A professor of History at the University of Texas, Toyin Falola, tells OLUFEMI ATOYEBI that Buhari runs the risk of losing popularity before the 2019 elections
Do you think the cattle colony proposal of the Federal Government can solve the problem of frequent killings by Fulani herdsmen?
It is a very dumb idea. I think the government is not going to do that because you cannot go to other people’s land and turn it to a colony for people who do not belong there to stay. Government can come to the southern states that have land and speak to the farmers there to plant grass. Someone, who has interest in trucks can create transport companies to move hay to the North for the herdsmen’s cattle. That is a win-win situation where the farmers benefit and the northerners keep their cattle in their region.
There is no power in the world that allows someone to create a colony on someone’s land. Traditionally, land in Nigeria is part of identity. It is part of what our people use to develop themselves. I cannot just go to Kogi State and say that I am giving your land to Fulani people. The Oyo State governor cannot go to Ogbomoso and tell the people that he is giving their land to Fulani people; that action is a recipe for disaster.
There is something else that the government must do quickly, which is to disarm people with AK-47 rifles. The government, through the police and the army, has the power to disarm them. That has to be done fundamentally. You and I cannot carry guns and be moving around. Why are these small Fulani boys allowed to carry guns on people’s farms and they are not arrested?
There is something we call the nuclear option in politics. If everything has been tried and it does not work, people in Benue State and other areas, where Fulani people are killing, will buy weapons to protect themselves. They will turn themselves into militia and protect themselves and we will have a state of anarchy. If I am a Tiv, Igala or Igede, what am I going to do? Am I going to allow them to be killing my people? Instead of reaching a state of anarchy, the government should disarm everybody.
The other way out of it is the boycott option. If the people in the South refuse to eat beef and suya in three months, the business of these Fulani people will collapse.
People have also come up with the idea of restructuring as a lasting solution to the problem. What is your idea of restructuring?
Restructuring can come in two ways. The government can manage it or the people will do the ultimate thing by restructuring the system. You don’t need permission to restructure. You can do it fundamentally. As citizens or a group of people, you can decide how you want to live. The system can also restructure itself.
But the most peaceful one is for the state to do it as an agenda or clever programme. Bear in mind that African history is full of people taking over to restructure their lives. I spent two years in high school and I joined the Agbekoya movement. I did not finish high school because I was part of the Agbekoya rebellion as a teenager. That was a restructuring agenda that challenged giving our cocoa money to politicians.
You saw how the Agbekoya movement restructured the system in Nigeria. The people warned them but they did not listen. For three years, we made the Western Region ungovernable. That forced the government to reduce farmers’ tax and later abolished it. That was a people’s revolution taking over.
If the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is not careful, it will find itself in a situation it cannot manage as the people fundamentally begin to take the law into their own hands. We should appeal to him not to allow that to happen.
What do you make of the special statement issued by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, warning Buhari not to contest again?
Two things culminated in this anger that the Buhari government brought upon itself. Buhari’s policy of using his own ethnic people as heads of security (agencies) of Nigeria and not talking about it means that he has a political agenda. During the holidays, when people wanted to go for Christmas, there was fuel scarcity.
There is nothing that Obasanjo said in the letter that people have not said – the reckless devaluation of the currency, joblessness, unemployment, political mismanagement, and so on – people have complained about them. At the time he wrote the letter, PUNCH Newspaper wrote an editorial where all these were mentioned.
The only thing that is different is Obasanjo’s policy statement – that the All Progressives Congress is not working and the Peoples Democratic is not working; so, we need a third party. The way he structured this third party resembles the APC that he said is not working and the PDP that will not work. Obasanjo had three opportunities to select good leaders. He brought a dying man called (Umaru) Yar’Adua and the weak man called (Goodluck) Jonathan and he was part of the selection process of the man called Buhari. Why should we trust him to select another person?
