Presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP),Yunusa Tanko, during the 2019 general elections says the clamour for power shift in 2023 is an arrangement of only one political party out of the whole lot. He insists that competence and credibility should override zoning in elections. He also spoke on other national issues.
There are increasing calls for the resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari over the escalation of insecurity across the country. What is your take on that?
I think the call made by Senator Abaribe, the Minority Leader is throwing back what President Buhari said to President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014. Buhari, who then was a presidential candidate told President Jonathan to resign if he cannot take care of the security of lives and property; that was when Boko Haram was uncontrollable. So, the call for Buhari’s resignation is just like a throwback statement. Five years after Buhari said he will tackle Boko Haram in six months, the terrorist group is still wreaking havoc. Senator Abaribe is merely saying that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander, that may be, Buhari should consider resignation as an exit option too since he cannot find solution to Boko Haram. The statement is apt, it is an awakening call on President Buhari to remember some of the things he promised Nigerian people that he will do, but which unfortunately till now, he has failed to deliver.
Nigeria is rated the third most terrorised country in the world by the 2018 Global Terrorism Index (GTI), what is your take?
The major thing that brought down the President Goodluck Jonathan-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government in 2015 was the issue of insecurity. In fact, President Jonathan was then accused of masterminding such issues against certain parts of the country and that accusation was sold to them and they bought it, which was the reason why that particular section of the country didn’t vote for Jonathan when election came. That is exactly what is happening now and unfortunately, President Buhari has not learnt any lessons from the Goodluck Jonathan incident. He too has not shown enough motivation as he has been negligent on it. The Nigerian army has been accused of not doing enough, President Buhari must as a matter of urgency retrace his steps and do something because already, the insecurity in the country is at an uncontrollable level.
There are calls for complete overhaul of the security infrastructure and sack of the service chiefs. Do you think that will help?
I support the sack of the service chiefs. Most of these current service chiefs were part of the old brigade that served under Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, the now late former Chief of Defence Staff. In fact, the present Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai was at a point Director of Procurement at the Defence Headquarters (DHQ). So, if there are accusations and counter accusations on the use of funds and equipment that were bought or not bought at that, Buratai will be part of it. Presently, there are also accusations by even members of the Nigerian army that some of the things meant for their welfare are not being delivered. All these things are accusations, but where there are accusations, as a way of checks and balances, changes should be made. Moreover, the tenure of these security chiefs has expired and they have served extra years, so, why continue to leave them in office? We have to let them go and bring in fresh hands. By letting them go, it will rejuvenate the minds of the fresh ones coming in that they have a task ahead of them, that the former ones have made their mark and that they too have to make their own mark.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has accused the Federal Government of being fundamentalists without bombs. How do you see that?
As it is, Boko Haram are achieving their aims of creating enmity between Islam and Christianity. How can you justify abducting the President of CAN and beheading him? They want to make people believe that there are some people against a particular religion and its working for them. The truth about this is that many Moslems are being killed too, I have been a victim. In my state, Kano, Boko Haram climbed the minaret, in front of the Palace of the Emir of Kano, from where the call for prayer is made; it is one of the most revered places in Islam, but they climbed it and from there they were shooting people with their machine gun. If this had been somewhere in the South that is predominantly a Christian state, all hell would have broken lose. Boko Haram is achieving their aims of creating problems between the Christian and Islamic religions and if we allow this to fester, Boko Haram will collapse this country. There is internal and international conspiracy in this problem. Nigeria is surrounded by former French colonies who have not been too friendly, so it is easy to bring in weaponry. But, we as a people are not tackling the matter, we are allowing it to grow. As it is now, the situation is dicey and the government of the day does not realise there are people who are trying to use them to bring Nigeria down. The government is creating room for doubt and losing the confidence of the people because they are not running an inclusive government. Had it been the government of the day is carrying everybody along, I can tell you that we will be able to fight this insurgency irrespective of where they come from.
The General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Abdulmalik Bulama Biu said ex-Boko Haram fighters who surrendered stands a chance to be elected Nigeria’s president. We also see palatial living conditions of these ‘repentant’ terrorists compared to the squalid conditions law abiding citizens of Nigeria live in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. What does that say?
That is a wrong way of encouraging the Boko Haram to surrender if that was the aim of such statement. Rather, it should have been that anybody that surrenders will be granted amnesty since a precedent has been set in that direction. Such a statement can be misinterpreted for negative and continuous attack which should not have been made in the first place. Our officers should be very careful with the kind of statement they make. The conditions of repentant terrorists and the IDPs is very sad. I believe every Nigerian has a right to be treated well based on the provisions of the law; that kind of preferential treatment could be misconstrued to be an encouragement for the negative action of the Boko Haram. If the government is trying to show its magnanimity, then it should be seen to be providing all the needed infrastructure and job provisions with genuine fight against corruption where the people will see an all-Inclusive governance for the benefit of the people.
The Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II blamed insurgency on poverty, which he also traced to polygamy and lack of education, which is widespread in the North. What is your reaction?
I agree with the Emir of Kano totally on the poverty and lack of education and on the issue of polygamy which is in our culture and religion. Our religion allows us to marry up to four wives in order to reduce prostitution and give more women the right to have a husband, but we are expected to treat all the four wives as equals, even if not in terms of love, but in terms of care. Our political and religious leaders must be able to provide job opportunities to take care of poverty. That is the way to go, the master-plan must be there. We have a population of about 200 million in Nigeria which is enough to transform the country. China is billions of people and they are producing and exporting several things to Nigeria. The government should create an enabling environment; we need power, Nigerians are not lazy, I’m sure with the enabling environment, Nigerians will be able to produce and even export things, but unfortunately, the government of the day has not provided a road map.
There is an agreement on power rotation between the North and South, but as 2023 approaches when power is expected to come down South, some elements in the North oppose it. What do you say about that?
I believe in merit and ability to perform more than any other thing. I am also an advocate of a president of Igbo extraction because of the ability of our brothers from the South East to come out of the civil war determined to transform their misfortune into wealth. That to me is an ability and capacity. But I don’t believe in this rotation because you may have somebody who has the capacity in the North but then because of his location, you will favour someone in the South without capacity to lead or vice versa. Moreover, that power rotation arrangement is an agreement of one political party out of the 92 political parties we have. Are you trying to tell me that because of the agreement this political party made, we should not for vote credibility, so also if the agreement is that the presidency will go to the North and we find a credible candidate from the South, we will vote for him. What we need is a credible hand whether from the North, East, West or South to lead this country.
Why is it that whenever restructuring is mentioned, the North becomes uneasy?
There is a vested interest in this restructuring. In the South West, it is that they want to control their resources and all economic resources in the area. Then in the South East, it stems from their being annihilated, even when other geopolitical zones have a minimum of six states each, they have only five. For the South South, it is about resource control, they believe they have the resources and that they are not befitting from it, so they want resource control to manage the income themselves and contribute to the centre. In the North Central, for them, it is about religion and infrastructure development. In the North West which many see as those not interested in restructuring, they have large population and it may amaze you that at some point, restructuring may even end up benefiting them because of their population. So, everybody has his reason for pushing for restructuring; people feel that there is an underlying interest that is not the interest of Nigeria as a whole. It has even got to a situation now where some parts of the country are forming their own security outfit, that is unconstitutional, but at the same time it is a needed security outfit to take care of their own people. The daughter of Afenifere leader was killed but look at the North East where whole villages have been sacked and yet nothing is done about it. For me, we should sit down and look at how Nigeria is structured and how it is affecting every part of the country. We should make sure that every part of this country has a fair deal.