From Maduabuchi Nmeribeh, Kano
The Minister of Defence, Major-General Bashir Salihi Magashi (rtd), has urged political leaders to channel their energies to eradicating poverty in their localities, rather than forming sentimental opinions on the issue of banditry that is ravaging parts of the country.
Magashi warned against inciting statements over the herders/banditry saga.
He spoke at the backdrop of clashing statements by major political leaders, including some governors who have recently expressed hard-line opinions on issues pertaining the menace of herders and banditry.
Magashi who spoke at the weekend in Kano, shortly after revalidating his All Progressives Congress (APC) membership card at Galandanci Ward, Gwale Local Government Area, maintained that no ammount of sentiment from any quarter can push President Muhammadu Buhari’s government into take any stand, capable of disintegrating the country.
According to him, “I am the Minister of Defence and the defence of this country is entirely my responsibility. We have the mandate to ensure that the lives and property of people are protected.
“I will also refer you to the promise Mr. President made to Nigerians in 2015, that is, security, economy and corruption. If in the process, the policy has had some people who think that they should be given independence to do what they want to do, in order to bring this country down, so be it.
“But certainly, we cannot sit down and watch people to be talking the way they want to. Let them do their own obligation to the people. Let all the Governors go do their own obligations. They have so many things that they can do to stop this banditry and other security issues.
“But crying that we should do that or should not do this will not solve the problem. Let everybody go back to his people. Everybody, I mean, all political office holders should go back to their localities and see what is happening there. There is poverty, there is neglect, there is no school, no healthcare centres, nothing!
“So, if they can concentrate on that alone, I think the nation will be better off. But, certainly, I admire the Governor’s saying their voices, but we will all analyse it and we will be able to come up with their ideas so that the Federal Government will remain neutral on every issue that will divide this country. We will not be agents that will divide this country. Certainly, it will not come from President Buhari.”
He also commented on Saturday’s regroup of the EndSARS protesters at Lekki Tollgate, insisting that the Federal Government will not allow unpatriotic elements to destabilize the country under any guise.
The Minister made the comments on the same day when over 23 protesters were arrested at the Lekki Tollgate.
According to him, “there is a basic responsibility of the government and that is to protect every Nigerian – whoever he is. We always believe that given the necessary intelligence, no agent of government will sit down and fold his hand without doing something.
“This EndSARS issue, if you recall, the Minister of Information has briefed this nation and alerted that something like this is coming and we know we are always prepared. This is our job—-to ensure internal security.
“We must plan for it. We don’t want to be taken by surprise. And if you want us to be taking by surprise, then, there is no need to call us protectors. If EndSARS is to take place today (Saturday), we will ensure that we have peaceful counter plans that we will put in place to ensure that mistakes are not made in protecting the people.
“You know the composition of the EndSARS crowd. Over 60 per cent of them are people who don’t even know why they are there. They just come to take part. Some of them are rogues, some are there to steal. They want to do whatever they think. They actual people are few.
“We are not going to be harsh on anybody. We will maintain the law and peace to the best of our ability. We can use force when it is required. When you use force, we don’t say you will go and start killing people. We can use minimum force commiserate with what is seen on the ground. And that is where some people are getting it wrong.
“We cannot sit down and then you shoot at somebody and we allow you to go because somebdy thinks that you are one that can kill and go away. Please give us time, in this country, we are in a state where we want everybody to look up and see what he can do for this country, not what the country can do for you. “
Speaking on the APC membership card revalidation exercise, he said: “Based on the observations of the APC National headquarters, there were lapses in our membership registration and they decided that we revalidate the membership card of our great party.
“From all indication, it is not an ad hoc thing, it is going to be continuous. My assessment for this exercise is that it is going to be continuous for eternity because as our party wishes, we redouble our efforts to get more people. That is one of the essence we are doing this exercise.
“The President has also gone to his Ward in Katsina to revalidate his party membership card. APC is the only party that can salvage Nigeria.”
Commenting on the strength of the military in combating insurgency in the North-East, he stated that: “You see, since 2015, we have been making progress. You remember when we met this country, almost 20 Local Government in the North East were under siege, they were under the Boko Haram. Eventually, we tried and Nigerians appreciated our efforts. But when things were turning, we all remain passive, we don’t want to know anything, but victory.
“The only way a conventional warfare is fought is for to know the strength of your enemy, his weaknesses, and compare with what you have. Then you can certainly predict that you can win the war of not. But the most important thing is the ability of the people that you are fighting for to appreciate the effort that the military is putting in and give them all the encouragement to better.
“But today, everybody seem to rely on successes, not making a corresponding interest to assist the military. But I think Nigerians are getting it better. They know that the military cannot do it alone; and they are doing all their best to see that they assist us in whatever manner—-intellectually, materially and anything that will make us to get out of this thing, especially, in the intelligence.
“We want to know what this people are up to. We want to know what they are doing so that we can now predict where to hit them hard and get them sought out and the success the country is requiring.”