Marcus Nkire, Abuja
Alhaji Idi Farouk is a former Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and politician from Kaduna State.
In this interview, he talked about his time at the agency, security issues and plans to empower the youth in the near future.
Last year, you turned 70 and President Buhari hailed your loyalty and service to the nation. How has life been with you?
Well, I am almost 71 now. I am healthy and hearty. I give all praises to Allah.
Can you please clarify your political allegiance, are you in which party at the moment?
You know one gets to a point where one is an elder statesman or an elder so to speak. And as I speak , I can say that I am neither here nor there politically. I more or less make assessments on candidates who I think can make a difference in the society and then I throw my weight behind them. Because as you are aware, the PDP and the APC are more like one. Most people who have been in the APC have been in the PDP in the past and vice versa.
Generally, how would you rate the Buhari administration?
Well, in terms of security, I think it can be better and it should be better. The same for the economy because right now in the country there are only three classes of people, the very rich, the poor and the very poor, there is no middle class anymore. And it is unfortunate that it is the poor that is taking care of the very poor. But In the aspect of foreign affairs, I think we are beginning to see some changes dropping in.
After the first tenure, what are the things that need to be tweaked?
Well, So many things need to be done and that is why it is more like a carry over. Like I said, the economic entrenchment and security problems began from the first tenure and I think those two are the major things that need to be improved upon.
Are you in support of the community policing strategy – Operation Amotekun – in the Southwest?
I really have no problem with that. In the past we’ve had Hisbah and other state security initiatives, but this is the first regional security set up , where six states came together to present “Operation Amotekun” and that is why it has created a widespread debate otherwise these things have been going on at individual state levels. But I guess now with the intervention of the APC national leader, Tinubu, who advised them to discuss with the Federal Government so that they can make visible the grey areas. Overall, I think it is a good thing for states to have a security network to assist the national security.
The debate surrounding it is that some political actors are saying that it is unconstitutional and may lead to further crime in future?
Do not forget that the constitution grants powers to the governors to secure lives and property. So, I don’t see anything wrong with it.
As an origin of Kaduna State, what is your take on the protracted religious and tribal crisis in the state. Last year it led to 66 people being killed few hours to the general election?
I don’t think that it is still ongoing. That is a long time ago. All these things are still part of the insecurity problems we are facing in this country. It is not about tribe or religion, It is about criminals performing their stock in trade, not only in the North, but all over the country. A Fulani herdsman is a peaceful person, so any one that you see carrying gun is a criminal and they should so be identified without putting a tribal or religious tag on it. You will be shocked to hear that so many tribes are members of criminal syndicates.
Do you think that the North should come together and set up a security solution just as the West did; do you think it would serve them well?
These criminals are unrepentant and all they do is kill, steal and maim. If they come together and do it constitutionally. It might be a good solution.
How would you assess el-Rufai’s administration so far?
There are things that he is doing now that I appreciate. For instance, the road infrastructure and of course, removing all the illegal structures on the highways. He also has a programme on ranching which expands from culture to business and I’m happy with that.
As a former DG of the National Orientation Agency, how do you respond to suggestions that the agency is ineffective and how can we actually get the best out of NOA?
The problem when I was there and after I had left is still the same which is the lack of adequate funding. The truth about it is that at all times in our lives we will require NOA, because most of the things that we see going wrong in the society is requiring the mandate of the NOA which is to give the proper orientation, educate and mobilize people to do things that are right.
But we only hear about them during elections?
That is not true. Because they are in 774 locations in our local governments and also in 36 locations(states), including the FCT, that shows you that they’ve got the spread. Everyday the NOA is involved with one thing or the other. For instance, in the case of Lassa fever I can assure you that they are present in the areas that are affected, educating and sensitizing people on how to avoid it. So, it is not only during the elections that you see them. In the aspect of funding, it might not even be the fault of the Federal Government because even the elections we talk about, the money allocated to NOA for election matters is not nearly enough. However, INEC has a huge chunk for mobilization and orientation, but that money for INEC should be drafted to NOA because they have the staff strength and outreach to mobilize the people, unfortunately, that is not the case. I think another problem is the wrong application of funds. Naturally, monies for enlightenment and orientation in every MDA should be given to the NOA because they have the expertise, even if they choose to hold on to it the NOA must be involved in designing the package and taking it out to the people because it is their area of specialization. So, all of these are why the NOA is not as vibrant as it is supposed to be. I believe it is the duty of the government to review the process and fund it appropriately.
On a personal and political level, what should we expect from you this year?
You recall that when I was with the NOA I had a youth orientation programme called the Apparent which I’m still involved with. Also, I hope to develop a reality TV show which is called Super-Farmer, it’s aimed to address the youths to see farming as a business and we are doing this with Obasanjo Farms and P.I. Consults ( Peter Igho ) and I’m sure it will hit the screens by the second or third quarter of the year. This package is beyond TV coverage, we are going to establish a 360 degree media coverage that will open doors for a lot of unemployed youth. We are partnering with NTA, AIT, FRCN, Raypower, Silverbird and Multichoice to ensure maximum national reach on radio and television.
Finally, can we see an Igbo President in 2023?
I am glad that you asked this question. There had been no time that the Igbo have not been allowed to contest an election, but politics is about participation and the power to rally. Do I want an Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa president, the answer is no. I want a Nigerian president, it could be an extraction of any tribe in Nigeria. My call to those advocating for Igbo presidency is that the only party that has rotation in its constitution is the PDP. I know this from a source book I did during my time at the NOA, which contained the manifesto and constitution of all the political parties. In terms of rotation, it is only the PDP that guarantees that, but that is not to say that any party has stopped anyone from contesting on the basis of their tribe. Like they have also not stopped women and the youth from becoming president. However, for you to be the president you have to be the candidate of a political party. To be a president you have to rally the people and gain national consensus. You will recall that even President Buhari tried four times before he gained national consensus and eventually became president in 2015. I believe the question is do I want a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction? Sure, why not.