In this interview with Godwin Isenyo, the National Publicity Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Emmanuel Yawe, expresses the body’s anger over the terror attack on the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, where two officers were killed and another abducted.
On Tuesday, August 24, 2021, Nigerians woke up to the news of bandits’ attack on the nation’s foremost military university, the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, in which two officers were killed and another was abducted. What’s your reaction to this?
To say the least, it’s terrible. It underscores our parlous state of security in Nigeria and the uncountable calls by the ACF and others for something to be done by the government to improve our collective security. The latest security breach is another embarrassment to the ACF. The NDA is a proud monument of the efforts of the first generation of northerners, who fought hard to bring development to the North; the likes of Muhammadu Ribadu, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Sir Ahmadu Bello, who brought the Institution to Kaduna. They did not bring it here for our generation to hand it over to bandits or whatever we call them.
This is an institution that is not only a pride of the North, but a pride of Nigeria. Many African countries train their military officers here. It is really sad that ordinary street bandits will invade a military institution of such a high national and international repute, outwit the security system and the men there, kill officers and take one away to an unknown destination.
Nigerians fear that the attack may be a message being passed by the bandits to the powers that be for a bigger attack. Do you share this?
Yes, the attack signified a new dimension in this season of insecurity. If such a heavily fortified place as the internationally appreciated security institution like the NDA could be so easily and casually violated, then something is wrong somewhere.
The Southern Kaduna Peoples Union, through its spokesperson, Luka Binniyat, had alleged that with the current situation in the country, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), might be rehearsing a script of turning the country into another Afghanistan. What do you think?
We do not share such a simplistic view. Afghanistan has a very complicated history. Nothing in their history should be compared to Nigeria. This is a country that has battled with the two superpowers of the world directly – Russia and the USA – and had its way. How can you compare it with Nigeria? Buhari cannot change Nigeria into Afghanistan. We doubt if he has any such intention, because he should know more than any other person that it will not work.
The ACF as a body has consistently kicked against the payment of ransom for kidnap victims. Considering the present scenario that the bandits have reached out to the military to demand N200m for the release of the abducted officer, what’s the right thing to do?
We still stand on our principles. The government should discuss with the bandits. They are Nigerians after all even though we abhor their criminal ways. But when it comes to paying ransom, we say no. Any ransom paid will be used to buy additional arms and more abduction will follow.
Would you suggest that the military go all out for the bandits, collateral damages or not?
We should go all out to destroy the bandits. If Babangida had cared about collateral damage in 1976, he would not have invaded the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria’s headquarters in Ikoyi to flush out the late Colonel Bukar Dimka and his fellow drunkards, who were set to destroy Nigeria after killing the Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed, on the street of Lagos. They killed our beloved Head of State in the daytime and in the full glare of horrified Nigerians, and went ahead to take over the headquarters of the only network radio station and started making some crazy announcements there.
If Babangida did not move, only God knows what those lunatics would have done with us. He risked his life and that of everybody, who was at the FRCN that morning to save Nigeria. If what he did was not patriotism at its best, I don’t know what else is.
Some public analysts say there must be insider collaborators for the attack on the NDA to happen. What’s your take on this?
For such a fortified place to be easily overpowered, we suspect there is an element of insider collaboration.
It has been suggested that in the past bandits abducted some cadets and the NDA authorities quietly paid ransom for them to regain their freedom. What do you expect them to do now?
We have no information on this. It sounds like a rumour. We are too serious minded at the ACF to spread rumours.
Will you say that the government has the will power to end the incidence of banditry in the North-West?
We have said it over and over again that the government and the military appear to have lost the spleen to face the malady of insecurity frontally and squarely. We cannot say anymore.
Do you think the military is serious in the fight against banditry, insurgency and kidnapping, considering the attack on the NDA?
We at the ACF are more embarrassed than the President about the attacks on the NDA. We at the ACF are direct beneficiaries of the commitment of the likes of Muhammadu Ribadu; the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello; and the Prime Minister of Nigeria, Tafawa Balewa. These were great men, who walked, slept, ate and starved for the North. Every day and in whatever they did, they had the North on their minds and on their lips too. The Sardauna, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, were brutally and unfairly murdered for trying to serve the North. We at the ACF, who have benefitted from the legacies they left behind, are the ones who are embarrassed that the legacies they left for us are being destroyed abundantly.
What’s the way out of the current situation?
There is nothing spectacular about securing a country. Buhari knows that it is not rocket science. It is as easy as playing the Ludo game. In 1983, my editor at the New Nigerian, the best editor I have ever worked with, and I have worked with many uncountable editors as reporter for over 40 years. This editor’s name is Malam Abba Dabo. He sent me to follow Major General Muhammadu Buhari, who was the General Officer Commanding in charge of an army unit in Jos. The general was himself directed by President Shehu Shagari to chase out of Nigeria some renegade Chadian soldiers, who were terrorising Nigerians on our land.
I followed the general and filed my reports to the New Nigerian. The newspaper was very powerful in those days. Whatever report came from the New Nigerian was taken seriously. By the time the British Broadcasting Corporation Africa got my story, lifted and relayed it to their global audience, the President discovered that we did not only flush out the renegades, we were knocking at the gates of the presidential palace in Ndjamena, the capital of Chad. The President found it difficult to get the general to return the captured Chadian territory. Please look for that General Buhari, who I risked my life as an unarmed reporter to follow in 1983. I have been looking for him without let to bail us out of our present predicament. When you meet him, ask him this interesting question.