Alhaji Mohammed Abdulrahman is a prominent member of the apex northern social-political group, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF. An international security surveillance expert, who worked closely with the late Generals Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Sani Abacha, and former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, Mohammed was also a former secretary of the political committee of the ACF.
In this interview in Abuja, BAFFA YAKUBU of The Nigerian Xpress, took on Mohammed, an adviser on politics, security and economy to one of the secretaries to the Government of the Federation, the late Alhaji Aliyu Mohammed, on the vexed issues of the Ruga Settlement project, Islamic Movement of Nigeria, IMN, leader, Sheikh El-Zakzaky’s case and ACF’s recent statement, blaming the insecurity in the country on past administrations, among others.
Permit me to start this interview with your area of specialisation, which is security. The Arewa Consultative Forum of which you are a member just sent out a statement, blaming the insecurity in the land on past administrations. As a security surveillance expert, do you think that their assessment of the situation is correct?
You see, as a security expert, I will say anybody that wants to comment on this issue that has nothing new to say should not cause an inflammation of the situation in the country because dancing around in circles and not coming out with something as serious as elders should be doing is wasting everybody’s time. They are just trying to inflame passions in the country.
The Ruga situation is that people should listen to logic. The logic to it all is that if you have no new solution to it all, you should just shut up; not taking sides if you care about Nigeria. It should not be about South-west, South-east, South-south or North. It is not about regionalism now. It is about central issue, the unity of the country. It should be about peace and national unity and these attributes point to the fact that Nigeria belongs to all of us, not it is our son that is president or it is that man that is president.
The ACF is talking on the basis of sectionalism. I don’t do that. I am a statesman and if you are a statesman, you consider Nigeria first; not section first. I don’t talk about the North unless I want to beautify them. You will notice from my interviews that I don’t criticise any of the regions unless I want to draw a word of caution.
Everybody should have heard the drums of war that this Ruga Settlement issue triggered. Whoever cannot hear the drums of war now is deaf and we must stop the beatings of the drums of war now. Let’s find solutions. If what somebody is about to say will not find solutions to it and is taking sides then whatever he is saying is useless. Very simple, Ruga Settlement can cause war.
That is why I said the sounds of the drums of war. And the only way we can stop this from happening if anybody is so uneducated not to read the signals very well that it is the sounds of the drums of war then that person is missing the point. South-west belongs to South-west, South-east belongs to South-east, South-south belongs to South-south and North belongs to North.
Those units, the South-west, South-east and South-south they don’t belong to Hausa-Fulani. They don’t belong to Fulani or Kanuri. They belong to Nigeria but first to South-west. So, you cannot tell them what they are going to have in their units. All of them are going to arm themselves and protect their region.
That leads me on to a recent statement by the pan Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, ordering violent Fulani herdsmen out of the South-west and that if they do not comply they would confront them….
That is why I am telling you that all regions will defend themselves. They will take up arms and defend themselves and the Ruga people will not be able to survive there. Have we not called for war, if that happens? Every section of Nigeria will stand up and defend themselves. I swear to God they will defend themselves and that time they will not care who is president, Hausa-Fulani or Igbo.
They will defend themselves. My people and everybody should see that and know that Ruga belongs to the North, not South-west, South-east or South-south. It belongs to the North. Anything from Niger and Benue Rivers up they can set Ruga Settlements there. Can’t they set up Ruga Settlements in every state of the North?
A state in the North can even have two or three Ruga Settlements and there are enough lands in the North. There is somebody who has set up one in Zamfara State, a wealthy man decided to set up three Ruga Settlements in Zamfara State. Have you not heard that Zamfara State said they want peace? That is how to go about it.
The Afenifere is also warning the National Assembly not to amend the Land Use Act with the intention to change the predominance of land allocation to state to the Federal Government, which may also allow for the implementation of the Ruga Settlement project. What do you think?
There is a decided case about the Land Use issue that was decided in Ibadan or somewhere. Authority for use and permission to use a land first of all resides in the hands of the custodians of that land before resting on the Federal Government.
