Why insecurity persists –Yarima

Former Zamfara State governor and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Ahmed Yarima, speaks to select journalists, including TAIWO AMODU, on his objection to granting amnesty to bandits and terrorists and how the country can overcome its worsening security challenges. Excerpts

 

With all the problems bedevilling this country called Nigeria, how do you think we can overcome them?

First of all you need to improve the welfare of the security agencies, the police, the Department of State Security Services, the military, civil defence [corps] and  all other people working to ensure peace and secure our people.  You have to make sure that their welfare is improved. In fact, not wages and salaries, you have to make sure that their families are adequately taken care of; their future, their education, their health facilities, their retirement benefits. They have to be very comfortable so that they can give out their lives in the struggle to ensure that we are secure. You also have to give them equipment. When I was governor, I had an arrangement in Government House where the security, the commissioner of police and the director of DSS had some communication centres where from every corner of the state, security agencies could communicate with one another. But today, unfortunately from one checkpoint to another, the police can’t communicate themselves. I have been seeing it whenever I move around. I travel from here [Abuja] to Zamfara, Kaduna, you will see checkpoints that can’t communicate to the next checkpoint. This is terrible. They have to communicate. If there is any attack and the modern equipment that we have today, you can install facilities that you can even see movement of people around the country. You can detect where the bandits or insurgents are and communicate between themselves and surround them and take necessary actions. So we need to do a lot in the area of security.

Then, poverty is a very terrible problem that can cause not only insecurity. All this drug addiction by youths and women, the problem of crimes and other things are caused by poverty. Every citizen of Nigeria should be given access to education – not only quantity education – but quality education. You should have free education at least to secondary school level. For tertiary institution, you need to make an arrangement like the United Kingdom and United States of America, where you give some brilliant students scholarship, but should have what I call school soft loan where every child who is from a poor family can have access to loan so that he can finance his tuition fees, his maintenance allowances and when he graduates and starts doing something he can start to pay in 10, 15 to 25 years. This is what is obtainable in the Western world. The type of education we are giving our children is also nothing to write home about because every child now will be targeting to have a certificate just to get employment. That is not a good one. You have to give them education. If somebody, for example, is going for a degree in agriculture, he should specialize in poultry, fishery, crop production, animal husbandry and any area of agriculture so that he can have access to loan when he graduates from Development Bank, Bank of Industry so that he can establish a small business that he can even employ others. So, these are the kind of areas that one can touch. It seems simple but it needs a lot of efforts, bringing talent together so that you can have a team that can drive these issues.

 

You have shown interest in the presidency against 2023 under the APC and there is this insinuation all over the place that there was an agreement, pre-meger, where it was agreed that there should be zoning. Don’t you think this will affect your aspiration?

You see, I don’t think there is anything like agreement. You can ask Mr President; he led the group, Asiwaju [Senator Bola Tinubu] was there. I was part of it; there was no meeting I didn’t attend or any meeting that I attended that there is such agreement. Agreement can’t be verbal; it has to be written. In any case, any agreement that is contrary to laws of this country is not an agreement.

The constitution is very clear, the constitutions of the political parties, the Electoral Act. We are in a democracy and democracy is governed by processes and procedures and by-laws. So the constitution of Nigeria doesn’t recognise anything called zoning and likewise check the APC constitution. If there is that agreement, why didn’t we put it in the constitution? So nobody will just come and say that there is an agreement. Take your constitution and amend it, put that agreement if there is; then nobody will come from another side and work against the constitution. As a democrat, and as a citizen of Nigeria, I can aspire based on the laws of Nigeria. The Nigerian Constitution has given rights and privilege to every citizen who believes he has something to offer to aspire for any office, irrespective of his state of origin, his tribe, ethnicity, religion; you have right, the constitution has given us guarantee to participate in the political process.

 

The governors in the North-West states have been accused of unduly romancing insurgents and bandits by way of granting amnesty to them. What is your take on this?

Initially I was in support of negotiations because I saw that negotiations worked in the Niger Delta. We got amnesty programme and that was why we have peace in the Niger Delta. So anything that will bring peace and stability, I think should be considered. However, the governors should employ carrot and stick approach, talking to them and where necessary, use military and police power to ensure that all those erring members of the insurgents who refused to accept the agreement reached between them and government are brought to book. So that’s what they need to do.

