- Marginalisation, nepotism fuelling insecurity
To curtail the insecurity pervading the country, President Muhammadu Buhari has been advised to put a halt to the perceived marginalisation of some sections of the country by his government and carry all Nigerians along. Dr Yunusa Tanko, former presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) during the 2019 general elections who stated this, also lamented that the North has been passing through hard times under the current administration. He spoke on these and other issues.
What’s your view on zoning or rotation of the presidency to the South in 2023?
The truth of the matter is that the Nigerian constitution doesn’t recognise zoning or rotation. But in the spirit of equity, and fair play, it is better we have a Southern President in 2023, as this will foster togetherness, and unity among Nigerians. But this can’t be done under duress. Even the majority of the people in the North have already agreed that the President should come from the South in 2023. It is now left for the South to go and do its homework on the issue. But having a President from the South in 2023 should not become a subject of threat, intimidation or blackmail. It is something that has to be negotiated through dialogue, and consensus.
But we should not forget that there are other tribes apart from Hausa-Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba who deserve to rule this country, and this is why we should start talking about a Nigerian President. We should have a president that can come from any part of the country. But as it is now, the North want a unifying president from the South. Even now that we have a serving president from the North, has it added any value to the region? No. The North is suffering more under Buhari.
There is so much poverty in the North, and yet we have a northerner as president. In fact, Buhari’s presidency has not been of benefit to the North. What is even most painful to us in the North is that while we are suffering this much, people in the South are accusing us of marginalising them while we are in actual fact suffering. School children including toddlers were recently abducted in Niger State, and some of them are still being held. Same thing also happened in Kaduna,and in Zamfara. But if this has been in the South imagine the noise and uproar that would have been taking place. People in the North have been suffering in silence, and this is what many Nigerians don’t know. Kidnappings and abductions are still taking place in many states in the North. Schools are in shambles. People can no longer go to their farms. Many people in the North have become prisoners in their homes as a result of insecurity. My own take on all these is that we should no longer be looking at each other as if this person is from the South or the North but rather we see ourselves as one Nigeria.
What’s your take on the present high level of insecurity across the country, and efforts being made by the Federal Government to tackle it?
The truth is that while we try to identify the insecurity problem as being internal, it also has external coloration. We can’t also talk about insecurity without mentioning other factors that may have fuelled it. At the moment, the way the economy is being handled has led to a lot of problems in this country. The signs of division and nepotism in government have also led to a lot of problems in this country. It is some of these problems that have created the problem of insecurity, and it is when we start identifying how to solve some of these problems that we can now talk about how to tackle insecurity.
Apart from insecurity, there are other problems to be solved and if we don’t solve these problems, all efforts being made to tackle insecurity will amount to nothing. Some of these problems include the way people are being appointed to political offices. Contrary to what we are seeing now, Nigerians want to see appointment being made to government offices across tribal, religious, and political divides, and if it is done that way, anybody being appointed into government will know that he or she is being carried along in governance. But where you are being marginalised or feel alienated, you won’t have a sense of belonging and may therefore not have interest in being part of efforts being made to find solutions to challenges confronting the nation.
One of the ways to tackle insecurity is to involve the people, to carry the people along, especially people at the grassroots, to listen to the hues and cries of the people, and in the process, our leaders will be able to extract valuable information that will help in solving the problem. Government needs to find out the reasons those involved in kidnapping, banditry, and insurgency are doing so. Were they able to listen to some of those being arrested? If they listen to them, then they will be able to find causes as to why they are involved, and from there they can now start talking about finding solutions. I have been saying it from time to time that this government lacks communication skills, and have not found the right way to communicate with Nigerians. This government has not been able to communicate correctly with Nigerians.
Therefore the perception that many Nigerians have about Buhari’s government is that it is not carrying people along, that the government has a hidden agenda, and that it has nepotism in mind. When government involves the people or relates with them in a way that will make them to have confidence in those in authority, then it will be easier to deal with insecurity, and other challenges. It is the people that are living in the local government areas, in the villages, and hamlets. If they see the impact of government coming closer to them, they will be the first chief security officers in their areas.
They know those who are perpetrating crimes, and they can pass on the vital information about them to those in authority. It is when they are able to work with the local people that it will then be easier to tackle those external forces. But if the internal mechanism is weak, then it will be difficult to contain forces coming from outside. So our leaders must provide that particular strength for Nigerians to feel generally that we are all working together. This can only be done if our leaders put trust in the system, and not for Nigerians to see them as if they are favouring a microscopic few or certain clan in their own community. President Buhari should convene a meeting of past leaders of this country, including other stakeholders like religious and political leaders to advise him on how to tackle insecurity and other challenges. Then the issue of people feeling being marginalised by this government has to be addressed.
