…CRIMINAL HERDSMEN, BANDITS: Northern govs, Gumi attacked
By MARIE-THERESA NANLONG
A former member of the House of Representatives, Bitrus Kaze, in this interview, speaks on insecurity in Nigeria, especially in the northern states.
President Muhammadu Buhari has ruled out the proposal to grant amnesty to bandits, but some northern leaders are still clamouring for it. Why do you think they are pushing for it?
I have been speaking on this matter for a very long time and I do not subscribe at all to amnesty for bandits. I have said in the past that I do not know of any country that has defeated terrorism by negotiating with terrorists. Israel, United States, and other developed countries fighting terrorism don’t do it by negotiation.
There may be a case where a prisoner in Israel is swapped for another prisoner elsewhere but when you talk of negotiating, what will be the terms of negotiation? Under this Buhari government, what they call negotiation with terrorists has led to the loss of huge funds on the part of government. To me, this is a way of funding terrorism.
Look at the one that happened in Kagara in Niger State, they are asking for N800m. If government pays them that money, what do you think the terrorists will do? They would restock and arm themselves the more. They have been running this thing they call deradicalization exercise, neither that nor negotiation is okay.
At a point in time, several Nigerians offered themselves to assist as Sheik Gumi is doing now. Despite the attempt at negotiation, what we have today is that Nigeria is worse off when it comes to security. With determination, collective efforts, and prayers, we will succeed.
It appears there is a lack of unity of purpose among the northern governors on the right measures to be adopted. Governors Lalong, El-Rufai, Orthom, Matawalle, and Bala Mohammed have different views on the way forward…
There is absence of sincerity of purpose because if all of them were sincere in approaching terrorism, their attention, their thoughts, and their line of action will be similar. They will be consistent. The bandits are complaining that they were used during elections and they have not been given what they were promised.
This is the testimony of the bandits. I am disappointed with Governors Bala Mohammed and Simon Lalong for the statements they have made. They have virtually given credence as to why Fulani should hold AK47. Unfortunately for them, they cannot give credence to Fulani alone. Incontrovertibly, it means you cannot stop other Nigerians from carrying AK47.
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Mohammed and Lalong are chief security officers of their states. Their duties are to protect lives and property. The primary function of government is the welfare and security of the citizens. They know the Fulani carry AK47. They know that they go about with weapons. They have not prosecuted a single Fulani and now Lalong is adding farmers to it.
He has failed to prosecute the Fulani. He is reporting that farmers are also carrying guns. If he fails to prosecute a single Fulani, why should he accuse farmers? Has he ever arrested any farmer killing any Fulani or any other person anywhere in this country? Governor Lalong goofed irredeemably.
For the governor of Benue State, I don’t count him as part of the North. I don’t actually consider Plateau as part of the North. Plateau aligns with the Middle Belt, if not the heart of the Middle Belt. The governor of Benue State was simply expressing frustration because this man has done what he could do.
Unfortunately, governors do not control the firearm-bearing agencies in this country and we don’t have state police. So a combination of factors is responsible for the discordant tunes you are seeing. But there is no sincerity of purpose in the actions of the governors. We apologise to the Middle Belt for the callous statements emanating from Plateau.
In the light of happenings in the country, would you say those saying the Fulani are being profiled as criminals are right?
Every citizen of Nigeria is a citizen of the world. But we do not have the constitution of the world. We operate under the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, which is clear.
With every right comes a responsibility. You cannot go somewhere to live and behave as you want. The laws of the place you are going to live must be respected. It obtains anywhere in the world.
Sheik Gumi who has been visiting bandits in the forests was heard in a video saying those killing them are Christian soldiers. Don’t you think such a statement is inflammatory?
There was a time some northern leaders said anybody who kills Boko Haram members is meting out injustice to the North. Even Buhari was among them. I had to respond and said eventually the masquerades would haunt the North.
