Pan-North socio-cultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), has told Igbo people of South Eastern Nigeria to stop lamenting about the civil war that plunged the country into bloodshed 50 years ago, and come to term with the reality that they are actually in control of the nation’s economy.
The apex Northern group said a lot of lessons had been learnt from the civil war, adding that those who have not learnt lessons from the bloodshed are those who did not experience it.
In this interview with our correspondent, NOAH EBIJE in Kaduna, the ACF scribe, Anthony Sani also spoke on the security situation in the country, saying, “the number of trained and equipped soldiers is inadequate. In the same way, the number of trained and well-equipped Nigerian police personnel is grossly inadequate”.
It is 50 years since the civil war in Nigeria ended, but up till today, some Nigerians are saying that no lesson was learnt from that bloody experience because indices of war are still with us as people. What is your reaction to this?
Those who have not learnt lessons from the civil war are those who did not experience it and have no idea about war. General Gowon was the one who ended the war with a declaration of “no victor and no vanquished” and followed it up with the 3Rs.These are Reconstruction, Reintegration and Rehabilitation.
The Igbo have since been reintegrated and rehabilitated and there has been some form of reconstruction. For example, Igbo have settled in millions and have invested in many parts of the country. Take a look at Abuja, Kano and Lagos, and you can hardly avoid the conclusion that the 3Rs have found expression under successive governments from 1970 when the war ended. Igbo have also been part of the federal government by way of occupying positions like Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, Vice President, Senate President, Speaker of House of Reps, SGF, CBN Governor, Service Chiefs, Coordinating Minister, etc.
You would also note that the former Eastern Region now has nine states and represented by not less than nine ministers in the federal cabinet while former Western Nigeria has six states and at least six ministers, Mid Western Nigeria has only two states. Northern Protectorate, which became a Region with higher population and landmass has 19 states. Take a look at Abuja, Igbo have more investments than any group. If lessons had not been learnt from the civil war, there would be no way Igbo would find ingress to other sections of the country and become established soon after the war. Let us count our blessings one by one.
As regards hankering by Igbo for president, most of the over 300 ethnic nationalities also agitate to produce the president in a multi-party democracy. It has nothing to do with the war. Any ethnic nationality should device its winning game plans and sell to other sections of the country. Democracy is a contest of ideas and reasons. It is not a bullfight in the sumo ring. Being bellicose and percussive cannot secure the president for any ethnic extraction. Nigerians would want to select their president through knowing him by fruits, and not by roots.
Southwest governors have initiated internal security outfit called Amotekun to safeguard the region over insecurity. But as we speak the Federal Government from its initial kick against it, has reversed its position, calling for legal framework for the security outfit. Don’t you think it is a welcome development?
It is not a reversal of position by the FG. This is because I thought when the federal government declared Amotekun illegal, it was due to absence of legal instrument to back the creation and existence of the security outfit. If the Southwest governors can back up the Amotekun with laws that are not inconsistent with national law, then it would not be declared by the FG as illegal.
In Northern Nigeria, there is north west, there is north east, and north central. Generally, ACF is the mouthpiece of the entire north. Don’t you think north should borrow a leaf from Amotekun arrangement, particularly in view of the fact that insecurity and poverty are too pronounced in the region?
That Amotekun has been created is not to suggest it is a success and, thus, the best, for you to ask other zones to copy it. Other zones have their own ways of complementing the federal government in the management of security in their states. I hope you are aware of the trite that geopolitical zones are not in the constitution and, thus, cannot make laws. Only state governments can make laws which prevail when they do not run contrary to national laws .
Some Nigerians are saying that state security outfits are springing up because the Federal Government is weak to live up to its responsibility to the citizenry. Do you also think or believe that the Federal Government is weak in this regard?
