•2015: ‘North/South south alliance favours Jonathan’
By Emman Ovuakporie
Hon Kaka Kyari Gujbawu is a member of the House of Representatives representing Maiduguri, the hotbed of the Boko Haram insurgency. In this chat, Gujbawu speaks on how to restore peace in the North-east and other national issues. Excerpts:
What is your take on the decision by 37 members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the House of Representatives members to decamp to the APC?
Let me make it abundantly clear that I remain a PDP member today and forever. It is unfortunate that my colleagues had to decamp to the rival All Progressive Congress (APC); it was a process that commenced quite a long time ago. It would have been worse, but the act of statesmanship exhibited by President Goodluck Jonathan and some of our very good friends reduced the number of those who would have defected.
Yes it happened under Bamanga Tukur, yes it happened under the watch of President Jonathan, but don’t forget that the PDP as a party is more than 14 years old. When President Jonathan and Bamanga Tukur came in some three years ago, there was anger and displeasure that had been building up long then and imploded. So I don’t believe in the blame game going on. Of course when we lose relationship, as humans, we regret it because the defectors are our friends. I am sure they are not happy they decamped to the APC.
We regret the loss of material things not to talk of fellow lawmakers. Like I told a friend, in a relationship, it is normal to quarrel, fight, separate and it could even lead to divorce; thereafter, we can reconcile our differences. You can see that the forces that bind us together far exceed what divides us and we have come a long way as PDP members. Wherever the defectors are today, they won’t be as happy as they were when they were in the PDP, because that is the House they built and it enabled people like us to come in and develop our political career. I assure you that you would see most of them coming back into the PDP which is their natural place before the 2015 polls.
When they were announcing their crossing over to the APC, I was one of those who stood up to renew their loyalty to the PDP, to express their passion for the PDP and we were shouting and hailing PDP because the party is still alive, and remains the strongest party not only in Nigeria but in Africa. It was agonising to see our members decamp but that is democracy for you and, as humans, everything is dynamic.
But let me make this abundantly clear again. Just as today you saw the other side of the divide clapping, happy that they got some of our colleagues to their side, I am very sure that soon we will be the ones to laugh, and he who laughs last-laughs best. As I am talking to you, a lot of members of the so-called APC are discontented; totally displeased with the way the APC is run.
Don’t forget that PDP is the only party in Nigeria that is not owned by a person or a few persons. It is not a sole proprietorship company or a limited (asset?) corporate outfit. But if you look at the APC, two or five proprietors came together and they dictate to everybody. You don’t find that in the PDP. Our party remains the only party that can flaunt internal democracy.
What do you make of the assertion by the National Chairman of the independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, that elections may not hold in the troubled states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe in 2015 if the Boko Haram insurgency persists?
We should not politicize security issues even as I will not want to join issues with my very good friend, Governor Kashim Shettima. But I am compelled to do so for the sake of the nation that I am part of and for the sake of the constituency that I represent at the National Assembly. What Jega said was very clear. He said if the status quo, what is obtained today as per the security situation continues unabated; there is nothing he can do about holding election there.
We are in a state of emergency and I am from Borno State. today there is no Borno indigene that would tell you that he can traverse the twenty seven local government of the state without the fear of being kidnapped or get killed; not even fifty percent of Borno State. That is the situation today and it is a fact. A lot of our brothers and friends are being kidnapped as I am talking; they are being killed as I am talking and so how do you think of going to conduct election in that place? Do we want to expose the poor people to risk simply because we want to remain in office? I don’t want that to happen.
As Mr. President, Goodluck Jonathan would always say, ‘I don’t wish for a single drop of blood to be shed for me to remain in office’, I align myself with this political philosophy. I don’t wish a single blood of Borno indigene or any person to be shed so that election should be held for me to continue in office. But, certainly, our ardent desire, and that’s what we all are working on, in collaboration with our governor, to ensure that Borno reclaims its enviable epithet of “Home of Peace”; to ensure that elections are held in 2015 and our people’s voices are heard and choices made, without being disenfranchised.
But there are those who think that the assertion is politically motivated?
I tend to get passionate when the issue of my constituency is politicised. I know of very close friends who are like brothers to me that have been killed by the insurgents. Every household in Borno, particularly in Maiduguri, has one story or the other to tell about such things and you politicise that? Ninety nine percent of the insurgents that have so far been arrested are from Borno State with support and engineering from foreigners.
What has the PDP or President Goodluck got to do with that? Will he not be the greatest loser if this nation collapses under his watch? How funny the claims of such conspiracy theories are! What of the assertion that others make that the Insurgency is a creation of the North to make Nigeria ungovernable for President Goodluck! For Allah’s sake, why should my people set out to kill their kith and kin and destroy their land just to make Nigeria ungovernable for short term political gains?
The insurgency saga is not the conventional battle that we all know. So for you to hold the government responsible over an issue that has not come to a manageable level is unfair. We should be objective. I knew that certain people were against the proclamation of the state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa by Mr President some 8 or 9 months ago thinking it has political undertones. I had a strong misunderstanding with some of my good friends on the other side of the political divide.
