Mordecai Sunday Ibrahim is visibly angry with the pan-Northern socio-cultural organization, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, and the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
In this interview, Ibrahim, a politician, founding member of the African Democratic Party, ADP, and later the party’s Interim Chairman in Kaduna State after dumping the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, took on the acting Chairman of the ACF, Alhaji Liman Kwande for saying that the forum would back a northern candidate in the 2023 election. Ibrahim, a publisher of two magazines based in the northern part of Nigeria, rising to an enviable position of Chairman, League of Independent Publishers after spending over 29 years as a journalist also offered his thoughts on the Social Media and Hate Speech Bills. Excerpts:
The Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, is at it again. This group is supposed to be a social cultural forum as espoused by members of the group who have had to move out to form political alliances like the Northern Elders Forum. Unfortunately, the ACF has been talking politics for some time now. I am sure you heard what Alhaji Liman Kwande, the ACF acting chairman said recently when he told Nigerians who the forum would back in the next presidential election. He said ACF would back a northern candidate. As a northerner, are you in agreement with that decision?
I like the way you phrased your question when you said ACF is at it again. I am happy you said ACF is at it again. ACF has always pretended to be a socio-cultural organization, but the truth of the matter is that ACF is seriously political. What we have come to know over the years is that ACF was established for political purposes and it has been pursuing that agenda. Yes, I am from the geographical area called North, but the location of my zone, my senatorial district is aptly called Middle Belt and I have no apologies for that. I want to say that ACF has been very hypocritical. It has never represented my interest as a person from Southern Kaduna. ACF has never spoken for me and the area called Middle Belt. When Benue State was under heat, what did ACF say? Where were they? What did they do? When Plateau State was under heat, what did ACF do? Where were they? What did they do? Today, Benue and Taraba states are boiling over the Tiv-Jukun crisis, what is ACF saying? They are tongue tied and happy. All they are saying is “su kashe kan su”, meaning “let them kill themselves”. They have been deceiving us, especially those who belong to ACF. But I do not belong there and do not agree that ACF should speak for me. They have never spoken for me and they will never speak for me. ACF is speaking only for the core North. What do I mean by the core North? It was Alhaji Wada Nas of blessed memory that opened our eyes to scheming of northerners who say they belong to core North. When President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed an officer from Plateau State as Chief of Air Staff, Ogohi from Kogi State as Chief of Defence Staff and an officer from Benue State, General Victor Malu as Chief of Army Staff, Wada Nas said the North was being marginalized. Yet these states, Plateau, Kogi and Benue are integral parts of northern Nigeria. Do those of us who are from the Middle Belt range need any soothe-sayer to tell us the thoughts of the so-called core northerners about us? First, he said the North was being marginalized, but when we took him on and put him in a tight corner he opened up and said he meant the core North. Alhaji Tanko Yakasai supported him. We will never forget and we don’t forget. If our elders have forgotten we will never forget. By my age and status, I am also qualified to be called an elder now. At the time they said the North was marginalized, ACF supported them. I have not forgotten. Go and check the archives. So, you can see why I said ACF is not speaking for me and cannot speak for me. We know those ACF represents and ACF knows who it represents. It does not represent the interest of the so-called minority North because those so-called minority North are the actual majority of the North.
How are the so-called minority the actual majority in the North?
That’s a topic for another day. Let me just leave that one because it would be a digression from what I am addressing. Coming to your question, ACF is saying they will support a northern candidate. At what time have they ever supported a southern candidate?
Alhaji Liman said it is his personal opinion…
Look, I am taking it step by step. At what time has ACF ever supported any candidate outside the North? ACF did not support Goodluck Jonathan in 2011. It was only compelled to be silent. I challenge my colleagues, journalists and ACF to fault me. The archives will speak for and vindicate us. Come to Kaduna State. In 2011, did the ACF speak for the late Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, the then governor of Kaduna State? No. So, ACF has always been a pretentious organization pretending to be for the entire North. They will use us to go hunting and when we catch the game they take it to their house. Now, coming to the issue of the ACF saying it would support a northern candidate in 2023 that is the greatest fallacy that will ever be told. And I want to submit to you sir that it would be completely impossible or difficult to separate Alhaji Liman Kwande, acting chairman of the ACF from ACF. He might tell us that he is speaking his mind as a person, but as the acting chairman of ACF now he does not have his personal opinion. Whatever he says we know he is speaking on behalf of the core North. Excuse me, tomorrow they will say people like Anthony Sani speaks for ACF. Who? Errand boys?
