More governors should join Ngilari in prison
By WILLY EYA and TUNDE THOMAS
Former Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Abubakar Tsav believes that the embattled acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), Ibrahim Magu may not be confirmed by the Senate because some interests have ganged up against him. The retired Police boss said that greed and the quest for wealth are the major challenges facing the nation. In this interview, he speaks on various issues including the incessant clashes between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in Benue State.
Many issues bother the average Nigerian today; how do you feel about the state of affairs in the country?
Yes, there are issues; there is hardship in Nigeria and government has promised to reduce the suffering of Nigerians but we are still waiting for it. The hardship has not come down yet and there is general insecurity in the country. Also, there is a situation whereby several government agencies are not obeying court orders. The situation is affecting the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari.
Though we all know about the situation of things in the country before he assumed leadership. Corruption has become more or less the order of the day. It had become part and parcel of our national life.
By that time, corruption was so embedded in our social life that some Nigerians viewed corruption as a norm.
But thank God, today things are changing. Thank God for the new change mantra – Nigeria was gradually going down the slope that time but now things are looking brighter for us, and the era of impunity is over – people are now developing a new attitude and orientation toward corruption. Nigerians are now being more careful and cautious.
At a point, the EFCC almost became a toothless bulldog, but now the fear of EFCC is the beginning of wisdom. While commending Buhari’s administration for this new order, one must also praise the man at the helm of affairs in EFCC, Ibrahim Magu; he has been doing a good job. We thank God that there is no more hiding place for looters again as they are now being exposed, arrested and prosecuted.
Just last week, one of the closest associates of Buhari and Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai passed what seemed like a vote of no confidence on the administration. He said some key cabinet members of the present administration are incompetent, hence their actions or inaction as the case may be, are adversely affecting the government. What is your reaction to such a damning verdict by a core loyalist of Buhari?
We expect that there should be cabinet reshuffle. When you put so much work on one man, there is little he can do. There are many capable hands in Nigeria that if they are brought on board, they would do a good job for this nation. You can see that corruption is fighting back. Some people who are in authority and who may have soiled their hands in the past are fighting back to rubbish those fighting corruption.
Cabinet reshuffle is long overdue. It is long expected. As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing to write home about the present cabinet. Members of the cabinet have not been impressive. Some of the present ministers are dead woods. They should be given the boot.
Buhari should inject fresh blood into his cabinet. He should look for competent and experienced Nigerians to work with him. He has just about two years to the end of his first term, and there are still a lot of expectations from Nigerians that he should deliver.
The President and the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo have shown their commitment to turn things round for better for Nigeria, but in doing this, they need a dynamic and committed team to work with, and this is why Buhari needs to reshuffle his cabinet.
I admire the excellent working relationship between the President and the Vice-President. The Vice-President has demonstrated that he is reliable, loyal, and level-headed, especially as shown by his actions when he served as Acting President when Buhari was away on medical vacation in London. The president should delegate more responsibilities to the vice-president while he gradually recuperates.
A major issue now is the killing in Southern Kaduna; you are a very senior retired police officer and well versed in security matters, what is really the problem in that part of the country?
The hatred in that part of the country by the people of the North and the Southern Kaduna indigenes has been there for a long time. The Southern Kaduna people are pushing their own side of the story and the Fulani people are pushing their own side of the story. It is very difficult for us to believe who is telling the truth. And crime has also evolved into the whole situation in the affected area. What I expect is that people should come out honestly and sincerely without any ethnic bias and say exactly the problem so that we can get solution. To always pursue your own position or view is not good. People want to know what is actually happening.
Do you agree with those who insist that this spate of violence allegedly involving the Fulani herdsmen and farmers in different parts of the country is happening because Buhari is in power? Some justify this position by saying that when former President Goodluck Jonathan was there, we did not have this level of violence from the herdsmen. Some say that Buhari’s body language is fuelling the crisis?
I agree with that position because when Jonathan was there, these things were not happening. The problems of the Niger Delta Avengers were not there when Jonathan was there; the Fulani/herdsmen crisis was not happening at all. They do all those because they feel Buhari is from the North and he is a Fulani man. Again, they are doing all these because Buhari is fighting corruption. Some people are doing everything including instigating crises to frustrate the anti-corruption fight.
