SENATORÂ Joseph Kennedy Nyik-wagh WakuÂ is the National Vice chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF. He representedÂ Benue North-West Senatorial District on the platform of the Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP) between 1999 and 2003 in the Senate.
In this interview with Vanguard in Kaduna, Waku warned the Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan not to go against the zoning arrangement in the PDP; saying that Obasanjo was misadvising him on the issue in his belief that the North cannot speak with one voice. He also spoke on politics in Benue State and why the Idoma man where David Mark hails can never become the governor. Excerpts:
What brought you toÂ Kaduna?
I am in Kaduna to attend first, the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and thereafter, attend the meeting of the Northern Eldersâ€™ Council which also held yesterday here in Kaduna and it was organized by the ACF which put the council together.
The members of the council include former heads of government, traditional rulers, former Chief Justices, retired top military and police officers, top politicians in the North; all came together and resolved that the presidency as zoned by the ruling Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP), even though not everyone of us is in the party but the PDP ought to honour its contractual agreement whether constitutional or unconstitutional; that by its zoning arrangement, the South has enjoyed eight years of uninterrupted power as a result of the zoning arrangement and therefore; the North would not compromise on the matter.
Indeed, the matter should not be tabled for any debate or discussions as any contemplation by anybody from any other part of this c
ountry to run for the presidency under the PDP will not be tolerated.
But why are non-members of the PDP speaking for the party?
I have said it here that even though we are not all members of the PDP, we categorically said that it should apply to the party alone because of their zoning arrangement. And of course, we have to speak for the PDP because we also beneficiaries of that party. Some of the elders of the ACF are members of the party. In fact, some founding members of that party were all members of ACF.
Some people are saying that the average Northerner should not complain about power shift now because they have held power for a long time without anything to show to their people in terms of development, especially if you putÂ poverty as one of the indices. For example, what has the North benefitted from the Yarâ€™Adua government that they cannot get from any other president from other region?
That is a different issue altogether. Whether we did enjoy or not, it is an agreement that we must complete our eight years. After eight years, whether we are backward; we do not enjoy, let the angel from anywhere, come in and take over and re-order the misdeeds that our leaders have done, but for now, it is our right; not even a privilege. And in any case, what is the kind of enjoyment that you want from a leader? I agree that the Northern leaders have compassionate approach to governance.
They take the entire nation as their constituency and also expect that other people, when they come should look at the entire nation as their constituency. As a result of that, Northern leaders who have been in governance may seem not to do what they were supposed to do for their own people because they are not leaders of their own areas alone. They are leaders of the entire nation. Why is it that other segments of this country are not accusing Northern leadersâ€¦? It is because they enjoyed their regimes and also because th
ose leaders tried to accommodate everybody.
What do you mean by not accusing Northern leaders?
They are not accusing northern leaders for not developing their areas or not supporting their areas.
People are saying that they likeÂ power and that they have been there for three quarters of the 50 years of Nigeriaâ€™s independence without developing the country.
I do not know what you are coming to. Number one, the North prosecuted the civil war which brought this country together. At the heart of the confusion, it was a Northern leader that brought this country together. That is not all. Number two; if you look at the decency in terms of uniting Nigeria, it is a Northern leader. If not for the Northern leader, probably, the people of the South-South, would have been enslaved by the Igbo but because, the Northern leader said no, we are one Nigeria, no matter where you come from; you must be recognized as a bona-fide citizen of this country.
Not many leaders would do that. And of course, would you tell me thatÂ having led this country for several years, that there is nothing Northern leadersÂ have done right? If you are talking of individual enrichment, that is called destiny. If you are destined to be enriched by a friend or a relative, so be it, but if you are not, it has to be from some other friends; brothers outside your own domain that will do it.
You were saying that the Igbo would have enslaved the South-South people but forÂ the North. The middle belt where you come from have been complaining about same enslavement by the core North. Most of them insist that they are not part of the North and feel insulted when you call them Northerners
No (cuts in). That is blackmail. If they are not part of the North, where are they from? That is my disagreement with them. Where are they from? They claim that they are from the Middle Belt but the Middle Belt is not a region.
You do not know the concept of the Middle Belt. The Middle Belt was a political platform for people from the North Central to hang on and fight for self-reliance and at time; it was just one segment of the so- called Middle Belt but today, we have even got more than we asked for. J. S. Tarka became the national vice chairman of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) before he died. That was the founding father of the so-called Middle Belt.
