By Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo
Ambassador Hassan Ardo Jika is the immediate past Nigerian Ambassador to the republic of Trinidad and Tobago and former state Chairman of the APC. In this interview, he accused the National Assembly of poor representation. He blames the pervasive insecurity in the country on war scavengers and talked about governance in the country and Taraba State.
What is your take on the current security situation in the country?
It is very unfortunate that a group of individuals have decided to play politics with the security of lives of the people. They have decided to politicize the security of the country. We have scavengers who are feeding fat on insecurity and they try to analyze issues based on their personal interests. We need to know that we don’t have any other country apart from Nigeria, even though I know that some people have dual citizenship and will jet out of the country at the first sign of trouble. We failed as a nation when we refused to sit down and look at ourselves as Nigerians.
We need to sit down and look at ourselves as Nigerians rather than ethnic and religious nationalists. In any case, we are in a way all responsible for the pervasive insecurity in the country to the extent that we told our arms and wait on the Federal Government and security agencies to do it all. That is not correct. We all have a role to play. Another angle to it is that there are some corrupt individuals who know that they could go to jail for looting public funds and so they are deliberately instigating the security situation to distract attention as much as possible. So there you are again, these people who have amassed a lot of wealth go all out to make sure nothing works well. Unfortunately, we are all responsible for this too. We celebrate criminality in our various communities and by so doing, encourage others to go into criminality. In our various communities, you have people that are up to no good and everyone know them. Then suddenly, they start building mansions and throwing monies around and nobody questions them. Deep down, we all know that this is product of criminality either in form of collected ransoms, theft, embezzlement of public funds but we celebrate them all the same so that we can also get peanuts from them.
You remember the case of Wadume here in Taraba some time ago. This is someone everyone knew was a criminal but even the state governor Darius Ishaku was alleged to have been patronizing him and even giving him money. So how will criminality not fester when criminals are idolized even by the people charged to fight insecurity? And once you have such pervasive criminality celebrated, the security situation is bound to deteriorate terribly. People try to give this religious coloration tagging it as a move to Islamize the country and I laugh when I listen to such arguments. I ask what is the percentage of Christians in Borno, Yobe Bauchi, Zamfara and other Northern states where the insecurity is worst hit? These are predominantly Muslim states and that is where people are killed massively. It only takes common sense to know that majority of the people killed are Muslims. The question is do you need to kill your fellow Muslims in order to Islamize other people? No. The Holy Quoran is very explicit about allowing people to practice the religion of their choice. So what we have is just pure criminality that has become a very lucrative job for some people and a way of distracting the government for political reasons for others.
But then there is the general belief that the government is putting so much energy in tackling IPOB and other dissident voices in the South while handling terrorists, bandits, killer herdsmen and others in the North with kid gloves.
It is very wrong for us to start treating issues with tribal and religious sentiments. We have criminals across board and wherever they are, we should all be happy that they are dealt with. It is a great feat for us all. Why are we not referring to the Kanuries in Borno as terrorists because most of the Boko Haram insurgents are Kanuries? Yet when a Fulani man commits a crime, he is not treated as an individual but profiled on the basis of his tribe. It is very unfortunate that we are not being nationalistic. We are not training our children to live together as one. We continue to deliberately polarise this country by politicizing every issue along ethno-religious lines. We have people making huge money out of all these crisis and they continue to take advantage of our soft spot for religion. Some people feel the government is not showing equal energy in fighting insurgents and bandits in the North as it is tackling the IPOB and other dissident voices in the South. The question is which group is bandits? We know that we have Boko Haram as a group, we have IPOB as organized groups that you can proscribe. We are all aware and worried that we have bandits operating in parts of the North. But how do you proscribe bandits when they are not a group? That is the challenge here.
The seeming determination by the President to reintroduce grazing routes and grazing reserves across the country is causing great fuss. What is your take on it?
Like I said earlier, we don’t want to tell ourselves the truth. These reserves have been designated way back because cattle contribute a lot to our GDP. We need each other in every sphere of life. The whole fuss about herdsmen and grazing and all of this is just political. Let me give you a typical example. When they wanted to introduce RUGA, my state governor, Darius Ishaku said he had no land for grazing, same way most of the governors are shouting now. This is a governor that has no budget for livestock development as an aspect of agriculture. Okay, Governor Ishaku said he had no land but when the CBN gave Massari N6.5 Billion for giving land to the project, Darius Ishaku suddenly realized that he had land in Ardo Kola local government to give for the project. Mind you that there are designated grazing reserves in that local government. When he could not get the money, he went and applied for two Billion Naira from CBN and when he got it, he now moved the project to Takum where he is working hard to drive the Tiv people there out and wanted to use their lands for the project. The people rejected it outrightly. Now there is no money and no land. It is very terrible. That is why I tell you that this is all politics. These leaders are only pursuing their personal interests.
How do you think the development in Afghanistan will affect Nigeria?
