By Peter Duru
ALHAJI Abubakar Tsav, a retired Lagos State Commissioner of Police, renown social critic and anti-corruption crusader in this interview with Vanguard in Makurdi, spoke on Yar’ Adua’s administration, Obasanjo’s regime, EFCC,amnesty, rotational presidency and other national issues. Excerpts:
Recently the Federal Government announced an amnesty, granting freedom, so to speak, to militant groups in the Niger Delta. As a retired top Police officer, do you think, the amnesty would pave way for lasting peace in that part of the country?
Thank you very much, I am looking at the issue from two angles, first of all, they only grant amnesty to criminals, somebody who has been convicted for a crime. In the case of these militants, they started as freedom fighters, struggling to attract attention so that their area would be developed. This is because while the region produce the oil that sustains the nation there are no signs of development there. From fighting for their freedom, they extended it to kidnapping and bunkering which as far as I am concerned are all crimes, and so the sympathy they won initially was lost completely.
I think the amnesty granted by President Yarâ€™Adua will pave way for the return of peace to that region, but one thing is that we seem to forget history in this country. I remember many years back, these areas were developed with proceeds from coal, cocoa, palm oil, groundnut pyramid and the rest of them.
The areas were developed with the money generated from these proceeds; so every part of the country contributed to the development of Niger Delta area which today produces oil for the country. The fact that oil is produced in their area does not mean that they have exclusive preserve of the whole thing. But the fact remains that because it is produced in that region, they must have suffered a lot of hazards, so the government should look after them very well.
But this is not for them to say that the whole thing belongs to them and that they want to break away; that certainly will not help matters. So I think the amnesty granted them by the federal government is good, it will pave way for peace and development.
Letâ€™s take a look at President Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s administration; some allege that the administration is slow in acting while others contend that the administration has not impacted meaningfully on the lives of the ordinary citizen. What is your assessment of this government?
I totally agree with the argument that the government is very slow. Nigeria is a very big country, a country of many nationalities. We require somebody who is very strict to effectively rule the country. President Yar’ Adua is surrounded by people who are dishonest, he might be very honest and may have good intention for this country but the weakness in him might make it possible for these people to carry out their nefarious activities.
I will not blame the issue of Niger Delta on him but on the PDP, because they got these people, armed them so that they would help them win elections. But after the election these boys became redundant, they have had nothing doing and that is why we have this situation in our hands.
If the police were to go into all parts of the country to check for arms and ammunition they will find a lot of arms scattered all over the place because politicians brought them in to win elections. So for me President Yarâ€™Adua is very weak. Unless he changes his tactics, weâ€™ll continue with h
is slow pace until the end of his tenure.
If you subscribe to the fact that he is slow, do you then agree with those that are agitating that he should not re-contest at the expiration of his first tenure?
The thing is that, since he is already used to the system, maybe if he is given another term, he may improve, because whoever is coming after him will be entirely new and he will come in trying to equip himself before trying to rule so thatâ€™s the situation. So if his health permits him why not, why wonâ€™t he continue in office?
Are you saying, we donâ€™t have capable hands in the North that can effectively run this country?
I am not talking of the North this time, I am talking of the country in general because I do not believe in having a sectional President. I believe in having the best material that would rule this country well. If they can bring somebody from Ijaw who can rule this country and give us what we deserve in democracy why not. I am not talking about the North, all Iâ€™m saying is that the best material should rule this country. The fact that he has been on the seat, there is the tendency that he will perform better because he must have learnt from his mistakes.
Does that imply that you are not comfortable with the rotational presidency thing?
Perhaps people will argue that we have not yet developed like other countries. But if America was running the rotational system, Obama wouldnâ€™t have emerged as President. So if we insist on getting the best material for presidency, rotation will not take us there. Because if you carry a nonentity from any part of the country because he comes from a certain part of the country and make him a president, it will not help us.
We want the best material, somebody who is nationalistic, who is honest and sincere; who loves the country more than he loves himself; these are the type of people we want, not people who will come and make money. We want a person who will come and take our problem as his own problem.
Former President Obasanjo in his time promised that he was going to address the power situation in the country within six months, but Nigerians waited for eight years without power, to day the problem is still nagging. What do you expect this government to do on this issue?
It is true that Obasanjo promised us that within six months he would give us light but he didnâ€™t fulfill the promise. Now President Yarâ€™Adua has declared a state of emergency on the power sector. That too has not achieved anything. We are still in darkness. When there is no power the industries would not work and there will be no jobs for the people. Inflation would sky rocket and that would inadvertently cause problem. Both Obasanjo and Yarâ€™Adua are not serious.
We had people who misappropriated money meant for the power sector and nothing has been done to them. There was a time they held inquiry at the National Assembly, they mentioned the names of people who misappropriated the money meant for the power sector but nothing happened to them. We expected these people to have been arrested and brought before the court. Recently I saw on the television somebody who duped some people in America of some money and the man was jailed for one hundred and fifty years.
Can that happen in this country? The fact is that we are allowing our criminals to go scout free and that is why all these things are happening. As long as we allow the people embezzling our money to go scout-free power will be a mirage to us in this country.
But the issue of fighting corruption in Nigeria took a different dimension during the Obasanjo era, the EFCC then was busy arresting those they felt were corrupt, but suddenly some Nigerians felt the EFCC was being used by the government to flush out its perceived enemies. What do you have to say on this?
