Exclusive Interview : Buhari has license to call FG Boko Haram – Chom Bagu
..Jang’s govt. major threat to peace in Plateau
Chom Bagu, is a pro democracy activist with more than two decades of inside knowledge of Nigeria’s socio-political terrain. He is effectively a development worker forged in the furnace civil society and labour activism .He has been involved strategically at all epochs of Nigeria’s pro-democracy struggles throughout her recent history. He was part of the formation or in the leadership of major pro democracy groups in Nigeria beginning with the Civil Liberties Organisation,CLO,Committee for the Defence of Human Rights,CDHR led by Beko Ransom-kuti, Campaign for Democracy, CD ,the Democratic Alternative ,DA and also Socialist Congress of Nigeria. He was also president of Community Action for Popular Particpation ,CAPP.He was expelled along with others from Ahmadu Bello University ,ABU Zaria for student activism but he went to University of Jos ,UNIJOS to complete his degree programme .He was part of the team that gave ideological direction of National Association of Nigerian Students ,NANS where he was a key player in the early 80s.As acting general secretary of Nigeria Union of Journalilsts ,NUJ , he was one of the arrowheads of the first election monitoring team in Nigeria which monitored the June 12,1993 elections.In the labour movement, he also played a key role in the anti -SAP protests against the General Ibrahim Babangida junta.He was in the group that represented NLC in the Alao Aka Basorun led National Conference which was aborted by the military .
Even more, he worked afterwards with USAID and has been of late involved in peace works as Country Director ,Search for Common Ground, an international NGO committed to peace -building across the world.Aside from being a civil society activist,and a comrade , he is also a journalist who takes a refreshing view to Nigeria’s unfolding political drama.He believes Nigeria’s presidency needs to be weaned from the strangle hold of the security establishment and political parties and politicians should take control of the presidency while the security is allowed to do all that is required without control of the political system.He believes it was this security mentality that made topnotchers of government respond to General Muhammadu Buhari’s recent comment on Boko Haram as if they were security agents.Chom as he is called who is from Plateau state also said the Plateau State Governor David Jang is an obstacle to peace.Sadl,y he said even president Goodluck Jonathan is just clowning around because he has no idea what power is about.He spoke with Danlami Nmodu,publisher/editor in chief ,Newsdiaryonline.com in Abuja.It is a no –holds-barred interview.Excerpts:
Q:Let’s start by taking a look at our democratisation process,Nigeria since 1999.How has it been given your background as an activist who has been in the process for more than two decades now?
A:Well, I think that we have moved since 1999,you know we came in with so much of hope everybody thought that there was going to be a lot of difference in terms of the content and even the process of democratisation .And you know a lot of people. And you know a lot of activists invested their time ,resources and their hope believing that that is going to make a change by the military.Unfortunately, you know that most of the people who came into governance, a lot of them have military background.People who came in as governors were people with military background, they produced a military vision of governance.And the few people who were not of military background who came in were not people of conviction,were not people who had any serious conviction about democracy.They got there , most decent, most democratically convinced people refused to participate.So it created a situation where you now have a form of military democracy where the politicians could not really rule democratically and were really twisting the constitution, misinterpreting it and bastardizing the democratic rules of governace.So ,that for me, defined what we had during the first two tenures.The change of the new president, people had some hope
Q:You are talking about the Obasanjo /YarAdua regimes
A:I am talking because I was one of those who facilitated what we called the pre –inaugural conference for those who were elected under the PDP
Q:You mean there was a pre inaugural conference for those elected on the platform of PDP
A:Members from the governors up to the president
Q That was in
A:1999 ..after they had been elected but they had not yet been sworn in.. So it was around April…Obasanjo himself (at the conference) was the one fighting those who were calling for unrestrained liberalization and privatization of government parastatals and companies.So it was shocking that the first thing they did (after being sworn in) was to create the National Council of Privation.