We don’t know what Bola Tinubu (APC national leader) will do because if he says that he will not support Buhari, the South-West is gone. Already the South-South, South-East, Middle Belt and the Kanuri are gone. The Boko Haram insurgency is a (source of) deep anger of the Kanuri against the Fulani that has merged into the pre-existing Boko Haram issue. The conflict between the Kanuri and the Fulani dates back to the time that the caliphate was established.
Uthman Dan Fodio established the caliphate. When he wanted to conquer the Kanuri, they refused, which led to the collapse of the dynasty and the emergence of the current dynasty. An anti-Fulani movement is already building in the North-East. Once Tinubu leaves him, that is the end of his regime. That is one scenario.
The second scenario is that he (Buhari) controls the whole security apparatus and the Independent National Electoral Commission. He will drop electronic voting and win the election. You don’t have to ask me why. He only has to fill the ballot boxes and he is back in Aso Rock. So, he also has his own nuclear option which is ‘if you don’t want me, I can rig the election’. He has the power to do that. In the next 12 months, there will be no governance in Nigeria. What we are going to have is politicking; nobody will be talking about development anymore. They will talk about it as empty promises, which is what they are clever at doing.
History seems to be in extinction in secondary schools, but it is still a course in tertiary institutions. Are you not worried?
History is back in our secondary schools now, thanks to the likes of Prof. Chris Ogbogbo. We cannot thank him enough. I led a delegation to Obasanjo and later some professors went to (former President Goodluck) Jonathan. They promised to do something about the subject in secondary schools but they did nothing. Buhari said history would be back and he delivered. The Historical Society of Nigeria under Prof. Ogbogbo is putting together a syllabus at the state and national levels. We are grateful that this is back.
Will this syllabus be a replica of the old syllabus that taught the ancient history or will it be an updated syllabus?
It will be a combination of both because they are all useful. The mistake they made in the past was that they did not tell us why they were teaching us what they taught us. I was part of those who drew the history examination for West African Examination Council and I wrote three volumes that they were using in schools but there was a fundamental flaw in what we did. We were teaching the pupils narrative history. We were not telling them the reason for what we were teaching them. The syllabus now must be clear on nation-building.
If the core politicians have failed Nigerians, why are the intellectuals taking the back seat?
That idea has been nursed but Nigerian politics is all about money. On the day of the presidential election, if you don’t have up to N1bn, you have no hope of winning. You man polling booths with police, thugs and you pay electoral officers. I am aware of how much a presidential candidate spent on an election day. The system is over-monetised, even the media. You cannot just call Prof. Wole Soyinka to come and contest because where is the money? We have to remove that money from that process.
PERSPECTIVE: How Senator Bwacha Distinguished Himself At The Eight Senate-Emmanuel Bello
He is the Deputy Minority Leader of the eight Senate, but Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, representing Taraba South, is one of the most respected figures in the Nigerian National Assembly. And this appeal is bipartisan as both members of the green Chambers and the red of various political leanings are in unanimity when it comes to assessing the University of Jos trained lawyer.
Bwacha is the quintessential law maker who started from the very lower rungs as member Taraba state House of Assembly years ago. At the state’s level, he’s seen it all: Commissionership, member and insider back home before ascending the ladder in Abuja. It was indeed a powerful preparatory ground. So when, in Abuja, he started from the House of Representatives, he was, in the words of a popular hip hop song, “all way up”!
Bwacha’s colleagues attest to his unique style in the chambers: respect and friendship. His warmth and friendly disposition anchored on a deep sense of the value of humanity is one of his talisman confessed a colleague. Although, Sen. Phillip Aduda, for instance, is clearly a close compatriot of Senator Bwacha, the Donga born politician, is perhaps closer to many of his colleagues than is readily known. And this cuts across the age and status divide. There is practically no senator involved with Bwacha that does not feel he is with a special friend. And Bwacha knows how to be jocular with all of them, understanding their individual quality, even playful nicknames. So while he could laughingly tap the back of a Dino Melaye as a younger brother, Sen. Gemade, for instance, could easily relate to the courageous “Jukun boy” from Taraba state. The elderly Senators often pull the younger Senator Bwacha aside for commendations and for boldly speaking their mind.
