Middle-Belt Forum leaders have been described as noisemakers who should be ignored over their recent declaration that the Middle Belt is no longer part of the North. Making the declaration in this interview with TUNDE THOMAS, a former Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, and prominent Middle Belt leader, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav said MBF leaders that made the statement are attention seekers who don’t enjoy the support of the people of the zone. He also spoke on other national issues.
How do you react to the unfolding development in Wadume’s case?
Let me start by saying that the Inspector General of Police, Intelligence Response Team did excellently well by getting Wadume arrested within a short period of time. I’m however surprised by the conduct of the military men involved in the whole saga. It is sad that rather than getting the desired co-operation from the military, the military frustrated the police. I’ve never seen a situation where the military will openly attack the police and kill police officers on legitimate duty. It is very sad and also unfortunate. In this Wadume case, the military personnel involved behaved in the most unprofessional way. Their action and conduct is a big stain on the military. They should be tried for murder, dismissal is not enough. They should be tried for murder.
Some Nigerians have been saying that the trial of the military, and the police personnel involved should have started immediately since Wadume has been arrested rather than waiting for the reports of the committee set up by the Defence Headquarters, what’s your take on that?
Before giving a response on that, I want to quickly say that the police should not have made public that video of the interrogation of Wadume. By doing so the police have played into the hands of the military as the military officers and even the military authorities would have the opportunity of looking for loopholes to defend themselves or loopholes that may make it possible for the military officers involved to go scot-free.
Are you saying that it is possible that with all the evidence of the killing of the police officers by the soldiers involved that they may still not be punished?
Having watched Wadume’s confession video, the military may be able to sight some loopholes which their lawyers may use to provide soft landing or even secure freedom for the killer soldiers. What the police should have done is to wait for the panel set up by the Defence Headquarters, to release its reports, and if it is then discovered that the report had been compromised then the police will formally release video of Wadume’s confession to counter, and expose the military.
How would you describe the conduct of policemen, and soldiers that have been arrested over their involvement and relationship with the kidnap kingpin?
Shocking, and unbelievable. It is a big shame. It is a betrayal of their oath. These people swore to an oath to defend, and protect the nation, and its interests, and yet they are working for a kidnapper. Anybody indicted should face the music, be it police officers or soldiers. These uniformed men working for a kidnapper are not only a big disgrace to their respective forces but also to their own families, and the nation. However, I’m more shocked by the involvement of soldiers in this Wadume’s case. In those days, soldiers are held in high esteem. They are well respected, but military men of today are another thing. [Some of them] have become soldiers of fortunes. Nigerian soldiers are now used for odd jobs. People now use soldiers to collect debts. They now use soldiers to settle local quarrels or even to settle scores. This is no longer the military we used to know. The rot has set in the military, and the leadership of the military has to do something fast about it.
What is even more sad and dangerous for this nation is that soldiers have now become a law unto themselves. Soldiers now commit crime, and behave as if they are above arrest, whereas soldiers are supposed to be subject to civil authority. In 1962 when I joined the police as a sub-Cadet Inspector, the police had power to arrest any erring military officer who ran foul of the law, and charge such offending soldiers to court but everything changed in 1966 when the military staged a coup that toppled the civilian government. After the coup, the military destroyed the police, and from then became law unto themselves. But something has to be done about this abnormal situation. In those days when Nigerian military officers were being sent for training at Sandhurst, and Aldershot in England, there was discipline but things drastically changed when they started receiving training in military schools in Nigeria.
Some security experts have declared that the tragic killing of the policemen by soldiers could have been avoided if there has been synergy among the various security agencies.
That’s true. It was clear that the absence of or lack of synergy between the Army and the Police played a role in that tragedy. It is only in Nigeria where you see various security agencies working independent of one another, whereas they were to see each other as one. It is only in Nigeria you see rivalry between the Army, Police, and other security agencies. But things have to change. Thank God we have as President a man that is experienced in security related issues. President Buhari ,and his security advisers have to tackle this rivalry among security agencies before it gets out of hand. Rivalry between various security agencies is a big threat that should be urgently addressed.
Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka recently declared that Nigeria’s problems have overwhelmed President Buhari, what’s your take on that?
I disagree with Soyinka. Buhari is not only doing his best, but also knows what Nigerian problems are. He is incorruptible. Buhari is the best person to lead Nigeria now. He is incorruptible, and his war against corruption has been exposing looters. As good as Buhari is, the only problem he has is that he is too slow, and some of his aides are corrupt. Buhari should step up the campaign against corruption. Looters caught should be put on trial and prosecuted.
Some states in the North including Zamfara are negotiating and granting amnesty to bandits but–
It is a dangerous development which must not be encouraged. It is like promoting crime. How do you explain it? Amnesty for bandits? This is abnormal, it should not be encouraged because it may have a boomerang effect. With effective policing, insecurity can be tackled. But as of today, Nigeria is seriously under-policed. We need to recruit more policemen. The United Nations recommended ratio is 1 police officer to 400 civilians, but in Nigeria today, the ratio is 1 police officer to 1000 civilians. Federal Government should recruit more officers and men.
What is your reaction to the recent declaration by the Middle Belt Forum that the region is no longer part of the North?
Those leaders of the forum saying so are noisemakers that should be ignored. They are confusionists who are pursuing personal agenda. What they are saying is their own personal opinion but not the opinions of the majority of our people in the Middle Belt. Isuwa Dogo, and Bitrus Pogu who are making the declaration have no followers. They are on their own. Since they made that declaration, how many people of Middle Belt origin have come out to identify with them? Middle Belt still remains an integral part of the North, whether Dogo Isuwa or Pogu like it or not.
These two men are Christians and they have personal agenda they are pursuing but their campaign will fail. Part of the reasons why Middle Belt can’t severe ties with the North has constitutional factor. Without constitutional amendment, Middle Belt can’t break away from the North. If Isuwa and Pogu have genuine intention, why can’t they seek constitutional means of achieving their goal by approaching the elected representatives of the Middle Belt in the National Assembly to discuss the issue with them? To me, these men are just attention seekers who should be ignored. Their declarations carry no weight, and they don’t have the support of the majority of our people.
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