By Sunday Ani
Former member of the Katsina State House of Assembly, and currently, the Senior Legislative Aide to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yusuf Shehu, has declared that the only solution to the growing insecurity in the country is the immediate establishment of state police across all zones in Nigeria.
The former lawmaker, who represented Daura State Constituency between 2011 and 2015, said the number of police officers as well as military personnel in the country is not enough to provide adequate security for the entire country.
In this exclusive chat with the Daily Sun he takes a look at the recent abduction of over 300 secondary school boys and about 80 girls from an Islamiyya school in Kastina State, banditry and other criminalities in the North West as well as insurgency in the North East, why they persist, the way out and the almajiri system in the north among other burning national issues.
The level of insecurity in Nigeria has left many with the conclusion that the country is at a cross road; others believe Nigeria is at its precipice. With the recent abduction of over 300 boys from a secondary school in Kankara, subsequent abduction of about 80 girls from an Islamiyya school all in Katsina State and the general insecurity across the country, do you agree with the submission that the country is at a crossroads?
Indeed, I agree that the country is at a crossroads in terms of insecurity in the country, especially in the North West and North East because it is becoming unbearable. It has got to a level where the government must critically stand up to it. Communities must also rise up because it is only when they team up with the government that these criminals can be flushed out. Obviously, people are suffering; Nigeria is losing lives and people are losing their properties. People can no longer sleep comfortably in these areas. Government needs to come up with new strategies on how to contain insecurity in the country.
Talking of adopting new strategies, Nigerians from all divides as well as the National Assembly have all called for the sack of the service chiefs following the deteriorating security situation. The president even acknowledged that they have done their best but their best is not enough, yet, he has refused to sack them as Nigerians have demanded; what should Nigerians do in this precarious situation?
People look at insecurity from so many perspectives. We are only giving the president time because he is a former Army General who has fought many wars and knows better than many of us as far as insecurity is concerned. I am sure he is being briefed from by all agencies involved in security matters. The call for the sack of service chiefs from notable leaders, security experts and other Nigerians have been going on for over one year now and the president has not responded to the call. I believe he must have some information which we don’t have. This is not about one or two persons; it is about all well meaning Nigerians. This is not a conventional war; it is a kind of a guerrilla war. The locations of most of these criminals are not known. They strike and run into the bush or hide in the communities and that is why, in my own view, people must wake up and give detailed information on their operations and location, as well as where they live, even within the communities. You know, they mostly live in the forests or bushes because they are mostly Fulani. They know the terrain more than anybody. They were born and bred there for centuries. So, it is not easy for a security agent from another place like Anambra, Kano, Adamawa or Enugu to come in and just enter the bush just like that. So, there must be an insider within the communities that will show them the terrain. I know that the Air-force can do something there but I don’t know what is happening with our Air-force personnel. They must critically participate and collaborate with the land army so that they will be able to find out their locations and flush them out.
As far as I know, Katsina State, which has now become the official home of bandits doesn’t have many forests. So, when you say that the bandits hide in the forests, I get confused. Are there forests in Katsina?
The Daura Emirate which you know very well is plain and clear. It is not always Sahel, so it has no forest. But, there are almost seven local government areas in Katsina State that have very thick bushes. Their terrains are very harsh. They have mountains, big trees and even dangerous animals. For example, local government areas like Safana, some parts of Dutsin-Ma, Dan Musa, Faskari, Kankara and Sabuwa, have thick forests. These areas are bordering Zamfara State. There is a bush called Rugu Forest; it has been there for centuries. It connects Zamfara and even some parts of Sokoto State. This is where the Fulani have been living for decades and they know the area very well. It’s a very hard place to enter. If not for the democracy that we now have and which has been able to provide access roads to these areas, there are so many areas that you cannot even go with motorcycles; you can only go there with donkeys. So, the place is very difficult and the criminals operate within these areas. These few local government areas I mentioned are where these kidnappings are happening. The bandits can hide within the mountains or on the tree watching you and you will not know that they are seeing you. So, that’s why the security agents and the communities must collaborate to adopt new tactics to be able to flush them out. Even if they are going to clear those forests for people to be safe and do their farm work freely, I don’t have any problem with that; so be it.
Are you in any way suggesting that community policing is the only way out of the problem?
Yes, I am supporting the community police because Nigeria is too big. We don’t have enough police officers, and the army is also not enough to provide maximum security for the entire country. Something like Amotekun in the South West must be created to support the military for peace to return to Nigeria.
It is believed that banditry has become so lucrative because the majority of the youths in the North live in abject poverty and misery; how true is that?
