Gyang Bere, Jos
Hon. Simon Mwadkwon is a member representing Barkin-Ladi/Riyom Federal Constituency of Plateau State in the House of Representatives.
In this interview, he accused Governor Nasiru El-Rufai of Kaduna State of working against zoning in the country, saying that Nigerians must consider the Southeast for 2023 Presidency in the spirit of fairness.
He also lamented over renewed attacks in his constituency after 17 years of killings and destruction of property by suspected Fulani herdsmen. Excerpts:
There has been agitation from the North to thwart zoning in the political landscape because of 2023 Presidency, how do you feel about it?
I know you are referring to a statement by Governor Nasiru el-Rufai and I said that el-Rufai cannot be talking from two sides of his mouth, why was this position not brought forward before the 2019 general elections, why didn’t they canvass for that position, why it is today that they want to abandon zoning and what are the reasons. Although zoning is not written in the Constitution, but political parties have adopted it and the reason is to make sure that what is in the Constitution is Federal Character, it means that in the sharing of political power and even resources of government, we should treat every part of the country fairly and just. Now, if the North, which I belong to, having been in this position for about eight years, it will be an act of hypocrisy to now say that power should be retained here. You cannot claim that there are no better persons that can take control of this country from other parts of the country and I stand to say this anywhere I go without any fear because if you begin to say we have abandoned zoning, what is your reason. Of course, there is rumour everywhere that el-Rufai wants to be president, if he wants to be president, it is in the mind set of Nigerians that after President Buhari’s tenure power should shift to the South and particularly we should look at the Southeast if we want to be fair to ourselves. We all belong to this country, there is nobody that is more better in this country than the other, let us not in anywhere begin to bring problems that instead of uniting us, it will divide us. El-Rufai has the right to contest, everybody has the right to contest, but to say we should jettison zoning, I think it is over statement because we will be saying that let us jettison Federal Character. In the state el-Rufai is governing, the cut off mark of students to the university is not as high as that of Plateau; so let us jettison cut off marks. In Sokoto, the cut off point is 50 and what is it in Plateau? So, let us jettison cut off point so that we can compete. So, the issue of zoning for me is something that we must respect because it brings unity, it treats sections of this country fairly.
How will you describe your emergence in the House of Representatives after four years at home
I am not a new person in the National Assembly, we have spent some months after our inauguration and now we are on recess, the journey has been so good, activities have picked up and I thank my constituents who deemed it fit to return me to the National Assembly after four years of being at home.
Your constituency, Barkin-Ladi and Riyom, has been under heavy attack by gunmen, can you give us an insight into what is happening?
Yes, the first attack was in Attakar ward in Riyom Local Government Area. Before the attack, we had gone round to appreciate the people of Attakar for giving me their mandate and we were shocked because when we visited the area, everywhere was perfect and calm, even though there were not many people there, most of the people were in IDP camps as of the time we visited. When we left after one week, unknown gunmen came and surrounded the people in the IDP camp and attacked them. Five people lost their lives on the spot, some others ran away to a nearby village called Zanga and two were killed on their way. Several persons were killed and houses burnt in Zanga village, although it is part of Kaduna State and that was how we lost seven lives in Attakar. Few days back again, the people of Vett in Foron District of Barkin-Ladi were also attacked and 120 cows were rustled and two persons lost their lives as a result of the attack. Also, as of yesterday, these armed bandits again went back to the village, ambushed and killed two persons. What is worrisome now is that there was a rumour that people could see a lot of strange persons coming into the community well armed and are still ready to launch another attack, that is very bad. We have been given information that there are people in Kadunung and other villages close to Vett who may still attack this village again even after stealing 120 cows and killed two persons from the family, these are some of the unhealthy developments that have been going on within the constituency. This is very negative and before now, we thought peace has come and people are beginning to settle down as they are approaching the harvest season, but unfortunately, these two major events came and took the lives of 11 persons within one week.
You said that there is movement of strange persons within the community, have you reported this to security agencies for action?
