Your Excellency, as the Chairman of the 19 Northern States Governors Forum you issued a statement which came up as a result of the quit notice issued to the Southerners precisely the Igbos to return to the South within three months. That statement did not go down well with some northerners especially in view of the persistent threat to the cooperate existence of the country and the demand for Biafra by the Igbos. There were angry reactions directed at you and your Kaduna State counterpart, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai by the leaders of the youth groups that issued what they called the Kaduna Declaration . They said you don’t have the interest of the north at heart. Don’t you think that this youth have the right to come out to express their feelings like those of their Southern counterpart?
First of all, there is a difference between expressing your right and that of trying to create public unrest because anybody trying to cause unrest and disruption of public peace and security did not know what It means to live in a violent society, a society that did not know peace. Anybody that knows the effect and consequences of insecurity, anybody that tested unrest like us will use the last drop of his blood to prevent it. And that is what I am doing. That is what prompted our reaction to the ultimatum given to the Igbos. Today in Nigeria, if there is any leader that knows what unrest is and it’s consequences, I think am the first person who has that knowledge in my capacity as the Governor of Borno State. From the first day I took over I inherited a serious and challenging security problem that would have been prevented by my predecessor. If a child say he cannot run is because he has not seen what will make him run. If those youth don’t understand what it means to have unrest, they should ask any person resident in Borno to tell them their story. We as leaders from the north, it is a must that if we see anything that will create problem and unrest in the north, to immediately intervene and to put it in record. That is the difference between us in the north from the other leaders in other parts of the country. In the north we have culture, we are disciplined, we have patience and understanding and above all we have a religion that teaches us humility and to live in peace with everybody. Come to Maiduguri, in Maiduguri we have up to 1.5 million displaced persons. My driver alone has over 50 displaced persons in his house. This is even someone that has reasonable means of livelihood. There is a messenger we met at his place of work and I asked him how many displaced persons he has in his house and he said they are more than 100. Wallahi I didn’t believe him until I sent some security personnel to his house and confirmed to me that it is true. Only me knows how I feel whenever i received a security report that Boko Haram have attacked a particular community and killed people. Sometimes I feel instant headache and had to support myself before I can stand. I always feel displaced and worried. Let me share with you a story I have not told any media organisation before. If you will recall, there was a time in September 2014, where I informed the press that I am going to England to personally negotiate and purchase 10 borehole drilling vehicles. The purpose is to deal directly with the company so as to get them cheaper. The night I arrived in London, I got a security report that Boko Haram fighters are very close to Maiduguri to takeover the city. Before that development they have taken over almost all the major roads leading to Maiduguri. That operation by Boko Haram was meant to be the final onslaught against us. There was only one road left to enter into Maiduguri and that is the road leading to Kano. Even on that road, there are pockets of attacks. It was not a surprise that Boko Haram are coming along Konduga to attack Maiduguri and their mission was to capture Maiduguri, take over the Government House, slaughter me and to hoist their flag in the Government House. As at the time I got this report I was in London. A security agent advised me to stay in London since my people are already aware that I travelled abroad officially. And truly I could have conveniently use that as an excuse. I told him I’ve heard. But as soon as we are done with the talk, I took the next available flight that night to Abuja and the next day I monuover my way to Maiduguri. The security details were surprised when they saw me and asked if I didn’t go to London again. But I told them that I have come back so that we all die or live together with you and with our gallant young men of the Civilian JTF who sacrificed their lives, because I always believe that the value of each life be it that of the governor or his citizens are the same and important to us that is why despite the insecurity in my state, and as the governor with all the official privileges, i chose NOT to be using bullet proof cars. My coming back was a huge morale boaster to the security agencies and to our Civilian JTF. We came to support them moving from area to another no day nor night and without even eating. Myself, my commissioners, my wife are all in our jeans and canvass patrolling the nocks and crannies of the town and the immediate villages till Allah gave us victory and drove them back to Sambisa forest. This is just small out of the ordeal we just came out from. After seeing what we saw some youths that did not know the value of peace, youth that probably never seen blood apart from that of their circumcision will now come in the name of youth group to cause unrest for us again. We will not agree. It is a must and a responsibility on us to tell them the truth. Don’t forget people like Governor el-Rufai has also experienced and tasted what crisis is all about. The governors of governors of Zamfara, Plateau, Benue also have their share of experience in their various states. We are just recovering. We have not even fully recovered while others wants to follow the violent way. We won’t allow it to happen insha Allah. All the abuses we are receiving will not deter us from doing what is right. Even prophets were abused, beaten and killed. There is no manner of insults they did not receive but that did not stop them from achieving the goals they were set for. So we know the right thing to be done, and the right steps to take so no amount of insult or threat will stop us from doing the right thing.
