From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
The Secretary, North West zone of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), and former Spokesman, Northern CAN, Elder Sunday Oibe, has said that recent utterances by Kaduna-based Islamic Cleric, Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, calling for compensation for bandits have taken shine off good intentions of President Muhammadu Buhari.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, Elder Oibe noted that there are questions that Gumi must provide answers for to balance his call to compensate the bandits.
The CAN scribe said that one of such questions is, “what is Gumi recommending that government should do for the people who are law abiding citizens that were trampled upon and killed by bandits?”
He added, “I see people languishing in poverty because their breadwinners had been killed by bandits. Why is Gumi not advocating that those people should be compensated?”
The former CAN spokesman argued that security agencies ought to have picked the Islamic cleric for questioning except they are treating him as an untouchable Nigerian.
Elder Oibe also spoke on other national issues. Excerpts:
Killing in the North by bandits especially along Kaduna-Abuja highway has become so worrisome and disturbing in recent times. How worried are you?
I don’t know how to describe the level of my worries, I am troubled over insecurity in the North and Nigeria in general. I am devastated, sleep has been murdered. Growing up as a young person, I remember that everybody desired to live in the North, particularly Kaduna State. It was a mini-Nigeria, Kaduna was home to everybody. But the kind of thing that is happening to everybody today, one needs to be worried about the future of this country, future of the North. It is not about Kaduna-Abuja highways alone. Even inside Kaduna metropolis, Birnin Gwari, up to Zaria, nobody is safe. So it is a worrisome situation, it is a painful situation. Everybody lives in perpetual fears. The reason I am worried is because when non-state actors are dictating the pace and state actors are looking helplessly in the face of non-state actors, it calls for serious worry. Everybody knows that the North thrives in agriculture, people farm alot. I used to farm, my farm is about 50 kilometres from Kaduna city. But I cannot go to the farm any longer because of bandits. I have abandoned my farm. Now is harvest season and the prices of food is skyrocketing. People cannot feed because they cannot go to the farm. Children cannot go to school for fear of being kidnapped. Tell me, what are we breeding? The situation shows that the Nigerian authority has fallen to what Boko Haram is propagating, that western education is forbidden. I am particularly troubled because I used to farm in Rijana along Kaduna-Abuja highway some years ago. But I cannot go there now. Everybody is asking why Rijana. What is the distance between Kaduna and Abuja, just some few kilometres. Why is it so difficult for government to smoke these people out of their hideouts, that is the worry. Heavy ransoms are paid to kidnappers in Rijana bush before victims are released. If I say I am worried, it is an understatement, I am as well troubled. Even reasonable Nigerians who are of northern extraction must be troubled. The situation look like a helpless situation. Of all the money that is being budgeted for security we are still seeing insecurity happening. I have my friends in Birnin Gwari, I cannot go to them, they cannot come to me. Is this how it should be under a democratic government? Are we saying that we are in a country? If you say I’m worried it’s an understatement, I am in pains, am troubled, am bleeding concerning what is happening about state of security in this country. Why everybody is worried is that the administration of Buhari castigated the previous government and promised that they were going to fix security within few months and people voted for them. And is it that less than two years to the end of his tenure, security cannot be fixed? Average Nigerian does not bother who becomes the the president, governor, local government chairman or councillor as long as there is security. Everybody is troubled because they cannot go to the farm, they cannot do their normal businesses.
Recently, Sheikh Ahmed Gumi called on the Federal Government to compensate bandits with lands and what he called big money as part of measures to end banditry and kidnapping. What is your reaction to this?
Honestly, I don’t feel like commenting on this because these are some of the problems we are having in this country. I have an uncle and one of his children was always going to steal meat from a pot of the soup. So other children were worried. Then my uncle set a trap and it caught this boy. The boy was publicly disgraced in the community. Today, the boy grew up to become an honest man in the community. The boy became an honest man because the father did not take side with him. I listened to what Gumi said and the government is tolerating and accommodating him. From what Gumi said about bandits, people are now asking, is he not accomplice in all of this? If you are compensating bandits, who will compensate those children that they killed their parents, who will compensate those parents that they killed their children. What of those children that were taken captives and heavy ransom was paid to free them. I had the privilege of traveling to Maiduguri down to Gwoza, Yobe and Adamawa. I could see people languishing in poverty because their breadwinners had been killed. Why is Gumi not advocating that those people should be compensated? We have law in this country, there is law against murder, there is law against arson, when a non- state actor decided to take gun against his father land, and you are saying they should compensate him with land and big money? Then the question is that the people who are law abiding citizens that were trampled upon, what is Gumi recommending that government should do for them? When people said the activities of Boko Haram, insurgents, bandits and kidnappers are child-brain of northern elite, how do we disabuse this from the minds of southerners with all honesty when people like Gumi are propagating this kind of things. Some of us don’t want to talk because I don’t expect anybody to make case for people who inflict pains on their fatherland. The people who terrorise and hack down innocent people should be compensated, then what happens to the law abiding citizens. Are you saying that the rest of us should go and look for guns and begin to terrorise the whole society so that we can be compensated. A cleric should not be talking like this in a civilised society? I believe something is definitely wrong.
