By Chukwudi Nweje
Dr Yunusa Tanko, a former presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) is the Head, Public Affairs Bureau of the National Consultative Front (NCFront), a forum of eminent Nigerians seeking restructuring of the country and good governance. In this interview, he discusses the pervasive insecurity in the country.
What is your impression on the current state of things in Nigeria?
For a long time, some of us have been warning about the way the country is being run by the present leadership; unfortunately people either did not listen or they listened, but refused to heed to the warning signs on ground. Today, no part of this country is secure or safe. We have a bunch of leaders that will not communicate with the populace; they continue to tell them lies. As we are today, there are killings and destruction going on in virtually all parts of the country; the only place that seems to have relative peace at the meantime is the South South, and unfortunately too, they have their own internal problems. The whole country is agog with issues of violence, insecurity, hunger and we have an ineptitude leadership that has not been able to find answers to the teething problems facing the country.
The current administration came to power on three major promises, to fight insecurity, grow the economy and fight corruption, how have they fared?
We have never had it this bad, even if you are to score President Muhammadu Buhari on these three areas on which he campaigned and came to power. You will agree that he has not performed. If you are talking about insecurity, we have never had it as bad as we have today. In the area of the economy, we have seen how Nigerians have been reduced to unprecedented poverty level to the point that the country is ranked as the poverty capital of the world with the poorest individuals. Do we want to talk about the anti -corruption war that has been killed? A Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) was once deeply involved in corruption? In all the three aspects the president campaigned and came to power on, he has failed the nation. The president should call for a political conference where political leaders will sit and tell him eyeball to eyeball that the ship he is driving is sinking. There should be a national security meeting where the security apparatuses will tell themselves the bitter truth about what is going on in this country. There is political undertone from both internal and external forces working round the clock to ensure that this government does not see the light of day. Nevertheless, one fundamental question remains what the government has done even as it faces these challenges. The government has only continued to annihilate and disintegrate the country by the way it makes appointments; the way the government makes appointments has led to a lot of problems; we have never had it this bad that even when you make suggestions, it only falls on deaf ears; may God help us.
You talk about political undertones, in 2014 the narrative was that Boko Haram was created to bring down the President Goodluck Jonathan-led government but insecurity has continued post 2015 till date; why is that, do we know the perpetrators and sponsors?
During the President Jonathan era, the target was to ensure that they discredit and incapacitate the government in a way people will see that he cannot deal with the problems on ground. Some of them confessed to how they brought militias from around Africa to discredit Jonathan so that the All Progressives Congress (APC) will win. They are using the same strategy they employed against Jonathan against President Buhari; it is a case of he who kills by the sword shall die by the sword. But the painful aspect is that they are playing a ping-pong game with the lives of innocent Nigerians; they use religion and ethnic strife to perpetuate themselves in power all because of greed; all of us on the other side of the aisle must come together and checkmate them.
The military have reportedly closed one of their bases in Niger State; we have reports of terrorists disguised as Nigerian soldiers infiltrating army Barracks to wreck havoc and the Nigerian Air Force fighter shooting at reinforcement troops because they were mistaken to be insurgents. What do you make of this especially as the government is talking about absorbing ‘repentant’ Boko Haram into the security forces?
I have made assertions on how political office holders arm militias and use them to win elections only to discard them when they serve the purpose. We have heard cases where militia in Niger State came out to say that the governor refused to keep the promises he made to them and therefore they will destabilise his government. We have a sad situation where our leaders raised a wild beast and now the beast is grown and is out of control. Some of the repentant insurgents have been useful in the fight against terror while some have found it difficult to change. No doubt some people were forced into Boko Haram against their will and it is important to know those who are genuinely repented and those who are not. In all, if it is possible there is need to listen to these people; you cannot continue to fight, maim and kill your people because they raised some issues that nobody listened to. If they had been listened to ab initio, probably they wouldn’t have picked up arms against the state. We should find better ways of dealing with matters of this nature.
You speak about government listening to aggrieved groups and seeking ways to address their issues, Boko Haram which we are dealing with today turned violent after its founder and leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed by government security forces in 2010; while they are yet to be contained, the Commander of Eastern Security Network, the security wing of IPOB has been killed in almost similar circumstances. What are your fears?
The truth is that any group whether it is IPOB, OPC, MEND, herdsmen or bandits that takes up arms is terrorising the state, but the government should be tactical in dealing with the matter by finding out why they engage in their activities and see how to deal with the issues that they raised. It is only when the government has proffered solution to the issues they raised and they still refuse to lay down their arms that they should be engaged in battle; even at that, you must have tried a number of times so that people will see you as a listening government; when you just go out for battle, it will be seen as domination. There has been a continuous attack on government property, but one would have thought that they would arrest and prosecute suspected perpetrators in court in a democratic way. This was exactly what happened in Borno State; now it is being repeated in Imo State. How many wars will the military fight if IPOB decides to take up arms now? Boko Haram is still there, the bandits are still there; one would suggest that the government dialogue with these people on some of the areas they have issues.
Ahead of 2023, the NCFront has formed a committee to explore the possibility of a merger or alliance with one of the political parties, why do you seek of a merger when Nigerians see all these parties as the same?
The NCFront has the option to transform to anything it can; we champion the need for restructuring as well as good governance. Many of us in the NCFront have never held political office though there may be some known names like Ghali Na’Abba and Prof Pat Utomi who once held certain offices but their track record shows how clean they are. They performed their duties creditably during their tenure and in fact, it was out of their benevolence knowing full well that things are not going as they should that they opted out to look for cleaner people to work with for the interest of Nigeria.