Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Immediate past President General of Mzough-U-Tiv, Chief Edward Ujege has described the proposed National Water Resources Bill currently before the National Assembly as improper, a rape of the people’s right and an injustice to humanity.
The former leader of all the socio-cultural groups in Benue vowed to join other Nigerians of like minds to take the National Assembly to court should they pass the bill into law.
He also spoke on other salient national issues.
What’s your take on the decision by Miyetti Allah to establish Fulani vigilante all over the country?
Miyetti Allah cannot establish a national security outfit because the constitution does not support it. There’s only one Federal Government and that Federal Government is allowed to maintain all the states’ security apparatus; the Army, the Navy, the Air force, the Police and all of them. So, if Miyetti Allah is trying to duplicate the Federal Government, I’ll be very disappointed if our President is unable to call them to order because only he has the constitutional power to maintain a national security outfit. Even the states can only make laws within their own jurisdiction. Like the South Western Nigeria, they wanted a regional security outfit and they were told categorically by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Malami that they couldn’t do it. So, how can Miyetti Allah do that? Are they running a parallel government with President Buhari? I think that shouldn’t happen.
They have also said that their vigilante group would operate in all states of the federation. Will you support that they come to Benue?
I wish I were still the President General of Mzough-U-Tiv and also the leader of the three socio-cultural organizations in Benue. Even if the governor is doing nothing about it, we would have mobilised against it. And this time, it will be war to finish. We would have fought them to standstill.
Recently, Governor Samuel Ortom advocated that the FG should allow responsible Nigerians own sophisticated arms to be able to confront armed criminals. What’s your opinion about this call?
There is a law in Nigeria for Nigerians to own certain grade of arms under the police supervision. That already exists. But to have assault weapons like they have in America, (even in America where their educational standard is much high), you see them killing themselves on the streets. I’m not a security expert. While I would like to go with my governor, I really don’t have any opinion to offer because I don’t have the expertise in that field.
As much as the Service chiefs have continued to assure Nigerians that the security situation in the country is under control, many Nigerians think otherwise especially with happenings in Southern Kaduna and Borno and have been calling for their sack. Should the service chiefs go or still remain?
There’s one thing about life and that is that everything will change. The only thing that doesn’t change is change. Even if you’re a child, one day you will become an adult. I think the Service Chiefs have lived their own time and there’s need to try some other hands even for changing sake. There are capable Nigerians apart from them that can do that job. You know, security is not a matter of an individual. You need the cooperation of the society. If the society is asking you to get out and allow somebody come in and you refuse, they may not give you the support that you’re supposed to get even if you’re an expert in the field. So, unless otherwise, I would rather the President reviews the situation critically. In as much as one of the cardinal points the President made when he was coming to power was that he would provide security in this country, I think it has never been worse. The situation was even better than what it is today. So, if his aim of providing security, he should use everything in his power to be able to ensure that kidnapping, banditry, Boko Haram, stealing in government and so on become things of the past, that is good. There’s a lot of fraud going on with officials in government like we are hearing in EFCC, NDDC and so on. Going back to when I was a child in the university, I studied Engineering where we studied lever system, and they told us lever has fulcrum, lever arm and point of application of the fort. You can push it forward and backward. You can push it left and right. You can push it up or down. So, if you drive forward and backward and it didn’t work, try the other way or try the third way. In that way, you may find that one way or the other, you would get a solution. So, these service chiefs may be very good in whatever they are doing; they need the cooperation of the society. And if the society is telling them to rest, they should rest. They should try some other hands, may be it would be better. And if it’s not good, then we try again. We can sack about three or four groups like that and bring in new people with fresh ideas.
More than one year into the second tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari, do you think he has performed up to the expectation of Nigerians especially those who saw him as the Messiah in 2015?
I think it would have been better and it’s made worse by this Coronavirus pandemic. So, while we talk about rating or otherwise of the president’s performance, we can also ameliorate what we are rating him with and what is happening generally. But just like Oliver Twist, we wish it were better.
So, what other areas would you want him to focus on this last tenure?