Q: In the pre inaugural meetings you had
A:It was a conference
Q:You mean you got the impression that
A:They said that they were going to be a patriotic nationalist government.And Obasanjo, all the speeches, he intervened against anybody who was talking of wholesome liberalization.People like Adamu Ciroma came in with ethical issues and governance.And a lot of people.So people were hopeful. Only for them ,one of the first things they created was the National Council of Privatization, which based on Chapter 2 of the Constitution is provided that government should ensure that the national economy is not hijacked.So what did they do, they now created a National Council of Privatisation that is totally opposite to that logic of the commanding heights.If you still go to chapter 2, there is a whole issue about commanding heights.It is still there.But commanding height is contradictory to the privatisation policy
Q:Your argument is that our constitution is essentially one which gives the State a major role to play in the economy and that the democracy we have has somehow reversed what the constitution says.
A:Exactly because what the constitution says government must do everything to provide free education,it talks about providing employment,it talks about providing adequate health care .And to provide all that , how will you do that?It is that the government must have substantial control of the economy
Q:Why is it that our politicians have become carried away by near total privatisation ,selling national assets to private concerns?
A:That is not what the constitution has provided.In fact it was supposed to create a body that will ensure that the commanding height of the economy remains within national ownership.But then they created a body with an opposite mandate
“And of course Jonathan is absolutely clueless.He has absolutely no idea about what governance is all about”
Q:Those of you who were involved in this initial interaction with the PDP regime, when these contradictory steps were taken, was there any way by which you intervened to try draw the attentio We thought after the Uwais (Committee) thing if they had given it to Jibo (Dr jibrin) Ibrahim I can tell you that there would be a difference.Not that Jibo is publicly more radical than Jega, but Jibo believes in democracy. He will not compromise at all.He believes in it and if you meet Jibo, he lives it.Jega doesn’t.You get the point.Jega doesn’t.If he gave it to Jibo,I would say yes he would try.n of the Obasanjo regime particularly ?
A:But you have to understand that people had the impression that Obasanjo was a nationalist,he was a patriotic person,he was anti liberalization,he was anti -IMF.So when these things started emerging, people thought well, may be it is the hawks within the regime that( angled for that) and thereforemay be we should give him a chance and see how.Channels were created to deal with that.But more and more those channels were closed up.People like (Iyorchia) Ayu who we assumed to be on the left, bought into that (and) became the deputy chairman of the National Council on Privatisation
“We thought after the Uwais (Committee) thing if they had given it to Jibo (Dr jibrin) Ibrahim I can tell you that there would be a difference.Not that Jibo is publicly more radical than Jega, but Jibo believes in democracy. He will not compromise at all.He believes in it and if you meet Jibo, he lives it.Jega doesn’t.You get the point.Jega doesn’t.If he gave it to Jibo,I would say yes he would try.”
Q:An antithesis to his longheld view
A:A lot of people ,people were looking up to thinking that at least they would steer the government towards at least the middle course,gradually they were sucked in but then thrown out…..
Q:What do you make of this politics of deception,denying the truth as provided for by the constitution , using people and dumping them?
A:..There is an element of the military.Because military operated by deception.You know Obasanjo is like that.He is like water, he flows wherever there is space…Particularly when he started thinking of the third term you could clearly see that he would play to all sorts of forces
Q:We began with the issue of people who were not part of the struggle, assuming office and have been running the affairs.Is it a weakness of the people who are in the pro democracy activism, that in the struggle for democracy they were not making provision to take over power?Isn’t there a lacuna in this approach.Is it just to struggle and abandon the process?
A :I don’t think it is abandonment.I think there is really poverty of strategic thinking in the civil society movement
Q:Poverty of strategic thinking.
A:A lot of people came into the civil society movement as a means of livelihood.And I have always argued against that.Immediately you say you are a civil society activist and the main reason why you are there is to put food on the table,there is problem ,because gradually what it means is that you want to sustain that food on the table.And therefore you compromise.Naturally you will do that and you don’t take risks.So what was happening, because we have become career civil activists,then what happened?He is a career civil activist,you abused it,struggling over the small details of election, of governance,we were trying to prove to government that we were one of the activists. You are one of those who are really making headway….What did it end up like?It means that we did not even raise our heads to look and say, we brought this democracy,how come we are not there?
“…that is why somebody,Labaran(Information Minister) will go and warn Buhari.How can you dare warn (him).You can only counter him with your own argument.You can’t warn himThis is a presidential candidate of another party and you say you are warning him, because he said the government itself is Boko Haram? He has that license to say so.You can only reply him.You can’t warn him.What is the warning about?Sometimes the warning is that the minister is now behaving like a security agent…He is now a security agent, he is no more a politician who has only one piece of the truth,other party also have their own truth.So you can’t warn them.This security approach.”
