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State of the nation: Igbo will suffer if they secede – Senator

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Senator Muslihu El-Jibrin Doguwa was chairman Senate Committee on Agriculture between 1999 and 2003
59 years after independence, how do you  view the country’s political development so far?

We have to be grateful to our founding fathers. Those who fought for our independence in 1960 must be appreciated. We must appreciate their zeal, courage and determination that led to our independence despite all the odds. Secondly, we have to appreciate them for uniting themselves even with their differences. You can see Sir Ahmadu Bello from the North, Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe from the East and Chief Obafemi Awolowo from the West. There are a lot of others like Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Malam Aminu Kano and a lot of them who joined their hands together, kept aside their political differences and got us independence 59 years ago.

Unfortunately, the question now is have we been able to manage that unity we inherited from them?   The answer is no, we have not.

One can understatnd that in 1979 when Alhaji Shehu Shagari became the first Executive President, Malam Aminu Kano was in the opposition but he gave advice on how the country could be governed.

But today there are a lot of differences, and changes. People don’t want to share their knowledge with the opposition, the opposition doesn’t want to share its knowledge with the party in government. When you talk about unity and political development in Nigeria one will surely see that there is a very long way to go. On would ask, what are we trying to leave behind as legacy for our people?

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The legacy we are now leaving is not a unifying legacy. When you look at your people, when you look at your children do you see them living along the same trend? Those from the South, East and West do they see themselves as Nigerians?

To the contrary, now, people don’t see themselves as Nigerians first. I see myself as a northerner, the other sees himself as a southerner and on and on. More so, even in the North, I see myself as a Kano man and I will not share my views with somebody from Jigawa, Kaduna or Sokoto. That shouldn’t be the case. We are supposed to see ourselves first as Nigerians then as northerners as the case may be so that the unity we inherited from our founding fathers will be meaningful and useful to us.

There is a very long way to go when you talk of political development. We have developed in terms of population, we have developed in terms of building houses and roads but have we developed in our desire to be good people that are honest, sincere or transparent? Are we really as good as we should be? Are we  a committed people trying to move the country forward?

Talking about unity what are your views on the agitations of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB for Biafra Republic?

Let me tell you about this issue of IPOB, Afenifere and northerners, we don’t see ourselves as Nigerians. During the days of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, he talked about Nigeria, he talked about the problems in the East, he talked about the problems in the West and there was that regional issue; the Northern Region, the Southern Region and the Eastern Region and the rest. When the leaders came together with each one coming to present a case for his region, they discussed it wholly. But today that you have 36 states, each member is talking about his state; when you go back to his state you have about 43 constituencies with each one talking about his own constituency. So, at the centre how would one be satisfied when there are 360 federal constituencies? When you come to Kano, for example, how do you expect somebody to satisfy 44 constituencies?

The issue is that those people in IPOB, and similar movements agitations were not around when our founding fathers were talking about the unity of this country. That is why they are bastardizing the thinking of our youths and putting them on the wrong path, thinking that when they secede they will succeed. Whoever secedes from Nigeria as it is today will not succeed.

Let me tell you this, especially the IPOB that has made it an issue, if they are allowed to go they will cry. Let me give you a simple example, can you tell me any small village in Nigeria today that you cannot find an Igbo man? You can’t. You can’t tell me of a small village in this country where you will not find an Igbo man doing his small business or trade. When they secede will they then say they are going back to their own country? Do you think we in the remaining Nigeria will allow them to continue to stay in our villages or in our own part? Or will they allow our people to stay in their own part? No, they will not.

There must be some systematic procedures for somebody to stay in your place. Go to Sudan where they were separated into Southern Sudan and Northern Sudan, do you think somebody from Southern Sudan can just go and stay in northern Sudan just like that? He can’t because it is no more his country. It is the same thing that will be of Nigeria, everyone would have to move to his own region. We have properties in their region and they also have a lot of properties in our region. They have forgotten that history is meant to be used in shaping the future.

I did my NYSC in Rivers State, in 1979. Then the issue of abandoned property was still lingering in the state between the Igbo and the people of Rivers and up to tomorrow that issue is still there.  The Igbo people have forgotten the issue of abandoned properties in Rivers. What  would they do about that one? How would they go about it? So, the IPOB and other people who are agitating for secession or revolution and things like that are only wasting their time. There will be no revolution in Nigeria and there will be no section of Nigeria that will go its own way.

What is your take calls for restructuring of Nigeria?

