2023: Agitation for power rotation ‘ll kill democracy – Hon. Jaji

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Hon. Aminu Sani Jaji, is the immediate past Chairman, House Committee on Internal Security in the 8th Assembly. He also contested the APC governorship ticket in Zamfara during 2019 general elections. In this interview with BODE OLAGOKE, he speaks on the agitation for Southern Presidency, insecurity in the and the economy.

What is your take on insecurity affecting the nation and how has the nation fared in terms of GDP and Agricultural production?

The GDP is unrealistic. What we are producing today is not commensurate with our GDP because of insecurity, ravaging the north, we are producing at the lowest level. The government is trying on insecurity but not to the expectations of the public. I have said it before and I will continue to maintain my stand on it. The way we are fighting these security challenges, I think, doesn’t meet the standards.

I have said that there is a difference between a conventional and non-conventional war. We must admit that we are at war. That is why you have to see the airforce, army, and all other security agencies even when you send them to every part of the country, there is no synergy among them including other paramilitary agencies. There is no way you can fight the insurgents to an end unless there is synergy. We should have a single command that will take care of these responsibilities. Just like what happened three weeks ago in Zamfara state, where the governor has tried all he can by applying so many measures.

Applying any measure is good but doing it with what other security agents are doing is better. It has to go one on one and it has to go together. And once you are applying these measures the measures should not only be on security. It has to go together throughout the period in order to ensure the required results. There are some states that are having the same problems like Katsina, Niger, Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto, and others. So, while applying these measures in Zamfara, it is for all of them to come together. They have to join hands with the governor in the first place and let them come together and team up. They must have the same measures. They can harmonize their positions. All the governors should make sure they are on the same frequency with other security agencies. The government needs to do something.

What the former military leader said was quite unfortunate that what we are expecting from some agencies is quite unfortunate. It is their roles and duties but they have refused to carry it. If all the governors come together and agree on a specific position, better. But if they continue to apply a cosmetic approach, I assure you, it will consume all of us together.

What has been your take on the agitations for zoning come 2023?

When a group of people sat down and talk about zoning, it is about sentiments. In politics, you don’t zone everything. But because we are not yet mature and advanced, that is why the issue of zoning is coming up. I think the issue of zoning always comes up because we want to remain as one. Because the political diversity we have today was because of the regional politics we have been playing all the time since 1999 till date.

Why I am saying regional leadership is because if our president comes from the North, it is believed that people from that place will benefit more from his leadership. That is why people are respecting the issue of zoning. And going by what transpired at the banquet hall on the 25th of September, where our group was able to showcase president Buhari’s achievements so far. The reason why we did that was one, he is just telling whoever wants to be president in 2023, let him know that being president is not a regional issue.

It is a national issue because we showcased his achievements that he covered all parts of the country including infrastructure. And that is the reason I said I want my own to be the president. For this issue of zoning, for now, that we have to allow it to happen is not the best. It is only killing our democracy. Because you cannot say you want somebody from the south or north to be president even at the instance of other Nigerians. It is not possible. We are still learning but in a hard way. Let whoever is going to emerge for 2023 as president, let him be on people’s mandate and not on zoning arrangements.

Are you asking your party, APC, to jettison zoning?

Of course! That is the right thing honestly. Whoever wants to contest, let him contest. Because if you take Zamfara for example, the reason the governor said he wants to zone the ticket to central is that he has sentiments. Anybody who says he wants to zone presidency is because of sentiments and not interest of the followers. Because interest is allowed in politics and sentiment is always a cancer in our politics.

The agitations for power shift are premised on the fact that there was an agreement in 2015 prior to the election that in 2023, power will return to the South. Are you aware of this agreement?