But what really has happened to the monolithic North? With what is happening in Kaduna, is it correct to say that the North is no more one?
What is happening in the North is like what is happening in other parts of Nigeria. People are now too greedy and everybody is fighting for his own stomach and what he would get for his family. That is the cause of the problem. When they steal money and they are sharing it among themselves, you would not see them fighting or instigating fight. Nobody would fight if they are sharing the proceeds of corruption. Now, everybody wants to get whatever he can get. People have forgotten God almighty and that they would ever die. There is hardship and everybody is struggling to get whatever his hands can reach. It is very sad that some feel they would not die and they do anything they like.
There is a school of though which believes that Buhari has good intentions for the country but a cabal has hijacked his government and has made it impossible for him to deliver on promises he made to the people of Nigeria. Do you agree?
A lot of people have been complaining about the cabal but I have not confirmed that because I am not close to Aso Rock. However, there is a possibility that a cabal actually exists around Buhari.
What do you make of the various ethnic agitations in the country?
If there is justice in the country, if there is a level playing field and there is rule of law, there would not be all these problems. If there is equity, and justice in the country, the country would be in peace. But in a situation where you regard some people as sacred cows and others as scapegoats, there can never be peace. In Nigeria, some people seem as if they are above the law. If people are pushed to the wall, that is what you see. If you cannot help and protect some people, they would devise a means of trying to help themselves. That is what I perceive as the problem. If there is fairness and justice, there would be unity.
Do you believe those who insist that the North is the problem of the country? Some argue that because the North is benefitting from the present structure of the country, they want the status quo to remain.
The North is not the problem of Nigeria. There is suffering and hardship in the North too. The problem of the country is greed. People are very greedy. Many people in Nigeria only think about themselves and their families. Some people want to have everything including what does not belong to them.
Of recent, news coming from Benue is usually very unpalatable. From your vantage position as a retired police boss and security expert, what is really the problem in that axis of the country? Some go to the extreme of saying that there is an agenda by the Fulani to annex the state?
I have said it before and I want to say it now. The government should convene a commission of inquiry to get to the roots of the problems between the herdsmen and farmers. It is only God that knows the truth but now, everybody is drawing the rope towards his own side. Telling the Fulani to leave Benue is against the constitution of the Federal Republic because anybody can live anywhere in the world. Only a commission of inquiry would truly determine what is happening. The problem would stop if a commission of inquiry is able to establish the root cause of the problem between herdsmen and farmers. The fear I have is that our people are also living in Taraba State. Suppose you chase them out in Benue and those in Taraba also chase your people out, what would happen. People must be law abiding and obey the rule of law and that is the only way the problem can be solved. There should be laws and application of those laws to stop the crisis. Anybody who perpetrates violence must be arrested and prosecuted. Such cases should not be delayed. If you drive the Fulani herdsmen from Benue, they may go and come back again. I am not supporting any of the parties but how to solve the problem and bring about peace in the affected areas. When you see some of the young men and women slaughtered by the herdsmen, it is very sad indeed. There must be some reasons for all these problems. That is why it is important for the establishment of grazing reserves, so that the herdsmen can be moved away from where the farmers are operating.
With the way things are going in the country today, what are your greatest fears for Nigeria?
My greatest fears are in the areas of insecurity and corruption which is tearing the nation apart. If the situation is not checked, our children and the coming generation would be in real trouble in this country.
Do you think that Nigeria would stay together as one indivisible country and corporate entity?
It is a possibility. This is because a lot of inter-marriages have taken place. Southerners have married from the North and Northerners have married from the South also. We have become one and our children do Youth Service to further that cultural integration. Many Southerners are based in the North and doing their businesses. There are also Northerners who are based in the South and doing their businesses. So, those who say that they are going to break away, it is going to be a terrible thing for all of us.
Buhari is fighting corruption but some say that the anti-corruption war is selective?
