From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
Immediate past Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on internal security, Aminu Sani Jaji, has come a long way in politics. Jaji was an aspirant in the ill-fated Zamfara State governorship poll on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Speaking in Abuja, he shredded the clamour in some zones to produce the candidate for the 2023 presidential election, urging the party to throw the ticket open. He also lamented the worsening insecurity situation in the country and what the National Assembly and the Executive should do to checkmate the escalating menace.
What is your view on the worsening insecurity in Zamfara State?
The issue of insecurity is taking another dimension. When you manage one, another will crop up again. The incumbent governor’s effort is by way of dialogue. He is trying to talk to the bandits. I think for now, even the governor has realised that it is not the best approach because he has been talking to them and all the machinery of government that he has deployed to see that these bandits surrender their weapons and stop the heinous activities they are committing. For almost two years, you can see that the result is not commensurate with what the government has invested in it. So, I think the governor and security agencies need to reappraise the situation again.
Are you also concerned that the national security is under threat?
It is time for all those agitating for 2023 and all of us to talk to ourselves. We have only one country and that is Nigeria. With what is happening in the South East, South-south, South West and entire North, there is no doubt, there may be people hiding somewhere and orchestrating all these atrocities.
They are politically connected and if we didn’t come together and forget our political differences to focus on Nigeria, the problem will continue to escalate to the point of consuming all of us. Whether you are a member of the APC or PDP, we need to look at this issue carefully.
What is happening in Lagos, the issues between Hausa and Yoruba should be of concern and if the Lagos government fails to manage it very well, it will escalate in the North. We need to think holistically because the way insecurity is going, should be of concern.
It may look as if they want to sabotage President Buhari; it is not about him but about Nigeria. If anyone thinks he is sabotaging the effort of President Buhari, then they are killing themselves because after Buhari, Nigeria will continue, unless they don’t want Nigeria to continue after President Buhari.
Don’t you think this insecurity also has to do with injustice in President Buhari’s appointments?
If you look at President Buhari’s appointments, it is already balanced. This is just a negative campaign. They are just using campaign of lopsidedness in Buhari’s appointment to smear his administration. There is actually no lopsidedness in his appointments.
Even the federal character they are hammering on, with the claims that it is only reflected in some appointments like the Ministers, the federal character commission and other commissions that they claimed must be chaired by someone from this or that state, that is what the federal character and even the Constitution says.
But, they also consider maybe the DGs, some MDs chairmen, executive secretaries as part of the federal character of which it is not. In any case, it is equally important for the journalists to get the statistics of people appointed from 2015 to date to see if there is any lopsidedness in the appointments.
It is coming from people that want to de-market this administration; it is not about injustice. Injustice comes when a leader decides to give out an appointment without considering the merit or demerit of the people. But look at the way they were given appointments. They considered merit without any sentiments attached.
What is your advice on how to solve the problem of insecurity?
The National Assembly has a lot to do in tackling this issue of insecurity. If you look at the budget of all the security agencies in Nigeria, it is too small to tackle the current security challenges. So, the National Assembly has to do something.
They don’t have to rely on the budget the executive submitted to them regarding the security agencies. They should think and listen to the security agencies and invite and ask them what they need. If it is established that the security agencies were given enough funding, then the National Assembly will continue with their oversight functions to know how the money was spent or utilised.
When I was the Reps Committee chairman, I think there was a time money was budgeted to some of the security agencies but they were able to access only 60 per cent of that money. And even when they get the 100 per cent, it will not take them anywhere let alone when they were getting less than 100 per cent or 60 per cent.
The National Assembly needs to look at this issue holistically. For me, I believe there are strategies which if the executive and the National Assembly put in place, the issue of insecurity will be resolved and Nigerians will start seeing the result maybe, from three to six months, if they put it in place.
Let the executive and the legislature meet to provide a special fund. Maybe the executive should set up a committee on procurement; the committee that will not compromise whatsoever, and provide whatever they are asked to provide. The National Assembly and the executive should work together to get equipment and within three or four months, some of the equipment will be ready so that we can see how they will fight this insecurity to the end. But for now, what we can do within our power is to pray.
Will it be right to say that the security agencies are overwhelmed?
Well, they are overwhelmed because they don’t have sophisticated equipment. If they have it, between three and six months, it would be resolved. People were talking about mercenaries because they have the equipment, too sophisticated that we don’t have. If we have it, that means our security agencies will finish them in no time.
