you know, after a time, remission is allowed.

Interviewer

Parole, yes. [end p7]

Prime Minister

Yes, parole, and remission is allowed, so when we get up to that time I think it will be treated in the normal way. But we cannot have that kind of thing happening on the streets of London. You would not be safe if it could.

We are very much looking forward to the Visit and I always enjoy talking to President Babangida, we get on extremely well and I think he is very courageous because he has got some really difficult economic problems. I think he is tackling them immensely courageously.

Interviewer

He thinks you are very courageous too.

Prime Minister

It really is a privilege to be able to help, it really is. Because he is the sort of person I understand, you know, he is quite direct in his views, direct in what he wants to do, direct in the way in which he carries it out but always with a great passion for Nigeria and her people.

It is such an enormous country you have got, made up of so many different peoples and each must retain its own characteristics and its own culture because that is their pride and that is, you know, it is the things that you know and are familiar to you, with which the things you constantly associate in your mind. [end p8]

Interviewer

How do you combine a full working life with the role of a full housewife, how do you combine it?

Prime Minister

Well we just do somehow. When we also have the 10th anniversary celebrations things get a bit behind, there is a pile of letters and things that I must do now. But we just do.

But do not forget many women in your country, as mine, work as well and you just have to get some organisation and method because everything has got to be done. And if you have a family things have got to be done at a certain time and with a certain regularity because it is much better that children are brought up that way.

But you learn to make up your mind quickly and to get things done in a very orderly way.

Interviewer

In what specific way has Mr Thatcher contributed?

Prime Minister

Oh, Denis Thatcherhe is absolutely terrific, he is terrific. He is immensely supportive, he has his own personality, he has his own business interests, he has his own voluntary interests. He is passionately keen on sports, on helping young people with sports, [end p9] on helping sports for the disabled. He has his own tremendously forthright style and he just comes out with all the things you know that other people would love to say.

When he goes and talks to Party political things and he says: “Now look, the one thing we need is loyalty. Unless we are united we cannot go forward” and it really is terrific. And he has only ever given one interview, which was right at the beginning, ten years ago, and he said: “Never again!”