Every Nigerian Must Be Involved In Fighting Insecurity – Amb. Jika – thewillnigeria
September 19, (THEWILL) – The immediate past Nigerian Ambassador to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Hassan Ardo Jika, speaks with CHRISTIANA BABAYO about insecurity and other issues affecting the country and his home state, Taraba. Excerpts:
Many Nigerians have expressed the opinion that the Federal Government is expending so much energy, time and resources in dealing with the Indigenous People of Biafra and other dissident groups in the South, while little is being done to halt the activities of insurgents, kidnappers, bandits and killer herdsmen in the North. What is your reaction to this?
It is very wrong for us to start treating issues with tribal and religious sentiments. We have criminals across board and wherever they are, we should all be happy that they are dealt with. It is a great feat for us all. Why are we not referring to the Kanuri in Borno as terrorists because most of the Boko Haram insurgents are Kanuri? Yet when a Fulani man commits a crime, he is not treated as an individual but profiled on the basis of his tribe. It is unfortunate that we are not behaving like nationalists.
We are not training our children to live together as one. We continue to polarise this country by politicising every issue along ethno-religious lines. We have people making huge sums of money out of these crises and they continue to take advantage of our soft spot for religion. Some people feel the government is not showing equal energy in fighting insurgents and bandits in the North as it is tackling the IPOB and other dissident voices in the South. The question is which group do bandits belong? We know that we have Boko Haram and IPOB as organised groups that you can proscribe. We are all aware and worried that we have bandits operating in parts of the North. But how do you proscribe bandits when they are not organised into a group? That is the challenge here.
What is your take on the security situation in the country?
It is very unfortunate that a group of individuals have decided to play politics with the security of the lives and properties of law-abiding Nigerians. They have decided to politicise the security of the country. There are scavengers who are feeding fat on insecurity. They try to analyse issues based on their personal interests. We need to know that we have no other country than Nigeria, even though I know that some people have dual citizenship and will jet out of the country at the first sign of trouble. We failed as a nation when we refused to sit down and look at ourselves as Nigerians.
We need to sit down and look at ourselves as Nigerians, not ethnic and religious nationalists. In a way, we are all responsible for the pervasive insecurity in the country to the extent that we fold our arms and wait on the Federal Government and the security agencies to do it all. That is not correct. We all have a role to play.
Another angle to this situation is that there are some corrupt individuals who know that they could go to jail for looting public funds and so they are deliberately manipulating the security situation to distract attention as much as possible. These people, who have amassed a lot of wealth, go all out to make sure nothing works well. Unfortunately, we are all responsible for this too. We celebrate criminality in our various communities and by so doing, encourage others to take to crime.
In our various communities, some people are up to no good and everyone knows them. Then suddenly, they start building mansions and throwing money around and nobody questions them. Deep down we all know that these are products of criminality and they come in the form of collected ransom, stolen money, proceeds from armed robbery, fraud and embezzlement of public funds, etc, but we celebrate the criminals all the same so that we can also get peanuts from them.
You remember the case of Wadume here in Taraba some time ago. This is someone everyone knew was a criminal, but even the state governor, Darius Ishaku, was alleged to have been patronising him and even giving him money. So how will criminality not fester when criminals are idolised even by the people charged to fight insecurity? And once you begin to celebrate such pervasive criminality, the security situation is bound to deteriorate terribly.
People try to give this religious colouration, tagging it as a move to Islamise the country and I laugh when I listen to such arguments. I ask what is the percentage of Christians in Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Zamfara and other Northern states where the insecurity is worst-hit? These are predominantly Muslims states and that is where people are being killed massively. It takes common sense to know that majority of the people killed are Muslims.
The question is do you need to kill your fellow Muslims in order to Islamise other people? No. The Holy Quran is very explicit about allowing people to practice the religion of their choice. So what we have is just pure criminality that has become a very lucrative job for some people and a way of distracting the government for political reasons.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s determination to reintroduce grazing routes and reserves across the country is generating a lot of controversy. What is your take on that?
Like I said earlier, we don’t want to tell ourselves the truth. These reserves have been designated way back because cattle contribute a lot to our Gross Domestic Product. We need each other in every sphere of life. The whole fuss about herdsmen and grazing and all of this is just political. Let me give you a typical example. When they wanted to introduce RUGA, my state governor, Darius Ishaku, said he had no land for grazing, same way most of the governors are talking now. This is a governor that has no budget for livestock development as an aspect of agriculture. Governor Ishaku said he had no land, but when the Central Bank of Nigeria gave Governor Aminu Massari of Katsina State N6.5 billion for giving land to the project, Ishaku suddenly realised that he had land in Ardo Kola Local Government Area to give for the project. Mind you that there are designated grazing reserves in that local government. When he could not get the money, he went and applied for N2billion from the CBN. When he got it, he moved the project to Takum where he is working hard to drive the Tiv people there out and to use their lands for the project. The people rejected it. Now there is no money and no land. It is very terrible. That is why I tell you that this is all about politics. These leaders are only pursuing their personal interests.