I was going to ask you if…
Please, please and please. Let me make my point properly. When they are doing their real ACF meetings, do they bring Anthony there? When they will do their meeting before the meeting will Anthony be there? He will not be there. When they take their decision in the inner caucus and they now come to gather Anthony, Andrew and Jonathan and they start talking they will now pretend and make Anthony to go and speak for them so that it will have a semblance of a unanimous decision. When retired Colonel John Ubah, the former military administrator of Kebbi State who is from Benue State was Secretary-General of ACF, go and ask him; let him tell you in all honesty whether he found it easy. Let him tell you the frustrations he was made to go through. They will do their meeting inside before they will come for the real meeting where he is Secretary- General and then make him to feel as if things were going on fine. If you met Col. Ubah at that time outside you will be shocked at the things he will tell you. So, nobody can deceive us any longer. There is nothing like one North. There is nothing like one Arewa. One North died with Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir. Ahmadu Bello.
You mean it…
I am telling you one North died with Sardauna. All these people who are beneficiaries of Sardauna’s legacies are hypocrites and liars. They don’t believe in one North. They don’t. They are not working for the interest of one North. They are not working for the collective peace and good of one North. Even in the so-called core North there is another inner North. Don’t let us deceive ourselves. It is high time we called a spade a spade.
How can there be an inner North in a core North?
I will give you examples. When it is time for campaigns or elections people like Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso will never be given chance to be President of Nigeria. Go and write it down. Atiku Abubakar will never be given chance to be President of Nigeria. Go and write it down. Are you following me? All those northerners…
(Cuts in) But Kano State is also core north. Why would they deny…
(Cuts in) Excuse me. That is why I am telling you there is core north and inner north. They will tell you “dukan mu yan arewa ne, amma a arewa ma kowa ya san gidan ubansa”, meaning “we are all northerners but even in the north everyone knows his father’s house”. So what are we talking about? The truth of the matter is that…I was trying to make a point before I lose my bearing. The Kwankwasos and Atikus will never be President…
(Cuts in) Why will Atiku not be president after all he is a Fulani man…?
(Cuts in) Did they not tell us recently that he is not even a Nigerian? They brought in history to tell us that Atiku is not a Nigerian, he came from Cameroun; he is this and that. Tomorrow, they will tell Kwankwaso his real lineage. If Abacha had contested for the presidency of Nigeria he would not have won because they would have told him where he came from. All these must be sorted out if Nigeria must continue as one indivisible country and if the North must continue as the one North that Sardauna propagated. The truth of the matter is that people like Atiku and Kwankwaso have the sympathy of all Nigerians. By this I mean they have respect for Muslims and Christians. They also have respect for the Jukuns, Bajjus, Ham, Adara, Kaninko, Zuru people irrespective of your tribe or religion. But the core North and the ACF do not stand for that. So, they cannot speak for me. Anybody who cannot believe in me regardless of my faith, culture and whether I eat pork or dog meat or whatever cannot speak for me. If you hate certain things about me you don’t love me.
But there are still people from the Middle Belt in ACF; I remember vividly that Jerry Useni, the retired General was once the Chairman of the ACF…
(Cuts in) What is he there now? How did he leave? Go and ask Lieutenant General Jeremiah Timbut Useni whether he still believes in the ideals of ACF. Let him tell you from the bottom of his heart. Has he not received the bullets in this last governorship election? Didn’t he suffer it?
How did he suffer it?
You mean you don’t know? Go and meet Plateau people. Meet him and let him tell you his experience in this last governorship election; how Governor Lalong was loved and he was rejected.
But it was an election within Plateau State that has nothing to do with the entire North?
Who influenced who in this last election? Look, don’t play with this people. They have gone farther than you can imagine. As far as politics is concerned they are 1,000 years ahead of us. They are only manifesting 2023 now. They have finished arrangements for 2027 and I dare say they have finished arrangements for 2031. They are always 1,000 years ahead of you. When it is time they throw bones at you and you keep fighting over bones while they are smoothly, gently sharing the flesh. Talking about the ACF supporting a northern candidate, I ask: which North? Kwande must tell us which of the northern candidates he wants the North to support? If the presidency must come to the North in 2023 it has to be a Christian Northerner. I submit this. I am not ashamed of it. I am bold about it. Don’t call it hate speech. Call it mother speech. The way we supported Buhari is the way they should support a northern Christian. The Middle Belt is not short of presidential materials. We have the likes of Dr Obadiah Mailafiya, a sound economist; Jerry Useni, a sound politician; GT Katafs, Darius Dickson Isiaku, Governor of Taraba State, just name them. These are people that will not be partial and tribalistic. Let them stop arrogating to themselves this fairness when they are not fair.
