By Sunday Ani
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and former Deputy Speaker, Jigawa State House of Assembly, Yawale Abdu Yankwashi, in this interview, speaks on the worsening insecurity situation in the country, restructuring, state police and which zone should produce the presidency in 2023.
Many Nigerians, including some past leaders, such as Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, have all expressed fears about the looming danger following the level of insecurity in the country. How did we get to this sorry pass and how can we get out of the mess?
Actually, what Gen Abubakar said is the simple truth, especially with the spate of kidnapping of school children. I think we have to embark on prayer because I believe that prayer can change any situation.
Secondly, Mr. President has to call the national security meeting where former presidents and security experts will attend to brainstorm and find an enduring solution to the matter. I believe that when they meet, they will be able to come up with solutions that could restore the dignity of this country.
Recently, the Senate called on the presidency to declare a state of emergency on security; do you think that is all the senate can do in this circumstance?
Yes, that is what they can do because they are just legislators. Their job is to advise and show directive because they were elected by the people and they receive complaints from their people. They advised the president to declare a state of emergency on security based on what their constituents are saying, but calling for a state of emergency doesn’t mean that those who are at the top will relinquish their seat. No, it simply means that the presidency should make adequate provision of funds to acquire more arms and ammunition for the security agents to be able to confront and defeat the bandits.
The other day, the Minister of Defence called on Nigerians to defend themselves against bandits and terrorists. Since it is illegal to carry arms in Nigeria, how does the minister want Nigerians to defend themselves from attacks by those bearing deadly arms like AK47?
It is very difficult under such circumstances but you should also know that self defence has a lot of definitions. You can defend yourselves by forming vigilance groups in communities, which will arouse the spirit of being vigilant on the people; and not necessarily bearing arms.
But, if you form a vigilance group without arms to confront the bandits when they come, how do you defend yourselves against them?
You know there are so many ways to catch a rat. They have their own tactics and techniques. The vigilance groups that would be formed will have to collaborate with the security agents within the area. Recently, some constabularies were recruited here in Jigawa and a few other states in the North. Some of them bear arms; others don’t, but they work hand in hand with the security agents to protect the lives and property of citizens.
Some Nigerians have argued that the minister’s call for self defence against bandits and terrorists is a subtle acceptance that the government has failed to protect the lives and property of citizens. Do you agree with the submission?
I disagree with that. I cannot come to that conclusion yet because you know the government is doing its best. I think the government is doing all it can to ensure that peace is restored in the system and lives and property are properly secured. So, the minister’s call cannot mean the government’s acceptance of failure to secure the lives and property of citizens.
When the Senate is calling for a state of emergency on security, and a former president as well as the Northern elders are all saying that anarchy looms as a result of insecurity; is that not an indication that the government is losing grips in its primary responsibility of securing lives and property of citizens?
The issue of security challenge is a global thing. What we witnessed before 2015 was Boko Haram insurgency, particularly in the North East. But, this time around, we have more than that. The Boko Haram insurgents are still there, but we now have the bandits and the Fulani herdsmen also. Maybe, those are what the Northern elders noticed before they told the president that the country is on fire under him because it is their primary responsibility to draw the president’s attention to such issues. In Zamfara, Niger, Katsina states and other parts of the country, the bandits are there. So, the government needs to take adequate measures to ensure the protection of lives and property.
The former Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi 11, kept shouting about the dangers of the continued almajiri system in the North and the need to get the children back to school but nobody listened to him.
Some people have also argued that banditry has become a lucrative business in the North because the majority of Northern youths live in abject poverty; how true is the statement?
Really, people are living in abject poverty here. There is no doubt about that. Youths get involved in banditry because to them, it is a lucrative business. They make so much money from it and you know that whatever business you earn so much money from becomes lucrative. But, there are so many youths who are just sitting idle, doing nothing; so they will jump at whatever that will engage them and earn money for them. Although, most often, when they are being recruited, they don’t know the kind of job they are going to do. They only realise very late that they are into banditry, and then, they will have no choice than to continue. So, job creation will reduce banditry.
Most state governors and Nigerians are angling for the creation of state police, but the Federal Government is insisting on community policing. Where do you stand?
Each of them has its pros and cons. The state police will be partisan during elections because they will be funded by the state government, so they will always dance to the tunes of the state governors. They will even become agents of the state during elections. But, the advantage of it is that it will create employment for the youths, and that will drastically reduce the number of idle hands among the youths.
On the other hand, the community police will take instruction from the Federal Government; so they will conduct their affairs just like the Nigeria Police. But, they are selected within the community and they are going to work in their community. So, I believe they will help to reduce crime and banditry in our communities because they live among the people. I think they can also help out.
The argument for and against restructuring has been on for a while now. Some people have warned that without restructuring, Nigeria is going nowhere. Where do you stand on the issue of restructuring?
There is no need for restructuring of the country. We just need to get out of this security challenge because I think that is what is causing this call for restructuring. Once we are done with the security challenge, the country will be better and the economy will improve.
The proponents of restructuring are saying that so much power is concentrated in the centre and that is why we have all these problems.
They insist that if power is decentralized to the federating units, there will be competition among states and Nigeria will develop to a great nation; do you agree with such an argument?
I think that one is acceptable; I agree with that. It is a welcome idea. Power should be shared among the federating units; I agree totally with that.
The 2023 presidency is generating arguments among Nigerians. Some people in the North want power to remain there. The Southwest Yoruba are pushing for one of their own, even as the Southeast Igbo are saying that for equity, justice and fairness, other Nigerians should support their ambition to produce the next president after Buhari in 2023, what is your position in all of these?
This is for Nigerians to decide because we have different political parties and each has its constitution and manifestoes. The constitution of a political party determines the zoning arrangement. The constitution of some political parties allows for zoning while others do not provide for that. In any association, the constitution prevails. For instance, I am a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and with President Buhari completing his eight years in office by 2023, the North West has done its part, so the next presidential candidate of the party, as far the APC constitution is concerned, will go to the South or any other zone different from the president’s zone. But, I want you to know that the constitution is man-made. Maybe, during the congress or convention, they can change it.
I don’t know their plan but the constitution has to be respected. By 2023, Buhari would have spent eight years. The constitution of the APC says the president will come from another zone, subject to the approval of the National Working Committee of the party. But, they may change it somehow. If the APC maintains that status quo, another zone will have the presidency.
For the PDP, maybe, it will zone the presidency to the North and for other parties, maybe, they will zone theirs to the South East. But, that is why I said earlier that only Nigerians can decide who they want to vote for as the next president after Buhari because I am sure that political parties will produce presidential candidates from every part of the country. So, it is left for the population to decide who will be their president. When they vote a Northerner, it remains but if they vote a Southerner, nobody can change that.
Your state, Jigawa State, seems to be insulated from the insecurity problems like banditry, terrorism and kidnapping among others. Jigawa is definitely not in the news for insecurity like Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna or even Kano; how are you able to achieve such a feat in a state that is in between Katsina and Kano States?
It is prayer. Secondly, the style of leadership of my governor is different. His government is for all and he doesn’t play with security issues. Whenever he has any information regarding possible security breach, he takes adequate measures to avert it. So, the governor is doing his best to ensure that the state is free from banditry, terrorism and other kinds of crimes that are being witnessed in neighbouring states.