John Adams , Minna
Senator David Umoru represents Niger- East senatorial district at the National Assembly on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) . He speaks on a wide range of issues, including the security situation in the country, the crisis in the APC and the recent endorsement of Governor Sani Bello of Niger State for a second term.
The security situation in the country today is assuming a different dimension with killings everyday across the country, what do you think is responsible and its implication for 2019 election?
To start with, I agree with you that the security situation in the country today is quite bad, especially when Nigerians are being killed every day as if we are in a war situation. It is worrisome and I believed this should be of concern to every Nigerian, regardless of your ethnic, religious or political affiliations. That is why I strongly urged all well meaning Nigerians to let us join hands together and fight this insecurity.
It is not only about 2019 but the corporate existence of Nigeria as a country. However, I think part of the problem is that there has not been any coordinated approach by all arms of government in tackling this situation. But recently, because of the situation in the country, the senate called for a round table discussion with all the security agencies in the country to find a way out.
Also, I think the executive has been doing its best but certainly that best is not enough. After the Benue attack, there has been several other attacks and most worrisome is the abduction of the school girls in Dapchi, thank God they have been rescued, except the only Christian still being held which is very bad and disheartening. One would have thought that after the Chibok school girls’ abduction, our security agencies would have been more at alert but here we are again with abduction, it’s quite unfortunate.
The way things are, we cannot really have an election and claim that it is free and fair when people cannot come out freely from their houses to vote, so the implication for 2019 is quite huge.
You are the chairman of the senate committee on Judiciary and Human Rights, what can you say about the anti- grazing law being enacted by some states?
Well, first and foremost we must understand that the power to legislate lies with the National Assembly and the states houses of assembly, and by this every state has the right to make laws to take care of certain institutions and for the benefit of the people. The anti -grazing laws enacted by Benue and some other states is in line with the wish and aspirations of the people because before any law is passed, it must go through due process like public hearing and this was done with every stakeholders being carried along. Everybody, I learnt, was given the opportunity to make input and where they have the majority, it becomes law and everybody must obey it. It was an exercise of a legitimate constitutional right. Certainly every law must not go down well with everybody but the majority must have its way. People must be allowed to decide what they want.
So where do you think that things have gone wrong that we are witnessing these killings?
The security apparatus have collapsed because before the anti –grazing law, were they not killings all over the place; in fact it was the killings that made the states to enact the laws. You see, we must be sincere to ourselves in this country, some of us are from peasant farmers’ background and I have seen my parents lived peacefully together with these Fulani Herdsmen. When we were small, each time we were in the farm with our parents, we will see the Fulani with their cattle grazing around peacefully without any problem. When this thing started some were of the opinion that the people doing these things are not Fulani and I agreed with them because could it be the same peaceful people that have suddenly turned violent and killing people all over the place? Certainly no, so the question is, who are the people that the anti- grazing law has offended, is it the normal peaceful Fulani or who?
And that is why I am against the decision of my state governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello when he came out that he was donating some hectares of land as cattle colony. Who told the governor that simply because he is a governor, he can wake up one morning and say he was donating people’s land to be used as colony?
But again the question is, is it the same Fulani Herdsmen that are killing people everywhere that you want to give people’s land to so that one day they will wake up and kill everybody? In fact the normal peaceful Fulani don’t even believe in staying in one place with their cattle. So the cattle colony is not going to work, you are creating more problems with the cattle colony.
What is the way out?
Let’s be honest to ourselves and tackle this issue with all sense of responsibility without any sentiment or bias, let us sit among ourselves and find out the real problem and face it. When we are able to do that and everybody is being patriotic about it, we will overcome the challenges
Away from security issue now, it is almost three years now into the life of this APC administration, how would you described the relationship between the Executive and the National Assembly?
Honestly, I don’t know where the problem is, and I don’t know why there should be any problem in the first place. All I know is that it is not the best of relationship between the executive and the legislative arms. Ordinarily, one should expect some levels of disagreement between the two but not to this unacceptable level that we are witnessing.
