Boko Haram crisis:Jonathan’s govt must learn how to listen to people –The Adamu Ciroma interview



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Mallam Adamu Ciroma, leader of  Northern Political Leaders’ Forum ,NPLF served as  minister of finance under President Olusegun Obasanjo.He was among the top politicians  who challenged the military junta of late General Sani Abacha by insisting on the rule of law.He was among the G18 members that wrote  the famous letter to Abacha calling for return to democracy,a movement that eventually transformed into the Peoples Democratic Party PDP.Even before then,  he had been Presidential aspirant  of defunct NRC;former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria ,CBN,former editor and  erstwhile managing director of New Nigerian Newspapers. Newsdiaryonline.com decided to go searching for him for  an interview as a matter of priority and the effort culminated in this interview conducted  Monday April 2,2012 after several failed attempts to reach him.In fact, on Sunday after the publisher arrived at his residence in Abuja, he sent a reply to a an sms saying it was too late . Therefore he rescheduled the meeting for 10.00am Monday.

The drama was however not yet over.”Go straight into what brought you here, he said after the initial greetings as soon as the publisher arrived.And Even Before the interview proper,he made it clear that he  was not looking for publicity.He also insisted he would not speak on issues that would not advance the wellbeing  of the nation.He would answer questions that will provide insight to issues and that was exactly what he did.He bluntly refused to speak on former President Olusegun Obasanjo whom he recently accused of goading President Goodluck Jonathan towards a third term agenda. Asked whether Jonathan should contemplate elongating is tenure beyond 2015 , he said “It is not my business” .

But Ciroma’s further insight into his wish  for another Usman Dan Fodio to save the North ,his views on the Boko Haram crisis,the trial of senator Ndume are quite revealing.Also, for the records, Newsdiaryonline got him to explain why he quit as Chairman Governing Council of Ahmadu Bello University, ABU in the middle of  the process of selecting a new Vice Chancellor.He spoke at his   residence  in an interview conducted by Danlami Nmodu, publisher/editor-in-chief, Newsdiaryonline.com  .Excerpts:

Q:I just thought it would be an interesting opportunity for us to (do) a review of the nature of the politics we play now,especially party politics in Nigeria with  PDP as an example, being the leading party now?

A: I have no comment to make(A little pause)The general political situation is very confusing and the parties are not well organized.The organized party is the PDP but even the PDP,generally people don’t believe it is doing well.So Nigerians in  my view want better organized parties, that are accountable for what they do  and are intended to assist the country move forward.

Q:I thought that ,sir,It is very important to get your view to help us draw the country back on track because you and a few other very experienced men came together to help structure a party that was very formidable.But in my view, the party system has lost its focus ,it is an aggregation of different interests that have hijacked the party, that is the worry .What exactly is going wrong?People shoud be made to know how to practice party politics with the best of ideals especially within the PDP.

A:I have been involved in NPN and  now in PDP.All that we wanted to do is to set up (a) party that will appreciate the problems of the ordinary people in this country and to form government that will deal with these problems.But the people involved in politics keep  on changing and the changes are not always for better.But they are changes all the same  and  if you are of my age,you cannot always predict that things will happen according to how you look at things.Younger people have different ways of looking at things.So you ask them not me.

Q:We have seen governance progressively deteriorate,the quality of governance I mean.What can be done to arrest this because what we are facing now is a product of a general decay?

A:It is for Nigerians to elect  people who they think can do the job.If they elect people who can do the job,then at the next election they should choose those people who can do it.You have to keep on doing it until you get it right.That is what democracy means.

Q:Only recently,you suggested that ,especially given the crisis in the North, the probability of another Usman Dan Fodio emerging to help sanitize the system.Some people were worried that if Mallam Ciroma can be too frustrated to say this kind of thing, what else is there for the younger ones to hope for?I mean it was such an alarming prognosis

A:First of all,the situation is worrying at the moment and how do you solve it?If you use the materials which you  have now, it is difficult to see men who can actually solve this problem.If they are alive, they should come forward  and offer themselves and do the right thing.For people like me,I have to look back at history to what happened before  and I have to try to look ahead to what is likely to happen.And I always give my views about how to solve problems.And it is my view with regard to what we have now.How people behave now and the lack of moral foundation for what we do that made me make my statement.

