•The pact with Obasanjo
Dr Jhalil Tafawa Balewa is former presidential aspirant in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is currently a co-chairman of the Nigeria Intervention Movement, (NIM). In this interview with GILBERT EKEZIE, the renowned medical doctor, researcher and nuclear chemist spoke on various issues including the killings in various parts of the country and possible solutions to some of the problems facing Nigeria.
Your group held a meeting with Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in Lagos recently, could you disclose part of the issues that were deliberated upon?
Yes, at the Lagos meeting held recently, former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo wanted everybody to collaborate with the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) on the move to re-strategise Nigeria against 2019 elections, but CNM is a very recent organisation with less than 100 people, while the Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM), the movement they want to copy is the main third force. In a nutshell, the meeting was just called to see if there can be collaboration between smaller parties as an alternative for APC or PDP as 2019 election is drawing closer.
The Nigerian intervention Movement held a coalition summit in Abuja recently, what are the highlights and take home messages?
The summit was a major event. You know, I am a co-Chairman of NIM, anything worth doing at all is worth doing very well. It is about time we started doing things in Nigeria at a world standard level; we cannot keep saying that we are world leaders in the comity of nations and continue at our level of third world grovelling. Things have to change for the better henceforth.
Is NIM aimed at stopping the ruling party from winning 2019 election?
No, NIM has absolutely nothing against APC or PDP. They (APC and PDP) are just stop overs to Nigeria’s growth within the democratic setting. This is because we think it is about time that Nigeria’s politics matures at the interest of the people by the people. We believe that there is a way the so-called democratic party in Nigeria has grown. Today, there is a mixture of feudal system and a form of democracy that we now truly want, the government of the people by the people. We are encouraging people to get their PVCs because we know that in the past, not many people have voting cards. You will not be able to buy 70 million votes whereas, right now, it is easy to buy votes of so many people that do not understand why they are voting in the first place. We want to be able to educate the people about democracy and what their rights are, and about what PVC means to them. This is the only source of voting for the right people to represent them in Nigeria. It is pointless for everyone to keep complaining, without doing something about it. We are able to go to any part of Nigeria. We are still doing that at the moment to educate our people, to let them know that the time for all those ill-educated “people servants” turning to masters is over.
Would the third force have the capacity to displace the ruling party?
It is a politically democratic revolution. Definitely, the more people understand what their rights are, the more they’ll join us. This is because we bring some sense and understanding to the situation we are in, and we do not have to be in this situation at all.
Why did you adopt the name third force?
You see the first force is what you call the APC, PDP. The second forces are those that want to tear us apart, like IPOB, Boko Haram , etc. Then, the third force is the force that sees this country as the only country that we will ever have. And that we need to grow it in a way that it will be accommodating for all Nigerians. We have a wonderful diverse set of good people. What we just need are good managers and administrators that can bring all wonderful goodness to life and to profit the Nigerian citizenry.
What is your comment on the various killings going on across the country almost on a daily basis, especially between the herdsmen and farmers?
Well, I can say that one person dying unlawfully, illegally and before his time, or one Nigerian dying before his time is worth lives of many Nigerians. We need to be able to respect life. I do not see a way to justify the killings going on in Nigeria and it must be put to an end as soon as possible. Nobody should take the lives of others. I do not care whether it is the farmers killing the herdsmen or the herdsmen killing the farmers. It must stop. Nigerians must have liberty and opportunity to live freely and live on their own land. And nobody should put them into any situation where they will be scared or do not have any liberty of movement or whatever. In fact, this must stop immediately.
Could you proffer solution to the incessant clashes between the herdsmen and farmers?
Obviously, both are farmers, but the only thing is that the herdsmen are pastoralists. We must remember that they are the ones responsible for the main protein in our diets. And we eat meat always but never think about how it comes to our table. The government had always helped the farmers, but had not given the same attention to the herders. If you are walking cows from Sokoto or Borno down, you do not expect not be able to feed them. However, we have not done well for those herders for a long period. We need to think of how we can help both the farmer and the pastoralists. A lot of grazing reserves were created in the 60s but now they have just been left fallow. So, for herders not to go into farmland, we need to create different technologies. We have Super absorbent materials used in Agriculture worldwide to create grazing reserves; and we are talking to the people in Benue, Taraba, Plateau about this. We must create integrated reserves. We must create large enough grazing reserves that will satisfy the Fulani’ need to herd without infringing on the farmers right of looking forward to and getting his bumper harvests to market. We can have some sort of data bank, we will know who owns what, what weight they came in to the ranch with and what they are going out with. A system can be set up where you will pay according to the weight difference and we will be able to train their children at least to primary school level. We have so many veterinarians that will be at the grazing reserves to take better care of the cows. If an abattoir is set up, there will be lots of jobs available for the people. And the government has a very little investment to make in this.
Governors in most of the states affected by the anti- open grazing by herdsmen are not finding it easy, what would you do if you were in their shoes?
I think I will try to better the lives of my people. What should be done is what I can generate within my state, what I can do to bring peace to my people and to make sure that there is better economic growth within the state. Most of our governors are not thinking about what they really need to do. They are playing chorus of ethnic and religious stuff, rather than facing what problems that we really have. There are real problems, but they are solvable. Until we get to a point where people who have real ideas are in governance, we are not going to improve. And that is our bane.
How do you view the anti-open grazing law in Benue State?