Because of these, the Sector Commanders of Operation Safe Haven, Sector 7 and 2 called for security meeting and we invited the representatives of the Fulani, we also invited the DPOs of Barkin-Ladi and that of Jos East, we invited the traditional rulers and peace stakeholders in Jos East and Barkin-Ladi and other security agencies. Because of the information that was at hand that people are gathering in those villages ready to attack again, we wanted to know where the people who came for the attack follow, how did they come into Vett that is surrounded by several villages. The allegation was that they came through Jos East, therefore, we had to call the people of Jos East to ask why they allowed these people to pass through their jurisdiction to come and unleash terror in Vett. These people are not spirit, when they passed through your town you will know that strangers have passed through your town or village. The meeting resolved that both the local government area should have their independent meeting, then there will be a joint meeting between Jos East and Barkin-Ladi and the meeting held some days back and resolved that there should be no occasion strangers will pass from your town to another and go and kill people and then walk freely in your area to go. We appealed to all communities to cooperate with one another and the security is aware of the gathering of these people.
With the occurrence of fresh attacks, do you subscribe to the removal of the checkpoints within the city centre and rural communities?
I can’t advocate for any checkpoint, that cannot really solve the problem. If you take a drive in the night and pass through the existing checkpoints, you will see everybody sleeping, at what level will they say they are checking, I don’t want to go into the issue of checkpoints. In the villages where my people are staying, the roads are not motorable, cars cannot pass to where these people were attacked, the issue of checkpoints will not help. All we need is for people to give information and if there is a collaboration between the attackers and some neighbours within the areas then the problem will not come to an end.
You said your community is in need of help in terms of rebuilding the destroyed communities, but the Federal Government has said that it has built a Mobile Police Unit in the affected areas, the state government has also said that it has resettled some of the people to their community. Do we have Mobile Police Barracks in Gashish and have some of your constituents relocated to their villages?
Look, any cosmetic approach to this issue of security will not work, no amount of sweet grammar by the government or security agencies will change the situation. Look at my legs, I am just coming from the village where the people were attacked, there is no single house anywhere even mud house that has been build by the government in any of these communities that was attacked and I challenge the security agencies to take the journalists to where they have been claiming that the people have been resettled. I have had cause to disagree with the governor openly, the day that INEC called to brief us, I told him that he is not telling the truth because I have relations that are staying there where you are claiming you have resettled them. Sometime, government plays a lot of politics with this issue of insecurity, but I have the belief that the little peace we have in the area, which is being threatened now was as a result of the aggressors themselves, perhaps they were getting tired of what they were doing. Recently, a community in Barkin-Ladi went to rebuild their home and before the next morning, the houses were levelled on the ground, we are appealing that that government should live up to its responsibility.
You sponsored a bill on North Central Development Commission, can you share what the bill seeks to address?
We discovered that in this country, of course, we have six geopolitical zones and as a result of the presence of oil in the South-south, they have the NNDC and it is not looking about oil, but it is there to shape the demography of South-south and for them to identify themselves as people who have similar cultural values. It will also shape their economy and their educational pursuit and everything. There are developmental projects that come with NNDC and every state has an office. Recently, as a result of the crisis in the Northeast, they also went and established Northeast Development Commission, in the 8th Assembly, the Southeast came with a bill for them to have their own commission too, but it couldn’t scale through, maybe they didn’t lobby well and the bill was killed. We in the North-central has had similar challenges if not more than that of the Northeast and nobody seems to give my attention on what is happening here in the North-central because the number of people that have lost their lives in the North-central will be about 10 or 20 times more than the lives we have lost in the Norteast. This is because that of the Northeast is concentrated in one place, perhaps Borno, little part of Adamawa and Yobe, but in the North-central every state has been under attack and we have lost quite a number of property, therefore, we need a Development Commission to help us change our demography, we need to change our economy, we have similar cultural traits within the North-central and I believe that every state will have an office and if this bill is eventually passed into law, it will create employment opportunity, it will give the people of the North-central an identity and we don’t know the level to which this country is going because each time there is a government in place… people are aware now that there is heavy concentration of power at the centre, it is possible that we may still go back to regionalism, every region should be able to foster her economy by herself, and that will help us in the North-central to have our economy, have our educational policies and create jobs for our people. Also, it will interest you to know that there is a paradigm shift generally from oil to other forms of renewal energies, we have electronic cars in Europe and parts of America today. So, the oil that we have in Nigeria today, there will be a day it will get extinct.
What is the mind set of other lawmakers within North-central towards this bill?
The lawmakers are in support of it; even the governors in North-central are in support of the bill because it will liberate the people. The Speaker of the House was so excited and said even him will sponsor that of the Southwest.