Why armed militias have field day in Buhari’s govt — Mailafia, ADC presidential candidate
Dr Obadiah Mailafia is the presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the forthcoming 2019 general election. In this interview with ADEMOLA ADEGBITE, the former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) speaks on President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Middle-Belt as main theatre in the undeclared war against an unarmed and defenceless people by militias and his vision and mission for the Nigerian populace. Excerpts:
What is your political philosophy and why have you decided to enter the treacherous water of politics, knowing that there are so many sharks in it?
Like many teenage undergraduates of my generation at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in the late 70s, I was attracted to Marxism as taught by radical scholars such as the late Yusufu Bala Usman and Patrick Wilmot. I was an admirer of leftist intellectuals such as Eskor Toyo, Bade Onimode and Claude Ake. We were in awe of Amilcar Cabral and the PAIGC in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde; of Samora Machel and FRELIMO in Mozambique and Agostinho Neto and MPLA in Angola. It was the age of revolution. We wanted to liberate Africa and we wanted to set the world to rights.
But many of us soon became disenchanted. I had delved into some studies in the philosophy of science. I became a sceptic after reading Bertrand Russell, Karl Popper and Leszek Kolakowski. It did not make scientific sense to me that one should be imprisoned by one ideological paradigm or the other. I also came across the novels of Russian exile and Nobel laureate, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, which revealed the horrendous evils of the Soviet Gulags.
The father of a dear Russian-Jewish friend of mine at Oxford was an exiled member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He told me that the revered physicist, André Sakharov, was a regular visitor to their home in Moscow when he was a child. I got to know Russian refusenik intellectuals such as Vladimir Bukovsky and others through my friend. They cured me of the godless religion. I was also at graduate school in Paris and fell under the influence of radical young philosophers led by the likes of Bernard Henri-Lévy who condemned the Soviet system and demanded socialism with a human face. Today, I am a social democrat, a progressive statesman driven by deep convictions about social justice and solidarity. I believe in humanity. I am a corresponding member of Socialist International. The persons I admire the most in Nigerian politics are late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Mallam Aminu Kano.
You recently presented your economic blueprint. What priorities will drive the policies of your administration if you are elected president of the Federal Republic?
A fortnight ago, we unveiled our economic blueprint to Nigerians. Our programme is anchored on 4 Ps: People, Power, Peace and Prosperity. The first “P”, people, focuses on human capital, education, skills, health, job creation and poverty alleviation. The World Bank recently announced our country as the new world capital of poverty, with 88 million of our people living in destitution. We are going to tackle poverty and its root causes. We aim to lift our people out of despair. Some 70 per cent of our youths in Zamfara and Borno states have no jobs. But we are also conscious of the fact that we must accelerate growth and unleash the productive energy of our people while enhancing national competitiveness. We are going to trigger a mass industrial revolution.
The second “P”, power, is anchored on providing Electricity for All. We are determined to drive an aggressive electrification programme, in addition to massive investments in world class infrastructures, including housing, highways, rail networks and deep-sea harbours.
The third “P”, peace, is about fighting insecurity and enforcing a just and lasting peace. Securing the common peace has been the first duty of government since Aristotle and Thomas Jefferson. We have sworn eternal enmity against genocide and killing of innocent women and children. Nigeria has the dubious price of being the world capital of kidnapping. Under our leadership Nigeria will be a prosperous, progressive and peaceful democracy.
The final “P” refers to prosperity. We are focusing on the economy and on political reform as the foundations for building the New Nigeria of our dreams. We are committed to launching a framework for political reform, restructuring and nation building. We shall also wean the economy away from dependence on oil, tackling the economic fundamentals vital to building a flourishing, progressive democracy. We are determined that our people will enjoy a new vista of flourishing. Thank you.
Nigeria is in a state of insecurity and has never been this divided. How would you restore the confidence of Nigeria?
Yes, you are sadly correct. Conflict and violence orchestrated by a backward and nepotistic administration have driven a wedge between our people. Instead of bringing us together, our leaders have divided us. If we allow the trend to continue, our country will plunge into the Niagara Falls of history. It is as bad as that! Added to the 10-year insurgency, we have murderous mayhem by armed herdsmen militias, many of them from neighbouring countries. I do not regard them as Fulanis at all. We have lived with Fulanis since ancient times. They are part and parcel of our communities.
These people are mostly foreigners, most of them armed by shadowy foreign powers and local collaborationists, all with the goal of destroying our beloved country. To echo the language of Sir Winston Churchill, British wartime Prime Minister: we will fight them in the villages; we will fight them on the streets; we will fight them in the creeks; we will fight them in the cities and towns. And we will defeat them. We will defeat them because we are children of light and they are children of darkness.
The majority of Nigerians are lovers of peace. We are tired of war, lawlessness, criminality, violence and disorder. We will pitch our tent with all lovers of humanity. We shall deploy sophisticated technological warfare to confront the enemies of our people. I cannot reveal everything we will do in this interview, because we shall not be foolish enough to supply ammunitions to our enemies. I also have a background in military science. Carthage must, and will be, destroyed!
