The incessant bloodletting allegedly by Fulani herdsmen is one issue that has engaged the attention of Nigerians for some weeks now. Alhaji Shuaibu Ado Dansudu, National President, Arewa United Consultative Forum, (AUCF), in this interview maintains that except discreet and unbiased investigations are carried out into these killings, Nigerians may not be able to get the real identities of those behind the killings. He also speaks on President Muhammadu Buhari vis-à-vis his second term ambition, former Vice President Atiku and the 2019 presidential election.
It is becoming clearer that President Muhammadu Buhari is getting ready for re-election in 2019. What do you think about this?
In my opinion, it is a big mistake for the President to contemplate running again. But I know Buhari has a lot of people around him pushing him to seek re-election because of their selfish interest Buhari should know that the election of 2015 will be different from 2019 for some reasons. Look at what happened after his election in 2015, Buhari fell sick due to the rigour of his electioneering campaign. He should think about his health and the fact that age is no longer on his side. I will advise the president to step aside and allow someone else to carry on. He should consider himself as one of the fathers of the nation. Nelson Mandela, after fighting for freedom for so many years during which he was jailed, came out, contested, won and left the stage voluntarily after just a single term. That singular show of selflessness earned him accolades across the world. The same thing happened in the case of Obasanjo after Murtala’s death. He stood on Murtala’s promise and handed over to a democratically elected government. So, Obasanjo earned himself the respect of many Nigerians at the time and I believe that played a major role in his return as a democratically elected President in 1999. The same thing with Abubakar Abdulsalami, who upon Abacha’s death, promised to hand over in nine months, he did and won the respect of the entire world.
Those leaders had the power to insist on carrying on, but they chose to quit when the ovation was loudest. They trudged the path of honour unlike former President Goodluck Jonathan, who we had expected would leave the stage after completing Yar’Adua’s tenure. Had Jonathan followed that path of honour, Nigerians would have brought him back at a time like this, and he would have probably by now, become a sought-after national hero. So, my advice for Buhari is to give way and allow a new person to carry on. Buhari has tried quite alright especially by fighting insurgency. But Nigeria is still battling with serious crisis. His government has been able to battle Boko Haram insurgents but there is still another form of insurgency, a silent Boko Haram ravaging the country, that is, hunger and poverty. Nigerians are hungry and are dying from treatable diseases due to high poverty rate in the country. Eighty percent of patients in our hospitals are suffering from poverty-induced hypertension.
You were known as a staunch supporter of Buhari before his election in 2015. It is very surprising to hear you calling for his retirement now when he has the constitutional right to seek re-election. What informed this volte-face?
I still remain a staunch supporter of the President even up till tomorrow. I am only giving him this piece of advice because of the love I have for him. Why I have come out to say this is because of the people pushing Buhari. It is very disturbing to know that the same set of people begging him to go ahead are the ones causing problems for his government. I have to criticize him; as an activist, I don’t have permanent friends neither do I have permanent enemies. If you do well I will say it and if you fail to perform up to expectations, I will not hide it. We are not supporting any political party; our own is to watch what everybody is doing and comment appropriately. All we do is in the interest of Nigeria.
Is it then safe to say that you are withdrawing your support from Buhari simply because he has not been able to fight the silent Boko Haram; or do you have other grouse about him?
The issue of silent Boko Haram is one major issue that we can’t just gloss over. You can’t take the fact from him that Buhari is an honest and straight forward man. He is incorruptible but we are criticising him because of the people he surrounds himself with. Most of them are not supporting what Mr. President is doing. In fact, they are the ones misleading him. Even his wife confirmed this when she said some of the people who surround him are undermining him.
Many have raised the alarm that the Buhari government is being derailed. Are you not disturbed that the President has failed to yield to this outcry?
That is the major problem Buhari has. But then Nigerians seem to be making mistake about Buhari now. We seem to have forgotten that the Buhari we are dealing with now is not the same Buhari we knew in the past. Buhari, as he is now, has lost three things: one, he is no longer a soldier. Secondly, he is Buhari without Idiagbon; and thirdly, Buhari is no longer the youthful Buhari we used to know. Age is no longer on his side and so he can no longer re-enact those traits and qualities he was known for. These factors largely inform the criticisms trailing his government.
