By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Alhaji Buba Galadima is a renowned political figure in the North. In this interview, he barred his mind on the knotty issue of banditry, politics behind government’s response to it, as well as other sundry issues.
A lot of issues are now being raised about the rising level of banditry, kidnapping and other forms of criminalities especially in the Northwest. What are your thoughts about these?
My thought is what you know already. You see people being killed every day and security forces are unable to do anything. For instance, in Paskari Local Government in Southern Katsina, a whole village was sacked, the only place the bandits have not taken over is the capital of that local government. That suggests a lot of things. And whenever the bandits are about to strike, the military and other security agencies are always put on alert two to five hours before they strike. They come on multiples of motorbikes; sometimes numbering about 500, in which case you will expect the Air Force to strike. But this is not the case. I have always said that combination of carrot and stick is the best way to deal with the security situation. For you to curb this banditry, you have to plant security network across the regions, states or local governments such that any movement by any individual can be checked appropriately by the military. Villagers can tell you that even when military authorities are informed of an impending arrival of the bandits, they don’t do anything. Intelligence is a very good factor to curbing banditry and it must be enhanced among the army, air force and the navy. The former Service Chiefs failed because they were at each other’s throats and the president allowed them to continue in that way. Now, you strike the iron when it is hot. You can force your will on them now that these people don’t know anything about money.
The more worrisome thing is the trend of mass abduction of citizens which raises the question of whether or not the government is paying ransom to the bandits who in turn use the proceeds of their elicit business to acquire more arms…?
(Cuts in) You and I know that even if the government denies that they pay ransom, they are only lying about it. How can we trust them, knowing that they had said one million and one things in the past in which they were found wanting. They have shortfall of trust. I want to tell you that whenever people are kidnapped, whether they say it or not, some forms of compensations are being made to them. Condition with which they release kidnap victims is either they give them money or swap them with the already caught bandits. And in that case, those ones will now go and give them the story of where they were. Forget about what the government is saying that they don’t pay ransom. I don’t trust them. There is nobody among them I can believe.
Is this not an indirect way of funding criminalities?
Of course, you don’t need to be told. Didn’t you see it when Gumi was interviewing the bandits? They said there was negotiation between them and the government, but that the compensation they were given was N50,000 per bandit. Their leader said, “look at these boys, they are carrying space-launchers, AK47 and each of the AKs costs between N500,000 to N600,000.” He then asked, ‘what can we do with N50,000?’
Are you in support of granting amnesty to these bandits, which Sheikh Gumi is spearheading?
Is amnesty just starting with the bandits? Didn’t government pay amnesty to other groups?
Which is the other group?
Didn’t Yar’Adua grant amnesty to the other group and sorted out problems? In Nigeria, we must speak the truth. What is good for the geese must be good for the gander. If amnesty can bring peace, what is the issue about it? Even if you fight a war, in the end, you will sit round the table to sort out issues. Is that not amnesty? Didn’t Nigerian government give amnesty to rebels in 1970s?
Can you compare the amnesty given to the Niger Delta militants with the one being proposed for the bandits?
Amnesty is amnesty.
But Niger Delta militants had genuine agitations…?
(Cuts in) Biafra people also have genuine agitations. Didn’t they?
So, what is the agitation of these bandits?
You don’t know that they complain that their governors have stolen all the money in the local government and there is no economic activities happening for them to be gainfully employed. You don’t know that their cattle have been stolen by the rustlers? We should look at things as Nigerians, not profiling other people. We should stop profiling any group. That will not bring solution. The truth of the matter is that unless and until the governors release monies meant for local governments for economic activities to pick up at the grassroots level, you will never sleep with your eyes closed.
What about the insinuation that the bandits are foreigners who found their way into the country?
Whether they are from the moon or from the ocean, they are still within the territory of Nigeria and we are at the receiving end. How do we find solution to it?
If they are not Nigerians, then they cannot be pacified…?
(Cuts in) Have you seen anyone who told you he is not from Nigeria? Have you caught anyone who told you he is not a Nigerian? We have not, we are only speculating.
What will they be doing for them to be reintegrated back into the society, if they are giving amnesty?
If amnesty is genuine and it will bring peace, why not? Do you know that if these groups, including IPOB, have coordination, they can overtake the government of Nigeria. One day, they will come together and deal with us.
Zamfara State governor did say sometime ago that Nigerians would be shocked, if he decides to expose those behind these criminalities. And true to his words, an army officer and some emirs were found culpable. What does this suggests to you?
It means our leaders are not serious. They are playing with our lives with the way they are handling security. Before now, Zamfara State governor had set up a committee of eminent Nigerians under the former Inspector General of Police, Emir Abubakar and credible leaders like Senator Muhammed Danzadau formed part of the committee and they produced a comprehensive report, including names of those involved in banditry. Has government at any level done something about those people? Because they think they live in fortified houses, being guided by the police, they didn’t take it seriously. Zamfara State governor knows better than I do because he has privileged information.
