BY SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
Gen. Samuel Ogbemudia is one Nigerian leader who is worried about the spate of killings and bombings in the Northern part of the country. In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, he bared his mind on the security situation in the country and proffered solutions to some of them.
He also flayed the attack on President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency by some Northern Governors, insisting that the President must investigate the governors so as to find an end to terrorism. The retired General who further urged the Presidency to recruit the services of security experts to fight terrorism also stressed the need to go after local manufacturers of bombs and explosives and also importers of bombs, warning that bombings by the Boko Haram sect may remain unabated unless the activities of the importers are checked.
About 100 Nigerians were killed in the recent bombing in Nyanya park Abuja while several others were wounded. As a military officer what do you think is the problem?
From the little I know, there are three important methods of having a bomb in Nigeria. The first is through importation by those granted licence by the Federal Government to bring in explosives to do their civil engineering work.
The second is by smuggling it into the country and that the Custom can take care of. The third is by manufacturing it locally because the materials for manufacturing them are also in the country. When I was in training in America, they sent us to a Chemist to buy the powder. We would bring them, mix them together and ignite them either with water or something else.
That was in 1962. Now, the technology has improved and so, the security agencies must do something. But we must also bear in mind that the Boko Haram people carrying guns may not be the manufacturers of the explosives because the type of explosives you have are mostly in plastic forms and the PNT. They cannot manufacture that, they are imported. So, we must go for these importers and monitor them. The one we can put together are the local ones.
I think again, the appeal should go to our local people in whose homes they keep these equipments and the local people in whose presence they make these because if you are going to make a bomb, you need accesilin, you need gas, you need shipmeto, and you need cutting touch and all these materials are bought from people. The people know who buys accesilin, who buys gas, who buys cutting touch and all the materials they use locally. They can follow them, supervise them and monitor their movements.
Government has done everything humanly possible but the people are more in number than the people government put there to work. Government set up a road block. If some funny people are working, they can calm down when they get to the road block and walk through the road block and pick up another vehicle in front. Security men will not know but you need the people themselves to report that that vehicle coming contains dangerous materials.
In the late 50s when Nigeria was helping the Cameroon to overcome the rebellion against it, some of us were sent to the Cameroon border and we found that people were transporting ammunition using spare tires and so when the vehicles came for inspection, we will leave them to pass. But one day, we caught a woman who confessed to us that all the empty vehicles passing are the ones carrying the ammunition. That was how we learnt our lessons. So, there is need for equipment to identify ammunition in any vehicle.
Abduction of students
First of all, it is an unfortunate incident. Two, we must sympathise with the families of the students. On this issue of kidnapping, I hold the view that many people in the locality might have seen these children being marched away. They are the people who ought to give information to the security agencies as security men cannot be everywhere. Nigeria is over 900,000 square kilometres and if you multiply by square votes, it will be in trillions and we cannot have enough soldiers to do that or police or Air Force or Navy.
Therefore, those who are on ground should help the police with information so that they can catch up with these people. Those children they took away have parents, the parents might not have been present but there are people in the village who saw them being marched away.
They could easily have traced them. So, I think that the appeal mostly go to the local people to open their eyes and ears and also use their communication gadgets to inform the security people. Everyday, the police publish list of phone numbers and they should take note of those numbers and use them to the maximum.
Terrorism does not flourish in a hostile territory. The fact that Boko Haram is flourishing shows that the people around are supporting them and government must pay attention to that and find out why they are supporting them. The governors need to be questioned
more about what they need to do to get rid of Boko Haram. Public statements are not enough. Political statements are not enough. They should be able to explain what they can do to stop it because if the people were not receptive to them, they would have ran away.
Boko Haram cannot come to a place like Ibadan and stay there for long. People will round them up and kill them. The intelligence can get at the man who is recruiting them because no terrorist can survive in a hostile territory.
Again, they should educate the people and get the local people to cooperate, otherwise it will be a long drawn out insurgence. Again the Federal Government should look for security experts to help them and not these consultants. All the soldiers they are sending to that place should be screened too because if you send a boy to go and kill his brother, the way he will do it may be different. The best Nigerian soldiers come from Bachama in Benue.
But people are criticizing the President for holding visits in some states while Nigerians are being killed what is your take on that?
People who are criticizing the President may probably be feeling like the parents of the victims that the President did not declare state of mourning or cancellation of his appointments, but that is exactly what the bombers want.