A lot of us still say that the patriotic Maiduguri youth, aka Civilian JTF, who collaborate with the JTF, have brought almost 80 percent peace to Maiduguri that was then known as the hub of the Boko Haram insurgents. What brought about this active collaboration that it would take an unarmed civilian to go and arrest a well-armed Boko Haram member and the law supports it? It is because of the state of emergency. What do I mean by that? If not for the state of emergency, these guys are sophisticated; they could go to the court of law to halt the activities of the Civilian JTF because they can argue that under our existing laws, no civilian is empowered to arrest them and the court would give the verdict in that order
It takes a sagacious leader like Jonathan who knows that this crisis is unusual that requires an unusual approach. For him to do that, he had to suspend the laws to proclaim the state of emergency. This problem to a large extent is a civilian issue. There is a Hausa proverb that says “ Da dan gari akechin gari” freely translated as” you require the support of the son of the soil to reap the full benefit of any town you go to”.
So for the military to succeed within the very heart of the city of Maiduguri, they need the cooperation of the civilian. I speak the mind of almost all Maiduguri indigenes that it is almost like a miracle that in Maiduguri today, we can gather to celebrate either a wedding ceremony or naming ceremony. Just about four weeks ago, former President Babangida was in Maiduguri for a wedding, just to underscore the level of peace that has returned there.
So if you say that the president is not doing well, you are not being fair to him. We must acknowledge the fact that all the crises have not been solved is not the fault of Jonathan because it didn’t start with him. He inherited them. Tackling terrorism is a huge challenge across the world. Even the United States with their level of sophistication are still learning the art of counter terrorism not to talk of a country like Nigeria. The issue of human life is too important for us to politicise. We should try and divorce politics from the sacredness of human lives.
What is the update on the idea of recommending the Civilian JTF to President Jonathan for national award?
I am more convinced than ever before that we are going to make the recommendation because that is the desire of my people and I think they deserve it. I think they deserve not only national award, but a comprehensive rehabilitation and empowerment. Even the president acknowledged that they are the new heroes of Nigeria. And as you well know, the president’s speech is tantamount to a national policy. We await the execution of that policy.
I would like to commend the effort of Governor Shettima in this line by employing about 2,000 youths of Maiduguri. Our people are in dire need of a lot of support. Our economy is in shambles, our social life has been disorganised, and our psyche traumatised.
The fact remains that the whole of the North- east as I always emphasise requires the Marshal Plan or do I say the “GEJ Plan”. Recall the Marshal Plan was a blueprint by the former President Marshal of USA to rehabilitate Europe after the 2nd World War. Currently, the North-east of Nigeria, sadly, by all indices of human development according to the UNDP, is the most lagging behind; where the worst forms of poverty, illiteracy, poor infrastructure, unemployment etc have all conspired to make the North-east zone “ the sick man of Nigeria” ( apologies to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia)
What happens if the tenure of all elective office holders expires assuming elections do not hold in the states under emergency rule?
I pray, we never have to arrive at such situation. I don’t want to dabble much into this, because my purview in matters of law as a politician is limited to lawmaking, I am not an interpreter of the law, which is the responsibility of the judiciary arm. However, The constitution as extant now has foreseen such a scenario for the whole nation. There is a provision that if election are not held due to unforeseen circumstances, the tenure of office holders can be extended by six months just like the state of emergency.
If elections are eventually held, it is okay. Else, the tenure is extended by another six months. So the issue of unelected officials taking over the offices or vacancies existing does not arise. Now assuming God forbids that the security situation remains unabated in my area till when election are due to hold, is there a lacuna, certainly there is. But certainly when we reach the bridge, we would definitely cross it. Still, our prayer is that we never arrive at such scenario, and wish and work for an enduring peace to return to our state and nation.
What do you make of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s claim in his letter that President Jonathan has a responsibility to respect his commitment to serve a single term of four years in office?
In 2003, going back memory lane, Obasanjo said he was arm-twisted to sign an agreement to serve only one term. There was an agreement that was duly signed, but yet Obasanjo served two terms and he even wanted to change the Constitution to continue a third term. In this case, we are yet to see an agreement that was signed by Goodluck to serve only a term in office. The Constitution allows him not just to continue but to seek second term.
After presenting his score cards to Nigerians, it is left for Nigerians who enjoy the franchise to decide to give him another chance or not. I think Nigerians should be allowed to decide President Jonathan’s fate on this matter and not former President Obasanjo or any individual for that matter.
As a politician of northern extraction, I urge my people to give President Jonathan their complete support to get second term in the spirit of upholding the 60years of unbroken political alliance between the North and South/South initiated and consummated by our founding fathers- Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Chief Festus Okotie Eboh, Chief Melforf Okilo; and consolidated in the 2nd Republic by President Shehu Shagari, Chief Joseph Wayas, Alhaji Maitama Sule, Chief Melford Okilo, Chief Edwin Clark, and currently sustained by the dual mandates of the late President Yar’Adua, President Jonathan & co.
I admonish my brothers to bring to bear the dictum, “ one good turn deserves another”. If there are issues my northern leaders have with Mr. President, and, of course, there are valid ones, they should work it out with him through sustained dialogue.
We have come a long way in this political alliance that we owe future generations to pass on to them the inestimable political legacy of their founding fathers.