By Daniel Kanu
Ummah Getso is a bold, intelligent and courageous political activist. She was the vice presidential candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) in the 2019 Presidential elections.
Getso has remained focused and dogged on her mission and vision for Nigeria.
She is currently worried about the Nigerian condition as she engaged Sunday Sun in this illuminating exclusive chat.
She spoke on Nigeria at 61 and the pains, restructuring, open grazing, tension in Anambra and her fears, among other sensitive national issues. Excerpt:
Looking at Nigeria at 61 and the journey so far, what is your take on it?
Even if I say that I am satisfied it will look like a kind of hypocrisy, because not even within Nigeria, even the international world know that Nigeria is getting sicker, if there is any word like that, things are just getting worse by the day, we are sinking. If we look at the journey from independence down the lane it is always like; yesterday is better than today, so it is like our expectation will always get below the previous one, it is like getting backward, you look at the prices of commodities, you look at our security system, you look at our economy. We are now in a situation where, economically Nigeria cannot even be defined, so it is no longer I or an individual assessment now, what we are passing through now is beyond an individual, Nigeria needs a kind of emergency fixing because if we continue the way we are today, I don’t think Nigeria will survive the disaster that is ahead. It’s a matter of time and that time will not be long. Any country that is not security conscious the way we are going because security-wise we are not fit, economically we are not strong, we are not fit, we are not taking the economic lane, the process that we should take…it is always one blunder after another. Nigeria is always deteriorating as if there is no solution.
Where exactly do you anchor the failure?
Well, to a large extent it is the failure of leadership, but who are producing the leaders? It’s not that Nigeria does not have an option or do not have a kind of fall back …is it that we cannot try something different because there are options out there? If we are sincere, if we have a sincerity of purpose and we start doing things not as business as usual, but doing things differently, stop being selfish, start being patriotic, something for the nation, getting committed genuinely for the building of the nation. But the truth is that Nigerians have lost faith in their leaders, but again you ask yourself do you blame only the leaders. That is where the followership also needs to wake up. We are all at fault, the leaders, the masses and in making Nigeria better it’s not about one man doing it. No one man can do it and the earlier we realised this, the better. We all have to come together and change our old mindset, see how we can change the status quo because if we have not seen Nigeria as a kind of everybody’s project I don’t think there will be any good result. Look, if somebody is voted into an office and he comes back to the constituency and the people boo him at the entrance of the village or even throw stones at him (but not to kill him), it will send a signal that he did not do anything and you see them sitting up to do the job. But if when they come back, you rush to their houses, even when they did not perform, you welcome them, celebrate them, sing their praises and all that and they give you let’s say N1, 000 and you take, we lose at the end of the day. It is sad we celebrate them based on what they have in their pocket and the peanut they offer to the people in the name of money. We don’t respect people if they have not assumed office, we don’t respect people if they don’t have money in their pocket or bank account. So, it’s very unfortunate, Nigeria should be a project of everybody.
Are you in support of power shift to the South?
As a nationalist, as a patriotic Nigerian, I believe in leadership based on merit, leadership based on capacity and we should allow leaders to emerge based on what they can offer, but most of these people that are having Nigeria at heart how many of them have the capacity to come to power in this country? We all know that nobody can assume power in Nigeria without the approval of at least four stages. Number one, you need to have the support of the masses, you have to be popular, you have to be visible, people need to know you, the reason people are jumping to the big political parties. Number two, you need to have money. And the money that we are talking about is not just that of child’s play, when it comes to winning election not only in Nigeria, but in Africa, we are talking of huge amount of billions and that is more than one man project. That is why we need the support of other Nigerians. Number three, you need an international body, international contact and recognition because there are some places or projects you need to push to be approved at that category and the final one is that you need to be fit for the position, that is where merit and others come in. But the way things are going in Nigeria who can pass this entire category apart from most of them that have been there already? That is why most new entrants are finding it difficult, particularly when mixed with our level of crude politics. But why I will not want to kick against rotation is because of our geographical setting. If it is going to be based on majority votes there are some sections or parts of the country that are stronger than others by population. That is why some people are crying for marginalisation and agitating, so if we do not go through this zoning of a thing, I don’t think some tribe or perhaps ethnic groups will come to power. So, sometimes no matter how you want to do somethings right in Nigeria you also need to weigh other options because we need to be fair to each other. I prefer if we have leaders based on merit, but the way things are going in this country this zoning has been there and it’s like what has been keeping the country going. There has never been a time Nigerians have lost confidence in leadership than this time we have seen President Buhari not giving us what we thought he is going to give us. His leadership is disappointing. The PDP government was business as usual, we know it was not a common man investment, so they have the right to do whatsoever they wanted to do, but this time around we voted for Buhari thinking that he is going to be the solution or provide the solution, but we are disappointed. Even myself I have never thought of standing in the frontline of leadership struggle, I have never been afraid of leadership like what I am seeing from President Buhari, he doesn’t have all that we expected from him to change things. Things are even getting worse. I have never been afraid of being in government, or being in leadership until I saw somebody like President Buhari who everybody had fear for as well as respect for not performing.
What is your take on the debate concerning extending amnesty to bandits?
