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By Dirisu Yakubu
Senator Walid Jibrin is a founding member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He rose through the ranks to chair one of the organs of the party, the Board of Trustees, BOT. A respected leader in the party, the former federal lawmaker recently declared support for the now suspended Fulani settlement scheme, otherwise known as Ruga.
As it were, the statement fetched him a load of criticisms with some socio-cultural groups expressing disappointment at his position.
In this interview with Vanguard, Senator Jibrin owned up to his stand on Ruga, arguing that his declaration of support for the now suspended scheme was in his capacity as a leader of the Fulani as well as an elder statesmen not as a leader of the PDP. He also bares his mind on the preparation for the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states among sundry issues. Excerpts:
On the controversy over his support for Ruga
I have noticed that my statement on the proposed Fulani herdsmen settlement areas, a modernized grazing settlement otherwise known as Ruga has generated unusual controversies. First and foremost, Nigerians should realize that I am a full-blooded Fulani, the Sarkin Fulani of Nasarawa State, an elder statesman and an industrialist. I have over two million Fulani people under me who look up to me as their leader. I need to speak for them and if I refuse to talk, they can remove me.
I am a founding member of the PDP, who rose from a ward leader, local government leader, zonal leader, state leader, to become an ex-officio member. I became Deputy Financial Secretary, National Financial Secretary, which made me a member of the National Working Committee, then, BoT member, BoT Secretary and now, BoT chairman.
Based on the above, I can make a personal statement on any issue. My statement on Ruga was to my Fulani people as their leader, the Sarkin Fulani and it was purely a personal statement. It is not connected with my position as BoT chairman or with the PDP as a party.
The statement you made in Nasarawa when you said implementation of the herdsmen settlement could bring about peaceful coexistence in the country was seen in some quarters as a deviation from the position of your party
I am an ardent adherent of the official decisions of my party, which is yet to take a stand on Ruga. I have never gone contrary to the decision of my party. I am a respecter of the party’s constitution.
What informed your declaration of support for the Ruga scheme?
Ruga is not for All Progressives Congress, APC or People’s Democratic Party, PDP. The two parties accommodate Fulani and herdsmen. There is no need drawing a line between APC Fulani and PDP Fulani. When we talk of Fulani, we are one and the same. Anything that is good for the Fulani people is good for me because I am their leader. But I will never support any Fulani involved in conflict, killings, kidnapping and any form of evil.
Why do you think some people appear to be questioning your loyalty to the PDP?
It all happened when someone, in error, posted a photograph supposedly of me and Mr. President in the social media. I repeat, I was not the one in that picture. I have been to the Presidential Villa only once since Muhammad’s Buhari became President. That was when our former caretaker chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, led us to the Villa when the President returned from a medical vacation in London. I have a record of many PDP stakeholders who have visited the President personally and officially to congratulate him for what he has done for their states.
They took pictures with the President and they are still in the PDP. When the Abuja stadium was renamed Moshood Abiola stadium, we were all happy. Some of these people in PDP congratulated Buhari and even took pictures with him. If I want to see President Buhari, I will do it openly. I am of the same tribe as Buhari but he is in APC, I am in PDP.
Somebody even wrote that if I want to join the APC, I should do it openly, not through Ruga arrangement. But if I want to join APC, will I hide under Ruga? I am not a citizen of Nigeria? We stood with this party when Alhaji Atiku Abubakar emerged as our Presidential candidate. The BoT was the first to accept Atiku and he knows that. And some governors are not talking to us because we supported Atiku during the primaries. But that is not my business.
You recently talked about the need to separate narratives on security from politics. What message were you trying to pass across?
When we are discussing security, we must not bring politics, religion or tribe into it to confuse matters. I am a Nigerian devoid of any intention to create divisions in Nigeria. Ruga is not a compulsory scheme for all the states in Nigeria. The southern states and even some northern states are not party to the scheme and I support them. Those who don’t want it should be left alone. It is only a test programme for those states that want to adopt it. It is a personal decision of the states and no state should be forced to adopt it.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere and a few other socio-cultural groups kicked against your endorsement of the scheme. How does that make you feel?
My closest friends today are not even Fulani or Hausa. They are Igbo and Yoruba people. We have come a long way. The governor of Imo state, His Excellency Emeka Ihedioha for example, is my friend. I spent three days in Owerri during his inauguration as governor. Chairman of Ohanaeze, Chief Nnia Nwodo is a great Nigerian. Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu is my leader, my friend. Senator Adolphus Wabara is my friend and secretary of BoT. Today, I am the chairman of the Movement for the protection of the Igbo in the North. When some of our youths sometimes ago gave Igbo in the North an ultimate to leave, I kicked against it. When some people were mooting the idea of setting up Fulani vigilante group in the South-East, I also moved against it. I want to assure these friends and brothers of ours that if they find any Fulani doing something unlawful in their domain, they should inform us and we will handle it decisively.
Most of the Yoruba people have been living together with us in the North and some of them are Muslims. I had my high school in Yoruba land.
Away from Ruga, the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states are a few months away. How prepared is the PDP for the big test?
The National Working Committee of the PDP is doing everything possible to ensure that there is no impunity, godfatherism and lawlessness. All our aspirants in the two states must eschew bitterness so that we will produce the two governors that we will be proud of.
The screening committee is out to do a good job of all the aspirants and I want to say that the BoT is working closely with the NWC to ensure that the right things are done.
The BoT set up a committee not long ago to look into the minority leadership tussle that rocked the PDP House of Representatives caucus in the 9th Assembly…
Yes, we set up a committee made up of three former Senate President, Iyorchia Ayu, Adolphus Wabara and David Mark, Former Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Mantu, former Deputy Speaker Austin Okpara and others.
These are highly respected leaders in their own rights and we know that they will come up with an acceptable recommendation for the party. Once the report of this committee is out, we will submit it accordingly. Do not forget that the role of BoT is purely advisory.