Umma Getso, right activist and politician ran on the platform of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) as its vice presidential candidate with cerebral Prof Kingsley Moghalu, former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as the presidential hopeful.
She has remained dogged on her vision for Nigeria and how to rescue the country from further drift by engaging competent hands.
She opened up during an encounter with Sunday Sun on critical national issues, including whether repentant Boko Haram insurgents deserve amnesty, 2023 presidency, security challenge and her vote for Amotekun (Southwest security outfit) and the need for more competent women in politics. Excerpt:
How will you situate the management and control so far of COVID-19 in the country?
It was just from Tuesday that people started to panic; some are even saying that the virus is not in existence. We are also still finding it difficult to control because of the nature of our public transport because that is the only means of transportation for a lot of people. Coronavirus will be a little difficult to contain in a country like ours. You will observe that if you see people at the bus stop or in the market they are still pushing you around, touching you as if nothing is happening. You will pass hundreds of people and only a few are putting on a mask to cover their mouth and nose. It’s a terrible situation, a very scary situation. God will help us, of course, that is our language every day that God will help us, but we need to sit up. I had expected the government to do a lot of awareness earlier before now, two or three weeks back, all radio and television stations must have started creating massive awareness before now. But it’s not only in Nigeria most governments are not doing enough, even in America. I just wish the Federal Government will do more.
But some critics say even other African countries were more proactive like Ghana, Senegal…?
(Cuts in) Yes. Our problem was that we were not proactive at the beginning. Ghana, Senegal were very serious, you can see that Senegal has not reported even one case because they were proactive, they have stopped everything, locked down over a week ago, even Sudan and some other African countries have no reported cases of COVID-19, but they have shutdown the country and that is how it should be. Had it been Nigeria took such measures like two weeks ago, we won’t be where we are today in this mess. As we speak we have 42 cases and still counting. Anyway, I still commend the government for what they have been able to do, but I expect that they should do more, be more proactive and on top of the situation so as to allay fears.
There is this cheering news that Nigeria has become the biggest economy in Africa…?
(Cuts in) What is cheering about the news? Has anything changed to positively add to the quality of life of the average Nigerian? Are you experiencing any? We cannot be hearing news on social media, on papers or from the media houses without the news reflecting on the life of a typical citizen. Despite how the economy is boosting on paper, just take a typical life of not even the poor, but a middle-class in Nigeria today and see how they are complaining, so what is the use of the economic figures or indices booming in theory when it is not reflecting on the life of an average Nigerian? A typical businessman will still tell you his struggles, what hardships they are facing, that things are not working, that government policies are not favourable to them or to anybody, so what biggest economy are we talking about? I don’t think there is anything to cheer about, we (Nigerians) are the ones feeling the suffering, so if what the government is claiming to be, the biggest economy, is not rubbing off on us positively, of what use is it? For me, it is the usual news on papers, you just don’t bandy economic statistics, and figures around because you want to impress the people. What you claim must reflect on the lives of Nigerians, if it does not, then forget it. It is news on paper, perhaps to shore up an image, it is not real, it’s just like a sort of film.
The Federal Government is considering giving amnesty to the Boko Haram insurgents. Do you see it as a welcome development?