How many people sat on that agreement? Are they up to a million? The answer is no. Maybe they are not up to 10. So how can 1 million people sit and take a decision for more than 200 million people? Can that be possible? And we are saying we are in a democracy? It is not possible. But what I am saying is that the idea of zoning or power shift to the south, as I have kept on saying, can only be achieved in the name of national unity but not intimidation. If you say you want to intimidate somebody from the north, that you want to do this, it will not happen. And, the reason that this thing cannot work today is that what the southern governors are trying to do on the issue of VAT is to frustrate everybody from the north. Because what brought about this issue of VAT was embezzlement from the coffers that you and I have together. But somebody is claiming let us get this because you cannot get it from infrastructure. Who brought that infrastructure to your state? Who made it possible? It is not my money or your money. It is government money. That is the reason why I said earlier when the southern governors came together and said that we have agreed that power must go to the south. How can it be possible? There are PDP and APC, governors.

Why is the North-west so much affected by insecurity?

The analogy is that it was politically masterminded. Even the perpetrators don’t know the reason behind their activities. They only found themselves that today they are doing this. It is something that they believe that the people who want to destroy Nigeria had planned for more than 50 years. Okay, we want to destroy Nigeria, how? Nigeria is blessed with both human and natural resources. If you look at their projections, they say from now till so and so period, the oil in the south is going to finish. But, they believed that in some places in the northern part of Nigeria especially the northwest, the abundant mineral resources there are enough to augment the deficit that will happen in the south-south.

That is why there is no peace in the region. And they did it quietly without anybody knowing. Initially, they said they were targeting the region. When Boko haram started they said they were targeting only Borno but today, it has escalated to many parts of the country. We are suffering from what we think is not part of us. And, that is the biggest problem that we are facing. If anything is happening, we have to see it as one. I saw somebody on social media, he commented as a result of what is happening in Zamfara, I believed that person is from the northeast.

He said now you are experiencing what we have experienced before. So, before you see that it is our fight now, you see that your turn has come. And you are enjoying it. You refused to pray for us last time now we don’t want to be like you. That is why you will see that mentally we are affected. We have to change our psyche so that we can get it right. This issue of banditry started a long time ago. It started like normal farmers-herders clashes. And in our first meeting, when I was a local government chairman, I told the then-governor that sir, we should not look at it as farmers-herders clashes. The decision is beyond that because the barbarism that took place in my own local government by then I was not the chairman, it has not happened in the whole Zamfara state and in the history of the northwest. That the traders were going to one market in Batsari in Katsina then they kidnapped them and set them ablaze in the car without taking a penny from them. And I said this is a bad signal and we must not joke with it. That was September 2011.

And that we must find a solution after a thorough investigation on why and the reason for doing that. Now, this is where we are today. No where is safe including Zamfara. You cannot travel freely without your heart beating from here to Kaduna. It is not possible. That means we are in a serious problem and it has to be a collective responsibility to fight it together. Because if we don’t it will consume all of us.

You said there is no synergy among the security agents. If you have a one on one with the service chiefs, what will you tell them?

If I have a one on one with the service chiefs, I will talk to them. With due respect, you know how to fight a war. And in fighting a war you need to have a commander. It can be an army, air force, or navy. It can be anything. But under him, all the para-military agencies are under him and they are taking command from him and not from any superior. That means the moment there is an issue and they allow such to happen I am telling you before they know it, they would have crushed all this banditry and kidnappers. But because of whatever reason they have, they don’t want such to happen. In any case, it is not their fault. It is either the CDS or the defense minister has refused to take it as it is or the NSA refuses to carry it the way it is supposed to be taken. These are some of the issues. And above all, it needs a political will. Maybe from the president. That look, if maybe the chief of Army staff cant do it like I have problems in so and so places, go and meet the CDS and do this. Meet the NSA and the moment you do it you will see results. With this, it will be easy to operate. The army will send troops today, the airforce will send theirs, the DSS will send too and the police will send theirs. You cannot win it.

Are you not worried that everybody is moving to your party, APC that it might become a one-party?

People moving to APC is only a good signal to Mr. President not to APC. Because they believed in president Buhari that is why they are coming to APC. That is only positive to him not to the party.

