MAJOR-General Lawrence Onoja is a former military governor of Plateau and Katsina States and was Principal Staff Officer to Gen. Sanni Abacha. He is presently president of the Alumni Association of the National Institute and chairman, Strategic Mobilization Committee of the Arewa Consultative Forum(ACF). In this interview, he speaks on issues concerning the 2015 presidential election, power shift and the position of the Middle-Belt. Excerpts:
BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN, POLITICAL EDITOR
You were out of PDP for some time and now you are back in the PDP, why are you back?
As of today, I have not officially decamped from ACN to PDP yet. But technically, I am almost in PDP now because I am working for the second term of Mr. President and obviously he would want me to be in the same party with him.
But the actual ceremony of receiving me in the PDP has not been done. So as at today I am still a member of the ACN. And then because of my position as president of the Alumni Association of the National Institute, I am not allowed to be very visible in political parties but as a citizen, I have a right to belong to a political party.
But I cannot contest any election as long as I am president of the institute. And I cannot accept any visible position from any political party. But our constitution in Kuru allows us to be partners with any government and advise that government in terms of policy formulation.
But the opposition believes that it has better democratic credentials to upstage the PDP?
It is very doubtful. The approach they are taking now, insulting the president and individuals, if they take that approach they will not be an effective opposition to upstage the PDP. What I expect them to do at this point is that if they have any criticism they should direct it at the PDP as a party, not Mr. President as a person. And they should show Nigerians their own credentials and what they can do to improve the situation.
Showing their credentials
Not descending low to call Mr. President all sorts of names. If they continue then I am afraid they will not be able to come near PDP in any election at all.
One other issue in the PDP is power shift to the North. Don’t you think it is ripe time to return power to that zone?
Every group has a right to ask for power but I believe power is not given that way. You work for it. I want to let you know categorically here that it is not yet time for power to shift to the North. Mr. President has not done his second term.
All the other Presidents were given opportunity to do their second terms and Mr. President by virtue of the fact that he is a minority like me, it would be unfair and injustice to stop him from doing his second term. If he finishes his second term in 2019, then other areas or blocks can now begin to agitate for power shift. I think it is only fair to allow Mr. President do his second term.
But we understand that the power shift is a Northern agenda and you are from the North?
There is a misconception. The North of the sixties when Sarduana was alive is no long the same North today. Let me correct that misconception, I am from Middle Belt which is a geographical reality today. I am an active member of Congress for Equality and Change which is a non political association. I am also a member of Middle Belt Forum. So, if you say I am from the North, and you are referring to the old North yes, I am from the North, but now, the middle belt is a geographical reality and I am a member of the middle belt. I am not from the core North.
You said Mr. President should be allowed to go for second term, but people will ask whether it is a question of second term or performance?
I believe Mr. President is doing well. This is my own opinion. Anybody has right to express his or her own opinion. I believe Mr. President is doing well. Look at the situation, those who have been there before what is extra ordinary in their performance that Mr. President has not done. The President is rehabilitating the railway system which everybody is yearning for and they are very grateful. The power situation has improved. Look at the steps he took to restore security in some parts of the North.
Those steps are welcomed by me and they are very adequate now. While the military are doing what they are trained for, there is a committee on amnesty trying to appeal to those who are belligerent in the North. With time I am sure these things will yield peace and peace is already coming back to the North. We will still have pockets of these militants who will be resisting but after some time with the appeals being made by many Nigerians, and the amnesty committee working, day and night to ensure they attract them.
The governor of Borno is already rehabilitating the children of the militants. The military there in Borno are even trying to embark on winning of hearts and minds of the people through pamphlets, through propaganda. So with time what Mr. President has put in place will yield results.
Agitators for power shift to the North are pinning down Mr. President to an alleged agreement which says he is going to run for one term. They also claimed that when he went to Ethiopia, he said he was going to do one term. They claim that what they are looking at is his honour and integrity of a leader over his words?
I am not privy to any agreement. I do not know if any agreement was signed. And I don’t think Mr. President signed any agreement with anybody. This is politics. Why there is unpredictability in political events always is because you have the mind as an individual to change your mind if you do anything depending on the situation.
Laying claim to power
All I am saying is that he should be allowed to do his second term before any group can lay claim to power. I am not privy to any agreement he had with anybody.
Do you mean Northern elders like Prof. Ango Abdullahi do not represent your view on power shift?
There could be anger in certain parts of the North. But there is no anger against Jonathan in my own Middle Belt part of the North. Every group has the fundamental right to agitate for power. The groups that are talking, the Northern Elders, Arewa, they are not political parties. They are socio-political cum cultural associations. So they probably cannot install a president.
At best they are talking of supporting a candidate from the North. You don’t blame me for saying that my own people support Jonathan. This is because assuming the power comes to the North today would you tell them to concede power to the Idoma people where I come from because I am a minority in the North and Jonathan is a minority form South South. Why don’t you allow him finish his second term then after that any other group can now begin to agitate for power.