Alaowei Broderick Bozimo was Minister of Police Affairs during the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo. In this interview, he is worried over the persistent attacks by Boko Haram, particularly the Wednesday bombing of a shopping mall in Abuja.
He urges government at all levels and shop owners to recruit youths to patrol communities and shops, warning that the military and the police alone cannot fight the Islamist group.
The chieftain of the PDP also says the Boko Haram attacks will not deter President Goodluck Jonathan from running for second term, just as he cautions the people of the Niger Delta will not fold their arms and allow any body to intimidate the President from seeking re-election.
SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN CITY
You were at helm of affairs at the Ministry of Police Affairs some time ago. How do you feel about the recent bombings in Abuja and what can be done to stop these terrorists?
It is obvious that the only way we can defeat these people is to involve the communities, the youths.
We should be extra vigilant. You will find that in Abuja where we call no man’s land because it is metropolitan, these wicked people will excel with their wicked activities if we don’t take time. Vigilante groups should be raised in the FCT and possible targets in our towns and cities; the police and army cannot do it alone.
We are aware that Boko Haram has recruited beggars and orange sellers; let us also recruit these people into our vigilante groups .We need to energise the youths and market associations must provide gates in their shops, let them be alert, let them instal CCTV cameras all over their facilities to monitor movements of people so that if anything happens, the cameras will aid investigation.
It is not police that will go round every nook and cranny of Abuja to find bombs but the youths and the people we call beggars, they can be made useful to us. Even among the youths, we have those who can catch these people with their bare hands and deal with them.
Deliberate efforts should be made to energise the youths to work; it is their tomorrow that is being endangered not ours because we are already old. You will be amazed that when young people are empowered, they can betray some of their people in the Islamist group. As they recruit beggars, we too should recruit beggars. Radicalize the youths positively, the market associations; the youths should actually patrol the streets, let it be a mass movement thing, that is the only way.
We must rise and take up the challenge, as long as they are scoring, they will be encouraged to believe that they will take over Abuja and other states. That is what is happening in Iraq, we must be tough in this situation. It is not talk now we need but action. We must support the security agencies in the practical efforts to gather intelligence.
If anybody thinks that this type of thing will stop us from backing Jonathan, that person is making a mistake because the only way for equity and justice to prevail is to allow Jonathan run for second term. If you cut short Jonathan’s tenure, we will not fold our hands in the Niger Delta, there will be no end to this insecurity. So it is important we recognize the right of every Nigerian so that there will be peace.
But some youths in Borno State are already being used to curb the terrorists?
One is gratified that those suggestions are taken into consideration when it has to do with decisions on the areas Boko Haram is troubling our people. I think the Federal Government is doing its best, but they should pursue that option, empower the youths and train them. We are at war.
I also believe that we, as a nation, are under policed. In those days, the UN recommendation is that one policeman would be policing about 400 people; that would put the police strength to about 150,000 if you do the simple arithmetic. But we all know that the entire police strength is not directed at addressing our general security needs.
In this country, we have public officers going around with so many policemen, even business men. I think we need to increase the police population and I don’t think it will be bad if we go as far as 800 policemen and, of course, if you just recruit them without training, it is going to be counterproductive. We need to train and retrain, spend money on our police and equip them properly, then there will be enthusiasm and commitment from our policemen.
We know how many policemen we lose on daily basis. We know how many widows and fatherless children we have to contend with. And I think we must address that. And, of course, the crisis has gone beyond policing alone but it is an area I want to leave for the experts to address; we need to increase the strength of the armed forces apart from the vigilante group that we need to absorb into the armed forces. We should be pro-active.
We should not wait until this madness spread all over the country before we consider engaging vigilante group at every level. Even the areas that we don’t have this problem now like the South, we should identify them and begin to get our youths to learn how to defend the nation. In that way unemployment will be reduced and the nation will be better off.
More kidnapping in Borno
The Boko Haram phenomenon is deeper than all of us thought it was, that is only all kinds of things are happening. I read the other day that an attempt to repatriate the suspect in Nyanya bombing was being frustrated by elements within this nation who wield influences, that is why across the border.
This is what one read and it is a serious matter. In order words the phenomenon is eating deep, not only into our security forces, but also into the populace.
That is why I say that if our youths are now brought into fight them, radicalization should not be limited to the extremists, we too can radicalize our youths into understanding that it is better to defend our nation.
