Posted by Desmond Mgboh, Kano | 28 July 2019 | 1,315 times
Ninety-three-year-old Alhaji Tanko Yakasai is worried about the future of Nigeria. He wants all Nigerians to work for the unity of the country.
In this interviewed culled from SUNDAY SUN, the elder statesman, who was a member of the 2015 Constitutional Conference in Abuja, observes that reconvening a national conference, at this time, is a recipe for a national disaster.
He also believes that Prof Wole Soyinka, who has recently found his voice against the Buhari administration, has no moral right to come down on them.
To the Second Republic politician, the Fulani herders may not be actually responsible for the various crimes that have been ascribed to them in the recent time even as he declared that ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo did not sound convincing as a patriot in his letter to Buhari. Excerpt:
There have been a number of commentaries of late about the daring wave of insecurity in the country. What is your take on the state of security in the North and in Nigeria?
I have said it before and I will say it again, that something is wrong. The most challenging form of insecurity that was affecting the nation by the time Buhari came to power in 2015 was Boko Haram and, in fact, that was one of the reasons Nigerians voted for him because they believed that being a retired Military General, probably he would be able to handle the situation better than a civilian President Jonathan. Now, from that time till date, a lot of new issues concerning security have arisen. Now, we are faced with a wave of kidnapping, ransom-taking, cattle rustling, banditry and others. There is no doubt about it. There is a problem of insecurity in Nigeria.
If this is so, why do you think President Buhari is sticking to his present set of Security chiefs when they are not getting us out of the wood?
When he decided to retain the security heads, I spoke. I said that the motive of the president in retaining them, even though their time was up, was political. And I still maintain that position that the retention of the security heads in Nigeria is purely political. He and his security chiefs have done their best, but their best is unable to address the security challenges in the country. That means that there is a need for a change of strategy, a change of team. He needs to bring a new team that would drive the fight against the insecurity we are facing in the country. Buhari, himself, ought to think of why all the previous efforts he made had not yielded the desired results. He should think of them, discard some of them and come up with fresh approaches that can make a difference. I believe that the team he has, who had been with him all the time, has not been able to change the situation for the better. I, therefore, feel that it is time for him to change his service heads, replace them with fresh heads, so that the new comers can inject fresh ideas to the battle against insecurity in Nigeria.
Of late, one of the reoccurring characteristics of insecurity in Nigeria is the Fulani herdsmen. There have been several strong comments about their roles in fueling insecurity in the country. What is your take on them?
Unfortunately, the issue of Fulani and their roles in different places has been politicized. Initially, it was between the cattle herders and farmers in some parts of the country. But the situation has come to the state where anything that happens, anything untoward would be attributed to the Fulani. Today, I feel that there is a calculated campaign to incite other Nigerians against the Fulani and this is most unfortunate. This is true, there is a calculated attempt to the extent that many people even said that this set of Fulani that we have in the country are from other countries – from Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, all sorts of nonsense. I see this in the long run as a hate campaign, not only against the Fulani, but against Moslem and against Northerners. It will not take us anywhere. There are, like we had mentioned, problems. But Fulani are not engaged in armed robbery, they are not engaged in ransom taking, they are not engaged in hostage taking – I am talking of the situation before now. We know how long these things have been then. But now if an Igbo did something, it would be ascribed to Fulani, if Kanuri man did something, it would be ascribed to Fulani, if an Hausa man did something bad, it would be ascribed to the Fulani. It is a hate campaign…ultimately, the intention is to incite hate against them and it is clear that the people who control the media in Nigeria are behind this campaign. I don’t know whether they are supported by some people outside or they are engaged in this in their own recourse.
Some people say the impudence of the Fulani man in Nigeria has grown since the president came to power? Is this true?
I honestly have no evidence to support this suggestion. In any case, the late President Shehu Shagari was Fulani and all these crises did not happen during his time.
(Cuts in) It is believed that some of the security agencies are soft on the Fulani herders simply because of the influence of the president?
I don’t think so?
What then do you think, if you don’t think so?
What I think is that there is a problem with the method of governance in this country. If you remember, I talked of his incompetence; a lack of capacity. I said these things four and half years ago. I still stand on these points. It has nothing to do with the ethnic background of the man at the top. It has more to do with his capacity to cope with the situation in Nigeria. This is my own opinion.
A few days ago, Prof Wole Soyinka argued that the Nigeria problem has overwhelmed President Buhari. Do you share in his view?
If somebody has no capacity to handle a problem, he has no capacity to handle the problem. This is the reality of the situation. But Wole Soyinka knew that he (Buhari) had no capacity and ought to have spoken by the time I was speaking four years ago that Buhari had no capacity. But he kept quiet. If people like Wole Soyinka and others had joined me in saying what I was saying at that time, we would not have come to this ugly state. You know I supported Jonathan. I am not an Ijaw man. I supported Jonathan against Buhari because I want performance.
