From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
Dr. Tivlumun Nyitse is a two time governorship aspirant and a retired Permanent Secretary in the Benue State Civil Service. The university lecturer, in this exclusive interview with our correspondent, insisted that although, it should be the turn of the Igbo to take the presidency, they shouldn’t expect to get it on a platter of gold but must be ready to lobby other geopolitical zones by convincing them that they mean well for the entire country. He also spoke on other salient national issues.
The issue of armed banditry which has resulted in kidnap and sometimes even killing of people especially in Benue, Zamfara, Kaduna and other states is becoming a recurring decimal. What do you think can be done about this?
I think from the beginning, there has been a mistake from the government because in every society, there must be cause and effect. There must be punishment for infringement of the law. When people who commit offences are not punished, it will encourage other people to go into same crime. That is the problem we have and that is what has led to issues of uncontrolled banditry, kidnapping and all that. It started gradually, people were kidnapping people here and there. It started down in South South. Initially, it was not very tough but there are no convictions and it appears that government is in support of the kidnappers. Have you ever seen where those people (kidnappers) have been arrested and tried? I have not heard, they have not been convicted for kidnapping as a crime. So, they can’t just be talking, there must be action, there must be cause and effect. If they say the kidnapping is a crime, who and who has been convicted for kidnapping? See Evans, see this other guy that was caught in Taraba; he is still under trial, no conviction. There is no where people are being punished for these crimes, nobody is being convicted for being a kidnapper. So, the whole thing has become like a trade.
A lot of people are saying that Nigeria is on a life support because of this, what can be done to redeem the situation?
The issue in Nigeria is quite serious because Nigerians themselves have lost faith in the country, they have lost faith in the government because government is the provider of leadership; government provides environment that people will feel encouraged and be proud of their country. But where everything seemed to have collapsed in terms of infrastructure, education, health, everything, then there is problem in the country. Nobody is interested again, not even in the government. How do we come together to resolve these issues? The government must provide leadership for people to talk and dialogue, there is nobody that has monopoly of knowledge or knowing what is good. You and I know what is good for ourselves. Every segment in Nigeria knows what is good for its community. These communities must be allowed to come together to discuss what is good for them so as to come to a consensus. People cannot bring down the structures of Nigeria and force people to accept what is not discussed. We are not animals and even animals, if you keep on pushing a goat to the wall, it could bite. Even a dog, if you live in a community where dogs are allowed to stroll around, anytime a dog passes in front of your house you hit it with a stick, the dog will stop passing through your house because you are an enemy. Even a week ago, there had been killings in Miango community in Plateau State, a lot of people have been killed but the government is not saying anything. People were killed in their homes but the government had not said anything. But the one that appeared like a reprisal, the Federal Government came out with a statement because the ones killed were Muslims and all that but those other human beings were not important. The Federal Government is just showing partiality, they are taking sides for people based on whatever reasons they have. We should be treated equally, no Nigerian should be different from the other because some people are feeling that it is their own country and any other person must submit to them. People are being killed in Benue State on daily basis in their homes in Makurdi, Guma, Gwer West and other Local Government Areas; everyday somebody is being killed in one way or the other. Those people don’t even spare anybody, they come and kill the women, kill the children, they kill everybody! What kind of behaviour is that? And when you talk, they say you are doing politics. The government is held responsible for the security of the country and as long as there’s no security, people will continue to complain. The governor doesn’t command the police; the commissioner of police is being controlled by the IGP in Abuja, the director of DSS is being controlled by DG in Abuja, the Head of the Armed Forces has Commander somewhere and Governors provide them logistics but the orders don’t come from the governors. So these are the issues but if you talk of security, people will say governor collects security vote. I worked with the government; there are so many issues that are happening in the state that you are not seeing that money is being pushed in there for security. Everywhere in the world, every government has funds that are not accounted for; America does the same thing; China is even worse in terms of security, they donate huge sums of money but nobody knows about it. How much is the armour carrier vehicle? How many of them can a governor buy? Yes of course, there is room for abuse in every system.
