Nigeria: We Are Asking Buhari to Give Us an Account of the Loss of Lives of Nigerians'

3 December 2020

Udora Orizu holds a discussion with the Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Defence, Hon. Babajimi Benson on contemporary issues, including his suggestion on how to end insurgency and why 2023 presidency should be zoned to the South

On the invitation of President Muhammadu Buhari to explain the security situation of the country, there was a drama, that played out, the House was divided on that issue and the insistence by Hon. Jaha that it is not the prayer of the motion as agreed by Borno lawmakers, why would that happen?

The 9th Assembly is the peoples parliament. The leadership encourages us to have very robust debates and there was a motion on that day by Hon. Satomi, Hon. Jaha interjected and insisted that the motion requesting for Mr President to come should be adhered to, some members felt that there was no need for Mr President to come because the prayer itself has a declaration of state of emergency, so some members felt that that was more important than asking Mr President to come and give account. We debated back and forth and there was a unanimous resolution to invite President Buhari and that's what played out. So, Mr President is meant to appear before the parliament within the shortest possible time.

What happens if Mr President doesn't show up?

If he doesn't show up, as we all know our resolutions are annoyingly only advisory but I think we're not asking him to come and tell us about football games, we are asking him to come and give us account of the loss of lives of Nigerians and this has been happening for long. It happens in the west, south west, north west and everywhere so somebody should come and tell us when this will stop. We are not asking for something out of the ordinary.

Do you think it is right for the President to continue keeping the Service Chiefs?

Personally, the parliament has spoken, but the type of constitutional democracy we practice gives the powers to appoint and sack service chiefs to Mr President. Tthat's where we find ourselves.

Would you say that the Service Chiefs and the President are incompetent?

I would not say incompetent, I will say that the challenges we face are not challenges that you can use security to cure. I will always say that you cannot use security to kill poverty. Poverty, insecurity, lack of good governance in those areas, you know youths don't have jobs in those areas, so that feeds the devil's workshop. And those youths are indoctrinated easily by bad guys and when indoctrination comes, you become determined, tenacious to those beliefs that they indoctrinated you in. That's the problem we're facing, we're facing very oppressed, suppressed, depressed Nigerians who don't see any hope in Nigeria. I think we need a whole new strategy. It's the Chinese military strategist that said, the skillful general is not that which wins 100 wars but the one that wins virtues and wars without going into a battle. How can we win this war without going into a battle? We need to provide governance, employment opportunities, we need to treat that area with a special status, we need to find a way of getting those youths and giving them hope so they know there's hope for them. Nobody wants to be a Boko Haramist, it's because of the lack of opportunities, hopelessness that they have that they are doing what they are doing. We need to find a strategy of reducing insurgents naturally by giving them a sense of belonging. We haven't been able to do that.

The government has said repeatedly that Boko Haram has been defeated, with the fatalities recorded, do you, in your own estimation think we are close to defeating Boko Haram?

We haven't. Boko Haram is still out there and I have always said it, as long as there's hopelessness, lack of governance lack of infrastructure and so on, as long as those things are not optimal we will always have insurgents. I have always said to people, the civil war was fought for three years, but we've been fighting insurgency for 12 years, without any end to it. I think it's only good governance that can defeat it. I don't believe that Boko Haram has been degraded or defeated in any way.

The Federal Government recently attributed the delay in defeating Boko Haram to global powers blocking Nigeria's moves to acquire weapons to fight terrorism, what do you have to say about this and what should be done?

I have news for Nigeria, those global powers I think will still continue to block, because they sell arms based on human rights records. The EndSARS protests that happened will further give them excuse to delay or not to sell weapons to us. I think we need to have a rethink, we need change our strategy to be able to eradicate this. Relying on western powers as we speak and based on our poor human rights records, will still make us struggle. We need to either build the alliances, or be very strategic.

Igbos are jostling to get to power in 2023, Do you think they should be given a chance?

I have a bias towards the igbos, because my family started out from NCNC and NPP, the late T.O.S Benson, the first Minister of Information and Culture. He was a strong Zikist. I always have a bias for them, I even call them the Messi of Nigeria. You know when you have a football team, you know Messi can dribble and create doors and score, but in the Nigerian nation, we put our Messi as a goalkeeper, we have not been able to unleash the strength, the industry of the igbos. If we do that , Nigeria will easily transform into the Taiwan of Africa. So if you ask me, the agreement, if it's going to oscillate to the South, yes there can be a keen competition between the southerners to choose who the best candidate is, that's the whole part of the equality in fact that I'm talking about. The north has done it, zone it to the south, let there be a competition, the best person from the south should win. I'm also an advocate of the South-east having a new state to make it six, that's how to force inclusion.

How will that play out, is it through constitutional amendment?

There's constitutional amendment, there's lobby. I haven't seen the South-east create a lobby platform yet maybe they are still strategizing but I want to see them have a strong push to ensure that happens. I think Nigerians, the Igbos should look out for the Yorubas and Yorubas should look out for the Igbos, the Hausas should look out for the Igbos and Igbos should do same. If we can work Nigeria out like that, have a conversation about looking out for each zone, I'm sure Nigeria will be a better place.

How would you best describe the relationship between the Yorubas and the Igbos?

Very cordial, there's inter-marriage, there's election in my senatorial district on Saturday, most of the igbos are rooting for the All Progressives Congress candidate. I believe it's cordial and I believe we can get better.

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