What can you say about the state of the nation? As far as you are concerned, can we have another northerner in the saddle in 2023 going by the performance of the incumbent who is a northerner?
I must confess to you that I am deeply pained to have worked for the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2014. I am full of regrets. The only thing I wouldn’t do is that I won’t cut off the finger with which I voted for Buhari because I will be cheating myself. Do you know that in 2014 I fought my uncle, fighting my uncle in the sense that I came short of insulting him. But I fought against him in all ramifications. He was for Goodluck Jonathan and I was for Buhari because we were tired of the mess we thought was happening in Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and we thought they were bringing, as they claimed, “maigaskiya” or “Mr. Integrity”. Now, we know he is “Mr. No Integrity” because we have been inundated with lies and so many failed promises. Take a careful look at Buhari’s cabinet you will see that, if I am not exaggerating, about 90 per cent of them are from the North. And if you talk about the North, core north and from the core North, inner North. How many Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Plateau, Southern Kaduna northerners are in his cabinet? I am telling Nigerians now that there is an inner North. What do I mean? What is the portfolio of George Akume from Benue State as a minister? Errand man? Special Duties? What is the portfolio of Pauline Tallen from Plateau State? Women Affairs? What was she before? She was Minister of State for Science and Technology. Who is the minister representing Taraba and Adamawa states? Who is the minister from Bauchi State? Who is the minister representing Kaduna State? The governor of Kaduna State is from Zaria, the northern zone of Kaduna State. The minister representing Kaduna, Zainab Ahmed is from which zone of Kaduna? This is the pattern with all the states in the North that I have just listed. Section 14 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria talks about giving sense of belonging to all sections of the country. Have we been given that sense of belonging in this Buhari’s administration? When I said we I mean the people they call northern minority. Since 2015 what have we been given? When Obasanjo was there his appointment in the military was based on merit. Can we say the same of President Buhari since 2015? What has become the fate of all those who were Generals since 2015? You made one man Chief of Army Staff from 2015 till 2019, deflating the morale of other officers. The ambition of every 2nd Lieutenant and graduate from the Academy is to rise to become a General and Chief of Staff of whatever service: Army, Airforce or Navy. Have you scrutinized the Command positions in the Army? What is happening in the Federal Executive Council is happening in the military circle. We have never seen a display of nepotism, partiality in the history of this country like now. And I pray we don’t see it anymore. I just pray that by the time President Buhari will be leaving office in 2023 we shall still be having democracy. I am not sure the way he is going. He has conquered and captured the judiciary. He has also conquered and captured the legislature now. You heard what the Senate President said the other day. He said every bill Buhari sends to the National Assembly is for the good of the nation. Who said so? Is he saying Buhari is an angel? Only God, using His angels can say everything He introduces to humanity is good for humanity. I will not be surprised, for example, if the third term bill is sent to the National Assembly. That bill will be passed in less than one month.
But Buhari has allayed the fears of…
(Cuts in) Excuse me. Give me chance. But your newspaper reported that he said he was under pressure to go for third term. I saw it in the social media yesterday and it was credited to Daily Trust that APC is asking the National Assembly to allow President Buhari and the governors tenure elongation. I quickly commented that whoever lays the foundation of third term will be doing so with the life of his first son and his last born. He will be roofing it with his life and the life of his wife or wives as the case may be and will be putting the windows and the doors with the life of his remaining children because we Nigerians will come out and resist it with the last pint of our blood. Let the promoters not take the docility and complacence of Nigerians for granted. Nobody, no man born of a woman will try third term in Nigeria and succeed (banging the table). Let them try it and see. We are no fools. Nobody will amend the Nigerian Constitution to give third term to anybody. In Nigeria, when Goodluck Jonathan was in power, he wanted to amend the Constitution so that we can have one single term of six years. They started accusing him of wanting to have a third term. And this was not true because he was only in his first term. They threw it away. Now, they are asking for it because it is Buhari from the core North and the inner North. Look, that nonsense will not happen.