If it is so, why should Federal Government set up any Ruga Settlement in any state without first of all asking for legal authority, permission and express answer from the custodians of the land before talking about Ruga Settlement in their land? If it is dictatorship it is not democracy and everybody is free, willing and rightful to fight dictatorship in a democracy.
This next question sounds consequent upon the last one about Ruga Settlement. The Fulani herdsmen were said to have set up a vigilante group in Ondo State. Before that one there was a threat to set up some in the South-east and…
My brother, my brother, my brother…they don’t understand it. Very soon the Fulani vigilante will take to their heels. You think people like the Ooni of Ife, Alafin of Oyo, Oba of Lagos and the Alake of Egbaland are going to be watching Nigerians from far away states to come and establish a vigilante group in their lands because the Constitution says you can operate from anywhere in Nigeria?
It does not mean that you can take away the people’s birthrights. Anything you want to do on their land you must pay for it. And if they don’t like what you are about to do on their land they will tell you, sorry, this is not allowed. It is part of the reservation of business by our own people. So, it is the state that has the right to determine what kind of business you want to do on their land.
All these royal fathers and traditional chiefs and all that would not want any Fulani man to be a vigilante in their lands. Do we have state police? Then what kind of vigilante are they talking of? Who gave them the authority to set up vigilante in another man’s territory? That is Yoruba territory. Is that not so? You don’t just get up and go to Yoruba territory and set up a vigilante.
When Chinese decided to set up their police in South Africa, did you not hear what happened? Go and ask. They were killing them. How do you go to a country and set up your police. Can you do that anywhere? That is what this Ruga Settlement thing and setting up of Fulani vigilante group in another man’s land amount to. Let’s face the fact. You go to somebody’s territory and set up your police; so in the North there should be Igbo police, IPOB police.
Since there is nothing like that in the North, then the South-west, South-east and South-south will not accept northerners or Fulani to go to their land and set up vigilante group or whatever name they are called. Setting up a vigilante group amounts to setting up a police force.
ACF also lampooned Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for saying there is an attempt to Fulanise…
Let me cut you. All these people don’t have the answer. They are just inflaming the situation. They are looking for oil to rub their mouths and eat. All the former leaders of Nigeria did the best they could while they were there. There is no former leader of Nigeria now…let them listen to Yakubu Gowon when he talks.
Let them listen to Generals Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar anytime they talk. They are all talking about the safety of Nigeria and peace anytime they talk. I am not going to comment on any Head of State or President of Nigeria because all of them did their best while they were there. Only their best, maybe, was not good enough for us because you cannot satisfy everybody. Is it possible to satisfy everybody? We, the civilians, are the problems. We, the politicians, are the problems. We take positions not based on our convictions.
We take positions based on how much money it can fetch us; how much can get into their pockets. That’s why you have corruption everywhere. You think under the military this can happen? It can never happen. It is there for Nigerians to decide whether they want a civilian or military government. We need a government that can teach everybody a lesson. Mark my word: We need a government that can teach everybody a lesson; a government that has authority to teach everybody a lesson because you cannot teach people a lesson on democracy and you have a gun in one hand.
Right now, Fulani herdsmen, Boko Haram and all that are the weapons that the government is using for its leadership, intimidation. Is that not it? So, there will be conflicting scenes. At the end of the day if there is going to be a revolution, it will start from the North. They are exporting insecurity, exporting, are you hearing me now, to the South-west and South-east because it was very safe to go around in the South-west and South-east until Fulani got there.
Am I lying? But there has been a problem because you can’t even drive between Kaduna and Abuja. Even within Abuja now, it is sometimes not safe to go out. So, let’s better keep our homes in order and ask the government to get rid of insecurity in the North and forget about exporting cattle Fulani and all those people, causing insecurity in the South-east and the South-west.
The Ruga people and the Fulani should leave the South and conduct their businesses in the North, because when the northerners and even some Fulani conducted businesses peacefully and live with the people in the South peacefully and do like their people do, nobody harasses them. Do they harass them? In those days, we used to hear of Sarkin Sasa of Ibadan; isn’t it?
