National Publicity Secretary of Middle Belt Forum, Dr. Dogo Isuwa, has said Nigeria needs to restructure along the lines recommended in the 2014 national conference. He faulted Northern Governors Forum (NGF) position on the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), and noted that the NGF may be a state sponsored agent that wants to retain the status quo. He also spoke on other national issues
The Northern Governors Forum has kicked against the ＃EndSARS protests, saying that the disbanded unit of the Nigeria police Force (NPF) is needed and should be sent to Northern Nigeria to fight insurgency and insecurity. What is your take on that?
With respect to the Northern governors, I find it amusing that they are saying that they do not want the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) disbanded, that they should be reformed or they should be sent to the North because they have helped. I wonder in what way they have helped? Have there been any limitations in the South that the banditry in the North has multiplied at geometric rate? Or are they saying that the SARS are better than the army, and that the army has not been able to fight the insurgency in the North, therefore the SARS should replace the army? Is it not the army and the Air Force fighting Boko Haram? In Jos, don’t we have Operation Safe Haven? Is it SARS or the army that are in Operation Safe Haven? So, how is it that the SARS has not been able to contain the killings and kidnappings in the North particularly on the Kaduna – Abuja where you have kidnappings almost on a regular basis? Is it now that the youths are protesting that the Northern Governors Forum suddenly woke up from their deep slumber and realised that SARS has stopped banditry in the North? I am just asking questions because I don’t understand it.
The chairman of the Northern Governors Forum is the Plateau State governor …
(Cuts in) the theatre of the kidnappings and the headquarters of Safe Haven is in Plateau State, and for years now the Middle Belt has been suffering these banditry, killings and kidnappings, then suddenly they are saying the SARS should not be disbanded because they are helping, how much did they help that they have not stopped the banditry, killings and kidnappings? If you have army battalions across the length and breadth of the North and they have not stopped it, is it now they will stop it? It just makes nonsense of their way of reasoning and approach to issues. It shows that they are far from the truth.
Are you saying that they are not speaking for the majority?
They are not. In fact, they appear to be state agents because anybody who is sincere, I repeat anybody who is sincere in the North will know that there is no part of the North that can boast of peace now, and these same people have been there since time immemorial and they did not bring the peace, they did not stop the banditry, they did not stop the killings, they did not stop the kidnappings and they did not stop any of the calamities that have been going on there and now that the youths are saying ＃EndSARS, they come up to say that they have met with President Muhammadu Buhari that the SARS should not be disbanded. Has SARS not been there for ages? SARS was established in the 1990s and it has not stopped the problems, but rather the problem has multiplied over and over and somebody in his right mind wakes up now to say they should not be disbanded because they are more useful, are they saying that if you take the SARS in the South and move them to the North, the insecurity will stop? Was there any time they stopped the government from increasing the number of SARS in the North, until now?
So are they playing politics with what is happening?
I don’t want to say politics. They are playing stupidity, they are playing political insanity, that is my view because no right-thinking person will after all this time come out now to say that if they leave SARS, that SARS will solve the criminality that has bedevilled the North. Are they also saying that SARS is better than the Nigerian armed forces put together? The army and the air force in particular have been fighting, I am not very sure of the role of the Navy, but if the army and the air force and the other arms of the police are there and they are saying that the SARS is better than all the arms of the armed forces put together, can that be logical, does that make sense? Can you say that anybody saying that is reasonable? What has been happening makes it look ridiculous, whether you have Northern governors or parents or some youths you can hire and pay as political thugs and use to disrupt legitimate cries for what Nigerian youths want. You will know that something is wrong with the brains of the so-called Northern governors. Something is wrong with the brains of the so-called fathers that are saying they shouldn’t disband SARS; something is wrong with the brains of those youths, in fact those youths you see opposing the scrapping of SARS, do they look like people that have ever been inside a classroom? Those are almajarai that were hired to come and disrupt what is even in their own interest. Believe me, what the youths are doing is actually in the interest of the police and armed forces than in the interest of the youths themselves because if the government does what is right, the police will have less problems in their hands; that is the truth. If the government does what is right, the police will have less problems, there may even be no need for some of these criminality taking place. But because the government is not doing what is correct, the police cannot even stand. These youths shouting ＃EndSARS are fighting for improved remuneration of the police; it is one of their demands and somebody in the North is saying they should leave SARS. So, let them take SARS to the North and when they improve the remuneration of the police, they should leave out those ones? Let me ask an important question, every state governor gets millions of Naira, if not billions every year for security; what security did they provide, what did they spend the money on? Should that be budgeted for in any state when the governors do nothing than to increase the level of poverty and armed banditry in their states and everywhere and they are getting security votes?