Your Excellency, the coalition of the youth groups alleged that you and your northern counterparts have been quiet all the while over the agitation of the Igbos, their threats and insults to northerners and that you are only coming out to speak now in other to drive-home your political ambition. That you want to promote your political interest in the South. What is your take on this assertion?
This is a nonsense statement and unfounded. There is no sense in it at all. If you didn’t forget there was a time the leaders of the South East are claiming that the Fulanis are responsible for all the atrocities that are happening there. They claimed that the Fulanis are the ones killing their people and stealing their property. You know very well that whenever they say Fulani, they are referring to northerners. In our northern governors meeting that was held in Kaduna, we came out to say that we will not take and accept such reckless allegations and name calling because in every part of this country there are militants or terrorists. You know, this could be like saying the Boko Haram terrorists are all Kanuris. Is there any tribe that the Boko Haram has killed like the Kanuris? Certainly no. There are armed robbers and kidnappers among other tribes but that does not mean that one will relate those tribes in their entirety as kidnappers or armed robbers. If you will recall, it was myself that the governors delegated to speak on their behalf on the issue of Biafra. After the intervention, we were insulted and myself that spoke on behalf of other governors received more of the insults from the people of the South East. I was abused but this is part of leadership.
On the issue of Biafra, it didn’t start today. Since the time of Obasanjo, the time of Umaru Yar’adua and since the time of Jonathan, the Biafra agitators were arrested on several occasions and they were set free. Since the time of Ralph Uwazuirike as their leader to the time Nnamdi Kanu took over.
The issue of Biafra is a national security matter. There is a way to handle the issue and the ways to approach the federal government on how to tackle the matter. We are also in touch with the south-east governors and the efforts being made by the governors to tackle the problems. We on our part are also making efforts and doing our best in other to forestall peace and order and to defend the rights of our people. To add to that, “if you don’t know how to catch a thief, a thief will catch you.” If you didn’t know in all the proclamation they used to do, their agitation for Biafra the Igbos have never give northerners residing in their area a quit notice. Why must we do It? For us, the biggest challenge we are facing today is that of Boko Haram but the foreign countries are giving us support and supporting the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to tackle this menace. And today our youth will wake up to issue quit notice to a part of the country.
There is these claim and insinuations making rounds that you and Governor Nasir el-Rufai are working for your individual ambition to be Vice President. That your calculation is that in the event that President Muhammadu Buhari’s health continues to deteriorate or if he declares himself incapacitated to continue, the South East will support you to emerge as VP hence your perceived pro-Igbo comnents.
This shows how ignorant they are in politics. They also did not believe in destiny. To select a vice president, you don’t call for election. It is a choice of the president and the party. Nobody will call for support to get the office of vice president. It is only Allah that gives leadership and He gives it to whosoever He desires. Sickness is not death, old age is not death. Allah can decide to take my life before that of President Buhari. I believe all those making the mischievous insinuation or rumours of my so called ambition to be vice president don’t know my relationship with the president. It is purely part of the dirty politics our people are used to. If they are aware of the relationship, trust and understanding between President Buhari and myself, they will probably think twice before making such careless allegations. If the speaker does not know what he is saying, the hearer knows what he heard. My relationship with the President has been long before politics and will not end in politics. I am telling you that this thing is not just about politics and the office of vice president.
