Middle belt no longer part of North – Dogo Isuwa,MBF leader

Middle belt no longer part of North – Dogo Isuwa,MBF leader

Northern leaders have been urged to stop referring to Middle Belt people as Northerners. National Publicity Secretary, Middle Belt Leaders Forum, Dr. Dogo Isuwa who gave the warning also asked former President Obasanjo not to relent in writing letters to President Muhammadu Buhari on key national  issues and other matters that affect Nigeria. He described Obasanjo as a patriot who deserves commendation from Nigerians for having the courage to say the truth to those in authority. Isuwa also spoke on other national issues in this interview with TUNDE THOMAS.

Sun-: What is  the Middle Belt Forum’s reaction to  reservations expressed  by the Northern Elders Forum, NEF, to the regular meetings and the recent joint reactions to national issues by Southern leaders?

Yahaya Kwande and his leader, Prof. Ango Abdullahi who is the Northern Elders Forum President, are daydreaming. They are not only dreaming, they are suffering from illusion. Both men are still living in the past, and the earlier they face the reality, the better. The bitter truth which Ango Abdullahi and Kwande may find difficult to swallow is that the Middle Belt is no longer part of the North. It will be very unfortunate if both men have not come to this reality. For emphasis’ sake, and for  further clarification, I’m using this medium to  inform both men, and others who still reason along Ango Abdullahi and Kwande’s line that Middle Belt is not part of the North. NEF and its leaders should count the  Middle Belt out of their so-called  North.

If they are talking about the Middle Belt being located in the northern part of the country geographically, that is another thing, but aside that, we have no relationship again with the North Ango Abdullahi and Kwande are talking about. For us in the Middle Belt, we are an independent entity. Even during the colonial era, and years after colonial era when we were merged with  the North, that arrangement never benefitted us. That arrangement was never to the best interests of the Middle Belt as the so-called North oppressed, and persecuted our people. Even up till today, that persecution has continued through killings of Middle Belt people in Zamfara, Benue, Plateau, Southern Kaduna, and Taraba states just to mention a few, and Ango Abdullahi, the Northern Elders Forum President has never spoken out against the killings of Middle-Belt people. And now, he and his NEF members are referring to Middle Belt as being part of their North. What an illusion.

The earlier Ango Abdullahi and his NEF members wake to the reality, the better, and the bitter truth I want to emphasise here again is that they should count the Mddle Belt out of their so-called North. The Middle-Belt is an entity on its own. Our link to the North was during the colonial era ,and few years after the nation’s independence. But  we are no longer part of the North,we are now on our own. We don’t want any association with the North. We don’t need the North. I can understand Ango Abdullahi, and his NEF members, they need the Middle Belt because they are  used to exploitation of  our people. Northern leaders  have  always been depending on the Middle-Belt to achieve their selfish objectives, but we’ve now   removed that yoke, and there is no going back on our decision to remain an independent entity with no  link whatsoever with the North again.We don’t need the North.

But the impression many Nigerians have is that the core North has always been playing the role of a big brother to the Middle Belt protecting its interests

Which big brother? In which way has the North been protecting the Middle Belt’s interests? Rather, it has been the other way round. It is the Middle Belt that has been taking care of the North in so many ways. The North has always depended on the resources of the Middle Belt including food. The Middle Belt is the food belt not only of the North but the entire Nigeria. The Middle Belt is the largest geo-political zone in the country. It is not even only the North that we don’t need, we don’t even need any other geo-political zone in the country  to survive. Middle Belt can stand on its own. The Middle Belt has the ability, and the capability to stand on its own. The Middle Belt is  naturally endowed with everything it needs to survive as an entity on its own.

It is the Middle Belt that provided the bulk of the troops that fought the civil war to keep Nigeria one. It is the region that keeps Nigeria together as one. Without the Middle Belt, there will be no Nigeria. It is advisable for other geo-political zones in the country to continue to key into the Middle Belt for Nigeria to continue surviving as a nation.

Sun-: Is the Middle Belt Forum going to review its meetings and association with the Southern Leaders Forum following  the comments, and observations  by NEF leaders over the meetings?

Ango Abdullahi, Kwande and other NEF members are on their own. Nobody or group can stop our meetings with the Southern leaders. The Middle Belt Forum has the constitutional right of freedom of association. Nobody or group has the right to tell us who to associate with or relate with. Moreover, like I said earlier ,these NEF leaders, and other groups in the North should count the Middle Belt out of the North. We are on our own, and we are not soliciting for any association with the North. The Middle Belt will continue its meetings with Southern Leaders Forum. There is no going back on it, and nobody or group can stop us.

Now let me say this again so that Ango Abdullahi, and others like him, who are still dreaming of the Middle Belt as being part of the North, know that they are under illusion. Was there not a time when the present day Rivers State, Cross River, Akwa-Ibom and present Bayelsa states were part of the defunct Eastern region? Do you still see these states still being referred to as South-Eastern states? Again, was there not a time when Delta State, and Edo were part of the then Western states? Do you still see these states being referred to as part of Western state or  states in the South-West? From these my explanations, you can see that those people referring to the Middle Belt as part of their so-called North are day dreamers.

Sun-: What is your reaction to the present state of insecurity across the country, especially the killings across the country?

