Hon. Suleiman Abdulraman Kawu represents Sumaila/Takai Federal Constituency of Kano State. In this interview with LEADERSHIP SUNDAY’s RUTH CHOJI, the deputy minority leader of the House of Representatives, from the opposition ANPP, blames the crises in the north on former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He also berates President Goodluck Jonathan for neglecting the north.
Are you concerned with the increase in insurgency in the north which is threatening the unity of the nation?
Everybody is concerned because it is affecting the whole nation.
How did Nigeria get to this stage in the first place?
I believe it is because of the wide gap between the leadership and the followers. It has led to the loss of trust in the nation.
Another thing is that, we need to build confidence between the security agencies and Nigerians because as it is, the people don’t trust them and until we bridge that gap, we should expect much.
Are you blaming the security for what is happening?
It is not a security matter, it has to do with the way and manner we are running the system. It is a collective responsibility; everybody must join hands in getting a solution to this matter. If everybody will follow the constitution, then we will not have any more problems.
Why is this thing peculiar to the north; how come other part of the country are not experiencing such violence?
This act of terrorism has more to do with religions. When you go to Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan and other Islamic nations you will see this act of terrorism, because most of the perpetrators believe that they are fighting for what they believe.
So if you trace the source of this terrorism, one way or the other, you will find that it has to do with belief. So you need diplomacy in solving such terrorism. Any rash action you take could have devastating consequences.
Besides in Nigeria, violence is not peculiar to the north. There are high rates of kidnapping in the Southeast, there was the militancy in the South-south and there was also the OPC in the South-west and we all came out of it.
So, I believe that very soon, we will get out of the Boko Haram thing. Our main worry is that the government is not doing what it is supposed to do. They treat it as a northern affair. But it goes beyond the north, it has become a Nigerian thing.
So you are not in support of the calls for amnesty for the sect?
I am in support of anything that will bring peace and stability to the nation, but the way the president is handling the matter, it is like he thinks it is a northern matter. Up to now, the president has never been to Maiduguri, Jos, Yobe and even Kano. It was after he went to Madalla and people complained that he decided to go to Kano. A president of the whole nation and yet he will refuse to go and see his people in some places while he went to some.
How many times has Mr. President called the stakeholders in Maiduguri, from the Shehu of Borno to the religious leaders and other stake holders for a meeting on the way out? By neglecting this problem and turning it into a northern affair, now it has become a national disaster. It has now made Nigerian a pariah nation.
Therefore, we must approached it in the way and manner we approach the amnesty. Look at how President Yar’Adua handled the amnesty. He wasn’t from the South-south, yet, he approached the situation with sincerity and introduced amnesty. He created jobs for them; there was a time he sent a presidential jet to go and bring them from the creeks to the presidential villa.
But when Boko Haram started, look at the way and manner the government at the center is treating the matter, it is a serious disaster.
Are you saying that government is not capable of handling the problems?
No, but there is insincerity on the part of government.
What advice will you give government on the way out?
Let the president agree and understand that Nigeria is his constituency.
But most northern leaders shy away from talking about the Boko Haram and yet government is being blamed for being insincere?
This is the impression the executive are giving. But no leader in the north is supporting what is happening in the north. It is not like militancy in the South-south where Edwin Clark will come out openly and support what the boys are doing; they will come to the pages of newspaper and tell the nation.
But in this case, who knows Boko Haram? They are faceless unlike militancy where they know the boys; they are their political thugs and they engage them in elections. They are boys used to achieve their political aims. That is the reason why the problems have persisted.
Government keeps saying that the northerners are not talking, but how many times has the ACF come out to condemn the bombings? There was no time the Ijaw nation ever came out to condemn the acts of the militants; It was a northerner who came and handled their problems and now they won’t do the same to us.
How do we regain peace in the north and nation as a whole?
From my understanding, there are some external forces that are causing these problems. It started from 2004-2005, during the time of Obasanjo when northern Nigeria came out with an agenda to form ACF to solve northern problems.
Obasanjo created problems to break the ranks of the north. He carved out the Middle belt from the North and also South-south. Can you imagine what brought some parts of Adamawa into middle belt, part of Kaduna was also included in the middle belt; he did it deliberately to divide us…
Are you also of the opinion that, there is a grand design to destabilise the north…?
It was a grand design by the Obasanjo administration to break the ranks of the north. When we first came out in 2004-5, we scuttled Obasanjo’s wish to continue in power; he understands that because we are united in the north, we had the power to stop his plans which we did. Therefore blame Obasanjo administration for the crises in the north.
What is the way out
Unless and until we get rid of PDP and Obasanjo; let me give you an example, PDP is in control of the north even with the opposition parties there. It is not strong in other parts of the country like the north. It is also in the north that crises have persisted. There was crises in South-west before but when the ACN took over the west, there has been peace ever since.
Look at South-east that is 50-50 between APGA and PDP, there is peace there. So, for you to understand what is happening in the north, you must also go back to what happened in the build up to the general elections, when the PDP tried to make zoning a national affair instead of a party affair.
They succeeded in dividing Nigeria against Nigerians. Mr. President knew that what he was doing was against what he signed in the party because the party had already decided on a zoning formula. He reneged on it and insisted on becoming president.
Another angle was the way and manner Adamu Ciroma were pursuing the issue. It was also generating crises. All these showed that the president and his men are the problems of Nigeria. I can tell you that the zoning formula they broke has contributed to half of the problem we are witnessing today.
Now that we have reduced it to party issue, what is the ANPP doing to counter the strategies of the PDP for 2015
I can tell you that all the opposition parties are doing what they can to come up with a common platform to challenge the PDP…
So Nigerians should expect an alliance or merger?
Yes, there are likely to be a merger or alliance, we are really preparing to counter the PDP tricks.
But the ANPP has challenges and it’s like it is gradually diminishing by the day, what is being done to revive and restore it back to its former glory?
Yes, we started with nine states and presently we have three. But if you notice, the party has been stable and has maintained its place in the ranks of political parties. The present leadership has been able to stabilise the party.
We have also realised that the party alliance with PDP was the cause of our problems. But we are out of the government of national unity and the leadership is serious about being the real opposition. In the house, we are united, we speak with one voice, in committee position, and the opposition is controlling about 44% in the house.
Nigerians will like to know bills and motions you have sponsored that impacted your people directly
Opposition members in the House are given opportunity to present bills and move motions. We are not marginalised in anyway. I have sponsored so many bills and motions.
Recently, I sponsored a bill to amend the constitution to give state legislators power to perform their oversight functions effectively and do meaningful deliberation. Nigerians cannot benefit from this democracy unless there are effective deliberations and oversight functions.