The Federal Government has been advised to take the recent threats by the Niger-Delta Avengers to resume bombing of oil facilities in the Niger-Delta region very serious.
Giving the advice in an interview with TUNDE THOMAS, renowned anti-corruption crusader, Major-General Ola Ishola-Williams (retd) urged President Buhari not to take the threat with levity, adding that resumption of hostilities by the militants in the Niger-Delta would have grave consequences on the nation’s economy.
The Avengers had recently threatened to resume hostilities in the restive region following complaints and protest against government’s release of 1 billion dollars to fight Boko Haram insurgency. The militants accused government of bias, saying that Niger-Delta had been abandoned.
The retired General also spoke on other national issues including the national outrage against herdsmen attacks, Mainagate and the anti-graft war of the government.
What is your reaction to the present state of the nation, especially insecurity and the national outrage over recent killings by Fulani herdsmen in Benue, Taraba and other parts of the country?
Killings by Fulani herdsmen is an old problem, but what baffles me is why the thing has escalated. The killings are on the rise, and that showed that our security system has failed. The killings showed that something is wrong with our security agencies.
What I know is that there has been a lot of recommendations on how to resolve the problem between herdsmen and farmers. But why has not government deemed it fit to implement these recommendations, which would have helped to provide a solution to the problem?
The problem with Buhari’s government is that it lacks strategic thinkers, and even on the part of the President himself, like I said in an earlier interview, I have not seen traits of a strategic thinker in himself, more especially being a retired Army General, and that’s why we are having this problem.
Our security system has failed the nation. The security system needs to be overhauled. Even President Buhari himself recently openly declared that our security system needs to be reformed. It is a shame that in the last three decades, there has been no security reforms in the country. It is a big shame, and that’s why other serious nations of the world are leaving Nigeria behind. Our intelligence security network seems not to be working, otherwise we won’t be having these embarrassing situation on our hands.
Again, it appears as if there is no proper coordination and synergy among our security agencies. At times, you see police, DSS and the Civil Defence working at cross-purposes when there is supposed to be harmony among them.
The issue of these frequent herdsmen attacks has been very explosive and has reached a point where urgent actions should be taken to avert looming danger.
Cattle rearing is a serious business, and these cattle are owned by big men. What Nigerians should reflect on is this: does these herdsmen who often look frail and fragile look like somebody that can own cattle? Do they look like somebody that can afford to buy AK47 rifles? This clearly shows that the herdsmen have sponsors, there are big men behind their operation.
If not for the lackadaisical attitude of Nigerian government, this problem would have been resolved. Even at a point, the European Union showed interest in helping us to find a solution to the herdsmen-farmers problem.
About five years ago, they embarked on a project in Alkali village in Yobe State. Under the project, they cultivated a large expanse of land to grow cattle feeds, and also built mini waterworks where cattle can drink water. It was a pilot project to determine feasibility of rearing cows stationed in a place where they can graze, and drink water without roaming all over the place and start disturbing others.
This EU project was successful, but as soon as the Europeans left, in our government’s usual style, both the place and the project were abandoned. If this project has been sustained, it would have been one of the best ways to resolve herdsmen-farmers clashes.
Federal government has proposed establishment of cattle colonies as part of efforts to find a solution to the problem, what’s your take on that?
Whoever made that proposal is an enemy of Nigeria. In fact, the Minister for Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, should bury his head in shame over the cattle colony proposal. At times I wonder whether some of these people we call our leaders ever think at all. Audu Ogbeh should have resigned for coming up with such a foolish proposal. Why should Nigeria be talking of cattle colonies in the 21st Century when other nations of the world that even have bigger cattle population are setting up ranches? Audu Ogbeh is dragging Nigeria backward. It is like dragging Nigeria back into the Stone Age. If we can create industrial parks, why can’t we create cattle ranches? Setting up cattle ranches is the best solution to this problem. I say a big NO to cattle colonies.
Establishment of cattle colonies will lead to frequent clashes between indigenes of the place where they are set up and the herdsmen. Cattle colonies will eventually end up setting Nigeria on fire. In places like United States, Argentina, Uruguay and others that have bigger herds or flock of cattle more than Nigeria, ranches were put in place to accommodate the cows, and you don’t have the ugly situation where you see herdsmen all over the place constituting a big nuisance to others. To me cattle colonies is the greatest joke of the century. It will not bring about any solution, but rather aggravate it. Audu again through his cattle colonies proposal is creating bigger problems for Nigeria. People like Audu Ogbeh have nothing to offer this nation. Some of Buhari’s aides have actually become a big nuisance and they are tainting Buhari’s image and reputation.
Some Nigerians are blaming Buhari for not taking tough action against the herdsmen, or even in finding a lasting solution to the problem, what is your view on this?
Those blaming Buhari have not shown sufficient interest or action to tackle the crisis. Even imagine the Inspector-General of Police initially saying that the killings in Benue State was as a result of a communal clash, although he later apologized, but the IG’s comment actually reflects the popular thinking of Buhari’s administration.
As soon as Buhari got to office, he should have implemented some of the past recommendations for resolving the crisis. If he has done that there would have been peace, and the killings in Benue and other places would have been averted.
I don’t care whether herdsmen are Buhari’s kinsmen or not, but Buhari should remember that he is President of Nigeria. He should not show preference or bias for any section. When Buhari was the Chairman of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund, he released millions of naira to the leadership of Miyetti Allah to go and build ranches for their cattle, but sadly that money went down the drain as we never got to see any ranch built by the Miyetti Allah group for cattle rearers up till today. If it were to be in a country where there is accountability and probity, shouldn’t somebody have asked Buhari and Miyetti Allah group what happened to the millions of naira Buhari released to them to build ranches. I challenge Buhari and the leadership of Miyetti Allah to deny my claim or allegation against them. Miyetti Allah group should give an account of what happened to millions of naira Buhari gave them to build ranches.
