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‘Buhari must demonstrate the same commitment of fighting Boko Haram in also fighting herdsmen’

Senator Shehu Sani

Senator Shehu Sani, representing Kaduna Central in the Senate, spoke to SAXONE AKHAINE in Kaduna on national issues, including the dangers posed by the attacks and killings perpetrated by Fulani herdsmen in parts of the country, which he said could like threaten the unity and survival of Nigeria as a nation, if concerted efforts are not made to arrest the situation, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to give a second thought to his second term ambition next year, saying his campaign managers are insensitive to the current crisis brewing in the country as a result of herdsmen attacks, cult killings and kidnap menace. He alleged that Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s initial appeasement policy of providing public funds to Fulani herdsmen has further encouraged them to wreck more havoc on Southern Kaduna communities, with the hope of getting more financial inducement before ceasing fire.

What is your perception of the way President Muhammadu Buhari and his government is handling the brewing crisis as a result of attacks and killings by Fulani herdsmen in some parts of the country?
We must accept the fact that the country is facing a serious security challenge. We thought that after Boko Haram, the country would see peace at the end of the tunnel. But it is clear that what is at the end of the tunnel is not light, but another tunnel of fire and violence.

Nigeria is presently at war with an uncoordinated, ruthless and violent guerilla force that strikes at soft targets, commit mass murder and atrocities and at the end of the day, walks away.

The Federal Government and the President have a duty to restore peace, law and order in Nigeria, as it is today. The most prone and vulnerable areas in this country are the North Central states and part of the North West.

If we observe, there is vast expanse of land that stretches from Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger into the southern part of Kaduna. This is the north central version of Sambisa Forest, where thousands of armed criminals hide and commit atrocities with impunity.

If we are desirous of restoring peace and order, security agencies must be up and doing. One of the policies that have emboldened herdsmen to kill is the situation where herdsmen are paid not to kill or not to attack.

When you see people in position of authority making such utterances, paying herdsmen and pacifying them with public funds, it all goes to embolden them to commit mass murder and to kill people without any reason.

There is the problem of kidnapping, which used to be something you heard of from the South-South and Southeast parts of Nigeria. But it is glaring today that the north, particularly Kaduna State, has become the hub of kidnapping in the country. I am equally surprised that the President has not been able to tackle the problem.

If El-Rufai called the President a failure by writing a memo and leaking it to media, I wonder how the President is unable to call El-Rufai by his name and putting him in his right place.

In the last two years, nobody has the statistics of people that were kidnapped. Most of the people kidnapped and we hear about are prominent names. As a lawmaker, I am telling you today that I receive calls almost every two or three days from some of my constituents, asking me to help them with money to free their loved ones that had been kidnapped.

In some cases, you may think it is a scam just to extort money from you, but in most cases it is true. And now, for people like me, we are caught in a dilemma. If they call you asking you of money to help them free their loved ones, you have two options.

If you give them money, it is as if you are aiding and abetting the crime of kidnapping by making it a lucrative business and encouraging the kidnappers.

If you refuse to pay, the fact is that somebody’s life somewhere is at risk.

You can see the recent arrest that was made of one Ibrahim Umar, a notorious kidnapper, who had been operating in the Kaduna-Abuja axis. For him to have made such a public confession that he has killed over 10 people and he drank their blood each time he killed them tells you the enormity of the problem and the danger of what we have at hand.

I will say that until and unless the Federal Government moves by funding and equipping our security agencies to take action, we will continue to be at siege.

In Southern Kaduna, hardly a week passes without one person being kidnapped or killed. In the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari axis, the people there are at the mercies of kidnappers. You cannot go to Birnin Gwari in the morning, afternoon or night without the fear of being abducted by kidnappers or gunmen. Even there, a senior police officer was kidnapped.

If you move to Zamfara, it has become almost a lawless area where bandits operate and kill people at random. Now, there is no policy and programmes of government that is as important as human lives, as it changes the agenda of this administration.

It makes no meaning if the lives and properties of Nigerians are not safe. If we allow this trend to continue, it will threaten the peace and unity of this country. The criminals have killed people in Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Plateau, Niger and Rivers states.

Unfortunately, the Nigerian political class is more interested in next year’s elections than the lives and properties of Nigerians, who are being attacked and killed by the herdsmen. There is more time to meet and strategies for the next elections and there is very little time to pay attention to the lives of the common people.

My only advice for people who are advising the President and strategising for him to contest next year’s elections is that they should spare him some time, advise him well and provide a solid strategy to end the carnage and atrocities going on in the country today.

Human life is more important than politics, because you cannot preside over dead people. The images that we see in both social and traditional media are heart-rending, despicable, and show and demonstrate how bad and worse things have become in Nigeria.

