BY DAPO AKINREFON
Senator Babafemi Ojudu (APC, Ekiti Central), in this interview with Vanguard Politics takes a swipe at President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to set up an advisory committee for a national conference describing it as a sham. Excerpts:
Mixed reactions has welcome the setting up of an advisory committee for a national conference. The Senate has approved…
(Cuts in) Not the Senate but the President of the Senate.
But some Senators are welcoming the development
For me, a national conference is desirable. As an individual, I started campaigning for a Sovereign National Conference as far back as 1990 when Alao Aka-Bashorun and his group, the Campaign for Democracy, wanted a sovereign national conference.
At that time, I was working with National Concord but I took three months leave of absence from my job to be organizing secretary for Campaign for Democracy and I was the principal organizing secretary for that conference. You see it is desirable, we have talked about it, campaigned for it but the one they brought now is a scam.
We have not been asked to discuss it as a body in the Senate. In the past, the President of the Senate was opposed to it while some of us were in support of it. Now there is this turn around, he is in support of it.
For me, I am against it not because there is something wrong with it fundamentally but because I happen to know and I have insider information that it was just meant to be a diversion. It is a scam.
They are not serious about it. They have a problem in their party, the PDP. The party is disintegrating and they are looking for a diversion so that people’s attention will be diverted to something else. The noise will subside, they will bribe whomever they can bribe and pacify whomever they can pacify and then move on with the 2015 elections. That for me, is the only reason they have come out with this conference. It is a strategy to resolve all the conflicts within their party.
It is not because of the clamour or genuine cry over the years for a national conference.
You are a member of the Senate Committee on Defence and you recently visited the North East, would you say Nigeria is winning the war against Boko Haram?
We spent three days on the ground, we went to Yobe and Borno states. What I saw shocked me. In some places we visited, we saw some towns devastated, all the buildings set on fire, schools destroyed, police stations, telecommunication masts destroyed and people were slaughtered.
There is a particular market which is the biggest market of water melon in the whole country, it was ransacked and destroyed. For me, we are in a state of war. Now, after seeing all of these, I thought I had seen enough, until we went to the barracks of the Joint military Task Force in Maiduguri. We were shown videos of innocent people been slaughtered. These videos were seized in the camps when soldiers raided the Boko Haram hideouts.
We saw people with their hands tied behind their backs and their throats slit. I saw five policemen that were arrested by these militants. As one of the terrorists was pronouncing death sentence on them, two of the policemen dropped dead, they still went ahead and slaughtered them. The policemen were in uniform.
I saw video recordings of traders, who left Ibadan to the North to buy beans, they were arrested. I saw their hands tied behind their backs and they were slaughtered one after the other. As they were slaughtering one person, others were made to watch them. Those who could not stand it, buried their faces in the ground but the terrorists still went ahead to slaughter them.
Does that mean that the state of emergency declared in these troubled states is not yielding results?
We are talking of terror, about guerrilla warfare, it is not a conventional warfare. You cannot say you are condemning the soldiers for not quickly routing the terrorists. It will take a long time because they (terrorists) have embedded themselves in that society and what we are told is that they have close to 6,000 soldiers in Sanbizar forest in southern Borno state. We are also told that they have bunkers there.
We saw several other incidents like that. We were in a village where 50 students were slaughtered. For me, it is gruesome, I wish Nigerians could be shown those videos to see the extent of the calamity going on in the North East of Nigeria.
Having seen this, how can this be addressed as quickly as possible?
It is a question I have asked myself several times, it is also a question that those of us in the committee for Defence and Army have asked ourselves. It is a very knotty issue. From what I have seen and what is happening now,I am beginning to see that this matter may not be about religion, it may be economic, social dysfunction that people are reacting to; the environment and neglect of so many years.
People have left school, they have been educated and they could not get jobs, they are frustrated, they have no hope and whatever it is that can occupy them and give them that sense of fulfillment is what they are going to do. That for me, is one of the reasons behind this cause. If it was about religion, they would not go about killing people who are Muslims like themselves.
But some have argued that a national conference will address all these issues…
I hope so, but that will be a conference that is genuine. The government cannot convene a national conference. It is not for the government to do; it is the people who are outside government, the stakeholders, vigil societies, in consultations with all organs of government that can convene it.
He did not consult the major sectors of the society, he did not consult ethnic nationalities, he did not consult the National Assembly. If had consulted the National Assembly, then, he would have brought the matter before us, we will debate it, we will vote if there is need to vote and agree to it. We will also discuss the modalities.
But Senator Femi Okurounmu, a staunch member of Afenifere, is chairman of the committee.
Which of the Afenifere? If he belongs to Afenifere, it is must be the conservative section of Afenifere. For me, this so called national conference lacks credibility, it lacks originality and it is short of sincerity. It is not going to work, it is a sham and it is dead on arrival.