From ROSE EJEMBI, Makurdi
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain in Benue State and former member of the Revenue and Fiscal Mobilization Commission (RFMC), Chief Abu King Shuluwa, says the Federal Government should accept the dialogue move by the Boko Haram sect in the interest of peace in the country. He also speaks on other burning national issues. Excerpts:
How do you see the dialogue move by the Boko Haram?
Well, the issue of negotiation did not start with the Boko Haram, because some of us had called for dialogue with Boko Haram long ago. We don’t want the killings to continue. We want the Federal Government to negotiate with the sect. And if Boko Haram has decided to negotiate with the Federal Government, then the Federal Government should open the door for negotiation except it wants the killings to continue. If the Federal Government doesn’t want the killings to continue, just like some of us don’t want it to continue, yes, there should be a negotiation.
We want to know why they are doing what they are doing. We want to know if they are tired of the killings and want negotiation. There must be reasons behind what they are doing, because they are doing it on purpose. With this negotiation, they will tell us why they are killing people.
But why was Gen. Buhari mentioned as part of the negotiation conditions?
Anybody’s name could be mentioned. The people (Boko Haram) are the ones who said this is the person we want. And if they said this, perhaps, they discovered that he is in-between; he is not for them, and not for the Federal Government. So, they are probably looking for a neutral person. Another issue is that a lot of people believe the Boko Haram is the making of the PDP, which I belong to. And if you remember, I spoke about this before; I said Boko Haram is the handiwork of Obasanjo and Modu Sheriff, because during the 2003 elections, Obasanjo did not want the PDP to win in Borno State.
He wanted a friend of his to win, and that friend was Sheriff, and they formed an organization to make sure they put Modu Sheriff. Thereafter, that organization, which was like a militia group, was abandoned. Modu Sheriff abandoned them and they metamorphosed into what is today known as Boko Haram. That is why I said we must investigate those people and find out the root cause of their action. There is no way Obasanjo and Modu Sheriff would not have a hand in what is today called Boko Haram insurgency. It was an organization formed to make sure Ali Modu Sheriff became governor against the PDP candidate, who first won election in Borno.
They kicked him out and those young people were left unattended. Eventually, either they have been hijacked by another organization or they metamorphosed into what is today called Boko Haram. And if that is the case, the choice of Buhari could be blackmail. Probably, the government may want to use Buhari so as to say Buhari is behind Boko Haram. And then, they would find a way of roping him into the sect and blackmail him again so that he would not contest in 2015. I know Nigerians. I am a Nigerian and I have been in this game.
What is your opinion about the choice of Saudi Arabia as venue for the negotiation?
The Boko Haram sect would want a neutral ground because security agencies in this country have not been fair to them. They kill them as soon as they capture them. They want a place they can come out openly, because you cannot arrest or detain them in Saudi Arabia. They want a place they can feel secured. And I think if we truly want to negotiate with them, we should be prepared to meet with them wherever they want. Are we afraid to go to Saudi Arabia? For the sake of peace, if they want us to go to the moon and we are able to go there, why not, if we are interested in stopping the killings? But, if we are not, then we reject the proposal. But I think the killing is enough.
The ordinary man that has nothing to do with government is suffering. Yet, we are given the choice of reconciliation and we sit and watch? Haba! So, anywhere they want, let us go and know who their leaders are and the basis for what they are doing. Right now, nobody knows. So, if we can go to the moon to know what the sect really wants, who are those behind it, and what they stand for, the better for the government to plan. So, I support wherever they want for the peace talks to hold.
But there is a problem; the Gederal Government said recently that it will not negotiate with the sect under any condition. What do you say to that?
Who is the Federal Government? You are not saying Jonathan said he will not negotiate. Tell me that Jonathan said he will not negotiate. Yes, if Jonathan says he will not negotiate with the sect under such condition, under what condition does he want to negotiate? Let him tell us his own condition. But just telling us he won’t negotiate under such condition is rubbish. He must tell us the condition he wants. When you want to negotiate with somebody, he brings his own condition and you bring your own and we balance it up. And let me say this, that my perception of Boko Haram is totally different. Some people see them as a religious sect. No, they only happen to be Muslims.
But, even if you look at the bombings, some of the people arrested are Christians. Why so? Some of the people who help them in making bombs are Christians. Some of them have been arrested but the security agencies are hiding the Christians among them. Why? So, there is more to it that meets the eye. When the first bomb went off in Abuja and MEND claimed responsibility, the President said they are not responsible because he knows them. And when Boko Haram said no, he didn’t say he knows them. What happened to that first bombing? Who started throwing bombs in this country if not MEND? Nothing has been done about it. Boko Haram exists as a result of poverty, and many people do not want to see that.