Are you saying this government is marginalising Nigerians?
That is the perception in which people are seeing this administration. People see this APC led government as marginalising Nigerians. Not only that, they see Buhari marginalising Nigerians with impunity. Although the Federal Government has recorded some notable achievements across the country, the negative perception some Nigerians have about this government has overwhelmed its achievements, especially in the area of infrastructural development.
How would you react to the arrest and on-going trial of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho?
Nnamdi Kanu sounds intelligent but he is not putting his intelligence into practical condition, and I’m saying it with all level of modesty that our people in the South- East are basically God-given talents to our country. The level of intelligence God has given them is amazing, they are very industrious and you see them in every part of the country. What I expect Kanu to do is to use his intelligence for local politics by trying to field candidates for elective positions in the South-East, and if he has done that I know that he would have won with a landslide. He would also have used that opportunity to reach out to other parts of the country, and today we would have been singing a different song about his leadership. This is what he should have done instead of asking for secession, and putting people’ s lives in danger. But here for him to be asking for secession may plunge Nigeria into another civil war, and this we don’t want. No government will sit and fold its hands when an individual is calling for secession. What I would have advised Kanu to do as an activist myself would have been for him to use the numerical strength he enjoys among his people to transform the South-East. My advise generally on this Kanu and Sunday Igboho issue is that people should gravitate towards a society that will make everybody comfortable, and asking for secession will not guarantee that. If you are asking for secession, you are not asking for governance. But the way government is going about Kanu’s issue is wrong, and the way Kanu is also going about it is wrong, even though it is the right of any Nigerian to champion the cause of his own people.
The way the government has been handling the issue from the beginning is wrong. If the government has been doing the right thing for the people, people like Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho would not have come out to agitate against the country. Nor would we have Boko Haram agitating against the country. We are having all these problems because of government’s inefficiency, and ineptitude. As an activist, late Gani Fawehinmi taught us that we don’t run away from our country. I’m a product of late Gani, Balarabe Musa,and Arthur Nwankwo, and we were taught to fight for a united Nigeria, and therefore I will not in any way support secession. Kanu’s trial should however be free and fair, so that there won’t be accusation of witch-hunting. While the Federal Government has the right to defend the sovereignty of this country, so also Kanu has the right to agitate for the rights of his own people but the way he goes about it also matters.
What’s your take on restructuring? Some say it’s the only way to make Nigeria work while some disagree.
Had it been that our leaders have done the right things, or are doing the right things, there wouldn’t have been all these calls for Restructuring. Those clamouring for restructuring are doing so because of the decay in our socio-economic system. They are doing so because of the structural defects in our political setting. In the past, we’ve organised series of conferences to address some of the issues, but has any of these ever been implemented? No, and this is why calls for restructuring has refused to go away. So what do we do now? The National Assembly, which is calling for the amendment of the constitution, should ask people from the nation’s six geo-political zones to submit documents, and memos stating what their people want. The lawmakers should now debate it, and then implement the wish of the people. They should not doctor memos submitted to them so that what we will have at end of the day will not be a mockery of the whole exercise.
If they do that, it will not be acceptable to Nigerians. The National Assembly is in a position to make restructuring possible but the problem is that some Nigerians don’t have confidence in the National Assembly, and that’s why they are calling for a brand new constitution. Since we are all working towards achieving the same goal of having a just and united Nigeria, if restructuring will make that goal a reality, then let’s do it. If restructuring is the way out, if it is the panacea to our challenges then let’s have it. And it should be done immediately so that Nigerians will have a sense of belonging, and have a peaceful general election in 2023. If the right people are in the right places, many of these agitations will fizzle away. But if you have a crooked electoral amendment that is not acceptable to the people then the agitations for restructuring will continue. Although we still have some good people in government, we need to have them in larger numbers so that they can overwhelm those who don’t have business in governance. Our ultimate goal as a nation is to ensure that equity, and justice prevail in the country.
The National Assembly recently voted against electronic transmission of election results. What’s your take?
It is the worst thing the National Assembly has done to this country. How can you subject INEC to the whims and caprices of the National Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Assembly? INEC has been trying to improve the electoral process, and I give kudos to INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu and I praise his courage for boldly saying that the election results can be transmitted electronically. The man is saying the truth with what we saw in Edo and Ondo states during the gubernatorial elections there. In Edo State, I was an observer, and I saw INEC doing it. Members of the National Assembly should be ashamed of themselves for saying that there is no network in some of their villages. Which village? If it is money they want to transfer to their villages, won’t they send it? The National Assembly members want to put the country in danger over their position on this issue. The National Assembly members’ action is not only anti-people but also a setback for our democracy. They are being selfish and unpatriotic. – The Sun.