Do you think the current development in Afghanistan will affect Nigeria?
I don’t think the situation in Afghanistan has anything to do with Nigeria. It may not affect Nigeria in any way whatsoever. In fact it has nothing to do with Africa. We all know that this is a creation of some powers for selfish interests. We were told that Saddam Hussein had amassed weapons of mass destruction in Irag. Where are the weapons? That did not stop them from destroying him. I mean we all know how these things work for the good of those who control power, irrespective the number of people whose lives are wasted in the process. How do you create confusion just because you want to sell arms? I can tell you that we are suffering the worst slavery, which is slavery of the mind. Do we have Talibans in Nigeria? We must be able to manage our country. If we manage our country well, we would have peace. But if as a leader you decide to create confusion or allow instruments from outside to come in, then there will be a problem. Countries must be allowed to manage their internal issues their own way.
What is your assessment of Taraba State at 30?
I will say that it has been a bumpy ride. We spent much of the time under military rule and during these years, there was not much to talk about. Then came 1999 when the present democracy was ushered in. We had Governor Jolly Nyame who did very well during his eight-year tenure. He built hospitals, the stadium, Taraba Motel and a host of other projects. Governor Suntai of blessed memory came on board and built roads, thereby opening up the state for development. He built the university, the airport and a host of other projects. There is this general belief that although things were not as they should have been, we were making steady progress.
Unfortunately the last six years or so have been a major disaster for the state. Not only have we not recorded any meaningful development, but also most of the infrastructure that was put in place has been allowed to waste away. The stadium is in ruins, the hospitals are in deplorable conditions and the motel now houses rodents and reptiles. Perhaps the worst thing that has happened to the state in the last few years is the division of the state along ethnic and religious lines. Yes, we have a lot of ethnic groups in the state, probably more than anywhere else in the country. But these were no issues until very recently. Now everything is on the basis of religion and ethnicity.
So for me, we were doing well until Governor Darius Ishaku came on board and took us several years backward. He has planted a terrible seed that may as well consume us all. It will take a really good leader to correct this. Otherwise, we are all doomed. We have government without governance in the state. Ministries are running without running costs. In fact, apart from the state owned radio and television stations, I doubt if there is any ministry or agency that gets running costs. No. We are not where we are supposed to be. If only this government was able to build on the foundation laid by the last two governments, we would have gone far. Instead, we have gone badly backwards.
You need to know that Taraba state is richly blessed with enormous resources and potentials in Agriculture where you can cultivate any crop, including apples, Irish potatoes, tea and avocadoes, on the Mambila Plateau; cocoa, palm kernel, plantain, bananas and timber in Kurmi; rice and vegetables in Lau and yam, cassava, sweet potatoes and all kinds of grains in Karim Lamido, as well as in nearly every part of the state. The state also has the highest concentration of cattle in the country on the plateau. It has major tourism potentials and mineral resources. So if we had a serious government, we would have done a lot better than what we have today.
You seem to put much blame on the Dariye Ishaku administration in the state. Do you think this is fair?
I am just being very honest. Go to the Jolly Nyame Stadium and see things for yourself. Apart from the Green House project which is a monumental waste of resources, there is no single project that the government in the state conceived and has successfully completed it. How can a governor drill a borehole or buy transformer for a community through CSDP and will go around shouting that he has completed projects in these areas? These are projects that local government councilors should be doing. Sadly, rather than admit its failure, the government believes so much in telling lies. It tells lies blatantly. Recently the government said it constructed about 600 kilometres of roads across the state. Go to any of the projects they mentioned and see things for yourself. The Jalingo Flyover and dualisation project, which they claimed cost N34 billion, has been going on for years now without any tangible results. In fact, they are already patching portions of the road that is still under construction. The Green House that they also claimed cost N2 billion and promised would employ thousands of youths is as dead as a corpse in the morgue.
What do you think about the call to zone the Presidency to the South-East in 2023?
I don’t believe in zoning. I have always advocated competence instead. It doesn’t matter where the President comes from. What matters is having somebody with the political will and capacity to deliver. That is all.