Look at what is happening now in Nigeria, killings here and there, which I will blame on politicians. The killings, which they are accusing Fulani herdsmen of being responsible for is a dangerous signal for the country. Many politicians are hiding under this situation to settle political scores with their opponents and will then turn around and blame it on Fulani herdsmen. The best way to get to the root of this killing spree is to give appropriate security apparatus freedom to carry out discreet investigation without interference from any quarters. We won’t be able to unmask those behind this bloodletting if we don’t allow an unbiased investigation. Anybody can disguise as a Fulani person to perpetrate evil once he is able to speak the language, which can be easily learned and the person can dress like the Fulani. The Fulani we are talking about have a lot at stake. These people have billions of investments in the cows that they go about with, so how will they resort to attacking and killing people when they are aware that they have a lot to lose if the action boomerangs. Don’t forget that the Fulani who are accused of being behind the killings are also being killed. Unfortunately, nobody is saying anything about this. Fulani men, women, and their children are getting killed in their numbers even without the media saying anything. It is very unfortunate we find ourselves in this sorry state. I see these killings largely as political. And this method of killing and diverting attention started during the Second World War when Russia took a non-committal stance during the war. Russia vowed not to join the war against Hitler but what did the Western world do? They painted their jet fighter as if it was Hitler’s with flag and attacked Russia. Then Russia thought she had been attacked by Hitler’s force and was forced to join the war against Hitler. I strongly believe this is exactly what we are experiencing in Nigeria now. Don’t forget that there was a serious hostility between the Tiv and Jukum people of Benue and Taraba states for some years. The fight was fought with sophisticated weapons as at that period. Where are the weapons now? Have the fighters surrendered their weapons? Where are the weapons kept? These weapons are still there. We are even suspecting that these killings may have connection with the previous hostility between these people.
Again the National Assembly is not doing its work very well in securing this country. There is nowhere in the world where component units or states are allowed to have their local security outfit or vigilante groups and allowed to carry sophisticated weapons as we have in some states in Nigeria now. Look at the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC which came into existence several years ago. Operatives of the corps have not been allowed to carry weapons. So why will a state governor set up a local security outfit and equip them with sophisticated weapons? Governors who do this have questions to answer. The National Assembly needs to query such governors. These are pointers to the fact that politicians are behind these killings we are witnessing.
The President was widely reported to have said that he would be president for everybody while he was being inaugurated. But there have been complaints of nepotism ad marginalization against him. Don’t you see this as another reason for the anger in the land?
As I said earlier Buhari, cannot do it alone. Most of those he surrounds himself with are not helping in achieving his dreams for Nigeria. The truth of the matter is that Buhari is trying to carry everybody along but the people around him keep disappointing him. Some of them are taking advantage of the fact that the man is advanced in age to mismanage his government. There is a need for him to reshuffle his cabinet and I believe he must be fast about this. The people surrounding him are the problem, so they should allow him to go and rest. Besides, some people who have aspiration to rule this country are also fighting him underground.
Despite the growing call on Buhari to leave after serving out his first term, Mr. President still appears to be the favourite candidate for the ruling party in 2019. In view of this, what will be your advice for APC?
To be honest with you, Buhari still has about 70 percent advantage to win in 2019 but it depends on the leadership of the party particularly the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. The party leadership needs to think properly for the next election and ignore those pushing Buhari to run again. They should allow another person to fly the party’s flag in 2019. If not, I am afraid, PDP may take over again. What made the PDP to lose the election in 2015 in the first place was because Jonathan re-contested after serving out Yar’Adua’s tenure. APC would not have won if Jonathan did not re-contest. According to the zoning arrangement then, it was not the turn of the South at the time he attempted to re-contest. And I want to tell you categorically that the Southerners should forget coming to power after eight years, I mean in 2023 when the North would have served out two terms. Any Southerner dreaming to take over power in 2023 should better wake up. After eight years we will still rule again because the Southerners betrayed the zoning agreement after Obasanjo. Obasanjo ruled for complete eight years, Yar’Adua ruled for two years and Jonathan, rather than allow a northerner to take over, having completed Yar’Adua’s tenure re-contested and ruled for another four years. And he even made the attempt to elongate his tenure by re-contesting again in 2015. So for that reason, the North will rule for additional six or eight years to balance the arrangement. So the South should blame Jonathan.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is gearing up for 2019. Do you see him as a threat or an alternative to Buhari?
I don’t see Atiku as a threat to anybody. He was a vice president for eight years and I can’t really see anything spectacular he did for Nigeria as a nation. Perhaps, he did something spectacular for them in Adamawa or the North east geopolitical zone, I can’t really say this is a spectacular thing he has done for Nigeria. So I don’t see him as a threat to anybody. I will advise him too to go and rest and stop wasting his time.