Former Minister of Finance, Dr. Kalu Idika Kal, believes that the international community has reasons to be shocked that Nigeria, which has been playing leadership roles in Africa and beyond, has been unable to manage her own conflicts. Among other issues, he particularly condemned the spate of violence and killings in various parts of the country. He spoke to WILLY EYA.
How do you feel about the state of affairs in the country today especially with regard to the spate of killings in several parts of Nigeria by herdsmen?
For a society and economy of our size and history and for what Nigeria should represent not just in the ECOWAS region but in the African continent as well, and above all, what it should represent as the largest black nation on earth, it is very important that we show example and that we maintain a certain level of decency and decorum. This we should do in contrast to the very sordid image of unimaginable barbarism and bloodletting that we have witnessed in recent times. We should all be ashamed of what is happening and what has been happening shows a total breakdown of morality and the rule of law. Struggle for land and territory is one thing but in an area where we are not even a major cattle-owning nation in terms of numbers compared to so many countries, the situation is not acceptable. I believe I saw some statistics that puts us beyond the number 15 in the world. Certainly, part of the sources of development is learning how to solve our problems in every sector. Yes, culture is important, like where people may think that they are used to rearing cattle to graze for natural grass and other foods, but the world has over 300 years, gone beyond that with the system of enclosures.
In Europe, there are enclosures where you keep your animals insitu and provide for them so that they can fetch you more money and so that they can provide better products –milk, beef and others. And in the course of development, there is need for labour to move away from agriculture including animal husbandry into manufacturing and tertiary sectors and this only happens when you are ready to increase technology in the non-primary sectors of manufacturing and other tertiary services. This is so that as you release labour from agriculture including animal husbandry, they can get into higher paying jobs with increased knowledge and use of technology. I have addressed this from the stages of economic development. But even more important than this, is the maintenance of the rule of law, the adherence to due process. And the very basic essence of any civilised society is for the people to be concerned that you cannot override personal liberty and you cannot deprive people of their own liberty. And of course, killing is the ultimate form of deprivation.
You cannot be a civilised nation if people do not have certain inalienable rights –the rights to life, to provide shelter for their women, children and people in the land that have been allocated to them at their birth and from the political development of every society. People are amazed, incensed and wondering whether we are really a nation with a constitution and fundamental human rights. So, these are the things that need to be considered. We should never have come to this stage. We should have anticipated the desertification, the growth of population, the growth of cattle and we should have anticipated how to solve these problems so that we can maintain the rule of law and due process. If people have a land that they are not using, there has to be a process before you can use their land. Now the third angle that we have to bring to bear is the leadership. The leadership comprises the executive, the legislative and the judiciary leaderships. They are the presidency, the National Assembly, the legislative Houses, the governorship positions and so on.
These are people we would have expected to move very quickly to decide what needed to be done in consultation with those who have been elected into office at all the various levels. Lastly, maintaining the sense of election process; people are elected to those offices for first and foremost to ensure the security of lives and property of those they superintend. This is one area that is extremely important and speaks directly, and is relevant to the issues at hand. There is no way these events can happen and we do not realise that the life of every Nigerian at whatever age is important and not to mention the sacrilegious voices of women, pregnant women and children. This is not the first time it has happened. But those who have the power of coercion, those who are legally permitted to bear arms, to detain and interdict, to bring justice to those who go against the law should not have allowed all these to happen. All those who are charged with the powers of coercion –the security services, the defence forces, police and all the agencies of governance should have moved very quickly to nip these in the bud. But for these to have lingered for so long and even appeared to have been aggravated and going on as if there is no president, vice president, Army, police force and no agencies to protect the lives and property of the individual is shocking. These should never have happened and we have exposed ourselves to utter scorn and disgrace to the entire world. They cannot understand why this is happening in Nigeria. Is it that we are so many when we are barely 200 million. I am not sure we are up to 200 million.
There are nations that are over one billion and certainly this kind of thing cannot happen there and when it does, the whole world would see how those who are responsible for the protection of lives and property would deliberately move to put a stop to it. What has happened in Nigeria is unheard of and it is a total disgrace on the leadership of this country. People are being killed and people are still talking about election.
We should not be talking about rallies of parties, registration of parties, restructuring or changing the constitution or planning for re-elections when scores of people are being killed in cold blood. These are innocent citizens; people including women and children are being slaughtered in the night. This kind of carnage should never happen. If they do, everything must stop until we put an end to it immediately. All those who are in authority at various levels must show that they really care for human lives that have been put under their care. This is because they are the ones that are supposed to protect the human lives and property. So, there is no way that we can say that what has happened is something we can be proud of.
It is a source of shame to all Nigerians, defence forces and security agencies who should have been able to detect the problem particularly when it has happened not once, twice, three times and so on. The security agencies should have been more vigilant to detect and prevent the problem. If they need the cooperation of civilians, that is okay but we have cases where it has been going on with impunity. Now we hear that some of them are invasions from outside our borders. We hear all kinds of ethno-religious angles to these killings. These are totally unacceptable. Nigeria is a secular state and we cannot have a Jihad within our secular state. This is a state that permits freedom of religion and a lot of us have wondered whether this is a factor because we know that all over the country from the North to the South, people of different states have been living amicably together. So, what has caused this new dissent into anarchy and barbarism? These are questions that are much more important than the mundane things we think about.
