“A commentator Benjamin Ubiri said Agada in The Whirlwind puts everyone – politicians, jobbers, our traditional and political leaders, electoral officers, judges and entire people – on trial.”
Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Former Minister of State for Education Prof Jerry Agada has expressed worry over the turn of events in the country, especially the 2019 elections are around the corner.
Agada called on President Muhammadu Buhari, as a true democrat, to ensure that things are done in a democratic manner, especially in his approach to issues affecting any part of the country.
He also spoke on his recently published work, ‘The Whirlwind,’ among others issues.
As an elder statesman, are you comfortable with the way and manner politics is being played across the country?
Well, the answer to that is that I will refer you to my recent publication, The Whirlwind; by the time you read The Whirlwind right from chapter one to the end, you will discover whether the author is actually comfortable with the way things are happening. It’s a bit satiric. In a statement, a commentator Benjamin Ubiri said Agada in The Whirlwind puts everyone – politicians, jobbers, our traditional and political leaders, electoral officers, judges and entire people – on trial.
You said that you are not happy, which area do you think the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari should improve upon?
The point is that under Buhari, I think we are operating democracy. For me, let things be seen to be done in a democratic way. I will give you a typical example; look at the current debate over Press Council Bill at the National Assembly, while there are many important things for NASS members to legislate upon so that we could have good roads, hospital, electricity, security and so on. They are rather debating on how the press should do things for the better. To me, these are things that are unnecessary to our democracy. I think we have gone beyond that type of thing like we had during the then Decree 4 of 1983. So, by bringing that type of thing, I think it seems to me you are bringing back the same Decree 4 of the old. Therefore, instead of progressing, we are retrogressing and to me these are the sorts of things I don’t like amongst many other things. Take, for instance, our yearly budget is being debated upon from the beginning of the year till the end and middle of next year; Nigerians will be struggling with the passage of our budget and it’s a recurrent decimal as it happens every year. So, I was thinking that with the coming of this administration under President Buhari, those things were going to be put away so that we start doing things the way it’s supposed to be done, but is it not the same thing? These are the specific examples of things I feel are not the best and, of course, taking the situation to my place in Benue State, for instance, look at the way we suffered in the hands of the herdsmen. If you look at the people in positions of authority in Nigeria today and the way they make statements about that situation. These are not statements that can bring peace, instead they are aggravating the situation. Look at the one made by the National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole that Governor Ortom is commercializing the issue of killings. How can you say a thing like that? That is hate speech, yet they are the people preaching against hate speech. Once it is coming from their own corner it is sweet speech, but when a speech goes contrary to what they want, it becomes hate speech. That kind of thing I don’t like.
Recently your principal, Governor Samuel Ortom defected to the PDP. The action that is widely hailed by many people in the state, what is your take on that?
Well, I think my principal, Governor Ortom is intelligent enough, he is knowledgeable enough and he has that political sagacity to be able to take decision and I think the decision he has taken is of good interest to himself and to the people of Benue State, which he is leading. So, to me, there is nothing wrong with his action after all there is no permanency in any state you find yourself in politics. There is always room for changes here and there. So, I think the decision of my principal is in the right direction.
You are holding a sensitive position in his administration; will you go with him or stay back?
Let me give you a proverb by my people of Orokam in Benue State, which says that the monkey is always going along with its tail. In other words, the monkey cannot travel a distance and the tail is waiting for it somewhere else. Therefore, the monkey goes to any destination with its tail. Like you said, he appointed me to my present sensitive position and mind you, most of us were even in PDP before the change that happened and brought him to APC. We like his ideas and that is why we joined him, but now as our leader, he is telling us that he has seen more clearly and has decided to go back to his old home, which is the PDP. Do you think that I who had followed as the tail of the monkey will say no, let the monkey go so that the tail will wait somewhere? The tail has to go with the monkey. That explains my position and automatically, I have defected and the same thing with my people.
What is your general view on the recent police action in preventing members of the Benue State House of Assembly from entering into the chamber to perform their constitutional obligations?
My general view about this type of development is to describe it as what is called “Banana Republic”. Our people say that when you see people carrying corpse on their head you don’t need to ask of the condition at home. All these are signs of bad omen. How can the police prevent the assembly members from gaining access to their chamber to enact laws for the people? Has the police become another third party whereby when you call APC, PDP then you mention the police? In fact, it is uncalled for.
What is your fatherly advice to the Federal Government and the leadership of political parties?
My advice is that once you are elected president of Nigeria, you automatically become the leader of all and not that of APC or PDP alone, including some that may not even belong to any political party. Therefore, as leader of all, you should treat everybody equally so that everybody will feel the sense of belonging. I have my reason for saying this. For example, when Benue State was besieged by the killer herdsmen and people were being killed like chickens every day, if you hear the utterances from some of our leaders then you begin to wonder whether they still recognize us as part of the Nigerian state. Sometimes, to say sorry becomes difficult for somebody who is our leader. We are your subjects, so why don’t you comfort us when bereaved in a way to give us a sense of belonging. If your son (any part of the federating unit) is going astray, call him to order for the purpose of retracing his steps. But where you say to hell with the people as if we are not part of the whole unit is undemocratic. And, of course, the leaders should be mindful of their utterances. Take, for instance, a thousand people are being killed in a particular place, as a leader, is it proper to say after all it is only one thousand here while the other side is more? Is that fair? If it’s one person that is killed here and thousands somewhere else will you not feel for the only one life that affects you? It gives us the feeling that you are not sharing in our pains.
You recently publicly presented your new book titled “The Whirlwind” and shortly after, there are many political whirlwinds blowing across the nation. What informed your decision to write on that topic?
Yes, recently, I presented The Whirlwind and if you see the blurb of the book you will discover that I gave a very brief account of what the book is all about. It’s a political anecdote (short stories on political happenings). So, if you read the book you will realize that all the political storms blowing today are foretold in all chapters of the book and that shows the futuristic nature of my writings. The book, The Whirlwind, was not intended to create whirlwind in our political space rather it is just that I have looked at things, analyzed and put them into writings.
Which chapter would you say is most touching in The Whirlwind?
I wish I have time to read all the chapters for you, but each chapter has to do with current happenings. Take, for instance, Chapter 7 – Fulani Herdsman and the last cow. When I wrote it, no Fulani issue had been heard, but if you read it, you will say that no wonder the Fulanis have so much been around. Another chapter is the Gubernatorial Primary Election, Run-Off Election and Plethora of Injunctions. In my book, I talked about a particular politician who was joining the number 28 political party within three months. This is currently happening in our political space in Nigeria.