‘Why they are after Sunday Igboho’

By Dayo Johnson – Akure

Senator Nicholas Tofowomo represents Ondo South in the Senate on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He is the Vice-Chairman, Land Transport Committee of the Senate and member of the Niger Delta Development (NDDC) Committee. In this interview, the lawmaker speaks on national issues. Excerpts:

The country is facing security challenges. In your opinion, what’s the way forward?

The Federal Government must take full responsibility to reorganise all the 774 local governments to function and ensure that they get their allocations directly and to also partner state governments in reorganising the police to the level of meaningful funding and their infrastructure. Also, the National Assembly should support the establishment of state police. It is very important.

What is your take on the issue of secession?

I’m a Nigerian and I strongly believe in the unity of Nigeria but the unfortunate thing is that the Buhari administration is full of nepotism, favouritism and tribalism because both physical and human resources are not fairly distributed and that is why the Igbo and Yoruba are calling for secession. My appeal to the President is to unify Nigeria with fair distribution of resources and observe the principle of the federal character in appointments. When all the tribes in Nigeria are given a sense of belonging, the agitations will die a natural death.

Let us talk about incessant killings going on in the country. Does this not show that our security apparatus has failed?

First of all, may the souls of those unlawfully killed rest in peace. It is established that Nigeria’s security has failed. States and the Federal Government have lost meaningful security arrangements. It is very sad.

If you look at it, the police are underfunded, not well equipped, and lack the required number of personnel. Where a police officer is manning 500 people statically, it will be difficult to fight criminality because they do not have the required number of personnel.

What about the continued attacks by herdsmen in Kaduna, Benue and Plateau states and even down South?

When you talk about Fulani, you are talking about President Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari is Fulani and Buhari alone can stop that problem. They are his brothers and he can call all of them to order, if he wants to. He can say, “My people, come. What is the problem? Let us iron it out.” I am holding him responsible for that because he is a Fulani man and it is not the Yoruba man that is killing people now, neither are they Igbo people.

By the way, what is the population of the Fulani people in Nigeria? The President can organise a conference of Fulani people in the country and tell them, “I’m a Fulani man and I’m the President, what is the problem?” That way he can address their grievances and everyone will be happy to live with other ethnic groups in the country and ply their trades peacefully. It is very shameful that he does not want to address these issues.

The preponderance of opinion in the country now is that all that’s needed is for us to restructure. Do you agree?

The position the country is now has displayed Nigeria as a failed state and the only way out is restructuring. If we restructure Nigeria, there will be an even distribution of resources. Our economy will grow. The local government will be nearer to the people and the state will not function on the deficit and the Federal Government will be more reassured. Then nepotism and favouritism which is now a norm under this administration would be reduced.

Your party is facing internal challenges. Let’s talk about the call for the sack of the National Chairman, Uche Secondus

The Chairman of the party has a constitutional role to play in the party. His election is to serve for four years and we must not disrespect our constitution. He should be allowed to complete his tenure. My advice is that we should respect our constitution.

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I do not subscribe to lawlessness as a lawmaker. At the completion of the Chairman’s mandate, there will be a National Convention where the next Chairman of the party will emerge. So we cannot put the cart before the horse.

It is just like a senator who has a four-year term, you cannot ask him to step down three years into his tenure. So they should allow him to complete his term after which he can show interest if he so decides, or if the party wants somebody else, they will choose a new person.

The present leadership in the Senate is believed to be a rubber stamp of the executive…

The President of the 9th Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, is not a rubber stamp. He has been able to ensure a stable Senate since he took over as Senate President. Even though lawmakers belong to two major political parties, we have been able to co-exist under his leadership and that’s a plus for him for such a sterling quality.

What’s your view on the PIA? Where were senators from the Niger Delta when the bill scaled through the Senate and the allegation of bribe given to lawmakers to railroad the bill?

If you look at the Senate, northerners are more than southerners and the principal officers are predominantly from the North. So, they have the upper hand over southern senators. Northern senators have a forum that has been in existence for more than two years and they are very cooperative while southern senators were able to get themselves together in the last six months.

Can you now see the difference and why things are more favourable to northerners than southerners? The issue has nothing to do with bribery but the majority in a democracy is the winning side.

Is the signing of the bill into law by President Buhari justifiable despite criticisms from the Niger Delta and other regions?

Buhari is a northerner and the bill is part of his agenda to favour his region considering his nepotic style of appointments, distribution of resources and execution of projects since the birth of his administration.

Is it true that the nation lost $50 billion in ten years to the non-passage of PIB according to Buhari?

I am not aware because I don’t have much information and I do not work in the finance office.

Let’s talk about extradition battles of lgboho and police officer Kyari…

The extradition moves against Igboho and Kyari are two different things. Kyari is indicted for an alleged fraudulent act while Igboho has not committed any crime against the state. The extradition move against Kyari is not out of place but the move against Igboho was mismanaged by the Federal Government.

At the initial stage, he should have been invited for a discussion with the appropriate authority. To me, this government has misplaced its priority by going after Igboho when bandits and those encouraging them are moving freely around the country.

What has Igboho done to deserve such treatment by the government? He is not a criminal and he is not involved in killing, kidnapping, destruction or grabbing of farmlands that are ravaging Nigeria today and he hasn’t been accused by any individual of criminal activities.

So, why the desperation to arrest him and treat him like a criminal when the real criminals are moving about with AK 47? As I speak, the government is silent about Kyari’s extradition and the EFCC and ICPC don’t behave as if they heard anything because it is obvious government is not showing interest in his case.

May I say that the Federal Government should focus on how to address the insecurity in Nigeria – our priority for now – and leave Igboho alone.

What about the review of grazing reserves in states by President Buhari?

Buhari as President is guided by the law and since many states have banned open grazing via the promulgation of anti-open grazing bills, Buhari does not have the power to overrule the state laws except if he goes through the National Assembly and I can assure you that the National Assembly won’t support grazing reserves.

Even many governors in the North are not in support of open grazing. Law is law and nobody is above any law. President Buhari cannot overrule any state law in Nigeria. He does not have such power.

What is the fate of your party (PDP) in the next election?

If you are referring to the presidential election, the PDP has a chance to win because the ruling APC has failed. Joblessness is at its peak and Nigerians are dying of hunger. It is apparently clear that APC has ruined Nigeria and if Nigerians vote APC again, they might sell this country with indiscriminate requests for foreign loans.

A former INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has asked Nigerians not vote for PDP or APC in the 2023 elections. What’s your take?

He is entitled to his opinion, no matter how incoherent that opinion may be. It is his opinion and nobody can harass him over it. But my view is that APC has failed this nation and PDP will put its acts together to get the best candidate for the position.

There is no house in Nigeria where you don’t have a PDP member and if we put our house together without malice or skepticism, we will win the 2023 presidential election. Right now, there are two major political parties in Nigeria- the PDP and APC. APC has failed the nation and, this time, I’m sure PDP is ready to turn the country around.

What’s your position on the contentious issue of zoning ahead of the 2023 presidential election?

Zoning is tantamount to fairness whereby opportunities are given to everyone to have a fair share and the opportunity must go round so that some geopolitical zones would not feel marginalized. Zoning is okay for the sake of fairness. All the political zones have qualified and competent persons that can rule this Nigeria. However, the decision of our party on zoning would be respected.

How about Buhari’s successor?

As a member of the PDP, I dream that the PDP would provide Buhari’s successor and he would be detribalised and would rescue our decaying economy.

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