From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
In this interview, President General of Mzough-U-Tiv, Chief Iorbee Ihagh (CP rtd) stressed the need for the presidency to quickly restructure the country saying that’s the only way to solve the many problems currently confronting the nation. Ihagh who is the Chairman of the three major socio-cultural Organizations in Benue blamed President Muhammadu Buhari for the heightened spate of Insecurity in the country.
Recently, the President brought up the issue of grazing sites again across 25 states of the federation. What’s your take on this?
I think the President should know that he is no more a military head of state. He is now democratically elected. There’s nowhere that he can just go and get a land. The land is not for him. If he wants a land for instance in Benue State, he has to go through the governor who is the custodian of Benue land. So, if Buhari is talking about opening grazing sites in 25 states, he should know that Benue will never be part of that at all and we will fight this with our last blood because it is unconstitutional. The president has no right over our land and he cannot set up a committee to come out with reopening grazing sites in 25 states. No, it’s wrong. He has to ask for land from each state and those who wish to give their lands can give. Others who are not willing should not be coerced or forced to give their lands. I also want him to know that he is not elected for one ethnic group but for the entire Nigerians. We know where he is going and we know that he has agenda but none of these is going to work because Nigerians already know where he is going. In Benue State for instance, there’s no land because we are all farmers and there has not been any grazing site in Benue State. So, we cannot allow anyone create or establish any grazing site here. My advice to him is that he should better put a stop to the things he has started before it further put the country into another round of trouble. He starts this and when it doesn’t work, he brings another thing all for a particular ethnic group. It’s not helping his people, neither is it helping Nigerians as a whole.
We heard recently that the President’s home state, Katsina got a whooping N6billion to establish ranches. Don’t you think Benue deserves to be given even more?
Yes, I think Benue deserves to be given even more because we started this issue of the ban on open grazing and even went ahead to enact a law to support it. When we started, people thought that we didn’t love Buhari. Benue people love Buhari and voted overwhelmingly for him. But the truth should be told. We are in a democracy. While we appreciate the fact that the President has by that singular act proved that the call for ranching which Benue has been advocating is just, he ought to have sent money to Benue too for the establishment of ranches. Benue has suffered too much because there’s never a day that people are not killed here. So, I want Buhari to know that other states also need money to establish ranches like he has given money to his home state for the same purpose. He should treat all the 36 states equally and not just selecting one because he comes from there, that’s wrong. He should try and ensure unity in Nigeria; he should stop bringing policies that tend to divide us. Nigeria is already on life support. If he wants Nigeria to remain one, then he better does the right thing because the people are not happy with all these things he is doing. For me, I’m saying all these things because I love Nigeria and I want this country to be one. Benue is the food basket of this country and I wonder where is the land for grazing sites here when you don’t even have enough land to cultivate crops to feed Nigeria.
It seems there is no way out of this quagmire. What do you think can be done to redeem this situation?
I think that President Buhari doesn’t want Nigeria to have peace. He is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of this country. We’re shocked to hear that he has an order that they should stop insecurity in five states of the federation. For God’s sake, what now happens to the other 31 states? As the Commander in Chief of the whole country, he ought to have given the security agencies an order stopping insecurity in all states and not just to give states alone. As you all know, even these security agencies are not answerable to state governors. You see AK-47 with herdsmen and you turn your face the other way but when you see an Idoma man or a Tiv man with ordinary knife, it becomes a big issue. Buhari should know that his constituency is Nigeria and not herdsmen or Katsina. He is the President of the whole country and the earlier he begins to see himself from that angle, the better for all of us. All Nigerians voted for him and so, we want him to carry us along and not destroy us in every aspect. For now, all his policies are against Benue and he doesn’t give us things that are meant for Benue. So, if he wants Nigeria to be one, then he had better change his tactics because we know his agenda now. It will be very bad if Nigeria forcefully disintegrates during his tenure. I hope he gets to hear this and change his ways because if he continues like this, I’m sorry because there might even be no elections. I have been attending meetings of the ethnic groups in the country and I hear how all of us are talking. Nobody is happy with what is happening in this country. There’s never a day that Nigerians are not mindlessly killed in this country. And the sad thing is that nobody cares. America can go to war for just one soul. But here, everyday, many Nigerians are being killed yet the security agencies will keep deceiving themselves and Nigerians that they are in control of the situation. But the next day, the same thing happens.
What’s your take on the recent call by Aminu Masari for Nigerians to defend themselves?
Since there’s nobody to defend us, I think we just have to defend ourselves. So, I support that call by Aminu Masari for Nigerians to begin to rise up and defend themselves. Government exists primarily to defend property and lives of its citizens. But then, we have nobody to defend us now. It looks like Nigeria has become a failed state, I’m sorry to say this but that’s the reality on ground. So, it is high time we all rise to defend ourselves because we have nobody to defend them any longer. You see Nigerians being mercilessly killed in the Northeast, Northwest, Middle Belt, Southeast, Southwest and South South and nobody says anything. Just look at how bandits seamlessly invaded the Nigerian Defense Academy and carried out their operations killing three Army officers in the process without any resistance at all. This is the height of it all. It now shows that we are all at the mercy of God in this country. And that’s why this call for self defense is very important at this time. In the 21st century, somebody is saying that your business should not affect mine and mine shouldn’t affect yours. Is that too much to ask? If you travel overseas, you don’t see chickens, cattle, ram and the likes on the streets. But the same white men come here and when they get to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on their way to Abuja, sometimes, they get stocked for hours for cows to pass. So, should Nigeria be retrogressive? No. Why don’t we go overseas, see those good things and then come and implement them here. And if somebody is saying my business should not affect yours and yours should not affect me, that person is helping you. When Ortom started, many people felt that it was because he hates Buhari. And Ortom doesn’t hate Buhari. He only tells him the truth. As President General of Mzough-U-Tiv and then the Chairman of the three socio-cultural Organizations in the state, I have to say the truth.
What is your opinion about state police?
I have always been saying that in this country, the only thing that will help us is the state police. We have copied the Presidential system of government from the United States of America. I studied for seven years in America. In America, you have the city police, you have the county police and you have the state police. There are 50 states in America. Forty nine states operate on counties. It’s only the state of Louisiana that was brought from France in 1803 that has Parish. But it’s the same local government. So, each of the counties has the county police. There are city police within a state. You also have state police and then, you have the national guards. When the problem cannot be solved by the Police at the county, the city, the state, then the national guards comes in. Army don’t go in at all. So, that is exactly what we need. Sadly, the police here say they are not answerable to the governors which is wrong because the Governor is the chief security officer of that state. Like the Governor of Katsina has said, he is the Chief Security Officer there. So, whoever is there should be answerable to him. But when they say they are not answerable to him, that is wrong. So, we need the state police.
Because of all that are happening around us, many Nigerians are calling for restructuring. What kind of restructuring do you want to see in Nigeria?
Well, the restructuring we are talking about is something like we had in the past. When we were run by the regions, everything was fine. For instance, we have six geopolitical zones, we could build on that. Let the zones be independent. Coming back home, in the Middle Belt, we don’t want to be called North central any longer. The late JS Tarka came up with the idea of Middle Belt region and because they didn’t like us, they didn’t give us. Instead, they went and gave the Mid West who didn’t even ask for it all because they wanted to make Awolowo weak. They went and created the Mid West region. So, we want those things to come back. Ours should be Middle Belt region and not North central. We have nothing in common. They only use us when they feel like or when they want something and after that, they dump us. But we won’t allow them to do that to us this time. So, restructuring is the only thing because everybody is fed up. I have my wife. If she doesn’t want to live with me, she should go.