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We can end ‘religious crises’ if …— Gov. Yuguda

* ‘Govs didn’t delay on Yar’Adua saga

Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi  State, in this interview, highlights four ways of ending religious crises in the country. Yuguda also speaks on the position of the Governors Forum on the Yar’Adua saga. Excerpts:

What do you think about a Nigerian living in another state being regarded  as an alien in that state?
It is agonizing and painful to grow up in an environment and in your own country and simply because you are not from that tribal extraction, from that state, you are an alien in that state. How do you expect that child to love Nigeria because when he was growing up, he was discriminated against in another state?  Is that the kind of Nigeria we want? I feel a little bit frustrated because it does not appear we are building an image for our country.

Crisis in Jos
I am happy today that I am one of those people advocating this reality that we don’t have the biggest riots in our country. Everything is politically motivated; all these conflicts you are seeing are tribal or communal rather than religious.  Let us look at religion in Nigeria, it is you are either a Christian or a Muslim; we have pagans, but very few. Let us start from Christianity, it came 600 to 700 years before Islam and this is a religion that is practised by almost a billion people today;  it has a long history and preaches peace.

Islam came about 600 to 700 years after Christianity. Before then, there was Judaism, that is the Book Moses. There is nowhere in the Qu’ran where God says, “go and kill in my name”; in fact, the most serious crime to commit and God will not forgive is to take human life and Islam itself is a religion of  peace. So, given the fact that we are exposed to knowledge, we can read papers and read the Qu’ran and Bible, you can ask questions. But, today, the situation is you wake up in the morning, people have found it very fashionable because they realise that religion is an emotional thing, especially since the Lebanon experience where you have the Muslims and the Christians fighting over economic issues which I consider not really a religious concept , it is purely economic. Look at Somalia, it is hundred percent Muslims, and, up till tomorrow, they are fighting, it is purely economic.  But, in our own case, we know that religion does not condone these things we are doing, our legal system does not condone them and our headlines today are, “Religious crises, Muslims kill Christians or Christians” kill “Muslims”.  As Christians and Muslims, it is a crime against God. The Bible says, if they slap you on your right cheek, turn the other side and that is the level of tolerance that you have in Christianity. But, today, you will see a pastor and an imam in quote because some of them are evil, they will sit in the pulpit and preach hatred and some people will be listening.  The pastors and imams work on the psychology of the people because you heard of the Boko Harams which recently ravaged Maiduguri and in the case of Bauchi, we were able to subdue them within hours and no one single citizen lost his life.  These people claim to be Muslims, but they are not Muslims; they read the  Quran upside down and they were challenged by the Islamic clerics who told them what they were preaching is not the correct Islam, but, as far as they are concerned, what they are doing is the correct Islam.

Talking about Jos recurring crisis, you said it has been more of political than religious. Can you substantiate it and how do we resolve the problem once and for all?
I said in categorical terms and that has been substantiated by the meeting held by Mr President with eminent Nigerians including the Sultan, the resolution of the northern state governors meeting in Kaduna and also a resolution of the Governors Forum, the 36 state governors that the Jos crisis was not religious but political and ethnic.

Firstly, there must be law and order in this country. Any person that commits an offence under the laws of the land must be punished. Secondly, this so-called indigene – settler question must be resolved by the National Assembly even though the constitution says if you should stay seven years in a state, you automatically become a citizen of that state. I think that the issue of seven years should no longer be there, you can just move to a state and stay and let it be your own state.

As far as I am concerned, the question of indigeneship, settlership should be erased from our Constitution and even in our language.  Thirdly, those who hide under the cover of Islam and Christianity and are teaching evil and hatred should be brought to book because they are merchants of death, they have blood on their hands and they want to use the Bible and Qu’ran as vehicles; we must not allow them into our churches and mosques and any person that is picked up, the law must take its course.

Only last year, an Islamic scholar proclaimed himself to be Jesus Christ in Bauchi and he had some followers, he came from somewhere; so we directed the emir to call him.  He had the option to do the correct thing or leave Bauchi. Another area that we should concern ourselves with is the political class. When I came into politics, that is when I was appointed minister, I was coming from the corporate world, the average definition of a politician was”, you must have the capacity to unleash terror on your opponent, you must have the capacity to insult and abuse people, you must have the capacity to betray”, name anything evil; it is what is known as a profession of politicians, you must perfect yourself in evil before you are called a politician. So, to large extent, politicians used a vehicle, they play ethnic card, use one group against the other, engage in mayhem or religious sentiments ostensibly to gain vote for a Christian or a Muslim, which should not be.

