The factional National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Jerry Obasi, is a man who bares his mind on any issue without minding whose ox is gored. A former state chairman of APGA in Ebonyi State, Chief Obasi grew through the ranks of the party.
According to him, he has served APGA as the Deputy National Secretary, and Deputy National Chairman (South). Although Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State who incidentally is the only governor of the party now and other chieftains of the party reportedly recognized Chief Victor Oye as the national chairman of the party, Chief Obasi, in this interview with Sunday Sun insisted that he is the authentic APGA national chairman. Chief Obasi, who spoke on various issues of national importance, berated Chief Obiano, saying that his choice to be governor in the first place was a mistake.
Sir, you are at one time a member of the National Security Council. How would you describe the state of insecurity in most parts of Northern Nigeria today?
Well, I think it is unfortunate. We have got to a point where the situation has become unbearable and I want to say that if this situation is allowed to continue, then we will reach the point where Nigeria would not be qualified to be called a corporate state anymore. We will be a failed state, if it continues. So, the situation is very, very shameless and I must add that people should not politik with the security of this country. In my position as somebody who had served my country at some point in time and having exposure of all sectors of governance, I think it is time that some of us should come up and say it like it is: that enough is enough! And that people in charge of our security should now take their responsibility as it is under the constitution… because for me, I will say that those institutions of security have failed the people of this country and I am really scared of what is going to happen if this situation continues. By the way, we have seen what has happened in other countries, particularly in the Middle East, in North Africa, and now closer home, in North Eastern Nigeria. Now, the same scenario is playing itself out in North Western Nigeria and in some other parts of Nigeria. So, if the institutions responsible for our security did not take what is happening seriously and arrest it promptly, then we are heading for a real disaster. Today , nobody is safe, even inside your own homes. Armed people can walk in, arrest you, take you along and after start demanding payments. Our highways are not safe anymore. On a daily basis, people are being kidnapped, killed and ransom are demanded from their relatives. When you go to places like Zamfara State, I weep for people of the state. They are my brothers and sisters. They are going what they are going through and deep inside me, the pains I bear is even more than what is happening to those our people in some parts of the country. I think that people of conscience in this country should come out openly and tell those people in charge of our national security that we are demanding more than what they are giving us and if they cannot control this situation, I think it is time for them to bow out and allow people who can control the security situation of the country to come in and safe the country.
From your general understanding of the security challenge, where do we locate the problem?
You see, the problem lies in the architecture of our national security. There are so many issues involved, there must be a synergy of the institutions involved in our national security, but unfortunately from the information we are getting, this is not the case within our security architecture. I ‘m not a security expert, but I have been exposed to some of the issues involved. The whole aspects of democracy, the whole practice of democracy is to ensure that people are free to do whatever they want to do, express their minds and say whatever they want to say and feel secured in their countries, and have opportunities like everybody else. The point is that you cannot have democracy thrive where you are not sure of your life and property.
From your experience as a one-time member of the National Security Council, what would you recommend as a solution to the present security challenge across the region?
You see circumstances change, factors change too. When we were in government, I can say I know some of the factors then and circumstances that we are operating or faced with because I was there, I could get briefing and I could dissect and analyze and advise. But right now, I am totally in the dark. I cannot, in all honesty. give a fair assessment or a fair advice as to how to go about what is going on today in Nigeria’s security system. But those people that are in charge of our security ought to have all the available information. If they don’t , then I am sorry they have failed.
One of the recurring rhetoric is the need to change our service chiefs, that they should give way for some other ideas to come on board. Are you favorably disposed to this line of thought?
Well, you see I am not familiar with any of those Service Chiefs. Therefore, it would not be fair for me to say that it is either their fault or the fault of the total security set up. But whether we like it or not, we have to accept that there is some failure in the security architecture of this country. But, of course, as I said if I had been part of the security architecture, I may have one or two things to say or to pin-point that are creating the problems that we have at hand.
Still in search of a solution, where do we place the state governors. We have had situations where their commission or omission is a factor in this whole insecurity saga in Nigeria
I am not very sure whether we can place all the blame on the state apparatus because the security agencies in Nigeria are directly responsible to the central authorities. Governors yes! They are supposed to be Chief Security Officers of their states. They monitor and they report. And those that are sent to their states take their orders from the central authorities; the DSS, police, military, whatever. They all take their orders from Abuja. So, you cannot put the blame on the governors of the various states, but they can help and they can put a lot of pressure on the central authorities and the security agencies to really do something about what is happening in their various states. But on the other hand, they deal on daily basis with their set up, with the authorities in each local government, in each ward and in each whatever. We have traditional institutions that have been the custodian of our security institutions from time immemorial and they are still the bedrocks of our stability in Northern Nigeria. But unfortunately, they don’t have a role to play, except the traditional role because constitutionally they don’t exist. But we have to take note of the fact that they do exist. And they add value to our security and, therefore, we have to give them more serious involvement in checking the situation in their various domains and to be able to give a positive report. Let the authorities use the traditional institutions to get the actual situation on ground like all these kidnappings, like all the places where all these culprits are hiding. They are in bushes in various emirates and fiefdoms. Now. if the traditional leadership is recognized and encouraged in identifying the actual cause of these insecurity, I am sure they would find them very willing and very fertile.
In terms of economic impact, how would you rate the effect of growing insecurity that is driving from the Northeast and presently to the Northwest. What is the impact on the economy of the region?
Well, we have seen what the economy of the Northeast has come down to and its multiplier effects on the rest of the Northern part of this country . Already, the most backward part of this country, particularly in terms of economic wellbeing is the Northern part of Nigeria .And the poverty level here in the region is not comparable to any part of this country. Therefore, this is one of the major driving factors that encourages this breakdown of law and order. There is a tremendous level of poverty in the region and governance must be inclusive. The states and local governments must take their responsibilities very seriously. The allocations that we get from the Federal authorities, to me , if we have a responsible management of those resources, it will really cut down the poverty that is subsisting in this part of the country. But I think there is a lot of wastage in the process.
It simply appears that the security challenge is getting worse in the Northwest. In your view, why is this so ?
I have already mentioned poverty as a leading problem. Two , I also diagnosed or at least mentioned that we have to make use of our traditional institutions. Three, what will alleviate or what will really reduce this phenomenon is proper management of resources from the state and local government areas. This will at least help in reducing the level of poverty, which in effect will help in reducing a number of the crimes that are happening .
There are suggestions that this criminality in the North is a function of influence from neighbouring countries. To what extent is this part of the problem and , how do you think we can better manage this phenomenon?
You see, having been a Minister of Foreign Affairs, I know that in every embassy that we have a group of people that belonged to national Intelligence. And where you have an embassy, there is a linkage between members of our National Intelligence posted to that country and the intelligence community of that country. Now, unless they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing, they have to be in liaison with the intelligence community of the country so that they can file information in terms of what affects our own country. For example, when you talk of the movement of arms and ammunition from say Libya or Chad or whatever; we have embassies there, we have intelligence officers resident in that country. It beats me if at all there is any input from those Nigerians that are representing the intelligence community, our intelligence agency in those countries. The best way to go about curtailing what you said is to ensure that our intelligence agencies that is NIA, its officers ought to be doing what they are supposed to do when they are posted to those areas so that they can give credible information as to what is happening so that the cooperation between Nigeria and those countries where the importation of those arms emanates from – they would now be able to come together and discuss how best to stop those type of criminal expedition.