It is true, we were all happy when Obasanjoâ€™s regime established the EFCC. We thought that at last someone has started the war to eradicate corruption in the country. But along the line he changed by using the commission, as a hunting dog against his perceived enemies. He used the EFCC to initiate the impeachment of governors. The EFCC was used against the governors that did not support him.
Governors that we knew to have stolen but later decamped to the PDP became free people. It is just like running into the embassy of a country for safety just to become free, that was what happened during that era. Ribadu was given the power of life, he did exactly what he wanted, he could arrest some body and detain him as long as he wanted, he could handcuff some body and drag the person on the ground and nothing would happen, he could bring court summons in two days and nothing would happen. When Yarâ€™Adua came in, he introduced the rule of law and due process.
And the EFCC is abiding by that tenet. But again I am not yet satisfied because people we know are involved in corruption are not prosecuted, some of them we know are even being given national honours, some of them who are corrupt are dictating government policies, so where are we heading from here. So as far as I am concerned the EFCC is a toothless bulldog.
Does that imply that it is not working at all?
It is only working when it comes to very little little thieves. I will know that it is working when it starts with the big fishes.
Letâ€™s come down home, how would you assess Gov Suswamâ€™s two years as governor of Benue State?
I was around when Akume was in power and I used eight years to criticize him for non- performance. He was doing things that were not expected of him to do, but within only two years Suswam has been able to transform the state. If you go out in the night even when there is no lights from the PHCN youâ€™ll see street lights shining and the roads are very good, some buildings that were decaying have been renovated and they are looking very good.
If you go to Gboko, the roads have been constructed, I understand they are trying to establish Mbatiav Cement Company and many other things. As far as I am concerned Suswam is doing better than his predecessor. All the industries and the projects that Akume started during his time, none of them is functioning, and a lot of money was spent on them. And I must state here also that Suswam would have done better if he had excluded the people that worked with Akume from his administration.
He is still with some of them, some of them might be sabotaging him and he would not know. And so as far as I am concerned he has performed far better than Akume. We have no morality in Benue if not people that is why people still rally around him because he has money to give them. May be because there is poverty and our youths are not ambitious. And some of these people are fighting Gov Suswam because he does not give money. How can you give money, what then will he use to develop the state.
It is impossible, you either serve the devil and despise God or you serve God and despise the devil. If you give money like a father-Christmas then you will not be able to do anything at all. The governor as a human being and as a young man would have his faults just like every other human being, it is only God that does not have fault but as far as I am concerned he has done in two years what Akume could not achieve in eight years. And I am sure that by the time he finishes four years, he would have transformed the whole state.
Do you think PDP as a party is capable of delivering on its promises to Nigerians?
If the PDP keeps its manifesto it will do that, but the problem is that we have so many greedy elements in the party. We have so many corrupt people in the PDP that is what has destroyed party. And the fact is that if a free and fair election is conducted in the country I am sure many of them will fail, because people are disenchanted with them. I am not saying that all the PDP members are bad, there are some who are very good, some of them are very honest, but majority of them are dishonest people who want to make money by all means.
Recently a local publication within the state carried stories of a protracted crisis between you and Chief Godwin Daboh. And people are getting really worried, because they believe that you people are senior citizens in the state. What is the problem between you and the Chief Daboh?
Daboh and I are two parallel lines and in poetry when you have two parallel lines they cannot meet. I believe in honesty, truth and justice. And since I left the police service I have not done any job because when I was in police service I was used to prosecuting offenders. What gave me joy then was when I prosecute an offender and the person is convicted. And so since I left the service I have committed myself to commenting dispassionately on national issues.
I have not looked for any job, but Daboh has been jumping from one job to the other. He became a rolling stone until he reached where he has reached. People like your publisher know him very well, the former governor of Ogun State knows him so well, so many people know what Daboh is. What brought about this is that I stand for truth and justice, I might not be perfect as I said earlier on, it is only God that is perfect. There was this land case that was published in the papers by one magazine that Daboh wanted to take a land belonging to some orphans.
In the Quran, God says that anybody who cheats the orphans would not be forgiven. As a matter of fact when I saw the publication, I commented and advised the contenders to take the matter to court where justice will be meted out to the parties. And I stood my grounds that it was only the courts that can adjudicate in the matter and declare the true owner of the land.
So Daboh went out and published in his paper, The Broom, a paper that stopped publishing a long ago, the whole paper carried my article abusing me, saying that I was sacked from the police that I committed rape, I was a drunk, there was nothing Daboh didnâ€™t say about me, the only thing he did no say about me was that I was a murderer, every other thing that is bad was said about me.
So I took the paper to my lawyers and already they have advised me and I intend to file action against him in court. And secondly he went out saying things against me. For instance, he said he and I were fighting Akume and I went to make peace with him (the former governor) without telling him.
I never for once joined Daboh to do this things. There was a time he called a press conference in his house and I made the mistake of going for that joint press conference and one renowned Senator called me and warned me that I should be very careful of Daboh. When he started saying all these things about me that I gave him money to publish a book against Akume but my wife advised that I should not reply him but allow the court determine the owner of the land on which he built his shopping mall. For Godâ€™s sake my records in the service speak for me.