Then, how do you see the declaration of the state as a No-Fly-Zone by the Federal Government?
That is what you only know. The intention of the Federal Government as it has been exposed from credible source was to declare a state of emergency on the state. How can the Federal Government, which owns the military, the police, civil defence, immigration, as well as customs, but cannot control insecurity in the whole of Nigeria, think of declaring a state of emergency on Zamfara? If they need to declare a state of emergency because of insecurity, it should be in about 14 states in Nigeria. Let the Federal Government hand over the running of the country to military officers because they have failed.
It’s like this government is fighting too many battles at the same time…?
(Cuts in) Because they are enjoying it. Do they care about your life or my own? The man told you during campaign that if you elect me, you will have a feel of what will happen to you. We have not yet seen anything. All Nigerians should know, until they buy dollar for N1,000 and one litre of fuel for N500, these people will not rest.
Looking at the recent blockade of supply of foodstuffs to the South from the North, what would you say about the unity of Nigeria?
What do you expect, if you say tribe A cannot live in your area, knowing full well that land belongs to God? I was just talking to someone here now writing a book on Ijebu and he said Ijebu came from Sudan or Ethiopia.
Without prejudice to your position that everyone has a right to live anywhere he chooses to live, are you saying that if you find yourself anywhere, you are not bound to observe the rules of engagement of your host community?
You left your village to seek for a means of livelihood in Lagos. Not so? Those you are talking about are also looking for their means of livelihood.
With AK47 being carried around to terrorise the people of the communities where they found themselves?
That is not the issue. The issue is very simple. Every Nigerian is entitled to live wherever he finds himself. I live in Abuja and even have a farm there. Is that my ancestral home?
But you live and abide by the rules set by the Abuja Capital Territory. Isn’t it?
I know where you are heading to. These are areas we shouldn’t be talking about in isolation. If you are talking of banditry and Fulani herdsmen, I don’t believe there is Fulani herdsman that is involved in this. But there are Fulani who are doing banditry. In the same way, there are Yoruba doing it, there are Igbo doing it. It is only a matter of magnitude. Don’t profile people. If you profile people in terms of religion or tribe, you are dividing the country. Wherever any Nigerian finds himself, it is a matter of right to enjoy all the privileges others are enjoying.
So, it is also a matter of right for every Nigerian to begin to carry arms as the people we talk about go about terrorizing the host communities with their AK47?
I also want to carry AK47, but the only problem is that I don’t have money to buy it.
To put it differently, would you advocate that every Nigerian should begin to carry arms?
No, no, no, that is not what I want. What I want is that every Nigerian should live peacefully with one another and look for their legitimate daily bread wherever he finds himself. That is my personal view. And that is why I don’t want anybody to be profiled. You people, from the way you write or ask question, you are trying to profile some people.
What we report as journalists is what we see happening…?
(Cuts in) What you have seen is not up to one per cent of what is happening in Katsina State or Zamfara. Why are you not sympathizing with those people? Those people are also Nigerians like you, you should fight for them. You see, the whole thing is about negligent and incompetence of those in the positions of authority. If you opened your radio by 6:00 a.m and you heard that they killed 100 people, can you imagine what will come out of the Southwest even without knowing anybody who did it? Don’t you think the whole Nigeria will turn upside down on that day?
One cannot say Nigeria will come down because so many incidents have happened and Nigeria did not come down?
You are not sincere. Let us leave this interview.
Killing is killing and it is going on everywhere?
Why is the media not reporting what is happening in Katsina and other states?
There is no killing that is not reported. Every person killed in this country has been reported by the media?
You are reporting, but you call it bandits. If it happens in the Southwest, what do you call it? You call it Fulani herdsmen.
You also know the difference between kidnapping for ransom and killing people as a result of clashes between farmers and herdsmen?
There is no clash between farmers and herdsmen. Show me the picture of where they are doing that. There is nothing like that, you only profile certain people in order to get some people killed. Please, there is nothing like Fulani and farmer clash in the Southwest.
You are suggesting that it is media creation. Right?
Of course, you know that one now. There may be some Fulani who are attacking people for ransom. Even at that, the media should avoid saying things that will compound the issue.
You want the media to colour their reports in a way that will suit some vested interest?
They should report in a way that will promote unity of the country. I am a minority; I want the unity of this country. But in staying together, we cannot be profiling one ethnic group.
What kind of leadership do you think Nigeria needs to achieve the unity you are preaching?
What we need is a leader with a large heart that will accommodate everybody. But we have a fault because are not looking for that leader; we are looking for who will give us what, not who will do what. We must look for leaders that will better our status as human beings.
What is your projection of the politics of 2023?
It is going to be extremely dangerous for every living Nigerian because these people who have not performed will try to divide us further and install their own puppet, who will close their back.