Col Tony Nyiam (rtd) is a pro-democracy activist and acclaimed mastermind of the 1990 Gideon Orkar coup d’état against the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida.
As we approach 2019, I want you to look at the political situation in the country and tell me your fears. Amidst opposition, the incumbent president is re-contesting and this has engendered so much tension and coalitions have emerged?
Let me begin by thanking you for this opportunity. The question you are talking about is important. One of my greatest fears is that Nigeria’s greatest national security risk is ironically the present Commander-in-Chief (C-in- C) of Nigeria’s Armed Forces. Is this not daily becoming obvious? Instead of President Muhammadu Buhari as the Commander-in-Chief to be the chief protector of Nigerians, he has by his own repeated omissions and commissions become the most disturbing national security risk that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Nigerians in general will be making a mistake in giving him a second chance. President Muhammadu Buhari is undoubtedly the most incompetent, despotic, and above all, a Commander-in-Chief who undermines the rule of law. As if this is not bad enough, President Buhari’s double standard in tackling the invasion of innocent Nigerians’ farming families by Fulani herdsmen/foreign militias makes him complicit in undermining our national security.
Buhari’s obvious ignorance of the inadequacy of the organogram or structure of Nigeria’s security management, and rigidity or refusal in restructuring the already fractured foundation of the society is itself a key disrespect of our national security architecture. People are talking of sectoral restructuring, but they forget that all this sectoral restructuring will go nowhere unless what they are anchored on is restructured first. There are many examples of Buhari’s incompetence. A recent example is the security failures in the management of APC National Convention. Remember, when he was speaking, hoodlums from Imo, Delta took over. They came in, attacked people; in other words, they never learnt from the experience of Ekiti primaries which was just a few weeks before.
Under the watch of Buhari, it is inevitable that we shall continue to have the bad omen which we are experiencing. Lest we forget, bad omen or phenomena are seen as a sign of future bad events. The broom stick which APC makes a duty to parade is used as a means to achieve magical fight. Hence you see the depiction of the overriding broomsticks in the unprecedented killings of innocent Nigerians and loss of lives in natural disasters during the period of President Buhari’s rule. They are clear evidence of the bad omen that will visit Nigeria if he gets back to office. A good example of the cruel irony of those who are taking advantage of his incompetence, lack of attention to details is the one by an APC aspirant to Edo Assembly and a nurse for that matter, Josephine Iyamu, who openly campaigned for women rights while secretly engaging in child sex trafficking and forcing young girls to swear to oaths and rituals. She has just been sentenced in the UK. There is a war by Fulani herdsmen militia against the Nigerian majority of Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo , South-South, and Middle Belt original land owners.
Why do you think we have this land grabbing instinct among Fulani herdsmen?
First of all, we must realize, as the president himself has said, that the issue of environmental impact, the desert expansion means that the only land that is fertile is located in these areas. Also, Nigeria is so unfortunate that even where the Fulani are in the majority, which is in Guinea, they have never been allowed to govern because all the other smaller ethnic groups ganged up against them, saying they are too clannish and refused them to govern. But they through Othman Dan Fodio got the caliphate and they see Nigeria as their land. They believe and they have been lucky. There had been no Hausa man who had been head of state of Nigeria. When it comes to sharing “camps” Fulani takes and dumps the Hausa man. And if you watch, the killings going on in Zamfara, it’s against the Hausa. In Kaduna State, the Kaduna South, which is the home of Zamani Lekwot and Martin Agwai is the theatre of killings. In Kaduna North, when you hear of killings in Birnin Gwari, it is because it is not a Fulani place.
What is the solution to this endless bloodletting?
One of the first steps that is imperative is that APC as a party must have the courage to dump Buhari as their candidate. He is a bad product to sell. It is evident in how people are leaving the party. If we go by his own evidence, after so many things instigated by him against Saraki, he has now admitted that Saraki is a man of due process. To that extent and by extension, he has placed him as a man who believes in rule of law. Unlike himself, Saraki is the candidate they should go for, or Tambuwal, or a Middle Belt person. APC has a choice to change itself. Alongside these changes, they should embrace a new level of politicking and performance. With these changes, APC will not give us the bad omen which they have been giving to us. It is imperative that all our critical stakeholders in nation building have started to forge a patriotic front and working in concert and unity to achieve the desired ends. People like Ayo Adebanjo, John Nwodo, the Sultan of Sokoto who have been working tirelessly behind the scene, the Oni of Ife, Oba of Benin, Obi of Onitsha, Obong of Calabar, Gbon Gwom of Jos, Gen. T Y Danjuma, and former heads of state are well positioned to take this initiative to arrest the drift into national disaster. Incidentally, people like Junaid Muhammed are all included in this task. APC may fare well without Buhari as candidate. The new chairman, Oshiomhole and his National Working Committee, NWC, the governors of the party and other stakeholders in APC must see it as a duty to drop Buhari as their candidate so as to make APC a force to be reckoned with in next year’s election. They should go for a respectable and healthier candidate and avoid gerontocracy as we have seen in Buhari.
