Why insecurity persists in Nigeria –Gov. Ishaku

By Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo

Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku has been a critical voice on the state of insecurity in the country and other national issues. In this exclusive interview through his Spokesperson, Mr Bala Dan Abu, he blames the Federal Government’s insincerity for the worsening security situation in the country and for blackmailing PDP governors into joining the APC and speaks also on the crisis in PDP and governance in Taraba.


What do you make of the deteriorating security situation in the country?

The security situation is a national tragedy. For those of us who can remember Nigeria of just 10 to 20 years ago, you know that Nigeria has been a very peaceful country where you could travel at night without fear of any serious security breach. The story is different today. Insecurity has become a national problem and every state of the federation is having their own share of the challenge.

There are many things that one would say are responsible for this. First of all, we have the religious dimensions to it and then the political dimensions where some people want to take lands belonging to others forcefully and they are armed with sophisticated weapons and so they are attacking, killing people and taking over their lands. This is actually the problem of some people wanting to conquer others and make them subservient. So there are basically several dimensions to the problem. The way out is for all of us to work collectively to address the issue. You know that there is very little unarmed people can do except perhaps in the area of intelligence gathering and reporting to the security agencies. It is a job that the federal government must develop nerves to confront it frontally.

Many people believe that the situation became worse under President Buhari and his administration has tactically encouraged, especially the Fulani who are his people, to go out and take over places. That is why we are seeing such audacity and impunity from them as never before. We usually had issues of Fulani invading farms and eating up crops and all of that in the past but they were isolated cases. In any case, they always paid compensation whenever they were caught. Today, they can enter farm, destroy it and walk away without apology. When the farmers complain, then they attack the whole community and kill them. So they have become emboldened by the Buhari administration and most people believe that the administration is encouraging it. For us to get out of the situation, the Federal Government must be seeing to be openly ready to fight the menace. He must show clearly in words and did that he does not approve of what is going on. This is not a thing that the state government can take on as it were.

The call by  T. Y. Danjuma for people to protect themselves was recently reechoed by some prominent voices. What do you make of this?

There is a lot of insincerity from President Muhammadu Buhari in tackling insecurity in the country. When General T.Y Danjuma made that statement, there was widespread condemnation but he has now been vindicated. He saw the future and told us what was coming and we are now seeing it come to pass. I have always said that the state governors are helpless in tackling insecurity constitutionally. You have a situation in your state and you do not have the security agencies under your command that you can order to tackle the situation head-on.

What in your opinion, is the Federal Government supposed to do in the midst of these?

First of all, it is not right for the people to rise and defend themselves. That would bring about chaos. The people making the calls for people to rise and defend themselves are doing so out of frustration. They are doing so because the security agencies that are controlled by the Federal Government under Buhari as the Commander in-Chief have failed terribly. As such, it is natural for the people to not just surrender to their attackers. No. You cannot just lay down your neck to be slaughtered. Unfortunately, the people do not have the capacity to confront the heavily armed attackers. So the calls are being made as a result of frustration. I still believe that if the Federal Government can show some level of sincerity in the fight for the protection of human lives, they can put a stop to this. They can even solicit external support. We have gone out severally to lend a hand to other countries who were having similar challenges in the past and so there is nothing wrong in soliciting for help if the Federal Government is sincerely incapacitated in tackling the problem. How many people can afford to buy an AK47 for instance? The government owes the people a duty to defend them and it must live up to that responsibility. What is happening now is because this administration is not being sincere about defending the people and it needs to show more sincerity and commitment to this.

What is the impact of insecurity on the education system especially in the North?

The impact is already very devastating and would only get worse in the future. And it is not only in education but other areas such as agriculture as well. You know that in most places, schools are shut down completely and in other areas, parents are afraid of letting their children go to school for the fear that they could be kidnapped for ransom. In some cases, some of the children could possibly even die in the process. So education is in trouble.

Schools have become the center of mass abduction because that is where you can have such concentration of children at any given time. The situation today is that the school system has broken down in most parts of the North. The teachers and students are not safe and this will have lasting impact on the future of the people. Children are not able to take their exams including external exams. That means they cannot move from one level to the other. For some, this spells an end to their educational life. So a lot of socio-economic damage is done to these areas and it will have lasting impact on the people.

What do you make of the calls for negotiation with bandits and absorbing of repentant insurgents into the system?