The party’s mandate is different from the peoples’ mandate. It is the people’s mandate that is going to determine who will be the leader, not the party’s mandate that will determine the next leader or the governor or whatever. So, you can defect to APC today because you believe in the political ideology or principle whatever it is about Buhari. It is only positive to him. But maybe you that believe in such ideology don’t have a good rapport with the people that have the mandate to trust whoever they have decided to trust. If you are not in good terms with them, can they give you their mandate? The answer is no. That is why I said, it is only positive to pyresident Buhari and not to APC.

Are you implying that the people who defected to the APC will go back to their parties after President Buhari’s tenure?

No! What I am saying is that I have the privilege of interacting with somebody in a particular state where the governor defected to APC. Meanwhile, the governor has defected because he believes in Buhari. But, the governor is a second-term governor thinking that he will have his way for somebody who is going to succeed him. So at the end of the day, the people who believe that they need somebody to replace him are there. They will decide whether to bring him on board to APC or another political platform. So, that is why I said it is only positive to president Buhari. And if they did it for selfishness or personal interest, that one nobody can say anything because they know the intentions that they have. It is something you cannot say anything about.

Why is the issue of VAT pitching Northern governors with their Southern counterparts?

It is not that the north is afraid of VAT. The reason why is because we said we are one. Why are they trying to remove themselves from the pot that we are eating together? So we are only jittery of the unity not because of what we are going to lose. We are not going to lose anything. If the VAT is controlled by some state governors, there is nothing we will suffer. The other arrangement if they come on board, they will see that the governors who said they want VAT will cry more than what you think. And then the flag is already on the ground and we are making that plan. And we are making it on behalf of the north and if not because of the unity of the country, we are 100% ready to say let them have the VAT.

And you will see what is going to happen. And our plans will 101% supersede their own arrangements. But because we believe in one Nigeria, if we are okay, what of the unborn children? So, we have to think of one Nigeria because it is important. Not VAT, or anything. But one Nigeria. That is the reason you will see some of the governors from the north, we are making this noise about the VAT not because of anything. All the 19 governors will not yield that result. If you go to Nasarawa, what you can do there is just a peanut. You do it and see results. It will spring up easily. We will all enjoy it. There are so many things and all we need to do is to continue to be one nation.

Why are some of the governors from the north seeing it as a gang up despite some view it from the south as a way for fiscal federalism?

Maybe people didn’t get him clearly. What he is after is intervention.

That particular intervention that I mentioned earlier is supposed to be done in some states. In 5 years, that intervention under the CBN governor which is being controlled by a man has spent more than 6 trillion but less than 30% got to the north while 70% of it goes to the south. I am telling you and you can quote me anywhere. So what I am trying to say is that the issue of gold reserve is not that the governor wanted to take advantage of it but only want the federal government to invest.

Because it is on the exclusive list, no one can take it off without legislation or amendment of the constitution. Even the issue of fiscal federalism that people are talking about, all these is because of 2023. They are all saying this because of 2023. They feel the only way they can get it right or get the ticket or mandate is through intimidation. It will not work. You can only win somebody’s heart by being polite and friendly. But so long as you continue to pursue somebody with a sort of intimidation and what have you, trying to use your own force that this one is useless, nobody will take it. Even if you come to my house and I said no, or you greeted me. I will say how can you treat me like that. Is it that I am not that important? I may decide to leave. And you can decide to walk away. We are one but why trying to be different? There are so many people from the north and according to them, they want somebody from the south that will be the president. But some have an interest. Some have sentiments. My take is that whosoever wants to be the president, let the person come and showcase to all Nigerians where he is from, the north or south, how he wants to be a president. Politics is a game of numbers.

There is no way you can take away that word from politics. It must be the number, 123. Look at how the previous people, Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Abiola, and others. Look at the votes Abiola got from the north that he didn’t get from the south. Why because people from the north believed in him at that time. No matter how bad or good Obasanjo is the people in the north believe in him. Because even if he has his own particular problem or agenda or sentiments, he bends down and he gets what he wants. The issues are all centered around 2023. After 2023, there will be Nigeria.

There will be politics again. There is 2027 and beyond. We have to think of something that can work beyond 2023.

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