Mamman Danmusa is a second republic senator, and one of the foremost supporters of PMB. In this interview with ANDY ASEMOTA, the Katsina-born elder statesman asserts that a change in economic policies is needed to halt the economic recession. He also bares his mind on other national issues.
In the face of the persistent clamour of different ethnic nationalities and groups for the country to be restructured, what is your position on this issue?
Well, I don’t really understand what those agitating for restructuring of Nigeria need. Nigeria is a federation, although I must admit it is not proper federation as we know it. This is by the fact that states don’t have power which they ought to have in certain areas to determine the direction in which they want to go as far as economic diversification and also to tap local revenue resource. But I think if it is restructuring as it was done in 1963 constitution, before the military regimes took over then when we had four regions – northern, eastern, southern and mid- west regions – really had their own many powers to do things and that is why they were able to establish very sound educational institutions like Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria University and Ahmadu University and also engage in many productive areas which really boosted the economies of the regions. But I don’t think there is any problem. We are for it but what brought all these problems was, I think, the Decree No.34 or was it 1966, promulgated by Gen Aguiyi Ironsi which unified the whole country. It was only after the counter coup when Gen Yakubu Gowon assumed the leadership that the Nigerian federation was restored to its former place to some extent.
Certainly, certain powers which were entrenched in 1963 constitution were left at the centre which really is detrimental. Any serious person will quite agree that if we have true federation it encourages self-confidence, it encourages people of diverse background to work very hard to co-exist with their brothers and sisters in other states. So, if that is the case, there is no problem whatsoever.
What can you say about Nigeria’s future, giving the spate of agitations over true federalism and resource control?
Well, I think we are just starting, there ought to be teething problems and we ought to gradually overcome the problems. America did not become what it is today in just a matter of days. It took many years of experiment and failures before it reached the position that it is today. So that is no problem. We in this part of the country really appreciated and we benefitted from true federalism under 1963 constitution because we had our own institutions that were strong enough and were working for the good of the people. We had Northern Regional Cotton Board, Groundnut Board and so on, which catered for the people for the welfare of the people and we were progressing. In some instances, we had to lend money to the federal government.
It is part of this money that was used when oil was discovered in Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State. So, there is nothing new. Really, we as a people lost a lot because our later-on-leaders made our people to believe that they don’t have to work very hard. But before our people were very hard working and were succeeding in all aspects of live. We in the northern part of the country have been cheated. We are not dependent; we are very hard working people. Go all over Africa, there was a time a Kano man was the richest man in Congo, now Democratic Republic of Congo, Labaran Maichita. So, in Ghana and in African countries, our people (the northerners) are involved in international trade and they were succeeding and we are happy.
So, it is all this oil which brought these problems to us but sometimes, no matter bad something is, it may turn out to be a blessing. For us, really, we are learning in a very hard way during this time because many of our young people were forced to go back to the farm.
Before, if you ask them to go, they would not, but this time around they have been forced by circumstances. The result is this year’s harvest, for a long period, we didn’t have a good harvest, like this. In all sectors – cotton, groundnut, millet, and soya beans – we have them in abundance. It is good for us because as a people we cannot afford to perish. We have to re-invent ourselves. So, that is good for us.
What are the chances that the quests for resource control, restructuring or true federalism would be realized?
These people are funny. What clamour? We are not against all this. We want true federalism because we want to be ourselves. It is only when we have true federalism that we can be ourselves but under the present arrangement we cannot realize our full potentials. PMB has expressed readiness to dialogue with Niger Delta Militants.
What are the prospects of a lasting peace in that region?
You know, that Niger Delta problem is a delicate problem. You know, there are certain political influences there. So, this so called Niger Delta Avengers and other group which sprang up afterwards are nothing but opportunists who are taking the advantages of the confusion within the polity just to make a fortune and to destroy the Nigerian economy that is all.
So, for a long time, the Federal Government had been asking them to come for a dialogue. At a stage they refused, but now we learnt they have agreed to dialogue which is very good but if not, certainly, the federal government has a responsibility as a government to protect its people and all important economic institutions in the Niger Delta.
Can you elaborate on the contention that the militants are taking advantage of the confusion in the Niger Delta?
You see, there was an election which was acclaimed throughout the world to be free and fair and their son, Jonathan lost. Well, we all knew the leaders in the Niger Delta were threatening that if he didn’t win, what would happen. So, you see what is happening is not a surprise, it is what Dokubo Asari, Tom Polo and others had been saying. They are now putting it into practice. Also there are those people who are corrupt, who had stolen public money and they want to use this opportunity to get away from justice.
What is your take on PMB’s journey so far?
Well, he is man of honor and integrity. There is no doubt about that. But I think he has to change his policies, more especially the economic policies are not working. And I think the sooner he asks to CBN governor to resign the better. Our national currency has lost its value. Our position is like what Brazilians had in the 1980s when their currency was almost worthless, and in every minute price were raising. So, it made life extremely difficult.
Our situation is compounded because politicians really messed up the economy and most people for many years are made to believe that they do not have to work hard before they can earn a living. So, a situation where people are not really accustomed to discipline, hard work and perseverance and suddenly they find themselves in this position, you know it is a very dangerous situation. So, I think the President must act quickly to really change the situation because there is a lot of suffering due to economic policies of the government; people are suffering.
Some people are of the view that the anti-corruption fight of government is lopsided and a witch hunt. What is your take on this?
I think they are not fair; nobody is jailed or arrested without following due process and even if he is arrested, he will be brought to court, he will be represented by a counsel of his own choice and he will be allowed and in most instances he will be granted bail on certain conditions and also trial will continue.
Some people point to the fact that most of the suspects are opposition politicians. Do you share that sentiment?
They stole more, and if they stole more, certainly more people in the opposition would be arrested not because they are in the opposition but because really they stole more than other people. That is the fact. So, for me, the anti-corruption crusade is a good thing. The only thing is the situation in which we are now, it is better to release some of the money collected from the looters to be plough back into the Nigerian economy so that at least that will help since there is terrible downfall in the production of oil and there is also low prices in the international market.
So, releasing this money and initiating certain projects which will get people back to work will really help to lessen the suffering of Nigerian people.
What’s your advice for the PMB in this trying times?
I think the only thing is President Buhari needs to listen to people. He ought to listen to the cries of the people, more especially in respect of this economy. We know he is doing his best but other people are saying there are certain better ways of doing this thing which will revamp the economy. So, why not try it, why not invite the people, why not have a dialogue so that we can know who has better ideas on how to revamp this economy? This country is all ours. So we should allow people to offer suggestions so that we can get out of this mess.
People are suffering, there is frustration, anger and hunger in the country and it involves all segment of the society – the rich and the poor. So, this is an area, this economic policy, they should try to create an enabling environment where people who really desire to still make a head way in the economy will have a chance to do so. That is the best thing and that is my advice.