Hon. Emeka Idumogu is a member of the Lagos House of Assembly, representing Oshodi-Isolo Constituency 11, and he is of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. In this Interview, with Emeka Ibemere, he disagrees with the purported grazing bill proposed by the Federal Government, he also called for state police and appeals to President Muhammadu Buhari to negotiate with the new militant in Niger Delta. Excerpts.
South East and South South seem to be under perilous times when, you factor the level of insecurity bedeviling the zone, presently. From Fulani herdsmen, to IPOB, to Niger-Delta Avengers, and the cry for marginalization coming from the zones, what is your take on this?
Well, I think South East and South Sout zones as I see them in the context of Nigeria as a nation, are politically disadvantaged regions. However, I must also say that we contributed to it in the sense that we are not one in terms of political issues of this country, especially in terms of leadership. We don’t know our leaders, and we don’t have one politically which means it’s everybody to himself; and it will never help them. So, and I think those that have the political powers having no pity on them. So, it’s not new except the regions start thinking on how to have a leader, a political leader that they can listen to and follow so that when political issues come up, they rally round their leader and speak with one voice. That is what that matters. It’s a lessons they need to learn and not always crying because the more they cry; the more it becomes worse and it won’t solve their problem. What that can solve the problem is partaking in political issues as an ethnic group and start having a vision towards what they want and go there, and speak with one voice, that is how other ethnic groups have been doing and its working for them. Is it the South West or the North, so they always have an edge over the South South and South East. They only way we have strength is it the commerce, because typical Igbo man is a businessman and this is an individual effort not as a group, so I think we should have a rethink and refocus our dream and restart having conferences on how to galvanize every opinion and make it count politically, when it concerns governance in this country.
What about the insecurity threatening the regions and the implication on the economy of the country?
On the insecurity situations in the zones, is quite unfortunate that it happened in Enugu and the Fulani herdsmen to me is a bad signal to the unity and co-existence of the nation-state called Nigeria. It also brings in the question of state police. I listened vividly the excuses of the Enugu Commissioner of Police and that of the state governor saying that he was preview to the attack and that he made efforts to contact the security agencies and the police commands in Enugu State and the worst was that they had a meeting on it but because the governor doesn’t have control over the police and other security agencies, probably its my own view, they didn’t take it seriously. How can a governor want a problem solved and the Commissioner of Police will not corporate with him, it’s not good enough. The issue of state policing is necessary. The idea of saying that it’s going to be abused is not sound because I believe that in the present day Nigeria, we have overcome such argument. I will go for state police because it’s the key to solving insecurity in the states. It will help solve the insecurity in the states because when you rely on the Inspector General of Police who is in Abuja, and by the time you send messages and sometimes the message will not get to him or may be the governor start running to the presidency in a small case he can quietly handle in his domain, it’s not healthy and safe for quick response to insecurity. I don’t think the 1999 constitution as amended was not faulty. There are lots of sections and portions there that deserved to be changed and removed, especially in the exclusive list and in the concurrent list; these are the obstacles, issues we have to look at. Coming back to the Fulani herdsmen, my take is that the governors in the South East and South South have to work together. As it happened in Enugu, you may not know their next target. So, they must come together and come up with their own security arrangement in tackling the menace, because prevention is better than cure.
What are its workability, how can it work?
Every state should have its police under the control of the governor of that state. Let police be ‘deregulated’ just like we are in the deregulation regime, while the army be for the centre and take responsibility of national territory waters and boundaries. I mean the armed forces should be exclusively for the Federal Government but police should be run by the state under the control of the Chief Executive Governor of each state because it’s in the state that all these terrors take place, it’s not when an issue takes place in a state, the governor will start calling for the IGP, President and so on, its not healthy to checkmate insecurity in the country and when each state is secured, the entire country is save. When a governor contines to run to IGP or President every day, he may be ignored and depending on their relationship with the governor and the Federal, a Commissioner of Police may ignore him because he doesn’t take others from him. It’s not proper as a governor of a state; you don’t have control over the police.
