‘Nobody thought Buhari would take Nigerians to Abacha era’
elections. We should understand there is fire on the mountain, and the media should not be intimidated. This is the time Nigerians need the media more – to expose every sinister move by the government. Nobody should say it’s not going to happen. Anything can happen under this government. Who would have thought we would return to the Abacha era? When we started raising these issues at the early stage of this government, some people were saying it’s not possible in Nigeria. But we can see everything is possible now; it’s even worse. We shouldn’t sleep. Unfortunately, most of the All Progressives Congress folks in the South-west who helped bring this government to power can’t talk because some of them have been blackmailed as their hands are dirty. We’ve never seen this kind of breakdown of law and order in Nigeria. And the police we have today are ineffective – chasing ‘yahoo boys’ and checking phones whether you have Twitter. Nigeria today is in a state of total anarchy.
News emerged recently that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has been killed. How does this affect the anti-terrorism war?
When you take away the leader of a terrorist sect, it’s going to destabilise the group. At this point in time, they are leaderless and Shekau may not be succeeded in a long time. In a way, his faction of Boko Haram is weakened now. Shekau’s death is a win for the Nigerian government, even though they are not the ones who killed the terrorist. It’s also a win for Nigerians and the world. The Federal Government can now intensify efforts to clear off the ISWAP [Islamic State West Africa Province] faction of Boko Haram led by Abu al-barnawi. His faction’s members are the ones everyone is tagging bandits. They kidnap and collect money.
Should these bandits be negotiated with as being suggested by some individuals?
There is nowhere in the world where you negotiate with terrorists. People should not confuse terrorists with aggrieved people. For instance, you can’t compare Boko Haram terrorists or bandits with Niger Delta militants. Terrorists usually have extremist religious ideologies, like Boko Haram trying to create a caliphate and using force to want to achieve it. They are the most difficult people to deal with. You may talk to them to understand what they really want and what the problem is. But, bandits and terrorists are criminals, and even if you want to dialogue with them, it has to be from a point of force. And should they surrender, you should never make the mistake of reintegrating them into the society as this government did. I think they thought if Niger Delta militants could be given amnesty, repentant Boko Haram members could as well be given amnesty. It was a stupid idea and nepotistic.
Are you saying Buhari’s ethnic bias has clouded his vision of ensuring security in the country?
It’s obvious to everyone. We have a part of this country where some criminals kidnap people every day and the government is pacifying them and giving them money. Then we have another part of the country where people are crying for justice and want to secede because they are being marginalised and you declared a war on them. And the President even went on to remind them of the Civil War (1967-70) – how they were killed. Though Buhari was just a storekeeper and didn’t fight during the war, his revoking the memories of the civil war and all his actions have no doubt shown that he values some people more than another, whereas he’s supposed to be a father of all.
Do you see the secessionists succeeding?
Nigeria won’t break up, I can bet on that. Perhaps this whole episode can lead to us having a conversation and a new constitution that supports regionalism like we used to have in the past. If that happens, every state can set its priority just as it’s done in the United States. I know these agitations will birth something, but not a breakup. I think whoever succeeds Buhari will change things.
Do you mean getting the right person or just anyone?
There is no right person. If you look at the people there now, we can’t have the right person. Obasanjo was not the right person to succeed General Abdulsalami Abubakar, but when he came, we had some kind of relief. For now, the next president will still come from either the APC or the PDP [Peoples Democratic Party]. They are the same but every person is different. For instance, you can’t compare Buhari to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, even though they are in the same party. As a matter of fact, the major achievements this government has recorded so far were when Buhari was away for 100 days and Osinbajo was in charge. But they never trusted Osinbajo.
Cyberwar is emerging a major part of insecurity and you recently wrote a book on this. Can Nigeria emerge as a cyber power?
We have all the human resources it takes to be a superpower in cyberspace. But as it is, we can’t become one when we have a government whose only concerns are cows, open grazing, Twitter ban, RUGA [Rural Grazing Area], etc in the 21st century. When we have leaders and there is the right environment, people will develop capabilities. Trust me, we have Nigerians in NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration, US] and other cybersecurity firms across the world. Some of these guys are willing to return home if the environment is right.
There was a report that the Federal Government was working with China to build an internet firewall, though it has been denied. However, considering China’s footprint in Nigeria, is it not a possibility, perhaps in the future?
If it is done, it will create opportunities for homegrown tech companies. But you have to understand international policies before coming up with something like that. China could afford to build the firewall because it’s a large economy and doesn’t depend on the US, the United Kingdom, and other international communities for aids. But in Nigeria, we still rely on aids from the US, UK, the International Monetary Fund, and others. And when you collect aid from these countries, you have to open your markets to them.