And if Nigeria is not careful, you will have Boko Haram in different forms. Boko Haram is not different from the militants in the Niger-Delta. The Niger-Delta militants had good reasons for what they did until amnesty came. Boko Haram may have a good reason. It is now left for the Federal Government to go anywhere, even if it means going to know who the people are, they should go.
Recently, there was a failed attempt by the Bakassi people to declare independence for themselves. Also, MASSOB has hoisted its flag in a parade witnessed by over 100,000 people. What does this portend for the country?
I am not a prophet, but I have talked about the amalgamation that brought this country into being in 1914. And I said by 2014, if we are not careful, Nigeria will not be the same. And from the statements coming from the South-South, particularly the Niger-Delta region, one can deduce that this country will no longer be the same again from 2014. For instance, there was a time Edwin Clarke said Jonathan will be President, but not the President of Nigeria. Sadly, people don’t understand some of these statements.
There is a clause in the amalgamation of 1914, which says that after 100 years of existence, any part of Nigeria may decide to go. Therefore, because of the oil in the South-South, the Niger-Delta people believe they can go on their own. And all the arrangement they are making is to make sure that by 2014, they will write a memorandum to the United Nations saying they want to become a separate nation from what is today known as Nigeria and they will draw a map and compose their national anthem. It’s just like what happened in Sudan. And that is the reason why they insisted on Jonathan being the President this time, because if you allow a northerner to be president, it will not be as easy to break away as when Jonathan is President. That was the reason why Jonathan had to contest this present position, which he is holding today. Otherwise, there was an agreement Jonathan signed that the presidency, after Obasanjo, should go to the North. Why should he then contest?
He should have completed Yar’Adua’s tenure and then quit the stage. He should have allowed another northerner to contest and complete the eight years, which Obasanjo did. But they knew that if a northerner becomes president between now and 2014, it will not be easy for them to break away. There is a hidden agenda, and Nigeria has to be very careful. All you are seeing is not only MASSOB’s declaration of independence, Bayelsans had done that before with a national anthem and a flag, and what did the President do about it? No comments from the Presidency. No action. Then, the Ogoni people also did theirs, yet no action from the Presidency. We are watching. If Nigeria is not careful, it will never be the same by 2015. Already, the U.S. had predicted this before, and it is working towards that.
In Niger Delta, every young person who pretended to have dropped his arms takes N65,000 in Niger-Delta, while the massive youths who graduated from Ibadan, Oyo, Akure, Borno, Yobe, Benue, Ekiti, Ife, ABU and so on are roaming the streets without job. The uneducated youths in the Niger-Delta are being trained as pilots in different countries of the world. Why is it so? Why are we having a trade agreement between Niger-Delta and South-Africa? What is happening to the youths in Ekiti, Kogi, Kwara, Yobe, Gombe, Nasarawa, Kano, Taraba, Borno, Benue and so on? Some people in the Niger-Delta region think we are fools, we are not. We have spilled our blood for the unity of this country when Biafra wanted to secede.
But, do you think the North can sustain itself if the South pulls out?
We can. Before we discovered oil what were we doing? We will now go back to agriculture. We will lock up ourselves. We can discover oil in the North also, if oil can be discovered in Niger, or even Chad, why not in the North? Mind you, there is now oil in Kogi State, which Anambra and Enugu are now fighting to take. Who says we cannot discover oil in River Benue? It is a matter of exploring and discovering. If oil can be discovered in the far desert, why can’t we discover it here? Even if we don’t discover oil, tell me, there are lots of countries that don’t have oil and yet they exist. Whoever knew there would be oil in Ghana?
They have gold, that’s all, but today, Ghana has oil. So, it’s a matter of locking up ourselves to discover things hidden here. But we will definitely improve on agriculture and those who have oil will need food. Niger can sell oil to us, while we sell food to them. Today, if you go to Katsina State, the fuel they are using there is from Niger. They don’t care about what is happening here any longer because Niger must sell its fuel. And if that happens, we can tell Niger-Delta to go, which also gives Biafra the opportunity to take over. Remember, it was the North that prevented Biafra from existing then. The Niger-Delta alone cannot stand the force of Biafra. They can’t, but if they think they can, that country will be destroyed because I know that America will back them up and there will be fighting for a long time and we would be watching them fight.
You mentioned distortion in the zoning arrangement. As a PDP chieftain, would you blame your party for the problems the country is currently facing?