The war against the insurgency has been a half-hearted mediocre effort. The ideal approach is a comprehensive strategy that not only dislodges the insurgents militarily but also eliminates the social conditions that generate their wicked ideology of violence and death. We must tackle the social conditions that give rise to radical ideologies, in addition to winning the propaganda war and enhancing the capability of government to deliver social services and critical public goods to all citizens. We are committed to political engagement with key stakeholders, ruling elites, civil society, traditional elders, religious leaders and the organised private sector. There must be a national dialogue on how to remove the culture of violence from our national psyche and taming religious extremism. It also requires a new national compact redefining the fundamental contours of the Nigerian national project. We are committed to reinventing our country as a progressive and forward-looking nation that is at peace with itself and its neighbours.
The government claimed economy is improving, but Nigerians are weeping as hunger bites harder and harder. How would you do it differently?
What has unfortunately occurred is that we have a government that has not grasped the first principles of sound economic management. There is no real Economic Team to speak of. There is no vision and no leadership. It’s a case of implementing public policy by muddling through. The consequences are there for everyone to see. We have a government that is anti-people and anti-business. Most market women and traders have emptied their accounts with the banks because anybody with money is deemed to be a thief by this government. As a consequence the banks are groaning. We are going to do things differently. Our priority is peace, security and the economy. We are deeply convinced that battling poverty requires that we focus majorly on the economy. It is the key to our common prosperity. But it cannot happen in a vacuum. What will drive prosperity is a new ethos of leadership based on development and social progress. We are committed to reinventing the state as a developmental institution that promotes economic growth, poverty-alleviation and long-term prosperity.
We are committed to revamping power and infrastructures, boosting agribusiness and food security, and ushering in a mass agro-based industrial revolution. For a start, we shall issue an Executive Order requiring all government buildings from local government to states and the federation to install solar panels on their roofs. This will greatly alleviate some of the shortfalls in power. We have a policy of Electricity for All, which we shall implement with zeal and passion.
We are bringing back the tradition of economic development planning, including urban regional planning. My running mate and vice-president-to-be, Tanimowo Nuraini Bolanle Nasiru, a relation of the Alaafin of Oyo, also happens to be a renowned professor of Urban and Regional Planning. He will oversee the economic development planning process, in addition to power and infrastructures. We shall institute in the heart of government a Strategy Group that will drive policy implementation. All ministers, permanent secretaries and heads of government agencies and departments will have a performance contract. There will be regular monitoring and evaluation. Those who do not perform will be shown the door.
With regard to appointments, the present government has been accused of making appointments only from a particular part of the country. What is your take on this?
All the evidence is there. Everything about this administration is steeped in nepotism. They have brought nepotism even into military appointments where merit should count more than anything else. We are told that officers in the prime of their careers are being silently retired from service. The favoured few are being promoted at the expense of everybody else. This is why people who cannot fly planes killed themselves during the exercise leading to our Independence Day celebrations last month. It’s a national disgrace! When we are voted into power, we are going to show them how to lead a country based on fairness and inclusiveness. We are going to be a government for all Nigerians.
You talked about the militias and the killings, what plans do you have to bring the perpetrators to book if elected?
I am not by any stretch of the imagination an admirer of General Sani Abacha. But he has been credited with the statement that if an insurgency persists for more than 48 hours, the government knows something about it. When the current incumbent was out of power, he made the infamous faux pas that “an attack against Boko Haram is an attack on the North.” Can you imagine such a statement? It therefore does not surprise us that the foreign armed militias are having a field day, ripping the wombs of pregnant women and placing their unborn infants under the sword. I come from the Middle Belt, which has been the main theatre in this undeclared war against an unarmed and defenceless people. We shall start from the simple premise that any foreigner who comes into our country bearing a weapon must be treated as an enemy combatant. It’s as simple as that. The international laws of war give our people the full right to defend themselves. Those aiding and abetting them will face the full wrath of the law.
How would you tackle corruption?
Corruption is a cancerous wound in our body-politic. The current approach is based on fire-fighting- chasing rats when Rome is burning. Their approach is also deeply partisan and one-sided. As a result, they have lost credibility completely. We have a different approach. We shall institute in the heart of government a system of monitoring and evaluation of all government projects and programmes. The contract system is the principal source of corruption, embezzlement, fraud and financial mismanagement. We will tackle these demons head on.
We intend to reform the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and integrate it with Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), with full judicial powers to investigate, prosecute and punish. The lawyers will grumble that this amounts to giving too much power to one organisation.
The big mistake we have made in this country is to see corruption and grand larceny as merely a legal and moral problem. For the Chinese, it is more than that. It amounts to high treason- a question of national security. For those who commit such crimes against our people, we cannot give them the luxury of using their loot to extricate themselves from justice. So, you can steal N20 billions of pensioners’ funds and use N2 billion out of it to hire a gaggle of SANs to shield you from justice. You can even bribe the judges and court officials to hide the files, give you medical leave abroad and pursue all other such legal shenanigans that make our justice system the laughing stock of the world. We will tackle corruption and the root causes of corruption.
We shall also empower the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation with more resources to perform audit functions throughout the departments and agencies of government. It is foolhardy to watch a Governor defraud his state on the argument that he has legal immunity. It is only in our system that immunity is broadly defined as the right to rob and kill without any sanctions whatsoever!