Q:So you see a situation whereby we have activists who are more or less trying to please donors rather than trying to see how they could take charge of their environment?
A:Exactly.Exactly,that is cheap.And that is when you are looking at where the money is coming from,you are not going to be looking at where the governance is going.So look at how people go about elections.(I was looking) at civil society activity and I said we are not on the table when the real issues were determined
Q:With regards to what?
A:To elections.What was happening? (Maurice) Iwu just made sure that electoral process was thrown into a security establishment which only the presidency and security officers controlled.So we didn’t know what was happening under Iwu.We were just protesting.And what Iwu was doing was to wait for you.You protest, you raised some issues,he used it..
Q:You mean under Iwu
A:Yes, you would raise the issues,then he will see where the lacunas are, where the gaps are,he moves that way.So in the end…. we did not influence the election.That’s why the elections were so horrible.And it is mainly because we were playing this game:We want to attract the money,but we were not thinking strategically, how we can influence the polity.
Q:What is the best approach towards influencing the direction of our democracy in the real sense of it.
A:In the real sense if you want to influence the democracy that you have just snatched from the military, it means what?It means that you have to be one or two steps ahead.What does that mean exactly?It means that it means that we are not going to say we will exclude ourselves….And we did.We create DA.Democratic Alternative.But how many comrades were ready to stick with it..Then we abandoned our party and the few people who decided to go into politics did not go on the platform of DA,Democratic Alternative,they went to PDP.
Q:So what could be responsible for this?
A:It shows you where their mind was.That they also were trying to play the politics according to the usual practice.So you find that a comrade who wants to go into politics, he comes and asks you to (contribute) money three months to the elections.And I say that is nonsense.How can you who say you are pro-people come two or three months to the election and you are looking for money.What do you intend to do with the money?For me, you also want to behave like the PDP or the other parties to go and buy votes.Because three months to the elections no serious grassroots politician will come into play.You should have come there years ago, immediately they open the space that is when you can move .You can move to your constituency, you can move to you government.I propose for example,let’s all go and contest for local government.Let’s go to local governments and contest and Iam sure that if twnty of us or thirty of us had won local government chairmanship,we can make a difference because the kind of programmes we would have introduced would automatically create the basis for us to contest for governorship.Beacuse the national political level was too monetized and we didn’t have that kind of money and we did not have the means…..For example,I was engage in the (Dr Frederick )Faseun presidency.We encourage him, even Beko encouraged Faseun to come out.He was the chairman of the Labour Party.Only when he came out,they abandoned him.
Q:That is Dr Federick Faseun?
A:Yes, they abandoned Federick Faseun and moved on …to PDP
Q:That was in 2003?
A:Even 1999.Faseun was a candidate, they abandoned him.So Iam saying that there is no strategic thinking.And there is a lot of childishness.People quickly,when they see power,they are looking at the power,they are not looking at how we will get it.If you just want to be in power, you can joi any party.But if you want to be in power in particular way so that you can make a difference,so that you can make certain changes possible you have to get into power in a certain way.You can’t say that when I get there then I will start the process,because with who will you start the process.If I got into power,bought the votes and you elected me chairman,what are the levers that I will use to mobilize for change.I have to use the contractor class who are the main sponsors of the PDP.But if for example I went to the grassroots and had mobilize and established a constituency that believed in my programmes,by the time I become chairman,anytime I want to do something and they attempt to intimidate me,I will mobilize the people.The grassroots will come to my defence…Even during the military,Bassey Ekpo Bassey, he did it in Calabar when he won the Calabar Municipal Council Election and he decided to make certain changes to make sure local government was in charge of sanitation and other things.The state government fought him, he went to court,he won and he was bringing people from all over Nigeria to go to Calabar to and sit and strategize on how we can change the nature of local governance,one local government.
Q:The impression I get from our short interaction so far is that the pro democracy movement and struggle does not have a clearly defined goal,it’s just like muddling through so far
A: That is what it looks like.We are muddling through because there are all sorts of.. in that movement there are different kind of people.There are politicians who have no relationship with practice there are academics,there are cut and paste revolutionaries.They can come with theories when they are (reading papers) but in real practice when you see them,they are not really radicals.Are you getting the point, they don’t really act as people who want change.There is another group who are only interested in power.How that power is used is not important.They argue let’s get to power and if they get to power they will use it just like the PDP will use it.