That is what we are yet to understand and our people are not yet educated on the issue of this restructuring. Maybe people are misconceiving restructuring to mean independence. It is not. Restructuring is probably: in the North, we are farmers, we have lands, we will develop our own ways of using policies that we inherited that can give us peace, utilizing everything but at the centre there is a government. And that government will coordinate the affairs of each region. We are only trying by another way to say we are going back to the former regional government system. That is how I look at it, I may be wrong.

But the issue is that restructuring does not mean independence of regions or independence of sections of the country or even independence of those agitating to leave the country. It is not.

His take on the prevailing waves of terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and other forms of insecurity

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It is unfortunate. Insecurity doesn’t discriminate. You can fall victim of insecurity at any given time.

Even before the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, the issue of insecurity was allowed to be politicised. As it has been politicised a lot of people have different views of it and is what it really is. Between 2013 and 2014 when the real insecurity started we refused to put our heads together. As I said earlier, even the opposition that had good mind were not given the chance to offer their advice. The government in power did not want to listen to the opposition. I think that was the beginning of the problem.

So, many people who were not in government but had insight and knowledge of how to tackle insecurity were not given the chance. Secondly a lot of people that served in security parameters were not given the chance by pooling them together to share their experiences.

I don’t think there was any time or moment when those people from the various military, paramilitary or police were put together to share their experiences on how they handled issues of security during their times. That is why a lot of lacuna were entrenched as regards security. I think now it is becoming very endemic; one cannot travel freely from Kano to Abuja by road; one cannot sleep with both eyes closed; one cannot travel to Zamfara or Sokoto by road freely without fear.

So, I think, the best way is let government identify all those who served, from former IGs, former chiefs of Army Staff, former NSAs, former DGs DSS to put heads together and utilize their experiences and knowledge so that we can move forward on the issue of insecurity.

There is also the issue of intense cry of poverty from the people, unemployment, deteriorating educational   system, dilapidating infrastructure and others. What do you see as the way out?

I am happy that you have brought up the issue. There is so much poverty in the country. Absolutely, there is no doubt about that and it is at this point that I even want to bring up the issue of the Minister of Agriculture, Sabo Nanono. I have seen a lot of comments about his statement that there is no hunger in this country, that even in Kano one can get N30 food to eat and be satisfied. He has his reason for saying that but maybe he was misquoted and I think he should clarify the statement.   Yes, there is abundant food in Nigeria, If you travel from Kano to Abuja, etc, you will see raw foodstuff, rice, etc, on both sides of the road but do the people have the money to buy? You have to use the proper language, that is poverty. When there is food but no money to buy, that is poverty. But when there is enough money and there is no food to buy, that is hunger. Definitely, there must be right choice of words. When you want to use a word you should know where to use it. You want to buy yam but you don’t have money to buy it, that is poverty. But there is yam in the market. But when you have the money to buy and there is no yam in the market, that is hunger. Government should realise all these.

I have so many options. The options can start from the local governments and go up to the states and federal government.

When you initiate a lot of projects, even at the lower level, that is the level of the local governments or states, those who would have come to the cities from the local governments will stay there and work as laborers. Some are masons, some are carpenters, some are selling nails, some are selling iron sheets, some are selling cement and a value chain will be created. By the time they award a project for the construction of one school at the cost of N10m or N15m, it can create a lot of jobs in a local government. How much more jobs will be created if such project is done in 20 local governments? How many people do you think will be engaged? Many people will be engaged. If I am engaged as a labourer and I am paid N1000 per day, I will go and but two measures of garri and the person I buy the garri from will also make profit and will go and buy shirt. The person he buys   shirt from will also make profit and will go and buy cement to mend his house and on and so forth. That is the value chain I am talking about. With that  there will be money in circulation and poverty will reduce.

But when there is no project, no job created. Even, if you go back to the farm, a bag of fertilizer costs N9,000. A farmer might decide to buy but deep down in his heart he will be thinking that he is going to lose because hardly that he will make up the N9,000 he spent on fertilizer. The government should come up with projects that will engage people. Those who are going back to farm, let the government help them; those who are artisans they should create activities for them.

So, if the government is determined to reduce the level of poverty in the country they can do it because they have every apparatus to do it.

