“Northern Governors Are Insensitive To The plight Of The North” – AVM Rufa’i

Continued From Last Edition

Considering the leadership crisis in the north and the apparent neglect of the region, do you think the north can stand on its feet again?
The issue of whether we can stand on our own should not arise, the issue that should not continue is a situation in which the governor will just sit down until the end of the month and send his commissioner of Finance and Accountant General to go and collect federal allocation come back, share it amongst themselves and contractors and their families and then nothing happens until next month. That is what should not continue. But they say necessity is the mother of invention; everybody knows that one of the greatest assets of any nation – developing or developed – is the ability to feed its people; the ability to provide food security in terms of providing all their food needs at reasonable price even if they have to import it because there are some Arab countries that have deserts so they cannot grow much but they are able to import through their generated revenue to import enough food at cheap rate for their people. So if we continue this way, waiting for the month end to collect allocation from the federal government, then you know the level of corruption. No emir, no religious leader can force any governor to embark on agric production or any local government chairman to say look this is the main stay of our economy. These are people who will go and collect allocation and spend it on elephant projects and at the end of the day they wait until other allocation comes. They are even asking for more now. If they had prudently used all the allocations they have been getting which ran into billions particularly at the local government and state levels then the northern part of this country would have been a different thing today if you compare it with the southern part of the country because there are developments there but here we are only spending money on flimsy things.
Governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State recently said that infrastructural decay in the north is not due to lack of money but bad policies and corruption. Do you share his opinion?
Of course I do and incidentally he just won election in April last year. I think he is one of the most responsible governors in the north now he belongs to PDP but I mean his achievements are unique in the sense that I have travelled to Kano a lot of times and I can say people are happy that he is back. I don’t know if he had performed much earlier when he was the governor that time may be he wouldn’t have been routed out by Shekarau. I totally agree with him honestly.  Fundamentally, I believe in him because he is doing so much to change the fortunes of Kano people and I have asked people as a member of an opposition even people who sell petrol on the road side and they told me that kwankwasiyya is the best thing that has ever happened to Kano and of course Shekarau was with us in ANPP and of course look at the bills he left even for hotel accommodation across the country and maybe abroad. So I agree with kwankwaso and the second issue is that when it comes to revenue sharing formula I remember during the drafting of the constitution by the armed forces ruling council Dr. Junaidu Muhammed gave me a  write up and of course I even went along with him to lecture the Chief of Defence Staff then Air Marshal Al-amin Daggash then of course globally in international law any oil that is exploited within the state the formula is different from what happens when it is offshore; any oil exploited offshore belongs to the entire country not to the state. So if that is what they are arguing about let it be reviewed but you see they should not be blaming the federal Government for underdevelopment of the north like the agriculture, they should not blame the issue of federal allocation on northern development; what they need to do instead of making noise is they have their lawmakers starting from councillors, state legislature and the national assembly; they should take their case there but they cannot give the excuse that they need more money comparing Bayelsa with Kano which has more population, that is untenable to me and I believe Governor Kwankwaso is going to prove that with the little you get and the large population he has he can emancipate his people no matter how small.
Some of your military colleagues and even journalists have cried out over the incompetence of General Azazi as the NSA. Do you share their pessimism?