Unfortunately, Sheik Gumi who I held in high esteem hitherto has fallen in that category. Only someone who sympathizes with terrorists speaks like that. You are dealing with criminals and not normal people. Nigerians are worried that he seems to have access to the terrorists more than government.
Such a statement shows that apart from being sympathetic to them, he is a friend of the terrorists. There are no two ways about it. It is unfortunate and I hope government will find the courage and invite Sheik Gumi. The Department of State Security Services, DSS, should question him just the way it questioned Obadiah Mailafia.
Nigerians seem to be worried that President Buhari hasn’t come out to speak specifically on the herders and bandits’ crisis…
The record of the President on anything affecting Fulani herdsmen should not make anyone surprised at his body language. Recall that he led a team of Fulani to Oyo State during the time of Governor Lam Adesina. Recall the statements he made years before he became President.
The man must have pretended but I have mentioned one instance. It is about his mindset. When the man wanted to become the President of this country, we cried but they said we hated certain people. We were accused of being sectional. The sectional person has shown himself.
No President will sit by and watch what is happening in the country and behave as if what the bandits are doing is right. You would have seen him going around, setting up committees and trying, on the one hand, to douse tension and on the other hand, prosecuting anyone caught in the act of terrorism. Many people have been caught. How many people have been prosecuted?
Plateau State has its share of disturbances by herdsmen and bandits. Governor Lalong also said farmers also carry AK47. Has any farmer been arrested with an AK47?
That is why we are so disappointed with governor Lalong’s statement. If he knows of any, let him produce the person. If a sitting governor says farmers carry AK47 and he has never arrested one, it is self-indicting on his part. He should have gone ahead not only to arrest but expose such farmers and their collaborators.
Such farmers should be in prison right now but we have never seen that. In his statement, he is also confirming that in reality, the Fulani carry AK 47. He who alleges has the burden to prove. As a lawyer, let him show us the farmers that carry Ak47. Lalong may have become a headache to the people of Plateau State.
The then trouble in PDP made it possible for Lalong to emerge as governor. Unless we get it right, another Lalong may emerge as governor.
A former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, is reconciling aggrieved members of PDP ahead of the 2023 election. Are you confident something good would emerge from his efforts?
PDP has worked hard enough. You will recall that immediately after we lost in 2015, the party set up the Senator Ike Ekweremadu Committee and they came up with a fantastic report. PDP needs to go back to that report and its history to see where there is a mistake including in the re-runs, the gubernatorial elections that happened outside of the general electioneering period, and make amendments.
PDP should ensure its elections are credible. Now that we are hearing of allegations against the leadership, it is not good news. The governor of Rivers State has repeatedly accused the National Working Committee,NWC, of the party of behaving as tax collectors. To me, it hinges on integrity and this can affect the chances of PDP going forward.
Recently, reports emerged that Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, a staunch member of your party is making moves to dump the party…
FFK leaving the PDP will affect his integrity beyond measure. This is somebody who was very fierce against Jonathan. As a founding member of the APC, he quickly realised his mistake and came back to PDP.
What will be his excuse for his second sojourn in the APC, especially when things have gone from bad to worse since the time he left the APC? What does he want to achieve in the APC, leaving the PDP in a quagmire instead of helping to pull it together? Why is he going back to his vomit? It speaks worse of him than of the PDP.
APC is revalidating its register nationwide. Given this, what are the chances of your party retaking power from the APC in Plateau State?
I may not be a very competent person to comment on APC’s revalidation or whatever. Since I am not able to answer the questions I suspect that what they call a revalidation exercise is a propaganda material preparatory to 2023.
For me, the APC is trying to prepare the grounds to rig elections in 2023. You have seen the crises at the party, you have seen the violence, and you have seen the accusation that public funds are being wasted.
You have heard them claiming that virtually the entire population of Nigeria is registered with the APC. That can only be a ground to seek to rig election in 2023 ahead of time. We do not believe there is any genuine revalidation exercise at all.