Breaking up Nigeria will not solve but create more problems —Yakasai

At almost 96 years of age, Kano State born elder statesman and presidential liaison officer, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, recalls events and dates with precision. Armed with his rich experience of Nigeria’s politics right from the First Republic, he speaks to DARE ADEKANMBI on the secession agitations from groups in the southerner part, assesses the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, among others.

There has been renewed agitation for secession from parts of the South by several groups. What do you make of this development as well as what it portends for the country?

Can you tell me the names of those who are advocating the break-up of the country? How many of them? Have they ever contested elections and won? Anybody can make claims, but are these agitators supported by the people they claim to represent? Let them contest elections and get people to vote for them first. How many of them can be voted for by the people in their areas? If you tell me their names and I don’t know them, I can Google to search for them.


These are formidable groups being supported by prominent people…[cuts in]

They are mere noisemakers. You will get them everywhere. In a democracy, people have right to speak, whether they are right or wrong with their views. This is a country of 200 million people. Every market day in every part of the country is holding. Offices are working; the private sector people are working. The National Assembly is working, just as state assemblies and government offices all over. People are doing their businesses and are making their profits. Do you know how much Aliko Dangote makes in a year? He makes billions of naira as profit. Tony Elumelu makes billions of naira as profit as well and it is the same story for other moneybags. If the country is not peaceful, how can they make such huge profits? It is you people in the media that want the country to break and if the country breaks, where are we going to?


We are not campaign that the country should break up. We are only reporting the views of the agitators and calling the attention of those in authorities to address such development…

I insist why do you people in the media want this country to break, particularly those of you in the South-West? Do you have another country? In Nigeria of today, the area that is benefitting the most is the South-West. The area that is not benefiting is the North and yet northerners are not asking for the country to break up, despite being the least to benefit from the country. Northerners know there is a future. I went to China in 1960 and saw university graduates carrying shovels in their hands and sand on their heads at road construction sites. Today, China is number two country in terms of wealth and development. If they had no sense of future, if they were short-sighted and had disintegrated, would they have been able to achieve this? If we are going to break up Nigeria, give us an alternative as to how each region will thrive.


You said the North is the region least benefiting from Nigeria as presently constituted, while the South-West is the zone benefiting the most. Many people won’t agree with that. President Muhammadu Buhari has been pilloried several times for giving key and strategic appointments to northerners…[cuts in]

If people do not believe in the Bible and the Qur’an, which does not mean the holy books are not speaking the truth, then how much do you think they will believe me? During the week, they gave the figures of the key positions given to the South. I saw it. The North has the least figure, particularly the North-East and North-West. Go and check the per capita income for each of the six zones in the country.


A lot of people will ask you to blame northern leaders for whatever woes have befallen the region…[cuts in]

I know and I agree with you. Since we returned to democracy in 1999, how many northerners have ruled Nigeria? Take away Yar’Adua who died on the way. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo did eight years. Goodluck Jonathan did six years and now if Buhari completes his eight years, he will be on the same level with Obasanjo.


Are you insinuating that the North should be allowed to continue to rule the country in 2023?

I am not talking about that. I am only trying to show you that it is not only the northerners that have ruled the country since 1999.  I don’t care who rules Nigeria from 2023 as long as the person is competent to govern clearly and develop the country. This is one of the reasons I did not support Buhari right from beginning. Check your records and you would see that when Obasanjo was in power, I was talking in his favour and I was never and will never be in PDP.  It was only when he wanted to do a third term that I ended my support for him. I don’t support people based on their tribes or religions. I support people because of what they can do for Nigeria. In 2023, we are looking for somebody who will rule Nigeria very well, irrespective of where the person comes from.

In the First Republic, I was the publicity secretary for the defunct Northern Elements Progressives Union (NEPU) for almost 10 years. We were in alliance with the NCNC and I was supporting Nnamdi Azikiwe. I did not support Sardauna. I respected him, but did not support his party. I believed in the NCNC which believed in one Nigeria, which was why NEPU joined the NCNC in an alliance. This was the situation until all the political parties were banned in 1966. We were committed to this country. We believe once the country is united, we would be great. This is why the United States is a great country today. This is why China came far from behind to become the number two country in the world today. If China had disintegrated, it would not have become the second biggest economy in the world today.


