We are about to witness the election of leaders of the ninth National Assembly and it is generating a lot of public concern. Why do you think Nigerians are concerned about the election? And what is the stand of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) regarding the impending election?
To us, the election of principal officers of the ninth National Assembly is the exclusive rights and prerogative of senators and members-elect of the House of Representatives.
However, the political parties that provided the platform for them to be elected also have a role in choosing those to superintendent over the affairs of the National Assembly for the purpose of ensuring good coordination with the executive which is needed for delivering on the promises of democracy.
More so, democracy is an issue of majority rule in which the political party with the electoral mandate is held accountable and the minority party is expected to be a viable alternative platform for the electorate, considering that democracy without a viable opposition is spurious.
Therefore, we will like to call on senators and members-elect of the House of Representatives that in exercising their rights to elect officers of their choice, certain attributes like legislative capacity and experience, amiability, track record of selfless service, integrity, compassion of the candidates, and above, all loyalty to their political parties, which manifestos are used for securing their electoral mandate needed for implementation, should guide them in making the best choices.
It should, however, be noted that multiparty democracy impels progress through change that comes with robust debates on issues of real concern to ordinary citizens. I think that once these are observed, they will not have problems. So, we are keenly watching on how these leaders will emerge.
Recently, the spate of killings in the region, as a result of banditry, kidnapping and terrorism, is disturbing, to say the least. What is ACF doing to ensure that the carnage ends?
Well, the ACF and, indeed, all Nigerians are worried with reports of kidnapping of innocent people on the highways and frequent attacks on villages by some armed bandits which have led to the death of hundreds of innocent lives, particularly in the Northern part of the country.
The frequent kidnappings and attacks on the people, especially along Kaduna/Abuja highway and many villages in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina and Kaduna as well as Plateau, Benue, Taraba states and many parts of the country are cruel, barbaric and inhuman.
We are, therefore, calling on those concerned to be proactive and ensure that the issues are dealt with. We are calling on the states affected and the Federal Government to take proactive measures. We have organised security submit in the past, as part of our own contribution towards ending these senseless killings. Far reaching measures or decisions reached during the summit were submitted to the concerned authorities. We have equally organised agricultural summit which was equally successful. We told our people to shift from depending wholly on oil and take up farming in order to boost the economy of the region.
Before now, our people know nothing apart from farming. We can still do it now. The land and skills are there; so, with right policies and programmes, this past glory (farming) could be restored. We have equally organised education summit to tackle the menace of poverty and hunger.
Apart from that, we have retired Generals who are voluntarily talking to the concerned authorities over this. We are not sleeping. We are worried because these are happening right under our nose.
What do you think should be done to arrest the current insecurity in the region and other parts of the country?
While condemning this spate of killings of innocent souls, we want proactive measure to be taken by both concerned states and the Federal Government.
We are not saying governments have not done well; they have. We all know what happened in the past. But now, the security challenges are different. These unwarranted and unbridled kidnappings and killings of people by some unknown gunmen must be stopped at all costs. This is a serious challenge to the government, our military and other security agencies, as the spate of attacks is getting vicious and unacceptable.
To this end, we call for the establishment of Military Joint Task Force and other security operational command bases in Zamfara, Sokoto and other flashpoint states to combat the bandits’ activities in the region. There is the need to redouble their efforts in order to put an end to this daily loss of innocent lives and destruction of properties.
We will like also to call on the security agencies to employ new strategies and intelligence gathering needed to effectively smoke out the kidnappers and bandits from their enclaves.
Also, we will like the Police Force to deploy more troops to the affected states and highways, not only to repel attacks, but also to go after the perpetrators and bring them to book.
We are also calling on the Federal Government to seriously reexamine its security apparatus and take adequate measures that will increase the number of police personnel, train them and provide equipment and other logistic support to effectively tackle this menace.
We, equally urge the communities to cooperate with the security agencies by way of intelligence gathering and sharing.
Another issue that has come to the fore in recent time is the granting of radio licence to Fulani which was criticized. Do you think such move by government is taken in best interest of the people?
Thank you. Well, the radio license obtained by Federal Government for the purpose of public enlightenment, particularly for herdsmen against violent attitude, especially reprisal killing of innocent people which is a criminal offense, is commendable, as long as perpetrators of such crimes are sanctioned by prosecution in accordance with the law.
As you are fully aware, lack of education contributes, in no small measure, to stoking banditry, cattle rustling and kidnapping; for the purpose of enlightenment of herdsmen on peaceful coexistence and unity.
After all, the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Radio Kaduna, runs a Fulfulde enlightenment program for the Fulani-speaking Nigerians on government policies and programmes.
So, honestly, we don’t see any reason there should be any negative reaction to the establishment of a radio station for them. Those calling on Federal Government to do the same to the Biafrans are not sincere, because the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) is an outlawed organisation. But people should understand that the Fulani is race that goes beyond our borders. They can be found in Niger Republic, Chad, Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Ghana and Bukina Fasso. Findings have shown that some of the Fulani that perpetrated such acts of violence come from these neighboring communities. So, if the radio is a tool to reach to them, what is wrong with that?
So, for government to jettison such race would be counterproductive; we think they should be invited for talks.
Recently we woke up to witness the resurgent of the Tiv/Jukun violence, which is one of the old crises engulfing the region. What do you think is responsible for the crisis?
Indeed, we noted with concern the most recent communal clashes between the Tiv and Jukun communities in Benue and Taraba states with the attendant loss of lives and destruction of properties on both sides. We condemn this unnecessary enmity between communities that have peacefully co-existed over the years and call on the states affected to put in a peace building mechanism that will ensure harmony among the various groups.
We might not have an idea on what triggered the recent crisis, but the crises, to our understanding, have been raging on for over three decades. This is not acceptable to us. Governments, especially those involved, must come to the roundtable for dialogue.
Similarly, we noted with concern too, the recent communal clash between Mada ethnic group and Fulani settlement in Akwanga Local Government Area of Nasarawa State and condemn such heinous crimes. This two groups must come together to end the barbaric killings of innocent lives.
To this end, we call on the security agencies to fish out the perpetrators of the above crises and bring them to justice. We also appeal to the communities to avoid using reprisal attacks as a way of addressing concerns, since such reprisals make victims of those who know nothing about the feuds.
Government must follow due process in addressing such grievances among the various communities.
The issue of out of school children in the region is another worrisome issue confronting the region? Do you agree?
During our last meeting, the council of ACF deliberated on the issue of more than 10 million children that are out of school in the North.
I could recall, the council noted with concern the increase in the number of almajiris and children roaming the streets and the unfortunate attitude of our states governors towards the development of education.
We noted the bold steps taken by the emirs and chiefs in the North to arrest the situation. The royal fathers organised a conference on this burning issue where it discussed and issued a communiqué on how the Northern states should tackle the situation.
But unfortunately, only a few states attended the conference or even sent representatives. This is not in the best interest of the region.
Also, we heard that the minister of education recently lamented the attitude of states government to access funds at the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBESC) for primary education development, by paying their counterpart funding. This is an unfortunate development. We, therefore, appeal to the Northern state governments to seriously address this out-of-school children menace, to avoid further escalation of insecurity and other vices that have bedeviled the North.
To our minds, illiteracy, poverty and drug abuses are a result of poor education as well as the nonchalant attitude of our leaders to good governance.