Umma Getso, bold political activist and the vice presidential candidate of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) in the 2019 presidential election has raised the alarm that Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder and would explode if the situation continues the way it is.
In this interview with Sunday Sun she also spoke on other critical national issues including security challenge, border closure, women participation in politics, corruption war, and 2020 budget, among others. Excerpt:
Let’s start with women’s participation in politics and how satisfied you are with the appointments they have so far?
We are only 6.7 per cent, so we are still less than the MDG provision standard. Some countries like Ethiopia are recording over 40 per cent of their women’s involvement, so one cannot be satisfied with what we have. Many African countries are above 50 per cent. I am making my little effort to see how I can assist in empowering some women to be active in political participation. I believe in encouraging more women to come and participate and earn their positions. You cannot be given what you don’t earn. They should not be given it based on privilege rather they should earn and I know we have many competent women, we only need to encourage ourselves so that many can come out and participate and earn their positions. It should be based on merit that is the reason I am encouraging many women to come out and join so as to earn it.
Some Nigerians are optimistic and believe that the second tenure of President Buhari will bring the needed magic of a turn-around, are you thinking along that line?
I could remember that in my interviews when such questions were asked I will say: yes let’s give them a chance, but along the line even Mr. President came out to say that “the next level is going to be harder” and we are seeing it today. Things are getting harder by the day and we expect them to do better. For example, if a child falls and is repeating the class, coming across everything again, you expect that child to do better. For the fact that they have had four years experience, having seen all their failures, I thought this second term would have inspired hope in all of us, I thought the next level will be a different one but there is no any difference rather things are getting worse and I am having a lot of fears. Everything is looking very ugly from all angles. Look at how some hoodlums went to attack the Otuoke-home of former President Jonathan. Maybe, he would have been killed if he had been around…,look at how low we have degenerated to. Things are getting messier by the day. One of the most scaring news I got recently also when I saw more than millions of people coming from Niger Republic, marching to Nigeria, their looks were so terrifying and they are coming into Nigeria despite that our border is closed, we are suffering from no food, things are difficult and some people are trooping into Nigeria unchallenged. Where are our security personnel? Why is nothing happening? And I did not see it in any news, no news is covering it, it is only individuals through the social media are distributing the video…. I begin to wonder what is happing in Nigeria? The situation is frightening, you don’t see security personnel say anything about it, migrants, more than a million marching into Nigeria…. And nobody is saying anything about such things. These are some of the things I don’t know what the government is doing about it, especially this security issue. We voted President Buhari who is from the North firstly because of the feeling that he is from the North and will surmount any security threat arising there because there was a serious security issue in the North, but that has not been so. As I said earlier things are getting even messier, not only in the North now, but all over the country. I don’t think they (govt.) are on top of the issues as they usually claim. As I have always argued, you don’t expect people who destroyed our past to improve our future. Most of the people there today participated fully in the destruction of Nigeria and you begin to wonder why you think they will want to fix it now. Nigeria is slipping to the edge.
But the FG has said that Boko Haram has been degraded?
You are a media person…I am very sure you have the news recently, that Damaturu and Maiduguri face one of the worst attacks so far? If you have degraded the Boko Haram fighters why is it that these attacks are becoming even more frequent? I was discussing with some people yesterday, it is like, all these attacks, kidnappings, banditry, etc are not even covered by the media. I don’t know what is happening. Before, if just one man was killed, it was all over in the news, it was reported, but now a lot of atrocities are happening and nobody is covering them. It is like attacks and killings have become a frequent or normal thing for us. That means Nigeria has stooped so low that we just have to endure every situation we find ourselves. I am scared about this development.
Part of the problem the media is having is that sometimes when the media report, the government accuses it of being sensational, that it is media propaganda and not reporting the facts…?
(Cuts in) It is beyond the media being blackmailed. I told you it has never been a hard time for Nigerians like this, because it is like everybody is confused now. The media guys are afraid of covering a lot of things because…imagine the hate speech law coming. It means anything you say against the government or whoever, that wants to criticize the government, the government wants to be hard on them. There is longer any opposition in this country because the PDP that is supposed to be doing it is quiet and political parties like ours, the YPP, most media guys are not willing to cover you, to take the views of parties like us. Is it that the media houses themselves are losing hope about their country or is it that they are so afraid now or is there a threat that is going on that Nigerians are not aware of? So, to be candid this country has never been this hot and I can tell you that we are sitting on a time bomb. This is because this country has become unreal, the things that are happening are very unrealistic….I don’t know why? Is it that Nigerians are so ignorant or is it that we don’t even know what we deserve? Why are we so quiet? Why are we being so ignorant? Is it fear? We know that things are not right, but we decide to keep mum. We are educated, but we are behaving like savages. What is happening under this government I expect Nigerians now to come out and stand for themselves because if Nigeria, as it is today, continues this way in the next coming two, three or four years…now they are even talking of extending the tenure, there won’t be any Nigeria again. Did you not see the drama that happened in Abuja last week during a peaceful protest by a group and another pro-government group came and was attacking them? The video that has been going around is making me ashamed of myself because those thugs that were beating those guys were speaking Hausa, and the people doing the peaceful protest are fighting for everybody’s right including them. That is what I am telling you, if we continue this way, if we cannot defend our rights, there won’t be Nigeria again because this is a dictatorship going on in Nigeria, you cannot protest, you cannot talk on the media, you cannot voice out your opinion. I don’t know whether those guys were hired thugs, or whether they are ignorant or savages…that action was very wrong. How can they beat a guy that is protesting for their rights too? They were willing to kill the guy there if you allow them. I was even thinking of sending out a statement to disassociate myself from that barbaric action because I am from the North and they were speaking Hausa, so it’s a disgrace and a shame, a slap to all of us.
