A former member of the House of Representatives and Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the House of Representatives for Barkin Ladi/Riyom Federal Constituency of Plateau State, Honourable Simon Mwadkwon, speaks with ISAAC SHOBAYO on the chances of his party in the 2019 general election, the plans of his party’s candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and insecurity in the country, among other national issues. Excerpts:
Your constituency has been under the siege from gunmen, suspected herdsmen-terrorists for more than 10 years, with over 200 people killed recently. What are you doing along with others to stop the killings?
As a representative of the people, the much I can do is to embrace dialogue; to speak out and provide succour to the people. Perhaps, the last I can do is to seek redress in court. Let me tell you, I have lost confidence in security agencies in Plateau State. They have been here for over two decade or so, if I may ask, have the killings stopped? Are they increasing or decreasing? For the two decades that they have been here, how many villages have been sacked and lost? How many farmlands have become fallow that the farmers can no longer access? We lost over 84 villages in my constituency, so anyone that is relying on the presence of security agencies is wasting his time. I was also a victim in 2012 when Senator Dantong and Hon. Gyang Fulani lost their lives as a result of this crisis; nobody has been arrested or prosecuted. I think the only thing I can do to help my people is to embrace dialogue. Even the dialogue itself doesn’t seem to yield any useful result, because I had done that while I was the chairman of Riyom Local Government and a member of the House of Representatives. I organised a lot of dialogue sessions where we brought people from different religious and tribal backgrounds together to show them the way forward. But you find out that each time there was a meeting to have dialogue, that day there would be severe attacks on villages; so you began to wonder what would be the solution to the problem. I am speaking because I have seen a lot of messages that had been passed out by different groups, some calling for termination of Riyom Local Government; I have seen the video, the one is saying the local government is a death trap. This is hate speech trying; to create hatred for the local government itself. Outside this too, I am a spiritual person; I believe that God can still help us out of the present predicament. We have been organising prayers; I strongly believe that God will answer our prayers.
Apart from Berom land, there are other local governments in Plateau State and the Middle Belt that are under severe attacks, with fingers pointing at the APC-led Federal Government for not doing enough to stem the tide. As one of the prominent person in this geopolitical zone, do you think the situation will affect the pattern of voting in 2019?
What is happening in Nigeria is a failure of government. The government has totally collapsed, because the tendencies of the human being is that if he does something that is wrong and each time that the person does that thing or the people involve themselves in such heinous crime, if no one is punished, they repeat it. The people of the Middle Belt are a minority in the North and going by the Geneva Convention, the minority right should be protected within the comity of nations and the Nigerian context as well. Nigeria is a signatory to that convention, but that aspect is not being respected. The Middle Belt is bedevilled by several problems; but because we are in the minority, sometimes our thinking and planning do not go beyond our numerical strengths. Otherwise, there should have been some sort of organised bodies that would speak and act at the same time that the people of Middle Belt are being killed. But there is no voice. So, until when we come together and agree, we will continue to experience these killings, especially when we have a government in place at the national level that is completely insensitive to the killings and I see President Buhari as being insensitive to the killings, because I cannot see a clear situation where he has come out to condemn it in clear terms. Even when over 200 people were killed in Plateau State and he came to the state, he did not make any categorical statement and that is the person who has sworn to an oath to protect the lives and properties of every Nigerian. So, the people of the Middle Belt are limited in whatever they can do to stop the killings. It is not even their duties, because government should make provisions. There are agencies that are responsible for taking care of lives and properties of people. Government must empower them by allowing them to do their work without interference. Look at the case of the DSS man that was fired by the vice-president when President Buhari was out of the country; but when Buhari came back, he did not see anything good in what the vice-president had done and in line with his ethnic agenda, he removed the person that was acting. I challenge you to do your research. The person heading the organisation now, is he the most senior officer? [He is there] simply because he is of the same tribe with the president. So, we have a country that people are not being considered as citizens, but are considered from the perspectives of their ethnic and religious backgrounds. We are doomed; that is why we must ensure that President Buhari does not come back in 2019.
But do you think the PDP has the capacity or what it takes to stop him from winning the 2019 election?
Outside ethnic and religious agenda that President Buhari used in 2015 that brought him to power, what else has he? He does not have the dexterity to rule this country, even all the things that he promised, we have not seen any. The ticket they used that time was the propaganda of the change mantra and the sympathy was that Goodluck Jonathan was a Christian and Buhari was a Muslim. That was able to attract votes for him from the Muslim axis, but today it is Fulani-Muslim versus another Fulani-Muslim; perhaps the only difference is that one is of the city and another one is of the bush. So, what campaign criteria will Buhari use against Atiku who is also a Fulani man? They are of the same ethnic nationality, so what will he use? If there would free and credible election, President Buhari cannot win the 2019 election. Remember in 2015, the Middle Belt gave him massive votes, but do you think he can get that in 2019?
What is the Middle Belt hoping to benefit from the centre in 2019?
What the Middle Belt would want now is good governance; whether we have people in government or not, we want good governance. We want our people to be secured; we want our land to be secured. Nobody should grab our land; our farmers should be protected, all these are more honourable to us than having positions in government. If you look at the composition of the campaign organisation of Atiku, you will find out that David Mark, Senator Jonah Jang and others from the Middle Belt are at the centre of the campaign council. Unlike President Buhari where 90 per cent of his security men are from the North, we strongly believe that Atiku will come with a new strategy that will ensure all parts of the country will be equally represented in his administration. One of the basic things in the minds of people in the Middle Belt is the implementation of the National Conference report that was organised by Jonathan. We are also advocating for the restructuring of the country and Atiku has been an advocate of this restructuring; so the Middle Belt will benefit from this and we are happy that if he comes in and implement these, we are home and dry.
Do you think there would free and fair elections in 2019?
I don’t see any sign of a free and fair election; Nigerians must rise to the occasion. That is the truth. We must rise to the occasion if we want this country to survive. My take is that we must defend our votes.
The activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be monitored. Though we don’t have confidence in them, we hope they would do the right thing in 2019. Let me say this that the PDP doesn’t have confidence in the electoral body. Of course, we all know the relationship between the INEC boss and the president, but we hope and pray that they do the right thing. However, we must insist nationwide that our votes must count. What is in the Electoral Act must be followed diligently.
One of the issues bordering an average Nigerian now, especially in the northern part of the country, is insecurity; do you think the PDP, if elected in 2019, has the capacity to address the problem?
Well, one, it is like intelligence gathering is poor; that is the basis through which you can fight this insecurity. Number two, everybody must be involved and government itself must stay away from acts that would bring about insecurity. There must be justice and fair play for all. The PDP believes in justice and fair play and if the PDP eventually emerges winner in 2019, which I strongly believe we would, it is for us to go into intensive intelligence gathering. Also, as I said earlier, people have not been punished for their crimes; nobody has been prosecuted. The big names are being shielded. So, PDP will only succeed in curbing this insecurity when it begins to punish those that are found guilty. If we do that, we would have headway and I see Atiku as somebody that would be able to do this.
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