When I was in school, I always go back to my background. A Professor told me that if they’re giving you a job, you need the material and then you need the labour. So, there are two things to.make this country to progress; one is the natural resources and secondly is the human resources; how the human beings turn the resources into useful ventures. The amount of money they’re investing into education, to me, is too low because if you don’t train the people or tell them what to do, then you have miscreants and kidnappers and the rest of them. All these things are coming because people don’t have jobs to do or they don’t have a focus or they don’t understand. Societies where education is highly valued like Britain, although there are crimes, but they are ameliorated due to the fact that they are well educated. They had been told right from primary school that if you do this, this is the consequence. The police there know that they shouldn’t take any kobo from anybody and those who work in offices know that they are occupying those offices in trust. To me, education is the key. It’s just like the Bible says seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and all other things shall be added. That’s why when I left as President General of Mzough-U-Tiv, I became the President of Keffi Old Boys Association of Government College, Keffi. This is to make sure that the college as it is now, cannot be compared to the time we went to that school. The lawns were green and flushy, the roundabouts were good, the laboratories were first class, we had enough food to eat, we had beds to sleep on and so on. So, I have come back to make sure that we bring back the old glory of the college. The same thing happened in Kings College Lagos when the Old Boys stood up and changed the College. Today, if you look at the list of the first 100 ranked secondary schools in Nigeria, Kings College, Lagos is either number one or number two. So, we want our own old boys’ association return Government College Keffi into one of the best schools in the country. By so doing, we will be helping Nigeria. Education is the key factor to promoting this county to what we think it should be.
If the zoning arrangement were to be followed, 2023 should be the turn of the South for the presidency. If that is the case, what’s your opinion about an Igbo president?
There’s nothing wrong with an Igbo presidency. You shouldn’t ask me that question because I will tell you emphatically that yes, I want an Igbo presidency because an Igbo man brought me up when I was a small boy. I was a house boy in 1952 and he trained me and I didn’t know. At that time, we thought we were suffering but it wasn’t like that. He used to give us buckets first thing in the morning to go and fetch water, then come and sweep the house, arrange everything, help him to sell and so forth. By so doing, we were learning. In any association, you must find somebody who is good enough to lead this country irrespective of religion or the zone from where he has come. Rulership is not the preserve of any one group of persons because I have seen some very decent Igbo men. I’ve seen some very decent Yoruba people, I’ve seen some very decent Hausa, Fulani, Tiv people and so on. I’ve seen decent people who can rule this country and they have the ability. So, an Igbo presidency is very good if the right person who is ready is given the opportunity. Some people have turned it to politics to make money and make name, but we have some people who have gone into politics and rulership to give service. For instance, our Governor in Benue State, Samuel Ortom, no matter what anybody will talk about him, to be able to stand up and say, look, I’m going to protect my people, I’m going to make this anti open grazing law, with all the oppression and federal might, he stood firm and up till now he is still standing firm. For that alone, for giving himself for the people, that’s why he was even elected. He had no godfather as far as I understand. If you know his godfather, let me know but I don’t know. He stood on his own, asked the people the question and the people answered him in the affirmative.
The Tiv/Jukun crisis has festered among farmers/herders in Benue and there are crises in Tyomu and criminality in the Sankera area to mention but a few. As the immediate past President General of Mzough-U-Tiv, are you not worried about these crises?
I’m extremely worried about crisis anywhere in Tiv land and even beyond. In Southern Kaduna, North East, South South, everywhere there’s crises and killing of innocent people. It’s really very bad. Coming home, the one in Taraba State, I think the buck stops on the table of the governor of that state. If the governor is unable to settle that matter, I will blame him. And I had cause to tell him this to his face. Everyone living in his domain are his citizens and he should take care of all of them. If he really wants to do that to get result, he has the resources within himself to do that. But if he is not interested, he will create more confusion. So, in Taraba State, as far as I am concerned, it is the problem of the governor of that state, not even the Commissioner because nobody else can solve that problem but him. He has a unique opportunity to do that. If he succeeds, people will applaud him, if he doesn’t succeed, people will blame him. When you come back home on Tiv conflicts, I dare say that it is the worst thing that is happening. We have always, and we do call our people to order. The one that is happening in Sankera are being orchestrated by thieves, armed robbers, our children that have gone astray. And they’re everywhere, not only in Benue State. It happens in every other state. But the one that is conflict within ourselves, we have always appealed and spoken to them and spoken to the traditional rulers to get their people to maintain the peace. We will have to continuously do that. Again, education is very important here. Some of them are fighting for land. And who is going to inherit this land forever? We are all going to die. Some of us may not even be buried because you don’t know how you’re going to die. Our forefathers who were here on this land all died and left. If you go to Britain now, you can buy your land or house and any English man cannot enter that house to trespass. So, this place is just a temporary abode for every person. People who are owning land in Abuja, the Gwari people had that land. But now, if you buy a piece of land there, it’s yours and if a Gwari man comes there, you can sue him. So, it’s ignorance that makes people fight over land.