The criminals we are dealing with do not understand that language of negotiation. It has not worked in any of the areas that it was experimented. Ask the governor of Kastina and he will tell you he regrets ever negotiating with them. Their concern is to make money; so long as that source is cut off, they won’t rest. So negotiation and supposed rehabilitation would not help in any way. They have tasted the spoils of criminality and have developed a craving for it. And so the only way out is to wage a war against them and defeat them. It is possible. It is just that we are not being sincere.

If we do not negotiate with them, we do not pay them ransom, we do not provide for their comfort, then they would know that it is no longer business as usual. And so offering them amnesty is not the solution. It is not like the Niger Delta militants who were given amnesty. No. They are not the same. Those people in the Niger Delta were asking for a change of attitudes in the management of resources from their region from the Federal Government. These people here are not demanding for any of their rightful entitlements. They are criminals purely. They are taking lives and so we should not make the mistake of treating them with kid gloves. None of that will work. The only solution is to confront them head-on and defeat them while making their criminal trade non lucrative.

There are some who are of the opinion that the fight against insecurity is lopsided. What is your take on this?

I don’t see it as lopsidedness. I think it is more of inappropriateness of the approach. The Federal Government is fighting insurgency in the North just that they are not doing enough. In the case of Nnamdi Kano, they just had to deploy a few people to go after him and get him. Similarly, in the case of Sunday Igboho, they also sent a few people to his house to get him arrested. So when you look at this, it is just a matter of ensuring that those people who have taken a position against the law are made to face the consequences. All we want is peace and the Federal Government must do more in tackling these insurgents and those attacking, killing people and taking over their lands. Of course, this takes a lot more than just sending a few people after some specific elements.

However, there is insincerity on the part of the Federal Government. Some people believe that this government is not doing much because the people involved are Fulani and the President is a Fulani. That is why I think the president needs to love the country more than just a section of it because he was elected by the whole country for the entire country and not just a section of it. So, he should not be seen to be taking sides with one group against the others. All we want is peace in the country because lack of peace in any part of the country affects the entire country. So there should be total commitment to this war. It doesn’t matter whether it is Nnamdi Kano or Sunday Igboho or the Fulani herdsmen who are killing people. Whoever it is, we are asking that the Federal Government should show the same level of commitment.

What is your take on the idea of grazing routes and reserves?

The very idea is obsolete. We are talking about grazing routes that were established shortly after independence. After that, there have been several constitutional reforms especially in the ownership and use of land. We have the land use Act today which vested the ownership of lands in the state with the state governors holding the lands in trust for the people. So the grazing routes are lands belonging to states under the control of the governor and they no longer exist.

You cannot reintroduce grazing routes without the consent of the state governors who are holding lands in trust for the people. So the people talking about grazing routes now are living in the past. In Taraba, we have a law that regulates movement of cattle and herdsmen. We have opted for ranching under the law and we are building ranches across the state. That is our position and we are not going to allow anybody to do anything that is against the law that is already in operation in the state. We do not recognize grazing routes and they are not in existence in Taraba.

You signed the open grazing prohibition law a few years ago and yet, cattle still graze openly and move freely and little is heard of the Marshall that was established by the law to enforce its provisions. What is really going on?

Well, nothing has happened to the law. We are a people-oriented government and do not want to make life unnecessarily difficult for the people. We have a law in place but have given a period of grace to allow people to get used to the provisions of the law and for the other provisions in the law to be put in place. That is why you are saying that the status quo seems not to have changed. Secondly, we introduced the Taraba Marshall and it was frustrated by the Federal Government for a very long time under the guise that the state government was training armed militia for war. Those things actually caused a lot of problems and delayed the full take off of the Taraba Marshall but we are believing that we would overcome all of this and the group will fulfill the reason for which it was set up. It is a work in progress with success in the near future.

What is your position on the controversy around VAT collection and sharing?

Well, we are watching what is going on. The issue is already in court and for now it is subjudice. We are in support that states should collect their VAT and use it for the development of their people. Nothing can be better than that; for you to be in control of what you collect and decide on how to use it. That is not to say that we are going to surrender our power to collect the money to the Federal Government. States should be able to collect the monies and remit what needs to be done  to the Federal Government rather than the other way round. But like I said, we are looking closely at the judicial processes going on and we would take our position soon.

The PDP is currently not having the best of times as it were. What is really going on?

