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• We need national conference
•Why govt is stumbling on war with Boko Haram
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Deputy National Chairman of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Alhaji Mustapha Saliu, has accused northern governors of insincerity for their clamour that the federal revenue allocation to states should be reviewed. The state chief executives have recently been asking for increase in their allocation from the centre because what they current receive cannot even do the very basic things they need to do for their states.

In this interview with Saturday Sun, Alhaji Saliu says these governors should first account for what they receive now before asking for more. According to him, northern governors cannot justify their present allocation, even as agrees that they ideally need more money for developmental ends. He insists that, as it is now, they have nothing to show for the resources that come their way.  He also believes that given the socio-economic and political tensions across the country, a national conference has become inevitable. According to him, 'there is nothing for us to shy away from. We should all sit down to discuss, whatever name you want to give it, National Conference, Sovereign National Conference.' He also believes that the war against Boko Haram cannot be won unless government takes the right step. The CPC chieftain speaks on other issues. Excerpts:

The country has been in the throes of deadly violence since after last election, what would you say is responsible for this?  Well, the state of the nation, as insecurity is concerned, is nothing really to be proud of or to write home about. Our understanding, as a party, is that there has been a lot of insincerity of purpose both on the part the governors and the Federal Government because, if you don't address the number one issue of insecurity and for people to be gainfully employed, for them to have job security, then whatever security you are talking of, cannot materialize. And it is unfortunate that, up till now, people have refused or people don't really understand the depth of this insecurity we are having in this country; they are still perambulating around the bush to address the issue. The real issue is that people should look at the genesis of this problem from the North-Eastern part. How did it really come about? What was really the issue, the bone of contention? And then, you bring all those who are found wanting to book; prosecute them and let people know that you can't just create a monster and then, you leave the monster on us who know nothing about it and jet out to another peaceful place or another country to enjoy yourself.

But the general impression after the election, and to a large extent till date, is that CPC has questions to answer over the violence and some killings, especially in the North?  Let me first and foremost correct that impression. The CPC didn't create any crisis and the CPC did not create any post-election violence. The truth is that people went out to cast their votes, people went out to express their civic responsibility and right and when the result came out, they were denied. But that did not even warrant them to go out to the streets. Naturally, you cannot beat me and expect me not to cry out. People came out to speak against the denial of their wishes and aspirations, but like you all witness now in the country, that has gone. It is past. Is it the CPC that is fomenting the problems now in the country? The PDP was only trying to give a dog a bad name just to hang it. They rigged us out in so many places; we had journalists that were with us on the trail who were going up and down, and even The Sun, had a representative with us there and they all saw these things and they were living witnesses to it. What happened in the Southern Kaduna where they unleashed mayhem on the supporters of the CPC, was it the CPC that did it?  You see, from what we are seeing now, it is like winner-takes-all; a do-or-die affair and that has never been our stock-in-trade. It has never been our policy. From our leader downward, we have never preached things like these because if General Buhari were the type of person who wants to get to power by all means, he would be in power today. But he doesn't believe in that.

That is why, in fact, there are places that we believe we were just rigged out because we refused to protest. We don't believe in this because we are people who are participating in this dispensation out of volunteerism and when you see people who come out because they are volunteering to do something, they are not the type of people you would resort to violence. It is people who have taken this thing as a business, as a means of survival, who would not want to close their eyes to lose. They will prefer you taking them to court and not them taking you to court.  Is it the CPC in government in Borno State where most of these things are being alleged to have come from - the Boko Haram issue and the insecurity, which are spreading all over now? Is it the CPC that is the government in Kano State? Is it the CPC that is the government in Niger? You see, as I said, when people that have been elected or people that the so- called leaders have been elected do not do the right thing, do not create a means of employment for people and people roam around the streets; the idle mind, like you all know from what we were taught right from the primary school, is the devil's workshop.

Nobody is justifying what is happening. We are the last people that would be caught justifying these things. We are not in support of it at all. It is a condemnable act because even some of us are not safe since you won't know where the next target would be. You don't know where you would be. It can happen to anybody. We have lost friends from both sides. We have lost friends who are Muslims and we have lost friends who are Christians. We have lost friends who are Yoruba, who are Hausa and who are Igbo. Anybody can be affected. For us as a party, we condemn this act in totality.  In the last couple of days and weeks, we have seen some moves by the northern leaders in the mould of governors, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), Atiku and others meeting over Boko Haram. Do you think this approach will address the issue?

You see, as I earlier said, a lot of palliatives, a lot of softening have been going on and it will continue to go on as long as people don't come out to address the main issue. And you see, for us, the main issue is, first and foremost, you look at the root cause of this thing, you bring people to book and then, you solve this issue. People have been caught in cross-fire, some have died innocently and some have even been arrested and for them to b prosecuted, somebody will just wake up tomorrow and kill them without even allowing a prosecution to take place for us to even know the facts whereby you can even have some information so as to address this monster that is growing bigger and bigger everyday. And when things like this happen, I don't think we are trying to find a remedy to the problem.

There were these elders from Borno, there is this former ambassador, a committee was set up and they looked at these things and gave recommendation. Has the government implemented these recommendations up till date? No. So, there should be sincerity of purpose from both sides and not just that you pick people and you randomly… If you go to Kano, you will be sympathetic with the people living in Kano, especially for those on motorbike. When they get close to any checkpoint, any place that there is a uniform man, they are to come down from that motorbike and push that motorbike. We have seen what is happening in Abuja. At times, we are not addressing the issue; we are just going around it - unnecessary harassment, intimidation of ourselves. The main issue should be addressed and some of these issues also have to do with governance. What are the dividends of both the governance and the democracy we are really in? Are the people feeling these? It is not enough for somebody to sit down as a governor and he is just packing security vote. What is he doing with it? Who is he securing?

Now, if you go round the cities, you will see that everybody is barricading the road and people are being forced to be using one lane. If they are securing themselves like that, then those of us who are the civilians, who will secure us? They are supposed to even be securing us but we can see how they are securing themselves. Then, who secures us? So, they have just left us; everybody for himself, God for us all. It shouldn't be like that. There should be a more logical approach to this issue. People should sit down and look at these things. There should be a long-term approach to it. It is not this short-term approach that you have barricaded this place, so since you have secured your own building, nobody will come in. No, it is not the issue.

We should be thinking of long-term approach to this issue because if we continue to do all this short-term approach, what happens tomorrow, next tomorrow? And that has been the problem in this country. Nobody has really looked at this thing to see how we can nip it in the bud. Let us resolve this issue once and for all. It is not that today, you just secure yourself and tomorrow again… No. We should all sit down and look at these things. The governors, especially the northern governors, must be very creative.