Q:This group also exists in the pro-democracy movement?
A:Of course.There are people who are just angling for power.And if you put them there they will be as bad
A:Yes, they will be as bad.Take my friend Labaran Maku.Labaran Maku will use power as terribly as Obasanjo without conscience if he had the chance…The minister of information,he will use power anyhow if you give him a chance.Didn’t they catch him with a rigging machine in his house?
Q:In Nasarawa state?
A:Yes.They did the thumb-printing in his house.. in the last elections.It was reported in the press.So Iam saying there are people who are just for power.There are few people who are activists,but these few have limited vision.There are some who believe,we call them workerists.They believe if it is not workers, trade unions trade unions.. it is not the struggle.But they forget that the labour movement has been hijacked long time ago
Q:You seem to be feeling frustrated about Labaran Maku.But I thought that he represents a source of hope for the movement ,and we even hear that he is also having gubernatorial ambition…Is he not in touch with his constituency?
A:Labaran will hardly get any gubernatorial candidacy.I and Professor Abubakar Momoh, we did a feasibility for him in 2007 for him to campaign for the governorship.We found out that in out of the 13 local governments,only three were going to align with Labaran……So that by 2007 he would be an issue there would no doubt in any nook and cranny of Nasarawa state .He didn’t.We told him that that the constituents were saying that he was a surrogate of Abdullahi Adamu and that unless he distanced himself from Abdullahi Adamu there was no way he was going to be elected as Nasarawa state governor.He refused .He told me that you know the issue is that he has to follow Abdullahi Adamu closely.That it is only when Abdullahi Adamu steps aside that he can move in because if he steps aside,Abdullahi Adamu would bring somebody on.That is not somebody who wants power.
Q:So he wasn’t thinking strategically?
A:At all and Abdullahi Adamu led them to the convention and gave it to Doma.
A:Who was not even in the party.He just crossed over to the party a month or two before.And he (Labaran) was deputy governor.
Q:Let’s go back to this issue.You raised the issue that the first two regimes did not perform effectively..
A:With YarAdua, there was some hope because YarAdua had some track record.Just that he was sick but he had some track record and there are certain things you know he would not do.
A:Yeah.You know that he would not do.Like this reckless privatisation,I know that YarAdua is not likely to be too enthusiastic in that.And two ,he was somebody who came from a tradition of some public service.Public service as central to governance.Providing services to the poor and building an economy that responds to the needs of them,that is the tradition he comes from.And you could see ,it is just that he was sick and he was too slow.He was too slow to have taken charge of the government because he was sick.And then there were all sorts of people who were able to capitalize on that.And of course Jonathan is absolutely clueless.He has absolutely no idea about what governance is all about.
Q:Jonathan has no idea what governance is all about?
A:None.My grandmother would do better.As far as Iam concernedthe man is just clowning in that position.He doesn’t know what we call government.Look at how they behave.No light,they are talking like NGO people as if they are not the ones in government.They are lamenting.How do you lament when you are in government?Power,so much money has been invested in power and nothing is happening then you see government people lamenting as if they are not in control of all the machinery of government..Is that how government is run?There is something called responsibility.You can’t be telling me that something is happening,Boko Haram is on and government security people will start giving us an analysis:that you know it is because PDP formula.I will not listen to that from a security chief because that is not his job.His job is collecting intelligence that can pre-empt these people before they strike.That is how intelligence organizations work,they are not university professors.So don’t lecture us about factors.It is like you send a soldier to the battlefield and he goes there and he starts giving you theories about
A:No!He should face the enemies.He should be facing the enemy ..Today, we don’t know anything about Boko Haram.We just hear stories and stories and stories.How are they organized?…They say there are some concessions,you know it is like Coca Cola concession.There are some local Boko Haram people in different places who are not necessarily part of Boko Haram but they just buy into it and o their own little thing in their own local areas.How do we know?Do you know that as a fact?It is just a theory.They say there are factions.How did they know?….Unless they show us that they understand the movement…and they have for example really penetrated them.Because there is no sign that they have penetrated them.They say they have arrested this one,nobody is sure.They say they have arrested Qaqa,who is sure that they did?And people said he was executed..it is story story story.That is not how you deal with this kind of thing.The Americans went underground and studied AlQaeda and understood it.They cracked it in Iraq.They did.They cracked it in Afghanistan.So it is understanding them.Today,do you have a profile of a Boko Haram?Is there a profile? There should be a profile.Because when you do terrorist thing, you must have a profile ..his mind, the way he behaves,the way they dress, the way they move.What kind of targets …That is how how we will then move to the next step of pre-empting them.Fortunately for us, this was an open public organization before.Boko Haram was not a hidden thing,they were operating in Maiduguri openly.There are journalists who know them.The commander in Maiduguri said he even knew how many they were.He said they were 4000 at the time.. that he used to have close.It is not a mystery.It is not a group that emerged from (nowhere).
