Noah Ebije, Kaduna
President, Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU), Jonathan Asake, has said that due process must be followed to involve all stakeholders for a peace summit on the crisis in the region to be held.
Asake, who is a former House of Representatives member during President Olusegun Obasanjo administration, said a situation whereby relevant stakeholders are given 24 hours notice to a peace summit is unacceptable by his people, adding that such a summit is cosmetic in nature and just intended to score political points by the powers that be.
The SOKAPU national leader bared his mind on his and other relevant issues.
SOKAPU and other stakeholders recently boycotted a peace summit in Southern Kaduna organised by the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission (NCPC). Why did your organisation boycott the summit?
No, SOKAPU did not boycott the peace summit. What happened was that the invitation letter for the programme reached us late and we responded to the organizers, requesting that they either reschedule the programme to enable us to make consultations with our people and also have audience with the conveners so we have an idea of what the programme was all about. So, we can’t boycott a programme that seeks to bring about peace in our communities. We all need peace. Let nobody accept the cheap propaganda that SOKAPU just flagrantly boycotted a peace summit and hence we are not interested in bringing peace to our ravaged communities, no! Far from it! But we need genuine peace, not forced peace, not cosmetic or political peace.
So, at what point or on what conditions will you accept to participate in a peace summit over Southern Kaduna killings?
We in SOKAPU will always be willing to participate in any process that seeks to bring about peace if sufficient time is given to us to adequately prepare and allow us to make consultations with our people, especially the victims of these mindless attacks and displacements. We need to hear from them and articulate their concerns, challenges and fears at the peace summit. We also need to know whether those that are coming from the other side are the real aggressors or just some make-up persons. To my mind, anybody who genuinely wants to discuss peace must first of all talk of justice. How can you call people together to talk about peace when you are blatantly not interested in talking about justice for the people that have been massacred, many more displaced out of their communities with their property worth hundreds of millions of naira destroyed? A very sincere and genuine peace process should begin with returning and resettling displaced communities back to their homes and initiate the process of apprehending the aggressors and bringing them to justice. To me, this is the best way to start the peace process.
Miyetti Allah recently appealed to its members not to retaliate killings in Southern Kaduna. Don’t you think it is a good development?
Good development? How? Listen, the continuous narrative of reprisals, retaliation, vengeance or communal clash which is the position being pushed by the governor of Kaduna State and the present government generally is strange and does not fit into the reality of what is actually going on in Southern Kaduna. I’ll say it for the umpteenth time, what is happening in Southern Kaduna currently is not a communal clash as the government of the day will want the world to believe, no! It is a case of unprovoked attacks on peaceful and defenceless farming communities where Fulani militia go into villages by night, carrying assault rifles and other dangerous weapons, set buildings ablaze, kill, maim, rape, destroy and displace survivors into neighbouring communities or camps while the authorities do little or nothing about it. So, when I hear Miyetti Allah, the government or anybody talk of reprisals, communal clash, retaliation anything of such, I recognize it immediately that such persons or group are a part of the conspiracy and propaganda to conceal the genocide and ethnic cleansing that is ongoing in Southern Kaduna.
Two big issues currently on the national front burner are the hikes in electricity tariff and pump price of fuel which many Nigerians have kicked against. What is your own comment on this?
I’m not surprised at all! From day one, I knew nothing good could come out of this present government. How would you expect anything good to come out of a government that emerged onto the stage riding on the back of ethnic and religious sentiments, blackmail, lies and intimidation? It is when they took over government that reality dawned on them that leadership and governance are beyond sentiments and propaganda. In any case, this present government does not appear to have come to execute a national agenda but rather, to pursue a sectional agenda, and I think this is exactly what is playing out. So, I’m not surprised by the current trend of events. We should rather expect more increases in the prices of everything, including bride price I guess because this is a sadist government that may want to stop even further procreation by people they perceive to be their opponents.
Coalition of Northern Group has vowed to stage a peaceful protest against the hike in electricity and fuel pump price if President Buhari refuses to reverse these hikes. What is your advice to the group?