If you do that, then you have already conceded victory to them. We all know that the President in his quiet moment feel so bad and he came out to ensure that the community people are not showing any sign of defeat by leading them with a bold face.
If he does not do that, people will say this is a weak man, only one bombing and he has given up. So he is right with what he is doing. Every country has a challenge and this type of challenge. If you look around Africa, Europe, latin America, you will find that there is always problem in every country and many end up stronger than they were when they started.
Nigeria in my view will be a united country because this very challenge is designed to strengthen our resolve to live together, designed by an unknown force to ensure that we live together and to also accept and make sacrifice for the betterment of the country and the people. Jonathan is more intelligent than many of us put together. He does not need any advice.
He is pushing to transform Nigeria and those who don’t want change are opposed to him. In the process of transforming the country, he is stepping on peoples toes and they are fighting him. When we talk about roads, look at the Benin Lagos road now.
I think Jonathan should be allowed to complete his job. He is spending sleepless nights doing his mathematics on how he can get things done, so, we should not distract him. And those people who are pursing selfish interests should leave him alone. I think Jonathan is good and he should be given another four years to add to his transformation programme.
He may not be able to finish it because transforming Nigeria will require ten generations after Jonathan. His children will come, they will not finish it but he is laying a foundation that will endure. So, lets give him a chance.
Problem in fighting Boko Haram
The problem we are having is that most of our military officers are not trained in intelligence or terrorism. So, they should meet occasionally to exchange ideas with the Minister of Defence who should be a core military man. They should constantly get briefing from the military high command and the President. Our intelligence network if strengthened can get at the man who is recruiting Boko Haram members because no terrorist can survive in a hostile territory.
Generals Yakubu Gowon and Muhammadu Buhari recently declared that the sect members action is a declaration of war on the country, do you believe that?
I am not surprised with what they said. I think that if they have declared war, the Federal Government cannot go to war with them because many of the people in these communities are still pro Nigeria. So, you cannot pound everywhere, otherwise you will be committing genocide.
But they should continue to hunt for them and block their source of funds and weapons so that they will be strangulated. We must close our borders, close it so that unknown visitors cannot come in. But unfortunately, they can trek through the bush to enter the country. If we were an Island surrounded by water, it would have been easier but we are on land. However, the onus is on the people themselves to say no to Boko Haram.
Are you comfortable with the allegations and counter allegaitons between the PDP and the APC as regards to the sponsorship of the Boko Haram and the recent attack by Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State on President Jonathan
PDP is a very responsible party and every statement of it is based on information from a reliable source and I believe that when they said it, they have good reasons for saying it and Nigerians should take them serious. Other parties are trying to copy the PDP. PDP is manned by responsible people, not cow boys.
In our history, Jonathan is the most competent President. He listens to public opinion and when he opens his mouth to say something, he says it with great confident and credibility. I must say that Kwankwaso is a good governor but over and above all, he is the luckiest governor that has confronted a President and got away with it. The President before Jonathan would have thrown him out of office. Jonathan is an embodiment of democracy and that is why people are taking him for granted. I think other governors should refrain from using abusive languages on the President.
State of Benin-Lagos road
Arch.Mike Onolemenmen is the best Minister of Works since 1960. I drove through llesha-Ife-Ibadan-Abeokuta-Lagos Road and the Minister is a blessing to Nigeria and Edo state in particular. And if he is given another five years, potholes and bad roads will be a thing of the past in Nigeria. When you see the Benin-Lagos-Shagamu road, you will no doubt come to the conclusion that a great percentage of the transformation is on the way.
Before now, from Benin to Lagos, none was tarred except small plantation, about four miles, all others are red earth and when you get to Lagos, you are red unless you tie some napkins over your head. So I think that Jonathan should be allowed to complete his job, we should give him the maximum support we can so that when it is our turn, his supporters will also support us.
He is spending sleepless nights doing his mathematics on how he can get things done and we should not distract his attention. And they should keep away from him those people who are pursuing their personal interest.
Will you support Onolemenmen to
succeed Governor Adams Oshiomhole in 2016 in Edo State?
He has not told me he is running for governorship. You don’t back people who don’t tell you about their ambition. Apart from that, because he has done well in one sector does not mean that he will do well in other sector. He has not told me he wants to be governor.