Q:If it is not a mysterious group,why has it been difficult to contain it?
A:Because we have no security.We have no security.These ones, if you put NYSC people to do the security, they will do a lot better.Do you know why?Because the security issue is not about holding a title.It is about commitment to security.Are these ones committed?I don’t think so.They don’t look like they are committed to anything.If an SSS man meets Boko Haram man today and the Boko Haram man brings N2m (Two million naira) and gives him, will he not look the other way and leave him to go?..These are people breaking banks.Since the man has ten million and he meets a group of these people and he brings that money out, they will take it.Wallahi they will take it and pretend..
Q:You argument is that probably even the security operatives are not being properly taken care of,they are not being motivated enough to do their job
A:They are not motivated.Iam not talking of being taken care of.They are not motivated and they have been so politicised that they only give political office holders what they think they want to hear.And because of that, it means a lot of the real security(report) doesn’t get to the office holders so that they can use the information to take a decision.Anyway, most of our political office holders have been hijacked by the security.The presidency is a security controlled environment.That is why somebody said even a dog you put him there, he will function.If you are director of press there ,is it not the security people who vet all the press statements,they vet it and tell you what to say.That is what happens there…They organise and contain them.The basket that contains the presidency is a security outfit.So politicians only bounce around.If that is the case ,it becomes difficult …
Q:So you think there is the need to reorganize the presidency towards pro people establishment?
A:Yeah .You have to make it a political office.The presidency should be a heavily politicised setting.When you see the Obama presidency,it is his party people who are in charge of key processes.They have different offices.The security people have their own,they brief the president every day.But it is just one…..
Q:This stranglehold of security
A:Yes.Alot of the policy…Look at community radio,who is stopping the community radio,is it not security people…And yet we all know that if you do community radio you will open the space,you will democratize the country
Q:So how did the security take over the polity?
A:It is the handiwork of the military
Q: So it is a failure of our political leaders
A:Yes ,and they (politicians allow it)because they want to hold on to power and most of them come without having any understanding of power.And because they don’t understand power, what happens?Even the president…
Q:They surrender to the security people?
A:They think the issue is stability, okay I want to be in power.I don’t want anybody (else) and that is why somebody,Labaran(Information Minister) will go and warn Buhari.How can you dare warn (him).You can only counter him with your own argument.You can’t warn himThis is a presidential candidate of another party and you say you are warning him, because he said the government itself is Boko Haram? He has that license to say so.You can only reply him.You can’t warn him.What is the warning about?Sometimes the warning is that the minister is now behaving like a security agent…He is now a security agent, he is no more a politician who has only one piece of the truth,other party also have their own truth.So you can’t warn them.This security approach.
Q:In your own view, Buhari had the right to say what he said?
A:Yeah, he is a politician.He wants to replace this government.So if he has a point that is against the government,if he doesn’t say it what makes him different from the government.The government itself had insinuated that Buhari is instigating Boko Haram.Are they not saying so?They have been insinuating that Buhari is instigating Boko Haram.And yet they know they have no evidence.And so the man shifts it back to you and said in fact you are the Boko Haram.Then you warn him.No ,you don’t have that power.
Q:It is interesting.All these battles about our democracy,civil society activism and those in government seeking to hold on to power.It’s like a battle between those who want better elections and those who want to maintain the status quo. And some of us felt that the coming of Professor Jega would make some difference.Given our experience so far,especially with the last elections do you think our hopes were misplaced?
