Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Arrest of northerners in Abia State threatens Nigeria’s unity — APC Rep

Honourable Aminu Sulaiman is a member of All Progressives Congress (APC) from Kano State. In this interview with KOLAWOLE DANIEL, he bares his mind on the rejection of a motion he moved on the floor of the House of Representatives in respect of what he called a series of arrest of northerners in the South-East zone of the country. Excerpts

You recently came up with a motion on the series of arrests of northerners in the South-East region, but the motion couldn’t scale through. What informed the motion?

I respect the individual and the independent position of my colleagues and I cannot question their judgment. I also like to emphasise that I’m one of the very few that have enjoyed the confidence of my colleagues, having had the privilege to sponsor 23 motions in my three years in the House of Representatives and all the 23 motions went through with the exception of this one.

I want to sincerely believe that, because my colleagues did not have the benefit to know the details of the motion, this might have informed why they shot it down. I feel pained because I have lost an opportunity to correct an ill that is gradually setting in by the way and manner certain operations are being carried out by our security agencies.

I lost an opportunity to call the attention of the Commander-in-Chief on the dangerous slide perpetuated by some overzealous members of our security agencies. I have also lost an opportunity to draw our attention to the dangers and implications of this gradual but silent harassment of the very significant number of the Nigerian tribe and the Nigerian nation. I feel sad that, that opportunity is lost for us to see why the security agencies should place the unity of the country above primordial sentiments that individuals carry.

However, I would want to believe that the battle is not entirely lost, because I’m making consultations to ensure that we discuss this matter. This is the only reason people elected us as parliamentarians. We don’t write. We don’t administer. We don’t execute. What we do is debate for the benefit of the Nigerian people. Therefore, if you did not allow debate to hear the merits or the demerits, then gradually we are making nonsense of our own existence. It is Abia State today and anybody can use the same excuse again.

The way the members voted seems there was some kind of divide between the North and the South on the motion. How do you view that?

So it seems and that is why I said that my respected colleagues did not take the issue at stake from the perspective I had wanted to present it. I’m a Nigerian, a very proud Nigerian for that matter. God made me a Nigerian of northern extraction and I was voted for by the people who are now being forced to bear toga that is not theirs. I represent a people that are serially being harassed, maligned and perpetually put on negative spotlight.

Therefore, it is the Nigerian in me that made me raise the issue so that we would not allow this divide of the North and South to degenerate into an issue that we will not be able to solve. Rightly, our colleagues from that part of the country felt it was a northern affair. That is not correct. It is unfair to hold such opinion.

Therefore, if today we are having security challenges as symbolised by the heinous activities of Boko Haram.  Because these elements profess Islam, are domiciled in the North and because they dress like northerners,  in my own opinion, it will be a lazy approach by the security agencies to assume that every northerner is a potential Boko Haram member. It is very unfair and highly despicable.

If we allow that thinking to prevail, then, if today, we overcome Boko Haram, and there is a proliferation of kidnapping, as it were, then the same security will now assume this thinking and clamp down on people from the eastern part of the country and clamped them in detention.

That is why I said it is callous and irresponsible, despicable and lazy approach to security issues. We have in abundance significant number of security men to do intelligence for us.

Because if northerners should harass people from the South-East who dwell in the North tomorrow either in reprisal or as proactive measure, to say we don’t want issue of kidnapping to be smuggled and institutionalised in the North. Then, they begin to arrest and incarcerate Igbos. I will find myself in a quagmire because part of the votes that brought me to this place included significantly votes from Igbo-speaking people who are resident in Kano. The whole Igbo that are staying in Kano are in my constituency.

So, if tomorrow there is a retaliation of what is happening in Abia and other eastern state, and the government of Kano says either for reprisal purposes or to take proactive measure, it wants to put the Igbos on the spotlight. I will be compelled by the constitutional duty to raise a voice in support of the Igbos.

Therefore, when I’m raising my voice because significant members of my constituents are being unwarrantedly harassed by security agencies, then nobody should see that from regional or tribal perspective.

What were your prayers for the motion?

My prayers were three: The first is like an injunction to pass a resolution banning the security agencies from harassing any Nigerian travelling or residing anywhere in the country on the basis of his faith or his tribe.

Number two is to invite all the heads of the security agencies, particularly the Army, SSS, to come before relevant committees to explain their attitude which could instigate one ethnic group against another. What they are doing is gradually building enmity between the otherwise friendly regions of the East and the North. These actions are being perpetrated by the security agencies apparently with the collaboration of some powers. I’m not sure an average Igbo man is in support of this nonsense. Therefore, innocently they will now be setting the two tribes to look at themselves as enemy of one another. The intention is to invite them to tell us the reasons they want to set Nigeria on the part of Kigali, because that is what they are trying to do. Let them explain to us because we have a responsibility. People will ask us; they will not go and ask the chief of army staff because they don’t have access to him. Nobody will go and ask the DSS because they don’t have access to them. But they send me here, so that if issues like this arise, I should be able to stand up to say no to it because it is not in the spirit of one Nigeria.

The third prayer is to ensure that those who are involved in this ugly thing are fished out from the system and be asked to go. They are bad elements within the security system.

Now that the House had rejected the motion, what is the way forward?

I have already consulted the leadership of the House and I have explained in full what I had wanted to utilise the opportunity of the floor to do and the entire leadership are not only sympathetic, but they are in support of it. I have received green light to re-prepare the motion for re-presentation. I will do wider consultation to ensure that the motion scales through.

It is the northerners that are at the receiving end. What we are trying to discourage is the keeping of a sentimental security apparatus whereby a security officer from the North, will make reference to these incidents. We don’t want a situation we will begin to mount gates along Zaria road and say anybody from the southern part of Nigeria coming to the North must identify himself or herself and explain what their mission is. This is what I’m trying to prevent.

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