From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Apparently worried about rising cases of killings and kidnapping in the country, particularly in northern region, the National Publicity Secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr. Emmanuel Yawe, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari was a disappointment to the North for failing to put an end to insecurity as promised during his presidential campaigns.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, Mr. Yawe also added that the Forum knows those behind kidnapping and killings in the region, saying, “we all know there is a network that spans the civil society, the military, the legislature and the executive that do not want this season of insecurity to end”. Excerpts:
Insecurity in the country has become so alarming in recent times. How worried are you and what do you think is the way out?
If you have been reading our press outings, which I believe you have, because you are one reporter that has reported our activities consistently and correctly. You know we are stiff worried about the security situation in the country more so when the man who is president is not only a war-tested general, but a former military Head of State. How can you advise a government headed by a man with these intimidating security credentials? Some of us who played some peripheral role in his coming to power in 2015 feel rather let down by the current turn of events. The ACF has said this over and over and over again. We have said it loud and clear that the security situation is very bad. We have said it, not silently that Nigerians and particularly Northerners are not safe. What needs to be done is the political will to handle the matter. Sadly, the governments, both states and federal, are deficient in this. We all know there is a network that spans the civil society, the military, the legislature and the executive that do not want this season of insecurity to end. The reasons they are doing these evil machinations are difficult to see. If the political will is there, this dangerous network can be disbanded. Nigeria cannot be as helpless and hopeless as we appear to be at the moment.
Educational development in the North is facing serious setback in view of frequent abduction of students by bandits in the region. What is the implication of this?
As I said before, the North is worse off than the South in terms of security. This madness of mass theft of school children, particularly girls began in Chibok, Borno State during Gòodluck Jonathan’s era as president. Now, it has become a new normal. Northern secondary school students are casually stolen in the raids which have become very frequent and herded into the bush as if they are wild animals. In some cases, like in that of a private university in Kaduna, students are mowed down as it were – with guns.
We at the ACF are traumatised with these developments. More so because it will scare away and has already scared away from schools – parents and students – in a region that has always been lagging behind the South educationally.
Some people have argued that neither the ruling party, APC, nor the major opposition party, PDP, can take Nigeria to the Promise Land. And do you foresee alternative to APC and PDP, a kind of Third Force in 2023 election?
The ACF is a mixed bag. We have APC, PDP and politicians from all the registered political parties in the Forum.We will not disrupt the harmony and camaraderie we currently enjoy in the Forum by passing such harsh judgment on the existing political parties. Those proposing a Third Force should come out with it and let us all see it in the open and in broad daylight. We cannot buy a cat hidden in a sealed bag. What are we going to do if it turns out we bought an empty bag? In life, there is always an alternative. Life itself has an alternative. If you are tired of life, you die.
Most Nigerians are calling for new breed politicians, saying that old politicians have been recycled over and over again which has not actually propelled the needed political development of the country. What is your take here?
This thing about new breed politicians has been on since the former military President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida days. Nobody gives you power on a platter of gold even though our Great Zik said we got power from our colonial masters, the British, on a platter of gold. The newbreed should not expect power as father Christmas doles out gifts. They have to struggle and may be grab it.
Some Nigerians have called for dialogue rather than use of force by government to end separatist agitations across the country. What do you think is the way out?
The way out is to use both. Those who want dialogue as a way of getting out of Nigeria should be spoken to. They may have a point or two after all. But is pulling out of Nigeria the answer? Can we try and persuade them not to disembowel the most populous black nation on planet earth? We can dialogue. For those who take up arms against their father land, we believe they are calling for hell. We can only appeal to government to give them some holy hell so as to let peace loving Nigerians have some peace. Too much blood has been shed on behalf of Nigeria. Anybody who wants to shed more blood to achieve his ambition to destroy Nigeria must be ready to shed his own first.
Should dialogue also be applied in finding solutions to banditry and kidnapping?
Yes, dialogue should apply to bandits and insurgents too.
Some political pundits still believe that come 2023 power will remain in the North because separatist agitators cannot be trusted with power shift. How would you react to this?
The Constitution vests the political parties with exclusive powers of who emerges as candidates from the president to the local government councillor. As a law abiding group, ACF will not like to do anything that will offend the ground norm of Nigeria.
It is believed that ACF has a big role to play in ensuring that North retain power in 2023. Don’t you think other Nigerians will accuse you, the Forum, of regional bias?
We indeed feel flattered if you say we have a big role to play in who emerges Nigerian president in 2023. We are not saying and have never said the North must produce the president. We want a president who understands the North. We don’t care if such a president is from the North, from the South or even the sky or moon. In the recent history of Nigeria, Northerners can today beat their chest that they have voted massively for two southerners to win presidential elections. One, Chief Abiola, a wealthy Yoruba Muslim; the other Mathew Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba Christian and former military head of state. The North is not as narrow-minded as people think. What if people accuse us of regional bias? We are Arewa. We are the North. We are not kudu; we are not South. We are not ashamed of it. We are northern Nigerians. And so what? That is why we limit our admission of membership to only northerners. Our brothers elsewhere are so short-sighted that before you are admitted they carry you to a lab for a DNA test. To them membership is a matter of genetics and biology. We are not apologetic about our northern identity.
Leaders of Middle Belt Forum continue to distance themselves from the entire North as 2023 election approaches, citing socio-political marginalisation by the core northern leaders. Is this divisive development not a big concern to ACF that represents the interest of the entire North?
Leaders of the Middle Belt are our brothers. In the ACF, we consider Middle Belters as very important members. General Yakubu Gowon from the Middle Belt state of Plateau led the crusades in establishing the ACF. Today, he is our Chairman, Board of Patrons. Our Chairman, National Working Committee is Chief Audu Ogbe is from Benue. Even me that is talking to you now is often mistaken as from Benue, Middle Belt. Those who made me the spokesman of ACF knew very well that I am a Tiv man from Taraba, Northeast before they gave me the office. That is the complexity of the North. If our brothers in the Middle Belt do not want to have anything to do with the North they must have their reasons and not the discriminative activities of ACF. We are not worried. The North is big enough to contain all of us and every tendency. The popular belief is that the North has always been monolithic and will always be. This is not true. In the First Republic, Aminu Kano led his NEPU group, Ibrahim Imam led his Borno Youths BYM, while JS Tarka was doing his thing with his Middle Belt followers. They were still northerners with different political tendencies. When a group of misguided army officers all from the South thought they were going to finish the North by gunning down its political and military leaders, they only succeeded in making the North stronger. Tarka, Ibrahim Imam and Aminu Kano joined hands to fight those who unfairly murdered the Sardauna and other leaders of the North. We in the ACF have seen the light. We have no issues with our Middle Belt brothers. We can only work hard to ensure that they also see the light we have seen too.
Sir, you said ACF can only work hard to ensure that Middle Belt leaders also see the light you have seen. What kind of light?
We have seen the light that our great leader the Sardauna, Sir Ahmadu Bello saw when he turned himself into the Gamji (Shelter) for all northerners. We have seen the light which the Sardauna saw when he said the NPC stood for one North irrespective of religion and tribe. We have seen the light which the praying father (Gowon) of Nigeria saw when in the heat of Sharia controversy called all northern leaders to organise the ACF in 2000. This is the light the ACF has seen.
What is the way to achieving peace and stability in the country in the face of the rising cases of agitations and kidnapping?
Peace and stability are there for taking like I have said, if our government has the political will and spleen to face agitators and kidnappers frontally and squarely. It is not rocket science.