Another problem we must tackle is the problem of unemployment. When I left the university at the age of 20 in 1980, by the time I collected my call-up letter for NYSC, I had nine jobs as a graduate of economics. So, finishing my NYSC, I had nine jobs waiting for me. The story is different today; every year, students graduate from universities, polytechnics, secondary schools and, by basic human nature, ranging from food to shelter, you need to grow up to self actualisation. It is these same youths that are gullible, they become threat and when somebody comes and tells you that you don’t have a job because a Muslim is denying you the job or if it is a Christian, they say this guy is a Christian and that is why he is not having a job, that boy will believe you and will start having hatred for somebody who is a Muslim. On the issue of corruption, the law must take its course. I am very worried about the issue of corruption because the perception of people out there is that Nigeria has always been one of the most corrupt nations on earth. We must fight corruption, but not the way it’s been reported in our papers today.

There was a time I read in papers that Yuguda stole N50 billion from the state treasury and I just wonder what kind of country we are in, how much is even the revenue? Up till when I left as minister, I have my reputation and I begged my president then to investigate me and if I was found guilty, he should knock me off, but, if not, he should give me a clean bill of health and that is what he did and anybody can go and ask Olusegun Obasanjo, he will tell you exactly what I did.

Nigeria’s image problem
What I read in the papers does not give me hope that those who read about us outside the country will come into the country. The image we are giving to ourselves, as somebody who has been a banker before, on the average, I think I am fairly educated and I can say I am very depressed and I know for sure that capital will never go into any environment where there is crisis, capital will never go to an environment where there is insecurity and breakdown of law and order.  And if capital does not flow from outside of your country, your country will never develop because you need capital to create wealth. For instance,  we have about the largest gold deposit in Zamfara State in Africa, even bigger than that of South Africa, but we don’t have the miners who can bring the capital. Somebody can say, “I want to start investing for a period 15 years, I am going into the international market to get capital of 20 billion dollars to invest in this business. But before you start the exploitation, you may have to invest over 5 to 10billion dollars; do you think an entrepreneur will go and start looking for that kind of money to come and sink because, if he sinks the money, he knows for sure that for the next one hundred years it is a goldmine, but he will not have the courage because he will now remember somebody is doing Sharia in Zamfara, and, if you do anything, they cut your hand and the same person cutting people’s hands is being accused of other crimes. So, I see the media as the only people that can salvage this country; honestly, whether you like it or not, it is the media that will make or mar this country, the destiny of this country is in the hands of the journalists.

There is this allegation that the state House of Assembly made a resolu    tion to chase Plateau citizens out of Bauchi. How true is it?
You can see somebody taking advantage of someone who lost his loved one.

If these people are so wicked as to kill a small child and tear the stomach of a pregnant woman, they can cut her head and throw her into a well, they too should go back to their state. All of a sudden, they reported the governor of Bauchi with his photograph and the House resolution to chase out Plateau indigenes out of Bauchi State. The (Plateau) governor has already written a letter to other governors accusing me of asking his citizens out of my state, I was very curious.  Look at the kind of situation we found ourselves in, somebody will be in public office, he will loot the treasury and he will come out to be our hero, he will receive awards here and there, traditional title; you are not looking at his profile, whether he has been accused of corruption and it has been proved beyond reasonable doubt that he’s corrupt and yet, you celebrate him. Criminals of yesteryears, they come out and become elder statesmen. So, I think this is a major challenge and, like said, I believe that if we don’t get the journalism profession right in this country and the journalists come out to say this country must be fixed and this is how to fix it, we are in trouble.

But the issue of the Bauchi Assembly asking Plateau citizens to go back to their state, it was a resolution because they never denied it …
It is not true that the House passed a resolution about sending Plateau people back to their state. I called the speaker to ask him if they passed such a resolution and he said no. The true situation is that one member who was affected rose up and spoke with a lot of emotions, putting a lot of sentiments even to the point of crying, but there was no such resolution.

Many Nigerians are dis-pleased that it took the Governors Forum a long time to take a decision over Mr President’s absence from the country. Why did it take the governors so long to take a position on the issue?

If you recall, the governors sometime in December in their forum addressed the press on the issue that has to do with the health of the president and the way forward. We are not God and we were expecting Mr President would return as soon as possible, but health belongs to God, life belongs to him and we can all fall sick. Some of us have been in hospital for like a month or two as a result of accident and, I am sure when the president was leaving Nigeria for Saudi Arabia, he never knew he will be there for more than two weeks.  But, if God decides that it will be beyond what we thought it was going to be, who are we to reject what God has so decided?  And it just happened that it has dragged for this long and, by the time the president was leaving, there was no letter because it is presumed that he has a vice-president and he would have spoken to the vice-president to take charge because it is a constitutional issue. So, if by any chance he went there and he became incapacitated to write, the Constitution did not make provision for that, it didn’t make provision for a situation where the president even under being that period condition of illness, even if he is not able to write, he must write, I don’t think the Constitution has touched that aspect.

As events unfolded, typical of us Nigerians, we started running down ourselves, running down the Presidency; in fact, different interest groups are talking about different things instead of addressing the main issue, how do you get these things in line? And that is exactly what the Governors Forum did and the issue has been resolved.  So, I think rather than saying that the governors delayed, I think you should praise the governors for being very realistic and responsible Nigerian citizens and also have courage.


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