The killings are very unfortunate. There is no justification whatsoever for these killings. My heart bleeds each time I read reports of killings of innocent and harmless Nigerians, be it in Bayelsa, Sokoto, Plateau, Rivers, Borno, Kaduna or any other parts of the country. Federal Government must address the problem quickly, otherwise Nigeria faces disintegration. With all these kidnappings, banditry, terrorism, and other forms of crime on ascendancy across the country, Nigeria  may become a failed  state. This is the time for  genuine patriots to  come together, and speak the truth to those in power. This is not the time to talk about ethnicity or tribe. We should all come together to fight these evils ravaging Nigeria. It is better for us to remain together as one indivisible entity.

One thing I want to mention here, and which I want Nigerians to note is that most of those people responsible for these killings are not the local herdsmen. Majority of the killers arrested don’t speak Fulfude which is the language spoken by the local Fulani herdsmen in the country. Some of these killers even speak French. Then the question to ask here is this, how does these foreign killers enter Nigeria? Why are our borders so porous that these foreigners easily enter the country?

In this digital age, and age of technology, why can’t we acquire the technology required to police our borders? I don’t believe that Nigeria’s  security apparatus is incapable of flushing out these killers but what is obviously lacking is the political will of our leaders to do the needful. But we are sitting on a time bomb, and the earlier our leaders do the needful, the better for Nigeria.We must not allow the time bomb to explode.

I believe that if our leaders or let me say in this regard, President Muhammadu Buhari has given a marching order to our security agencies to take a decisive action against these foreign killers, they would have done so. One thing about these security agencies is that if you don’t give them express orders, they won’t act. Let me give an instance, in 2014, around Christmas in Southern Kaduna, there was an orgy of killings of indigenes by gunmen. But that same time, about 30 trucks of armed soldiers, and mobile policemen were stationed in Southern Kaduna to protect people, and also to maintain peace. But these security people refused to stop the killings by repelling these killers. When they were asked why they didn’t act, the security personnel replied that they have not received orders to repel the  killers. But at the same time, the security men didn’t allow the people to defend themselves.

Sun-: What do you think is the way out of the present insecurity quagmire?

I believe we need to rejig our security architecture. The Service Chiefs, I also believe, should be relieved of their duties. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Buratai, and other service chiefs including the Chief of Defence Staff have all outlived their usefulness. They should go.

Then again, we need to secure our borders to prevent an influx of these foreign killers. Federal Government must provide the Immigration with the equipments, and logistics to function effectively. Then, we need to step up our intelligence gathering network. I’m amazed that insecurity is worsening across the country, and yet we have the DSS, military intelligence, National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and others, what are they all doing? They should all up their game. They should be up and doing. Then to tackle insurgency successfully, government must cut off terrorists sources of food supply, financial and arms suppplies.

Sun-: Some Nigerians have suggested setting up of State Police as a solution to the insecurity menace, what’s your take on that?

People are entitled to their different views. But for me, I believe that if the men of the Nigeria Police are well motivated, and well equipped, they will be up to the task. If they are given proper training, and adequate number of  personnel are recruited, I believe the Nigeria Police will rise to the occasion.

For those people talking about State Police, what they don’t know is that we have State Police in different parts of the country already. All the 36 states in the country have one form of para-military outfit or the other, and these outfits are doing the work of Police. In Kano State, they have Hisbah, in Lagos State, they have Neighbourhood Watch, LNSC, and others that are  arresting people. Hisbah in Kano also arrest and detain people. It is  the same  across the country. All these  security outfits in the various states are doing the work of the Police. What they are doing amounts to duplication of Police work. Let the Police be well equipped , and well motivated, we will see the results.

Sun-: The clamour for restructuring has been on the increase again following the series of crises and challenges facing the country; what’s your view on that?

The solution to all these challenges lies in the implementation of the report, and recommendations of 2014 national confab. President Buhari should be courageous to implement it. If he does, 99 percent of Nigeria’s problems would be solved. Our elder statesmen across the nation’s six geo-political zones should put pressure on him to implement it. Representatives of all the six geo-political zones in the country took part in the confab, so the decisions taken at the confab were unanimous and acceptable to all Nigerians. It was a well planned confab, and Nigeria will be saved a lot of headache if the confab’s  recommendations are implemented.

Sun-: What is your take on the letter written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Buhari because it has been generating a lot of controversies?

I don’t see any controversy or  need for any controversy over Obasanjo’s letter. Obasanjo should be hailed as a patriot. Obasanjo has done the needful which is to tell the truth to those in power. Truth is bitter as the saying goes and that is why some people have been attacking Obasanjo over that letter. But for me, Obasanjo deserves our praise and commendation for telling Buhari the truth. Was Obasanjo not a key supporter of Buhari? He campaigned for him, and helped him to get to power. When Obasanjo was supporting and campaigning for Buhari that time, Buhari’s supporters were hailing him as a statesman, and patriot but now that Obasanjo is telling Buhari to do the right thing, Buhari’s apologists and supporters are now castigating him, calling him names. This is very unfair. Obasanjo should not relent in saying the truth no matter whose ox is gored. Obasanjo should write more letters to Buhari. He should not stop until Buhari does the right things. Obasanjo is doing what I expect other past Nigerian leaders like Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Gen. Abdsalaam Abubakar, Chief Ernest Shonekan, and Gen. Ibrahim Babangida to be doing but they are not doing it. This is very disappointing.

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