Nigerians should unite to stave off disaster —Shettima
Senator Kashim Shettima, representing Borno Central and immediate past governor of the Borno State, sheds light on some security issues in the country and the synergy to contain the problem and related matters. OSARETIN OSADEBAMWEN, who was at the interview the senator had with journalists, brings the excerpts.
At plenary, you said discussion on security should not be done by playing to the gallery, lampooning President Muhammadu Buhari because, in your view, he has done enough. What then do you think should be the solution to the problem?
Like I said earlier, we are living in an interesting time. The worst curse the Chinese would wish for you would be for you to live in interesting times. It is my honest opinion that just as the Chinese are battling the Coronavirus epidemic, they were able to build an elite consensus. They are focusing on addressing their common challenges. I believe that times like this also demand for statesmanship, maturity, sobriety, discipline, circumspection and even contriteness as leaders.
I can play to the gallery as I said earlier, but would that bring about solution to the problems we are faced with as a people and a nation? Not at all. But it is for us to unite irrespective of political affiliation, religious persuasion, tribal or sectional background so that the challenges facing us as a nation and people are frontally addressed because they cannot surpass us if we do face the challenges.
This has been my position. Currently, we are holding a meeting on the national security architecture. We can make our contribution while we believe that very soon, the nation will heave a sigh of relief. I believe quite frankly that grandstanding, playing to the gallery and pouring of venoms on the President would not solve the problem.
Hager said that the truth that fair men breathe is often the truth that men prefer not to hear. We cannot just demonise the president. Buhari did his best. And we had the respite between 2015 and 2017 before the security issue relapsed. So how to find the solution to our challenges is more important than demonising anybody. We should not suffer from memory amnesia. For us from the North, frankly speaking, Buhari has done more than enough for the North-East. The Chief of Army staff is not from Delta; neither is he from AkwaIbom; he is from Borno State; the National Security Adviser is from Borno; the Chief of Air Staff is from Bauchi. All from the North-East. Buhari was instrumental to the creation of the North-East Development Bill, leading to the plethora of bills and motions coming from different parts of the country for their development commissions as well.
It was under his tutelage that a billion barrel of oil was found in Bauchi. So, give it to him for placing our people in a strategic position to find solutions to our common challenges. If we are going to apportion blame, we should be fair to this poor old man. Discretion is a better part of valour; most times, silence is golden; sometimes, certain things should be left unsaid.
The president was in Borno on a sympathy visit after the Auno attack but was booed by the people over the poor handling of security of lives and property. How do you reconcile this with your position that he has done well?
It is unfortunate what happened at Maiduguri, the state capital. Mind you President Buhari has done exceedingly well for the people of the North-East as a whole. I know we have challenges. No matter how long the night is, it must give way to the dawn; no matter how stormy the weather might be, it will not rain forever. Certainly, we have reached the point in our crisis but we are going to bounce back as a people. The people of Borno love Buhari. Maybe, their expectation was too high. The people thought he had a magic wand to solve the security challenge in one fell swoop. It turns out, he doesn’t have a magic wand. I believe it was a temporal hiccup; the people of Borno passionately love Buhari.
The president also blamed Borno leaders that if they are not cooperating with the Book Haram insurgents, the issue of insecurity would have been done with. What do you have say on this?
Without the cooperation of the people of Borno, the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) couldn’t have ever come into being. The people and the government of Borno are fully behind the President; they are fully behind the security who have lost lives while serving the nation. I do not want to join issues with that remark but most importantly; that remark did not come from an authorised source. I doubt very much that the President would blame the elders of Borno; he might have been making a general statement on the need for the people to align themselves with the aspirations for restoring peace in the North-East. I doubt if the President blames the people of Borno. I heard him pouring encomiums on my leader and governor of Borno State, Professor Zulum.
As a former governor, you were assailed with security information on a regular basis. Relate this with the various times that persons in government, past and present, say they know those sponsoring these crises, with the recent coming from the Chief of Army staff, Lieut-Gen TukurBuratai. Yet, security agencies and government have not taken the bold step to make arrests. Does this not amount to you and other members of the political elite playing politics with the lives of Nigerians?
It is you (reporter) that is playing sensational politics with the fate of Nigerians. What you referred to was a mischievous fake news attributed to the Chief of Army Staff. I dare anybody who has any fact about anybody to come forward with the facts indicting such person. It is for the federal administration to put such people on trial. They have put others on trial in the past; some were adjudged guilty; some were free, so the onus lies on you to verify the authenticity of what was attributed to the Chief of Army Staff which was declared false by the Army spokesman. Be that as it may, fighting insurgency is a collective responsibility of all of us; it is a complex, composite and interwoven security challenge and it is not something that can be solved only by military action.We need and have to adopt a holistic approach encompassing the military, the social, the economic and the political. Trust me, beneath the mayhem of Boko Haram and beneath nihilism lies the true cause which is extreme poverty. In the Lake Chad region, there an interwoven relationship between economy, ecology and climate change.
The most frightening aspect, apart from the depreciation of the Lake Chad Basin from over 25,000 square km to less than 2000 square km, we have challenges of population growth. Experts have said that by 2050, Nigeria will be the third most populated nation on earth, surpassing the United States, supplanting the United States. There will be 440 million Nigerians. The most frightening aspect of this statistics is that by 2050, an estimated 70 per cent of Nigerians will live in the North, with desertification, endemic poverty and pervasive illiteracy. It is a recipe for disaster. Unless we wear our thinking cap as leaders; unless we coalesce into a single whole to translate the demographic growth into a demographic dividend, it will be the demographic disaster that will consume us. I want to appeal to you: let us work as a team, work as a family, because if the country has to implode, where do we go?
Down is the Atlantic Ocean, up is the Niger Republic; the population of Niger is less than that of Kano State; you are going to consume the entire food reserve of Niger in a day or two. Now on the western sides are the small states of Togo, Benin and Ghana, and on our eastern side is Cameroon that are also contending with their own problems. So, we have to find solutions to our own.
Today, the trajectory of global growth is focusing on Africa. The Asian economy is maturing. In Africa, Nigeria will make or mar the transition. One out of every four Blackman is a Nigerian. On the streets of London, if you see any African man walking with confidence and a *swagger,* not giving way to the Whiteman, he is a Nigerian. You do not need a soothsayer to tell you that he is Nigerian; the most progressive and upwardly mobile immigrants are the Nigerians.
The future of the Blackman, I dare to say, rests not with the hard-drinking South African. No! The hope of the Blackman rests not with the obsequious Kenyan; no! The hope of the Blackman rests with the Okoro people of eastern Nigeria, who were described by Ali Mazuri as the Nigerian Jews; geographically mobile, economically enterprising and educationally ambitious. The hope of the Blackman rests with the Yoruba’s of the South-West, who are the most educated and the richest of the Black race. The hope of the Black race rests with the most hated and demonised Hausa, wherever you go in this country where you do not see an Igbo man and a Hausa man, that village is an incomplete village. I am not a Hausa man as you know; I am a Kanuri man. So, let us work as a team and as a family and resolve these challenges. Most of these challenges are not beyond us. Banditry, Boko Haram, herdsmen/farmers’ clashes, ethno-religious tensions here and there are issues we can solve. We can fix this country collectively as a family. We missed the Agricultural age; Africa missed the Industrial Age; we are now in the knowledge-driven post-industrialised age, where people are talking of new technology, artificial intelligence and big data, we are talking of Amotekun. We should be more serious, I think a lot is expected from us.