A chieftain, financier and former acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and founder of Baraje Center for Arabic and Islamic Studies Gerewu in Ilorin, Kwara State, ALHAJI ABUBAKAR KAWU BARAJE CON, turns 69 on February 3, 2020. As part of activities to mark his 69th birthday, he spoke with a group of journalists in Ilorin, including our own KEHINDE AKINPELU, on some topical national issues.
Below are excerpts of the interview.
As you clock 69 today, what is your message to the good people of Kwara state and Nigerians in general?
I give Allah the glory as He is the owner of the glory. He is the perpetual owner of all glories. I want to thank all of you, particularly those that have been following my antecedents, my ways of life and achievements and my entire supporters as well. I say thank you to everyone.
Haven said these, I wish to appreciate all Nigerians for their resilience, perseverance and Never-Say-Die attitude at these very difficult times in Nigeria. Everybody knows, everybody is aware and are now feeling the pinches of the difficult times. Good governance is really difficult to get these days. I therefore wish to say that the most difficult and most depressing of the entire situation is the insecurity in the country. Consequently, I am urging Nigerians to be security conscious about their environment. We must remove neglect, ‘I don’t care’ attitude or ‘sit-down-look’ behaviour. We must be conscious of what goes on around in our neighborhood, including objects and people moving around us and report to the appropriate authorities, any suspicious movement or situations.
Nigerians must go back to our culture of working together and cooperating with our neighbours in ensuring that our environment, our neighborhood, our states and our country are safe. This is the period that we must be very alert and live up to our responsibilities and be our brother’s keepers.
This is a clarion call on Nigerians, particularly the elites, and especially the youths, to be more involved in governance. We must show that we are alive in our thinking, in our perception and in our belief in good governance. We must tarry and be critical of whatever the authorities tell us. We must be wary and analyze whatever we come across in the social media – be it news items, write-ups, opinions and even the notorious “video messages.” It is time to get our mind, body and soul working. We must put on our “thinking caps,” analyze issues and situations and sniffer the corn from the shaft- truth from baseless and destructive lies. I am particularly referring to our youth because this is the time for them to stand up and bail the future, which we believe is their own. It is not for the youths to believe in anything they throw at them and later lament when the truth stares at them. The youth must come out of their gullibility. Demand and even fight for good governance.
Government in Nigeria stands on tripods. We have the judiciary, the legislative and of course, the executive. One major arm of government, the legislature, must be the eye, the brain, and the conscience of the public who elected them. Whenever they are not doing their jobs, the youth and indeed, the entire populace should question them. The three arms of government are supposed to be complementary agreed, but the legislative arm must be at alert always. It is the checks and balances in any functional democracy. Therefore, it should work for the people and not the executive. It should insist on ensuring that the executive deliver good governance to the people as well as the judiciary delivering justice to the masses.
While we appreciate the fact that the legislature is doing its job for the progress of the people, they are not supposed to be rubber stamp to the executive. They are supposed to appreciate what the public needs and what the public lacks and then tell government to do the right things. Of course, we are all living witnesses to what is happening now. I mean the performances of the 9th National Assembly with regards to the insecurity in the country. It is on record that the 8th National Assembly worked relentlessly and passed laws on how to beef-up security in the entire country. Where are those laws? Accented or not accented to?
It is now we are lamenting. Recalling that this is what the 8th National Assembly has been saying and what the eighth National Assembly stood for. Regrets and lamentations are not the best for us in this country.
So, these are my two major messages to my fellow compatriots. First, to be aware of our environment, to report any security lapses to the necessary authorities when they find anything strange and at the same time, to put on our thinking caps and question government where they are not doing well.
There is this call for rejigging of our security apparatus from the top. What’s your position on this and do you think such action will even stop the security challenges we are currently facing in the country?
As a matter of fact, that is one of the reasons I thanked Nigerians for their resilience, and that is why I am calling on the youth and the general public to demand good governance because we have never had it so bad. Our brother countries in West Africa like Sudan, Niger that have been in wars, did not have their security as threatened as high as we have now in Nigeria before they went into war. Yet, we are taking advantage of the fact that Nigerians are so resilient. But we must be warned, there is always a limit to the elasticity of any pressure.
Those of us who can remember, those of us who are following events, we knew that there were serious enabling laws that were enacted by the 8th National Assembly and the present executive blatantly refused to assent to such bills.
