Tony Nyiam is a retired Colonel and member of the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC), that packaged the 2014 National Conference. In this interview, he speaks on the state on insecurity in Nigeria, especially the Fulani herdsmen attacks in different parts of the Nigeria. JOHN SILAS reports
As a retired Military Colonel, what is your view on the accusation by former Minister of Defence and Chief of Army Staff, General T.Y Danjuma, that Nigerian Armed forces is colluding with killer herdsmen on an ethnic cleansing agenda
I am of the view that military is being used by elements within it to defend and promote trans-national Fulani herdsmen colonisation of high yielding grazing land of the people of the Middle Belt and Southern regions of Nigeria. And all these are happening under the watch of a Fulani President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. The evidences to back what General T.Y Danjuma said are communications of Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State to the presidency and above all the courageous disclosure by the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Lawal Daura; a man who as the top spy master on internal security of Nigeria, should know.
What are the disclosures
According to the DG-DSS, who is himself a Fulani but of the ‘town type,’ “some of the sophisticated arms arrested from the herdsmen are traceable to military and police armouries”. The foregoing account of the apparent invisibility of the herdsmen’s invasion of the Middle Belt people of Taraba, Benue, Southern Kaduna, Adamawa, Plateau, and Kogi, the Hausa farmers of Zamfara and the three southern regions’ farming communities of Edo, Delta, Cross River state, Ondo, Ekiti, Ogun, Oyo, Enugu, etc. farming communities. If we go by the DG-DSS disclosure, the arms didn’t walk into the hands of the herdsmen. It clearly shows that there is complicity of some armourers charged with keeping the armouries safe. There is no attempt here to paint the military as a corporate entity bad, but to infer from the Intelligence Agency’s boss disclosure that there are elements that are using the Nigerian military and Police to further the interest of their kinsmen. This is happening under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the Commander-in-Chief (C-in–C) of the Armed Forces.
President Buhari has not directly addressed Nigerians on the trans-national Fulani herdsmen repeatedly killings of thousands of Nigerians. President Buhari should know that he is accountable to the Nigerian people and not to foreigners no matter how important they may be. President Buhari’s disregards for Nigerian people have gone on for too long. His accusations of Nigerians of corruption, abroad, led to massive foreign disinvestment in Nigeria.
What is your take on the 10-member committee inaugurated by the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Tukur Buratai, to probe the allegation leveled against the army by General TY Danjuma
Some of the initiative for the Army Board of Enquiry must have come from the National Assembly ad-hoc Committee organised summit on National Security, which took place from February 8 to 12, 2018 at the NAF Officers Mess in Abuja. During the summit, I submitted a paper titled “Plugging the gaps in the Nigerian National Security Architecture” in which I strongly urged the Senate President to initiate the inquiry. All these were weeks before General T.Y Danjuma’s confirmation of what Malam Lawal Daura had revealed. The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) therefore deserves our commendations for taking the part that will maintain or restore the reputation of the Nigerian Army.
What are your expectations from the Major General John Nimyel (rtd)-led military probe panel on Danjuma’s statement
The probe by Major General John Nimyel-led panel should not be a wishy-washy affair or a probe seemingly just done to placate the people. It is a probe which when transparently conducted, is capable of saving many lives. Any failure by members of the panel would be tantamount to being part of the murders of innocent people of the Middle Belt – Taraba, Plateau, Benue, Kogi, Niger, Southern Kaduna and Hausa people in Zamfara; and of course the Ndigbo in South-East and Yoruba in South-West as well as people of South-South.
How do you see Federal Government and the National security Agencies inability to contain the herdsmen threat
The main reason why the trans-national Fulani herdsmen invasion of the Middle Belt and Southern regions’ farming communities have been succeeding is partially because of the help they get from some military and police officials. What is worse, all these are happening under the watch of a Fulani President. Like General Danjuma’s self-defense call, this is a Save Our Soul (SOS) appeal to Nigerians that they should not only focus on the meeting of their immediate wants and lose sight of their long term existential needs. After all, what can one do if one ceases to exist? The war most Nigerians particularly the people of the Middle Belt and Southern ethnic nationalities face is a war of liberation. Freedom from the trans-national Fulani herdsmen, who according to President Buhari’s are people who were trained and equipped under late Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, a dictator who did not hide his aspiration for the whole of Nigeria to be Islamised.
With the ongoing killings by the herdsmen, what danger do you think it portend to the nation if it is not addressed in time…
Our existence individually and collectively is under threat and if nothing is done, we may end up like Somalia or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that end up like a failed states. We will end up moving from a near failed to a completely failed state. We are in danger, if the Nigerian military which should be neutral and protect every group of Nigerians is seen to be helping foreign invaders to promote the interest of an ethnic nationality who are not more than 15million against the Hausa, Yoruba, Ndigbo, the people of South-South and the Middle Belt who are together well over 80 per cent of the population or over 170million people.
Isn’t it ironic that a President is announcing helplessly abroad that those he leads are being murdered by herdsmen from the Sahel region, yet, the Commander-in-Chief has not deem it fit to deploy the military against these foreign invaders. But uses military force against his country folk who profess self-determination. We have a foreign invasion going on, in which about 100 people are being murdered weekly in the Middle Belt and all the President has been using so far is police action. While in Zamfara, his North-West region, he used the military. Why this nepotic approach to National Security.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s for example used the Nigerian military against the youths of his own ethnic nationality, the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC). That is what it means to be a Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces of the whole nation, not a Commander-in-Chief of armed forces which is made to be serving the interest of the President’s kinsmen. Recently, the President spoke when the Christian Bishops met with him, saying that he is not a bigot but his actions contradict his statement.
What are the actions
The appointment of all the heads of armed forces and security agencies are 80 per cent senior officers from people of his own faith-tradition or ethnic nationality. Is that not nepotic and bigotry? Many of us guided by our Christian faith upbringing of forgiveness are still ready to forgive President Buhari of his nepotism and sectionalism, if he stops being sectional in his appointment of key members of the top echelon of the armed forces and other national security agencies and members of his kitchen cabinet.