What is happening in the PDP is nothing new. When election year approaches, some of these intrigues play out but they would not affect the fortunes of the party. A clear indicator is that we have been able to tackle the issues and have already agreed on our national convention timetable and have set up a generally accepted convention committee and hopefully, we would have a hitch free convention. As for the defection, they happen because the APC administration at the federal level was intimidating our governors and threatening them.

You know the APC has openly declared that once you come to the APC, whatever sin you may have committed would be forgiven. And so a lot of our party members seem to have accepted that  invitation. So APC is directly forcing people to come over to their folds. The people moving over to the APC are not doing so because they feel the APC is a better party. No. They are just looking for soft landing. And that is not the best thing to do and we would continue to condemn it.

Does it then mean that the people moving to APC have skeletons in their cupboards?

Not necessarily. You see, we are in a situation where people are blackmailed rightly or wrongly and the APC is in the forefront of this. They cook up allegations against members of the opposition and people who do not subscribe to their ideas and atrocities. So they are in a way causing panic and luring people into their folds to give the impression that they are strong and viable and it is very wrong.

Have you ever been approached by the opposition and are you contemplating joining the APC anytime?

Not at all. In fact, that is not even an option. I am a committed member of the PDP and I am determined to do everything to make sure that the party reclaims power at the centre and retains power in Taraba and other states. In the case of Taraba, it is non-negotiable. We would do everything to make sure that PDP remains in power in Taraba in 2023 and beyond. The opposition cannot even approach me because they know it would not work. They know the kind of people they approach and try to manipulate. I’m not one of such. They know it would be an effort in futility absolutely; so why try it in the first place.

What is your assessment of Taraba at 30?

Taraba has made a lot of progress. The amount of development in this geographical area would probably not have been as developed as it is today if it were not made a state. That is why we thank God and those who agitated for the creation of the state. In the 30 years of creation, we have secured a very stable state, open to the world through roads and airport; we have built hospitals and expanded education opportunities; we have also empowered our people for self reliance and our agricultural policies are putting great resources at the disposal of the people. Indeed, we have done a lot. We still have a lot to do.

Taraba is a work in progress. This administration is building a lot of roads including the dualization of the Airport road in Jalingo that is coming with a flyover which is the first of its kind in the state and before the administration winds up in 2023, we would have seen a lot of legacy projects that people would continue to talk about in the years to come. The only thing I will appeal to the people is for them to keep faith with the government so that we can do more. We have a lot of potentials that could be made into major money spinners but insecurity has made that very difficult. And so we all have to decide to live together in peace so that we can achieve our full potentials and for them to work with this administration.

The administration has been criticised to have taken the state back by at least two decades and to have divided the state along ethnic and religious lines.

This is all politics. All of these are coming from the APC and most people in the state do not subscribe to it. We know who is telling lies. We know that lying has been a strategy of the APC all along. Some of them are not even politicians who are on ground and do not even know what is happening even in their wards. They are not aware that this administration has a project in virtually all the wards in the state. So they don’t know what the government has done in their own wards because they are not on ground and are not in touch with the people there. And so when they talk, it is not on the basis of facts and figures but on guess work. They just want to blackmail the government by making allegations that are untrue.

How can someone say that the government has set the state back by 20 years? It means the person does not even know what is happening in the state at all. This is a government that has built three standard hospitals of international standards. They merely existed and could not even be called consultation rooms because nothing was happening there. This administration has elevated them to international standards; so how can someone come up and say that is a setback. Maybe they don’t know what setback is. We met education in tatters. WAEC performance was below 20 per cent and schools were in very bad shape. Today, schools are remodelled and equipped and today our WAEC performance stands at about 85.5 per cent. That is a huge leap from where we were. So, how is that a set back? So if they feel just insulting the government makes them feel important, then let them continue doing so.

What are your plans for 2023? It is speculated that you already have an anointed successor. How true is this and who is the anointed?

I am someone who believes strongly in God and have always placed myself at His service. I consult God in everything I do and trust His decision. And so going to the Senate or not lies in God’s hands. I never told myself I wanted to become a governor but today I am one. As for a successor,  I urge all Tarabans to pray fervently for a successor who will build on my legacies and place the interest of the state over their personal interests. We have a long way to go and it will take someone with strong determination and political will to surmount all the challenges and move the state forward. We have laid the foundation. We need someone who can build on it. That is the kind of successor we all need to pray for.  It is not in my position to choose one.

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