When you fight for your nation, or defend your nation, employment will come for the youths, the nation will grow and everybody will be happy. It is meaningless dreamers that will believe that when you go out bombing people, then you go to heaven; for a Christian, you will end up in hell certainly.
So I don’t think that it is easy to assess for now the extent to which successes has been achieved in the fight against Boko Haram. I think government also is being careful. At one time, one felt over zealous and loquacious officials were already giving away a lot. Governance at this level must be done not in the public but quietly so that you don’t give away your trump card to the opposition.
I believe the less top officers talk about whether the strategies are working or not, the better for all of us. Having said that, I also believe that the Americans and others member of the international community that are coming to help are well intentioned and we must encourage them. But we must be careful too because we wear the shoe and we know where it pinches more than them.
A lot of them may be posturing and trying to claim that they care for Nigeria, but outsiders cannot care for us more than we care for ourselves. So I believe the elders of the affected areas should be more committed into addressing this problem of insurgency.
I do not like to compare South-south elders with the northern elders, but, clearly, if they will not go about it the way the South- south elders addressed their problems, they should device their own unique method to address the insurgency because all we want is for peace to reign and I don’t think they are doing enough.
Let us look at it, if there is a group going around to say Western education is useless and that everywhere should be Islamized, the Nigerian Constitution already provides for the practice of customary laws and behaviours as well as Sharia.
In Zamfara, they are already practicing Sharia, so you cannot ram that into every body’s throat and, you know, some throats in the South are so narrow that you cannot succeed in doing that. So it is pious dream to think that you can Islamize Nigeria.
And that is why I will urge our President to come out and declare his intention for re-election; all of us are committed to the Jonathan project to seek second term. Ofcourse, everybody cannot speak with one voice, I know of some professors who don’t believe that President Jonathan should contest.
That is their opinion but majority of our people believe that the man should contest again. The more he delays the more this impunity persists. If Boko Haram wants to negotiate, let the President take his position and tell the world that he wants to contest before we talk about negotiation.
Do you honestly feel that northern leaders are sponsoring Boko Haram to stop Jonathan?
There was this position taken by some of these northern leaders when Jonathan won the 2011 election; they cried that Nigeria will be made ungovernable and all of that. Initially it may well be that the crisis was fuelled to stop Jonathan, but right now I don’t think that is so.
I personally feel that a lot of them did not know that the thing will go the way it has gone and it is difficult now to put out the fire that it is turning into conflagration. That is where we are now. And I believe that the right thing for all of us to do is to work together and put out this fire, otherwise, it will start from burning those who put the fire and those of us in the South, we will dive into the river before it gets to this place.
Jonathan is our hope
I have persistent said so, it is not because Jonathan is an Ijaw man. I was in government. I know where we left it and I know where we are today. But you don’t have to be in government to know that there is huge development going on in this country.
Look at the roads; in those days, you could go to Lagos due to bad roads but all that are changing today. Even the East West Road that was a no-go area, it is not complete yet but at least you drive on it today. The only area where we have problem now is security and it is self-inflicted.
People who are determined to make life uncomfortable so that Jonathan will not contest are the problem. That is why I am saying that the President should declare for presidency because some of us believe that he will win. His records are there to give him victory.
I am a PDP person. What happened in Ekiti is like the PDP National Chairman, who is referred to as Mr Game Changer. And I think Ekiti is truly a game changer. I was truly proud when Fayemi came to accept defeat. This is an educated young man who said he will compile the irregularities and send to the relevant authorities. That is how it should be. And luckily Fayose himself has said we should learn from Ekiti.
To me after Fayose who won the man of the match is Fayemi. He will go places in Nigeria; some day if that young man wants to contest for President I will vote for him. He is among the solid young men that we want in politics.
From day one, we all knew the APC idea was good, we believe we need a viable opposition that will keep the ruling party on check so that the nation can move forward. But from the word go I knew that the APC will not go very far because it seems to be built around politicians who don’t like President Jonathan. You don’t build on bitterness or frustration, they should ignore PDP or the President and sell their programmes to Nigerians.
If you notice the Rivers State governor, Nyako and my good friend Kwankwaso, their days are not made unless they abuse the President. I understand a lot of it is politics, otherwise they are fine gentlemen.
But I think they should focus on their programmes; with that they can challenge the PDP. Honestly, I believe President Jonathan will have a smooth sail, the PDP train is in the South-West now, only God knows what will happen there in 2015.