How can I blame my party for the problems? No, I blame certain individuals, who were very powerful as to deny the zoning arrangement. Obasanjo is one of them. Obasanjo created the problems because his plan was to secede the whole of the South, but now, it looks like each portion wants to be on its own. So, it means that in the South, you are going to have more than five nations. Every part that has oil will not want the other to be part of it.
What is the position of the Middle-Belt in all these? We observe that when this type of thing happens, the far North takes it all. For instance, in the agitation for 2015, the North is not saying the presidency should be zoned to the Middle Belt.
I believe in one thing, that is, whoever is competent should be allowed to run. We are copying America, for God’s sake. Bush was the President, his son became a president. Can that happen in Nigeria? No, it can never happen. Most of American presidents came from the South – Bush, Clinton, Bush, Carter and so on. But because we are multi-national, WAZOBIA is what is killing us. Wa is Yoruba, Zo is Hausa and Bia is Igbo.
Nobody talks about the minority here. Unfortunately, when a minority occupies the seat he looks up to the majority for support. He doesn’t look for the minority, and that is what President Jonathan is doing now. When Jonathan comes to the North, he doesn’t give a better job to minorities of the North. You people were just supporting him for nothing. I did not support Jonathan, and I will never support him.
But he is planning to go for a second term…
He is wasting his time. By the time Jonathan goes for second term, some of us would become old trailers without brakes, and we will be descending a slope. So, anything on the road we will crush. 2015 is the last year I will be in active politics. So, does it mean I will lose out again? No way. I am not prepared to lose out again.
On the submission of Ribadu’s report; we heard Orosanye said he was not party to the report. What do you say about that?
It is a plan. For Orosanye to be a member of a committee, if he wasn’t a party to it, he should have written his own minority report. Did he write a minority report? Why was Orosanye made a director in NNPC, while he was still in the committee? When you give Ribadu that kind of position, you know he would come out with a true position of what is there. The Federal government allocates certain quantum of crude oil to NNPC to refine and sell domestically. NNPC kills the refineries and sell the crude outside the country and never returns the money to the Federal Government. What do they do with the money?
If you check properly, you will discover that all MDs of NNPC has oil business companies outside Nigeria. If you retire as NNPC MD, you should not have anything to do with oil again. Go and find another business, not oil. So, NNPC is a conduit pipe for the top people in this country. Even Niger has a functional refinery today. It is sad that up till now, none of our refineries is working. Yet, the subsidies have come. You saw what happened. People are being paid billions of naira for not importing fuel. You see a young man that came up with a company and they allocated certain quantum of refined oil for him to import, and he doesn’t import anything after he had been paid. You think he sits and eats that money alone?
Now, to issues affecting Benue State; there is insinuation that the rotation of governorship seat is lopsided, favouring zones A and B, while zone C watches helplessly. As a party elder, how can this lopsidedness be rectified?
I contested the governorship seat four times in this state and I tell you that no governor of this state has been more popular than me. Governorship position is not a position you just give to anybody. When people from my zone C wanted to be governor, and everybody in zones A and B was afraid to go to zone C, I went. When I got to Otukpo, people thought the Idomas were going to tear me into pieces. I said look, I am the only person in this land who will give the Idomas whatever belongs to them. I can never take what belongs to a Tiv man and give it to an Idoma, also, I can never take what belongs to Idoma man and give to Tiv man. When I started talking, I said, Idoma, you will never get this governorship, and everybody said why.
I said you cannot sit here and expect somebody to carry power and give you, while you sit in Otukpo. That’s crazy. We are talking about power. Come out and look for power yourselves. And when they came out in 2007, you saw what they did. Do you know that the Idoma were the first? Suswam wasn’t the first candidate. How come after the primaries and votes had been counted you now say that Ogiri Ajene’s votes and Igbago’s votes were added to another person’s votes? Now, tell me, already votes were counted and somebody won, yet they kept quiet.
Tomorrow they will say Shuluwa doesn’t like Idoma, Na lie. If there is anybody in this state that likes Idoma, it’s me. I went to school with them in Katsina-Ala, I went to work with them in Kaduna, Jos and Benue. I have a lot of friends in Idoma land. I have girlfriends in Idoma. Why would I hate them? My mother is not Tiv. She belonged to the Kwararafa family. So, what has an Idoma man done to me that would warrant me hating him? Let us put it this way; if you believe that a Tiv man will take the governorship and give to an Idoma man on a platter of gold, you are jokers. It will never happen; not even among the Tivs themselves.
Why are some MINDA people saying they want to contest the governorship and people from Zone A are saying no? Adasu had it for one year only, so we must complete our tenure? Who said it is their tenure to complete? For an Idoma to become governor, they have to play a better card than they are playing today.