Courage! This is one of the reasons Bwacha’s views are highly regarded in the Senate. Never scared of baring his mind on even controversial issues, Senator Bwacha would even tread on grounds seen as politically slippery. He once boldly made a case for decent dressing- an area many may want to avoid as not to offend the ever fiesty modern fashion scene. But once Sen. Bwacha is convinced about a matter, he chases it with unbridled zeal.
On security matters, Sen. Bwacha was very vocal when he condemned the weakness of the security agencies in tackling the herdsmen menace. He dropped the bombshell when he suggested the Federal Government admits its failure and seek for external help if it thinks the battle was too hot.
When Bwacha is on his feet, it is always pin drop silence on the floor as he brings deep perspective on issues. A delight of the Senate Presidents, Bwacha’s views always come in handy in unravelling knotty issues.
But it is behind closed doors that Senator Bwacha’s measure and stature is more pronounced when it comes to legislative business. That’s where he brings in his wealth of experience, his years in the minefield and his familiarity with power to weigh on matters of national development.
Decency also stands him out. A respected Christian leader, often leading the devotional sessions in the senate, Bwacha does not suffer fools gladly. Firm and principled, not for him the Epicurean preoccupation of powerful men in Abuja. Spare time goes to family and his constituents. Work and worship takes up the rest. A devote Christian of the CRCN hue, his convictions are deep and engaging. He believes in shunning materialism, while rejecting primitive accumulation. He says pride is the cardinal sin of man and so Sen. Bwacha strives to be humble at all times. Not flamboyant or extravagant, he cuts the image of a genial next door neighbor.
This has helped in shaping up his leadership qualities: honesty, plain talk, ability to easily forgive, compassion, kindness, meekness among others.
His understanding of how the Executive works is also an arsenal in his kitty. Being a former Commissioner and someone very close to several governors and ministers has helped. A receipt of the prestigious Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), Senator Bwacha is atop his game in this city of power, even as he retains his principles and sterling character.
Let Anybody Lead This Country, Not PDP – Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari has again faulted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for allegedly mismanaging the nation’s resources.
He stated this at a meeting with a select group of South East leaders on Friday at the State House in Abuja.
The President believes that although the forthcoming elections should not be a do or die affair, he will never support the opposition party to rule the country.
“Let anybody lead this country but not the PDP,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu.
President Buhari added, “They (PDP) were so reckless with the resources of the country. The state of infrastructure we inherited was terrible – no roads, the railway was killed and power.
“They lacked conscience because anybody with a conscience will not do what they did. We will report them to Nigerians.”
The President noted that the reported split within the Ohanaeze Igbo socio-cultural group over the purported endorsement of the PDP candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, did not come to him as a surprise.
He said the moment the said resolution was announced, he got calls from some leaders from the region asking him to disregard it as it was without any substance.
“From that moment, I knew that the resolution would not stand, and alas, there it was,” said President Buhari who added, “We have done so much. Given the chance, we will do more. Given every chance, we will tell Nigerians where we were in 2015 and what we have achieved up to now.”
He stressed further, “We will not get tired of speaking about the golden opportunity Nigeria lost during 16 years of the PDP. We earned money, which we didn’t use.
“If you ruin the economy, send your children abroad to get an education; won’t they come back? I said it 30 years ago that this is the only country we have. We must stay here and salvage it together.”
The leaders of the delegation, Mr Emeka Ekwuosa and the National Chairman of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Mr Chekwas Okorie, promised to mobilise support for the President in the South East.
They informed him that his re-election would be a national consensus, adding the people of the South East understood the good things he was doing for the country.
Saraki, Lai Mohammed in Battle for Supremacy as Kwara Holds By-election
It will be a test of popularity and acceptance today for President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed and President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki as they battle for control of Kwara politics in the by-election for Irepodun/Isin/Oke-Ero federal constituency.