This is a funny question because the question I expected was that whether the president is competent enough to rule the country because he was the one who appointed Azazi based on irredentism. I think the problem we have in this country today could be found in the fundamental error done by General Abdussalam. When I was teaching at NIPSS I sent a participant to General Abdussalami, I said look whatever you do don’t take a short tenure take a longer time to provide for the evolution of political parties based on ideology and of course take time to re-educate Nigerians to vote people not on the basis of taking money; in fact do away with money politics. Unfortunately he didn’t do so because he was using two hands to pack whatever was left at the villa and in the process he handed over within a year. Secondly, the mistake we made was to take Obasanjo who should not have been trusted ever to be the first president in 1999   because Obasanjo was aware of the coup that eliminated our leaders in the north because some of his colleagues from the north believed that he knew about the coup short of participating and they wanted to kill him. Also when Murtala was eliminated he was usually the first person to come to the office he didn’t that day he was hiding in S.B. Bakare’s house in Alexander Street in Ikoyi and he was still given the opportunity to take over from Murtala despite the fact that people knew that he knew about the coup. He was in jail we now brought him out so the whole problem is that of our northern leaders including our traditional leaders who always endorse wrong people. When you talk about Azazi’s case you should blame the northerners who are bearing the brunt now including religious and traditional rulers for endorsing Jonathan’s presidency by taking money in the process. Now he became president and he is choosing people from his own area. Since Daggash became Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) no northern officer has become CDS its either Niger Deltan or south-west. For the first time now they have appointed an Igbo man to be the head of the army. So I think the whole problem lies with our politicians who endorsed this fallacy of allowing this fisher man to become president and in the process gather his own people around him at the expense of security in Nigeria. Azazi is not the best person; there are even civilians who are better than him. The fact that Azazi was director of  military  intelligence doesn’t qualify him to even be chief of the army, he later even became CDS and look at the succession; first it was Ogbemudia who was General Officer Commanding (GOC) in Kaduna that was the time they were breaking the armoury sending weapons to the Niger Deltans. After Ogbemudia was made Chief of Army Staff, they brought Azazi as the GOC in Kaduna then Azazi took over from Ogbemudia when Ogbemudia was made CDS. Azazi was now removed from one division Kaduna and made the army chief and when Ogbemudia left they now asked Azazi to take over from Ogbemudia as the CDS so the issue of security is left in the hands of Niger Deltans and particularly Tony Anennih and other funny northern politicians who have always sat down to endorse such appointments without saying a word and that is the problem we are facing now they are just making money. Azazi is a very greedy person he has been making money out of this situation even during the Niger Delta crisis when he was army chief.
Are you satisfied with the development in Kaduna under Governor Patrick Yakowa?
Yes I think Yakowa as an individual is a nice person, a very responsive and responsible person. What is happening is that even if he doesn’t perform he is just a victim of the political culture in Kaduna State. I think generally the people of Kaduna State, you know it is a cosmopolitan city and a state where so many people from other parts of the country come to reside, it is their right to do so but in the process they don’t care whether there is development here or not if they can get water to drink, if they can get small things that’s all. I think we have to change our attitude, he inherited this security situation which is caused mainly by his own people anyway when they kept shouting that they have been dominated but I think his fundamental problem is that of his own party the PDP because the party at all levels has not conceptualize politics in terms of services to the people but merely to rule the people they so much believe in winning and they so much believe in winner takes all to the extent that anytime after elections or even before election they will mobilise all the resources they can – public funds, public institutions including the army the police to win elections. That has been the modus operandi of the PDP at all levels in each election from 1999 to date and in the process when they win they now start celebrating to the extent of calling themselves the most popular party which is not true and also the biggest party in Africa that is what they have conceptualize right from the beginning in 1999 to the extent that even Ogbulafor was saying that they are going to rule for sixty years. Now immediately after each election what they do is to start planning for the next election and in the process they cannot provide any services to the people; they end up using most of their time politicking. In the case of Kaduna State I think from the so called insecurity that has been enshrined in the lives of Nigerians living in Kaduna State, which is induced by the fact that all the panels that were set up to look into the sectarian or tribal crises in Kaduna State have not been implemented and in the process you find that even people who know those who killed their parents or their kith and kin are found walking the streets within the same neighborhood but they only rely on emirs, traditional rulers and religious leaders to pacify the people by telling us to be calm quoting the Qur’an and the bible, telling us what God meant when He made this one Christian, this one Hausa Fulani, this one Jaba and so on and particularly Yakowa. Now they are relying on that concept to keep on telling people that they are working for peace and peaceful co-existence in the process they neglect development. So Yakowa will not be out of the ordinary and currently we are witnessing a situation in which even the presently elected members of the House of Reps, state assemblies are also introducing another concept to development, that of buying motorcycles to give the electorates who are always chosen, those who are errand boys during election or those who perpetrated rigging for them.  So all these factors negate against any serious person like Yakowa sitting down to say well, look instead of listening to people from southern Kaduna or from northern Kaduna and take their advise on how to develop the state by dishing out motorcycles, building boreholes here and there will not allow not only Yakowa but any person who is even more serious than Yakowa to sit down and conceptualize the development of agriculture or revival of agricultural production. Also injecting in healthcare development; so that is the issue time will tell whether he will succeed but the average Kaduna State citizen prefer you give him money rather than even build a culvert for them in their area; so that is the issue PDP as a party is not disciplined enough to make their governors and all other elected members to account for their deeds.