If you want to compare them to the Niger Delta struggles, the Niger Delta fighters had a purpose for their strong agitation or fight. I was part of some of the amnesty plan or moves for the Niger Delta during President Yar’Adua’s time. You can see that the Niger Delta people are suffering, their lands destroyed, there is a lot of injustice going on in the Niger Delta and they had no other option than to voice out their pain with their action. If they did not take that action maybe, by now the entire region may have perished and there will be no human there. What I want to bring out is that the Niger Delta fight was for a purpose, it was a genuine cause, but what is the purpose for the Boko Haram killings? Any time I am reading about the Boko Haram insurgents it pains me. I saw the names of some soldiers in a death roll, to be executed because they said they were running away from the battlefield or something like that, that they were not obeying the laws of the military in battle times, that the soldiers were not patriotic, all such reasons. Most of the soldiers ran for dear life because they don’t have ammunition, they don’t have the latest firepower to face the insurgents while the insurgents are said to have superior weapons, is that proper? Why don’t you make available all that they need during the battle? How do you expect the soldiers to feel when they see that the people they are fighting, the people that are killing them and killing Nigerians too, are being offered amnesty? Some of them given the scholarship to go and study abroad, how are they going to feel? These are people like us, they have families and have their life to live too. They are sacrificing their own life for the country and all you need do is to encourage them, give them up to date firearms to fight with, take adequate care of their welfare, including that of their families, but are we doing that? We have seen the brutality of the Boko Haram and their evil, their killings, sprinkling blood everywhere. I ask if they are real humans. Why will the government think of investing in people like the Boko Haram? Why amnesty? We can have a kind of diplomatic talk with their leaders, but those that are already caught should be made to face the law. You want to leave such kind of people in the society? They are already condemned human beings that have hurt the society so much, they don’t deserve the amnesty privilege. Whoever brought that idea, I have been criticising it and I am 100 per cent against it because they are very inhuman to live among humans. The genesis of Boko Haram is the Almajiri system and if Nigeria did not stop this hypocrisy of saying, they will support the almajiri arrangement, we will continue to be in this mess. Let every child go back to their father’s house and any father that sends his child to Almajirinchi should be jailed. We have to call a spade a spade, this is hypocrisy. Why will you give birth to a child and send the child out to beg, saying that the government will support them, it is wrong and we should stop supporting such. If you are supporting the Almajirinchi which is the same group that gave birth to Boko Haram, you are encouraging insurgency not only now, but in the future too. You are directly or indirectly encouraging terrorist activities. Imagine a child, some even three years of age, growing up on the street with no love, no food, no means of survival, just begging to live. Anything that is handed to him, he will grow with it because nobody taught him the proper way of living, he will be brutal and the society will suffer for it. You can’t give what you don’t have. The country is already suffering, no good system, no good education system, no good health care system and now with the hypocrisy of government they are supporting Almajirinchi, every child should go back to the father’s house, that should be the rule.
Most Nigerians are of the view that politicians which you are part of are the problem of the country. How do you react to this?
I may not say I share this view totally, but to an extent. Let me be open with you, people like myself, joined politics not because we only want to be called politicians, I joined politics because that is my passion and I know there are few others in this category. I always tell people that I am a born activist, but as an activist in my nation, I will not lie to myself, no matter how much I am earning I can never impact much as I will want to do on the lives of typical Nigerians, especially the poor. But if we continue to say that politics is a dirty game then how can we make the changes we need if good people do not join to take the clutches of leadership? How long are we going to allow bad people to continue to take charge? It is for this reason that people of my nature are joining so as to make a difference. If we continue to play politics the old way what new stories are we going to tell? Who will make the needed changes if good people continue to shy away? I usually tell people that being good or bad is not related to any religion, to any tribe, to any category of business or profession. No, in every religion, every sector, in every category of life there are good and bad people and we all have choices to make. I am encouraging young people to come and join politics and not to have the views that politics is a dirty game. They should come and contribute their quota; they should come and bring fresh ideas, make a difference with modern thinking. We should be in politics to tell people, let’s do it differently because they have been making mistakes, they have been repeating it and it’s time to tell them that it’s enough. Throughout my life, I have been trying to push for the change from the social media and through some other activities, but I came to a certain reality and told myself that talking and criticising is over, I must be part of it and that is why I joined to help create the needed impact for change and make a difference with others of like minds. With the little one has, we are on the journey as far as one is alive; it is a sacrifice that must be made if the desired change will come. I did not join politics just to be part of the number, no, I am here to make a difference and it is only time will tell. It is not all about winning an election, I am here to tell people what is right, we are here to play the right political music and people are soaking into it, knowing what we should do right, becoming conscious of whom to vote for, etc, it is only a matter of time things will change because we cannot continue this way. Let me tell you that in 2023, no incompetent person will come out to sweet-talk Nigerians again because Nigerians now know better and have started to identify people with competence, giving their antecedents. We want to create something different, we want to create a new breed of politicians with the people at heart, we want to create a paradigm shift in politics and you can’t achieve that by staying outside and saying politics is a dirty game. You have to be part of it to make the desired change. Angels will not come from heaven to fix the system for us, it is people like us that believe in doing things differently and if we persevere, we will be victorious in the end and this country will be a destination. We may not have the bunch of money like some political fat-cats have, but we must stay on to play our part because God is our strength.
