By Victoria Ojeme
Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), a non-governmental organization, Mr Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, speaks on killings across the country and what his organisation is doing to address the problem, especially ahead of the 2019 elections.
Ahead of the 2019 elections, what is CISLAC doing to sensitize the people against
violence across the nation?
We have been working in the area of civic education particularly in the area of trying to make sure that there is no electoral violence. Nigerians need to know their roles and responsibilities during elections, even the security sector too; so you need to continuously engage and provide them with basic information on what is expected of them and that is what we are doing. We are also working with the political parties, because we realise that most of this violence actually comes through political parties, to ensure that they do not engage in electoral violence and fraud and any other thing that will bring about chaos during and after the elections. CISLAC has been working with other organisations to have violence free elections and transparency because one of the reasons we have violent elections is lack of transparency.
Concerning the recent crisis in Plateau and other states, what is your take and what solution do you proffer, what is the position of CISLAC?
The responsibility of government is to protect lives and property and, if there are people out there deliberately causing violence, it is the responsibility of security agencies to arrest, interrogate, investigate and prosecute them otherwise impunity will go on. It is very clear that there are so many forces trying to make sure that the country is put into chaos using all sorts of platforms and avenues to destabilize and divide Nigeria particularly through ethnic and religious ways. But it is going to be catastrophic if we allow any group or people either in government or outside government to drag this country into a religious war because Nigerians are too attached to religion.
We see this as a calculated act by people who do not wish Nigeria well, a lot of us are suffering from mismanagement, corruption and irresponsible leadership that our leaders have brought upon us at all levels. In the killings going on in some parts of the country, you will not find any big man or his child involved; it is the poor people who are suffering that are killed. That is why poor people need to be wise enough not to allow anybody to drag them into any political crisis. And we look forward to security agencies arresting individuals who are frustrating the efforts of government to stop the killings, no matter how powerful.
Nigerians have witnessed several killings in recent years and no arrest has been made. Is CISLAC comfortable with the performance of the heads of security agencies in the country?
If the people who are doing the killings in whatever name, whether religious, communal, herdsmen, farmers, are still moving around freely, it means government is actually promoting the continuation of the act of irresponsibility. In many instances, we have also found out that some people in government are not sincere in dealing with this issue. It is in their interest for the violence to go on because it makes them relevant in the system. It is a conspiracy against Nigerians because the more insecurity there is, the more money you have in dealing with it and this is what is justifying what they call security vote. Security vote is not accountable, it is not audited, there is no oversight; it is free money for people to do whatever they want to do which is wrong and that is why they will engineer violence so that they will say they have used security vote to tackle the problem but that is not how to deal with sustainable peace.
Do you think the fight against corruption that this government is talking about is succeeding?
Corruption is fighting back and that is why some corrupt people use their money to mobilise people to demonstrate that they should not be arrested or not even interrogated. The fight against corruption is not producing the desired result because if you are going to fight corruption, you cannot do it alone; you must involve all the three arms of government and it is not until recently that the judiciary is coming on board. And it is only at the federal level that corruption appears to being fought. At the state and local government levels, everybody knows that looting is going on. Government is not strategically thinking, otherwise they should know that the fight against corruption should go beyond personality. You must strengthen the institutions and support them with resources, policies and legislation. You have a situation where assets are stolen; money, land and houses are recovered but because of the failure to develop institutional framework that will manage these assets, a lot of things are going; so you recover the assets and then they are looted again. This cannot be a fight against corruption; you must have policies, legislation and practice going hand in hand. The National Assembly through its oversight function is supposed to ensure that all government programmes and policies, as well as legislation, are complied with but, unfortunately, we are not seeing much effort coming from the National Assembly. And you cannot fight corruption when your electoral system is flawed, when there is too much corruption in the electoral system. There is no way you can produce leaders that are accountable when the political system is filled with people who are looters, inefficient, inexperienced and who do not even believe in this country.
On the issue of ranching which is the main reason herdsmen and farmers clash, what is your take?
The truth of the matter is the failure of government to put in place a honest workable solution to deal with the matter. I don’t see farmers and herdsmen as the real issue causing the killings, there are unseen forces behind the killings. When we were growing up, we never saw herdsmen carrying AK47 rifles; what we knew them with was the stick and possibly a knife, but the situation has changed.