The panacea the 8th National Assembly recommended then which was put in abeyance is what we are now dusting up. I mean that is one step forward and ten steps backwards. It is not the best for Nigeria. It is not the best to govern by sentiments of nepotism, hatred, insincerity and injustice. My take is that the security apparatus of this country has failed us. It has collapsed and the center can no longer hold. There is no control whatsoever any longer. We need to sit down and dialogue. I am now beginning to change my mind that it is high time that we begin to decentralize authorities, begin to decentralize institutions. Over and above all, it is high time that we Nigerians need to sit down and reason and make the right choice before we put our fingers on the ballot papers to vote who ever we want into power.
What is your take on this issue of Amotekun by the South West governors?
My take on it is that they are complementary to government security agencies and should stay. I hasten to appreciate the Inspector-General of Police for his courage on this out-fit. I have been listening to and observing comments of well-meaning Nigerians as well as reactions from the representatives of the federal government. The Nigerian police is saddled with the purview of providing public security. I have never heard the Inspector-General of Police condemning Amotekun. That is an educated, honest and dedicated police officer different from what we had in the immediate past. Government should sit down with the organizers of Amotekun and dialogue with the Governors from the affected states, instead of coming out and condemning them. The issue of Amotekun and the like has been existing in other regions of the country anyway. I am not a Nigerian that would be partial because I belong to one section of the country, what is good for the goose is good for the gander, so if other parts of the nation have been operating such outfit successfully why not in the Southwest. In Kwara state, for example, we have vigilantes. Many individuals, groups and organisations resolved to hiring services of vigilante security out fits in many occasions and in communities in Kwara state. They have been successfully and peacefully complementing police efforts in the state. Why haven’t the government blacklisted vigilantes? We have been hearing the activities of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the troubled North Eastern part of Nigeria .Why didn’t government say it is illegal? To me as far as I am concerned, the Amotekun is a welcome idea and an idea coming from leaders that have the concern of their people at heart. I think the government at the center should sit down and dialogue with them and resolve the grey areas and let Amotekun function to complement the police effort.
2023 is around the corner and politicians have started overheating the polity. Some members of your party, the PDP, have even suggested a change of the name of your party. What is your position about 2023 and the issue of the PDP?
You want me to be partisan this time around and I will be. As far as 2023 is concerned, PDP is ready and is preparing and we thank its supporters and even non- supporters because, this is the time to be realistic and our minds should be alive and alike to move Nigeria forward. We have tasted the so called change, we have tasted the so called next level. We have seen change in inverted coma. It is now left for Nigerians to choose. The PDP has its own black- spots like any other outfit but I think we now know the better party, indeed the best party, if i may use that expression. We now know the party that is able to fight insecurity, that was able to ensure the economic viability of the country, we now know the party that is best for Nigerians to go back to. That party of course is the PDP. It is now time to vote PDP again at the center.
Does the PDP need to change the name of the party?
Well, as far as am concerned, there are many things attached to a name and there are many things that a name can do and may not be able do. Yes, it is not the name that matters but the characteristic and behaviour of the bearer of such name. Same with political parties. The members and performances of the party members of a party send the wrong or right signals. This results in the perception of the people about the party. It is just like the saying that one may change the name of leopard but cannot change its colour, leopard is leopard. But as far as I am concerned, the PDP stands for progress, PDP stands for the people just like the mantra says, power belongs to the people. The PDP is more interested that the wealth of the country goes round the nook and crannies and not concentrated in the hands of the so called cabals. So for me, it is what the PDP does for the people that matters and not about the name. In any case, we now know which party is the chief of the thieves in Nigeria.
What is your take about the committee set up to resolve the issue of Ile Arugbo?
Well, with regards to the setting up of the committee, it is a good idea. People have their own tradition and culture and the Ilorin emirate community is not an exception. Ilorin emirate community is known for its peaceful coexistence among families and individuals. My view about the committee is that we are putting our house in order and that the leaders who thought of it are carrying out one of our passionate values in Ilorin community, i.e. peaceful coexistence. That is what we are known for. Anybody who is condemning this is only telling a story about himself or herself. Anybody that is standing against this is standing at a distance and throwing stones at his father’s house. In Africa, we know the kind of people who throw stones at their fathers’ residences.
Yes, the matter is in court. But the court itself recognizes the importance of peace and thus directed settlement out of court. Settlement out of court is not strange to law. So I give Kudos to the setting up of the committee and advise that it should not ad-hoc but a permanent and functional committee. Also Its membership should not unwieldy.