Unfortunately however, it has not been good for our democracy and the system, particularly when it has been allowed to linger on for too long. This is not what Nigerians who voted for us expect from the system. But the fact is that the leadership of the National Assembly has been able to manage the crisis well to be able to do their job. What I should advice is that let the executive recognise the fact the every arm of the government is important and therefore there is the need for us to respect each other for the good of democracy and the effective running of the system.
Some political watchers are of the opinion that the crisis between the Executive and the National Assembly started from day one when your party leadership was not disposed to the emergence of the leadership of the National Assembly, do you agree with that?
No, the executive is not supposed to be comfortable with the leadership of the national assembly. The leadership is not there to serve either the executive or the party, it is there to serve Nigerians, it is the people that have elected us there that we should serve. I think what the lawmakers did in electing their leaders, is the best thing that has happened to our democracy, and in the interest of the people. We don’t want to have a rubber stamp National Assembly; it is not good for the system. Trying to personalise the leadership against the wishes and aspiration of the people will do the country no good.
In fact, don’t the executive know that you can convert your enemies into a friend? So let the executive drop any personal idea or ambition and let us work together for the good of the people.
Apart from the crisis between National Assembly and the executive, the party itself is engulfed in crisis which informed the decision of President Buhari to set up the reconciliation committee headed by Asiwaju Tinubu, why do you think there are crises in your party?
Well your guess is as good as mine. But I think the problem is that some people felt that because they are in control of the party, it automatically belongs to them and therefore others should not have some form of relevance in the party. But everybody know that the emergence of this party was not the work of one person, people came together, work very hard to ensure the emergence of this party, so why do you think those who worked hard for the success of the party and are being sidelined will be happy and let go like that, it is not possible. They will want to fight back to regain relevance.
I use my self here in Niger State as an example, with all the efforts I made to ensure the success of the party, I was suspended from the party at a time because according to them I did not pay my levy, forgetting the amount that I personally spent for the success of the party
During that period, youths and other members of my party from my zone came to my house that they wanted to see me regarding the purported suspension, and immediately they left, they were suspended from the party for identifying with me. So why won’t the party have crisis when you do t believe in those who made some sacrifices for its success.
In your estimation, do you think the Tinubu committee will make any reasonable progress before the 2019 election?
Well, one thing I know is that the national leader, Ahmed Bola Tinubu is a highly respected politician, with pedigree to undertake the assignment given to him. He has experience in political crisis management; he has seen it all in politics. However the problem now is that whether he will be allowed to perform this task, and also to get the necessary support from the aggrieved members is another thing. But let us watch how events play out in this reconciliation journey.
Let us come to Niger, tell us, what is your assessment of your party in government in the state in terms of performance?
To tell you the truth, it is a disaster, very disappointing and I don’t think Governor Sani Bello deserves second term in office because he has failed the party and the people woefully.
There is nothing on the ground in terms of performance to justify his coming back and the people know this so well.
That brings us to the recent endorsement of the governor for 2019 by your party in the state, what is your take?
Very laughable, in fact someone came and told me that the governor had endorsed the senators from zone A and C and that what about me, and I told the person that I, David Umoru don’t need the endorsement of the governor, rather he is the one that needs my endorsement. This where we are always getting it wrong, we are always thinking of election every time instead of doing what the people expect from us. We should be concerned about the next generations, what are we leaving behind for them. Education, health and every other sectors are in shambles in the state today, so the governor does not have the moral right to talk about second term. Everything has gone from bad to worst in the state today.
If he wants to come back in 2019, he must do something to convince the people to vote for him, but for now there is nothing on ground to guarantee his re-election. People are wiser now and they will definitely ask questions. The problem that I have now is that they have used ethnicity and religion to confuse the people, and this is unfortunate. It is high time the Nupe man sees the Gbagy man as his brother and vice versa. This must be the project in 2019.