By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Sulaiman Abdulaziz is the spokesperson for the Coalition of Northern Group. In this interview, he examined the security situation across the country and gave a damning verdict that President Muhammadu Buhari would leave a divided nation. Excerpt:
With the rising level of insecurity in the country, some people are calling for the use of mercenaries to help in the fight against insurgency, banditry and kidnapping, but the government is saying it can do it alone. Do you think the government has the capacity?
Apparently, the government lacks the capacity to deal with the security challenges facing the country. For more than five years, it has shown complete lack of capacity and political will to face the security challenges across the country. Everyday communities are sacked; people are being abducted and killed. The security architecture of the country has been overwhelmed. If you look at the number of our security men compared to the population of about 200 million people honestly, they cannot really police this country. Apart from the apparent lack of equipment, there is also low morale among the security forces. You can’t send people to the war front when they are aware that their colleagues who have fallen are not being taken care of. The families they left behind are not being taken care of. Even their own benefits are not paid regularly. These are all hindrances to the preparedness of the forces to meet these challenges. I do agree with those who are calling for the use of mercenaries for immediate result.
In the face of all these, there is still this allegation of mismanagement of money meant for the purchase of arms. What does this recurring issue of mismanagement of security money suggest to you?
It shows lack of political will on the part of the government. We all know about Dasukigate. They could not even prosecute Dasuki and so they had to release him. This time around, it is no longer a mere allegation. It is a statement of fact from the National Security Adviser to the President. People would have expected a serious government to take action. But there is lack of political will on the part of the President. That is why they are coercing the NSA to recount his words. But what he said was unambiguous. There was money for the purchase of arms, but arms were not purchased. You can see from the body language of Mr President. These past Service Chiefs were discredited by Nigerians and immediately they were disengaged, they created some form of immunity for them by appointing them as ambassadors. So, you can see a kind of cover up. Honestly, this administration is not doing what it promised to do especially on these key issues of fighting corruption and insecurity. And you can see the governors confessing that the country is unsafe.
What is your take on the issue of giving amnesty to the bandits terrorizing the people across the country?
It remains the option for the government in the circumstance we found ourselves because they have failed in the duty of applying force. What we have now is the government denying negotiating with them. Since the use of force is not yielding result, I think the best option is to negotiate properly with these bandits and grant them amnesty if possible. How many of them have been arrested and prosecuted? When Kankara students were abducted, not even an ant was killed by the security forces. Not even a shot was fired. Government is denying that insurgents have infiltrated the bandits, but you can see that they have resulted to mass abduction of school children to get attention, which is similar to the strategy of the Boko Haram. It is really a terrible situation.
What is the implication of this mass abduction of school children on the future of education in the Northern part of Nigeria?
We have assessed the situation; almost all sectors are being threatened by this development as far as the North is concerned. First, the economy has been seriously threatened. Pastoralism has crumbled completely. In the agricultural sector, people can no longer to go their farms to farm. Even Bureau De Change business, which is dominated by the northerners is already being threatened. For no reason, they are being arrested. About 36 of them have been arrested and detained for more than two weeks now. Every economic sector of Northern Nigeria is being threatened. It is now the turn of education. You can see that the state governments themselves are closing up schools, which is what the insurgents want. A lot of people in the rural areas will withdraw their children. The fear and uncertainty will also diminish political viability. Now, most of the youths are into drug. We can all see that the North is in trouble. He is ruling the country based on projection not on reality.
Beyond the North, what is the possible effect of the current state of insecurity on the unity and coexistence of the country?
You can see that it is already manifesting. You can see that regional agitations are mounting. People are frustrated; they have lost confidence in the ability of the government to keep the country united. This situation is going to continue unless things change. So, the unity of the country is very much at stake.
The army is talking tough, threatening to clamp down on the agitators. If they take on the agitators and the situation aggravates, do you think they can handle the security situation that will ensue?
One, you cannot deny the people from airing their grievances. You say we are one Nigeria, but you cannot provide a safe environment. There is ethnicity and religious division. And this will continue unless we have a sincere government that can constitute a national conference, where the various nationalities can gather to discuss these issues. On our part as CNG, we are even suggesting a referendum so that we discuss what kind of country we want. Honestly, we have gone far beyond mere rhetoric.
Recently, the governors of the Northern states made a suggestion for the creation of regional security outfit to complement the effort of the security agencies. Why can’t they summon courage and declare support for state police instead of living in self-denial?
These governors in the North are not serious. Even talking about regional security outfit is belated. They are just using it for politics. If they are actually serious, they would have done it long before the situation got out of hand. We in CNG had initiated a regional security outfit in the mode of Amotekun. We suggested Shege Kaafasha, but these same governors, the same Northern elite challenged us and threw away that initiative without any alternative. Now that things are getting out of hand, they are talking about a regional security outfit. They cannot do it because they have failed to come together to suggest a unified form of protection for the people. They only have isolated approach. If Zamfara launches its own approach today, the bandits will go to Katsina. They are too deep in politicking and quest for wealth. Look at how the Southwest was able to come together with their youths, elite and political leadership to bring about Amotekun. Whether we like it or not, Amotekun is helping security situation in the Southwest.
Do you think having state police will help in this matter?
I don’t know why people argue about a name. I think that state police issue is a good thing. I don’t know why they are running away from it. So long the personnel will be selected from their indigenous local government; I think they will even perform better than bringing someone to my village from Port Harcourt. One, our people will not cooperate with him. Two, he doesn’t know the terrain. It is suspicious why some people are running away from it. They are just creating confusion over a name.
Now that it has become a public issue that the Service Chiefs don’t have equipment to fight the insurgent war, how do you expect the government to empower them to effectively perform their duty?
This government has been in perpetual self-denial. They will tell you they have equipment and efficiently trained manpower. Why have they not applied the equipment? Any leader who cannot be advised or criticized is certainly not a good leader.
If this trend continues, what legacy do you foresee President Buhari leaving behind?
He will leave behind a legacy of a failed country. A lot of people are already saying the country has failed and the indices are there. If all somebody about 80 is able to do is to leave a scattered country, then it is quite unfortunate. We are talking about 2023, and you can see that the buildup is not looking healthy at all.