Q:You said if there are people  who think they can solve this problem they should come out now,but there is a fundamental problem with the kind of politics we are having,you will realise with due respect that the PDP apparently wants to control not just its own affairs but also  from all indications, try to manipulate the opposition  into submission so that PDP can have its way.So if we have this kind  of politics, how can we have an alternative leader?

A:The PDP is there to gain power,it has gained power.It is trying to  retain its power.There is nothing abnormal about that.It is for other people who do not agree with what PDP is doing or how PDP is doing it , it  is for them to make their effort in order to succeed  where they failed and PDP succeeded which  is to have the chance to exercise power,we hope this  will be for the interest of the ordinary people.

Q:Let’smove to your argument that Obasanjo is goading Goodluck Jonathan into this Third term project..But there are those who feel the crisis in the North is a northern thing not Obasanjo?

A:I don’t want to talk about Obasanjo.

Q: Ok may be this is an opportunity for you to give us an insight into how we can get out of the security challenges we  are having in the north particularly and the country as a whole especially given the problem of Boko Haram …

A:Security matters and security issues are always a problem which government has  got to deal  with.The Boko Haram and the spread of this insecurity in my view originated from how parts of this country were mismanaged.The mismanagement  I believe has spread and the resultant insecurity has also spread.So it is for government to find solution for dealing with this insecurity.When the issues began to be serious in Borno the elders and leaders of Borno advised the government that they should talk to these  people, that they should withdraw the troops  from the streets and that they should find a solution to ameliorate the complaints of the Boko Haram elements.A spokesman of the government of Nigeria dismissed  their recommendation .Since then ,similar recommendations have been made in Kano and elsewhere and they have been equally dismissed.The meaning of this is that the government has stuck to its position in spite of the advice being given  from various parts by citizens who want to see peace and security.So the government has to learn how to listen to people,because the insecurity is a problem which government has to deal with but it affects people in their normal  day to day life.So the number one issue is for government to listen to what people are saying,because their present policy so far has not succeeded.Two, the Boko Haram issue  has been related to poverty and other things which affect the well being of the ordinary people.This issue of poverty has been  repeated several times in official circles.Government has got to deal with that.Three, the state governments ,they are always having ceremonies and talking  about issues but they have not dealt  with the problems of education of health, of agriculture and other things which affect the ordinary man actively on a daily basis.The state governments have got to deal with this matter in a way which everybody can see that some results are being achieved.Everytime people compare, what is happening today they compare with yesteryears what they are saying is that yesteryears with less resources than we have no were better managed than the present.The government has got to think very hard about it and to do what is right in order to eliminate the problems which people are talking about.

Q:But we have also heard  some people say that there is also the need apart from government for stakeholders in some of these states to come together and help intervene to talks to the Boko  Haram militants, a two way thing , government doing its own and the stake holders do their own

A:The problem with security matter is that you as an ordinary man if you start intervening, the government people will accuse you of creating the problem.Look at a senator who  was part of the Borno Elders who was handling the matter.Now, he is being charged to court for involvement in Boko Haram.So that is why individuals have got to be careful what they do because government can accuse them.

Q:But it appears they are saying that he was actually involved by interacting with Boko Haram people, that is why they charged him to court?

A:Well he is only being charged , you  cannot say that he is guilty and for somebody who is a member of the senate, even if he is talking to someone, he is a member of the senate, he must use always, his contacts and information for the benefit of society.If you  arrest him, other lesser people must be more careful.

Q:There is this worry by some people that probably especially in  the North that the kind of deep division,conflagration over little things that are happening  is a product of the kind of politicking such that religion and ethnicity have become deep seated  so much so that different sides-the muslims and the Christians are feeling increasingly alienated  over appointments.What is your take, is it  just mere perception or reality in the north that the kind of unifying tendencies  we used to see  do not exist anymore?

