When the Northern Elders Forum passed a vote of no confidence on President Muhammadu Buhari, it demanded a thorough overhaul of the leadership of Nigeria’s security and public safety agencies, and the injection of higher levels of competence, integrity and accountability in the manner our troops and the police and security agencies deal with security challenges. The Forum also expressed dismay over the fight against the nation’s multiple security challenges especially the president’s continued position that Boko Haram has been technically defeated in the country.
In this encounter, a top member of the group, Professor Ango Abdullahi, answers questions on the outcome of the group’s statement insisting Nigerians should take the matter serious. Your group, the Northern Elders Forum recently issued a statement, taking a swipe on the president over the problem of insecurity in the country. Will you say the problems are being addressed? The statement we issued portrayed what we felt. You can take it or leave it, but that is the truth we know and see everyday. Many reactions trailed your statement with many thinking your group was rather hash on the president. Harsh? You are living in Lagos and perhaps don’t appreciate what is happening to those living in the north. People who live in peaceful areas think that is all about Nigeria. But come to the north and see what is happening. We talk about economy, security and Nigerians have been complaining. For your information, before our leader Maitama Sule died, we had written a memoranda stating some of the areas that the president needed to do something. We have done our best as elders. What else do you want us to do? It seems we treat insecurity with kid gloves. There was a certain governor that met and negotiated with bandits. These bandits were even carrying guns and instead of having them arrested, the governor was negotiating. Whose failure is that? How can a governor of a state, that is supposed to be in charge of security of the state, even with the commissioner of police and Director of DSS in the state be negotiating with riff-raffs and bandits. And you say you are a governor? That is the height of nonsense.
The south-west and the north now have their own security outfits to tackle these problems. I’m talking about Amotekun and Shege Ka Fasa. Do you think that is the way to go? We even stated this in our statement. If you read our statement, we made it clear that the failure of government to protect the governed must have made Nigerians to create vigilantes and all sorts of structures to protect their communities. We are not quarreling with that. What we are saying is that whatever is happening along those lines, let it be as much as possible within the laws of Nigeria. We also mentioned that these other people who feel the way we do are welcomed to a discussion to pave way for the future of the country. I was the one who coordinated Afenifere, Ohanaeze, PANDEF to a summit. We did three summits in Abuja to see what we can do to help this country all to no avail. So, you journalists have a duty to lay the blame on the doorstep of every person who did something wrong but this is not done because your Editorial Boards are controlled by people in politics. A journalist writes something that the Editorial Board is not happy with and you are out of job. Politicians control the media and that is one of the problems or is it not so? Don’t you think we should restructure the country and amend the issues causing problems in the country? Why are some people afraid of restructuring? I just told you I coordinated Ohanaeze, Afenifere and PANDEF in three summits in Abuja, it is part of restructuring. We are not afraid of restructuring. If we are, why would I be meeting with Ohanaeze, Afenifere and PANDEF? When you have a system that has failed, that is not responding to suggestions, advice and so on, there is nothing one can do. We can only advice. The country is supposed to have a unified force. This country has only 300,000 police men. Go and check United Nations statistics. No other country has less 1.5 million policemen except Nigeria. Now, most of these policemen are doing non-police jobs, guarding big men and women and your houses and so on while the larger society is facing all manner of danger. That is not what it should be. In civilized societies, the service chiefs should have thrown in the towel and acknowledged the fact that they cannot handle what is going on. Are we in a civilized society? Have you seen somebody who has been accused of corruption or of one misdemeanor or the other in public office of this country who has resigned on the basis of the accusation or allegation against him or her? Not even on the basis of conviction in court. We don’t resign from jobs based on principles. That is why we are where we are now. But this is strong. They told us they have defeated Boko Haram and now, see what they have been doing recently. I have just watched the video of what Boko Haram did in the North. The security agencies said they have defeated Boko Haram but now, it is obvious they told us lies. I have with me a video of Boko Haram massacre and I’m watching it in a foreign media and I could see the havoc they caused and are still causing. We issued a statement of fact. Have we said anything that is not right or true? If you follow to politics in the United States, you don’t hear anybody’s name except Trump, Trump, Trump all the time. It’s because he’s the arrow head in whatever happens in the United States. But here in Nigeria, when you mention President, attack dogs will jump on you. Should we now take the blame to somebody else? A leader shoulders responsibility and as a president, Buhari should carry the blame of what is not going on well in Nigeria just as he gets kudos for what is working well. So, it is his fault he cannot find competent people to run his government for him. It is his duty to run the government alone or to get people who are competent and able to work with him. It is the failure to do that that has created the problems that we have now. It appears the people around him are lying to him or telling him half truths. Is that my fault? Or is that your fault? He has the power to hire or to fire and if he does not do that, whose fault? That is not mine or yours. He selected them and can get rid of them and appoint new ones. Do you think Nigeria will one day defeat insurgents? I am always hopeful that things will get better one day and we will stop hearing about insurgency. I believe one day, peace will return to Nigeria. After your group issued that statement, the presidency responded that your group does not have credibility. How did that make you feel? See, like I said in the beginning, we issued a statement. That was our opinion. Anybody can agree or disagree. I don’t know what else you want us to say. We have nothing to add . The SGF said the president will not sack the service chiefs. That is their problem but I’m not commenting on that.