Sunday, 18 April 2021

We May Not Have A Country In 2023 If… Ex Buhari's Minister Dalung


Former Minister of Youths and Sport, Mr Solomon Dalung, a lawyer, member of Northern Elders Forum and one of the strong political allies of President Muhammadu Buhari speaks to Nigerian Tribune the pervading insecurity in the country, threat of secession and zoning of the presidency, among other issues.


What is your assessment of the security situation in Nigeria?

The security situation in the country is not encouraging because of the plethora of challenges arising from the insurgency in the North-East; we have banditry added to this. There are also the farmers-herders crisis, kidnapping and payment of ransom. The most worrisome aspect of this is the sectarian aspect of violent crime where Nigerians now one each other because of where they come from. The security situation in the country is worrisome. Without security nothing is achievable; development is elusive in an unsecured environment. Peace is unimaginable in an environment where there is no security. It is not even possible  for social life to strive. This situation personally to me is worrisome and I think  we need to do  something urgently about it.


It appears that those at the helm of affairs are playing politics with the security situation in the country. The situation has been aggravating on a daily basis without any concrete approach to tame it. What is your take on this?

I think there is one thing Nigerians  have not understood about the ongoing security  situation: there is an emergence of conflict entrepreneurs, those benefiting  from the security situation. You have them within the system, those who benefit from the security budget and are unwilling to allow the situation to end. We have merchants of weapons, who are making heavy businesses out of the pathetic  security situation. You have unemployed  youths who are now recruited either as actors or promoters. This is just like an entrepreneur; it is  an economy to these people. The political  economy of the crisis itself is challenge number one and also the inability of the state to discharge its primary responsibility of protecting  lives and properties has compounded the entire situation. We kept receiving  assurances from the government and security agencies about putting  in their best. Their best has not been good enough, because  the situation  keeps degenerating on a daily basis with emerging new trends in criminalities. I think the relationship between the state that is responsible, the emerging  political  economy of conflict entrepreneurs and the recruitment of the unemployed youthful populations and their manipulation and engagement in sustaining this crisis is  the serious situation we are dealing with.


How would you  reconcile the incident that happened in  Imo State with the security challenges facing the country?

What happened in Imo was horrific and grave, talking along the line of national security because it was an attack  on the national security. It was carried out successfully because impunity  has taken the centre stage of our national values. Meaning that people now get away with evils, with crimes, with anything. Some of them even brag about it and are also seen within the corridors of power. Definitely, what happened  in Imo will still happen, if impunity is not checked or arrested.  I simply see what happened  in Imo as a demonstration of the peak of impunity in a system that is nose-diving into comatose.


Places attacked in Imo were headquarters of security formations in the state. If such places could be attacked without any resistance, do you think the man in the street is safe?

The security agencies all over the world can only defend themselves and the people if they are well kitted and trained. The question is: are security agencies armed enough  to contend with the nature of the threats and problems confronting the nation? The answer is certainly no. If you have been  privileged to be within areas the criminals attacked, whether as bandits, herdsmen or terrorists, you will agree with me that the fire power of the criminals seemed to dominate that of the security agencies.


I am not [a member of the security agencies] but the arms that our security agencies bear are the arms I have been seeing since 1980, especially the army. Meanwhile, I also see some of the security agencies  protecting  governors and some  important persons, as they are called, carrying  something more sophisticated than what the police who are protecting ordinary citizens are holding. Meaning that there is disparity in terms of the capacity of the weapons used to protect the undefended. On  the infrastructure that were attacked, if the security men were well-armed, of course, the criminals could not have gained access.  But because probably the security agents only have one or two AK47rifles  with  one hand grenade and those that attacked them were armed with sophisticated weapons, they couldn’t withstand the superior fire force from the criminals.


But before we look at their capacity to defend us, just look at the policeman close to you and see what he is holding. Does that tally with the picture of what you see terrorists and the bandits carrying? But the question is what has happened to our intelligence gathering that these people can move weapons from one location to the other and our intelligence people cannot detect their movements?

But looking at the humongous amount being allocated to the Ministry of Defence every year … (cuts in)


We know little or nothing about how Defence budget is spent because of this argument  that the national security is not something  that  requires the involvement of everybody. I think common sense demands that. If you look at the Chadian military when their soldiers moved into Nigeria to engage Boko Haram for attacking them, of course, from the way they moved in, you will be confident that whatever their budget is, it is being justified through  what they are doing. If you want to know anything about our budget, especially its implementation, you just take a look at our troops, you will be able to assess whether or not our budget is being spent properly.


The Northern leaders are now clamouring for restructuring and rejecting zoning. Do you support this position?

I am a member of Northern Elders Forum, but I was not at that meeting because I didn’t get my invitation. But it was a gathering of Northern groups and if you  analyse the groups  that gathered: Christian Association of Nigeria in the North; JNI North; the North-Central Elders Forum; the Middle Belt Youths Forum; Borno Youth Movement; the Borno Elders Forum; Christian Northern Elders Forum. All these groups were not part of the meeting. I think if a group of people  met and issued a statement, the statement will only represent their interest and their interest is the issue of politics.  They were interested in politics. Even though they used the mechanism of the prevailing situation to analyse the state of frustration and helplessness,  suffering  of the people, in their communiqué they deliberately left out proffering  solutions to the suffering  of the people, but they proffered solution to their interests, by saying they would not be stampeded into zoning. But I did not read from their communiqué any paragraph  attacking the most serious   issues which they analyse very well. The question will be that what is the relationship of zoning with the current suffering and security situation in the North. If bandits have relocated or captured parts of Katsina, Zamfara and some parts of Sokoto states and the problem of the northern group is to talk about zoning, the question then will be: would there be people left  in  2023?  Would there be a population to talk about  an election and zoning? The answer is certainly  no, because if things  continue  the way they are, a majority of our people  are going to migrate into the neighbouring countries for safety. As it is now, there are  lot of Nigerians, who have fled from bandits and kidnappers, now living in Niger Republic, Cameroon, Chad.  Even our Northern governors who are supposed to be on their duty posts and thinking of how to mobilise the people and address these challenges abandoned their duty posts and were defending their personal  interests of 2023. I take great exception to that. My concern  now is not 2023, because I don’t know if I will be alive by 2023. I think the primary concern of every right-thinking leader in this country should be how to narrow the gap of division among  Nigerians and how to tackle the security situation. What contributions  are we going to make as people? How do we mobilise our communities to play some complementary roles along with security to safeguard lives and properties. Election is not even the most important thing to me; the most important thing  is that there should be Nigeria, because the way we are going, we may not have a country in 2023. I think these great leaders were more concerned about their interests, which is zoning and not the interest of the suffering, helpless, frustrated and impoverished people of the North.