Whosoever is talking about amnesty to bandits is probably one that does not know the havoc they have caused and are still causing. These people are so crude to the extent of killing, raping, if you have been listening to the testimonies of those people who have been kidnapped, their horrific experience, you will not talk about amnesty. I don’t think it’s something to talk about. How can you think of extending amnesty to those animals because they have lost every sense of human being with what they are doing, killing people with no reason, kidnapping people, brutalizing them is a means of living for them. They are saying they have repented and I ask, repented in which sense? Was it not last week we read about not less than 150 people being rescued by the army? How can you talk about amnesty when they are even recruiting and recruiting more with thousands of them in the bushes? I saw a report of them now operating with helicopters and the people are getting stronger by the day, so what is amnesty? Look if I will be in the forefront I will go out and tell Nigerians that they should come out, let’s start guiding ourselves, every village should have something like their own army, let’s start protecting ourselves because the government is no longer capable of protecting the citizens of this country security-wise.
What will you say concerning what is going on in Anambra State and the threat of the government to declare a state of emergency in the state?
What is happening in Anambra now is similar to what is happening in the Northern Nigeria because if you look at the current happenings it seems that there are some infiltrations. It is like some bad elements are putting some bad eggs into strategic places to make certain things happen based on their personal gains. For me what is happening in Anambra is not about IPOB, it’s not about the marginalisation and the likes, no, I think what is happening in Anambra is pre-planned, and we don’t wake up on time to start asking questions. It’s not Anambra alone, this infiltration is being instigated by our own citizens and this is very unfortunate and Whosoever that is empowering them, to be planting people and killing their own brothers, I wonder what is going to happen if we destroy the only country that we have in this world. People are now afraid of Nigeria and Nigeria is one of the best places to live, but see how we are turning it. Nigeria is one of the best countries to survive because there are a lot of opportunities in this country. But sadly, we are allowing people to destroy the only land we can call our own, the most beautiful place in the world. It is bad we are allowing people to infiltrate and destabilize us. I wish Nigerians will just wake up from their slumber and address this issue critically.
What is your view on open grazing?
I don’t want to say much about it because of the negative effect, the new phase the Fulani are now bringing into it. I am proudly Fulani, but I am not happy with what is happening in almost every part of the country. It started small, but I don’t know what is setting or blowing the fire, I don’t know what really happened to my people that this has continued to happen. If you look at this grazing of a thing, I could remember my grandfather, all used to send their cattle to the South during the dry season in the North and that has been the way of living in Nigeria for hundreds of years and we had no problem, it was peaceful relationship with the herders. The other day in the social media somebody was questioning the citizenship of the Fulanis in Nigeria. Nobody, Yoruba, Jukun, Igbo, Tiv, etc, we all settled at one point or the other. Every country in the world is a settlement; we all came from somewhere to settle where we are. But this grazing of a thing is something that has been here for hundreds of years as I said before. Have we ever seen anything like what we are witnessing now? Like I said on what is happening in Anambra and other parts of the country, there is infiltration. Nigeria has become so incapable that you need to visit our borders, you cannot pass through Niger Republic without a serious check, all this smuggling going on at our border is it how the border of other countries are porous? Go to Niger they have a very tight security, but Nigeria is very insecure, if you look at our borders it is something of disgrace, we are so vulnerable of any attack. You see, we have a lot of issues that cannot be discussed in the media. For me, it is not agreeing or agreeing to open grazing, but it is for the government to have clear information of what is happening. This thing is not about open grazing or not, no, it is beyond it and that is what the government must find out. Okay, what is happening in Anambra is it also caused by herdsmen? It is just that sometime we carry one topic and be discussing it and be deviating from the reality of things. Let the government dig deep and fix things right, that is the issue.
Do you support the restructuring of Nigeria?
Very well, I am in support. If Nigeria is restructured today all these petty problems, the marginalisation, name it, that the people are agitating for will fade away because everybody will be busy minding their businesses. A proper constitutional restructuring is what we need in this country, if we do restructuring properly there will be this sense of belonging and people will be earning their living and the differences we are talking of and enlarging will not be in place.
Given your position on what is happening in the country what are your worst fears?
It is the fact that Nigerians have lost hope in the country. Nigerians don’t love themselves anymore, so much emphasis on our differences. I could remember when we were in primary school, the love we shared, that togetherness, we did not remember if we had differences, we learned the language of other Nigerians and we were happy speaking them, but today there is so much divisiveness, so much talk about how we can no longer live together in the country and you began to wonder, what exactly is going on? Nothing is impossible in the Nigeria of today and you can say Nigeria is a time bomb, anything can happen. There is nobody coming out sincerely to bring Nigerians together and I hope and pray that the youths will wake up from all these lies and speak the truth to themselves and come together to save this country because the youth are the majority population, more than 65 per cent. We should come together and do something different. We should start thinking of a better future for this country and things can be fixed by the grace of God.
There is this gale of decamping among politicians and let’s know whether it’s in your plan also to shift base?
There are some factors that make some politicians to decamp because we have different kinds of politicians in the country. Some are because of greed; some are in politics because of passion. Some have good intensions, but when they weigh their party and the feasibility of realizing their dream to deliver what they have for the people they shift base if the opportunity is quite slim. But for me, some people are telling me, why don’t I jump over to a bigger party like the PDP or APC because they feel my party, YPP is a small party. But I believe in what we are doing, I so much believe in my party, the progress we are making from 2019 till now. We set a history in Plateau, we won a seat in Lagos, the way we are going in my party I know it’s not a day’s job to arrive there, but I have a lot of hope, we need consistency and resilience and we will get there. There will not be any need for decamping for me.