Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume is the immediate-past Leader of the Senate. He represents Borno South Senatorial District in the National Assembly. He is a core supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term bid. In this interview with FRED ITUA, he slammed the presidency and the executive for failing to lobby and reach out to aggrieved members of the National Assembly. According to him, the refusal by various organs of the executive arm to do the needful led to the defection of Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara. He spoke on other issues.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has technically defected to the PDP. That has now left the control of both chambers of the National Assembly in the hands of the opposition. What does this portend?
First of all, I must say that it is not strange. It is also unexpected. We expected that to happen. That of Saraki has come to pass. That of Dogara who has been sitting on the fence for a long time, will definitely have to join one side. There is a clear confirmation now that he has joined the PDP. It was expected. It is not strange, but abnormal.
When Barack Obama was the President of the United States of America, the Republicans had the majority in the Congress. By their own convention, the winner takes all in every set up. I said what is happening here is abnormal because we have the majority. In the case of the United States of America, the Republicans too had the majority. The PDP doesn’t have the majority to remain in the leadership. That is why Saraki and Dogara, not by force, but based on morality, should step down.
Some people have argued that in politics, there is no morality…
That is not true. If there is no morality in politics, there will be no politics. Even in an animal farm, there is morality. When you say there is no morality, it means there are no rules or laws. And that’s not the case here. We have laws and rules.
What does this mean for APC, the fact that the two chambers are now under the control of the PDP?
Let me say that serious political activities have even gone. Technically, the Eight National Assembly has come to an end. After the elections, everybody will be rounding off his or her work in the National Assembly. People that have won will be preparing to return, while those who have lost will be preparing to leave the stage.
The only problem is that, the interest of Nigerians has now been relegated to the background. It is very unfortunate. It will continue like that. The struggle in the Senate and in the National Assembly generally, is propelled by self-interest, instead of national interest.
There is an argument that if President Olusegun Obasanjo was still in power, he would have used state forces to eject the two leaders of the National Assembly out of office. Should Nigerians be worried that this may happen when the National Assembly reconvenes?
I can’t predict what will happen tomorrow. The problem we are facing in the National Assembly is not entirely the fault of the legislative arm of government. It takes two to tangle. The executive has not been lobbying, showing concerns or making reasonable efforts to reach out. What they have done isn’t enough. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today.
The other side (Saraki and Dogara) did what they did because they were looking for excuses and the excuses were handed down to them. When a baby is crying and you don’t pay attention to it, it can be destructive. I think that was what happened. Like I said earlier, there is no cause for alarm.
I am not even happy with the attention the media is giving to the face off. The attention should be what they are supposed to do for Nigerians. My concern for example is the shutting down of the National Assembly. There is no hope that we are going to resume until after the primaries. Matters of urgent national importance are there in the cooler. We have confirmations pending, the budget of INEC, approval of loans to fund the 2018 budget and other requests are just there. Even some bills from the Presidency and an amendment to the Electoral Act are pending. These are the issues we should be talking about instead of dwelling on the face off.
But the attention is coming from the leadership of APC, which keeps hammering on why Saraki must be sacked. Should the media ignore that?
Under normal circumstances, Saraki should not be there. I agree with the fact that the media doesn’t generate the stories. But I still insist that emphasis should be placed on the work we are supposed to do. We are in politics to help the people. Now, it appears that we are in politics for ourselves.
Saraki is contesting for the position of the president. If he secures the ticket of the PDP, do you think that he stands a chance against President Buhari?
I am not supporting Saraki for the presidency. I am supporting President Buhari 100 per cent. I am not thinking of any other person. For me, Saraki is not a candidate to stand against Buhari.
Borno state is in the news for the wrong reasons. Boko Haram is resurfacing. What do you think is responsible?
When these things started happening again, with attacks in some areas in the state, I raised some concerns. I reached out to the various security chiefs. I am glad that they have responded appropriately. The Chief of Army Staff personally relocated to the hotbed and the darkest spot of Boko Haram insurgency in Borno state. This is the first time they are doing this.
Even when the Army relocated to Sambisa, the Chief of Army Staff stayed back in Maiduguri. This time, he relocated to where the real battle is. For the first time, the Army is taking the war to them. If they had done this consistently from the beginning, the issue of Boko Haram would have been history by now.
I want the Army to sustain the fight. There should be a joint operation to ensure that this insurgency is eliminated completely. There are three other black spots. The Sambisa Forest, Mandara Mountains and Lake Chad axis, where we still have left over of insurgents. The insurgents are not that strong. They do more of highway armed robbery now. If the Military takes the fight to them, they will be eliminated.
They still operate in the Lake Chad basin and they are strong there because they are close to the border of Mali and the Sahel region. They are suspected to be getting supply of arms through that axis. This is coupled with the fact that they have been able to source for resources through ransoms suspected to have been paid to them during the release of the Dapchi and Chibok girls who were kidnapped.
Are there territories in Borno state under the control of Boko Haram?
No, none. If you say there are places people are yet to go back to, I agree with you. There are so many of them. There is no local government under the control of Boko Haram. There are some villages in Borno where Boko Haram insurgents are still holding on to the people. They hold them as shield. Some people who are strong enough to escape from their hold do so from time to time. One thing I can assure you is that, no local government is under the control of Boko Haram. The problem is that, many villages are deserted. People have not returned because there is nothing to return to. Schools, houses and other things have been destroyed. That is why they have not returned. They need to rebuild these places before people can return.
There was a recent report by Amnesty International, accusing the military of sexually abusing people in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps. As a stakeholder in Borno state, is that report true?
From my own angle, the effects of the insurgency are still there. In the IDPs, there is a good rapport between civilians and the military. The civilians there trust the military more than traditional rulers. Let me give you an instance. I went to Gworza and wanted to donate money to them. I was asked to give it to the military instead of traditional rulers. The military teach them and they are very helpful.
There is nothing like that. What Amnesty International reported is false. It is not true. I am always in IDP camps. There has never been any case of such in any of the camps I have visited. I don’t want to start arguing with Amnesty International on this. Most times, they speak with opposition members and some groups like that. Amnesty International used to relate with me. They have stopped. If there is any case of sexual abuse, I will be the first person to cry out. I will not sit down and allow such a thing to happen.
How does the country end this insurgency?
Inasmuch as the government is trying, it needs to do more. It is never over until it is over. If we are serious and determined, this insurgency can be brought to an end. Boko Haram has been defeated, but yet to be eliminated. It can be eliminated. That is what we need to do now. This idea of waiting for Boko Haram to attack is not the right way to go.
The fatigue in the military is another issue we need to consider. It has started setting in. That is why we see the rioting. Some of them have been there for over four years. This is not good. The military hierarchy needs to support these people. They should ensure that they take the fight to Boko Haram in the remaining black spots.