The member of the House of Representatives from Barakin Ladi/Riyom Federal Constituency of Plateau State, Honourable Simon Mwadkon, in this interview by ISAAC SHOBAYO, speaks on the raging insecurity in the country and other issues.
Insecurity in Nigeria is getting worse. What is the way out of this frightening situation?
Insecurity has already consumed Nigeria. Security agencies are overwhelmed and some people argue that it is because of lack of funding of the police and the military and other related issues. Some say it is lack of training and retraining of the security personnel, while others blame the absence of technology and equipment to meet the security challenges facing the country. But I will link the problem to the failed government that we have. This government promised to deal with insecurity and other related issues within six months. Initially, most of these problems were concentrated in the North East and precisely in Borno State but since this government came to power, we have been having terrible experiences. Insecurity has spread to every nook and cranny of the country. The government has been paying lip service to security.
Many Nigerians cried out that the former service chiefs had failed and should be changed but nothing happened. When the head is sick, the rest of the body cannot function. If the people at the helm of security in this country are not versatile, it would be difficult to solve the problem. The reason this issue has persisted is because of the ethnicity attached to it. Most of those in government cannot call a spade a spade. If the president had followed the principle of federal character in the appointment of security chiefs, things would not have degenerated to this level. Before now even the press was afraid to mention that it is the Fulani that were killing people in Nigeria. It was then unknown gunmen but today we are so faced with the reality that even Miyetti Allah are beginning to accept some of the attacks and claim responsibility for carrying out such attacks. We must begin to call things by their names. I want to say that the government has failed in addressing this security problem. Presidential (Muhammadu) Buhari called on former President (Goodluck) Jonathan to resign over security failure. If I were President Buhari, I would have resigned long ago.
This government is selective; it is a government that does not carry Nigerians along. Look at the construction of the railway line from Katsina to Niger Republic, what is the economic benefit? If you look at the volume of trade between Benin Republic and Nigeria, it is higher than the volume of trade between Nigeria and Niger Republic. So, the security problems bedeviling Nigeria are a product of the malfunction of government, a product of a government without vision. Hunger and poverty have increased. Corruption has also increased. Some of the acts of criminality that are being witnessed here and there are because these people have thrown the country into hunger and starvation.
But why is it difficult for the government, especially its security agencies, to track down the perpetrators of these heinous crimes?
It is not difficult, the government knows them. President Buhari knows them. Every person that is at the helm of the affairs of this nation knows them. Sheikh Gumi sat with bandits, discussed with them and even tried to instigate them against the Christians in the Nigerian Army. He told the bandits that it was not the Muslims in the Nigerian Army that were killing them. Who was he refering to? He was refering to the Christians. How did he know their location? When these bandits kidnap people and take them into the forest, the government often claims they dont know the location of these people. Then how come Sheikh Gumi knows their location to the extent that he would sit and have parleys with them and come out unharmed. A government that is based on ethnic sentiment will always fail.
Are you saying the government should look inwards?
They should do the needful. The bandits are the government itself. You will recall that Dr (Obadiah) Mailafia cried out that this insecurity might soon cover the whole country; that these people had even migrated down south. The DSS invited him and molested him. Now Sheikh (Gumi), who is supposed to be a cleric, a preacher of the word of God, engaged these bandits and no eyebrow was raised. The government doesn’t need to look inwards for anything, it is part and parcel of the whole thing. If they want to change the status quo, they can do it. What I am seeing is that they recruited these people and they have been unable to take care of them and these people have multiplied and are now above their capacity. Even former President Jonathan had to cry out that right inside his government, there were members of Boko Haram. Another government knew them, they are part and parcel of the government.
The citizens must rise. The ENDSARS movement could have solved the problem but it was politicised and religious sentiment was thrown into it. What the youths did was a pointer to the fact that one day, the public might rise against the government. If the public does not rise to solve this problem, there will be problems.
There are agitations for secession in different parts of the country. Do you think agitations like this are the solution to the problems on the ground?
These agitations are genuine in the sense that when you refuse to do the right thing, anything can happen. There is nothing as precious as human life and when you have a government that cannot protect the lives and property of its citizens, you don’t expect those citizens to be loyal to that government. If you have a government that concentrates appointments into key positions in one place, you don’t expect other people that feel marginalised to fold their arms and keep quiet. When you have a government that is ethnic-inclined, you don’t expect other nationalities to sit down and be watching. So, these calls for secession are genuine. The 1999 constitution as amended is one of the basic problems of this country. No one can use this constitution to run the government successfully and people have called for the overhaul of this constitution. The constitutional conference of 2014 would have been a good starting point. All issues in the report of the conference should have been given consideration and implemented gradually. This would have given everybody a sense of belonging. The calls for secession are based on the marginalisation that is going on within the system. What is the need for us living together and killing ourselves? The government should allow true federalism if they don’t want the calls for suecession to continue.
You filed a petition before the House of Representatives, saying no fewer than 55 communities in your constituency have been taken over by foreigners but the state government denied any knowledge of the development. Can you shed light on this?
Before we closed for the plenary, I presented a petition before the House with regard to the over 55 communities in my constituency that have been destroyed and taken over by people we do not know. We have Fulanis within the communities and we know them but the truth is that these people that have come and formed new settlements, we don’t know them. And as a citizen of this area, I cannot access these communities and come back with my life. We have cried out. Even as I am talking to you, we have 13,000 IDPs in my constituency. The houses that were destroyed have not been rebuilt. The community that is making effort, that is, Jong community, the houses they are trying to build were about being destroyed again three days ago. We dont have the firepower of these people. If the government that is supposed to protect every citizen of this country is saying there is no land grabbing in my constituency, it is unfortunate, but I dont want to join issues with the government.
The state government should go to Bachit, Gashishi, Gindi Apati, you dont need anybody to tell you anything, you will see new houses, these are new settlements. Who are the people building those new houses? Are they Fulani from Plateau? I have Fulani as part of my office. Even they have claimed they don’t know these people. As of the last count, 55 communities had been taken over by these foreign Fulanis. They have renovated the houses that natives deserted and are presently living in them. They are occupying properties that do not belong to them. When the vice president came to Plateau State, he made a pronouncement that the Federal Government would assist the people with N10 billion so that they could rebuild their houses. Have the houses been rebuilt?. Are there not settlements there now? Who are those living there when the natives have been chased away? The issue of mobile barracks was mentioned by the same vice president. Has the barracks been built? I was shocked when I read in the newspapers that the government posited that there was no incident of land grabbing in these areas.
What do you think should be done to resettle these people to their communities?
We must live in peace. We must accept one another but we must identify foreigners among us. The killings in my constituency are still going on because we have some people who want to latch on to our differences and disunite us and get what they want from us. If the government will not take action, it will be difficult for us to solve the problem. The national population census is about to take place and if that is to happen, who are those to be counted? It is not just going be a head count, they would also count houses. Who are they going to count when the natives have been chased away? Is it the foreigners that would be counted? The government must do the needful.
When I was the chairman of Riyom Local Government Area, I cried out about the community called Rakuk, which has been renamed as Mahagan. I said there was presence of people that were not from that area and they were likely to cause problems for Plateau State but what has happened? Governor Lalong should investigate and do the needful. He should find out if such people are citizens of Plateau State. Who are those that are building the new houses and who sold the land to them? Is that not land grabbing? This means you are occupying a land that does not belong to you.