 

Can you confirm the rumour that you have been receiving a team of 1999 governors in the quest for your presidential ambition as well as reviving your own faction of the merger team that formed the APC, that is the ANPP?

You see, in the APC after the merger was consumated, we are operating a political party. ANPP is gone. Nigeria Governors Forum, 1999 to 2011 is an association of people that have shared interest. In politics, you will not be surprised; James Ibori who is in the PDP is a very close friend of mine; he can support me. So once you are contesting, you reach out to all shades of opinion and people from all walks of life, explain to them your ambition, explain to them your programmes, what  you want to achieve, what  you want to offer for Nigeria. If they share the same opinion with you, they can be in another party and they can vote for you.

Right now, when I started this mobilization, I developed an application which I will show you after this interaction and that application is being downloaded in android or iPhone and I have forms that are printed carrying the same information that we need to upload to the system.

My reason for doing that is to see that before I officially declare, I will have at least 30-40 million supporters and I assure you, I have the capacity to achieve that. I already have very close to two million people all over the country. I have more than 4,000 supporters in Imo. I have more than 7,000 supporters who have declared their interest to support me in Enugu State, I have over 400,000 supporters in Katsina State, different states, PDP, APC. That’s why I said it is your ability to mobilize Nigerians across party to vote for you. It’s not your party members that support you. You will see some people who are senior leaders of a political party coming to support a candidate that they believe has something to offer.

 

The herdsmen/farmers clash has been a very serious issue in Nigeria. If elected, how do you intend to handle this?

Justice and fairness. Once there is equity, justice and fairness, you will not have any clash between any group; tribal or ethnic classes. Government has to be firm in implementing laws, rules and regulations. Once there is no implementation of the laws, rules and regulations you have these clashes but if everybody knows that this is prohibited and this is what you can do as a farmer or as herdsmen, there will be no problem. Grazing areas in the North are clearly demarcated, but some farmers always encroach the grazing areas and this always causes crisis because people are not observing the rules and regulations of the states. So once laws are properly enacted and implemented, there will be no crisis.  So every leader has to be just and fair to all, just as we always swear by the constitution. You see in this country, it is amazing, because, as I said, people don’t read their constitution; they don’t even know. I think there has to be part of the political system of Nigeria from secondary school level for people to know their constitution. If you know your constitution, and you know that what Yarima did in Zamfara was constitutional, you will not ask questions.

 

Talking about the mutual suspicion that is going on in your party, you can’t pretend that there is peace in the APC. Let me link it up with the dissolution of the executive of the party. Are you satisfied as a presidential aspirant with the development in  your party?

Every step that is taking place in APC is based on the constitution of the APC. That’s why, if there is any problem, people go to court and the court will look at the constitution of the APC and say this is wrong or right. As far as I’m concerned, the Mai-Mala Buni-led structure of the APC came about through constitutional process of the APC and I support and I believe that every well-meaning member of the party is on board in that regard. There is no problem and as I said, disagreements are part of politicking, you always have disagreements but the most important thing is that you come together before election and agree.

 

There is clamour for true federalism and state police in view of security challenges we are having. On which side of the divide are you?

You see, talking is part of politics as usual but we have a constitution. Those people who are clamouring for one thing or another, State Police, true federalism should participate in the political process, get elected and go to National Assembly and sponsor bills for the amendment of the constitution. Talking will not cause a change in the constitution. As far as I’m concerned, everything that is in this constitution can change through constitution amendment. These people who are always talking cannot even win their wards. Some of them can’t win election in the polling units. The constitution is very clear on how to amend it.

We need community police but we haven’t reached the stage in this political development where governors will be given State Police. That can lead to anarchy because some governors can be ruthless. You still have to have amendment of the constitution to reduce powers of state governors. I was governor for eight years, I know the enormous powers they have. If you give them the control of Commissioner of Police, you will be in your house once you are against him he will just send police to arrest you. So what we need is a community police that you recruit, employ from that community. Each local government should have Community Police Unit. Recruitment should be people who are within that local government. Give them enough equipment, welfare, guarantee security of their family you will see how they will work to protect their communities.

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