Do you think that dialogue can still work especially now that you have people talking about religious inclination?
Yes, dialogue can still work if we are all sincere. Even at family level, you must not agree with your brother or sister but there must be a meeting point where you will agree and disagree. We talk about the judiciary or state Houses of Assembly having autonomy, so we have to sit down and work out the logistics, look at the criteria. Yes, you cannot have everything you want but once you have the barest minimum, you will feel better. This country is better together, our size alone is a huge potential for Nigeria if properly harnessed right from time. We have the largest economy in Africa, Lagos as a state comes as number 5 in Africa as an economy, so we have the potential to be a great nation and do everything if the leadership is right; we have not got it right from Independence. Nigeria has not got it right; it is for us to sit and think about ways of getting it right. If we are looking for leaders to come from Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Christian, Muslim Animist, we are going to be in a vicious circle of underdevelopment. There are religions in countries like America but they are living together; there are differences in UK but they’re living together. This system is a federal system but we are running a federal system in a unitary style. The issue of tax, issue of collection of revenue by the Federal Government wouldn’t have arisen; let everybody generate his revenue and give a part of it to the Federal Government. This Federal Government has not helped matters, they’re not listening to the people; they don’t care about Nigerians.
Do you think that president Buhari still has what it takes to confront the issues affecting this country?
He has his tenure, so whether he is not capable of confronting the issues, he is there and Osinbajo is there.
The primary responsibility of the government is to solve problems of the people; that is why his predecessor was voted out and he came in to correct the ills and do better. But he keeps on complaining, if he didn’t have any idea, why did he come in? If the other man has done so badly, the people voted him out and gave you a chance to come in and you’re still blaming the person that has gone? So, what did you come in for? Did you just come in to enjoy the laws of power and the grandeur of power? I mean as far as I’m concerned, Buhari said he would make Naira and dollar one to one, but as I’m talking to you, it is N570 per dollar. So, the economy has collapsed, no production, we are not producing anything. In the 80s up to early 90s, we were producing Peugeot Mercedes, Volkswagen, and textile. Go to Kaduna today, the textile industries are moribund. We are not producing anything, our economy is not productive and it’s going down. So, the Naira will continue to tumble because we are only consumptive, we are heading towards the Zambian and other currencies like in Zimbabwe where one dollar became one million Zimbabwe Dollar, when people wanted to buy bread, they would carry money in wheelbarrow to buy a loaf of bread. That’s where we are heading to now and it’s just because we are not producing anything. We have everything in this country; the steel in Ajaokuta, this thing is still there. Every year they say it’s 90 percent completed, two ministers came and went there but they were saying the same thing today about 20 years ago.
The issue of grazing routes seems to be coming up again. The President said that grazing routes have to be re-established, what is your take on this?
The Federal Government should concern itself with issues that concern them. The land use act has given the land to all the states in the country, so, Federal Government cannot come from Abuja and create grazing routes in Benue State. The land in Benue belongs to the governor. That is what the law says. If you want to get land, you must request for land and if it’s available, they will give you. So, you cannot come from Abuja and say you want to do a grazing route across river Benue or across my village because you want the Fulani to pass there; it cannot work and nobody is doing this pastoral business that Nigeria is still doing. Ranching is the only way, the best practice all over the world because of its advantage. If you have a ranch and you don’t have water, Government can come and give you borehole there so that you don’t need to move your cattle looking for water. The cows will be healthier and produce better milk and meat. So, the cumulative effect will be more beneficial to cattle owners than pushing cows on the road from maiduguri to Benue. The cow meat becomes like rubber; one cow can give you only two litres of milk because they are not feeding well; you’re not giving them proper care. So, it cannot work, the Federal Government should leave those things and concentrate on things that concern them.