By JOSEPH ERUNKE
…Says additional funds for oil producing states unacceptable
Alhaji Bukar Abbah Ibrahim is a Senator representing Yobe East in the Upper Legislative Chamber. His recent call on the Federal Government to yield to the proposal of the dreaded Islamist sect, otherwise known as Boko Haram by engaging the sect in a dialogue in far away Saudi Arabia, has no doubt sparked off verbal war in some quarters of the country. But speaking with reporters in Abuja, the former Yobe State governor explained the reasons for his position. He also threw light on why the North is opposed to the passage of Petroleum Industry Bill currently before the National Assembly. Excerpts:
Can Nigeria’s situation give rise to revolution?
You see, nobody wishes revolution to happen but they just happen. Revolutions are spontaneous reactions to certain situations. A situation can get to a certain stage and people cannot bear it any more, everything erupts and then the revolution comes. So nobody can see it coming but the elements are there, when the country is so blessed with so much resources like we are in Nigeria and yet everybody complains of being poor and suffering.
The poverty level is on the increase rather than decreasing. These are situations that can push the poor to the level they cannot withstand again and then everything erupts. That is how it happens but nobody wishes it happen here. The only thing we need to do is to be conscious of our ways. We need to take care of the poor and the poorest of the poor.
The resources are there, but we don’t just have the kind of leadership that will galvanize these resources for everybody to benefit. That is all I can say on revolution.
On other issues
That is just by the way, there are many other burning issues in Nigeria. I have recently talked about the marginalization, the criminal neglect of the North East geo-political zone, I have given facts and figures and I have given reasons for my belief and I believe in those things, that is why I keep on talking about it. The North East zone remains the largest geo-political zone and the most neglected of all the six geo-political zones in the country. Of course, I know that at one stage or the other, the various zones have complained about marginalization. The East complained bitterly about marginalization, it even led us to a civil war. But at last we had to resolve the issue on a round table.
In the South, the militants rose against the states, so many lives were lost but we eventually solved it by sitting on a round table and declared amnesty for them. Today, the South South is the bride of Nigeria, they enjoy the best of everything.
The North East today is being marginalised, that is the reason we have just given, we just hope other Nigerians will consciously help us solve our problem, the poverty there is unbelievable. If you go there, you don’t need to be told, just go round, don’t talk to anybody, if you are an honest person, when you come back, you will quite agree that yes, this place has actually been neglected for so long.
Studies after studies have shown it as the poorest part of Nigeria, not because of lack of natural resources but because of total neglect. Although, I can’t blame Jonathan, Yar’Adua or any particular leader for what happened there.
There is the Petroleum Industry Bill. This bill will be passed so as to bring reform in the petroleum industry, the most corrupt industry and probably, the most corrupt institution in the whole world. If at the end of 2013, Mr President can assent to this bill and pass it into law, I will be very happy.
I think he must muster courage to declare free education up to the secondary school level in Nigeria. If he just does that and by 2015, tells us bye bye, we will be grateful to him for life, forever.
If he doesn’t, then that is where he fails, afterall, we are about to merge, that is the ANPP, ACN,CPC and the Rochas APGA and part of Labour Party to become one strong progressive social party, very soon we will take this monster called PDP out of power. That is the only way we can defeat PDP and if Nigerians give us credible alternative, so many things will happen.
On his opposition to PIB
The issue of the Petroleum Industry Bill, the power of the minister must be reduced. This issue of communities getting 13 per cent of whatever is gotten from oil in addition to all sources of revenue for the oil producing states which has now divided the country into two with oil producing states with more than everything they need and squandering the oil riches and the non oil states which are more in number, on the other side hardly surviving, hardly paying salaries and hardly doing anything, has to stop.
For me, for anybody to talk about additional funds for the so called oil producing states at this stage is unacceptable. Let the money go into the treasury so that every Nigerian can benefit from it. Afterall, nobody planted oil, nobody farms oil, it is God who puts it there. We don’t know, oil may not last for ever, it will get to a stage where the oil may disappear and other resources will be relevant.
If Nigeria remains one, we expect these other resources to be made available for all Nigerians. We know that at one stage, South South was very very marginalized, criminally marginalized. But today, they know what is happening, they have taken it far to the right from their own side, they need to balance it so that the so called non oil producing states will not rise against the oil producing states and further polarize the already polarised Nigerian society.
On Boko Haram
In terms of security, dialogue still remains the best. It is not the only way out but I believe it still remains the best. I think we are still revolving around the same issues.
There is no need to go over so many of them but for the purpose of clarity, we have to. You see, the issue of Boko Haram is an organization that started in the 50s in Egypt. It started in Egypt during the Nasser’s presidency. It is just that Boko Haram that time was committed to fighting western interest in Arab land. Just western interests, it was not about religion per se. And Nasser beheaded their leader in Cairo in 1950s and then the followers spread to North Africa, down to Nigeria.
When they came to Nigeria initially but I don’t know who they were, they settled in Niger State and the then National Security Adviser, General Gusau dislodged them. They moved to Kano and were also dislodged in Kano, they are now operating as a religious sect rather than a sect devoted to fight western interest per se.
They were doing the normal sermon, the normal preaching like any other religious sect. They eventually came to my state when I was a governor. They went and took a portion of Yobe and said this is their own land.
They said this is not part of Nigeria; they are going to make this place like Kano city in five years that it is going to be an independent Taliban State. President Olusegun Obasanjo,at that time, deployed the military and that unit was crashed. Some were killed, others were arrested and those arrested were taken to prison in Portiskum.
For quite some time, they did not appear any where again, and then suddenly they appeared in Maiduguri, they started having problems with the police. The police killed some of their members.
When they were going to burry one of their dead members, they killed about 19 of them and they still continued with their preaching. And they were really turning the heads of young people left, right and centre all over the North East,not just Maiduguri.
They were very very strong preachers in the Islamic sense. And then eventually, the thing erupted in Maiduguri and that issue, we all know how it was silenced.