Is it not time for the Middle Belt in particular to come out with a statement ….
(Cuts in) That is exactly what I am talking about, we don’t have to necessarily issue a press release. What I am saying now I have also told other media organisations. I am speaking on behalf of the Middle Belt Forum because we are the ones that have suffered most. I can tell you that there is no part of Nigeria that has suffered armed banditry as mush as the Middle Belt. The Middle Belt Forum disagrees in totality with what the northern governors are saying because SARS did not start today, it had been there when the Middle Belt was ravaged and we have a whole military battalion with headquarters virtually in the middle of the Middle Belt in Plateau State, yet the banditry and the killings and kidnapping have increased at geometric rate. Where have they been all these while that they did not use SARS to stop it or at least reduce it.
The statement by the Northern Governors Forum has again opened conversations around the issue of restructuring because it shows that the way the North East and North West reason is quite different from that of other parts of the country; with what is currently happening around the issue of ＃EndSARS , how do you look at restructuring of the country?
We have issued a press release on the issue of restructuring and this was part of it; we disagree with the Northern governors on all they are saying including on ＃EndSARS because SARS has been there all along when the cases of banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and other vices increased in, not just the Middle Belt, but also in Kano, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara.
This protest started as ＃EndSARS, but it has stretched to other sectors of the country including education reforms, reduction in cost of governance among others. Since theJune 12, 1993 crises, Nigeria has not seen this kind of widespread protests. Do you see a revolution coming?
I believe that Nigerian youths understand what a revolution is. I am not one of those who will support a bloody revolution; I do not also support the issue of balkanising Nigeria, but if the government is smart, they should simply implement the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. It will solve almost all the problems the youths are agitating for today. That is the revolution I believe that can take place. In political science, we say that those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable; we do not hope and pray for a violent revolution. We are hoping and praying for a peaceful revolution. In nine out of ten cases, when nations go to war, they still settle those disputes at a negotiating table. So, if the issues have to be settled at a negotiating table, it simply means there was no need going to war in the first place; it simply means there was no need taking lives; it means there was no need to kill anybody because, those being killed are in truth and spirit fighting for those doing the killing and they are likely going to benefit from it more. What the youths are doing, those that are already quarter to, are likely going to benefit more, so they should look at it objectively and holistically. They should look at it in a way that if they do what is right, Nigeria will be better for it. They should know that selfish and greedy interests do not overshadow the very essence of existence. By that I mean that they should not overshadow the truth that what they are talking about no matter how we look at it is germane, sincere, truthful and it is going to help us across the whole country because united we stand and divided we fall. That is why I said I am not one of those calling for balkanisation of Nigeria and calling it restructuring. Nigeria is respected locally and internationally because of its size. One state in the United States, take for instance California and Texas, they are both almost as big as Nigeria. I have heard some people make analysis and talk about some countries that have separated into three or more countries. Now they should ask themselves how many of those three or more smaller countries are known or mentioned? Secondly, how many of those countries that have been balkanised live in peace? Look at even Sudan in Africa, have they been in peace? Southern Sudan that fought for decades to gain independence from Sudan, have they not been in pieces since they got independence? It is a very wrong notion to think that when we are all balkanised, we will achieve what we want, certainly not, we are likely going to be worse off if we decide we must go our separate ways. The restructuring aspect of what happened in 2014 is certainly the most ideal at present. Let us implement that and after that and there are other things in the future, then we can come back and look at them.