A:Ehhh, you know Jega is a public lecture radical.
Q: Public lecture radical?
A:Do you know why? Because if you look at Jega, Jega is a rigid person.I mean Jega is intolerant if you know him well.
Q:You may have to explain but finish what you are saying.
A:I am saying that you can’t be a good revolutionary and a good radical and be intolerant and be rigid.For example if Jega sees you now drinking Star, he will start looking at you.. So what is the radicalism there.He doesn’t see the right of people to live their life the way they are..He is just a conservative.In practice he is a conservative.
Q:You mean Jega?
Q:It is like you are telling us about a different person
A:That is why I said he is a public lecture radical.He can read a good paper.But in terms of the practice,those who know and those who also know..go to ASUU and see whether some of the radicals in ASUU will support Jega..They are not likely to support Jega.They are very critical of Jega.Look at how he determined who are the good people who would manage the elections with him, university dons (vice chancellors).Me and you know,how can you say the university dons (vice chancellors) that they are the good people when we know the crimes they are committing on the campuses.That is cut and paste.There are Nigerians whether they are academic or non academic who are good.And Jega knows this but Jega would not dare bring them on board .Look at his advisers are any of the radicals you know?The guys he carried to that INEC are they the radicals you know? I don’t think so. His chief of staff is right wing.It is not that Jega publishes this his so called radical things in public,it is who does he work with?Who are the kind of people he trusts?And that is why you will not see a difference because he is an establishment man
Q:You mean Jega cannot midwife good elections?
A:I don’t think so.He doesn’t have the character to do it.He has the goodwill because people believe that he was a good ASUU president.But he doesn’t have the rock determination to move the election in that direction because while Jega was busy dealing with the radicals ,he was doing a lot of things with the Obasanjo government.
A:Ha ha? He was one of, if you check I can’t mention some of the key committees they put Jega and they did it deliberately.We thought after the Uwais (Committee) thing if they had given it to Jibo (Dr jibrin) Ibrahim I can tell you that there would be a difference.Not that Jibo is publicly more radical than Jega, but Jibo believes in democracy. He will not compromise at all.He believes in it and if you meet Jibo, he lives it.Jega doesn’t.You get the point.Jega doesn’t.If he gave it to Jibo,I would say yes he would try.
Q:But most people may not know the man you call Jibo.I know him.But what makes him stand out to the point that you are recommending him for such a very important position?
A:They were all in Uwais Committee together.Jibo has been in the civil society.He lives in Abuja here and even nationally he has been a main rallying point.
Q:That is Jibo,you are talking of Dr Jibrin Ibrahim
A:Jibrin Ibrahim ,yes.That one I can trust because he has been in the middle and everybody knows him.Everybody can vouch for him and say this guy ,you can trust him.There are places I will not trust Jega.And we have seen in the last elections.He was simply aiding PDP.
Q:That is a very strong allegation.We thought he did some of the things he did like stopping the presidential election .. because of logistical problems here and there.But you don’t believe that?
A: I don’t believe that because Jega assured everybody that everything was there.How can you ,if you have elections to run,if you have not seen the ballot paper,you will fix the election and assure the public that the election would hold on this day?He assured us that everything was in place.So what logistics? Why did he stop it,the electoral materials?Is it not so?He didn’t know them?He didn’t know they were (not) there?He didn’t?Two,Jega,immediately he got into that office, his emphasis was money.That was what just told me that this guy doesn’t know what he is talking about.Money, money, money!It was money.Why was it money?What is the difference with Iwu.It is money , money, money.
Q:But doesn’t he need money to really get things in place?
A:But he should not emphasize it because if you emphasize it, you miss the point.Because the government can give you the money.Nigerians will fight for you to get the money,but what is your policy thrust?It is that policy thrust that will make Nigerians to be happy that…;so that if the government doesn’t give you the money, the public come on your side.In the end you find that Jega (conducted) one of the most expensive elections in the world.What kind of radical is that?
Q:I get the impression that from what you are saying that Jega is not carrying his radical constituency along with him ?
A:He didn’t.In fact he despices them.That is why Iam wondering why?
Q:He despices them?
A:He despices them.Check.Check,who are the radicals with him.May be the only one I can say is Ebeano.But the other ones are not
Q:You mean Professor Ebeano?