If we want to restore peace and order to this country, we have to take proactive steps in addressing these issues.

There is also the recurring issue of Boko Haram insurgent group and we must commend the action of the military in dislodging them. But we must accept the fact that in spite of this, the insurgent are still operating and some local governments areas in Borno State are still within their grip.

If we are unable to bring about peace in this country, then there is no achievement for this government that can be counted.

There is allegation in some quarters that the President has not dealt with the Fulani herdsmen attacks the way he did in the cases of Boko Haram and secessionists in the Southeast because of tribal affinity. Do you agree with this?
First of all, I do not believe that the President can encourage, fund or sponsor herdsmen to kill anybody in this country. But what I have seen is that there is a clear lack of strategy and reluctance on the side of the government to tackling the problem posed by herdsmen in the country.

I can tell you that for over a year ago, the President was in Zamfara State in a military fatigue to address the problem of banditry and mass killing. The President should be seen in any part of the country where such violence occurs.

The President must visit Southern Kaduna, Birnin Gwari, Taraba, Benue, Rivers and Adamawa. It gives people some hope that their commander-in-chief is determined and committed to defend and protect them.

But where the ruling political class woefully failed the masses of this country is the very fact that there is more emphasis on politics. If the same energy and time devoted to politics is also devoted to saving lives in Nigeria, things would not have degenerated to this level.

My heart bleeds whenever the President is accused, but when you see the lack of energy and vigour on the side of the federal government in tackling this menace, then you will be weakened to defend the action of the federal government in the present circumstances.

We are at a time in the history of our country where the political forces, who are supposed to stand up and speak, are also boxed into a corner. They are strategising for power.

When you also look at the states’ chief executives, ask them where their security votes go. It mostly serves as largesse for buying political loyalty and rebuilding or refurbishing political structures and hunting down political enemies.

For example, if El-Rufai would spend more time in tackling the problems of kidnapping and killings in the state and spend less time in the palace of Mr. President, we would have been able to address the crisis confronting us in Kaduna State.

We are now at a stage in the north where people to support the action or inaction of the federal government, even if it is wrong, because there is sentiment in the mind that this President is our own and we must not say anything negative about him or criticise him.

There also a repeat of what we had in the past. The way some people in the Niger Delta saw what Jonathan was doing as always right during his time is the same thing happening today. Whatever Buhari and his government are doing, the people of the core north in particular see it as always right and as a taboo for anyone to say anything to the contrary.

If you have such atmosphere in the country, it is not helpful to the

President himself. Buhari is alone in his government and I can give a number of reasons for this.

Most of the people who are calling themselves Buharists were never Buharists when the President was not a President. When he was contesting and failing, they were never Buharists. They were never Buharists when he was on health vacation and there was uncertainty over whether he will come back alive or dead. Their Buharism started when he came back from medical vacation.

When he was on health vacation, the mosque in the Aso Rock Villa was empty. Nobody went there to pray. But now, they rush to be in the front row of the mosque praying with the President.

Nigeria’s political elites, I must say, are men of eye-service. That is why he will never know who are his friends or enemies until he is out of power. The fact that those who helped this government in the past to wrest power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been abandoned contributes to the problem.

I know very well that there will be a time when Buhari is out of office and he will look back and say he has dealt with the wrong people. But he is supposed to know better as one who was once a military head of state and later out of power.

My take in all of this is that the President must demonstrate the same commitment in fighting the Boko Haram in also fighting the herdsmen, because every attack by the herdsmen and the blood they shed stained the conscience of those in position of power.

Also, because of the attacks and killings, the credibility of Buhari’s administration is progressively being eroded. He should know that as commander-in-chief, he has a duty to protect every Nigerian.

What is your reaction to Buhari’s second term bid at a time Nigerians are yet to recover from the hardship brought about by fuel scarcity and now the killings in some parts of the country?
It is wrong to be talking of the re-election of Buhari as President when hundreds of lives are being lost and people are being massacred in different parts of the country.

There is time for everything. In time of bloodshed like this, the issue should be how to come together and address the problem. But those who are marketing the President at a time of this bloodshed are like people who are dancing on the graves of Nigerians. This is because we are in a crisis moment, we are in mourning mood and what any reasonable, conscious and responsible Nigerian should do at this time is look for how he or she can key into ways to address the problems we are currently facing in the country.

Campaigning for Buhari for next year’s election when people are being killed, when orphans and widows are being produced as a result of the tragedy of these circumstances and people are being kidnapped, I think amounts to political sacrilege. I

It is an insult on the conscience of Nigerians and it is an insult on the moral integrity of Nigerians for anybody to ignore what is happening and simply walk to the President and tell him that what is important at this material time is his re-election campaign for next year’s election.

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