Do you know that Gumi has equally built school for herdsmen in Kaduna forest?
I don’t blame him for identifying with these herdsmen. I blame the people who have the statutory mandate to provide law and order who refused to ask him questions. I think there are some untouchable in this country. I pray that this thing will not snowball into where every Nigerian is encouraged to become a lawless person. This is not correct, this is uncivilised. This is inhuman. This is the kind of persons that rubbing the good intentions of President Muhammadu Buhari on the mud. If this kind of person is doing something like this and Buhari is not saying anything, then somebody is an accomplice. This is so painful. What did they not say when Jonathan was the president, when he wanted to take the battle to the insurgents, they said he was killing their sons and daughters. Now you are saying that they should compensate them when we have widows, widowers, old and young, and aged and people’s businesses destroyed, and you are not talking that they should be compensated.
Less than two years to leave office, President Buhari is still battling with the issue of insecurity. How would you rate his achievements?
I think he is the one to answer that question because he has a bond with Nigerians. He made promises to Nigerians and they trusted him. They gave him the mandate. Nigerians should begin to make demand from him and ask, Mr. President, how far with this market? You told us that you were going to do this and do that, now that you have less than two years to go, how far about the business of governance. He should be able to answer the people. I don’t know how to answer it because I am not a politician. The situation in Nigeria is worrisome, it is troublesome. The economic activities in the North have crumbled. Travel to airports and big cities in the North, the economic activities are dull and inactive because of insecurity.
Again, most Nigerians are saying that security situation under Buhari is worse than that of former President Jonathan. What is your take?
Even people like TY Danjuma, General Obasanjo, General Ibrahim Babangida who were at the echelon of power and all those who know the security architecture of this country are saying the same thing about insecurity under this present government. But the question is that do you need a soothsayer to tell a blind man that the rain is falling when the rain is touching him? So, if there is any Nigerian who does not know that the insecurity under this government is worse than during the previous government, such Nigerian is deaf.
What has North actually benefitted under the Buhari government?
Well, I don’t know which of the North you are talking about. Some people believe that they are benefitting as long as the president is a Northerner, and that is the benefit. But if you ask, I will tell you honestly; look at the economy of the North, are we faring than it used to be? Look at the educational system, are we faring better than it was under Jonathan? Look at the future life of Nigerians, look at the level of division among Nigerians, this is the one that even pains me most. I want my daughter to go to Maiduguri and live freely as a Nigerian. I want my friend from Kano to allow his son to go to Benue and establish business there and live well. I want my friend from Rivers State to go to Sokoto and feel free there as a Nigerian. The level of division among Nigerians is very high. We are not talking of Nigerianism, but we are talking about ethnicity and stupid mundane things that do not add to our progress and growth as a nation. This what we are driving at. I will give you one bad example, if you call it bad example; this thing happened in my community between my Igede people of Oju local government and our Tiv brothers of Konshisha local government area of Benue State. I went home and I told them that if the Tiv of Konshisha and Igede of Oju local government areas should protest that the state government should give them good roads, give them light, give them water and industries, I will lead the protest. But we are not fighting government to give us development. We are fighting and killing ourselves, taking development away from us. So my worry today is that we are living with people with suspicion when it should be mutual and peaceful coexistence. If you make a statement they will say because he is a Christian, and if you make a statement they will say because he is a Muslim. They will say he is Hausa, Fulani, Idoma, Yoruba. This kind of parochial attitude will not take Nigeria to the place of development. We are moving with the speed of light; we are retrogressing because of our belief in mundane things. The issue of religion and region, where you come from is pulling us back. So as far as I am concerned, the North is weeping, groaning because insecurity has brought North on its knees. North is not developing. So those who are saying that North has benefited from this government may be those who are benefiting from the system. But is the largest society of the North actually benefiting? The North that is good in agriculture has had its GDP dropped. Is that progress? When our children cannot go to school, is that progress? I was talking to a friend in Lagos to bring some of his products to sell in the North, and he said, God forbid, and that if North is the place to make money, we should keep our money, that life has no value in the North. This is the kind of picture we have created in the hearts of other Nigerians and the world at large. The activities of NGOs from other states to Kaduna is not happening any more because of insecurity. So as far as I am concerned I don’t know if North is benefiting from this government or it is individual that is benefitting. Let the North answer for itself.