The seat became vacant following the demise of Princess Funke Adedoyin.
President Buhari had charged the All Progressives Congress (APC) members in the state headed by Lai Mohammed to take back the state from Saraki who defected from the ruling APC to the main opposition party- Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Although, Lai Mohammed, being the highest office holder in APC from Kwara comes from Oro, Irepodun Local Government Area, which is within the federal constituency in contest, Saraki, who is highly influential in the state, would prove that he remains in control and could command followership even after dumping his former party.
Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has distributed sensitive electoral materials to all the four local government councils where the exercise will take place.
Thisday reports that tension has gripped residents of the state, following alleged arrest of some PDP officials and members in the constituency by men allegedly in police uniform. .
Besides, scores of the PDP members in Ajase-Ipo in Irepodun Local Government Area of the state had been declared missing in the wee hours of yesterday’s night ahead of today’s by-election.
However, the state police command has deployed 1,500 policemen to maintain law and order during the by-election, which will be a straight fight between Saraki’s PDP candidate Mr. Saheed Alatise and Lai Mohammed party’s candidate, Mr. Raheem Olatunji.
Both parties have been throwing barbs at each other resulting in the palpable tension in the state. Besides, there have been accusations and counter-accusations on plots to rig the election.
The PDP camp had accused the APC leader in the state of planning to “import” political thugs from Lagos and Osun states to manipulate the exercise with the state chairman, Hon. Kola Shittu also alleging plots by the federal government to arrest their party leaders so as to make way for the ruling party to muscle through and rob them of victory.
The APC leadership, on the other hand had accused the PDP of planning to use uncollected permanent voters cards to rig the election.
The state chairman of APC, Hon. Bashr Bolarinwa told journalists that the party advised the INEC in the state to check such illegal plot so as to have a free and fair bye-election.
Tension heightened Thursday over a reported attack on the campaign train of APC’s candidate, Mr. Olatunji by unknown gunmen though no casualty was recorded.
However, the state police command said that it was still “investigating the veracity of the claim raised by the APC candidate for the bye-election.”
The state police Public Relations Officer, Ajayi Okasanmi told journalists in Ilorin yesterday that “the report on the attack was being awaited from the reported area where the incident purportedly happened.” He however assured the people of safety within the area of the by-election and the state generally.
Despite the tension, the two leading political parties campaigned across the federal constituency soliciting the support of the electorates.
Speaking at the campaign rally of the PDP at Omuaran, the headquarters of Irepodun Local Government, the state Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed urged the residents of the four local government councils that make up the federal constituency to come out en masse to vote for the PDP and its candidate, Alhaji Alatise.
He said that the people of the area should allow the good work of the later holder of the seat, Princess Adedoyin to continue.
The governor also urged the people not to be intimidated by the heavy presence of security men in their communities, but should feel free to go out and cast their votes for the PDP.
Ahmed said that the PDP would continue to win election in the state because of the transformation that every section of the state had witnessed between 2003 and now under the administration of Saraki and his own government.
The government in a statement condemned the alleged crackdown on members of the PDP and charged the people to fearlessly guard their votes.
Also at a mega rally of the APC at Omuaran, Alhaji Mohammed urged the people of the area to come out and cast their vote for APC candidate, Mr. Olagunju.
The minister, who condemned the alleged attack on Olatunji by unknown gunmen during his campaign tour of the area, said that the party would work with relevant agencies to ensure free, fair and credible election today, with adequate security before, during and after the election.
He said the election would begin a new chapter for the party and would be used to show the world that the APC was intact and the preferred party.
Meanwhile, INEC said that a total of 170, 918 ballot papers and other electoral materials were distributed to all the four local government councils where the by-election will take place.
Madami also said that “1,855 electoral officers would be involved in the election. A total of 125, 865 PVCs were collected from the four local governments where the election will take place.”
He however restated that the commission would conduct free, fair and credible by-election.
Ahead of today’s election, the police had banned the activities of vigilante groups in the affected areas.
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