From Gyang Bere, Jos
Personal friend and political ally of President Muhammadu Buhari for over 50 years, Captain Joseph Din (rtd), has blamed the persistent insecurity in Nigeria on lack of weapons.
He, therefore, called on Nigerians to contribute fund to purchase modern weapons for the military to defeat Boko Haram, bandits and kidnappers.
He applauded the decision of the Northern and Southern governors to ban open grazing and urged them to provide an alternative through giving land for rents to the herders. Captain Din noted that going for another national conference would be a waste of resources and advised that the funds should be channelled towards securing modern equipment for the Nigerian military. Excerpt:
Government seems to have put more effort in addressing the issue of insecurity in the country, yet the country is getting overwhelmed with activities of bandits, kidnappers and criminalities, what is your suggestion as a retired military officer?
We should call for contribution from all Nigerians to buy weapons for our military like we did during the civil war and we were able to end the fight. This time around we have the Boko Haram, banditry, kidnappers and several other criminal gangs. We need every Nigerian to contribute something, the wealthy people should contribute heavily so that we can buy equipment for our Armed Forces, we have the manpower, but we don’t have sophisticated weapons. The Boko Haram and bandits have more sophisticated weapons than our army. I can assure you that if we get these weapons, we will crush Boko Haram, bandits and even the kidnappers within few weeks. We may not need to go through the normal market to acquire the weapons, but we can go to the black market and buy as a matter of urgency. People are running away from Nigeria because of insecurity, but we have so many things that people want, but they are afraid to come. So, if we do this and forget about our differences, the billionaires should bring some billions, the millionaires should bring some millions, the least persons should bring even from N100 to N1,000 and the money will reach trillions of naira which we will use to buy arms to equip our soldiers.
Do you think getting arms is the problem of Nigeria?
Arms are our problem. We don’t have equipment; we need arms and ammunition. These people are getting it from Libya and everywhere and that has been our problem. We need arms and armoured vehicles, these are the things the Nigeria army needs to fight insecurity. We can buy vehicles that can move on the rough areas.
These bandits, are they Nigerians?
They are not Nigerians. They are foreigners, 99 per cent of them are from outside, we only have few Nigerians. Like a man was confessing yesterday from Niger State, that he joined the bandits three years ago and that when they kidnapped someone and a ransom of N20 million was paid, they will only give them N700,000, he was arrested.
Don’t you think that Nigeria lacks the political will to confront this issue of insecurity?
We have the political will, but we lack modern equipment to fight the menace. I can assure you that if we get money and buy equipment, I am telling you as a retired military officer, you will see what will happen. I was part of the civil war, if we get money and buy these equipment for our troops, you will see what will happen.
Can Nigeria afford another civil war, going by the level of insecurity that is causing division?
No, no, no. Don’t go there, we cannot. Even our brothers who fought the Biafra war will not want to hear that again. They have been saying it and I was there live, I was part of , it is not something that one should pray for again in this country. I know how painful it was, I am lucky to be alive, many of my colleagues died, but I am fortunate to be alive to give this story. Our problem is weapons now, we have the trained and qualified manpower. Nigerian troops have been going to foreign countries for peace keeping and we are one of the best. Other countries of the world praise the effort of our military, they say we are the best, but our challenge at home is that we lack equipment, not just ordinary equipment, but the modern one. The bandits are armed with sophisticated weapons, but we don’t have, as a soldier you can’t run away from war. Our boys are just managing, but if we have equipment, the sky will be our limit.
The Southern governors came up with a resolution recently from their summit and one of it was the ban on open grazing, what do you think should be the next alternative?
Yes, I remember the Northern governors took this same decision some time ago and I am happy with the decision of both the Southern and the Northern governors, but there is need for an alternative for the herders. There is need for the governors of the 36 states to look for land and give to the herders, they are in charge of their own states, they should get land and give to the herders for grazing.
You meant the herders should be given the land free?
It can’t be free, they are doing a private business, the herders will have to pay for it. They can be paying rent or pay for the land gradually, but if the governors have free land why not. But if they don’t have and need to get it from the farmers, the people who want it have to pay, this will solve the entire problem. Because when you say there is no open grazing, what do you want them to do, until land is provided for ranching for the herders to pay, all the 36 states governors have said nothing. If you say you don’t want open grazing then as a government you have the power to find a place for them, if they don’t have money to pay, government can buy the place for them and ask them to be paying so that they can be grazing there because it is a private business.
The Southern governors are calling for national conference of ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, the idea which has received overwhelming support, what are your thoughts over this?
We don’t need that now, we have the National Assembly and that is their job. The National Assembly members are representing us and those who are crying of marginalization should address their grievance to them. Those who want more constituencies in their states should apply and the National Assembly should address the issue and approve the request, we don’t have to go for national conference. I think it is a waste of money when we are looking for resources to buy equipment. I see it as a jamboree, some people are advocating for it because of what they are going to benefit, it is a waste of money, to pay the allowances of the delegates will run into hundreds of billions. The resources can be rooted into buying of equipment to fight insecurity in the land. I see it as nonsense as far as I am concerned, the National Assembly is there to take care of some of these interests. Every state is represented at the National Assembly, so people can take their problems there and it will be solved. Going for a national conference to me is a waste of time and resources.
Are suggesting that states that are marginalized in terms of Federal constituencies should write to the National Assembly and they will be attended to?
Yes, exactly. They should write to the National Assembly, that is why they are representing the entire country.