I also heard a young man who did not even know Borno politics saying that the APC under my leadership in Borno has been weaken. I only laugh because such people didn’t even have the statistics. They are only blind in their criticism and hatred. Such claims only amazes me because any keen follower of Borno politics can give you the statistics since my assumption as the party leader in 2011 under then ANPP, before merging to become APC. In Borno then, ANPP has one senator, PDP has two, we had eight out of 10 members of House of Reps and in the House of Assembly we have 19 out of 28, but under my leadership by the grace of God, I drew the two senators of PDP and now are APC members and all PDP members of the House of Assembly are now with APC and today in Borno, everybody is with APC. Even after the 2015 election I have drawn more people from PDP big wigs to join APC. Political heavyweights like like Hon. Mohammed Umara Kumaliya, Alhaji Umar Kareto, Hon Peter Biye, Hon. Mala Atuman just to mention but few. So how do you reconcile the so called death of APC in the state? Let’s be truthful to ourselves and fear God. Let me tell you something, in Nigeria and even the world at large you don’t look for leadership but leadership looks for you and I believe leadership comes from God and nobody can make it for himself. In Nigeria for example, some people have being trying for the past 20 years and are still trying and may even continue to try for a lifetime but may not attain leadership position. I am certain that leadership position is given by God. What is before me is more than what people are saying now because I am more concerned with peace and stability and for the people of Borno to return to their normal life again.
The Youth Group have also alleged that you invited and honoured former President Obasanjo and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu to come and commission some projects in Borno state because you want them give you support for the office of the vice president. What do you have to say about this allegation made by this youth?
All this is ignorance of politics. If they know politics, they will not make such allegation. Informed people knows how a vice president usually emerged. We all know how Namadi Sambo became the VP after the death of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. There is always a procedure to follow for the selection of the vice president. It is given to a geo-political zone or region. For instance, when it is given to the north to produce a vice president, it is not just that you will say you want to contest for the position rather it is a must that leaders from that region will sit and look at which part or section be allotted the responsibility to produce the candidate to represent the region as a vice president. And all of this is the responsibility and choice of the leaders and elders of the APC like the 19 northern governors, like leaders of the party from the north and not somebody like Tinubu who is not from the north. If I am to invite somebody for commissioning for the purpose of political ambition, then it is the leaders of the north I should be inviting so as to gain more stand and support when such decision is being made. If at all I am to lobby by inviting someone to commission my project, it is the northern leaders I should lobby not Tinubu. And even if there is vacancy 2019, it is not Tinubu I should be lobbying because he is a muslim and I am also a muslim. In the history of politics in Nigeria you can invite anybody to commission project because it strengthens the existing relationship. Like in second republic, Latif Jakande named a street in Ebute Meta, Lagos as Borno Way. Here in Borno during Governor Goni, a street was named Lagos Street and a house named Lagos lodge.
I did not invite former president Obasanjo. It was University of Maiduguri that invited him. Being an elder statesman and a former president we owe him a duty to receive him and that is what we did. His coming three weeks ago as an ambassador of IITA and invited by the body, we have to receive him as well. Former Head of State Ibrahim Babangida also came and I went to received him. He came for an event in the house of Alhaji Mohammed Indimi and I went with him to attend the occasion and we escorted him back to the airport when he left.
If not that people don’t have what to do or say, Tinubu is a muslim, I am a muslim. How can we run on a platform for election on a muslim-muslim ticket in Nigeria. He came out and said except if President Muhammadu Buhari will not contest he will not. Leadership is from God. Nobody can give leadership to anybody except the one God chose to give and at the time He chooses to give him.
As for Bola Tinubu and I, we are very close since the time of election in 2015, during the problem I encountered with my boss Ali Modu Sheriff, and truly he and President Muhammadu Buhari did not join forces to humiliate me and that is why we respect him alot. And this is why we invited him to come and commission projects in the state. Our critics did not even know that Asiwaju Tinubu’s invitation was sent to him six mobths before President Buhari’s medical vacation to London. Do you espect a responsible leader because of the fear of what his critics will insinuate to cancel such invitation because it coincide with the president’s illness?
Thank you for your time with us.