We cannot just say do not come here without giving an alternative. Within the period the law was enacted, the herders moved to Nasarawa the following day. If we create the ranching reserves, we will be able to know where the herders are. Even the government can subsidise the feeding of the cattle as they subsidise a lot of farming activities. Unfortunately, that has not been done despite the fact that the herders are also into farming business. If we can have a grazing reserve and may be charge about N200 per cattle head per day or there about, it would solve the problem. Within the system, there will be no problem at all because they will have the right grasses to eat and be limited to a particular area where they can roam. And, they will not be able to hurt the farmers who toil all day and night to make sure that their farm products grow well. The government is indeed the largest employer and they need to show example of what to do to demonstrate that this can work. The minister of State for Agriculture and the Director of husbandry had been working industriously on this. But the government needs to take it up.
Taraba, a neighbouring state to Benue is also heading towards the anti-open grazing law to curb the menace of herdsmen attacks, do you have a different opinion on that?
The Taraba State Government should create a law of having ranching reserves that the herders can be going into. And, I learnt that the Ministry ofIinterior has trained so many forest ranchers. There has to be an integrated system to be able to allay everybody’s fears.
Talking about setting up ranching reserves, is it the responsibility of the state government to do that?
Well, the state governments can make the move first, then the Federal Government will come in. The state can do it. You cannot create laws without giving leeways to avoid sinning against the law. If you say I cannot have ranching, good, then create a reserve which I can use. The federal needs to provide the infrastructure initially.
Recently, the Chairman of the Northern Elders Forum, Professor Ango Abdullahi said that the Northern part of Nigeria would resist restructuring, what is your take on that comment?
Professor Ango Abdullahi is a well read statesman. But this is his thinking. However, I think that what concerns all should be approved by all. We all need to sit down and find out what is causing all these angst amongst us and find ways to solve it. Anything absolute is a lie. I do not think we should put absolute in the way we discuss about our country. I am sure that there will be reasonable people from all sides who can sit down and find a way that will be best for all of us.
Are you saying that Professor Ango Abdullahi did not speak the minds of the Northerners?
I did not say that, I mean that he is a seasoned elder of the North and I am sure that he has a lot more information to draw up than a little person like me will have. I just hope that whatever the situation is in Nigeria, could be ironed out peacefully.
What are the chances of President Buhari winning the 2019 election?
You know, I have been monitoring. I am never known to be a forecaster. I think, that will be for the Nigerian citizenry to decide if he deserves their votes in 2019 or not. I have never been good at forecasting.
What do you have to say concerning the disagreement between the Presidency and the National Assembly over the reordering of election sequence?
Well, this has been the most strange relationship between the parliament and the executive arm in the history of governance in Nigeria.They seem to always have one another by the short and collars. I think that the parliament can work a little bit better with the executive. And the executive also needs to be a little bit faster in their pursuit.
Professor Wole Soyinka called on the Federal Government to declare herdsmen as terrorists, could you react to that?
Professor Soyinka is one of my most favourite Nigerians. I find him to be very thoughtful. He tends to think carefully before he brings his ideas out. So, I am sure that with so many political researches, he has been able to find out what will be good for Nigerians.
What is your advice for Nigerians?
Nigerians should go and get their PVCs and if anybody offers them money, they should take it, but vote their conscience.
Could you tell us the reason for the Abuja NIM summit?
It is an educational programme. We are going to let Nigerians know that there is need for civic education for them to learn more about the political system in Nigeria. Learn what their PVCs mean to them. How they can use it to enable them get the desired result. We do not have anything against anyone or political party. We only love this country; she deserves more than the type of governance it is having and always had.
There are cries all over the country over insecurity, hunger and instability. What advice do you have for the Federal Government in this regard?
I think Nigeria has enough natural endowments to be able to bring out the Nigeria of our dream. We have had people that have never lived outside the country running the office of the diaspora for instance; literarily insane. We need to put round pegs in round holes and think about the several opportunities that abound in Nigeria. Government should encourage Nigerians to create jobs. It is important to have people in government that may know a little bit more than the regular citizens. To govern, you cannot expect to get something from somebody that does not have.
Is third force going to be a political party or do you have any political party in mind to work with in order to achieve your aim?
Wow, this is our joker card. Actually, we will eventually collapse into a party but we have not done that yet. We are watching and whichever party we think that is willing to adapt into making Nigeria better, obviously, a lot of the people that had been in government till now are recycled, and they have done Nigeria terribly bad. So, we are looking forward to bringing our youth up better and transfer power to them. But we have not seen any of those activists from any party as it were. There are some that have approached us even from the major parties. But we are still watching and working. We will collapse into a party. Maybe, at the last minutes, we will do that.We have the best brains in every single part of Nigeria. We have our researchers on the field working assiduously.
Third Force is made up of people from different political parties, how have you been able to accommodate your diverse interests.
There is no real political party in Nigeria with any ideology at the moment. We are more of an ideological group. So, if there is a party willing to have that ideology for the growth of Nigeria, we will be willing to adopt that party to align with our own ideology.
What are your fears for Nigeria?
Honestly, I feel that Nigeria is presently at a point where there has to be a positive change. We are stronger together than we ever will be apart. So, whatever that will bring the country together is what Nigerians want and that is what we are working for in NIM.
Do you have any intention to run in 2019?
Well, as you know, I ran for president before under PDP. I was the only one in the party to run against President Goodluck Jonathan. And I have not dropped the ambition. So, if there is any opportunity for me to serve my country, I will not hesitate to do that.