The worsening insecurity across the country has been described as a worrisome development that must be quickly tackled to prevent it from snowballing into a bigger crisis capable of threatening the nation’s democracy. Former Minister for Transport, and member, PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Ebenezer Babatope who stated this in an interview with TUNDE THOMAS described the present situation as a ticking time bomb that must not be allowed to explode. He also spoke on other national issues.
What’s your reaction to the dethronement of Muhammed Sanusi as Emir of Kano?
It is very unfortunate. It is a pity Governor Ganduje has exercised his political power this way. Although Ganduje is my good friend, we were together at the national conference organised by former President Olusegun Obasanjo but honestly speaking I’m shocked by his action over Sanusi’s deposition. He shouldn’t have done it because I believe that events leading to Sanusi’s removal have more to do with politics than any other reason. It is even more unfortunate that the peace efforts made by many eminent Nigerians were not allowed to work. Notable Nigerians including former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar had intervened but sadly all their efforts didn’t yield the desired result.
To depose, and banish him to Nassarawa state is very unfortunate. The war between Ganduje, and Sanusi is a fall-out of the dispute between the former governor of Kano state, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso, and Ganduje, and I believe Sanusi was caught in the middle. Sanusi is not strange to controversies; you remember that he was also in the eye of the storm when he was the Central Bank governor when Goodluck Jonathan was in office as President? He made some allegations then which became controversial, and he had to be suspended by the federal government that time. Sanusi should have learnt his lesson ,and avoid any controversy when he became Emir of Kano. Sanusi may have his faults but certainly he didn’t deserve to be deposed, and by deposing him, Ganduje had not shown respect for the traditional institution.
Insecurity has become a major source of worry for many Nigerians especially with the festering Boko Haram insurgency, what’s the way out?
I don’t think the challenge is insurmountable. The insurgents can be crushed using the right approach, and strategies, and this is what the federal government should have done. What I even expect President Muhammadu Buhari to have done is to seek the counsel of elders, traditional rulers, and other stakeholders across the country to proffer solution to the insecurity challenge. No one single individual has monopoly of knowledge, and seeking counsel or advice of others is not admission of failure. What Nigerians want is peace. Nigerians are worried about the continued bloodletting. Nigerians are not happy about the lives being lost almost on daily basis. We can’t continue like this or pretend that all is well. There is danger ahead if we continue this way. If this insurgency lingers, and the killing of innocent Nigerians continue unabated, Nigeria may suffer implosion, and this is why Buhari as the Commander-in-Chief, and his service chiefs should tackle this insurgency with the urgency it deserves. It is unfortunate that many innocent Nigerians are being killed. Insecurity has become a big threat to the nation’s democracy. It has become a ticking time bomb, which can explode anytime. This is why I like the new security outfit in the South-West, Operation Amotekun. Such outfit should be replicated in other geo-political zones across the country to complement the work of Police, and other security agencies. We don’t pray to have another Somalia on our hands in Nigeria but if the present ugly trend continues, another Somalia may be looming in Nigeria but we pray that such will never happen.
Your party, the PDP has been accused of laying the foundation for some of these crises including insurgency, that some of these challenges confronting Nigeria today started when PDP was in power, and that APC only inherited them, how would you react to that?
I don’t agree. Although some of these problems might have started rearing their heads when former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, and Goodluck Jonathan were in office, but they were not as grave as what we have today. Then even during that period, both Obasanjo, and Jonathan organized national conferences to address some of these challenges. These conferences including 2014 national confab made some recommendations on the way out of the quagmire, and the way forward for us as a nation but this APC led government has not deemed it fit to implement any of those recommendations. Up till now the report of 2014 confab has been gathering dust. Why Buhari and his party APC have not deemed it fit to implement that confab’s report still baffles not only me but millions of Nigerians. The report deals with so many issues affecting the polity including restructuring which many are clamouring for now. So why is APC, a party that promised Nigerians restructuring in its manifesto afraid of implementing the 2014 confab report? This is to tell Nigerians that APC is not sincere on restructuring. It is obvious that many people in APC want the status quo to remain.
Then why should APC and its apologists be giving excuses? Did they not promise Nigerians to tackle these problems if Nigerians voted them into office? Now that they are there, and are now seemingly being overwhelmed by these challenges, Buhari and APC leaders should admit that they’ve failed. They were not elected into office to be giving excuses. Giving excuses is an admission of failure.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent call for restructuring has been generating mixed reactions with some Nigerians hailing him while others described him as a hypocrite for failing to restructure Nigeria when he was in power for eight years…
Cuts in…Rather than crucifying Obasanjo, I believe he should be hailed for making the call. For Obasanjo, a seasoned civilian, and military leader to make the call , that means restructuring has become an issue that can no longer be swept under the carpet. For those berating him for failing to do so when he was in office, it is unfair to do so because the situation in Nigeria during that time is not as explosive as what we have today in the country. If the situation was this bad that time Obasanjo would have carried out restructuring. Obasanjo is not somebody that can be cowed or intimidated. The situation in Nigeria today is terrible. No genuine patriot will keep quiet in the face of terrible things going on around the country.
A former Head of State, Gen Yakubu Gowon recently declared that Igbo have been marginalised for long, and following his declaration, some Nigerians have suggested that one of the best ways to address the issue is for the two major political parties, APC ,and PDP to zone 2023 presidency to the South-East, what’s your position on that?
What Gowon said was absolute truth. If we are in a country that runs proper federalism or true federalism, by now we should have produced an Igbo President, and I support those who are saying that the Igbo should be given the chance in 2023.
I read the interview by Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, and the reactions trailing it over his declaration that Igbo won’t have a sense of belonging if denied 2023 presidency. Igbo have a right to demand for their rights. They are part and parcel of Nigeria, and therefore should have a sense of belonging. I know Ezeife very well, he will never support Igbo going out of Nigeria. My take is that Igbo should stay back, and fight for their rights, and many of us who believe in equity, fairness, and justice will support them. We have many eminently qualified Igbo that can do it, so why deny them the opportunity to serve their fatherland? And since other zones have also had their own turns, so why not Igbo?
As a lawyer, what’s your position on the use of technicalities by the Supreme Court to resolve electoral matters as was done in recent cases at the apex court?
Honestly speaking, Supreme Court must organize itself. It is dangerous for the apex court to continue using technicalities to adjudicate on election matters. Look at what happened in Osun state gubernatorial matter, using technicalities, the Supreme court gave judgement the other way round just because a judge was absent on the day of the ruling.
But we must respect the Supreme Court, and that’s why I didn’t support all appeals by some affected parties urging the Supreme Court to review its earlier rulings and judgements in some recent cases. We should continue to support the Supreme Court because it is the highest court, and the final authority over any issue.
Some members of the National Assembly have suggested granting amnesty, and foreign scholarship to repentant Boko Haram members but that suggestion has been generating mixed reactions, what’s your take on that?
How can anybody come up with such idea? That suggestion is too sentimental, and Nigerians should reject it. Again, how do you identify repentant Boko Haram members? What is the justification for giving such scholarship, and amnesty? These are people who have murdered, and still continue murdering innocent Nigerians. Such group of people doesn’t deserve that kind of offer. The idea should be outrightly rejected. It is an insult. Those who suggested the idea, are they being considerate and sensitive to the feelings of the families of the victims of Boko Haram insurgency? If they are, they would not have come with such provocative suggestion. There are other issues of national importance that should occupy the attention of those lawmakers