By Johnson Adebowale
Emmanuel Umohinyang, public affairs analyst and social commentator, rallied massive support for President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term through the Re-elect Buhari Movement (RBM). In this interview, he speaks on contemporary national issues, including the 2023 general election.
A few months to the end of this administration, do you think this government has done well security-wise?
I think you must appreciate the fact that prior to the coming of the Buhari administration, it has always been the challenge of Boko Haram, particularly in the North-East. It does not mean we have not had pockets of crisis in other zones. However, Buhari, who was then a presidential candidate, was promising to deal with Boko Haram as banditry was not that rampant, and neither did we have kidnapping or abduction at such a high rate. However, when the administration came on board, it inherited an empty armoury from Goodluck Jonathan, leaving nothing to fight with. Our military was reduced to mere boy scouts. You remember the issue of technical maneuvers. A lot of our military men were always running to Cameroon to hide. When the Buhari, administration came on board, the first thing it did was to find out what the challenges were, and it was discovered that there were no weapons to fight on the part of the military, and you know, weapons are not things you buy on the shelf, so the process began, but not the way the Jonathan administration did it, where non-state actors were ferried in an aircraft to South Africa with raw cash. What the Buhari administration did was to get the equipment for government-to-government transactions, so it was able to eliminate the middleman, which is the instrument of corruption. Some of this equipment took over four years, like the Super Tucano that the government needed to turn around the situation in the North-East. We are also talking about the purchase of other ammunition, both the hardware and software needed to be purchased from Russia, Pakistan, Israel, etc. We also needed to beef up our intelligence system. We needed to deal with the issue of the fifth columnists within the system, talking about soldiers of fortune who were milking the country dry. Today, the government has been able to deal successfully with the issue of Boko Haram. I was in the North East recently and I discovered the whole of that region is now a construction site by the governors of that area. Because of the heat brought upon that region, a lot of Boko Haram suddenly dressed in the robe of banditry and fled from that region to the North-West and North-Central, but there is no hiding place for these criminals.
But kidnapping remains an issue in the South. Is the government helpless?
I do not think the government was prophetic to have envisaged that there would be the challenge of kidnapping but the government is determined to end it. Don’t forget that the government is on top of the situation if you consider the way it has dealt with IPOB, especially ESN, which is the armed wing. Looking at the spectrum of where we were coming from, Abuja was a place you could not enter. You needed a lot of fasting before going to church or stepping out of your home. Today, we can say the country is going back to that era of security. Nigerians are beginning to sleep with their eyes closed. The president has even assured us that he will ensure a safe and secure country before he leaves in 2023.
How do you reconcile your thoughts with the travel advisory issued by the UK and later by Canada, Australia, and co?
On the issue of the travel advisory to the citizens of the countries in question, I think it is nothing new, and I do not think it requires us as Nigerians to panic. The American government has been coming up with such advisories even before the Buhari administration. It is just a routine advisory, the same way Nigerian embassies in other countries issue advisories to Nigerians telling them not to go to certain places based on intelligence at their disposal. The Americans were not referring to Nigerians, they directed it at their citizens. Those advisories are persuasive, but I don’t think it is within their power to enforce them. It is mainly to persuade. Where is the US Head of Mission who issued that advisory now? I am sure she is in Abuja. Has she not stepped out of her office since that advisory was issued? It is just like a father asking the child to be cautious. Not all Nigerians. The issue of intelligence is not something you speculate on because if you don’t manage it well, it can trigger other issues. It is like blowing a siren in your quest to arrest a criminal.
With what we are seeing, don’t you think the incoming administration may inherit the challenge of insecurity?
I do not think so. That is why I am hoping that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu becomes our next President. He is an expert in human capital development. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of President Buhari’s administration is that he relied heavily on people to nominate people for positions in his administration, and that has its drawbacks. This is because the President has not really interacted with people since he left office as Military Head of State. Tinubu is a man who has already tested soldiers. He knows where to put people for optimum performance. I have even told the President that Asiwaju will do better than him, and he said that is his prayer. It goes to show the kind of father that he is because every good father wants his child to be greater than he is. A typical Nigerian politician does not want his successor to be better than him, he would rather find a way of sabotaging him.
Is insecurity not a threat to the coming elections?
No. This president has shown that the elections will be free and fair, even with off-season elections. His own party lost elections in Osun State and even Anambra. This Muhammadu Buhari, I can tell you his likes and dislikes. Take Buhari out of any dishonesty. If APC members do not go out and solicit votes, expecting President Muhammadu Buhari to use the police to rig for them, they are finished.
This President was a victim of rigged elections on three consecutive occasions before the advent of the card reader when he won. This president embraces technology. He appreciated INEC for what they were doing. The president has never picked up his phone to call the INEC chairman to direct him on what to do. He is a man who gives you an assignment and allows you a free hand to do it. Security is not going to be a problem. Nigeria is relatively secure. We have not gotten there yet, it is a work in progress. As we speak, the police are strategizing in preparation for the general elections in Owerri. This Inspector-General of Police is preparing his men for the task ahead, which I think is very commendable. Every administration should always expect that there will be unforeseen situations, so you make projections.
How do you rate the leading presidential candidates?
I rate Tinubu as the best. He is a man of unquestionable capacity. He is a man who sees the stars, even if everywhere is dark. That is the kind of man we are talking about. In the area of human capital development, he is an expert in sourcing the best to take charge of all places. I must admit that one of the challenges of the Buhari administration is that it relies on referrals from those who know those who can work in certain places, so it does not have that broad view of Nigerians. The President hardly socialises. Since he left as the former head of state, he hardly knew what transpired. That is why he had to rely on people. I, for one, would not have voted for the Vice President if he had won the APC primary because I do not want a president who can be controlled by vested interests. I want somebody who is firm, somebody who will stand by his word. When Asiwaju took over Lagos, it was like a heap of refuse. Most of the roads you see today were not in existence. The robbery was at its peak. Tinubu must be credited with the unprecedented development Lagos has achieved. Many Lagosians have lost count of his legacy projects. The good thing is that other leading candidates were once in government, but none comes close to Tinubu. In fact, if elections were held today, Peter Obi will come a distant third.