If Buhari wants to help himself and also save this nation the agony of further killings by the herdsmen, setting up of ranches is the final answer.
President Buhari’s seeming opposition to restructuring has come under severe criticism …
The point is this, it is not whether Buhari opposed restructuring or not, the reality is that restructuring is inevitable if Nigeria is to move forward. It is a necessity for Nigeria to forge ahead. However, restructuring is not in the hands of Buhari. He can’t do anything about it. It is members of the National Assembly and the state Houses of Assembly that have to take the necessary step towards making restructuring a reality.
The lawmakers have to amend the constitution, and then set the process in motion. But I went to say this, it is not only Buhari that opposed restructuring. Many of the National Assembly, state assemblies, and even some state governors from the South are also opposed to restructuring, because of what they are benefitting from the status quo. So it is not only Buhari and the North that opposed restructuring, all the beneficiaries of the present status quo opposed restructuring for selfish reasons and not out of patriotism. But for us to get out of the present socio-economic quagmire, there is no alternative to restructuring. Again, community policing would have helped a lot in reducing the increasing rate of crimes in the country, and that’s why the idea of creating state police should be revisited. How can you ask a police officer from Jigawa or Yobe to come and investigate crime in a rural community in Ondo or Ekiti? But such an investigation would be quickly resolved if you have state police in place.
The anti-corruption battle by Buhari’s administration has also come under criticism that some recent cases have tainted Buhari’s administration’s claim to be an anti-corruption crusader, what is your reaction to that?
To say the truth, I’m also confused. Recent cases of Maina and the questionable roles played by Buhari’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami is one that is very disgusting and has dented the image of Buhari’s administration. Has Malami got any integrity at all? I say No – If Malami is a man of integrity and honour, he should have resigned from the cabinet over his role in the Maina case. Buhari should have even fired Malami, why Buhari has failed to give Malami the boot I don’t know except Buhari himself knows something about Maina’s case.
Buhari’s integrity has been tainted by Malami and some of Buhari’s other aides through their conduct and character. What has happened to seized loot, nobody knows again. The government will announce recovery of loot, but what then happens to the loot nobody knows again. This is not the hallmark of an administration that claims it is fighting corruption. Look at Babachir Lawal’s case, although the man had been removed from his post, is he not supposed to have been put on trial? This is why some people say that Buhari’s war against corruption is selective. The recovered loot, nobody knows what has happened to the loot – somebody in the administration should have been briefing Nigerians regularly on the issue.
PDP has been criticizing APC and President Buhari’s administration …
(Cuts in) What is the difference between the two? PDP and APC are the same – there is no difference, and Nigerians should not put their hopes and trust in any of the two.
You know what I call PDP, I call the party, Party Deceiving People, and for APC, I call the party, Alliance of Political Crooks, APC – I don’t see any good in any of the two parties — Nigeria should forget about APC and PDP. I’m happy that today some young Nigerians are thinking of alternatives – they are thinking of how to salvage Nigeria from these oppressors and looters, and now we have a group called Nigeria Interventionist Movement which claims its objectives is to salvage Nigeria.
Niger-Delta Avengers have threatened to resume bombings of oil installations following allegations of continued neglect of Niger-Delta while 1 billion dollars was released to fight Boko Haram in the North East, what’s your take on that?
The Avengers have a right to complain, and their complaint is justified. If not bias and double standard, how can Buhari order 1 billion dollars oil money to be released to fight Boko Haram, while the region that produces the oil is neglected? Again, that’s why I said earlier that Buhari is deficient in strategic thinking. I also wonder the type of characters he surrounds himself with that call themselves his advisers. What kind of advice do they give to Buhari? From Buhari’s actions, and that of his aides they often display insensitivity. If not, why release 1 billion dollars oil money to fight Boko Haram, while you neglect and abandon the owners of the oil or the region where the oil money is got from?
The fact that government must realize is that the way Boko Haram is being fought presently is not a conventional war – it is suicide bombers that Boko Haram are using mostly. Is the Federal Government now telling us that they need fighter jets to fight suicide bombers. This is another evidence of lack of strategic thinking, which has become the hallmark of Buhari’s administration, and this is why Buhari is not getting it right on most issues.
Another shocker is this, with the way Nigerian Army is fighting Boko Haram war, the Army can’t with the battle, they have to re-strategise. Let Buhari also know today that there is no way he can win the Boko Haram war, the Boko Haram war will outlast him, and the reason is very simple, the right strategies, thinking and approach are not being adopted by this administration in fighting the war. I would like to say again that the threat by the Niger-Delta Avengers should not be taken lightly in view of the enormous damage attacks by the militants will do to the nation’s economy and also disruption to socio-economic activities in the Niger-Delta region.
For an administration that have strategic thinkers, immediately the Avengers issued that threat, measures should have been taken to calm frayed nerves, and give the people justice they are demanding. I hope that it is not by the time the bombs start raining that our leaders will now be aroused from their slumber.
The issue of Buhari running in 2019 is on the front burner…
(Cuts in) If I were Buhari I won’t try it. I won’t go for second term. I will just do one term like late Nelson Mandela. Although Buhari has remained incorruptible as a person, talking about performance, Buhari has failed. There is nothing to write home about his performance. He should just go after his first term.