With this development you have painted, do you think North can still retain power in 2023?
If you listen to me from the beginning you will agree with me that until we put aside this issue of where the president comes from, we will continue to groan in the dark. It is not about where the person comes from, it is about what the person can deliver. When President Umar Musa Yar’Adua became the president of this country, Jonathan was his vice. Yar’Adua did not care whether you are Southerner. He was concerned about giving dividends of democracy to Nigerians. Did anybody complain? When General Yakubu Gowon was the Head of State, did anybody complain? It is not about where the person comes from, it is about who has the interest of the populace of Nigeria at heart. Somebody who is ready to deliver and take us to another level of development. So when people begin to cluster and say power must go to the South, North or West, I say to myself I don’t blood care where the president comes from as long as such leader can solve problem of insecurity so that I can go about my normal business. Those who are struggling for power shift are the enemies of this country. They keep on saying that power must change hands. Many Nigerians don’t care about where the president comes but who has the interest of Nigerians at heart and the capacity to ensure protection of life and property.
Recently, CAN at the national level agitated for a president of Christian extraction in 2023 elections. What’s your take on this?
Well, I don’t even know at what Forum that decision was taken. So, when I am not part of a decision that was taken, I am telling you that my concern as Sunday Oibe is to have a president that can make Nigeria compete with the rest of the world. It was in 1982, 1983 that we said Ghana must go. Today, the same Ghana is telling Nigerians to go from their own country. There are alot of Nigerian children schooling in Ghana. Do you know how much Nigerians are investing in their educational system. I don’t want to comment whether CAN said they want Christian president, but what I am saying if we must move forward as nation we must put aside mundane things like ethnicity, religion, region, where the person comes from.
Igbo from the Southeast want to produce president in 2023. But some Nigerians are saying they should drop agitation for Biafra, otherwise it will be a mirage for them to realise their political ambition in the affairs of Nigeria. What is your reaction?
Igbo have constitutional rights to agitate. This will make them not to remember again the civil war, but to see themselves as one Nigeria. They should be given their rightful place in the affairs of this country. Igbo man can survive without government. They have proven that they are the only tribe that can survive outside government. They are simply telling us that they should not be treated as if they are second class citizens in this country. If you allow them to do their businesses in Sokoto, Maiduguri and any other place without molestation, I can tell you that an Igbo man does not care who becomes the president of Nigeria.But if they want to produce president, it is their democratic rights, they have to agitate for it. And it is left for Nigerians to elect the person they feel has the capacity to lead the people, and if such person come from the Igbo, why not. If he comes from Hausa, Igede, Tiv, Igala, Ijaw, Birom, Idoma, Ngas etc, why not. And that is what Igbo people are trying to tell us. Give Igbo man governance to combine with his business acumen, I tell you that in the next five years, Nigeria will become Dubai.
The Federal Government has concluded plans to increase fuel pump price to N340 per litre by February 2022. What is your advice to the government?
I am appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari as the father of Nigeria who promised to bring succour to the people that he should know that people are suffering all over the country. What the people are passing through is enough. I am begging him for the sake of future generations he should not increase the fuel pump price for now. We don’t need it. But I want to ask, is fuel only the source of income for Nigeria? Can’t our leaders put on their thinking caps for something else to be done? Where are those Nigerians that occupied the streets when Jonathan wanted to increase fuel pump price? Where are the traditional rulers, where are the religious leaders, where are the captains of industry? Where are the activists who occupied the streets during Jonathan’s administration. My heart bleeds because those who occupied the streets are in Buhari’s government today. I am begging you Mr. President, don’t increase the pump price because it will worsen the socio-economic plights of the downtrodden. Increasing it from N165 to N340 will be unbearable. Please, Mr. President, my hands are up, don’t increase the price. Consider another source to generate revenue. Many youths are jobless to withstand the pains of this increase. Whoever told you to increase fuel pump price is an enemy of the masses.
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