It is not true; the youths in the north are not in abject poverty. We have farms in the north and many of them are into farming and doing well. I think the best word will be ‘lucrative’ because of the benefits the criminals get by abducting people. kidnapping has become a lucrative business for the people in those areas because most of their victims are local people most often. So, the moment the kidnappers call their victims’ families for ransom, they respond within two to three days without even alerting the security agents. So, the kidnappers have come to enjoy the business such that the atrocities have become widespread now. The problem is not poverty because we have so many things to do, especially our farm work. With our farm works, we will survive very well without even depending on the government. By the way, the present government has created many ways of cushioning the effect of poverty in the North and even in the country at large. You can go to the bank or even use your phone to get a loan and start your business. So, there are so many skill centres in the north. In Katsina State, for example, there are so many skill acquisition centres where people are trained on small businesses and handiwork and our youths are participating actively.
Some other people have argued that this army of criminal gangs in the North that are into insurgency, banditry, robbery, and kidnapping among others are products of leadership failure in the North; the people have been neglected for so long. Do you agree that it is a leadership failure by the northern elite?
Yes, this thing has been on for so many years. Of course, Nigerian leaders have neglected these areas for so long; I agree with this. But, this insecurity or insurgency is almost a global issue now. Most of the nations in the world are having one kind of insecurity or the other, ranging from religious to ethnic and social issues like poverty, and Nigeria will not be an exception. You know that we are living in the top Saharan area of West Africa. In Niger, Chad and Cameroun, we have these issues but our own in Northern Nigeria is different because it is mostly kidnapping and armed robbery. And, it is specifically in few areas like Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna and some parts of Niger States. This is a new kind of insurgency that is taking place; we don’t know these things before. So, I will attribute it to a failed leadership. You can imagine a Fulani man who only knows of his cows, now becoming a terror; kidnapping somebody and demanding millions of Naira as ransom; somebody that doesn’t have N10,000 is now requesting N10 million from an innocent person. Can you imagine that?
There is an insinuation that there is internal division in the North, which has pitched the Fulani against the Hausa and the local people; is it true?
No, it is not true. These people are very few; they are not over 5000 people who are causing this havoc across the affected areas. There is nothing like division, religion or ethnicity; it is all about lucrative business.
The former Emir of Kano, Sanusi 11, kept shouting about the dangers of the continued almajiri system in the north and the need to get these children back to school but nobody listened to him. Do you think the banditry, insurgency, kidnapping and other criminalities going on in the north have anything to do with the almajiri system in the north?
No, it has no relationship whosoever with that. The Almajiri system is another matter altogether. The almajiri system involves people within our communities; people that are not enlightened and people from our neighbouring countries, especially Niger Republic. The Almajiri system is a matter of centuries; it has religious connotations. However, what the Emir said is true. We are in a modern age and we need to rise up to educate our people both in formal and religious education.
There are also insinuations that most of these criminalities are committed by foreigners. Are these bandits Nigerians or do they come from neighbouring countries, like Niger?
To be honest with you, they are 90 percent Nigerians. I don’t know about the Boko Haram insurgents in the North East but most of the bandits here in Katsina State and in other states in the North West are Nigerians. Fulani has a history of migration because they move from one place to another. They may be from neighbouring Kano State Fulani, Zamfara State Fulani or Sokoto State Fulani but they are indigenes; they are Nigerians.
2023 is still little far but politicians have started making different moves and permutations. Some leaders in the North want power to remain there beyond 2023. Leaders in the South West are also scheming to clinch the presidency in 2023. But, the leaders in the South East are insisting that for equity, justice and fairness, they should be allowed to produce the next president after President Muhammadu Buhari, since the South East remains the only zone that has not produced the president since the return of democracy in 1999. Where do you stand in all of these? Shouldn’t other regions support the South East to produce a Nigeria president of Igbo extraction in 2023 for justice, equity and fairness?
If we are to be nationalistic, the South East must have their slot. But, in Nigeria, there are two big political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), so it depends on which party. For example, I was one of the members that participated during the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN) merger which gave birth to the APC, and one of the merger agreements was that after President Buhari, it would be the turn of the South West. This is the APC arrangement that I happened to be one of the participants. So, that of the PDP, I don’t know. Maybe, they will also follow their party’s zoning arrangement. Even though it was a collective arrangement, it is not final per se because democracy is a game of numbers. Anybody from any part of the country can contest for the presidency and if he is qualified and Nigerians accept him, they will vote for him irrespective of the zone, tribe or religion. This is the way it should be but because democracy has not matured to that level in Nigeria, the zoning arrangement should continue for the time being.
In other words, you are saying that power should move to the south?
Yes, power should move to the south because the north is in position now.
Are you also saying that if it moves to the south, the South East should be allowed for equity, justice and fairness; even though the APC merger agreement is that it should go to the South West?
Yes, the APC arrangement is that it should go to the South West, but, because the South East has not produced the president in almost 20 years of this democracy, I suggest they should be supported.