People have fingered the insecurity in the country today and how it has been handled with kid gloves, particularly the aspect that involves the criminal elements among the Fulani herdsmen from the North, as part of the reasons the agitation for secession is gaining currency.

I told you I have never supported and will never support Buhari. Everybody who reads newspapers knows that right from the word go, I never supported him. I know Buhari has no competence to rule the country. I have never changed my mind about his lack of competence to lead the country. But that does not mean I will support those calling for the break-up of the country. I didn’t support Buhari because I knew he could not solve our problems as a country. The capacity is not just there. I would join efforts to look for somebody who can solve our problems. When Umar Yar’Adua was president, he produced 7-point agenda.  If all those who came after him concentrated on the agenda he produced, we would have a different country today. How many of them talk of any agenda now? None of them. Nobody can solve Nigeria’s problems until there is a programme for it. Many now want to become president because they want to have power and to make money. Such people can’t solve our problems or the problems of any country. Only people who put their minds to the problems can solve such problems. If we want to develop agriculture, we must have a programme that solves the problems in that area. There must be a programme to solve the problems of power, infrastructure and a programme that will create jobs for the youths. If there are programmes for the various sectors, the future of the country would change for the better. But these people only want power to make money. It is not a question of South or North because both southerners and northerners have ruled the country. It is the problem of lack of programmes and capacity that is troubling the country.


As an elder statesman, what do you think can be done to solve the problem of insecurity in the country?

We had Boko Haram, Niger Delta militancy and IPOB in the South-East. They are all insurgents. What this country needs is a good government with a programme to address what is wrong with Nigeria and that will work out the solutions to the problems. If you the media can concentrate in urging and educating Nigerians to look out for people who can solve our problems, you will have helped this country a lot more than just publishing the propaganda that is coming from government left right and centre. It can’t solve Nigeria’s problems. We don’t want a Nigeria where people will begin to fight one another. There won’t be stability and there will be more poverty in the country.


Again, a lot of people will disagree with you that the Niger Delta militants and the IPOB folks are insurgents like the bandits and Boko Haram members in the North. They are quite different in their approaches and agitations…[cuts in]

I have told you that there are people who don’t believe in Jesus Christ and Mohammed. And being a democracy, there is freedom of speech and so on. Those who are aggrieved should bring out their own programmes about how to solve the problems of the country. Breaking up Nigeria wont’ solve our problems. With my experience in this country, the moment you break up Nigeria, every region will resort to fighting one another. In the North, we don’t have one language. We have Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri, and so on. In the entire West, everybody is a Yoruba speaking tribe from Oduduwa. I knew when Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief S.L Akintola quarreled, leading to the infamous Operation We ti e in West then.


Senator Bola Tinubu has been romancing northern leaders about his presidential ambition. Do you see him as having the capacity to rule the country?

I read about his ambition on the pages of newspapers, but I have never heard him say it. I will wait for him until he makes a declaration to that effect. But I can tell you I made a public statement widely published that I believe two people in Nigeria – Tinubu and Alhaji Abubakar Atiku – will do something better if either of them gets the chance to rule the country. I have seen what Tinubu did in Lagos. I believe in Atiku because Atiku has a programme. But let’s wait for them to declare their ambition.


If Tinubu emerges APC presidential candidate and Atiku picks the PDP ticket, who will you support?

Yes, it is true I said they have the capacity to run the country. I will wait to see if they will pick both of them and then decide. I don’t want to waste my time. Supposing they don’t pick them, what do you think will happen? I am not in a hurry. Although I am old, I don’t want to go.


Allah will grant you 20 more years to see that the Nigeria of your dream comes true…[cuts in]

That is too much for me. I don’t want to be a problem for my children.


If God gives you good health to live that long, there is nothing you can do about it. You won’t kill yourself.

Pray for Him to give me good health which He has been doing so far. Let Him continue to give me good health.


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