Are you saying the position of the Northern Elders concerning zoning is misplacement of priority?

It was a misconceived and misplaced priority. The most important  thing now is to  secure our country and put food on the table of people so that they can begin to think normally. If things continue  like this, will it be possible to  hold elections? Have you not heard how bandits invaded political  meetings and sacked politicians?  How are you going to campaign in 2023 that you are talking about zoning? For me, the most important thing  now is for our security forces to  rededicate themselves, look at the country  and its people and put in their best to secure the country. Let our leaders who are in position of authorities  to make decisions and budget  also consider the suffering  of the people and be patriotic enough to understand  that we need to have a country which we can leave for  the unborn generations. We must  narrow  the gap of our differences and come together to defeat criminals; otherwise, these criminals  will defeat us.


What is the way out of these terrible  situations? Some people are calling  for negotiation with the bandits, payment of ransom; what do you think should be done?

There is no straightjacket approach  to this security situation. There are strategies that would  work in my village and might not work outside my village, because we are a multicultural and plural society. So if we are going to approach  these security challenges, we must try to involve our traditional institution. We must take into consideration  the values of our people. The payment of ransom may work in one instance and it may not work in another place, because I know of where bandits collected ransom and still killed their victims. Negotiation world over is an organised method of dealing with violent crimes. As powerful  as America is, America negotiated  with Al-Qaeda, they swapped prisoners to get their soldiers. Israel negotiated with Hamas; they got their soldiers swapped with other prisoners. So negotiation  with criminals groups is an internationally  recognised  method of dialogue and conflict  resolution. But it doesn’t have one approved pattern. It differs from one society  to the other.  So, for me, negotiation  cannot be swept under the carpet except those who are promoting non-negotiation are trying to tell us that they have different  option which they should put on the table. But if they don’t  have any option and they don’t  want negotiation to go on, certainly it might be they are benefiting from  the situation.


How do you think the federal government can handle secession agenda being promoted by groups of people across the country?

Every society  is built on justice; it is justice that nourishes the social  relationships horizontally and vertically between  people  and the government. Where injustice and impunity become official  conduct of government, definitely,  there will be no peace in that society. I think the best way the government can go about this is to look at the issue of justice. Government should do justice to Nigerians and, in doing justice to Nigerians, government  must ensure that every policy that it makes is implemented  completely. Government should be all-encompassing;  it should carry everybody along; it should be inclusive and embrace all that make up the political entity in Nigeria. Government  should  engage  the citizens and not see citizens  as enemies because they share contrary opinions.  Government should also ensure that anybody who has a responsibility to discharge but fails to do so should be  sanctioned immediately. Government should champion the campaign of uniting this country and exemplify it by the conduct of public officials. If a Minister of Federal Republic only has people from his village in his office, of course, it means the issue of governance to them will be sharing of the National Cake. This will  polarise the country, factionalise and divide the country. Mr. President  needs the support of all, but first he needs  the support of his government  and party. I have said this many times that it is an abnormality where  the President is left alone to defend himself, to defend his government and to defend his party. It is a tripartite relationship. Nigerians elected APC based on the manifesto; the APC should be able to defend its manifesto and engage Nigerians. That I have not seen yet.


The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has a cabinet and government agencies.There is Information Minister  that is supposed to defend the implementation of the manifesto, the party and how far we have gone and  how far we have been able to achieve and what are our challenges. The president has a presidential spokesperson who should be able to speak for  his office, but as it is now, it is the presidential spokesperson that defends the president, government, party and even defend the military. This is not a normal situation. The president has  been abandoned by his party and his party is busy organising 2023. They are not even defending the ongoing mandate and that is why the focus has been shifted and the president is under serious siege. So the president is defending himself. This is not acceptable under presidential system of government and that is why this presidential system is not the best for developing countries. We need to reverse this country to parliamentary system of government where  people are going to be held accountable. Presidential system is too expensive and Nigerian politicians are too smart; they know how to pocket those who have power to check them, because anyone contesting election as governor has already selected members of the House of Assembly who will come and be ‘Yes men’. So nobody is holding anyone to account.


Is your party living up to its billing in terms of its electoral promises?

It is just like asking a man who is on trial to pronounce his innocence. This should be pronounced by judicial process. I am an APC chieftain; one of the founders of APC. One of those who went round to convince Nigerians that we would bring change. So it is not for me to say whether we are doing it wrong or right, but it is for Nigerians who trusted what we said in 2015 and 2019 to say whether or not we have lived up to expectations and that will be determined by what is called the ballot in 2023. For me, I am standing trial before Nigerians; people of Nigeria have trusted my party for two consecutive times, so they would have to check their list to see if we have fulfilled all the electoral promises. If not, they would decide what is good for them but if it is for  me, I will be selfish to say we should continue.

Source : Tribune


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