Immediate past Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Defence in the eighth National Assembly, Honourable Rimamnde Shawulu, speaks on the calls to license citizens to bear arms, autonomy and other issues. KEHINDE AKINTOLA brings some excerpts:
DO you support calls by pressure groups that the 1999 Constitution be suspended to pave way for a new one?
I do agree and my argument is simple. My argument is a response to people, who say that you cannot discuss the dissolution or otherwise of this country and I have argued that in the first place, any association that does not have a clause for dissociation is a prison. It is only in prison that you cannot go in and come out. Another point that I want to make is that, and this is simple history. There was a time that we had a country called Songhai. There are many countries that were in the place that we call Nigeria now. We have so many countries today that were not there before! Countries come, countries go, countries mutate, countries change, countries become smaller; they scatter; they become bigger. They are simple historical facts. By the turn of the 19th century, there were fewer countries in the world than we have today. Some countries like the Soviet Union dissolved into so many countries, Czechoslovakia dissolved also. There is nothing sacrosanct about the borders of any country or entity; they are just a part of historical process. They go, they come and they will change. There is nothing anybody can do about that. You can only temporarily halt or create a problem; you cannot stop that from happening. Also, I want to say that some people give the impression that the bigger the better. It is not simple. You can be small and better; you can be big and better. If people have come to a stage, where they say we need to discuss, I think we should allow people to discuss. Perhaps, in the discussion, we can resolve the challenges that are facing us in this country. And mind you, the way the world is going, things that we did not see before, we are seeing. Even in the United States today, there are demands for secession; California wants to go and other states want to be independent. If you go to the United Kingdom today, Scotland wants to be an independent country and Ireland too wants to be an independent country; so, they are just part of history. There is nothing anybody can do about that.
Now that those in authority seem disinterested in some of these nagging issues, what do you think is the way out of the current doldrums?
I don’t know too. I actually wished that we did not have at this situation that we have in this country today. What do I mean? The tension that we have is unnecessary if the current leadership of Nigeria had done what it was supposed to do; we would have had a situation where people would not be talking about what we are talking about today. For instance, the issue about the heads of the security agencies coming from one section of the country, the skewed employment processes that is happening and all those things; they need to be addressed. If they are not addressed, people will keep talking about them; tension will keep rising. Those people, who have been going about killing people in their homes and the rest, need to be arrested and dealt with. That is the only way we can build confidence and say okay, we are all together. But when you now tell the governor of Benue State that he should go and let his people live peacefully, people who are killing Benue people, what do you expect the people there to do? It is because of these failures of government that you hear people talking about, let us have Oduduwa Republic’, ‘let us actualise Biafra’, ‘let’s have a Niger Delta country’, while some are saying let’s have a Middle Belt country, because of the fact that the President, especially, now has refused to own up to the fact that he is supposed to belong to every person. Of course, some people will argue and rightly so too, that there is no guarantee that only if you create an Oduduwa Republic, there won’t be problems; Surely there will be problems there like every human endeavour. But it will be problems of a different direction, not of the same thing that we have currently.
The governor of Taraba State recently advocated that the Federal Government should license qualified Nigerians to carry arms in self defence due to killings by suspected herders. Do you subscribe to the call?
No, definitely no! One, the arms that are being used to kill people today are not licensed arms. Licensed arms have specifications and conditions for usage. Number two, what we need actually is for government to take arms off people and not to multiply the guns that are on the streets. Guns don’t win wars; guns don’t resolve problems; people solve problems. The Federal Government, state governments, local governments and all the institutions of government combined need to wake up to their responsibilities. We have a very disturbing situation in the country today; disturbing because it appears that the Federal Government, especially in the last five or six years, has been spectacularly biased towards a section of the people. That naturally elicits the kind of response that the governor of Taraba State and, indeed, other governors have spoken of. Two wrongs don’t solve a problem. Personally, I do not believe that we need the Police Force the way the Nigeria Police is currently constituted. In the United Kingdom, where we copied from, they don’t have an Inspector General of Police, who is in charge of everything; who commands 350,000 personnel.
And if you look at other advanced countries like the United States of America, even the Armed Forces are under the commands of different people; you don’t have one person that takes all the decisions. When decisions are taken in those climes, they are supposedly based on processes. That is what is wrong with our system in Nigeria; that human discretion, human intervention, have been brought to bear on the security system. So, people who commit offences, are allowed to go scot free and others are framed or charged for lesser offences. You also know the phobia of government at both state and federal level. The Federal Government has created a condition, where state governments or groups of states are forming security outfits. These security outfits have come in to fill the vacuum that is left and created by the weaknesses or the disruption of the institutions of the police, the security agencies and the military. Now in my view, what we need to do is to build our processes; to build our systems because systems will protect everybody. If you liberalise or democratise the availability of guns, you are only going to create anarchy. In fact, let me put it in another way, you are taking us back to the original state of man, where everyone is for myself and against all others – the Hobbesian world, where life was brutish and short. The system of government was developed that all weapons should be kept in one place was developed, that is, with the government. The state government was the only institution with the exclusive right to keep arms and the arms were used by government against people, who were violating the rights and privileges of law-abiding citizens. That’s how government developed and we survived two, three or five centuries of peace where all the weapons of war, in a rule-based system, where regulations prevail; institutions-imposed regulations on people. You have to obey road traffic; you could not take revenge; the state took the revenge on behalf of citizens. This was the period that we had unprecedented development in the economy, in technology and so forth. So, when you now want everybody to bear arms, you are going to take us back to the state of anarchy, where everyone was for himself against all. I think what we need to talk about is: how do we build these institutions that will protect every person.
But we seem to be in a critical situation, especially on the problem of insecurity, with many claiming the government appears overwhelmed. I do agree with you and that was why I said from the beginning that we have a situation that in the last five years in particular that unfortunately suggests that the institutions of government have become biased and openly nepotistic in a manner that we have never had in the history of this country. I do also agree and there are evidences to show that Nigeria has never been as divided as it is today along ethnic lines, along religious lines, to the extent that some people are claiming that the country belongs to them, not to others and then some people are saying well, this part of Nigeria is our own and you have to leave our own. We have a situation, where Nigeria today is the only place in the whole wide world where animals – cows roam the streets, even the streets of the Federal Capital Territory (CFT). And why is it happening? This is happening because a certain people backed by government want to prove that they are the owners of Nigeria. And of course, that will naturally elicit the situation that we have.
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