Are you advocating that state creation and constituencies should be considered in the ongoing constitutional amendment?
Yes, it is possible, if that will give sense of belonging to people that are crying of marginalization. All the people should do is to generate the argument constructively and submit it to the National Assembly for consideration. You see, there are people who are advocating for the national conference because of the allowances which usually run into billions of naira and I see it as a waste of money.
Those who are calling for the national conference are saying that President Buhari declined the implementation of the 2014 conference convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan, therefore, he should convene his own and implement the recommendation, don’t you see it from that perspective?
What are some of the things they want, some of the issues they are raising are of no use. The president knows that they are less important, he has advisers who are assisting him with ideas. Why didn’t the last administration implement the recommendations of the last national conference, they have been keeping quiet and it is now about seven years, why didn’t they talk that time. The people are saying what they think, but the president would not want to waste money unnecessarily. Money should be spent properly, we have so many things to do with money, Buhari is being very careful and wouldn’t want to waste money on anything that will be considered as wasteful.
Do you believe in the ability of President Buhari to keep Nigeria as one indivisible country?
Yes, very well. I know the president very well. I know him for over 50 years, I know the president as a person one on one. We are lucky to have him. By the time that President Muhammadu Buhari leaves office, Nigerians will cry. If President Buhari wasn’t on seat and these things are happening now, many Nigerians will run away from the country. We are lucky that this man is there, he doesn’t talk much and that is his nature, I know him very well. He is a very passionate and very humane leader, he has been working to keep Nigeria together.
Don’t you think that the resolution of the summit convened recently by the Southern governors is a solution to some of the challenges the country is facing at the moment?
This is something that the Northern governors have recommended long ago, particularly the issue on the ban of open grazing. It is the same thing, it is just a repeat of some of the recommendations of the Northern governors. What I am saying is that what the 19 Northern governors and what the 17 Southern governors are saying is the same thing. They are repeating the same thing in one way or the other, but they should start the implementation in their own states. They should find a place for them and do ranching and not open grazing; these are governors and if they don’t have the land they should approach those who have it to give it to them and they negotiate. It is unfair for the Federal Government to go and buy land for all the herders in Nigeria, the state governors should do it. If there is a way that the Federal Government can support, fine. The Federal Government can come in to give them loan and they will pay back.
Some individuals have also accused the Fulani of causing the current insecurity in the country, what is your perception?
They should be arrested, Mr. President has said anybody who is sighted with AK47 should be arrested. Anybody who doesn’t want peace should be arrested. We are all Nigerians, anybody who doesn’t want to do the right thing should be arrested and dealt with. Fulani that you think are part of the problem should be arrested, Mr President will be happy, those who are causing problem should be delt with, nobody is above the law. If heders are part of the problem, they should be arrested and prosecuted, nobody is above the law.
The country is moving into another farming season and this is the period that there is always problem between the herders and farmers, what do you think should be done?
The herders should not go to the farmers’ crops to destroy them, that is my strongest advice and if that is done, the farmers should take the matter to the appropriate authority. They shouldn’t take the law into their own hands and appropriate sanctions should be given because if they don’t farm, we are in trouble. Where will we import food from? That is very important. If the farmers find out that the herders are threatening them, they should make a report to their various states or local government for action, they are all there for the people and they should be seen to be doing justice for the peace and security of the people. If farmers do not go to farm, it is going to be a big problem to the nation.
Don’t you see Nigeria disintegrating soon with this pressure and rising insecurity?
No, it will be very difficult. Nigerians are united. You see, until you travel out of this country, then you will appreciate how good Nigeria is. For those of us who have travelled to different countries in the world, we know how it is, Nigeria is a good country. That is why if you go to our embassy, you will see many people lining up to apply to come to Nigeria, if they are given visa, we will have alot of foreigners in the country because of what we have.
You said that most of the bandits causing insecurity for us are foreigners, what do you think can be done in the borders of Nigeria?
Nigerian borders are so porous that we have over 1, 000 routes. It requires that we employ more people and when that is done, you need to equip them so that they can guard the borders. You know in America they made fence, but we don’t have the money to do fence in Nigeria like America. What we can do is to employ more people and take them to the porous areas. Nigeria is blessed, but we are careless in the running of our affairs. The various state governments that are at the borders, should initiate the action and if they cannot do it, they should call for help from the Federal Government. The states at the borders should look at the degree of the issues and advise the Federal Government appropriately so that urgent action can be taken to reduce this insecurity. Most of those who are causing the insecurity are coming into the country through illegal means and employing more people and placing them to guard the borders will address some of the issues bothering the country.
The Federal Government has constructed a railway to Niger Republic…
It is a good thing that the president has done.
Don’t you think that will encourage foreigners to be coming into the country?
If they will come into the country legally, why not. We will make alot of revenue from it, we will make more money. Nigeria is a big country blessed with huge resources, we can’t just say we will stay in isolation, it is not a good idea. So, making the railway to other neighbouring countries is good, people will come in and take our goods for sale and we will make more money.
Plateau under Governor Simon Lalong is enjoying relative peace and he is the Chairman of Northern Governors Forum, what do you think he should do for northern states to also have peace?
He should replicate what he did in Plateau in other states. I am sure he has been telling the the governors how he achieved peace in the state. You see we have every Nigerian living in Plateau, most people like to stay in Plateau now. The governor should continue to work with his colleagues and ensure that the region excels.