Leader of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Alhaji Tanko Yakassai in this interview with MUHAMMAD KABIR, speaks about the level of insecurity in the country and the dangers of disintegration
What can you say about the current situation of Nigeria?
Nigeria is having problems with security challenges but the security challenges are brought about not by the issue of militancy but by the issue of unemployment. Because most of the people engaged in banditry are among those who have no jobs or anything to survive on.
They are forced into banditry in order to survive, to find something to eat. It is unfortunate; the solution is to create job opportunities, where people can work in gainful employment that will provide them with means of sustaining their lives.
But it seems the insecurity is gaining ground from North to South to almost all the regions?
No, no, this is wrong. It is false. They have been having insecurity, one way or the other, right from our younger days. So it has nothing to do with the issue of national unity to break up Nigeria into whatever number. You will continue to have this problem as long as the youths are unemployed and have no means of sustaining themselves.
Anywhere in the world where you find people resorting to banditry and insecurity, it is caused by hunger and unemployment. So it has nothing to do with the unity of the country.
Those who are trying to break the unity of the country are just trying to connect the two together, but they are actually separate issues. The unity of the country is whether the country is better for everybody when it is united or whether it will not be better.
My problem with people who are advocating for the breakup of Nigeria is that they did not offer any solution to the problem of Nigeria. My understanding is that people who want to break up this country have decided to use the media in Nigeria.
There are a lot of people who are looking for job, media and the rest, they are unable to get employment and therefore, they are looking for ways to destroy the country; they will make use of these people to intimidate the unity of the country
Are you saying that the media is being infiltrated?
Yes, I think so because of the way this propaganda is gaining place in the media because you don’t see it on the streets. All the marketers in this country go about their business. You go and buy foodstuffs in the markets, no banditry in the market; go to railway or go to park, no banditry. So the banditry is perpetrated by the young people.
The young people are not educated; they are people who want to use them either because of their ignorance or because they are hungry and people who want to destroy the unity of the country are taking advantage of their shortcomings. Disunity will not solve the Nigerian problem.
How can the media get rid of these elements that have now infiltrated the profession?
It is up to the media people to open their eyes and see people. See the editors, there is poverty in the country. They should address their minds on how to create gainful employment. Instead of asking questions about secession why don’t they talk about job creation?
They themselves are either complicit or they are secessionists themselves, secession elements operating the media. Otherwise, when the country is passing through poverty and unemployment, why is the media concentrating on the issue of secession?
What we need is a solution to poverty, unemployment and banditry, not secession. My fear is that secessionist elements have adopted the strategy of intimidating the media with poverty because everybody, I am talking about the majority of Nigerians, are benefitting from Nigeria and nobody has come up today with a better solution to the Nigerian problem through unity, through integration.
If we split into two pieces, how does it solve our problem? When you have a problem you look for a solution, you don’t try to compound it. Secession will compound this problem.
There will be more armed robbery; there will be more stealing; there will be more unemployment; there will be no jobs in the country.
There are countries that are worse than Nigeria today in terms of poverty but they are together. I can cite two cases – Benin and Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Since 1960 to date Congo has not known peace and yet they are together. The same thing with Sudan, even Sudan went to the extent of fighting civil war getting to the division and yet they didn’t solve the problem of poverty.
Can we say the government is relaxed in attending to problems of national importance? For example where there are attacks, for example in the South, the security is relaxed. They are not forthcoming, the kidnapping continues and the government seems to be so relaxed on it?
I have spoken so many times to the government. Things don’t reveal themselves. You have to plan for them to happen and not to happen on their own.
Whoever wants to rule, either at national or at state level ought to have a plan. Problems cannot just be solved by agitation or noisemaking and media agitation. Problems are solved by creating a programme or plan that will address the issues.
And to turn our face and begin to think of ways to overcome our problem will never solve our problem; it will only create more. So this is the reason why things are not going in the normal way because they are not looking for solutions.
Almost everybody is interested in criticism and attacking. People are not advising and bringing ideas to how to get rid of the problems such as unemployment, how can you get good roads? People need to address their minds to positive thinking and not negative thinking.
Recently you have seen the rise of regional armed security operatives created by the state governments like the Amotekun, and the ESN and the rest of them. Do you see this as a movement towards state policing?
When the Yorubas started Amotekun, I said that soon other zones will begin to copy them, and this is what is happening. It will not solve the problem. Like now, go to South-West, tell your colleagues in the South- West to go and see the recruits in the Amotekun. How many Igbos have been recruited?
How many Hausas were recruited? How many Kanuris were recruited? How many people from the opposition parties of the states have been recruited? Everybody is recruiting people from his own side.
This will not solve the problem. The regional security outfit, if it eventually gets established, will eventually degenerate into a militia in the hands of a political party. In most cases when a governor would like to set up a security outfit, he will take his party men. The party men will just fill it with their supporters.
If you go and check this Amotekun, you will find out they are supporters of one party or the other. Go to APC-controlled states and see who are the members. You will find out they are more APC supporters.
The problem is this. If we thought setting up these outfits would end up creating people’s militia and when those militia are locally armed, they will turn around and begin to attack the community. They will go to people attacking people and keep on demanding money, extort money from them, and as you go along they will begin to rob them.
Amotekun will not solve any problems. If our government cannot solve the security problem, how can Amotekun solve it? This is the mistake of our government. If any of the government did not allow Amotekun he would be blackmailed. Now the Igbos will have their own, the South- South will have their own and the North.
In the end we will find these security outfits will be replacing the police, the military and will be attacking police stations. I read in the newspapers that police stations were attached in this state or that state.
These are the same people you are now giving uniforms to and when you look back in the country nobody will sleep with their eyes closed. It is a bad though a dirty initiative and the Federal Government must not allow it.
IPOB is trying to set up an armed group but they have not succeeded and you are trying to set up an armed group.
They will then recruit IPOB members into the groups and soon they will turn them to be their armed groups officially recognised by the states