By Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo
Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku, has said that Nigeria is dangerously sliding into anarchy and becoming a failed state, even as he insists that the North East does not need a regional security outfit. In this interview, he also spoke on his experience as governor for the past six years and other key national issues.
There has been a resurgence of killings in the last few weeks in parts of the state. What are you doing to address that?
It is a bad news. It all originated from Benue. The Tiv that are on the Benue side killed some Fulani at Dogongawa axis. They burnt some Fulani Tankers and killed some of the Fulani. That was done in Benue. Unfortunately, the Fulani decided to take a retaliation on the Tiv settlements in Taraba State from the Takum and Bali axis. They killed about 18 people but we moved in immediately. We asked the military and the police to make sure that they cordoned off anybody coming in from Benue. Those that are from Taraba, we made sure that a lot of people were arrested in that carnage.
But then, as usual, some of these things happen in the hinterlands and before the news gets to the officials or to the enforcing officers, the damage may have been done. For instance, we understand that two days ago, there was an accident involving two Fulani who were traveling on their motorcycle. But then some people went and spread the rumors that it was the Tiv that killed them, and some of the Tiv who were in the market on that fateful day were harmed before we got the police and army to prevent another carnage.
Let me tell you that a lot has been done but you don’t expect the government to take every action he is taking to the media houses. We do these things quietly at times for maximum benefit. I can’t as a governor or other officials of state be going to the press to say this is what we are doing and all of that. You can only feel the impact with what you see on ground. All the people that went to schools and other locations are all being fed by the government. It is the same government that is providing them with beddings and all. It is the government and we are doing it.
It is unfortunate that some people who don’t know what is happening will just be talking. And like I said, if it was not the day before yesterday’s incident, we had contained the situation. This was an accident that was magnified. For now, things have calmed down but we want absolute normalcy before the people return to their homes.
Will you support a regional security system for the Northeast as we have in other regions in the country?
The Northeast is not contemplating a regional security outfit. I, for one, don’t like the idea. But like I have always said, we need a state police. I have said it time and again that the constitution has been shortchanged. The US, where we copied our constitution, it is written and established that they have local, state and federal police and they complement one another.
There are situations that only need the local police to handle and where it is beyond them, the state police moves in and where it is beyond them, the federal police moves in. They never bring their military to address situations in the country. They go to war externally. But here, the vital components of state and local police are removed. I am called Executive Governor. What am I executing if I cannot implement the decision I take with the troops under my command. So, the state police is a must, and must be allowed to come to stay. Without the state police, it won’t work. And it has reviewed itself across the country.
How can the federal police hope to be all over the nooks and crannies of the country to forestall breakdown of law and order or to even address security challenges as they arise? It will not work. It has never worked and can never work. The sooner the state police is enacted, the better for all of us. And it is not just the state police. As soon as I get the state police, I will initiate the local government police because they go in stages. There are crimes that are local; some are state and some are federal offenses and you deploy the right unit to address these issues appropriately. It is only on the last resort that you bring in the military. Like the insurgency in the North East, you need the military to come in and flush it and they should be in a position to do this. It is a disgrace if a country’s military cannot flush out insurgency.
It is a disgrace to all of us. So, the issue is that we need the state police. We need the constitution to be amended and here in the North East, we don’t need regional security outfit. It may work in other regions but here we are gone pass that. It is insurgency and so it needs superior power and that should be the military of the country which should be in a position to come in and defeat them if they are properly equipped and funded. If the Nigerian military could go to Congo, Sudan, Sierra Leone and others and excel there, why are they not excelling in Nigeria in containing the insurgency in just one region of the country? That question must be answered for the country to be peaceful.
Some persons have come out to say Nigeria is becoming a failed state. What is your take on that?
Of course we are sliding to that and blind persons can see it and the deaf can hear clearly that we are sliding to anarchy. What are we saying? Very soon, we may have splinter groups controlling different parts of the country; is that not anarchy? We are sliding dangerously of course. Take a ride to Rwanda and see what I am talking about. It’s so sad. This is a very beautiful country and the only one we have for some of us. And so we must work hard to ensure that we protect this country for generations to come.
What is your position on the implementation of N30,000 minimum wage?
I have always been a labour friendly governor and have been very friendly with the unions. As a matter of fact, I have been paying my workers salaries up to date and I have no problem with the civil servants and employees. Now, what the labour union must understand and take into cognizance is that you do not go on strike for the sake of it. You don’t just wake up and say you want to go on the streets to demonstrate and enforce implementation of minimum wage. You must weigh your employer. It’s just like not feeding your vow for months and then you go there trying to milk it. You won’t get milk. In fact, you may end up having blood flushing out instead.
So, when you say as a labour union you want to fight for new minimum wage when the current minimum is not even realized, then there is problem. Some states are not even able to pay the current minimum wage and you are talking about a new one. So, the labour union must sit down and objectively look at the feasibility of their demands and their employer’s capacity to afford it or otherwise. You can’t extract juice out of stones. But when you sit down with your employer and listen to his constraints, then you will be able to come to a compromise on what to do. Some states decided to sack some workers, up to 30,000 and you say no and you went to demonstrate. If he did not sack the 30,000, where will he get the balance to pay the new minimum wage?
For some of us, I will rather maintain all my staff, rather than sack a chunk of them to get money and pay the rest a new minimum wage because that will have a more devastating implication for the generality of the people.
Are you worried by the cross carpeting going on across the country now?
I am totally not worried because these are personal decisions and those who are leaving, well, I say they are taking a bad decision. Democracy is about strong opposition. If you don’t have a vibrant opposition in any democracy, then it will fail. So you need a strong opposition that will keep those in power on their toes.
The PDP offered that we have a solution to the insecurity in the country, so we can help. Nigeria belongs to all of us. If the country crumbles today, I have nowhere else to go. So we must fix our problem. So, here was a proposition that if Nigeria is in a mess, we have some knowledge that will be useful. We offered to cosponsor a national dialogue on how to tackle this but they refused. In some places, even opposition members are appointed into the cabinet if they are seen to have what to offer.
So why can’t we set aside political affiliation and make the country work for us? It is a beautiful country and like I have always said, our strength lies in our diversity and diversity is beauty.
How will you assess your six years in office so far?
The six years of DDI on the saddle in Taraba State has been a combination of the good, the bad and the ugly, or the sweet, the sour and the bitter, however you look at it. It has been a torturous journey, expected of any leadership. You would remember that when we resumed here, there were a lot of crisis in different ramifications from ethnic and religious violence, banditry, cattle rustling, others, and they keep changing faces. It degenerated to insurgency but now we have substantially surmounted the evil days. We still have security challenges but as intense as it was in 2015, went up in 2017 with the crises on the Mambila, but now the graph is flattening out. Of course, you know that the whole country is battling with insecurity and we are no exceptions.
On the developmental side, we have done a lot and I will score myself 80 per cent both in the visible and invisible. We have recorded giant strides in education, roads construction, agriculture, and others.