But people believe that he made a summersault because, after fighting for the emancipation of his people all his life, he later embraced his oppressors in his last days
No. You do not understand. When we got Benue/ Plateau states, as far as we were concerned, we had won. Is it the Hausa-Fulani that are the governors of Benue or Plateau States today? Is it also the Hausa- Fulani that is the governor of Nasarawa State today? Let us talk about theâ€¦; let us not mislead our younger generation. We are from the North and they know we are from the North. Nobody stops you from creating associations to enhance your political journey but it cannot be used as a political wheel chair for disabled politicians.
Nobody fought in that battle than my humble self during the J. S. Tarkaâ€™s days; when we were young; wanting to be self-reliant and independent but we did not get it. So, must we continue to fight? Fighting who now? Then it was the late Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello that was ruling the entire North. Today, I have my own governor who is Gabriel Suswan. Plateau has its own governor who is Jonah Jang. Kogi has its own governor just like Nasarawa, andÂ Niger states have their own governors.
An intelligent person would say that the governor of Niger State is the Chairman of the Northern Governorsâ€™ Forum. Suswan attends the meeting of Northern governors. It is a myopic and unintelligent person that will think he is not from the North or that part of the geographical area. Mrs. Akume, the former first lady of Benue State was the secretary of the Northern Womenâ€™s Governors Forum. Who are we deceiving? So, if the presidency came to the North, the people from the so-called Middle Belt would not have power to talk because they are not northerners.
No, I do not want to mislead my people anymore. And J. S. Tarka never misled them. J. S. told them; let us create a platform under which we will stand and fight for self reliance. It did not work out but he never gave up. But when the military came, he said okay, let us resolve the issue and got Benue-Plateau State and as time moved on, we did not end up with Benue-Plateau state. We also got Benue which is his home state. We did not even stop there.
We now have Nasrawa andÂ Taraba States over what we were looking for. So, if we were not coherent or firm to fight against our colleagues in the North, in order to get our dues, we should not have blamed anybody for our total failure. So, I am a Northerner, Chief Solomon Lar is a northerner and General Theophilus Danjuma is also a Northerner. We are all Northerners from Middle Belt, if you want to call it so, just as you are a Southerner from Enugu.
You are talking about coherence in the North but northern Christians say they are marginalisedâ€¦
Cuts inâ€¦ Just a minute. Do not let me insult my Northern Christian leaders. The greatest Nigerian that ruled this country is a Northern Christian. So, why are you talking about marginalization? Do not bring religion into this matter at all. How are they marginalized? Did they go to Benue to appoint whoever they want to appoint as governor? Is the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, not a minority Christian and our brother? But he has devalued Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa states by giving them departmental ministerial positions.
Is he not our brother and a Christian from a minority? The entire Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa states have been devalued in the sense that none of the states were qualified to be given a full minister but minister of states, while the Hausa/ Fulani whom they say have marginalized us; gave us ministers with full ranks. So, where are you coming from? That is our brother, a minority. That is our Christian brother who has devalued us. We are not even worthy of holding a Women Affairs Ministry
whereas, Anambra which did not deliver to PDP has two cabinet ministers. So, where are we heading to?
Is that the reason why you do not want Dr. Jonathan to continue as Presided in 2011?
Did I stop him from becoming President next year?
But that is what the Arewa which you are member is saying?
Arewa is not saying so. Arewa is saying that, look; let us keep to ourâ€¦ Look, if Dr. Jonathan can see through, let me tell you, the former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo wants to lure this man into contesting. Jonathan did not want to run for the presidency. It was Obasanjo who is persuadingÂ him, that look, I have demystified the North; I have disabled the North; you go ahead, nothing will happen. That is the biggest joke of the century. Something will happen. I do not know what will happen but something will happen.
It seems you have patholigical hatred for Obasanjo because you have never spoken good of him in the past.
If you call it so, I accept it. So, be it; I have no apologies.
Why are you asking me? How can a human being not be totally grateful even to God that made him? He is not grateful to him. I do not hate him. I dislike him because of his approach to issues; he is vindictive; thatâ€™s all. Why should I hate my leader, both in age and everything? I took Obasanjo to every place in the North in 1998. And let me tell you. Let nobody have the notion that the North never wanted power shift in the first place.