He was my friend. At that time, he had invited me to Ibadan up to five to six times when he wanted to showcase…because when his followers in Ibadan wanted to test whether he was only a northern traditional ruler for the Sasa; you know the Sasa was mainly in the Zango area of Ibadan. That’s where the Sarkin Sasa rules, the Hausa and Fulani community because he himself is a Fulani man.
You know Abacha was in Ibadan at a time. When I was doing security work for Abacha, that’s when I met Sarkin Sasa and we became very close friends. So, people that have no conviction about how to operate and run their country peacefully in unity and progress, with progressive development, it is better they don’t talk at all. Islam says if you know what you are going to say is not useful and would not be beneficial to mankind or the people you are saying it, it is better not to talk at all.
That is a quotation in Islam I am telling you today on a happy holy Friday. You can quote me. Elders and everybody, if you are about to say what you know will not be beneficial, useful to the people you are serving, it is better not to say a word at all. But criticism of any Head of State is an abomination. We leave them to God for the role they played. If anybody can do it, let him do it. When Buhari came in the first problem they had was always mentioning the problems Jonathan left behind. Have they done better than Jonathan?
You don’t talk about people when you have a stage. You have a stage for four years, isn’t it? Then don’t address what the other person did because you have already known the misgivings, the gaffes and the things those people never did. Were they not prepared for the leadership when they got inside? Then they should carry out their agenda of fixing the things that are wrong in Nigeria. That way if every four years a Head of State comes, plays his part even though he is not able to solve the problems he goes and another four years somebody comes and plays his own. The problem we have left for Nigeria is that we are not advanced enough like those advanced countries to ask for second term.
Even when we are messing up and ‘shitting’ all over the place we want the second term. In civilized advanced nations they can have second term. Here even after the second term they want a third term. Did Nelson Mandela not retire? When Obama did his two terms did he not leave the place? Even Thomas Jefferson, the father of America, that man you see in American dollar bill, was the first leader of America and there was no democracy then. He ruled for a while.
He was a retired General, a war General. He stepped down and asked his people to continue, let them find a leader. There is a limit to which the brain can take vibrant ideas and be able to live up to the needs of a country. That is why succession is very important. That’s why a leader must rest after a while. But if he danced terribly in his first term and we didn’t even move forward why should that leader be given a second term? That is the way Nigeria should be run?
This next question is on the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, known as Shi’ite, El-Zakzaky. The Iranian government appears to be kicking against his continued incarceration…
Let me tell you. Don’t let us waste our time on El-Zakzaky. El-Zakzaky issue can put pressure on take-over of government in Nigeria. El-Zakzaky with the sympathy he gets around the world and Iran, Iraq and Syria…is that not the bed of crude oil in the world? That is the centre of the well of crude oil in the world. They are the backers of El-Zakzaky’s movement. It is a religious sect; it is their belief and such people can die for their beliefs. If they support El-Zakzaky they can make all the people, who depend on the oil in their region to break relationship with Nigeria.
Can they not? Yes, because when they hold the drum of oil in one hand they can make people…whatever that can do to their economy, give them money, give them development through the money they get from the oil trade they do with them than what Nigeria can ever give them. So they will use Nigeria just like tutorials. So all these demonstrations going on in Britain, Italy, France, in Europe as a whole and the one that took place in America, yesterday (Thursday, July, 25); already it is taking place in Canada. All the demonstrations are in support of El-Zakzaky.
You mean you have not seen the video of the one that happened in London? Nigeria should proceed with care, with caution, cc, Care and Caution. I sympathise with this government and I have always tried to help them see the best way they can steer the ship of state successfully. But the whole thing works as if you are talking to people that their brains have gone out of their heads. So that is the problem that is confronting us. So, me I’ll keep quiet and be watching them. So, Nigerian leaders should proceed to lead this country with care and caution. If not there will be a conflagration or there will be a government that God will institute in Nigeria that will marvel and shock everybody.