Protest? In this Buhari regime? Are there people still protesting in the real sense of it apart from the Shi’ite Movement, who have remained consistently resilient? Well, from what I know, ever since the emergence of the Buhari administration, the so-called northern groups have become notorious for opposing and frustrating any attempt to protest against this regime no matter how well intentioned. Maybe their eyes are beginning to open now and they are beginning to realize that good governance and responsible leadership is what makes a nation to progress and develop and not religious, ethnic or regional sentiments. Maybe they are beginning to realize that a bad government is a bad government irrespective of the party in power, ethnicity, region or religion of the people running such government. Maybe their eyes are beginning to open now to realize that the hunger, suffering, poverty, insecurity, corruption and retrogression that come with every bad government do not discriminate on the basis of one’s political party affiliation, religious beliefs, status, tribe, ethnicity or region. Thank God that their eyes are now opened and they are considering a protest against a government they have for long claimed exclusive ownership.
The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) recently rejected the proposed 4th amendment of the 1999 constitution by the NASS. Director of Publicity of NEF, Dr. Baba-Ahmed, said the exercise would be a waste of time and resources of the nation like the previous exercises. Do you agree with NEF?
Our situation in Nigeria today can best be compared to a patient who for a very long time has been critically ill, and in his/her state of excruciating pain, different medical experts at different times have prescribed a cure and none has worked. Now, the patient who is in serious pains and so desires healing continues to hope that the next prescription even from a known quack doctor may bring a cure and, therefore, willing to still take the prescribed medication from the known quack. This is exactly our situation in this country today. Since 1999, resources have been pumped in at every dispensation toward this same exercise of constitutional amendment, but very little or no progress has been made. But like I said earlier, just like the critically ill patient, our nation is in dire need of constitutional reforms and restructuring since things are almost falling apart. At this time therefore, any call for restructuring or constitutional reforms by the government, whether sincerely or deceitfully, will receive overwhelming attention by Nigerian. It may even be a way of shifting attention from the harsh policies of government such as fuel price increase, electricity tariff and so on that have plunged Nigerians into agonising hardship. Only time will tell.
Former Minister of Agriculture and Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Audu Ogbe, has said that if zoning is dumped in 2023 presidential election, Nigeria will be killed. Do you also entertain this fear?
Well, it depends on the larger picture that he sees as an elder. Zoning on its own is not bad. It ensures inclusiveness and spread, but only to the extent that our electoral institution, INEC, remains weak the way it presently is. If INEC is strengthened to the point that votes will count, where a person can win or lose with one vote, it is only then we will witness the emergence of true leaders that are credible and acceptable, who are not necessarily products of zoning which often times unavoidably throws up religious, ethnic or regional jingoists.
The Federal Government through the Accountant General of the Federation, Mr. Ahmed Idris, said it has spent over N30 billion to fight COVID-19 within four months. This has since generated reactions from some prominent Nigerians who called for provision of evidence of the expenditure. Do you see this as a justifiable expenditure?
You see, when it comes to money and this present government, I lack where to start my comment. We hear of borrowing and rumours of more borrowing, but we don’t see the results of all these. People even faint when they appear before the National Assembly to give account of their stewardship. In short, this government and corruption is a no-go area for me. Next question please.
Insecurity is getting worse by the day with killings, kidnapping and banditry across the country. What is the way out?
The way out of the current insecurity quagmire is a sincere commitment by the government to fight it. Fund the security agencies and bring them to accountability, fish out perpetrators of these heinous crimes and bring them to book instead of pardoning them and conscripting them back into the Nigeria military. Properly motivate and reward the security and military personnel that are fighting insecurity and return, rehabilitate and compensate all sacked communities to their homes.
Stakeholders in the North-central states have formed a new forum, North Central Peoples Forum. But some people see it as a way of clipping the wings of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF). What is your view?
It depends on their aims and objectives for their formation. Let me quickly observe here that our survival as a country is not dependent on how many groups we form, but a very thorough restructuring of the country including a truly elaborate constitution that guarantees the rights, privileges and freedoms of citizens on equal basis.