What is your view on President Buhari’s visa on arrival proposal?
I have read about it and it is like it’s not Nigeria alone. I think Egypt is trying to also issue such kind of thing. Why I was concerned is that with the situation we have today in Nigeria one wonders what it will result to. You know that every time there was the arrest of these herdsmen, in most cases you discover that they are not Nigerians, even with what is happening with the Boko Haram issue or even with what happened in Benue you discover that foreigners are playing a very dirty role in the security of our nation. So, whatever it is now, although I have not read the full details, but even if it is or the benefit of ECOWAS or whatever, this visa at the point of entry issue will definitely affect Nigeria because we are already suffering from Boko Haram and other criminal atrocities. It means those bad people can also use the opportunity to troop into the country to do a lot of bad things. I don’t know, maybe it is because of globalization or whatsoever, but Nigeria acted so fast. We need to move with caution bearing in mind the precarious security challenge we are experiencing. The foreign policy of this country needs to be re-visited because its time Nigeria begins to think of the welfare of her citizens more. We have been playing this Father Christmas stuff for a long time in our foreign policy and I think we need to revisit it. We are busy throwing out billions to other countries while our house is on fire. We better begin to emulate what is happening in some other countries. For instance, America is looking more at its people, taking care of her people more, trying to expect the world to applaud them. Their people come first and I think we should begin to emulate such examples. The country is on fire, President Buhari is supposed to tackle the inner problems before shifting attention to other people’s welfare. When you look at the budget of 2020 it is not realistic and not in the favour of Nigerians. The budget is unrealistic so where do we go from here? Nigeria is on a time-bomb if we do not do what is right. The presidential candidate of our party YPP, Prof Kingsley Moghalu has a panacea for this country in his economic blueprint. If we implement it word by word we will get out of this mess. That is the future of Nigeria.
How do you view the border closure by the Federal Government?
Let me answer it this way. You have a son, you want to take away his toy, if you provide something better you can take the toy from him, but if you do not have an alternative there is no sense taking it away from him. For instance, on the issue of banned rice, I am in support of it, but you must ensure the local one is affordable, cheap and available, but you now ask yourself, is the local rice cheap and available? Let us also look at others like textiles. Do we even have textile industries in Nigeria now? You do not take away something from the people when you do not give them an alternative. I remember during our Vice Presidential debate, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo said that Nigeria is exporting rice. If we have such capability why is it not in the market? Why is it not cheap? You cannot take away what the people have without providing an adequate alternative.
Do you have fears for Nigeria?
I have a lot of fears, economically, socially, security-wise, etc. I think the Nigeria of today is killing the growth of our younger ones. We always chose to believe in this country, we believe to keep fighting that we will get it right, but in a situation like this when the guy that we have a lot of hope for is here and the country is going backward, dying by the day, it is sad. Look at what is happening with the budget; imagine the amount quoted for the renovation of the National Assembly? It is very heart-breaking that a person like President Buhari that we had so much hope for is there and some of these mind-boggling issues are going on around the budget. It is no longer business as usual and what I mean here is that before the coming of this government, you can see opportunities everywhere in Nigeria, the economy was growing but these days there is nothing that inspires hope in you that things are getting better the way we are going. I am disappointed. Sometimes you hear them talking about the war on corruption and you begin to wonder if there is any such war. If at all there is corruption war a lot of people in this government are not supposed to be part of the government in the first place. They should have been in jail, our prisons are supposed to be populated by now with most of them in government, but whom are they arresting? There is no corruption fight in this country; it’s just a kind of a game that is being played with the masses that cannot understand what they are doing. But for somebody that has a clear vision of what is happening in this country, corruption fight is zero. Who are they fighting and the corruption that is even going on in this present administration I may say is even the worst so far. I could remember that those days President Buhari used to say that subsidy is a scam, but now they are paying even more than what was obtainable under the PDP government, so who is fooling who?