- Says Emergency Rule Is Hurting Adamawa
Adamawa State Governor Murtala Nyako can be described as a war hero. He fought in the civil war and still carries the scars to show for it. The retired naval officer and President of Nigerian Farmers Association, who has been having a running battle with the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, last month, defected to the All Progressive Congress, APC, putting himself in direct collision course with the Presidency and the PDP.
In this interview, Nyako, popularly referred to as Babamaimangoro, apparently because he produces more mango for export than any other African farmer, gives reasons why he fell out with President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
What have you been able to do for your people as a long standing farmer with experience in food production?
Well, as a long standing and successful farmer in Nigeria, I would say that I have done a lot to improve the lot of Adamawa people and empower them so that they can stand on their own. I have trained them on how to run a successful agricultural business and become self-sustaining. When I came in, I promised to unite the state and work for the overall interest of the people.
I can say we have achieved the set goal of unity, peace and progress. One of the dictionary meanings of politics tells me that ‘politics is the art and science of judicious use of resources for the attainment of public good’. We have concentrated our development programme bearing in mind this definition. We are happy with what we have done to develop our state and people. Our target is pan-agriculture and our people are already into it.
But what have you done to replicate the knowledge you have as a farmer?
We have established five centres dealing with vocational training. You go there for one and graduate to another centre, which is technical training centre to specialise. Once you are trained, you don’t need to worry. Those trained by us are a hot cake to multinational companies and we are happy about that. This is the only place where people call for investors but don’t have the basic skills and manpower.
The so-called investors can rip you off or sabotage you. We are doing our best to train and educate our youths to ensure that they can take part in agriculture as an investment and reap immensely from the sector. We have trained many youths that many of the multinational companies can recruit and use for their own agricultural production. We have established schools for all vocational trades and it is serving our people in many ways. We are providing agriculture for food security and economic empowerment.
It is still unclear to Nigerians why you don’t seem to appreciate the imposition of a state of emergency on your state by the president.
The first thing I did when I became governor was to write to the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua on the security situation of Adamawa State, which had been described by the World Bank as being situated in one of the poorest regions of the world-the North-east of Nigeria bordering with Cameroon, Chad, Niger and the Darfur region. The report said Adamawa was replete with poor infrastructure, wide ranging health problems, poor educational facilities, unemployment and frustrated elements.
The bank also described the region as a dangerous zone in Nigeria because of these problems. So, when I became governor, I wrote to the president to give us a special attention to be able to tackle the precarious situation in the state. We pleaded with the president to approve a standing operation task force for us so that if there is any threat to lives and property, the standing force could be mobilised to deal with the situation.
I also made a case for a standing batallion here so that they could do what we call in the army ‘cordon and search’, which is best done everywhere in the world. They could search and destroy suspected bad elements and recover arms and ammunition. That would have solved the proliferation of arms.
After reading my letter, the late Yar’Adua approved a standing battallion for Adamawa. A base was set up in the state. But as soon as Yar’Adua died and Jonathan took over, he wrote us a letter that the army should not be used by any state for any type of operations. We wrote him back and pleaded with the president to give us a special consideration because of the bad situation in Adamawa.
I pointed out the World Bank report classifying the state as one of the world’s worst spots and the need to retain the task force already working in the state. I drew his attention to the approval given by the late president. But he refused to listen to me. But now, he introduced a state of emergency in the state and he does not pay them their allowances as and when due. I told our people when they declared a state of emergency that we were in trouble because our situation was already dire.
We have to find a way of interfacing with the soldiers so that they don’t cause any havoc. We have been working closely with them at all levels and I am happy that since the soldiers arrived here, they have not killed any innocent citizen. No single Adamawa man has been caught as a Boko Haram suspect. We are using what we call Special Assistance Programme to checkmate unemployment and crimes in the state.
In fact, I can say that Mr. President copied my Special Assistance Programme and called it SURE-P. We are using the programme to pay and train people on gaining a means of livelihood. We had put things right only for the president to slam a state of emergency on us? How do the people earn a living? There are some totally innocent people who sell food and run their private lives separate from government and you want them to go home and die? There are others who ride Okada and they earn a living from that. How do they survive?
So are you saying that the state of emergency has destroyed the economy of the state?
Certainly, and in no small measure. For the poor man, it has adversely affected them, but the evil few in Abuja don’t care about it. There is no excuse for the hardship imposed on the people of the state. I wrote to the president on the role of the task force and he did not even acknowledge receipt. We even wrote as governors and advised him on the way to go about the security situation and he has not given me audience till today.
