By Chukwudi Nweje
Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, former President of Aka Ikenga in this interview discusses the nomination of the immediate past security chiefs as non-career ambassadors, the extension of service for the otherwise retired Inspector General of Police and other national issues.
President Muhammadu Buhari has nominated the immediate past Service chiefs for ambassadorial positions and extended the service of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), who is due for retirement by three months. How do you see these developments?
This is worrisome because the president swore by the Holy Quran to uphold the constitution; now you can ask whether it is constitutional to extend the service of the IGP? Certainly not. The IGP is appointed for a certain period, moreover, his 35 years of service has expired so he is no longer a policeman. Whether you call him acting Inspector General or temporary Inspector General, it makes no sense. It is unfortunate because Buhari has people who could have advised him. His Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Works are both grounded in law. If the president is in charge, he is supposed to know that the tenure of the IGP was about to expire. That means there is a lacuna somewhere. So, the extension of the IGP’s tenure is unconstitutional and has no basis in law.
On the former Service chiefs, the president has the prerogative of appointing career and non-career ambassadors subject to confirmation by the Senate. We are talking of 22 years of democracy and, unfortunately, we are still militarised. For record purposes, the ambassador is the representative of the country where he or she is posted. Whatever he says is what the country has said, so he must be versatile in international service not in military service.
Some people feel the ambassadorial nominations is to shield them from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC)?
I am aware that some people think that the nomination is to give them diplomatic immunity and save them from the ICC. But, if you are an ambassador to say Cameroon, your diplomatic immunity is restricted only to that country where you are accredited, outside that country you are just an ordinary person. If you step foot in the United States of America, they can arrest you. It is only in the country where you are accredited to that you have immunity from arrest by officials of that country. But the ICC has its own rules because even the president can be arrested anywhere in the world by the ICC.
In a move that shows admittance to the atrocities committed by some herdsmen, the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) have okayed the arrest and prosecution of ‘criminal herdsmen’, how do you see that?
I think that is a tongue in the cheek. One day, they say arrest criminal herdsmen, another day they say you cannot evict anybody. For the records, nobody has said they are evicting herdsmen. What they are saying is that herdsmen should be law-abiding. But herdsmen are not law-abiding when they lead their cattle into and destroy people’s farms or when they attack communities and kill people. As it is today in Nigeria, we have the settled Fulani who is in power and we have the lawless wandering Fulani herdsmen from all over West Africa and we have the criminal gangs. I’m sure they have read the statement of Sheikh Abubakar Gumi after he visited the camps in Zamfara and met with the Fulani. Many of those people are not bandits but insurgents and for a high ranking man in the calibre of Gumi to address them as insurgents means a lot. Sheikh Gumi contradicted those governors and I feel ashamed to read what some of them say. Governor Nasir el’Rufai of Kaduna State seems to forget that Southern Kaduna is a graveyard. So, whatever he is preaching to the country, he should first practise in Southern Kaduna. Coming out to challenge the Southern governors is senseless. The constitution is quite clear that the governor is in charge of the land. The state laws recognise the creation of Forest reserves for specific purposes, so if you use the Forest reserve for a purpose not intended by law, the governor can call you to order any day.
The NGF also raised an allegation that their people in Southern Nigeria are being attacked, what is your reaction?
They are warmongers and they should know that war has no exclusive boundary. Nobody is attacking Fulani people in Southern Nigeria. When the Fulani were busy killing people, what happened? People have the right to defend themselves, so says Governors Darius Ishaku and Samuel Ortom of Taraba and Benue states respectively. In Plateau State, people are being killed and the governor does not know whether to go with the people or go with the killers, nobody is attacking Fulani people. Should people who are not members of the armed forces be seen carrying assault rifles? Has any Fulani ever been arrested for illegal possession of assault rifle? Definitely no. Rather, what happens is that when they see Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) shaking their fist, they will clamp down on them with heavy weapons.
The South-East governors have banned open grazing in the zone. What is your take on that?
The law banning open grazing has always been there; it is the willingness to implement it that has been the problem. The governors don’t need to wait until they get a nod from the Buhari government before they implement the law. If you report in any police station that Fulani herdsmen are attacking and killing people, no policeman will dare to investigate the case. The Fulani people are a law unto themselves; they carry assault weapons openly and you expect a policeman carrying a MAC 4 to go and confront a Fulani herdsman carrying an AK 47. Our governors need to stand up for the people. We have to emphasise and scream it that there is a law banning open grazing. It is when you are consistent that people will take you seriously. In Ondo and Oyo states today, we know how serious it is. We need to have people rising as champions that nobody will tolerate open grazing.
Many are of the view that it is because the South-East governors failed to come up with a regional security outfit that the Eastern Security Network (ESN) floated by IPOB has become a darling of the people?
When you call the police and the police will not do anything, you have to look for an alternative solution. If the people are now looking in the opposite direction for the solution, why do you blame them? As it is today, our governors are not standing up for the people. Those in the North East owe allegiance to Boko Haram, those in Zamfara according to Sheikh Gumi owe allegiance to the Fulani people; they live comfortably with these people because the state authority has failed. In the South East, nobody is fighting the marauding herdsmen of kidnappers. Each time a victim is freed, he gives a detailed account of what happened and how they had to transfer money sometimes by phone. In other words, the police have all they need. They should go to the bank, trace where the money is including the operator and then you can arrest him. Those kidnappers, I have always insisted have sponsors or what you may call godfathers.
ESN is a creation of IPOB which is proscribed and classified a terrorist organisation by the court? Do you think they have a right to operate?
The Federal Government has this fear of IPOB and they have done more to neutralise IPOB than they have Boko Haram. In the Federal Government’s thinking, IPOB is more dangerous than Boko Haram though IPOB does not carry weapons. Boko Haram carry weapons, the kidnappers carry weapons, IPOB carries nothing, yet they descend on them. Believe you me, people will always look to where they find protection.
What do you think are the chances of the South East producing the president in 2023; people feel there is a division in Ohanaeze Ndigbo, a reason they say robbed the zone of a security chief position and will likely cost them the Nigerian president of Igbo extraction. What is your take?
I have always said that if we want a president from the South East, we have to do what is necessary and that is to first belong to a political party; secondly, try to mobilise people, and thirdly, when candidates are being presented, you present yourself. We from the South East will always support it. If the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will give us the ticket as was done in 1999 and 2007 when two Yoruba,Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Chief Olu Falae, and Muhammadu Buhari and Umaru Yar’Adua respectively contested. There is nothing wrong with doing that for the South East.
There is this argument that this agitation is for Igbo in the South East and should not be extended to Igbo in the South-South. What do you say?
The answer is simple and direct. The presidency as far as I’m concerned should rotate among the key zones. One of the zones is the South East, so if the presidency is coming to the South East, it must be the South East. When it goes to the South-South a second time, any Igbo in the South-South is free to come out, there should be no ambiguity in that.