From Gyang Bere, Jos
Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Defence and Senator representing Plateau North, Istifanus Gyang has said that President Muhammadu Buhari must sign into law the amended Electoral Act to give Nigerians confidence in the electoral process ahead of the 2023 election. Gyang noted that he will lead the debate to override the powers of the President if he declines to sign the Electoral Act for electronic voting. The legislator spoke on various issues.
Being a democrat and a Senator, are you satisfied with the manner in which the National Assembly is conducting its oversight function?
I have been talking about some critical issues on the National Assembly, I am an advocate of fairness in government of inclusivity in governance. That once there is lack of inclusiveness in governance, that is going to lead to agitations in the country; we must avoid a situation where the Nigerian state is taken captive. We must avoid a situation where the country is captured by a few for the few; our government is supposed to be the government of the people by the people; it is not a government of the few by the few. We have state capture when we have few people taking on the reigns of governance and then using that reign of governance for the benefit of the few and once that happens, there will be agitations from the rest of the country and it is these agitations that some people want to misinterpret that some people want to secede and that some people are not for Nigeria. How can people be for Nigeria when Nigeria does not care for them; we must show that the government of Nigeria is for all Nigerians. The other aspect is that our democracy is threatened once there is a state capture; our democracy is threatened once there is lack of fairness in governance; our democracy is threatened once the federal character principles are not adhered to and the Federal Character now enshrined so that there will be no dominance of people from a particular section or there is no dominance from a few ethnic groups in the governance of Nigeria. The Federal Character principles are enshrined so that the governance and the government of Nigeria will attract national loyalty and command the respect of all citizens but if the principles are violated, you are bound to have agitations from the rest of the country.
Are you contented with the electoral process of Nigeria as the country moves ahead of the 2023 election?
I am so concerned about our electoral process and how we can guarantee free and fair election in Nigeria. As a member of the electoral Committee of the Senate, we have done a lot of work, we have made the necessary amendment. I sponsored some of the bills that led to the amendment of the Electoral Act and one of the key issues we are asking for is that we in the National Assembly must pass an Electoral Act that has provision for the transfer of electronic result from the voting point. If there is no electronic transfer, there is going to be tempering with the results and also to make provision to give legal backing to the card reader so that it will have evidential value before the court of law. These are some of the ways that we can guarantee the credibility of the electoral process and until that is done, any attempt to ignore these, will not give us an election that is free and fair and once there is no free and fair election, once the vote of citizens does not count, you can be sure that there is no credible election and as we return from the two weeks recess, we are going to be facing the issue of passing the Electoral Act and I am one that will insist that any tempering with what we have passed at the committee level will be resisted; we will ensure that what we have done at the committee level will be what will be presented to the Senate and will be what will be considered and I am hopeful that the Senate and the House of Representatives will give Nigerians an Electoral Act that will guarantee free, fair and credible election.
Do you think the National Assembly has the capacity to override the President if he refused to sign the electoral act into law?
Let me say that it’s unfortunate that the President declined assent to the electoral bill in the 8th Assembly; this time around, we are hopeful that he will do the needful and where he declines, I will be the first to advocate we evoke our powers to override the President to ensure that this electoral act and the bill that will be presented to him become an act of the National Assembly. I can assure you that there are many of my colleagues that on a bi-partisan basis are committed to this and we will not fail Nigerians; if the President fails, we will not fail Nigerians.
Plateau North has been at war for long with the Fulani herders with many villagers attacked and killed; what does it take to reconcile with the Fulani herders?
The host communities of Plateau North have demonstrated over time that they welcome other Nigerian citizens that have chosen Plateau North as their place of abode and as guarantee by the constitution; every citizen has the right to choose where ever he wants to reside in Nigeria but that right also has an addendum attached to it. That any citizen that comes to a committee to settle, he must commit himself to the peace of that community, for the progress of that community, to the well being of that community, to the development and progress of that community. Now, the responsibility of host communities as spelt out by the constitution is that you cannot deny any citizen that has chosen to cohabit with you but the responsibility of those citizens that have come to cohabit with the communities is that they owed the communities respect for their custom, tradition, and culture. They owed them responsibility to cohabit peacefully, a duty to be part of the progress of those communities; they owed them a duty to ensure that nothing harmful comes to the community. If you look at Plateau North and the hospitality of the host communities, they have embraced other Nigerians that have come to settle and have chosen this place as their home and are still willing to host other Nigerians as their home because that is the way that Plateau North will grow; that is the way the the economy of Plateau North will grow. But I leave this to you the media, those citizens of Nigeria that have come to settle in Plateau North; you know those that have contributed to the economy of Plateau North, you know those that are working for the progress of Plateau North, you know those that are now displacing their host communities, you know those that on the daily, weekly basis are killing their host communities. And what is the mission, to displace them, to take over their ancestral home and then occupy those lands and make them their own homes. The people that hosted you, the people that accommodated you, you are now attacking them, killing them, displacing them, taking over their farm lands, taking over their ancestral homes, where else can that be justified.
Is that the way of peace, is that the way of reconciliation? There are ways to go about these things; when you find a criminal, the law has to be applied against him; there must be enforcement of law against criminals, terrorists, people who steal, kill and then destroyed which is the mission of the devil. So, there must be enforcement of law. We are in a state where we have government and once there is known enforcement of law, you will have a series of criminality, you will have people becoming lawless, you will have impunity and once that continues, that is when people will say what is the essence of having a government because we have all surrendered our sovereignty to government. It is the responsibility of government to enforce law; there must be an enabling environment for peace. I am an advocate of people, we had the Plateau North peace tournament, that is a platform for peace. I have been engaging with the stakeholders. Like in Bassa, Miango axis, there is a special committee for peace that is all inclusive; we have platforms for dialogue, there are platforms for negotiation, there are platforms to reconcile without making violence an option. But we have criminals, we have people that are terrorists; what we need to do is to enforce the law against terrorists; we must enforce the law against criminals, we must enforce the law against people that are destroying; people that are killing and occupying forcefully the property of others, the law must be enforce.
Democracy is built on a tripod, the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. Do you think the Senate is performing their oversight functions well?
During the session that marked our two years, I made a presentation in the floor of the Senate and one of the things that I raised was that, we need as a Senate to up our game in the process of our oversights and in over-sighting the provision of the constitution that have to do with Federal Character. That as long as the Senate does not rise up to correct these lopsidedness through the process of the confirmation of these appointments, we will continue to have these lopsidedness. And if we have in the Senate people who are beneficiary of this lopsidedness and would want to perpetrate it, that is where we will find this lack of fairness which is not just.