What do you think should be done to encourage more women into politics?
Well, we are already doing what we are doing, but you cannot just drag somebody to do what he or she doesn’t believe in. There was this interview I read which was granted by the late Sir Tafawa Balewa to a white reporter and he said in that interview that they did not stop the women from voting, but that the women themselves did not want to come out to say they wanted to vote, that was immediately after independence. So, that is the same thing that is happening now. It is only a few of us that came out to say, yes, we want this, we can do it. You can’t give what you don’t have. All we need is just to keep telling women that they can do it, carrying them along and boosting their confidence. You identify those that have what it takes to do it and you encourage them the best you can and tell them, let’s do it together. I know a lot of men that will never allow their wives to be in active politics because they will tell you that the politicians will carry their women from them. So, the first interest must come from the woman before you assist the person because you cannot force an unwilling horse. If the women are truly willing to be part of politics they should come out and I am very sure that a lot of ladies like myself will be willing to support and carry them along.
Do you support the saying that women are their worst enemy in politics?
Yes, it’s true and it is not in politics alone. We are, most of us women, always see others as a threat especially when they are successful and I don’t know why. It should not be so, but all thanks to Western education because we are now coming into reality that if we don’t stand behind each other we will not make the expected progress. So, a lot of women are now coming to that reality that my sister can never be my enemy rather we have to work together. Some women feel intimidated by the presence of others, but we are on it, we are in a new Nigeria and a lot of women are trying to help one another, stand behind each other and by the Grace of God, we will get it right in the near future.
Do you care about which region will produce the next president of Nigeria in 2023?
No, I don’t really care, but I may say I care somehow too. There are a lot of unaddressed issues in this country. Let’s take the Igbo for example. I am a person that always want to play it fair, so if we must be fair to all, I think if the Igbo must bring out one person they can call their own and present the person to the entire country, it will be proper to give them that chance, for fairness, for equity sake. The opportunity has been there for them, but they never claimed it, if we believe in one Nigeria and I stand for one Nigeria and love my country and want everybody to be given their rights. We must feel that this country belongs to all of us because the way we are today we are sitting on a time bomb and issues must be well addressed. There are agitations, yes, but if there are others the Igbo feel they can back if they cannot give the country one person for them to vote for, then they can support any other person outside their zone whom they think is equally competent. I believe in competence, I believe that this country needs to be rescued and we need a very competent person for the job. We are at a critical stage in this country that we need to be careful of whom to choose to pilot the affairs of this country because anything can happen to this country, so we must not get it wrong this time. We need a competent hand and if the Igbo cannot give us the person, I don’t care where the person will come from so far the person is competent. It must be someone that will merit it and a person that can rescue us from where we are today.
What is your take on the creation of a regional security outfit like the one in the Southwest code-named Amotekun?
I don’t see anything bad about it. It is because the Federal Government has not lived up to its responsibility. I don’t see it anything that will bring about disintegration as some people would want us to believe. If the Federal Government is strong and doing what they are supposed to do you will not hear all these noises today. Have we ever heard such kind of thing before now? If your house is burning and nobody wants to help you, will you not help yourself? Amotekun just went ahead with even the approval of the government and you ask yourself why they took such a decision? They know where the shoe is pinching; they just have to find a measure to protect their own at least. I am commending what the Southwest did; let them protect their self, because the government is not willing to protect any one of us. You cannot travel from Abuja to Kano now on the road because nowhere is safe. If I have measures to assemble my own security outfit today, I will not hesitate to do it, so that I can be moving around freely in the country.