The General Secretary of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, Baba Ngerzema, speaks with FRIDAY OLOKOR on the insecurity in the country and his fears for the 2023 elections
What are your fears about the general insecurity in Nigeria, especially as the country prepares for the 2023 election?
My concern will not be different from that of the general public. It is a fact that the security situation is getting out of hand despite the efforts being put in place by the security agencies.
Yet, you see how things are going on in the country; hardly a day passes without you hearing about a kidnapping, attack, or cattle rustling cases. It has become rampant across the country. It is in the northern part. It is in the southern part. It is everywhere in the country.
We just hope the leaders of this country will do something decisive very quickly. If not, one wonders how we are going to approach election time with the current security situation in the country.
What is your feeling about the debate on the Muslim-Muslim ticket adopted by the All Progressives Congress and its presidential candidate for the 2023 election, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, despite the general outcry? Why must it be Kashim Shettima?
I see these things as a strategy for those who want to win elections because there are a lot of states in Nigeria where you have a Christian-Christian ticket and a Muslim-Muslim ticket, and in those states you still have a large population of both Christians and Muslims. Go to the South-West and see. The South-West is a place where in every state you have a large population of both Muslims and Christians. Hardly do you find a family where there are no Muslims or Christians in the South-West.
So I really didn’t see anything wrong with the Muslim-Muslim ticket or the Christian-Christian ticket. Let’s get the right people in the right places. Are there no Muslims and Christians who are collectively looting the country? So when it comes to stealing government money, you will not hear of this Muslim or Christian something. It is only when it comes to elections and even in elections that I believe some are using it as their campaign strategy to win elections.
It (Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian ticket) has been happening in most of the states in the country and nothing happens. The government is moving on well; people are enjoying their political dividends; there is not much noise.
In the APC today, because Tinubu has taken Shettima as a running mate, it has become a problem that we have a Muslim-Muslim ticket, forgetting that Tinubu’s wife is a Christian and he is Muslim. Nobody is talking about how Tinubu’s wife is a Christian and that he is a Muslim.
Is there a place in Nigeria where you don’t find Muslims and Christians working together? They are all working together. When it comes to conniving to loot, when it comes to criminality, nobody is talking about religion but when it comes to politics, because it is being used as a strategy to win elections. It is being distorted too much to the extent that some people are looking at it as if it is a very serious thing. But me, I don’t see anything serious in that.
We should have the right people who will save this country from what we are facing and witnessing today. Let’s have the right people who will have Nigeria in mind irrespective of whether you are Christian or a Muslim or whether you are a Northerner or a Southerner. We pray to have people who will be nationalistic in their thinking, who will have Nigeria at heart, and who will be working towards the success of Nigeria as an entity. That is all.
This Muslim-Muslim ticket, I don’t give much concern about it because I believe people are amplifying it for political reasons just like the way the Fulani are being stigmatised as criminals while there is no society that doesn’t have criminals. There are criminals in each and every tribe, in each and every society.
However, because President Muhammadu Buhari is the President, the Fulani have become the battleground for politicians. Look at what the stigmatising is causing the pastoralists.
Today, they are looking at an average Fulani as a trouble maker. Some people are working against the Muslim-Muslim ticket, propagating very dangerous politics to the detriment of the entire country.
Have we not witnessed a Christian-Christian ticket in this country? It went well, and nobody was bothered. Most political parties chose their running mates from religions other than Islam. If the president is coming from the north, the vice president must come from the south. But whether it is a Muslim-Muslim ticket or a Christian-Christian ticket, what is important is that your political gains are being taken into consideration. Tinubu is coming from the South, whether he is a Muslim or a Christian. Is Tinubu not a Southerner and Shettima a Northerner? But bringing religion into politics is a very dangerous dimension.
Has your organisation, MACBAN, made up its mind in terms of endorsing any candidate or party for the 2023 election? If so, which party are you likely to endorse?
You know, MACBAN is a combination of all interest groups. We have the APC, the PDP, the NNPP, ANPP, and whatever else you mention. We have them in MACBAN. This decision has not been taken. The last time under Buhari, it was a unanimous decision of the Congress. We endorsed Buhari then. But now we do not even have the time, until all the chips are down, then we can decide whether to take a side or we can remain neutral. So this is the decision of the congress, not an individual decision of the members of the association. It has to be a majority decision of the Congress before we decide on whom to vote for. And before that, we have to look at the manifesto, we have to look at what they intend to do for our members.
You once complained about the ethnic profiling of killer herdsmen. Are the Fulani victims too?
A few years back, we lost about three MACBAN chairmen in Kogi State. They were killed, and last year, our chairman in Nasarawa was followed to his house by bandits and killed. Just recently, our Gwagwalada branch chairman was also assassinated. So we have been losing members on a daily basis as a result of the bandits’ activities, so we are not immune.
Because of tribalism and politics, people today are attributing any form of criminality to the Fulani without even minding to mention the name of the tribe. Have you ever heard of an Igbo armed robber or an Igbo drug pusher? Nobody will say the Igbo are drug pushers. Nobody has ever said all Yoruba or all Igbo are armed robbers.
So in essence, what you don’t like is the ethnic profiling?
Yes, some people out there are doing it deliberately in order to prepare the Fulani for genocide, and it has already started. The Fulani, who are the pastoralists, are also at the receiving end, and the criminals don’t care whether their victims are the Fulani or whatever when it comes to kidnapping. They only kidnap you and demand money to be paid before they release you.
Have you ever heard of a Fulani being kidnapped and freed because he is a Fulani man? No! If they are kidnapped, they have to pay a ransom before they are released.
Hundreds of them are being kidnapped on a daily basis in the forest. They have to sell their cows and pay a ransom to get them freed. Yet, most Nigerians see them as perpetrators of these crimes, but crime doesn’t discriminate between tribes and religions.
Nigerians await the time that you are going to endorse a candidate…
We don’t even know whether we are going to do the endorsement or not because that is the decision of the congress, whether to endorse who or what. The congress has to sit first and analyse and see.
As I previously stated, we must wait until the chips are down before drawing the attention of Congress and determining whether we can endorse or not, and if we can endorse, who will we endorse.
So for 2023, you don’t have any fears about it?
If we say we don’t have fears, we are lying.
You saw where some people who went to issue voter registration cards were assassinated in the South-East, so you can bear witness. The insecurity is going on everywhere in the country. So if we don’t have security, how can there be voting? People will definitely be afraid to go out and vote.
Let’s hope that the security agencies will do their best to calm these issues before the election, and you know, the election is one of the most important things that we have in the country because the country cannot grow without a leader.
So the 2023 election is almost essential, very necessary because the country will not go on without an elected leader after the expiration of the tenure of the current one. There has to be leadership for the country, and that leadership has to come through an election since we are under a democratic government.
With the current security situation, one wonders how the elections are going to be conducted. It is only our prayer that the election will be conducted peacefully and maybe the security will change tactics and try to get over this security problem that we have.
The clergymen from both sides should be praying for the country rather than propagating hate in their mosques and in their churches, rather than propagating hate against each other. It is for the clergymen to be preaching peace and tolerance and to be preaching the importance of the election and how the elections are going to be conducted rather than propagating hate and always coming up with hate speeches against a particular group or another.