An aviation expert and one-time Managing Director (MD) of the defunct Nigeria Airways, Captain Mohammed Joji, has said that some elements of military rule need to be injected into Nigeria’s democratic system of government to tackle rising cases of banditry and insecurity generally in the country.
In this interview with NOAH EBIJE, in Kaduna, Joji, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) said that military approach in tackling insecurity has become imperative because criminals have taken advantage of human rights campaign under democracy to kill and maim their fellow human beings for no just cause. The aviation expert who has a dual citizenship of Nigeria and British opined that dialogue should give way to fire-for-fire in finding a lasting solution to banditry as well as any form of criminality in the country. The chairman, Skypower Express Airways Nigeria Limited, also spoke on other national issues. Excerpts:
What do you think should be the solution to rising cases of banditry, kidnapping and insecurity generally in the country?
I am for anything that has to do with peace. What people really forget is that to achieve peace we have to involve local leadership for effective security in Nigeria, especially in the North. Local leaders like District Heads, Village Heads and Ward Heads should be involved in finding solution to insecurity. So to have effective security you must involve those leaders. Without this arrangement, you will never achieve peace. How much do you give these leaders, very little money, isn’t it? All the criminals, all the crooks live within the community. The Village Head knows all those that were born in the community. So these are the effective leadership that we always have. But nowadays people are forgetting that kind of leadership. Sometimes, it is the failure of the society that creates insecurity and instability because in the society you know who-is-who but when people don’t involve them, when you relegate them as nonentities, they do whatever they like. What we expect is that every society or community should hold monthly meetings among themselves, take their deliberations to the state government. For example, they can hold meetings about areas in their community that need developments and security surveillance, and take it to the local and state governments for consideration.
Recently four northern governors visited the Oyo State governor in order to broker peace over communal clashes between some northerners in that state and the indigenous Yoruba. However, some people have criticised such visit, saying that the northern governors shouldn’t have made such trip to Oyo State. Are you also of the same view?
To me, sometimes the best form of leadership is based on the line of dictatorship, but with diplomacy and principles. For things to work, you have to put down your foot. That is why sometimes people ask for military rule. But in democracy you can have military attitude otherwise everybody will do what they like. We hear northerners are being killed in Yoruba land. Why should the leaders wait too long to fish out the culprits, and call the police or the military and furnish them with information, instantly? Bullshit! If you do that, nobody will fight again. Sometimes, I see that government is soft on that; government should take a firm stand because we must keep Nigeria as one. You cannot tell me as a Nigerian, I cannot go to Ibadan, I cannot go anywhere. Who are you for God’s sake? There are more Easterners and Westerners in the North. I can tell you that 90 percent of businesses in the North are owned by the Igbo. If they are asked to go back home, they cannot. So government must take a stand to make the country united as one. We don’t want a divided Nigeria. You can create state of emergency. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo created it during his time. He created state of emergency under Governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau State. So you don’t need to be a military leader to take firm decision. In Islam, it is said if everybody in your street goes to bed hungry, it is your responsibility. Sometimes I pity President Muhammadu Buhari because he has 36 states and FCT, Abuja. We have 774 local government areas and thousands of wards. It is impossible to succeed with sycophants surrounding you to preside over 200 million people. So it is important for the President to sit down to appoint incorruptible people to work with him because he is a clean man.
Now coming to the issue of the northern governors’ visit to Oyo; did it solve any problem? They must stamp their feet to achieve result. The federal government should give them freehand to operate. They should be given free hands with weapon, with police and the army. Give it to them, whatever they request to solve the problem. And that is why I always pray that we go back to parliamentary system of government where, for example I can run for election in a particular area, maybe as a councillor. I don’t need to go to the whole Nigeria. The majority party comes together and picks a President. This is very simple. You don’t have the bi-focal legislature where one person is pointed at as having a lot of money. The way I see things, there are a lot of works to be done. I observed in my life what is called professional congratulators. It is related to sycophants. They praise-sing you. If you are bad they will say you are good. They are around. If you find them in government, you will run a very bad government. We should watch out for gossips and avoid them in government. We should work with loyalists and not professional congratulators.
Do we have professional congratulators in this government?
No, I am not implying that; it is not what I am saying. I am only giving caution to every government to beware of such characters.
Some people have called for dialogue with bandits, while others kicked against dialogue, saying that bandits must face capital punishment. Where do you stand on this?
I prefer fire-for-fire. We are too soft on them. If you do fire-for-fire for one week, they will soft-pedal. They are taking innocent lives. As far as I am concerned, I can even do more than fire-for-fire. And, I know that people will be saying it is against human rights. Bullshit, human rights! Human rights is a two-way traffic; if I observe your rights, you must observe my rights. Some people are feeding fact in the name of human rights campaign by going abroad to collect money. If such persons are caught, they should be jailed. Leadership is a serious affair; you must account for every action here on earth and on the judgement day before God. If you are a leader, you are a leader for all, not for one community. And you must practise a bit of dictatorship with diplomacy and little dogmatism. This is the kind of democracy that we have everywhere in the world. All this western world that are saying that they are practising democracy is a lie. It is very few people that control a country. Look at what happened in Florida in America where a woman won senatorial election, and she was denied because they don’t want a woman. That is democracy dictatorship. So, where is democracy they are talking about? That is rubbish. It is no longer democracy. So in Nigeria, let’s look at our democracy. For me, we should rather go back to the parliamentary system of government; it is cheaper and leaner; no permanent legislature, but democracy is permanent with two houses. So, let’s go back to parliamentary system because it is cheaper and leaner.
Would you support the idea of creating state police as being proposed by some Nigerians?
No. This is because some state governors can use them to harass the people. We are not yet mature for state police. Look at our culture and attitude towards elections. How many state governors lose local government elections to the opposition? Are you telling me that there is no opposition? This tells you our nature. It is only in Kaduna State that Governor El-rufai allowed the opposition to win local government election. We saw PDP councillors and chairmen winning election in Kaduna. No state in the country has allowed this to happen, except Kaduna. But the moment you have state police, they will take over all the polling units for the sitting governor. I was young during the era of the premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and Sardauna of Sokoto. My father as Head of Miners had 1,000 workers under him. So Sardauna told my father: ‘look, if I lose the election, your job is finished.’ There were three ballot boxes for NEPU, NPF, and NPC. On the election day, they hid two boxes and people now put their votes into one box that was displayed. So, when the voting was over, they brought the other two boxes, and put few votes into them, while the other box carried the majority votes. So rigging did not start today, it started in the 50s. So rigging is as old as the human race, anyway. So democracy is questionable.
Sir, which political party do you belong to? Are you a member of APC or PDP?
For now, I am in APC. Some of us joined APC because of President Buhari whom we see as a just, clean and transparent man. I will remain in APC till 2023. And by 2023, I have the choice either to join another party or not. It will be free-for-all by that time.