People in the south-south have started flexing muscles and issuing threats that Jonathan must be returned to contest the 2015 presidential election. What do you have to say on that?
They are just making noise but it is not their fault because based on experience Obasanjo even wanted to go for third term and only God helped us because that time there were some semblance of morality, the emirs and traditional rulers including his own people and also religious leaders were against it otherwise he would have succeeded. Everybody knows how PDP wins elections – they share money to all those who are against their objectives – so one could say that they are making noise for now because the time has not come yet and let us even hope that Jonathan will last long enough without being impeached by the national legislators with all the tendencies that he has been exhibiting, traveling out for conferences, spending more time drinking and his inability to bring together all Nigerians rather than doing so he surrounded himself with his brethrens and in the process I cannot see him conduct himself in any way that he could merit even with his own party to return in 2015. But of course that is not even the issue, the most dangerous thing going around now is that he intends to use Tony Annenih and Obasanjo who is number one enemy of Nigeria and Nigerians today to review the constitution and bring in seven year term as a new electoral policy so that he can contest afresh to do the first seven years just like Wade of Senegal has tried to do but you now see what happened in Senegal and I believe with all the neglect in development and also with the issue of this oil subsidy thing and the massive corruption and the abject poverty which they put Nigerians through and I believe the western powers notwithstanding, I don’t think Nigerians will sit down and allow Jonathan or even PDP to win elections in 2015. It is our hope that the western world who have been supporting all this fallacy called democracy in Nigeria, particularly the United States and Britain which has been our colonial masters, should have risen to the occasion whenever there was  rigging to condemn such rigging and reject the result of that election. But of course you can see that as long as the oil flows whether through bunkering or through legal means, as long as they get their energy supply from Nigeria they don’t bother; but I believe they have a portion of the blame. They should not stop at what the American Ambassador has been saying that there has been neglect of agriculture and that there is abject poverty in Nigeria and youth unemployment which has been the bane of most governments particularly in the Arab world which we have being witnessed. If there is any crisis in Nigeria it affects the entire West African sub-region and beyond, so I believe the western powers have a responsibility to Nigerians not to support any future rigging by PDP and to also think seriously about the repercussions of anything similar to what happened in Egypt or any of the Arab spring nations so that they will put PDP to order or under control. I don’t believe Jonathan won the election, of course the first only election PDP won was in 1999 simply because people were fed up with military regime but thereafter all the elections were rigged and the western powers have supported this fallacy and they have supported this rigging which has now been so institutionalized to the extent that anytime there is election, the first people to endorse the election and give it credibility are the western world at the expense of Nigerians. It is very irresponsible on their part and particularly I condemn the Americans for supporting any aid programme to Nigeria while they were watching our political leaders stealing public funds and creating capital flight and causing unemployment and also neglecting food security for our people only for them to now say that there is democracy in Nigeria when they know truly we are not practicing democracy here.
How would you assess CPC legislators especially in providing the much needed opposition?
I think they are up and doing but they are becoming victims of sharing motorcycles. Maybe when you give out sawing machines to unemployed women that is a good thing but the whole idea is for them to sit down if they are really in opposition and force the PDP government to embark on agricultural development projects in the country to formulate public policies that will touch the lives of the people rather than distributing motorcycles or teaching the women how to make soap. Many factories are making soap so I don’t know whether by standard their own can compete with anything that has been made in the factory.
Sir, you are a strong advocate of devolution of powers. Can you tell us more about it?
Decentralization of powers or devolution of powers in Nigeria is the best solution that will force all states to develop at their own rates and it will force the local councils to perform their role of providing basic development for the people because they are closest to the people and that was the essence of the creation of local governments and the central government has so much powers and in charge of everything like health, education and so on. I remember when I was serving at the Nigerian embassy in Washington DC when George Bush senior devolved powers to maintain federal highways to states in America and that was a very good decision but we cannot continue to have central control of everything that’s what bring about all these political catwalk which is enshrining a culture of winner takes all.

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