By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Mr. Jonathan Asake was a member of the House of Representatives who came to national limelight at the peak of the impeachment move against President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2002 when he marshaled internal opposition to the move. Now the national youth leader of the Middle Belt Forum, Asake in this interview expresses the framework that will shape the 2015 political contest and what the role of the middle belt will be. Excerpts:
WHAT is the thought of the Middle Belt region concerning 2015?
The Middle Belt People, particularly our youths, come 2015 will avoid the very grave mistakes of 2011. What do I mean? Of course in 2011 we went into a blind support of the candidature of President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo without having a roundtable negotiation of the terms and conditions of our support.
The most stupid thing to do is to blindly support anybody’s aspiration without knowing what your people will benefit in terms of appointments or allocation of resources when such a person finally wins and goes into office or when government is ultimately formed. The people of the Middle Belt will do what in Nigerian parlance is called “Shine your eyes” in 2015.
The reason this happened is partly because we did not have a standing structure for the forum to negotiate the conditions of our support for President GEJ in 2011. Now the Forum has been restructured with vibrant officials under the able leadership of Prof. Jerry Gana.
What is your assessment of some Middle Belt persons frequently mentioned concerning 2015, such as David Mark, Babangida Aliyu?
To the best of my knowledge, Governor Babangida Aliyu has never claimed to be a Middle Belter. I am aware he is among the core Northern governors that are being mentioned in the media to be eying for the presidency in 2015. If however, he wishes to run and wants the support of the Middle Belt, or any other person, we will weigh their qualities against others, whoever stands out we will then negotiate our terms of support with him as I said earlier.
On the other hand, Distinguished Senator David Mark is a bonafide Middle Belter and will automatically have our blessing and support if he decides to run for President in 2015, not only because he comes from the region but because he is eminently qualified. Our position right now is that whenever power is shifting back to the North, it must come to the Middle Belt first. Yes, we are ready to take over power. After all, the Middle Belt has been making all the kings, we are ready to be king.
God have so placed us stratigically between the North and the South such that we have always had the responsibility of holding the Nation together. If we at any time decide to throw our support to the South, they will win and if we support the North, they will win.
So the Middle Belt is the beautiful bride in the affairs of Nigeria. Therefore if we want to be president, we can canvass support from the South only, we will win or, we canvass support from the North only, we will still win.
The middle belt region largely backed Jonathan in 2011. Do you have any regrets and would you do the same in 2015?
The Middle Belt people are still going through persecution of various degrees due to the support we gave Jonathan in 2011. Why I say we are not regretting yet is because we still have hopes that he will remember that our votes in the North gave him the Presidency and that he still has time to compensate us in commensurate terms. For instance, in the entire North, Plateau and Kaduna States are the only states he got over a million votes.
The over a million votes he scored in Kaduna came mainly from southern Kaduna, a middle belt area, yet Mr. President could not give southern Kaduna a ministerial slot. Even the Zonal ministerial slot he gave it to Jigawa State, making them have two ministers, despite the fact that he barely scored above 300,000 votes there.
Ditto for Plateau that gave him the highest votes in the North, have have they to show for such huge support? Only only one weak ministerial slot. Now the story in the North east is even more pathetic, in all the six states of the North East zone, Mr president got his votes from those states only in those minority areas that fall under the Middle Belt.
It is sad to note that none of those areas had been given any ministerial slot or any meaningful appointment. For instance, the votes he got from Bauchi State came from the Christian areas of Tafawa Balewa, Bogoro and Das Local governments, yet the two ministerial slots went to those sections of the state that did not vote him. Ditto for southern Gombe and southern Borno.
The story in southern kebbi is even more pathetic. GEJ got almost all his votes from Zuru area, and yet when he nominated one of their own, Gen. Ushe for Minister of defense, a mere protest from a section of the state that refused to vote for him but chose to vote for Buhari’s CPC made him to stand down the appointment till date. To me this is unfair and unjust. This is why I said earlier that the middle belt must negotiate with whoever, including GEJ.
Another aspect of our displeasure is the insecurity occasioned by the incessant Boko Haram’s barbaric attacks on innocent Nigerian Citizens, especially minority groups and other non-indigenes residing in the North which persists with impunity. We are very much aware that one of the main reasons for the attacks is to dislodge all those that voted for GEJ in 2011. Back to your earlier question, are we regretting giving him the support? I have said no, not yet. He still has two years to make things right.
Prominent northerners including many second term governors from the North are reportedly eyeing the 2015 contest. How would you give your support?
The Middle Belt will never support any Governor or any other fellow known to have had a hand in supporting or sponsoring the activities of Boko Haram which have continued to unleash terror on our people and other Nigerian citizen with such utmost barbarism. Going by the series of media reports, we know those that sponsor, support and encourage the activities of these terrorists.