A:Once you have a situation where  there are disagreements everything will contribute to that problem.At a  very serious meeting which I attended, Christians refer  to the breakdown of confidence between muslims and christians.There is lack of trust between them and everybody agreed that something has gone wrong there and there is need to restore that confidence.The relationship is such that muslims must know that there are Christians and non-muslims.And the Christians must know there are going to be muslims and non Christians till the end of time.If you cannot change me,I will not be able to change you.So we have to live and survive in the same environment.Even if I want all of you to become muslims, that will be an unrealistic position.If CAN wants all of us t become Christians ,that will be an unrealistic position.So ,for example, there will be appointments, ministers ,governors whatever,there will always be Christians and there will always be governors.So, anytime they appoint a muslim or maybe a christian,if somebody complains, he is just being unrealistic because all of us,muslims and Christians ,if we are qualified and we are fit for a position, we are entitled to achieve that  position.So we must accept that living together means you are going to see people involved at various levels of government,at various positions in government of people who are from different religion.And we must accept the most fundamental thing for anybody holding public position  is to be fair,honest and just.Justice has no religious colour.Honesty has no religious difference.So if you are doing the right thing,people will know.

Q:Maybe I should use this opportunity to put this on record.I have heard few comments, even in this article someone wrote on your recent comment he referred to something..He made mention of the fact that when we had a crisis similar to what you said especially during the VC tussle at ABU, you, that was in a better position to help resolve that matter,  withdrew from the council.

A:Tussle where

Q:When there was this tussle over the appointment of Vice Chancellor of ABU,Professor Nok and somebody.You were in a better position to resolve it and that your decision to withdraw from that decision making process helped to compound the problem.Were you misunderstood? What exactly happened?

A : I was appointed chairman of ABU.The thing is, I started dealing with ABU in the office of the premier of Northern Nigeria from 1961 before ABU (came into existence).And I helped to set it up.By the time I left the premier’s office, ABU was already set up with Professor Alexander was Vice Chancellor and everything  was running properly.In 2001, I was appointed chairman of  ABU.I went to help them to improve things for them.That was my reason for accepting that position.I don’t need it.And I went into this job with the best of intention.I discovered that the Professors and other university staff were being less than straightforward.In fact, some of them were being dishonest.Some of them were very deeply religious about what they were doing.

Q:And this cuts  across the two religions?

A : Yeah.We were going through the process of appointing a VC and we asked a  committee to go and do the job.I didn’t find it necessary to go and do it myself.They brought us a result which raised some problems.So we asked them, as the university committee  that deals  with all these issues to follow the law and produce people who are going to serve in that committee.The university people said they were not going to do it.

Q:What did they want in the alternative?

A: I don’t know.But they said they were not going to do it .And as far as I was concerned that was the end of law.You ,senior people, professors and so on, you are told according to law to do something and you said you are not going to do it.If we are  not going to obey the law, how do you deal with each other? Since they said they were not going to obey the law, I have no business staying there.I resigned…

Q:We are moving into a new phase in our politics .From acting president to president.Now we are hearing rumours that the president is plotting to elongate his tenure, probably having another single term of 7 years from 2015…And people say it is the turn of the  north ,or at least that is the perception.And obviously, the polity may be heated up.Is this an advisable move?

A: Iam not going to answer this question.Iam not interested.

Q:But this is a country you have helped to midwife?

A:Iam not interested

Q:Given the kind of, let me say, bickering over whether Jonathan should contest in the last election,have you reconciled fully with him?

A:What is your business if I reconcile with him.

Q:But it should be of concern to us?

A:What is your concern?

Q:Does he interact ( or relate ) with you regularly?

A:Why should he interact with me?

Q:But you are a senior citizen sir?

A:Does he inter whatever you call it with every senior citizen?

Q:But he should be seeking advice from people like you

A:No, no, no.Why should he want the opinion of everybody?You know how many millions there are in this country? If you take the matter of seniority…

Q:But there is only one Mallam Adamu Ciroma in this country

A:There are better people than myself.If you don’t believe it, I believe it…Is he talking to them? There are certain things which you expect which are not reasonable.

Q:Sir, should Jonathan elongate his tenure beyond 2015?

A:It is not my business.

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