A:Prof. Ebeano ,I mean he is somebody I can vouch for and say he has also been very consistent.But the others,I don’t know where he got them from.
Q:But with this scenario and now that we are working towards 2015,that means you don’t expect any radical change in the electioneering process?
A:Even if there will be radical change ,it will be because the people who are going to contest elections are going to be a bit different from the ones we had the last time.If genuine radicals and genuine Nigerians who know what governance is about decide to run, they could force the pilot,because they are not just going to leave things to run on their own.If Iam contesting elections. It is not going to be easy for you to rig me out.You ‘d know that you have war on your hands..You try it ,you know you will fail.That is it.But if you are waiting for PDP to award you the position,then of course you can’t fight.It means you will not make the kind of arrangement, you will not mobilize people enough to stand and defend their votes.
Q:Now given the scenario you have painted so far, especially let’s go back to this issue of Jonathan being clueless
A;Very, very clueless
Q:About what his functions as a president are
A:How to run Nigeria,he is clueless.I don’t think he understands it.That is why somebody just said he is a president for the Niger Delta,that he doesn’t know anything.But even the Niger Delta ,Iam not too sure he is comprehensive.
Q:But we already hear ,like chief Edwin Clark has declared that Jonathan is going to run for election in 2015.
A:Who is Clark?
Q:Chief Edwin Clark , a godfather from the South South.
A:Nobody.He is an absolute nobody.The south south cannot deliver the presidency.You know that.As a journalist you know it, can the outh south deliver a presidency?No way.They don’t have the numbers.They have to align with two other regions if they want it.So the way they are talking ,howwill they do it?They are thinking that will rig the elections?Maybe.The second, they won this one, how did they win it?Is it not because the Middlebelt undermined the North and the North lost confidence.That was the basis.
Q:But why did the middlebelt agree to undermine the North?
A:They undermined the north because ,they knew that given the kind of crisis that we have in the middlebelt that if you had a full muslim northerner as president he is going to strengthen the forces that are attacking the middlebelt
Q;How do you mean,I don’t understand?
Q:Who undermined the north now?
A:I am saying that the middlebelt deliberately decided to undermine the north,to say we are not going with you, we are going to support Jonathan,even though Jonathan promised them nothing and has given them nothing,But they did it.The Neighbour to Neighbour,who were the guys who were running it.It was a pure middlebelt set up .
Q:So whatwas the reasoning like you said?
A:The reasoning was that if a northerner, muslim northerner becomes president
A:2011, the middlebelt would suffer.
A:Ha ha? Because of the crisis,the violence in Jos and other places.That was the calculation.That was the pure calculation.They said ,let’s support Jonathan because Jonathan being a minority will depend on us and it will provide a space for us to come and contest the elections 2015.And the middlebelt is also a clueless body of people who don’t have any strategic thinking.
Q:Do you agree with this reasoning?
A:Iam not agreeing,Iam just describing it.Iam describing what informed it.And they were doing that hoping that Jonathan will recognize and compensate them.They underestimated the structure of Nigeria:That every president is looking at the strength of the regions and what they can do to him as president.He(Jonathan) knows that the north can totally undermine him and make his government very unpopular.But you see the middlebelt didn’t understand.The middlebelt went to the north to mobilize northern Christians.That was done.So they did that,but no northern Christian now was made a minister,so everybody is crying.The middlebelt self, the people who got there were nobody.So everybody is crying , saying this guy(Jonathan) messed us up.He used us and dumped us.
Q: I have heard people saying that the middlebelt people are thoroughly disappointed in Jonathan because they felt he betrayed them.He used them and dumped them
A:They offered themselves to him.
A:Yes……Why can’t you produce the candidate yourselves?Produce a candidate.You wait till I come out.You cme and support me,you now want rule, to to take the power from me, how will I agree?Is that strategic, does that make sense? So they went to fight for Jonathan, he didn’t pldge anything to them,he didn’t promise them anything.Jonah Jang would use N3billion of Plateau state money to campaign for him.Suntai in Taraba did the same thing.
A:Yes.That ‘s why he can’t pay salaries.Up till now ,he has not been able to catch up and pay salaries of civil servants as at when due.So they did that because they are supporting a Christian president. The man comes round and then they found out the man has other priorities. He is looking at the damage that other people can do to him. Since these ones offered him support free of charge, why should he worry about them?
