The National President of Arewa United Consultative Forum, Alhaji Shuaibu Ado Dansudu, has allayed the fear being expressed over the influx of northerners into the Southern part of Nigeria despite the subsisting inter-state lockdown directive by the Federal Government.
Dansudu, who described the migrating northerners as economic refugees, said that the Arewa community in the South has adequate machinery in place to fish out visitors with questionable backgrounds.
Dansudu also spoke on other national issues, including the fear of the North over COVID-19, the ruling APC, the anti-corruption war, as well as government’s handling of COVID-19 battle.
What do you make of the decision by some governors to lift the ban on religious gatherings in their states while others are also considering following suit?
I will say the move is a commendable one because when you look at the partial easing of the lockdown so far, there are some gatherings that are not as organized as what is obtainable at religious gatherings and if such gatherings could be allowed despite their lack of proper organisation, how much more religious settings that are very organized. For instance, let’s look at the gathering in the markets which operate from morning till 3’0clock in Lagos, for example. The number of people there are far more than the people you are likely to see in a church or in a mosque at a time. Besides, you cannot compare the level of orderliness and the organisation in religious settings to those which we see in markets. In the market, there is constant exchange of items from person to another; this makes it more dangerous for people in the market than the people you can see at a religious centre. In addition to this, the people you see in a mosque or a church are most likely to be people within the same community, but in the market, people come from far and near, including the highly endemic areas of the states. I will say it is a welcome development to lift the ban on religious gathering, but my advice is that it should be properly regulated. People should worship within the stipulated time and leave; not to go there and remain their permanently.
There has been influx of northern youths into the states in the South in the last few weeks despite the inter-state lockdown. What can you adduce this to?
The influx of people into the southern part of the country is due to the difficult times we find ourselves. It is as a result of the hardship and the poverty in the land. Militancy and insurgency in part of the North have crippled the northern economy. These people you see moving down here are economic refugees because when there is no peace, a development that has grounded the economy of the North, people are bound to go to places where they can earn their living. And when you look at the northern part today, you will know that the lack of peace in most parts of the region has made life difficult for the people of the region, hence the desperation to migrate to other parts of the country, which they consider relatively peaceful and where they live and feed. The level of poverty in the region is high and I see it as a major threat to the people of the region than COVID-19. That is why I frown at the plans by the authorities to focus their COVID-19 efforts in Kano. Kano’s major problem is not COVID-19, it is poverty. Why would they choose Kano in the whole world? We are not in support of that move because we suspect a foul play in the whole arrangements.
But considering the recent massive strange deaths recorded in Kano don’t you think the choice of Kano looks more appropriate?
The number of deaths recorded in Kano is child’s play compared to what they recorded in China, Italy, Britain, France and America. So why Kano?
I think it is because those who died in these countries you mentioned died of COVID -19, but in the case of Kano, what is responsible for these deaths is yet to be established.
Kano is already under investigation over the incident of strange deaths, but the decision to concentrate COVID-19 battle and other efforts in Kano is what we will not concede to. The experience of Pfizer where Kano turned out to be the guinea pigs is still fresh in our memory and we will not subscribe to a repeat of that. Recently, we heard that some people came to some schools in Kano and injected the children and before they knew it, a lot of them suffered paralysis and the people ran away. We are of the view that there are ulterior motives behind the decision to target Kano. COVID-19 is not Kano’s major health challenge. There is tuberculosis, asthma , Malaria and other health issues. Why are they not fighting these diseases with the same strength and fervour they are battling COVID-19? There is large scale poverty in the North. Hunger is biting harder. These are areas where the North needs urgent attention, not COVID-19. We are not saying Coronavirus is not real, but there are more behind it.
Apart from the fear of spreading COVID-19, there are concerns that the influx of northerners to the South may worsen the security situation in the South as members of Boko Haram may hide under the cover to infiltrate the region. What are the Arewa leaders in the South doing to fish out those with criminal intentions among these people?
Before now we have measures in place with which we ensure that people with criminal intentions do not find their ways into our domains. We know where Boko Haram came from. Most of them are from Borno, Yobe and part of Adamawa State. We know the tribes of the people who are mostly members of this group. And also where these tribes normally settle when they come to the South. Already, we have one of us who is the chairman of the community and we also have civilian JTF in the community, which collaborate with SSS and the Nigerian Army and the police. So, anybody who comes here is thoroughly screened. We will ask him questions about where he is coming from as well as his mission. And before such a person can be admitted into the community, we will do our background checks on him from where he claims to be coming from. If we find out that he is a criminal, we will hand him over to security operatives, but if he is a clean person, we will admit him. So, there is no reason for fear over northerners coming into the South.
How will the people back home be able to identify if he’s a member of the dreaded group?
It is very possible because what we do is to make sure we are able to locate the village from where the person comes from. And it is typical of our people to know everybody in their village. Just as it is easy for a baale in Yoruba land to be able to identify every family in his domain, so it is also easy for the village head in any northern village to know every family in his domain. So, there’s no way a criminal element from the North will escape being fished out. We know the areas people from these tribes are likely to go so we have adequate measures in place to fish them out. Because of language barrier, they only go to areas where their people are. So, there is no way we will not fish out the bad eggs among them out before they constitute themselves into a major security threats.
How would you assess the government effort at containing the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria?
It is very obvious that the government still has a lot do to win the war against COVID-19. Nigerians, however, deserve commendation for their role in the fight against the virus. I said this because despite the obvious flaws on the part of the government, Nigerians, to a very large extent, demonstrated high level of obedience and patience. The only area the government would have compensated Nigerians’ obedience and patience would have been in the area of giving them the much talked about palliatives. But then the government failed woefully because less than two per cent of the nation’s population benefitted from their palliatives. Politicians hijacked the entire process and turned it into political package for members of their parties and their supporters. It happened that way because this government does not have a team. Or, I should say they are still learning how to rule. The whole arrangement was designed with gaping holes which were thoroughly exploited by those in charge. To worsen the case, there was no watertight monitoring mechanism. This accounts for the turn of event. Some even diverted the palliatives and sold it without anybody getting to know about it. Perhaps, two out of 100 Nigerians got the palliatives. This is the area Nigerians will be eager to see how those who mismanage the COVID-19 resources will be dealt with. Not those spurious allegations against people like Orji Uzor Kalu. My advice to EFCC and the government is that they should not waste tax payers’ money on the case anymore because nobody can vindicate any man who God convicts and nobody can convict anybody who God decides to vindicate. Orji’s victory at the Supreme Court is divine so any attempt to subject him to a fresh trial will amount to nothing short of wasting the nation’s scarce resources because I don’t see them succeeding. They have suffered and humiliated him a lot. Nigerians are not interested in Orji’s trial anymore because the people know why they are hell-bent in humiliating him.
It is obvious that you are not really pleased with the way the government went about the issue of palliatives. Where would you say the government got it wrong?
When you have a government which does not listen to the people, this is the result such government will always get. I really pity the All Progressives Congress, APC, because all the flaws we are noticing here and there about this government are going to rub off on its fortune in the nearest future. So, Asiwaju Tinubu has a whole lot of work to do if the party is to make any meaningful impact in future. All those who worked for the success of the party were left in the lurch. The president and his vice, who are the major beneficiaries of the party do not even remember those who worked for their victory at the poll. So, my advice to Tinubu, even though he is not going to contest, should ensure he finds a way to appease those who worked for the party, but who have not been compensated. If he fails to do so, I doubt if APC will ever smell the presidency again in this country.