12 May 2013

Nigeria: I Warned Governors Against Giving Youth Guns - Atiku

Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar has said he personally warned former Borno, Bayelsa and Rivers States governors against giving youth arms during elections. Atiku who featured as a guest in a popular BBC Hausa Service programme 'Geneva Hanya' spoke also on the future of Nigerian election and PDP internal crises. Excerpts:

What can you say about the state of insecurity presently in Nigeria?

Actually in my whole life in Nigeria we have never experienced this kind of insecurity even during the civil war we never experienced this. and there are many reasons.

First, our governments failed to pay more attention to security. Second, the nature of security at present is quite different from the way it was in the past.

In the past we had those at federal, state and local government levels. However, recently, it has all been merged under the central government, a junior officer from the north posted to south and those from south posted to the north, but some crises if you did not engage the locals it is going to be difficult to address.

There are challenges in funding, training and equipment for security personnel; for them to effectively protect the people's lives and properties.

But Nigerians always see huge amounts of money budgeted for security?

Well! The money is been stolen. Honestly, it is being stolen always.

Do you have any evidence that the money is been stolen?

Well! In that case why are we not seeing anything on the ground? We could not see our security personnel with all the working equipment. You will never see a Nigerian security personnel with anything other than a gun. And gun is not the only security equipment, there are a lot of things.

Some will say this thing started long ago. Even during your time, police were not better off?

No, there was a difference. I could remember when we were in power I told the president that the number of our policemen were not enough compared to our national population. He directed me that every month we should recruit about 2,000 to 5,000 policemen. We started and for two years we were recruiting policemen. And I, personally bought equipment for police like guns and other things. So after about two years, everything stopped. You can't say it was the same during our time; and during our time, it was not worse like now.

And when there was crises in Yobe, you saw how we handled the situation. We deployed undercover securities, they joined them, knew where they were, their activities and operations and all what they do. After we got the reports, we sent security men; they arrested some and killed some.

Some are of the opinion that those who remain at that time are the ones doing all these things?

Well, they may be the ones and they may not. However, let me tell you when we created the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and started the campaign and those who wanted to contest all emerged, Rivers and Bayelsa State governors, at that time, released huge amounts of money and recruited youths and bought guns for them in order for the governors to win the election. I went and met them and told them that those boys you gathered, if you win the election and if you do not give them jobs they will start attacking people and they are the ones called Niger Delta militants now.

Apart from that the same thing happened in Borno State. I met with the governor and told him that those boys you gathered and you gave them weapons you called them "ecomog" they are going to become a disaster and it happened.

Do you mean it was while you were in power that you talked to Borno State governor?

I had talked to them all. There's none of them that I did not talk to.

In that case why did not government punished anybody who bought weapons and gave it to some people?

At that time things didn't get out of hand the way it is now, because they did not have those to attack people.

Now government has set up a committee in an attempt to grant amnesty. Are you saying there is no need for this committee, but instead to look at how it was handled in the past?

No, it could be combined in order to address the problem in a very short period of time.

Some are of the opinion that this is a northern problem and you, the northern elders, are doing nothing to address the problem, instead you rely on government?

Being elders, since we are not in government, the only thing we can do is to advise government. What kind of advice didn't northern elders channel to the government? Now, I talked about Shehu Lemu's committee which government had done nothing about it.

People believed that this government is PDP government and you are one of the party's leaders. This means that the party has no powers over its members?

What I want you to understand is that the party has been crippled, meaning that those in power have no regard and respect for the party.

How come we, who created the party, are not being consulted on how to address the party's problems?

Though it has been crippled as you said, you remain in it up to now?

Yes, we are in it because we believe we are going to address its problems, by God's grace.

How could you do that because even in your state now, where the party chairman also comes from, There are a lot of problems and you have failed to adress them?

No! We all sat down, about 50 of us we are working together. It is only one person who we are not working together with, that is the governor.


Because he thinks because he is in power he is the only person who will do and undo. The day, as a leader, you will not do justice you are going to see what you do not want to see.

At the same time, on his part, he also said he never did anything against the law and the committee was set up?

Which committee? Sule Lamido's committee. This committee was not supposed to be set up from the beginning. Why? Because nothing was done contrary to the law. A party where the governor does what he likes and anybody he wants is the one to win in an election, not who the people want then it is not a party any longer.

During your time it was the same, as what the president wanted was final?

So what happened? Because of that I fought him till the day we parted ways. I was not part of it and I will not allow it.

At the national level, there is also a problem when the party took her own side, governors took the other one, why?

This thing is not good and there is need for reconciliation.

What do you think caused this differences?

Both are to blame, meaning governors took side, saying this is what they wanted to do in their states, and the president said no. The only solution is justice and, honesty, both in the ruling the party and the country, without these nothing will last.

In Geneva, you said there is no difference between democracy and military government in Nigeria. What do you mean?

What I mean is that those who takeover from the military - majority of them were military so they ruled as if it was the military government. Unfortunately, civilians also inherited this and they keep on practising it. Some people think that all these problems have something to do with 2015 election?

Actually, there is time for the 2015 election, may be some are doing what they are doing now because of that may be not.

Are you regretting coming back to PDP?

No, I am not regretting at all.

What about some restrictions on you by the party, how do you see them?

They are not doing so because I left the party and bounced back. They are doing so because they are afraid of me. Everybody is afraid of me in the party.

So you are trying to contest in 2015?

We are yet to come to that. We are going to fix the party problems whether somebody likes it or not.

Are you contesting in 2015?

Let us wait till the time comes.

You did not give me an answer?

I gave you an answer. Do you want me to tell you that I will contest or I will not? So I am not going to tell you because the time has not yet come. If it comes, I will tell you. Do you think I am afraid of you?

Is there anything that will stop you from contesting, considering that you contested before?

No, nothing will prevent me. No law stated this, I can contest to the end of my life and you know that. I have this right, if I am well.

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