Former National Secretary of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) has decried the insecurity afflicting several parts of the country, insisting that the North was far safer under the immediate past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. He also pooh-poohed those calling for restructuring of the country, saying they are neither honest nor sincere. He spoke on a number of other issues in an interview with TUNDE THOMAS.
How do you see the recent call by Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State and other leaders that Nigerians should defend themselves from bandits and kidnappers?
That’s a statement made out of frustration. The governor is frustrated that his people are being killed, kidnapped and raped every day, and he is helpless and that’s why he is saying that people should defend themselves. He is now throwing it back to the people that he has submitted. That’s just the language he was expressing when he said people should defend themselves. If you had seen the sitting of Katsina State House of Assembly on this matter which has not been reported nationwide, you will shed tears for Nigeria. If you hear what the lawmakers are saying about the security situation in the state, you will weep for Nigeria.
The security situation in the North is terrible. But some of these killings are not being well reported in the media. The killings going on in Taraba and Adamawa states, are they being well reported? No! Ninety per cent of the people in the North believe that Buhari’s government is working for the South, especially the South-West. Although I don’t personally believe so, but that’s the belief of many northerners. The North was even safer when Jonathan, a Southerner was in power than now when Buhari, a Northerner is the president. This is the bitter truth. Even now in many parts of northern Nigeria, people are pasting Jonathan’s photos on their cars, homes and shops. Do you know what this means? It means that many northerners have lost confidence in Buhari’s government.
What’s your take on the seemingly unending spate of insecurity in virtually all parts of the country?
It’s a very worrisome development, and from the look of things, it is getting worse by the day. Insecurity has become a national embarrassment. This is no longer the Nigeria of yore; it is no longer the Nigeria our founding fathers laboured very hard to build. We are all today in a mess because of insecurity, and to some extent, our leaders are not also sincere in the fight against insecurity. This is a serious issue that is affecting all of us, and concerted efforts must be made to find a lasting solution, and in finding solutions, we must not bring in politics, religion or tribal sentiments. We must realise that whatever affects any Nigerian in any part of the country affects all of us. Insecurity is gradually ruining this country. We are now descending into a state of anarchy. Insecurity is gradually threatening to consume Nigeria.
Corruption is part of the reason why insecurity is thriving. Those people that are stealing billions of naira, what do they need it for? Some people are siphoning public funds, stealing money that belongs to people. With the way some of our public officials loot the public treasury, it encourages some people to go into crime, and this is part of the reason why you have kidnappers, and others who abduct people. They now turn it into a venture, erroneously thinking that since they don’t have access to public funds, that they will have to devise other ways to survive. So whatever steps we are taking to fight corruption, efforts must also be made to tackle corruption.
Everybody is tired about the unfortunate situation we found ourselves in Nigeria today. Even those that are saddled with the task of fighting insecurity are tired. The problem is compounded by the fact those in leadership are not communicating with people. They are not making the right communication with Nigerians .Those in authority, and other politicians in the country are busy strategizing about 2023, forgetting that it is only when you have a nation that you can talk about 2023.
How do we tackle the ugly development?
Talking about the way out of the present situation , I think we have to pray for divine intervention, and a new set of leaders. I don’t know who to trust again in Nigeria over this issue especially the present leadership. Look at the recent attack on the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA.) It is a big national embarrassment. If a premier institution where we train those who secure us could be attacked and officers would be killed, and kidnapped just like that, then where are we going? Then maybe we should be organising vigilance groups to be protecting us. Look at how people are now organising vigilantes to protect and defend themselves from Boko Haram attacks in Borno State, and even in other parts of the country. But if we encourage that it may lead to proliferation of arms. It will result in replacing one terror with another one. If everybody resorts to self-defence, then the country is finished. It will result in a situation where only the strong ones survive, what some people refer to as survival of the fittest. But is that what we are looking at? The security situation in Nigeria is such that even the Taliban in Afghanistan have organised themselves better than us security wise.
How do you mean?
The Talibans have shamed a lot of people across the world. Look at the way they took over Afghanistan without causing bloodshed. If what had happened in Afghanistan, the way they were removed from power by force, and the way they came back to take over power by force after 20 years of struggling had happened in Nigeria, imagine the kind of bloodshed that would have taken place. Look at the kind of discipline that the Taliban have put in place since taking over power. Don’t you think that by now they would have killed a lot of people? To me, the Taliban have behaved beyond expectations .Why can’t we decide to build a nation where we would be one another’s brother keepers and vote for good leaders who will look after all of us and not only their own kinsmen, or their tribe or their religion? I believe that we can still find good leaders in Nigeria, irrespective of their religion or where they come from. I want to see a better Nigeria before I die. We need leadership with foresight, and large heart, that will be accommodating to all Nigerians.
As one of the founding members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, what’s your reaction to the crisis currently rocking the party?
