Former Senator JKN Waku was a gubernatorial aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Benue State during the 2015 general elections. In this interview, he speaks on problems threatening Nigeria’s unity and other critical issues.
Daily Trust: Nigeria’s unity is being threatened by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), MASSOB and attacks by herders. What do you think is responsible for these agitations? Senator JKN Waku: The agitation of the Niger Delta group is the most burning issue in this country at the moment. Agitations are allowed in the corporate existence of a nation, but such agitations must have human face. It is not about going into criminality by vandalising state assets. Rather than take the law into your own hands, it would be better to state one’s grievances with suggestions that would make you feel part of the system. The agitators needed to say what they wanted and what should be done for their people. It is when their position on the matter is ignored that they should explore other mechanisms to attract federal government’s attention, but not to take the government and authorities to ransom, as they are doing now.
The activities of herders are also criminal and government should come out with a policy. I heard that some states have adopted the policy of grazing areas but in Benue we are totally against grazing, we are for ranches. Today, if you go to Brazil, Britain and America, you don’t see one single cow walking on the streets. Even in Argentina, which is known to be the major cow raiser in the world, you don’t see their herds roaming the streets. They are ranched and they look better and healthier, and also the milk produced from them is healthier. But, here in Nigeria, cows are moving about randomly, not properly fed. The kind of water and grasses consumed by the cattle is not even considered. I feel it would be better for this country to create a law that would allow only ranching which would create more job opportunities. Ranching will also make the cows healthier, more stabilised and buyers will know exactly where to pick a cow. We are in the 21st century now, and grazing can no longer be fashionable because locations have been over grown, people have taken farmlands for the establishment of industries, towns and villages. In addition to that, the kind of sophisticated weapons that the herders carry with them gives one the notion that some people, sitting somewhere, are using these people for a gradual land speculation or invasion. I think government should come out definitively and issue a statement that any herdsman caught with weapon, without certification, should be prosecuted.
DT: How do you view the agitation by MASSOB to break from Nigeria?
Waku: There is a law and a mechanism to follow in order to qualify for state creation. It is a treasonable offence the way they are going about it. They want to break from Nigeria? What are their grievances that Nigeria has not solved? The so-called Biafran agitators have never seen war. In fact, if they had heard the sound of guns, they wouldn’t be talking about war because there is a price to be paid for that. Their agitation is highly motivated by job seekers and disabled politicians that wanted such organisation to be heard.
DT: In clear terms, what is your opinion on the indivisibility of Nigeria?
Waku: You don’t break from a country based on sentiments or tribalism. If the Igbo people are talking about Biafra, I’m sure the South-south states like Cross River and the other tribes may not even want to join them. It is not division that matters. It is how we will live together and discuss our differences so that we can work together. But, taking things for granted, because they have oil in a particular region and want to break away, okay, let them go and drink their oil. We, in Benue, will go with Nigeria. We will take our yams and eat alone. It was the cocoa in the West, groundnut in North and the palm oil in the East that gave birth to the oil. And, in any case, we have over 200 countries in the world but only few have oil. Japan and China, which are among the most advanced economies, have no oil wells. What the government of Nigeria will do is to intensity efforts in other mineral resources so that we do not rely on oil alone. Oil is a perishable commodity and in few years to come, it may no longer be there. But, be that as it may, their lands have been completely devastated, they don’t have where to farm, their fishes are no longer alive and the federal government has to do something for them. However, don’t forget that there is the 13 percent derivation for them, Niger Delta Development Commission and there is the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs. They’ve got enough and they should hold their people responsible for their inability to look after them. The federal government has done enough, I am not the spokesman of the federal government, but, as a citizen of this country, who knows what is going on, participated in many political activities, I am old enough to assess the situation.
DT: What is your assessment of the APC change mantra?
Waku: When the present government took over, there were 27 states of the federation that could not pay workers’ salaries. The government inherited an unbelievable burden and if this government did not come into power, we would never have known that N2.6 billion of tax payers’ money was given to individuals to pray for (former president Goodluck) Jonathan and for some people to remain in power. This government’s effort in exposing fraud and trying to sanitise the system is an achievement. It is true that there is hardship, but change brings many difficulties until things stabilise.
DT: How do you think the fight against corruption would be strengthened?
Waku: I quarrel with (President Muhammadu) Buhari over one thing. He should have started his probe from (ex-president Olusegun) Obasanjo’s regime. Obasanjo should be probed. Buhari should revoke sale of those houses and properties that were sold to individuals and give them back to the states. You cannot privatise state’s property to individuals. If that government was in power today, they would have privatised the National Assembly and, probably, privatised the Aso Rock Villa.
DT: Do you think states would continue to exist in the foreseeable future in view of their inability to sustain themselves?
Waku: I am happy that the current administration is inviting investors in agricultural produce. It is when that is done and salaries are still not being paid that I will have a question to ask. For today, I’m backing the support from the federal government to the states, but let that support strictly go to the purpose for which it is meant
Read more at http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/politics/why-buhari-must-probe-obasanjo-sen-waku/158040.html#HFpZBQuIsBKjH2li.99
Why Buhari must probe Obasanjo – Sen JKN Waku
Reviewed by Link Naija