Hon. Bitrus Kaze represented Jos South/Jos East Federal Constituency during the 6th and 7th National Assembly. In this interview with MUSA PAM, he bared his mind on burning national issues. Excerpts…
What do you think is the cause and the solution to security challenges in the North?
There is a historical connect to the crisis in the North. What we now called bandits, ethno-religious, and farmersherders clash are actually rooted in an expansionist agenda. And this is on record that, even the Sardauna of Sokoto said that is their empire. Whatever media is saying today, the truth is that you cannot separate the happenings in the middle belt and North. In fact, it is manifesting in the farmers-herders clashes, It is manifesting in form of gangs, bandits, marauders, Boko Haram, religious fundamentalist, community clashes; it is a long case we are having but it has changed its name and face just to keep pace and deceive the crying eyes of the public about the reality on ground. But it is something that is far beyond what we think. It is not just community clashes, there is an agenda for a long time, and it has been running for centuries. Unfortunately, we, the minority, especially in the Middle Belt, have paid huge price for it.
What do you think is the way forward?
The primary essence of government according to our Constitution is security. I particularly said the Constitution because under our laws the person that commands the security forces is in charge of the firepower. When you have a President who is truly committed to fighting insurgency, it is possible to overrun them. But, I do not believe that this administration has the will to fight insurgency because if you look at their body language, if you listen to their campaign, you will know that the Commander- in-Chief doesn’t want to take action. He spoke about Chibok girls, he spoke about insurgency and the crisis in the middle belt but unfortunately he did not make any commitment to avert it. Remember in December 2015, he told us that Boko Haram was technically defeated, as we speak today latest information we have from Borno is about 17 Local Government are under the control of Boko Haram. I would say that it has grown from eight councils under GoodLuck Jonathan to 17. Clearly it has shown this government is not serious. If they have the political will, the problem is surmountable!
Do you agree with the views for the removal of Service Chiefs?
That is an immediate solution, not a long term one. Of course, when you hold an office and your performance is worst than your predecessors, naturally in serial crime around the world, there is no need to ask anybody to resign, they knew it. You also saw what happened in Lebanon, we virtually saw all that transpired because, nobody can understand the body language of President Muhammadu Buhari the way he cajoled and deceived Nigerians. As a former military commander, he said he understood this thing more than GoodLuck Jonathan, unfortunately, I do not see a reason why the President will keep the military officers who have over-served their tenure. Some of them are above 60 years, some of them have served more than 38 years, what is happening? Nobody can explain that. To serve his purpose, I think is to defeat the insurgents and now that they have failed, he has still not asked them to go. Only him can explain what agenda he is driving at. But we know he did not care about the security and welfare of the citizens of Nigeria.
Is the problem of Southern Kaduna linked to that history?
They have the same traits with us; they are in the minority. Historically, they are communities referred to ethnic groups. These are groups that love to be independent, love to be unique in their culture; it is exactly the same case with Plateau. Small tribes who have chosen not to yield to any violence, not to yield to forces that are desirous to overrun them culturally, economically, religiously, psychologically to the extent that they have repeatedly resisted. They have used force. This is the same thing that has happened in Benue, that was what happened on the Plateau as at the time I was serving in the National Assembly. Is it all Plateau people that don’t love non-indigenes? Are all Plateau people hostile to some people or particular religious, or Plateau people do not welcome guests? You see, listen, this thing is beyond what you think! The time they brought people from Kaduna, they brought people from other parts of the country to make example of the peace conference of the Plateau but we have this crisis and we are brothers and now it has escalated to everywhere. The bottom line is there, and so whatever attacks they suffer they suffer on the same basis like us. I told the press that time that there are certain areas on the Plateau that natives have lost. Mahanga is one, in Bokkos, I think Jwol in Riyom and people are totally alienated out of their ancestral land right in the middle of this. At a point in time, the alarm was raised in Mahanga and also in Jwol and I used to say these areas are no longer in the command of the natives and we have seen. So, what is happening in Southern Kaduna is simply a replica of what happened in Plateau, what happened in Benue and what happened everywhere, in Mubi, Chibok, and in all the areas that you find the major tribes because those are the areas of concentration of this crisis. And you know we tried to pretend about it but the reality is this, the religion cannot be disconnected from politics!
How would you rate this present administration?
On the scale of one to 10, I will be generous to say he has performed up to three per cent. Let me give examples; when Buhari came on board, a bag of rice was N7, 500 but now, the price is higher. As for petrol, when he came, it was N97 per litre and the exchange rate was 190 to a dollar. Right now, it is about 500 per dollar. We are not talking about double, not even triple, it is getting to quadruple by percentage. In those days what will cost a parent to prepare and send a child to school now costs more than three times. The purpose of government is the security and welfare of citizens. The economy has collapsed; the value of the naira has gone comatose. Prices have skyrocketed, companies have closed, unemployment has gone beyond the roof. On the scale of one to 10, it will be generous to say that Buhari has scored three. Honestly! I read recently where the former Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbe, said there is a lot of suffering in the land and that there is a lot of hardship in the land. This is a minister who was in office about a year ago, now his eyes can see that there is hardship in the land. If the apostles of change have now come to confess that there is hardship, for Christ sake, on the scale of one to 10, if I give Buh a r i three, I have been so generous!
As a former Rep, are you really satisfied with the performance of the National Assembly?
I hate to be the one to rate colleagues, particularly those whom we served together, including the current speaker. When I came, the current Senator left the House of Representatives to the Senate. But honestly, the tendency of the 9th Assembly to be rubber stamp is obvious than any other Assembly. Yes, I think that is the best way I can see it. The propensity of the current National Assembly to yield to executive excesses is by far much more obvious with any other previous Assembly. And that is why you have not been hearing the way it was, there should be some kind of healthy debate, there should be some kind of exchange of ideas, if you like, fireworks between the National Assembly and the Executive, that is when you see the best of both sides. But when you have the National Assembly that would never question the executive even with the humongous corruption that is ongoing, even with clear evidence… how many times did the DSS warn Mr. President about Magu? Now Magu has turned out to be Magu-Magu and the President kept him acting for about five years, we have never seen this thing in this country. And it took the presidential panel not the National Assembly for Magu to go. That is to me with utmost respect to former colleagues, an indictment on the National Assembly. The National Assembly doesn’t appoint, they don’t hire and fire but the National Assembly, by power of oversight, by power of the profession, could actually stamp their feet and say ‘look we deny this man’s consent, we did not clear him, we did not vet him and now that he is left there acting for over five years, from this year onward we will not allocate a Kobo to EFCC, if he is not removed’. But the National Assembly, if I cannot say is sleeping, at least I can say it did nothing. And it took the fight between the cables for them to expose themselves, and when the road became so obvious Magu have to give way.
The PDP recently alleged the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, as trying to stop investigations. How do you see that?
They know it is not normal as far as the legislative procedures are concerned to the best of my knowledge. Especially when it comes to public hearing. A public hearing is initiated by the mandate of the floor of the House of Representatives. It is not a committee hearing, it is a public hearing. A committee hearing does not have the power of public hearing because the public hearing comes via a motion on the floor of the House when they can and can only be interrupted by the power of the same motion. You return it to the House and question it and order it to stop that is the end of it. Once the motion is carried, it will stop. But where Mr. Speaker intrude in to normal legislative procedures and order an ongoing investigation to come to an end, to my understanding is a complete misnomer, stench and very unhealthy in the eyes of the public.