In making this recommendation, does it mean you don’t have confidence in the R-APC?
No. Instead, I want a healthy election with good candidates on both sides. What I am saying is that APC should give us a good candidate that will vie against the PDP, for Nigerians to make a choice, so that we can make a good choice for the country. I still insist that Buhari is a bad choice for the party. Why am I saying that? Buhari is not in power. The real president of Nigeria is his geriatric uncle, Mamman Daura, followed by the leader of the Think-Tank that advises him – Babagana Kingibe. Then his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari steps in, who in effect is the hand of Mamman Daura in that order. There is a 4th man in that hierarchy. That, I won’t like to mention his name. There is hardly any policy you don’t see the hand of this cabal in. In all this, Buhari is number five. This cabal appears lacking in necessary courage to stop the reliance on working with an inappropriate structure and doing things in a way that is not working out. The calls for the sack of the service chiefs are in my view, a vote of no confidence on Buhari. It is in order. The service chiefs are not commanders. Our constitution makes President Buhari the chief executive officer of the Armed Forces. The Nigerian masses are like shareholders in the Nigerian project while he sits atop as the chief executive officer. The service chiefs are like the director of corporate affairs, or director of human resources. They prepare materials for the chief executive which are approved by him. To this extent, I am saying that service chiefs are not the first line of authority, otherwise, the military; if they had not wanted to be ambiguous would have said army commanders. To say that you leave the commander-in- chief, who is the executive commander and say you are sacking his aides is inappropriate. Have you not heard the adage that an army is as good as the commander? If an army of lions is commanded by a sheep, it will not move. So, why are Nigerians lacking the courage to say it as it is, rather they are dodging the issue as usual. The issue of sacking the service chiefs is not dependent on Buhari, and even if you sack the service chiefs, there will be no change. The template that is in place is such that any man that takes over will face the same problem. Even if Buhari gives his orders, which he has never given, we won’t get the desired result. The last time he gave orders to deal with the herdsmen was when President Trump gave him marching orders, when he told him that they are killing Christians. That was the first time he came back and showed a semblance of taking action and he visited Benue. He has never given the kind of orders he gave against IPOB.
Let me answer it this way. It is very obvious. President Buhari without doubt, as I said earlier, is the most incompetent and nepotic head of state ever in Nigeria. He is pretending to be condoning the Fulani herdsmen who are fighting to use his reign as a window of opportunity to grab the high-yielding land in Nigeria. All the river basins around the River Benue and River Niger, down to Agatu, Igede, and down to Nsukka , Enugu; Delta, Edo; all that rich areas, they want to use the time of this man to grab them. If not, why would a president who means well advise the people of Benue to live in peace with their killers? Secondly, when he was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury in London to diffuse the tension and killings, he said the killings were by ex-Libyan militias/ soldiers. That is another version. Recently, he blamed the politicians for the killings. For a commander-in-chief who has daily and weekly intelligence briefings not to know who is attacking us shows that he knows more than we do and is pretending? The DG DSS, at a conference I attended sometime in February organized by the Senate, before the Senate he said most of the arms they found with the herdsmen came from military and police armouries. The whole place was quiet. The only person that spoke was the IGP who said it was only a few from the police. With all this, do you need an oracle to tell you that Buhari is not serious about the killings? Even the governor of Plateau State, who I would say is a willing tool, by rushing to the cabal to condemn the grazing land law in Benue had his own mayhem when he was recently visited by the killers. Those who still think that they can sheepishly follow Buhari will soon see how ungrateful he is. An example of who they should learn from is a man called Sule Hamman, a very brilliant Fulani man who was the brain box that stood with Buhari all through the years.
Who is afraid of restructuring?
Let me say this. The extant 1999 Constitution is an outcome of what Prof Abiola Ojo described as ‘successful legislation which begets its own illegality.’ We need the people to determine the constitution in place of imposters who framed the current constitution in use. I refer our lawyers to what is called Principles in Ethics, and in essence jurisprudence. The principle states that a law can be broken to achieve a greater good. This is a principle my Catholic Rev Father brought to my notice. St Thomas Aquinas expanded this principle. I am saying that Nigerians should have the courage of setting aside this present constitution. Those who are benefiting from the present situation will always oppose restructuring. Luckily for us, people are daily realizing that we won’t make any progress without restructuring. Only the other day, Governor Dickson of Bayelsa spoke with Ango Abdullahi on it. A critical Think-Thank led by Sule Hamman and other scholars from the North-West has come up to support restructuring the country. Let me ask this question. What is the way out for a people whose socio-economic power had been hijacked, especially when the powers of the usurpers had been legalized? A people, whose socio-economic and even political power had been forcefully colonized, will do anything to reclaim their power. As rightly captured by His Eminence, Rt Rev Gbonigi in his book, he said sensually centered insurgencies are bound to rise from time to time with our present over-centralized quasi-democratic governance. He goes on to explain that this is why well-meaning Nigerians have agitated and will continue to agitate for true political and fiscal federalism. We have a situation, according to a comedian, where the Federal Government is ruling without an agreed ruler.