On controversies trailing the government’s quest for more foreign loans

I don’t see anything wrong in loans. Is America not the biggest economy in the world? If the Americans tell you the loans they have procured you will be surprised. So, it is the utilization of the loans that matter. How do you effectively utilize the loans? Do we use it judiciously or we only squander it or allow other people to steal it and turn it into their personal property? But if you can obtain a loan that you can judiciously utilise, I want to assure you that there is nothing wrong with that.

At the point we are today in Nigeria, government policies don’t seem to be popular among the people. These include stiff taxations, border closures and others, what is your take on this?

I strongly favour border closures. I want to tell you this. From the time these boarders were closed, have you imagined the development in agriculture? Our farmers are booming now. Formerly, a bag of rice that is not milled sold for N6000-N7000 but now, it sells for about N10,000-N12,000. You can now see how our local rice is being patronised. Instead of closing our eyes and asking why should the borders be closed, let us see the advantages of closing the borders. Formerly, our borders were so porous, any car can come in with whatever they wanted to, they can walk in because things were left unsupervised. Today because our borders are closed a lot of   things were discovered.

This issue of insecurity is gradually being minimised or at least we are now seeing where these problems are. No  Nigerian ever thought that a group could hold Nigeria to ransom like Boko Haram did. Did we care to find out where these problems come from? We cannot say because we are not part of the government and we are not part of the security. Naturally, we believe that there are contributions of other countries who are supporting this because they don’t want Nigeria to be in peace. If Nigeria is in peace, I don’t think there is any country in the world that can match the development of Nigeria. God has endowed Nigeria with everything that we need. We have the human and natural resources, we have the land. Look at the mineral resources that are abundant in every state in Nigeria. Did we harness them? We didn’t.

Look at China coming to get what they want from Nigeria as raw materials. They utilize it, bring it back and sell it to Nigerians. Everything we are buying from China, the raw material is almost coming from Nigeria. That is part of the issue of restructuring we are talking about. Let’s go to Takai, there is glass, let’s go to Takai where we have coal, let’s go to local governments where there are mineral resources and harness them and sell to Europe and other parts of the world.

Let us get our money as revenue. That is why you can’t go to other places and see beggars on the streets. You only see beggars in Nigeria and even the beggars in Nigeria are mostly from the North and the North is a place where you have almost everything with which you can become a rich man. The richest people in this country are from the North. There are silent rich people that are not known and there are people who are very rich and are known to the world. Is there any other state or place in Nigeria that has business moguls like Kano State? The big time oil moguls are from Kano. Even those of them that are not from Kano are residing in Kano. That is the kind of synergy we want.

And the closure of the border   like I said is yielding result now. This is in my own opinion. I am not a security man, I am not a customs officer but certainly I know from the beginning there will be some difficulties and gradually things will come down. Just a while ago I enquired about the prices of rice and I was told that it has started coming down. So it will stabilize with time. They didn’t open borders, they didn’t bring rice into this country but it is our own that is being sold.

Secondly, did we even bother to ask how long the rice they are importing into the country have been with them. But you are taking fresh rice from Nigeria. The only thing we can do is let the government find market for our farmers outside the country. Let our rice go out there and compete with those coming from other countries. Let our rice mills improve their milling systems so that they can mill better rice which can be taken to other parts of the world to compete with rice from other countries. And we have a lot of other crops, and fruits.  In 2001 or 2002, I was the chairman senate committee on agriculture, I know how then President Olusegun Obasanjo fought to get market for casava producers in the country, and he got it. I don’t know how that thing went into oblivion.

On the discovery of oil in northern Nigeria

I am so happy, very happy. Even this agitation coming from the south is as a result of oil because they see us (North) as parasites. To God be the glory. I sincerely thank President Muhammadu Buhari because it was courage and determination that made this happen. In 2001, it was in the pipeline but never saw the light of the day due to political interests. I have a friend, Senator Matori, I know how he had fought for this oil well in Bauchi. He fought for it when we were in the Senate. Unfortunately, we could only legislate but had no powers to send people to start investigating before it becomes a reality. Fortunately, it is during President Muhammadu Buhari that it has become a reality. I am happy and sincerely thank President Buhari for taking the North out of this messy situation where somebody will just wake up and say Northerners are parasites. With this development nobody can look at us from the north and say we are parasites.   There are also a lot of areas where hopefully we will get more. In Sokoto, around Tangaza we have oil, we have it in Borno in the Chad basin, we have in Kogi at the border with Enugu. It is just about courage and determination and utilizing the resources to get this thing done. It is my hope that before President Buhari leaves office we will have about four or five states with oil so that they will be among the oil producing states of the country.

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