Did the recent reports about your state governor, Matawalle planning to defect to APC bother you?
There are lots of insinuations that he is coming to the APC. If he is coming to APC, he is welcomed. Even when some small groups or organisations want to join your party, you allow them let alone an incumbent governor. We have no right whatsoever to deny him. If he says he wants to come to APC, he is welcomed.
Anybody that wants to cross over to your house knows that your house is better than his own. So if he wants to join the APC, he is welcome even though that rumour has been debunked on social media. They said it came from some people that are trying to push him out of PDP. So for me, I have no objection, let him come.
APC is our party and we all have a collective duty to ensure that our party is growing. So, if he agrees with the party’s policy and manifesto, then let him join the party. Our party cares for the masses, provide infrastructure for the masses. If he thinks he can do that, then he is most welcome.
Will it be right to say that you people need Matawalle to win Zamfara for the APC in the 2023 election?
It is not about an incumbent governor joining the party and having an automatic ticket. It is not going to happen. We have a leader in the state and that is the former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari. He remains the party leader in the state. As I am talking with you today, there are many people aspiring to be the governor of Zamfara State.
I think they are more than five. And at the end of the day, only one of them will emerge victorious. So, even if the governor comes, he may be number six or seven contestant. It is not even an issue. For me, the governor joining the party is a welcome idea. It is not an issue. I am also aspiring to be governor of Zamfara state. So does it mean that if the governor is coming to the party, I will stop my aspiration? No.
What is your view about zoning ahead of 2023 presidential election?
I will start with the burning issue of APC National Convention. You know that there is a Caretaker Committee in place to look into the issue of convention and how best to organise it. We can only wait for them to come up with the modalities on how the convention will be conducted. In that case, I don’t want to pre-empt the committee. We can only wait until they roll out and we will key in into it.
We have also seen the agitations from people clamouring to produce the national chairman, but it is subject to the recommendations of the committee set up by the party concerning which zone gets what. However, I want to say that zoning is an internal arrangement.
Regardless of the zone the party settled for, it does not preclude other zones from contesting too. The party settles for zoning just to bring internal harmony. I am not in support of the idea of zoning the president. I suggest that it should be thrown open to anybody who feels that he is strong enough to contest the position because it is not only the party members that will vote for him.
He must lobby the generality of the people he wants to rule not banking on the side of the country he comes from. The issue of zoning is not even in our constitution. Zoning limits the capabilities of the aspirants. It disenfranchises some people and denies them their fundamental rights.
We must discard zoning completely and throw the ticket open to anybody who wants to contest. Anybody who wants to be the president must gain acceptability from all the 36 states of the federation and Abuja. He must convince people to vote for him.
Why is your group embarking on sharing palliatives across the country?
Let me put on record that it is not politically motivated. At any given time, you have to support some people. It is a platform for people who believe in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. There are some that agreed since 2013 that there was no better person to govern the country apart from him.
So, what we are actually doing is to show appreciation to them for voting President Buhari unconditionally in 2015 and 2019. They believe in him, they trust him and they believe that he would govern the country to the promise land.
To show appreciation to what they did, we decided to embark on humanitarian services, targeting to cover all the 36 states of the federation including Abuja, to share palliatives. We visited the IDPs in Zamfara, Borno, Maiduguri few weeks ago and shared palliatives.
We targeted 60,000 to 100,000 persons in Borno to benefit from the gesture. We did the same thing in Kebbi, as well as Kano. So we are trying to make sure that we cover 20 states in no short a time. The exercise is targeted at telling the people that President Buhari is a platform. We want to tell those saying that there will be no APC after President Buhari that he is a platform. If not because of our Constitution, he can even contest election without a political party.
We have more than 510 trucks of food items to be shared across the country. I am the national coordinator of the programme, we have national executives and coordinators in the 36 states and Abuja. Our target is to ensure that the less privileged, IDPs, orphans, benefit from the gesture.
We are in Ramadan and there is a lot of hardship and more especially because of insecurity, some of the agrarian communities are not able to farm the way they used to. So, people have come together to say let us gather some money so that we can make sure we take the gesture to all the 36 states of the federation.
It is funded through individual contributions. There is no Federal Government involvement.