By Dickson Okafor
Mustapha Kanti Bello, Commissioner for Rural Development in Katsina State in this interview among other issues tasked the Federal Government to address insecurity in the country and stop blaming past administrations.
The large army of idle youths and miscreants who today cause unrest around the country is seen as a product of the almajiri system which Northern elites allowed to linger for a long time; what is your view?
There are a lot of social challenges that led to the present security situation in the country especially in the North. You should understand that the more population you have, the more you look at how you are going to provide for them. A larger number of the nation’s population is domiciled in the North and I think governors in the North have to come together to proffer solutions to the social and economic problem in their states, but unfortunately, some northern governors defend the nomadic lifestyle of the Fulani the same way some governors defend bandits to the extent they are seeking amnesty for these criminals. We have to come out with a permanent solution to this.
Do you think amnesty to the bandits will quell the problems?
I don’t support granting amnesty to people who committed a national crime such as bandits and kidnappers, the issue of banditry is a national phenomenon and the National Assembly should look at the constitution and see if they have powers to grant amnesty to those who commit national crimes. However, the most important thing is to address the social problems that give rise to insecurity; insecurity should be seen as a national challenge which requires collective effort to tame, that is why in Katsina State, we have the Ministry of Rural Development as well as the Katsina State Rural Infrastructure and Economic Revitalization Programme that seek to bring infrastructure to the rural communities and create opportunities for youths.
What do you think of the agitations in the South-East for the presidency to be ceded to the zone in 2023; will such guarantee stability in the polity?
Politicians and leaders from the South East zone should be at the forefront of the agitation for national unity. South-East leaders should be talking of unity of the country; politicians from the zone are viewed by people in the other geo-political zones with suspicion because of their link with those agitating for secession. The South East must convince other Nigerians that they can be trusted with the Presidency. As long as people from the zone clamour for the actualisation of Biafra, it will be difficult for the rest of us to trust them with the Presidency. You can’t say you want to be a national leader and be supporting those who want to secede.
Some people believe that the ongoing membership revalidation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is aimed at sidelining some party stalwarts; what is your take?
I am not the spokesperson of the APC and not in a position to say the reason for the revalidation exercise, but I don’t think it is the case. I know that party registration is a continuous exercise because people that have attained the age of 18 will want to join political parties of their choice in line with the 1999 constitution as amended. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also continued to review the voter register and issue Permanent Voters Card (PVC) to those who attain 18 years. My advice to those complaining is to comply with the party decision and wait until the guideline for the National Convention and primaries are released; it is then that those with legitimate concerns can bring it forward.
The Fulani is accused of trying to dominate the Southern part of Nigeria as well as moving to Islamise the West African sub-region, what is your view?
That is not true; those who hold such a view are trying to sow seeds of discord to divide the country along ethnic and religious lines. Come to think of it, most of the people who are into banditry and kidnapping do not have Western or Islamic education. So, you cannot associate criminality with Islamisation of Nigeria. Moreover, if you look at the victims of kidnap, most of them are Northerners; even Boko Haram has killed more Muslims than Christians. Politicians always create division and confusion in order to get power and incite the people against the ruling party. The truth is that insecurity is not only a national issue but a global menace. The aim of mischief makers is to divide and create disunity among the people in order to get votes and attention.
How do you think insecurity can be tackled?
What will unite the people is good governance, infrastructural and economic development in our communities and this can only be achieved if we reach a consensus and drive development. When we have differences, development won’t come. The most important thing is to understand that living a nomadic lifestyle is no longer an option in this country; we should find ways to educate the nomads and also give them the necessary tools to help them earn a living in a modern way.
The herdsmen/farmers clash seem to have worsened under President Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani man, why is that?
There is a failure in the whole security architecture of the country, hence we must look at it as a national challenge. It is unfortunate that when there is kidnapping or banditry in a particular area of the country, those who did not support the government in power will celebrate instead of proffering a solution. But the government in power has not helped the situation, instead of concentrating on finding a solution to the security problem, they are giving excuses that during the PDP era, bombs were going up everywhere. We must bear in mind that whatever affects the country did not affect President Buhari alone but all Nigerians whether you are inside or outside government.