I don’t think the situation in Afghanistan has anything to do with Nigeria and may not affect Nigeria in any way whatsoever. In fact, it has nothing to do with Africa. In fact, we all know that this is all a creation of some powers again for their selfish interests. We were told that Sadam Hussein had amassed weapons of mass destruction. Where are the weapons? That did not stop them from destroying him. I mean we all know how these things work for the good of those who control power irrespective of how many lives are wasted. How do you create confusion just because you want to sell your arms. I can tell you that we are suffering the worst slavery now which is slavery of the mind. Do we have Taliban in Nigeria? We must be able to manage our country. If we manage our country well, we would have peace. But if as a leader you decide to create confusion or allow instruments from outside to come in, then there will be problem. Countries must be allowed to manage their internal issues their own way.
How will you assess Taraba at 30?
I will say that it has been a bumpy ride. We spent much of the time under military rule and during these years, there was not much to talk about. Then came 1999 when the present democracy was ushered in. We had Governor Jolly Nyame who did very well during his eight years. He built hospitals, the stadium, Taraba Motel and a host of other projects. Governor Suntai of blessed memory came on board and built roads thereby opening the state up for development. He built the university, the airport, and a host of other projects that we look at and there was a general belief that though things were not as they should have been, we were making progress steadily.
Unfortunately, the last six years or so have been a major disaster for the state. Not only have we not recorded any meaningful development. In fact, most of the infrastructure that were put in place have been allowed to waste away. The stadium is in ruins. The hospitals are in deplorable conditions, the motel now houses rodents and reptiles. Perhaps the worst thing that has happened to the state in the last few years is the total polarisation and division of the state along ethnic and religious lines. Yes, we have a lot of ethnic groups in the state, probably more than anywhere else in the country. But these were never an issue until very recently. Now everything is on the basis of religion and ethnicity.
So for me, we were doing well until governor Darius Ishaku came on board and took us back several years and has planted a terrible seed that may as well consume us all. It will take a really good leader to correct this otherwise, we are all doomed. We have government without governance in the state. Ministries are running without running costs. In fact, apart from the state owned radio and television stations, I doubt if there is any ministry or agency that gets running costs. No. We are not where we are supposed to be. If only this government was able to build on the foundation laid by the last two governments, we would have gone far. Instead, we have gone badly backwards.
You need to know that Taraba State is richly blessed with enormous resources and potentials in Agriculture where you can cultivate any crop including apples, Irish potatoes, tea and avocadoes on the Mambila plateau, ogbono, cocoa, palm kennel, plantain, bananas and timber in Kurmi, rice and vegetables in Lau and Karim Lamido, yam, cassava, sweet potatoes and all kinds of grains in nearly every part of the state, and you also have the highest concentration of cattle in the country on The Mambila plateau. You also have major tourism potentials and mineral resources. So, if we have a serious government, we could have done a lot better than what we have.
You seem to put much of the blame on this government. Are you being fair at all?
I am just being very honest. Go to the Jolly Nyame stadium and see things for yourself. Apart from the greenhouse project which is a monumental waste of resources, there is no single project that this government conceived and has successfully completed it. How can a governor drill hand borehole or buy transformer for a community through CSDP and will go around shouting that they have done projects in these areas? These are projects that councilors should be doing. Sadly, rather than admit their failure, the government believes so much in telling lies. They lie blatantly. Recently, the government came out to say they have constructed about six hundred kilometers of roads across the state. Go to any of the projects they mentioned and see the state of things for yourself.
What is your take on the call for zoning of presidency to the Southeast come 2023?
I don’t believe in zoning and have always advocated for competence instead. It doesn’t matter where the president comes from. What matters is someone with the political will and capacity to deliver. That is all.
Do you think our current Constitution is good enough?
I believe that the Constitution is not the problem of the country. In fact, if we don’t change our attitudes and disposition, even the best Constitution will still fail here. We have beautiful laws and policies. Implementation is our problem. Our attitudes toward Nigeria is the problem. If we don’t correct those, I am afraid nothing will ever work for us.
The electoral Act as amended does not make provision for electronic voting and transmission of results. How do you feel about this?
All these people are only out there to make policies that will favour them and care less about what Nigerians really want. Most of them know that they can never win election under normal circumstances and so they will never allow the circumstances to be normal. It’s as simple as that. Many of them are just non entities who only care about their selfish interests. It is just like you appointing an armed robber to make policies to regulate armed robbery. There is no way he will make policies that will affect his trade. He will make sure that armed robbers have a field day. Unfortunately we have no shame in this country. That is why nobody resigns his position even when it comes to the public glare that they have committed serious offences or have abused their offices. There is no morality or conscience. The National Assembly members are not doing what Nigerians want. We are the architect of our problems. Look at these members and find out how much they are earning. Go and see the mansions they are building all over the place. And then when they go home, they are treated like demigod’s. So what do you expect. They know that once they go back home and give stipends to the people they will be accepted as saviours irrespective of how terrible their policies are. We need people of integrity and honor to man the national Assembly if we hope to get any meaningful results from there. Thank you.