Senator Jonah Jang was the immediate past governor of Plateau State and the incumbent Senator representing Plateau North in the National Assembly. In this chat with journalists in Jos, the lawmaker spoke about recent call for cattle colonies, what should be done to stem the herder/farmer clashes among others? Our Correspondent AGABUS PWANAGBA was there.
For some time now, Plateau State has been a hotbed of antagonism by people called the unknown gunmen, but later it has been found out that they are Fulani herdsmen, does this thing really give you a cause of worry or concern?
Those of you who were here when I was governor, I was very worried because it was a problem I was faced with for good eight years. I tried to make people understand that I also inherited this problem from the previous administration and I believe that I had achieved quite a lot despite my rather disadvantaged position of being called then the Chief Security Officer of the State, without any means of enforcing anything which I still believe is the same situation today. We cannot continue this way. Some of us grew up with these Fulani herdsmen and we know the quantity of cows that have always been around the Plateau, but suddenly now, we are seeing people coming from wherever because we do not even know where they are coming from. I have asked this question in the senate whether these people are dropping from heaven. You find out that the geo-political areas that they are now operating are not border areas. If they are coming through our borders then why are they not doing the same thing in the border states rather than coming into the hinterlands, which means somebody is giving them access to come from the border into the hinterlands, it becomes very worrying, and the fact that when they are even arrested if at all, they disappear into thin air, nobody hears about them. We used to now that herdsmen carry sticks but these days, herdsmen carry very sophisticated guns, killing people at will. So, I believe that they are not really herdsmen, they are coming to accomplish a purpose and I believe that the purpose is to try to occupy land and unfortunately, the present administration does not seem to be up and doing in solving this problem.
There is this latest issue of cattle colony; do you believe such will bring about the desired peace?
I have said that we were colonized by the British; we cannot be colonized by the herdsmen again. What do you mean by colony? Look, cattle rearing are farming, animal husbandry. There are farmers in diverse areas, why do you want to start giving cattle rearing such level of priority? Will you give the same priority to those that are rearing dogs, pigs, snakes and so on? It is a private business. I had said when I was in government that to me, we have seen how cow owners in the United States and other developed countries operate, the people should buy land, settle down on ranches, they would have to buy not government. But I am more concerned about our own Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria that we know, not the ones coming across the border. The ones coming across the border must remain in their country, each country should contain her herdsmen not using the ECOWAS free movement to start throwing their own problems to our country, it is unacceptable and we cannot accept it.
What do you think is the solution to the farmers-herders clashes?
We need to take some drastic action, I have said it that these people are not Nigerians, they are trying to tell us that Fulanis don’t have boundaries, there is nobody in this world that doesn’t have a boundary of where he comes from. They are coming from somewhere, where are they coming from? Where were they before? I am 70 years plus, I didn’t see these kinds of Fulani in my early years in life. So, where are they coming from? They should go back to where they are coming from, let’s contain the ones we have here. We used to have a way of settling our problems with a Fulani man if his cows eat some crops in the farms, it would be settled even without going to the court. But these ones that are carrying guns, killing people, they cannot be people who are coming to be part of Nigeria, they must not be allowed.
Former President Obasanjo had written a letter to President Buhari, advising him not to seek re-election, we heard that IBB has equally issued a statement to that effect; don’t you think this would heat up the polity?
Every Nigerian has the right to air his view after all; the President did not bring himself to Aso Villa. He was elected so those people asking him not to re-contest may be voted for him and I believe they might have voted for him and they are just telling him that we cannot vote for you again. That is my way of understanding it, that is their opinion but the Nigerian voters would decide whether they want him or they don’t want him.
In your opinion, do you think he has done well to deserve a re-election?
When we were doing well, did they tell us we have done well? We that even performed, they were pursuing us all over the place, but they are not performing, everybody knows that.
This is democracy, I don’t expect individuals asking the President not to contest but the people would decide through the ballot if he is to contest or not.
Are those individuals not part of the electorates? They are expressing their views. Some would not talk but express it through voting, they have decided to express their own through verbal or written communication and may also express it when it comes to the time to vote if he decides to re-contest.
There is this demand for the restructuring of Nigeria, are you an apostle of restructuring? If yes, why do think Nigeria should restructure?
I am a disciple of restructuring. Because we cannot be calling ourselves a federation and yet we are running a unitary system, the two don’t work together. If you want to run a federal system, then we should do it. It is unfortunate that we in the military, because I was also a military governor, we believe in unitary and that anytime we are in power, we run a unitary form of government. So, when we tried to give the nation a constitution, we didn’t really look deep into it and we ended up giving the nation a unitary constitution to be operated in a federal system, and that is why nothing is working. So I believe that in this country it is not just a matter of whether we like it or not, it must be restructured.