Q:There is kind of reasoning is fundamentally flawed.You support a candidate because of some sentiment,okay, he is a muslim ,he is a christian.Will that lead us anywhere?
A:That is why Iam telling you that it makes no sense.It doesn’t make sense because ,it doesn’t move the polity anywhere…The issue is unless… And the ruling class is not going to allow that.They have been making sure that there has been no issues on the table.So Jonathan comes and tells you that he won’t promise anything.Can you imagine anywhere in the world that the president says I am not promising anything,and he is elected?
Q:Take for instance ,the issue of whether he was going to do one term or go for a second term.I remember very well, former President Olusegun Obasanjo announced thatJonathan said he was going to only one term.But now, they are saying he didn’t make the promise
A:It is not the first time.He(Jonathan) denied the zoning even though he is a signatory to it.He denied the zoning.So he is not a man of homour. And (they ) are like that because they lack political experience.They lack political experience , so they now put cunning as a replacement for political skills.Now cunning can only work once or twice,then it will not work again.Because people would have understood the game.Jonathan is going to attempt to run but if what Iam seeing happens,he will be disgraced.
Q: Disgraced in what sense?
A:He will not win.
Q:Jonathan will not win?
A: He can be humiliated.Don’t forget that the north is going to come back.It is just that the north is not united.If they were able to patch something, they will come back with a vengeance.The middlebelt is totally divided.They are not ready, most people are not ready to support Jonathan
“No.The governor and his.., they are not for peace.And I don’t know what they are thinking about.And yet, it is their people that are being killed.But they are not for peace.They are not at all.Anytime you see peace is trying to come back to Jos, just listen to the governor”
Q:In the middlebelt?
A:Yes ,because they are so disappointed.Of course, the churches are saying you know..they are trying to play religious politics.But the people are saying it’s not it.The man is a president, he has not helped plateau.What did he do?He seized the money that belongs to the local governments that wer under attack.Is that your friend?Is that the act of a friend?Somebody is being attacked, then you seize his money.No salaries were paid for five months.They only released the money a week or so ago (in May) and they just paid them ,some two months salaries,some one month.And you are saying those people should vote for him?…
Q:Now that we are talking about the Jos issue,why do you that the Jos(Plateau)crisis has seemingly become insurmountable?
A:The Jos crisis has become insurmountable because you can’t make peace unless government supports that peace.That is my sector.I was in Jos.There was a meeting, this World Council of Churches came and they brought muslim and Christian leaders together to say what are the issues and how can we help.The first person to collect the microphone was the Gbong Gom Jos.He seized the mike and he spent the next fifteen to twenty minutes abusing Hausa and Muslim leaders to their faces there, asking individuals who are you, where are you from?Are you getting me? The first one was Nakande ,former minister to stand up and he said no, we are not going to take this.What nonsense is this And he shouted him down,you are rude to the throne ..That was how everybody left the meeting o!
Q:So the Plateau elite are no helping peace?
A:No.The governor and his.., they are not for peace.And I don’t know what they are thinking about.And yet, it is their people that are being killed.But they are not for peace.They are not at all.Anytime you see peace is trying to come back to Jos, just listen to the governor.When he went for medical check up, he came back, there was relative peace in jos. What did he do? He went to commission the new Government HouseAnd,what did he say?That they are going to change the name of streets in Jos. What does that tell you, if you are a Muslim or Hausa guy?You know he wants to change Ahmadu Bello Way.(Laughs)That is what will come to your head.That the purpose of changing a street name is to further humiliate the Hausas and muslims.That is the purpose and violence came back.Everytime you see peace is trying to come, the man says something, then violence comes back
Q:So government is the major threat to peace in Plateau?
A:In Plateau,Wallahi, they are the major threat as far as Iam concerned.Iam just coming from Jos.Im so disappointed because the World Council of Churches there is a good will and they also have some muslims among them.
Q:When did this meeting happen?
A:It happened two or three days ago(Interview conduted…)Two days ago,it was on Thursday.Do you get the thing.Now immediately Nakande rose up, the Christian youth stood up…they were ready to fight….(Interview conducted Saturday 26th May 2012 )