I for one, I started this when I was a young politician, during the period of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Alhaji Shehu Shagari, I supported Dr. Azikiwe against Shagari. During the era of Chief M. K. O Abiola and Babagana Kingibe, I supported M.K.O Abiola against Kingibe. When it was the turn of Chief Olu Falae and Shehu Yarâ€™Adua, I supported Falae. Abiola won Alhaji Tofa in one ofÂ the most credible elections since independence of Nigeria; Abiola defeated Tofa in his polling booth in Kano.
It was not the Yoruba that voted for Abiola in Kano. So, let nobody say that we never wanted power shift. It was this North here that voted for Obasanjo. He lost in his South-West base. Nobody voted for him there. So, when you look at this type of gesture to a human being, that does not appreciate it, if you were in my shoes, what would you do ?Â I am involved. So, if you do not have anything to do to him at all; at least you show your anger, which I am showing and will continue to show until he apologizes.
I was a Senator for four years and we were living on our allowances of N69,000 per month and Obasanjo gave specific instructions to his ministers that â€˜if I find you assistingÂ Senators Waku, Roland Owie and Chuba Okadigbo;, I will fire youâ€™. So, we did not want our friends to be fired and we decided to keep to our legislative duties for which our people gave us our mandates. We became senators who weighed where public opinion mattered
You said that Obasanjo must apologise to Nigerians for his supposed sins. What of General Ibrahim Babangida who annuled Abiolaâ€™s election that has been adjudged as the freest in the country? Babangida has not apologised and he wants to contest the next presidential poll.
How did he annul the election?
He was the head of the government that annulled it and the buck stopped on his table.
He accepted responsibilities.
But that is not like apologizing to the people
That is your own imagination.
But it seems as if Babangida is the only person theÂ NorthÂ has for the presidency now. Is he the only credible Northerner available?
If you decide to change and become a Northerner today, biologically and pathologically, you are qualified to run.
Will Senator Waku run for the presidency?
I am not prepared for that office yet; not now.
In your state, Benue, there is this cry against marginalisation. The Idoma are crying that the Tivs are marginalising them.
The governorship is one of them.
It will continue to be like that for a long time. You know I do not hide my feelings. It will continue to be like that because politics is a game of numbers. Politics is a game of the majority; one man,Â one vote. So, you cannot come with arrogance and take over from the majority. If it is a question of arrogance, the Idoma man will never be the governor of Benue State.
I speak for Tiv people as the Wando of Tiv and I just mean that. But with humility; the Tiv people; the most generous human beings in the world, if you do not know, that is the man that if you visit him, he will deny his children food and give your own children. And it goes on like that. The Idoma man will become the governor of Benue with humility. Let me tell you the antecedents why the Tiv man will never allow the Idoma man to be the governor of the state for a long time to come. There are federal board chairmen allocated to Benue.
Even if it was based on senatorial districts, Tiv people will have six and Idoma will have three. Idoma has six chairmen of federal boards and Tiv has three. What will you call this? Is it marginalization of the majority by the minority or what? But, nobody is crying foul.
Now, they even have the ministerial slot allocated to the state. . But is this fair? This is not marginalization but arrogant show of power. And you think that the Tiv people are happy to leave the governorship to Idoma people under the leadership of Senator David Mark? It will not happen. Even if I drop dead today, the Tivs that I speak for will not do that. Quote me.
So what is your advice to Senator David Mark?
I will not give him any advice. Let me give you another critical and painful scenario or factor. During General Babangidaâ€™s regime, Babangida did not know who is Idoma or Tiv or Igalla. He depended on his advisers. And his adviser then was David Mark. At that time Babangida allocated 111 board appointments to Benu. The Idoma had 100 while the Tiv and Igallas had 11. It is on record.
It was the late Tor Tiv who called me and showed me that list and he (Tor Tiv) said â€˜how will I be alive and continue to see my people not only being marginalized but being enslaved? How would I live to see these things?â€™ It hastened his death. That was what David Mark did to the Tiv people of Nigeria which ranks as number five majority tribe in this country.
It is painful, insulting and annoying. And on top of this, the only minister from Benue is Idoma. It is painful that our Acting President, a minority Christian sat and selected 25 Nigerians as members of his Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) and no Tiv man is there.
Tiv is number five majority tribe in Nigeria. We were competing with the Binis for number four position, but we have now accepted to be number five in ranking for now. Yet, at the Federal Executive Council (FEC), there is no single Tiv man there. We the Tiv people of Nigeria, they are like what Shakespeare once said: when they are right; no one remembers and when they are wrong, no one forgets. I pity and weep for my people.