Do you support the proposed grazing bill purported to have been sent to the National Assembly?
Personally, I don’t support it and my reason is that the Fulani herdsmen grazing bill is meant to favour them and let’s say over 70 percent of their activities have been violence in the states that are not their own, either they kill, destroyed properties, rape women and others, so if without this bill and they behave like this, what if they have the bill passed into law, which means power from the constitution and Federal Government, then you can imagine what they would do. Even the grazing bill if actually sent should be restricted in their Northern areas and for them to graze in the south, I don’t support that and I don’t believe that any reasonable and responsible South East or South South governor should support the grazing bill with all the menaces we have since over the years coming from the Fulani herdsmen, the killing, the raping, the destructions and the terror would allow the bill or allow his state to be used for grazing of cattle.
In the other way round, would you subscribe to a situation where the State Houses of Assembly should start making laws to stop grazing in their states?
Well the bill has not seen the light of the day, it’s just a rumour the bill hasn’t been sent to National Assembly. It hasn’t been presented. So until that time comes, you don’t jump the gun. It might just be a rumour and it might not come up, it might come
Could you suggest options of curtailing or nipping in the bud the menace of these cattle rearers?
We need to talk and act; we must act by first prosecuting those arrested for their heinous crime. It’s not just detaining them and keeping them there but taking them to court and obtaining convictions. We should also resist making it a tribal issue. The problem with most of us in Nigeria is that we thrive on sectionalism and ethnicity. Everything is purely on tribalism and no genuine interest for the unity and peace of the country. Its either I’m an Igbo man or Hausa, or Yoruba, and otherwise. It’s not helping us, we don’t see the nation as one, of course our leaders failed to make us feel as we are one, that is why the present President with due respect to him, Muhammad Buhari should not see himself as a Fulani man and he should see himself as a Nigerian and act by issuing directive on the Fulani herdsmen and punished accordingly because they have violated the constitution of Nigeria, because when people are killed, its not good. If other states start carrying arms it may lead to another thing, and that was how Boko Haram when they started newly, everybody wasn’t thinking of th consequences until it got out of hands, so that is why the issue of Fulani herdsmen should be taken seriously and to end them becomes a trouble.
The Niger Delta Avengers seems to be another new birth of security and their operation is taking a tool on our resources, what do you think about this gang?
I think it’s the issue of sectionalism, ethnic consciousness and resource control agitation that gave birth to the recent NDA. Perhaps, today former President Goodluck Jonathan is no longer in power and President Buhari is President and apart from that the present President stopped the amnesty deal which the late Umaru Musa ‘Yar’Aduwa had with the Niger Delta militant that forced them to drop their arms, and considering the allowances, training on skill acquisition and other benefits that Buhari stopped, I’m not saying they should be pampered but there is a saying that the chicken that lays the golden egg should be given attention like that. Whether we like it or not the crude oil that we are enjoying today comes from the Niger Delta, so they need some attention and remember, the issue of amnesty wasn’t the brain child of Jonathan, it was the late Umaru Musa ‘Yar’aduwa, that is to tell you after looking at the whole scenario, all he wanted was peace of the Niger Delta, peace of Nigeria, peace of his government, and the peace of the Nigerians and he went for the amnesty deal and it worked for him and his government. So, the issue now is that the present government is not taking them seriously instead they are talking tough, and it’s not good enough and may not produce result. I condemned the actions of the NDA, for me its sabotage and its bad but because of Nigerian interest there, the government should go for negotiation because if you declare war there, a lot of things will be destroyed and the oil production we are talking about will be affected. They know the terrain more than the Nigerian soldiers, so discuss with them rather than going into war with them. Now the Nigerian crude oil production has recorded the lowest since 1976, according to some reports, it’s not good.