Former chairman, House Committee on Internal Security, Hon. Aminu Sani Jaji, speaks on the insecurity bedevilling the northern region, the ongoing APC registration and revalidation process and other national issues. ANDREW ESSIEN presents excerpts.
How do you react to the alleged N100 million bribe to members of the Senator Marafa-led faction of the APC to destabilise Zamfara State?
It is normal and usual for the opposition because according to democracy, we always consider the PDP in Zamfara as the opposition because they are always in the minority. So they have their own reason to cry, to shout to make all kinds of malicious allegations. They say money exchanged hands.
They said the former governor, Abdulaziz Yari gave N100 million to Marafa to destabilise the peace in Zamfara State. This is their own way of painting the APC chieftains in bad light. They did similar thing last year when they levelled several allegations against us. They have been writing fictitious allegations against us to the police and other security agencies. So its normal and not surprising. But the logic is if a former governor will give out N100 million to Marafa to destabilise the peace in the state, what stops the incumbent governor to give more than that because he had been working with Marafa, they are together and in return, Marafa had been supporting him to the extent that he gave the Marafa camp several appointments including the position of the secretary to the state government (SSG).
A far as I am concerned, this is a mere allegation. No serious minded person will consider this frivolous allegation. I don’t know anything like that. There was a time they wrote petition to the IGP that Yari is meeting with bandits in the state. The reason for that petition was because I reconciled my position with Yari and I went to Marafa and we had a stakeholder meeting and now we are one.
That is the reason behind the allegation. They are not comfortable with that. Anytime any moment they see something like that they are not comfortable and they won’t be comfortable. They know that Zamfara is not for PDP. Its just a matter of time. They know that in the 2023 general election, the governor and all his appointees would be sent packing.
Why are you so confident that the PDP would be defeated in Zamfara in 2023?
Democracy is about people’s mandate. Going by the 2019 general elections, the PDP got 180,000 votes, including the protest votes while the APC got almost 600,000 votes. I can say confidently that we are going to take it because instead of our people to decamp to the PDP, it is PDP supporters that are decamping to the APC. So you can see we are already reducing the 180,000 votes scored by the PDP even before 2023. As we speak the protest votes is no longer there because are now united and working as a family. So the PDP is in power in Zamfara not because it was based on the peoples mandate. They are there because the court mandated them to be in power. Its just a court mandate they are enjoying for now.
What is your take on the idea that it is better to use force than to negotiate with bandits responsible for the loss of lives and properties in the northern part of the country?
I am 100 percent in full support of the Kaduna State governor, Ahmad Nasir el-Rufai on the use of force against bandits. I said it before now and I will repeat myself; there is no way you can reconcile or dialogue with bandits. First thing the governor or government needs to do is to have a clear information about the bandits, their strength, their capacity and the source and the people involved in the nefarious activities.
I believe that if government has the intelligence, there is no need to dialogue with them. How can you dialogue with somebody with over 300 AK 49 riffles and in the process of the dialogue with him he will surrender say 10 of those rifles and yet, you give him huge sums of money from government coffers. If he used to get the AK47 riffle at the rate of N100,000 , he surrenders 10 of the guns and you pay him N10 million, that means technically you have encouraged him to remain in the business. It means he will go and buy 20 of the AK 47 riffles. What is the logic in this?
Before May 2019, most of the routes where they use to operate from were cut off by the security agencies. At the time they felt there was no option but to surrender. But with this whole idea of dialogue all over they are now operating freely. There is simply no need to dialogue with them because it is fuelling the problem.
In 2018, I told the then governor, Yari, that it is important but not the way they were going about it. As of that time, both those with dane guns like vigilantes and those with AK47s were collecting roughly N50,000 and N250,000 respectively for each of the guns surrendered.
So technically, it is the government which is even supporting the bandits because before they got money they had to rustle cows but with the dialogue option, they started getting easy money. Look at one of the conversations between one of the bandits and the Jibia caretaker chairman, everybody that listened to it will agree that we are in a serious problem and you will agree that anybody calling for dialogue is only wasting his time. Imagine a bandit living in the bush knowing that he can get N1 million, N2 million even up to N30 million and you expect him to surrender just like that? This is a material crime and there is nowhere in the world that such a crime just ended like that. It had to be fire for fire.
Some party leaders are uncomfortable with the decision by the APC caretaker committee to embark on membership revalidation and registration exercise. What is your take on this?
I wish those leaders of the party are doing so based on merit and not for selfish reasons. The whole idea behind the exercise is to bring the party together because there was a lot of problem which emanated from the 2018 congress.
Instead of the former chairman Adams Oshiomhole and members of the National Working Committee to solve these problems across the country, they failed to do so. From what is happening within the party there was this issue of some people who hijacked the party register, the website was the exclusive preserve of some people who hijacked it.
The APC is for all of us. With what is happening now, everybody will be a stakeholder in the party. How can only one person have the register of the party? I am aware of moves by some persons to go to court to challenge the validity of the whole process. Even if they dare to do so, I am sure they will not succeed at the end of the day.
Look at what happened in Rivers and Zamfara, it was because there was no leadership that could manage the crisis. Oshiomhole contributed almost 60 percent to our crisis in Zamfara. And this was because he had his own candidate, the former governor had his own candidate while some of us were candidates of the people. I am sure the registratio exercise would be hitch free across the country.
What were the terms agreed upon before the warring groups buried their hatchets, can there be an enduring peace in the Zamfara chapter of the party?
On the issue of reconciliation, I participated in the whole process where both Yari and Marafa reconciled their positions. One of the condition was that they agreed they would dissolve their own factions to agree with the legitimate party executive, secondly they agreed to withdraw pending cases in the appeal or Supreme Court. It was also agreed that Yari will remain leader of the party and that Yari must do justice to all and sundry. I believe with this there is going to be peace in the party.
Some people believe that there won’t be APC after the end of President Buhari ‘s tenure in 2023?
I don’t agree with such positions because there was politics before Buhari and, of course, it will continue after Buhari. I was in ANPP before APC so I am still in the party. So it is not about the platform. People make the platform not the platform making the people.
If Buhari leaves and we strongly believe that we can continue with APC, we will do so. But there is even no guarantee that APC will continue. As things stand for now, I am confident that the APC will retain power in 2023. This is because the present caretaker committee are already trying to resolve all the issues in the party. Including wooing those that left the party to return. Former Speaker or the House Yakubu Dogara left the party for so many reasons and now he is in support of APC. And there are so many people like him. Even Dave Umahi who was a PDP governor defected to the APC.
What are your thoughts on the ban of illegal mining in Zamfara?
We are blessed with abundant mineral resources in the state. But that blessing has turned to be a problem for us. Most of the crisis started as a result of the problem as some persons were mining illegally even though they claimed that it was legal. You will never hear that any of the miners were kidnapped. I always ask myself why is it that these people operating in the bush that can be easily killed and kidnapped are safe and secure?
I have not seen any form of internally generated revenue entering government coffers. And then the first thing that even the incumbent governor did was to invite some companies to give them mining licenses. But I said look before you became governor I was a chairman and in my local government I know we had more than 15 license where you can go and engage in mining activities. I don’t see reason why the governor is keen on restoring mining activities in the state.
I appeal to the federal government to put in place measure to stop both illegal and legal mining until normalcy is restored.