Everybody knows that paucity of funds to build capacity is the bane of securing the nation. For example, the number of trained and equipped soldiers is very limited and inadequate. In the same way, the number of trained and well-equipped Nigerian police personnel is grossly insufficient. But we all know that state governments are poorer than the federal government. It is ,therefore, unthinking of anybody to imagine that state governments would be able to have enough resources needed for adequate number of trained and equipped state police personnel. Furthermore, given the way and manner state governors have abused State Electoral Commissions and killed democracy and governance at local government level, there is the fear across the nation that state police would be subjected to such abuses by state governors.
And in the case of those states with diversity, state police personnel can take sides and exacerbate conflicts in those states. That was what happened with President IBB’s policy of posting all junior members of Nigerian police to their respective states. Late IGP Coomassie once said such arrangement was not helpful and should be discouraged.
There are strong indications arising from insecurity in the land that state police is possible. Is Nigeria really heading towards that?
I have addressed your concerns on state police, to wit, that if the federal government does not have the wherewithal to provide enough and well-trained Nigerian police who are adequately equipped, it would be foolhardy to imagine state governments with lesser resources than FG can make state police to be the magic wand. More so in states, which are diverse, state police will likely take sides in conflicts in their respective states.
Do you believe that security generally has broken down in the country, considering what the former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar said recently that Nigeria is at crossroads over insecurity?
I do not think that is what General Abubakar said. That Nigeria has security challenges posed by insurgency, kidnapping, armed robbery, clashes between herders and farmers, cattle rustling, cultism, ritual killings and raping is not to suggest security has broken down.
I say this because the insurgency by the sect is no more ubiquitous in northern states like before. This is because the activities of the sect are now consigned to fringes of North East. Even kidnapping, banditry and clashes between herders and farmers, which soared soon after the recent elections have ebbed. There used to be fears of attending worship places, markets and garages across the North. But these have reduced substantially, and hope is returning gradually. When some people say killers are left to walk freely on the streets, I begin to wonder their motive of saying so. That is why I challenge them to give the names of the killers to the security men.
This is because I can remember people like Chiefs Bola Ige, Funsho Williams, Harry Marshall, Dikkibo, etc, were killed but up till now, we are yet to know their killers. Dele Giwa was killed in 1986 but the killers are still not known. America of 243 years old compared to Nigeria of 59 years old has put $7m on the head of Shekau. So, when some people say killers are left to walk free, one gets the impression that they know them. And if they do, let them locate the patriotic courage of their conviction and name them for arrest and arraignment.
As of today, there has been substantial improvement in the number of people killed which suggests positive efforts by this regime. We can say the regime has not done enough given insecurity is still reported in some parts of the country, but we cannot say that the insecurity has worsened. Certainly not.
Government claimed that border closure was to curtail movement of illegal arms, ammunition and criminals into the country. But most Nigerians are saying that the closure only succeeded in bringing socio-economic hardship on the people. Are you of the same view?
I believe the closure of borders was meant to check illegal immigrants for security reasons and in order to curb smuggling to protect local industries. These are laudable objectives that should be applauded and supported by the people. I do not believe majority of Nigerians are against closure of the borders. The hardship being experienced as a result of the closure is temporary.
And I dare say there is no way a surgical intervention can take place to remove ailment without the pain that is natural concomitant of any surgery.
President Buhari has said that he will not handover to looters in 2023. What can you make out of this statement if a looter, for example, is allowed to contest and win election under a political party?
The National Assembly should take a look at the Electoral Act, which provides that only convicted people can be disqualified. Given the slow pace in the courts, it is possible for a looter who is yet to be convicted to stand and win elections.
NASS should therefore stop allowing such possibility. But the desire and hope by President Buhari not to hand over to looters is still a positive wish, especially when regard is paid to his pledge to rid the nation of looters was what propelled him to power. He has no choice but to go as far as his efforts can go to make desires possible and then actual.
By March, the ACF will be celebrating 20th anniversary of its establishment. What should Nigerians expect from the body?
The 20th anniversary is to assess progress against plans, identify mistakes and successes made with a view to informing the way forward.