We have a political system which incubates and produces crooks as leaders. This leads to the next question: Why is the biggest fighter against corruption not fighting against the corruptive system that begets corruption and the corrupted idea of federalism that we are operating. Can institutionalized corruption in Nigeria be effectively done in a way without an address of the underlying conditions which are the root causes and means of sustenance, and above all, the cover up of institutional graft? If the present situation where the Federal Government is exploiting Niger Delta resources and value added tax in Lagos, if it is not institutionalized corruption, then what is it? With the mother of all corruptions, the outcome of governance will most likely be crooked. The independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is only independent by name as I have said many times.
There is no serious constitutional basis for the electoral commission to be free from the president’s control.
How does this impede on the 2019 general elections?
The INEC chairman has to do more to correct the impression and allegation that as we speak, over one million PVCs have been printed and given to Nigeriens to cross Buhari’s town, Daura. No wonder a rail line is being built from Daura to Niger. If you doubt this allegation, recently, scores of Nigeriens were arrested by the Navy in Kogi and were found with PVCs, which were for the Ekiti governorship election.
Can we have your thoughts on state police? How best can it be achieved?
State police is imperative and obvious. Before I go further, let me make a distinction. There is what is called low intensity war as we have now with the killings. In the Nigerian case, they become high intensive due to the level of arms. We have now, both wars from external and within us. We have enemies within us. While we have very good defense architecture against external threats by conventional armed forces, what we don’t have is security architecture to deal with unconventional troops. We have beaten Boko Haram in conventional warfare. We have not beaten them in unconventional warfare. This is why they are still bombing. On top of this, we now have Fulani herdsmen who are using mercenaries from abroad as the president confirmed, to attack us. We should learn from the American experience after 9/11. We should begin the concept of homeland defense. In America, while they have federal armed forces, they have national guards in the states. The police are basically to enforce law and order. When it comes to military defense of any community, it is always a paramilitary or military force. The Americans believe that for internal; the national guards in the states come in handy. So, we need state guard. Enugu State, for example, should have Enugu State Guard made up of Enugu indigenes or residents. The arms they carry are made up of small fire arms to defend. But they will not have long range arms. We can no more depend on the centre. In India, when the Chinese threats were going through the Himalayas to attack Indian communities, the Indians started ethnic police in addition to the federal security set up. So, we need National Guard to serve as a buffer between the police and the armed forces. Part of the canons of restructuring says that states should be more autonomous, and should have control of their resources.
To what extent do you think that Buhari’s protracted illness has impacted on his alleged incompetence?
I don’t want to talk about the illness because that is the burden of every mortal. Buhari has never been competent. A commander-in-chief that cannot even be obeyed by the police? In his public positions, his deputies have always been the ones in charge. The late General Tunde Idiagbon did the whole work in his first outing as military head of state. At the 3 Div of the Army where I served under him, the brainbox, and the person who did the whole work was Col Chris Igbokwe. Chris Igbokwe was actually the man who led the tanks to stop Dimka’s coup. But because he was an Igbo man, he was put down and the glory was given to another person. It was Chris Igbokwe who stopped Dimka’s coup. Remember that there were even doubts about which side Babangida was. Babangida was the one who went to see Dimka and talked to him. But the person that mobilized troops to stop the coup was Chris Igbokwe. He eventually became a Col GS, something like Chief of General Staff to Buhari when we were in 3 Div of the Nigerian Army. Now, he has been hijacked by a cabal and the only person there who has some thinking capacity is Kingibe, but he is more interested in Kanuri and Fulani agenda than Nigeria.
Where do you think Nigeria is heading to, given the attitude of the politicians, the polarization, killings, electoral problems and other negative tendencies?
It is heartwarming that many people of goodwill are rising to the challenge. Obasanjo, Danjuma, the christian communities, muslims and many others. I know that the Sultan of Sokoto is working tirelessly to ensure that Nigeria is saved from the doomsday. Many a time, the young man is misunderstood because of what the Fulani herdsmen are doing. Many of the eminent Fulanis feel that what is being done in their name is terrible. You see the Hausa rising to draw a distinction between them and the Fulani. This goes to show that Nigerians are now waking up. For a long time, Nigerians have been asleep or have been hypnotized that they do not see danger. The danger that lies ahead is that if Buhari gets a second term, Nigerians should know that the bad omen, the killings of innocent farmers, and natural disaster in which lives are lost in hundreds under president Buhari’s watch will continue.
It is now left for them to do the needful and safeguard human lives and halt the agenda of enslavement of fellow human beings. The arrogance of Miyetti Allah is baffling. When Nigerians are asking for the service chiefs to be sacked, they are pushing that the service chiefs should be retained. This means they are now determining the direction of the government, though I don’t think the service chiefs are the problem. I think Buhari is the problem.