I was a naval officer and the one who established the security branch of the Nigerian Navy and I have been the longest serving Chief of Naval Operations and Plans in the Nigerian Navy and we know about security. When we advise the president on what to do about security, we speak from a position of knowledge. The president was not trained as a soldier and we don’t expect him to know all about security awareness but he has advisers who are bringing hardship to the people of my state?
Adamawa was not even on the list of the three states that were slated for emergency. It was meant for BOYONA- Borno, Yobe and Nasarawa where over 100 security men had just been killed by a cult group. Adamawa was never listed for emergency rule. The president just removed Nasarawa and put Adamawa thereby bringing untold hardship on the people of the state. It is pure politics, pure double-mindedness and wickedness and nothing more.
He wants to ill-treat us who had given the PDP three senators, 21 LG chairmen out of 21 LGAs, six House of Representatives members out of eight and 22 out of 25 House of Assembly members in the last elections. At Eagle Square during the primary election, we gave the president 80 percent and 20 percent to (former VP) Atiku, our own son. Ahmed Gulak, who is now confusing the president, did not get up to five votes in his unit and this is the man convincing Mr. President that he was responsible for his victory in Adamawa.
We gave 60 percent of the votes to Jonathan during the presidential election and the remaining 40 was shared by Buhari, whose wife is from Yola, and Nuhu Ribadu, whose father and mother are from Adamawa. Yet, we are the ones the president is penalising. Sadly, the state executive of the PDP that worked so hard to bring about the president’s electoral victory at the polls was also inexplicably dissolved on the advice of evil men in Abuja instead of recognising and rewarding such an exco.
Is that why you decamped to the APC?
That is a stupid thinking. What am I looking for again? I told off David Mark the other day when he wanted to insinuate that I would one day come to the Senate. I told him the president could not to talk to me anyhow because I am not going for any political office in 2015. I am not also supporting my son or wife to succeed me as some elements are alleging.
What we are kicking against is the high level of impunity, which has been enshrined in the polity at all levels. We cannot allow it to continue so that this country is not plunged into avoidable crisis.
If the philosophy of political parties is not followed and protected, we may regret our action. We should not allow disaster to strike before we wake up to protect the system that brought us to power.
Democratic culture must be developed and protected from the top to the bottom. We must start to copy the South-west and do what is right. This nonsense has substantially gone down in the South-west because the people are aware of their rights. Let me tell you that we had a primary election here in the state on a Saturday and on Monday morning, Bamanga Tukur sat down in Abuja and sent the name of his cousin who never contested in the by-election primary and INEC, which witnessed the exercise did not say it did not witness the process.
The PDP hierarchy is corrupting our security and judiciary institutions. They can corrupt INEC, police and the judges, otherwise how can a DPO come to disrupt a meeting being held by governors trying to see how to resolve the crisis in the party? We cannot wait for anarchy to take over Nigeria again. We will not accept impunity again, not even in Adamawa but in Nigeria as a whole. They want to draw us back to a civil war again? I am a victim of the civil war and I still have a scar on my leg till today.
Was there any agreement between the northern governors and President Jonathan that he will serve for only one term?
Yes, there was an agreement. In the first place, when they brought that agreement for me to sign ahead of the 2011 primaries, I was told that the 2007 and 2011 presidency belonged to the North. They had all agreed under President Obasanjo that the entire 2007 and 2011 belonged to the north. Jonathan was a signatory to that document as the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa. So when they came and asked me to sign and I objected saying that I did not believe that Jonathan would honour the agreement because Jonathan did not give his pledge in the 2003 document, they said, ‘Ha Babamaimangoro, please sign,’ and I did.
Who brought the agreement?
The governors of Niger State, Katsina and the rest were there. All of them were trying to get our support for Jonathan to become president in 2011.
So, was it the northern governors who brought the agreement to Jonathan to sign?
Yes. It was the northern governors who signed the agreement with Jonathan. Of course, it was the Niger State governor who took the document to Jonathan and he signed. Obasanjo would tell you that he came to me with Jonathan and pleaded with me to support him in 2011 to become the president and I did. There he sat. Jonathan told me he was going to run for only one term in 2011. Jonathan virtually took an oath to run for only one term. So when he went back to Obasanjo that he was going to run in 2015, Obasanjo asked him why he was doing so after he had made the governors to support him in the 2011 poll.
Who has that agreement?
The Niger State governor has the agreement. He is the one who handled it.
We want to deal with people of honour and integrity and not those who dribble others and treat others with no sense of respect and not respecting their vows. Leaders must be honest with their colleagues and the larger society. Without that, we would run into serious crisis in this country.