You are angry but Buhari’s handlers are of the view that the fruits of the president’s policies will be reaped in future?
In 2011, Buhari said he was coming to do one term. If you do not have the newspaper I will send it to you. I have it. It is Daily Trust for that matter. I have it. He said he would do only one term. But he is doing what now? He is in his second term. That is lie number one. Two, his party and himself promised to give every graduate who is an applicant N5,000 each. Later, he denied it saying it was his party that made the promise. What is the difference between APC and Buhari as president? Thank God only last week while at the NEC meeting of the APC he said he is only the president, but his party is in power. It is your word that we will use against you. These two promises are just a few of the broken promises by Buhari. I can go on and on. So, Buhari cannot be trusted when he said he would not go for third term. It is not only Buhari. It is normal for ambitious and selfish leaders to come up and say I will not go for this and that. But later he would come and say I am under pressure; it is the people who would vote that say they want me. He has said so. I read it in the newspapers and I heard him on radio and television. When he said he would not go for second term it was also on television, radio and newspapers. He is now in his second term. There is one proverb that our mother used to tell us when we were children. She would say a child that tells a lie should not be trusted; that if a child is outside playing and he screams mummy, Lion, Lion, Lion and people rush out and he smiles and says mummy I was joking, tomorrow if a Lion comes and he says mummy, Lion, Lion, Lion, nobody will come out because they will say he is joking. So, I and many other Nigerians like me cannot trust Buhari with that denial. He told us he is going to bequeath to us a good legacy of elections, has he done that? What did we see in the last elections? What did we see in the recent elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states? What happened was nothing short of war. So, I cannot trust Buhari. I cannot.
Let’s come to the Hate Speech Bill. As a journalist, what is your thought?
I hate Hate Speech and I dislike it. But the question is: what is Hate Speech? I cannot define hate speech as I talk with you. My definition of hate speech might be different from yours and so there will be varied definitions of hate speech. If we allow the Hate Speech Bill to be passed it is the government that will now be giving us the definition of hate speech and we will all be doomed. Let us even agree on one definition of hate speech; I want to quote one statement in Hausa and listen attentively. “A kasa, a raka, a tsare, in su taba ku, ku halaka su”, meaning “cast your votes, stay there, escort it; if anyone touches you, kill him”. Is that not love speech? I am asking you.
That is hate speech…
Oh! It’s hate speech? If you agree with me that it is hate speech, who is the father of hate speech in Nigeria? President Muhammadu Buhari and my boss Lai Mohammed are the fathers of hate speech in Nigeria. Do you know why I called him my boss? Lai Mohammed and I were in ACN, Action Congress of Nigeria. I know his utterances. But if we have forgotten, let us go back to 2012, 2013 and 2014 and pick out his utterances, process , assess and evaluate them and tell us whether they were love speeches or hate speeches. Like somebody amply stated; a member of APC in Niger State really; he said our party is the architect of hate speech. If you check Saturday Sun of last week at page 40 you will read what the Chairman of Miyetti Allah Kautel Hore, one Alhaji Bodejo said. Let me quote him. He said: “With hate speech law, Fulani haters are in trouble”. Oh! Okay. So, hate speech law is meant to protect the Fulani. And you want to tell us that we are one North and one Nigeria. For instance, a Fulani man pushes his cattle into my farm and eats the crops there and when I talk you call it hate speech. Oga, why are they not making laws to hang corrupt politicians? Most of these politicians get into office without vehicles and by the time they are leaving they have or can even afford to buy aeroplane. Let us make laws that would ensure that such people are hanged since Buhari is fighting corruption. The Social Media and Hate Speech Bills are meant to gag the press and keep critics like us and the members of the civil society organizations silent. As far as I am concerned these bills are preparatory to third term agenda. I trust Nigerians that the bills would die. I want to say that any member of the National Assembly, in both the green and red chambers, who is against the two bills must come out openly and identify with well meaning Nigerians who are speaking against the bills. They must come out and kick against it. We do not want hypocrites, lawmakers who will come outside and say they are against the bills, but when they get to the chamber they will keep quiet. Those bills must be shot down. They told us they picked it from Singapore. Is that the only thing they can pick from Singapore? Was it the Hate Speech Bill that Singapore introduced that made the country one of the economic giants to be reckoned with today? Nobody should deceive us. That bill should not see the light of day.