Many officials of this government are members of the APC. Some of them defected from the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP). Some were governors before and they are now in the National Assembly. When they were governors, they enjoyed a lot of immunity and whatever they did then in office, they were free from prosecution. Now that some of them are no more governors, they do not have immunity again, so they could be prosecuted. But as a defence, now that they are in the National Assembly, some of them have conspired not to clear Magu, the acting EFCC chairman. They are doing that to evade prosecution. Some of the APC members were those who have stolen from the country; many of them were part of the people who shared money during the last general elections; some were part of those who shared money meant for procuring arms to fight insurgency and they are afraid that if Magu is cleared, they would face prosecution. That is why Magu is going through the problem he is currently facing at the National Assembly.
What is your take on the issue of medical tourism with huge sums of money always leaving the country to enrich the economies of other nations? President Buhari just came back from the UK where he went for a medical vacation. Shouldn’t the government invest such money in building a standard world-class hospital in the country?
I agree with you that such medical tourism should stop. They can use that money to replicate the hospitals they patronize abroad. If they are going abroad, what about those people who have no access to travel abroad for medical treatment? So, they should just be left to die because they cannot travel abroad to get medical attention. They can build such standard medical centres in Nigeria so that anybody who falls sick would go to such places. The situation, I must tell you, is very discouraging.
Having retired as very senior Police officer and once the Commissioner of Police in a complex state like Lagos, what would you say is the problem of the Police? What is the difference between the Police of yesterday and today?
During our time, we were loyal, hardworking and we enjoyed the job. We were not out for corrupt practices. We were not in the profession to make money. We carried out our duties to the best of our abilities. We were happy each time an accused person was prosecuted and convicted but now, it is a different ball game. Everybody is looking for money. Some of them now have houses everywhere in Nigeria.
Having been a police commissioner in a rich state like Lagos, you must have made a lot of money. Seriously speaking, are you really that rich as some people would like to believe?
If I were rich, I would have built a house in Abuja but I do not have any house there. Any time I travel to Abuja, I stay in a hotel. And if you go to my country home, you see the kind of house I am staying in. I was not that kind of police officer. I was not out to make money but to do my job. I am not rich but I thank God.
On the road to 2019, what do you see?
On a general level, President Buhari is trying his best but at the state levels, some governors are misbehaving. When the APC won the elections, people were happy and they expected a lot of change. By then, a lot of the PDP members started defecting to the APC. Many have taken their greed to the APC; that is why we are having problems and that is why you are hearing that some people want to form a new party.
My advice to Nigerians is that they should imbibe the fear of God. We should all know that no situation is permanent and that we shall all die one day. When we would die, we do not know but we must surely die.
How do you see the conviction and five years jail sentence handed former Acting Governor of Adamawa State, Bala Ngilari?
Ngilari’s conviction will send a strong message to other public office holders that it is no longer business as usual. It is to tell that the day of reckoning and accountability is now here with us. I expect more ex-governors to join Ngilari in the prison. I expect more looters to be sent to jail.
Sending looters to jail will serve as a kind of deterrent to others.
My appeal to Mr President is that our prisons should be renovated to accommodate more looters – there are worst looters than Ngilari and I know that very soon they will also be convicted. The looters should prepare for new life outside the confines of their luxurious apartments. Ngilari’s conviction is a good omen for our democracy. His conviction will strengthen our democracy. It will help our democracy to grow. Ngilari’s conviction has once again shown that era of impunity is over.
More prisons should be built across the country to accommodate looters.
There has been an increasing clamour that the federal government should release the former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki, and Nnamdi Kanu from detention for peace to prevail in the country, what do you think?
Those saying that are enemies of Nigeria. Those calling for release of Dasuki and Kanu who are currently on trial for various offences against the state don’t wish Nigeria well.
The charges preferred against both Kanu and Dasuki are grievous ones. Those calling for their release are trivializing the issue. When people commit offence against the state, they should be made to face the music to serve as a deterrent.
Look at Dasuki, somebody that was alleged to have tampered with funds meant to acquire arms and ammunition to fight insurgents now allegedly diverting the money for personal use and electoral matters; does that not amount to betrayal of trust?