Yes, I was a founding member of the party. Not only that, I was also a member of the party’s Board of Trustees but when some of us realised that the party was drifting, we then opted out. But it is not even only APC that is in crisis, PDP is also in crisis and both parties can’t be the same again. For these two major political parties, there is none to choose from. Injustice and lack of fairness is what is killing both PDP and APC today. These are the root problems of the two parties. Where there is injustice, then you don’t expect peace, and progress, and this is what is playing out in PDP and APC today. The leaders of APC preach democracy but in practice they are dictators. They are worse than Hitler, the late infamous German dictator.
How can there be peace in APC when some powerful individuals have hijacked the party? Your efforts amount to nothing if you don’t belong to the cult running the party. The two parties have been handed to some powerful individuals under the guise of their being former governors or former national leaders of the country. Some people will just sit down in their bedrooms or parlour and be deciding for the nation who should be this or that. By doing this, are we not promoting impunity? This is one of the reasons why PDP lost the election in 2015.
APC and PDP are birds of the same feather. They are Siamese twins. As long as injustice persists in both parties, both PDP and APC will not know peace. It is injustice that made me to leave APC. When I left APC with my supporters, we initially went to PDP. We sat with them, and they agreed that they will make some changes like in the party’s name, and in the structure of the party but they reneged on those promises. They went back to their original ways of doing things when they were in power, and this was why we left to form R-APC, the Reformed All Progressives Congress of which I’m the national chairman. While in APC, we suffered greatly. People that were being appointed into positions, we didn’t know them. They were being given appointments because they were connected to some prominent members of the party and not because they make any positive contribution to the party. Why would you work, and somebody else would take the reward? We came to PDP thinking that they would have learnt their lesson, but we discovered that they were even worse than when power was taken away from them.
There have been rumours of an agreement within the APC in 2015 that power would rotate to the South after President Muhammadu Buhari must have completed two terms in 2023. As a founding member of the party, what would you say to this?
It is true. There was indeed such an agreement but you can see what is playing out in the party now. But this agreement was reached between four people. These are two former governors from the South-West, a serving governor from the North, and also another prominent APC leader from the North. But constitutionally for the APC, there is no zoning arrangement. So you can even bring Yusuf Buhari to replace President Buhari if it is democratically acceptable to Nigerians. On its part, PDP has zoning entrenched in its constitution so the party is bound to respect that arrangement.
But coming back to that APC issue, there was the gentleman agreement by these four party leaders I mentioned earlier that, you help us, we will also help you when it is your time. This was in 2015 before the elections when some people spent their fortunes and brains to ensure that APC won the polls. But the agreement was between these four people, and not generally among the party members. This matter has now become a source of friction. But I believe it is a divine issue. You can’t cheat me or other people and expect that you will have peace. Although, this is APC problem but for those of us who knew what actually transpired, we need to educate people. Let them continue to fight among themselves. Let them go and sort themselves out. Nigerians should not even bother themselves about this issue. What we should bother ourselves with is how to liberate Nigerians from less than 100 people who have been holding the nation to ransom, determining our fate at their own will.
But on a personal note, what’s your own take on zoning of Presidency and 2023?
That should be left for the political parties to decide. We have the parties, and they have their rules and regulations. Let them follow this on this issue. When you are resorting to something that is not in the rules, you are resorting to self-help. One of our problems is that we don’t believe in following rules and regulations. If any party decides to take a particular position on zoning, who am I to stop them? This is another major problem with us. When things are sweet for us, we say it is good. But when it is otherwise, we say it is bad. We like to refer to the United States and some European countries as good models but we do this because these nations follow the rules. We should also learn to follow the rules.
What will you say on the defection of some PDP governors and Senators to APC?
Those governors and any other person defecting are running away from prosecution. Anybody, including the governors that defected, are thieves. They must have stolen some money, and in order to avoid being prosecuted have to seek refuge in the ruling APC. Those governors are jumping ship because they have skeletons in their cupboards. They are defecting because we are told that when you defect to APC, even if you steal the Central Bank of Nigeria, that when you defect to APC, that you have become a born-again. It is those same set of people that are being accused of corruption running into hundreds of millions of naira, and even have been charged to court by the EFCC that are now calling the shots in APC, and you expect somebody like me who detest corruption to be part of such group?
What’s your position on restructuring? Some Nigerians are saying that it is the only solution to myriads of challenges currently confronting the country.
What is restructuring? I don’t believe in it. We are a dishonest lot. Even if you restructure one million times, nothing will change in the country. We will still go back to square one. What we need is for us to agree to be just. If there is equity and justice, if we are fair to one another, if we see ourselves as one regardless of tribe, religion or ethnic background there will be no need for all these agitations.
We started with three regions, and they said the solution to Nigeria’s problems is to create more states, and today we have 36 states including Abuja, making it 37. But with all these, have the agitations stopped? No. Some people are even saying that we should go back to the original three regions. Others are saying that we should jettison the presidential system we are practising now and revert to the parliamentary system we started with. What is it that we have not tried? I believe that the way forward is for us to be just to everybody. Equity and justice is what will move us forward. Most of those calling for restructuring are not honest and sincere. Good and honest leadership is what we need. When we have leaders that are fair, and just to all, you won’t have all these agitations.