By Chancel Sunday
Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, elder statesman, was Minister of Police Affairs under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. In this interview, Bozimo speaks on issues bedeviling the peace and progress of Nigeria and Niger Delta among other issues in the polity. Excerpts:
The forensic audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, has been concluded with several Niger Deltans calling for the constitution of its substantive board with no response from Federal Government. What is your position?
I think every right-thinking Nigerian, especially Niger Deltans, appreciate the need for the forensic audit, the reason being that so many stories have been told about the inefficiency of the NDDC and how some Niger-Deltans fleeced the Board, and all the blames heaped on Niger-Deltans.
But, we know better, we know that a lot of the practices, the fraud and all things alleged to be happening there cannot be heaped on Niger-Deltans alone.
I know of the happenings in those days, if you wanted contract, you had to have connection with a northerner who will make things smooth for you. I saw it, I experienced it as a young legal practitioner.
Therefore, when President Muhammadu Buhari decided to investigate the board, we applauded the decision, but you know that everything in Nigeria is politics and, before you knew it, the investigation became skewed against our people.
It was another opportunity for Niger-Deltans, elders, youths and the progressives to be humiliated and disgraced so that there’ll be justification for the allegation that Niger-Deltans are not capable of managing their own affairs. It’s very regrettable, it’s a pity.
The media have been awash with all kinds of allegations against very prominent Niger-Deltans and I don’t want to mention names because if I do, you will say, “ah, what do you expect? Alaowei will always defend his people”.
But the truth of the matter is that there’s need for these investigations to be go with justice and truth so that people are not crucified unjustly.
I have read the report and the findings must be taken with a pinch of salt because it was hurriedly done as you know, the parameters were ill-defined.
If you want forensic auditing, you go for the best international auditors that would have handled it. It seems the thing was hurriedly done to serve certain interests. My take is that the NDDC should be re-audited to get the truth unveiled.
So what the way forward for the NDDC?
Well, the process is on-going; no single person can say that he has the answers to all the problems of the NDDC.
I think that at the end of the investigations that are going on, people should sit back and take another look at the board. I think we’re still in search of answers, we cannot pretend to know all the answers.
But as an observer from the inception of the NDDC, there have been good points and low points for the board, and I think Niger-Deltans will sit and take a second look at the board to see whether there’s a way we can improve on its operations, and if we look deep, we’ll find the answers.
What justification do you see in President Buhari’s insistence on open grazing?
Well, I don’t know whether President Buhari can actually come out and say he supports open grazing or not.
Perhaps, the President is posturing for political reasons, let’s not forget that the President always perceives that the minority can have their say but the majority will always have their way.
lf you have that frame of mind, it will be difficult to remain objective. As the President of this country and father of the nation, he should be very circumspect on the positions he takes.
Therefore, for me, open grazing is a disaster and I stand with all force with the position of southern governors and even majority of the northern governors who say open grazing is archaic; it does not promote the economy.
Even the open grazers themselves are suffering and perpetually poor because they’re adopting ancient methods that cannot compete with modern farming methods.
As a nation, we should condemn it and let us move forward, let young men import hybrid cattle and establish ranches that will be competitive with other parts of the world.
In a nutshell, open grazing is an old story, it’s a forgotten story and Nigeria must move forward to adopt modern ranching to improve cattle rearing and our economic growth.
What is your view on the agitation for secession by some ethnic nationalities in the country?
I don’t want to express openly my personal view because I’m a loyal follower of the Ijaw National Congress (INC).
I have listened to the leadership of INC and the position has been clearly stated, that for now Ijaw are not planning to secede but want to work and improve Nigeria.
For instance, let us restructure, let us look at those areas of our Constitution that impede progress economically, socially and culturally, and that is where I stand. But, I want to say that I empathize with some parts of the country who have expressed their desire to secede.
We all bear the same pain, we all bear the same agony. If I wasn’t a loyal follower of the INC position, probably I would do the same but my hands are tied and I must stick with the Ijaw position for now.
The position of the Ijaw in their quest to produce Delta State governor in 2023 is clear to all Deltans. As leader of the Ijaw movement, what do you think the Urhobo nation should do in this regard?
First, maternally I’m Urhobo and paternally I’m Ijaw. During our consultation tour round the state, most people, especially Urhobo, were amazed that I speak Urhobo fluently as I speak Ijaw.
In our tour to Delta Central, most Urhobo realized that Ijaw do not have any bitterness or hatred for the Urhobo nation over the 2023 governorship race.
When I visited the leadership of the Urhobo Progressive Union, UPU, I made a point and I indeed addressed them in Urhobo dialect and I demonstrated the fact that we are one and there’s no bitterness and they marveled.
So, I believe that the Urhobo will not reject an Ijaw being a governor in 2023. I have begged the Urhobo to understand that 2023 is Ijaw year to produce the state governor because they have had their slot already.
Our great political son and political leader, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, was there and several other Urhobo have also governed.
But we’ve never tasted it and that’s why we are saying that it’s our turn to produce the governor.
Even with the PDP zoning arrangement, what we are saying is that now that the Osusu has had complete rotation, let it start from our zone so the Ijaw will have an opportunity to compete in the race, we’re not saying it should be given to us on a platter of gold.
We’re not forcing or threatening anybody, we are pleading with our brothers to understand our plight in the state.
If the Urhobo say they cannot wait for more than 16 years, then what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.
In this case, Ijaw will then be waiting for over 30 years to just have a taste of power, which is unfair. So, that argument is neither here nor there.
We plead with all Deltans to give Ijaw the opportunity to also govern our dear state because we have served faithfully all that have come to power in the state.