National Publicity Secretary, Congress for Progressive Change, Rotimi Fashakin, in this interview with LEKE BAIYEWU, defends the position a former presidential candidate of the party, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) on the proscription of Boko Haram and state of emergency in the North-East
The Christian Association of Nigeria has faulted the comments made by former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, on the declaration of state of emergency in three North-Eastern states and the proscription of the Islamic sects, Boko Haram and Ansaru. Could you shed more light on the position of the statesman?
Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor’s use of CAN is mainly for political purpose. He talks impulsively. Let us examine Buhari’s position, which Oritsejafor did not take his time to examine properly. Yes, Boko Haram has been carrying out insurgency in an area. Buhari tried to look at how Boko Haram started as a group; what led to the level of severity of insecurity in the northern region and he tried to juxtapose it with the way the Niger Delta militancy started. It was the leaders of the Niger Delta that encouraged militancy for political purpose.
What Buhari said was to awaken our thought to understanding how the whole thing started and what it has cost us. If you made a truce in the Niger Delta region by talking to the militants – even though their leaders created the problem – and reintegrated them back into the society, then we should look at the insurgency in the North, which was exacerbated by the government. He said soldiers arrested the former Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, but the following day, after he was released to the police, he was killed. Buhari said that was the cause of the problem.
He said this was a practical knee-jerk approach by this particular government. This government has the notoriety for applying knee-jerk approach to national issues. At a time, the government said it wanted to have amnesty and peace talks with Boko Haram. At another time, it was talking about state of emergency. The military had been blamed even by the United States over abuse of human rights. The US once lambasted the military over the kind of carnage that took place in Baga. It was that kind of incongruity that Buhari tried to bring up.
How do you juxtapose a situation where a soldier was killed and, in the process, 200 innocent lives were killed with their houses burnt? We also have a situation in where many security agents were killed in Nasarawa and the Director-General of the State Security Service said he had forgiven them (the killers). How can he say such a thing? This is one of the issues Buhari described as totally incongruous. These things do not show a government that is consistent in its policy and these are the things that he was trying to point out and they (CAN) have twisted the essence of the argument.
When you say CAN is political, how do you mean?
It is not long that the Catholic Church temporarily withdrew its membership of CAN. The Catholic Church said as long as Oritsejafor remains the president of CAN, it would continue to hold its membership of the association in abeyance. They have looked at the way Oritsejafor is leading CAN and it is in a manner of going towards the precipice. CAN has become more or less the religious arm of Jonathan’s presidency. We have never seen a President of CAN that bought a private jet while in office. We have always known the presidents of CAN to have used that office to ensure the collective wellbeing of Christians in Nigeria. We know that on November 10, 2012, when the jet was presented to Oritsejafor in Warri, Jonathan was in the congregation. We don’t know for what purpose Oritsejafor would be calling for the arrest of Buhari, the same way he called for Buhari’s arrest on April 24, 2011, just after (Jonathan’s Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity) Reuben Abati, had written his article that Buhari was responsible for the mayhem that occurred after the election. Oritsejafor took it hook, line and sinker.
The government has banned Boko Haram and the question that arose was that, while Boko Haram was operating, was it a lawful group in the first place? At what time did Boko Haram go to the Corporate Affairs Commission to ask to be registered? Does it really matter whether the government banned it? Talking about the Niger Delta militants, before their agitation for resource control and other issues, some other things had taken place. Leaders in the region used the boys to secure second term in office. After they got their second term, they wanted to disarm these boys (militants) but they refused. These boys, with guns in their hands – well armed – resorted to kidnapping, which had nothing to do with Niger Delta oil. It was a criminal act. Because it was becoming an embarrassment to the nation and it was like holding Nigeria by the jugular – because oil, being the mainstream of Nigerian economy was at risk – the government had to negotiate with them.
What is on the ground now is that over two years, the government has been using a lot of force in the North. When the government was using force, people said a lot of highhandedness and human rights issues like that of Baga. Now, the government doesn’t want to talk peace again. These were the issues that the general was trying to look at; that there’s a time to use force. You have used force for over two years and it has drained the resources of this nation.
It is not about whether Boko Haram is fighting any cause. If you look at the consistency of our (CPC) national leader as regards Boko Haram, you will see that he is a very sincere man; he is a true patriot and an ordained Nigerian. He has consistently insisted that he neither knows the leadership of Boko Haram nor support its cause; that their cause is not religious because his religion – Islam – does not preach that innocent lives should be killed. He has said it many times that because people want to distort facts for their aggrandisement and to achieve their despicable political goals, they would always twist his words.
But Buhari’s critics have said the insurgency began after the 2011 elections when he allegedly said Nigeria would be made ungovernable if he was not declared winner of the presidential election.
At what time did Buhari say that if he was not elected as President that the country would be made ungovernable. At what time did the general say that? This is part of the tissues of lie that people have woven to deceive Nigerians. Buhari is a Nigerian who, at the time that people like Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was nowhere, fought for the unity of this country; he was ready to do anything – beyond the public light – to ensure the continued existence of Nigeria as an indivisible unit. It is totally incongruent that at a later stage in his life, he would be issuing threats about the corporate existence of the country.
It was learnt that his comments, which are perceived to be controversial, are tearing CPC apart. How true is this?
It is part of the lies that people tell around and they have people ready to spread those lies. There is absolutely nothing like that. It is total bunkum and sheer nonsense. Buhari is our national leader. We know he’s not a flippant fellow; he is a calculative person. He is not given to frivolity; there’s no frivolity in his speech or his conduct. He doesn’t smoke and he doesn’t drink. He has his brain intact. He is not somebody that will talk out of drunken stupor. He is not somebody that will talk out of unrealistic and incongruous analysis of situations. He is a man that we all in the CPC respect and we are happy to be associated with him as a leader.