Are you suspecting that Wole Soyinka acted in favour of his personal interest by the time he was supporting Buhari?
I don’t know…but acquiescence in itself is a support, an indirect support. If somebody is doing something wrong and you know it is wrong and you keep quiet, without pointing out his shortcoming, then you are wrong. Silence means consent. If you know that something is bad, you keep quiet, then it is wrong. Say it right from the beginning so that other people would join you and the momentum would be gathered and probably, you will make a difference.
What if at the time Wole Soyinka was supportive of the Buhari arrangement he did not have the insight or the kind of experience that he now has about Buhari’s capacity as a president?
I do not think so. At that time, he was 80. Apart from his education, he was mature enough to be able to make an informed judgment before he speaks.
So you fear that his criticisms of the government at this stage has other motives?
His criticism today of the Buhari administration has not impressed me as a patriotic effort, honestly.
That takes us to the Obasanjo’s letter to Buhari. What do you make of this letter?
Two days before this date, Obasanjo wrote a letter from abroad. That was after the daughter of the leader of Afenifere was murdered and killed in the bush. The police swung into action and as we speak they are trying to unravel who and who were responsible for that crime. In fact, they had appealed to Nigerians not to jump into conclusion. But Obasanjo, from far away, wherever he was, wrote a lengthy condolence message, which was largely political and in it accused the Fulani herders of killing that woman. So far, only the two people have come out openly to make accusation – the Publicity Secretary of Afenifere and Obasanjo. But you may ask, why a man like Obasanjo, who was a head of state, a president of Nigeria three times should jump into conclusion without any evidence? To apportion blame on a particular people simply because now is the time to abuse and attack Fulani? And what contribution would that make to the investigation? From that time, I formed my conclusion about the whole saga and started watching Obasanjo more carefully. All the government that came to power after him came to power through his instrumentality. Yar’Adua came to power through his instrumentality, Jonathan did. In fact, for Jonathan to succeed Yar’Adua, Obasanjjo was instrumental. He also brought Buhari. But I have observed that in most cases after one or two years, he would begin to criticise them. After few investigations, I found out that they disagree and most of these disagreements are over his personal interests. They are disagreements that are not driven by patriotism or national interests. So, that condolence letter opened my eyes even the more. So, when I was reading his letter, I saw this cynical motive to incite people. I am not for Buhari and I have never been for Buhari. God knows and you know that I am not for Buhari. Everybody knows, but I am a Nigerian. And for the records, I have been fighting for the unity of Nigeria for over 70 years.
Looking at Obasanjo’s recent letter, he was talking about the fact that the country is on the edge of another big crisis. How true is his assessment of Nigeria?
His calling for another national conference, in my opinion, is a way of breaking out the trouble; it is another way of igniting the conflict because with this hatred flying all over the place, any national conference will not start in peace and certainly will not end in peace. Even to determine who and who should attend the conference, even to determine the methodology of electing those to attend or to go to the conference or to determine the agenda to be discussed would lead to a very serious problem. We are talking in terms of blocs and I can assure you that if that conference would start, within a period of about two to three weeks, you will begin to hear of blocs boycotting the conference. And that would aggravate tension. If care is not taken, it would lead to bloodshed.
Don’t you feel that some Nigerians have reached their edge; that some parts of Nigeria have been pushed to the wall in the way Nigeria is presently structured?
This issue of restructuring, you want to bring it through the backdoor. I said that I want to know the blue print. And I don’t know what the proponents of restructuring are afraid of, that thing that is holding back; I am a politician and certainly I am your grandfather. I am 93 years. I saw intelligent educated people, professors who were fuming in support of Buhari for change having the same mentality of a Suya (meat) seller. They were so mad in their support and today where are we? I have passed the stage when I will support something on the basis of its slogan. I want something concrete before I will decide. I will support restructuring knowingly, knowing the full implications. I have a stake in Nigeria more than many people. Today, I have 19 children. I suffered for them. Every one of them is a graduate, a master’s degree or a PhD. I have 61 grandchildren and so I am thinking of their future, not of my own. If I am lucky I will be alive for seven years. If it pleases God, I may extend beyond that.
But Buhari himself has conceded to restructuring?
No, no! Don’t misunderstand me. I have never said that I am against it. I want to know what it is. Let me tell you, former Secretary of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku, suggested that we should go back to 1963 Constitution and I am in support of it. But that is his own opinion. I want anybody to agree either on that or agree on anything, and then I will look at it.
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