There is nothing that can be more important to the Federal Government, state government or local government than calling an emergency meeting and calling the security forces to really mobilise and put an end to these things. And they have gone on for so long and we want to see that the people responsible for these things are being brought to justice. It is not just to announce that they would be, but that they are being brought to justice, because it has been going on for so long. We want to know, how have you dealt with it because this is the ultimate deterrent that those who kill and commit crime must be made to face the law in line with what the constitution has said. We want to know whether it is death penalty, life sentences or whatever is the punishment, that goes with it including restitution for those who lost loved ones. And to make sure that those who have been injured are taken care of and restored to good health. People want to see the result of the application of the rule of law and we have not seen that and it is very worrisome. And if that is the case, all the issues of development that we talk about that are very important cannot happen if there is no law and order.
You have comprehensively dealt with the issue of violence and killing by the herdsmen but in view of the proposed establishment of cattle colonies, do you agree with those who go to the extreme of saying that the development is part of an agenda to islamise the country?
This should be discussed within the proper context. First of all, this is an activity that is a private investment. The private investment applies to the local government, state and I think that is where it ends. The land belongs to the state for farming and other things. We have heard stories of islamisation; I have heard denials from those who should know and those who are in charge of Islamic organizations, but by the same token, any effort to go against the secular position of the constitution is unconstitutional and illegal.
I want to say that until somebody makes a categorical statement or policy in that area, it should be left in the realms of speculation, but it is left for the leaders of the society at various levels to make sure that there is no such thing. If anybody does anything to make people to change their religion by force, that is unconstitutional. My own personal view first of all on the issue of islamisation is that it cannot happen in Nigeria. This is not the age it can happen; it was a concept from the Middle ages; they are like the Jihad and crusade, but right now, the society is too advanced for that. I have heard religious leaders who said that there is nothing like islamisation agenda and they accuse people who hold such view of misrepresentation.
This nation cannot afford to give itself a black mark and a wrong image. People are disappointed and they say how can we be here and women and children are being killed. If somebody injures your cow and cattle, there are processes and law courts to deal with it. I heard a statement from a very high official but I am not going to mention his name, where he was almost trying to rationalise the killings on the basis of the fact that some cattle were stolen and killed. How can a responsible person imply that because of that, you sanction retaliation and take laws into your own hands. Where would the society go when people continue to take laws into their own hands no matter how justified. That is why we have the police, the security agencies and the whole judicial system in Nigeria. So, you can imagine what other countries are thinking. They would be saying don’t you know the story of Rwanda, the things that happened in South Africa and so on. We are the ones that have been going around quelling conflicts. When we create a conflict in a country like Nigeria with a population of about 185 million to 200 million people, where do we expect our people to run to. We have been a letdown to nations that have counted on us. People have looked unto us to go and bring peace to bear in other countries. We have judges, magistrates and lawyers who defended people in pre- and post colonial periods. We have been active in the world courts.
In the International Court of Justice, we have professionals who have been busy settling cases all over the world and who have been providing solutions to conflicts all over the world. They have been calling me from the Hague, the ICJ and everywhere and saying why can’t you say something. I expected people to be more forthright and immediate in addressing the problems and not letting it fester and give the impression that it is being condoned. I have expressed disappointment for those at the various levels of authorities and those charged with security. They should have been more proactive in making sure that the issue was brought to the front burner and not discussing party politics and 2019 election, who is running and who is not running. For Christ sake, you cannot be killing scores and scores of people and you are talking about election. Some of them could have been legislators or running for various offices tomorrow. This is not to talk of children and the unborn babies. So, this issue overrides everything we have been talking about.
You were once a Minister of Finance in this country; do you think there is a connect between the dwindling fortunes of our economy and the rising tension in the country?
There is a connection. For instance, it may not be as direct as you may suggest. Let us put aside the issue of islamisation. You can say that because of the desert encroachment, people are now forced to move South with their cattle. But if you look at it in terms of square kilometres or square miles, we are not among those with large cattle population; in fact we are among the last in the countries that have cattle. There is no reason why we should not have seen the technology as the desertification encroaches and in any case the technology of enclosures where we keep the animals is there. You keep them in enclosures and you provide the nutrients and drugs and the productivity of the cattle would be so much higher. It is better than marching them miles looking for grass to feed on.
So, we should not pretend that those who are rearing cattle today cannot be judges, magistrates and doctors tomorrow, but there has to be proper economic management and investment in these institutions to encourage them to abandon their old ways. If you keep the animals and provide for them, there would be more productivity than when you have to march them through the forests and all that. And again, it would be releasing labour into higher productive jobs. For people to think that this is their way of life, it cannot continue that way.
We have enough resources to provide for those who want to build this industry the way it is being done in America, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and so on. There are so many countries that have many advanced animal industries where they can rear them and control their propagation and they provide better milk and meat without interfering with anybody’s land and crops.