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Monday, 30 December 2019

No need talking about 2023 now –General Useni

No need talking about 2023 now –General Useni

…Says political parties’ll decide zoning of presidency when time comes

 Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate in the 2019 general elections, Lieutenant General Jeremiah Useni (Rtd) has said that political parties in the country would determine whether the 2023 presidency would be zoned to the South or remain in the North.

Useni said that incompetence of some advisers in the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration are responsible for the woes facing the country, adding that the president cannot intentionally wish the country the current severe challenges.

He admitted that there are insecurity in the country, but said that Nigeria is not at war just as he called on all citizens to join hands to fight poverty, insecurity and other social vises. Excerpts:

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People are generally suffering in Nigeria because there is so much hunger in the land, what do you think President Muhammadu Buhari should do to alleviate the suffering of the people?


Before I answer your question, you can call me Jerry Boy because I play with everybody, since the time I retired from the military and then went to the Senate, people still call me Jerry Boy.

I decided to go in for the governorship of Plateau State in 2019 and because of the way I help poor people, especially the widows, children; they decided to call me “Baba Maitowo,” meaning father who gives food; people have to eat and I don’t hide it up still today. People come to my house to get food, I eat together with the poor, I don’t hide it even if it is one plate.

On the issue of hunger in the land, people should go to farm, we must engage our mindset in agriculture, that is the only way we can battle hunger. You must go to farm to feed yourself, we cannot continue to buy food, we should cultivate the habit of agricultural activities, you can even get a small garden behind your house were tomatoes and other products can be cultivated, that will help us.

We shouldn’t rely on salary all the time, you must engage into other things to feed yourself. The hunger is not just in one part of the country, it is the whole world that is suffering from what is happening now, that is why no matter what your profession is, you must engage in doing something to add to what you are known for to earn a living.

Also, we must stop fighting, because all these fighting and killing ourselves have made people to be scared to go to farm, even when they farm, sometimes some people steal the food, that causes scarcity of food which results to hunger.


 A lot of people have expressed dissatisfaction with the way President Buhari is governing Nigeria. They hinge their disapproval from alleged disobedience to court orders and other issues, don’t you think that if we continue this way Nigeria’s democracy will be under threat?


Well, you see when you are the president, you don’t do everything by yourself, you get advisers and if your advisers advice you properly you will do the proper think, but when you get bad advisers you can have problem. What I am saying is that we have good and bad advisers.

If there is anything going on wrong at all it is as a result of bad advisers and not him as an individual that will decide to do things that way, but he is trying to see that everything is going on smoothly, so there is a mix up somewhere because some people don’t understand what democracy is, some think that democracy is a place where you can lie.

When I joined politics, I told people that politics is not a place to lie, politics is to help people, it is meant for people who come in the interest of helping other people, in the interest of everybody.

It is not a place you will chop and go, no. So, I think there is a mix up and everybody is saying it is the president, no. The president is one man, there are ministers and everybody has his own function, and if some people are doing wrong, what about the judiciary, their own is to lock up or giving sentence.

Some people have been given bail, but they are using that bail to do anything they like, they just disappeared. There are cases that can be finished in one week, but they will say until three months and anything can happen in three months. I think we must be prepared to work together, and try to do the right thing.


You contested for the 2019 governorship election in Plateau and your opponent was declared the winner by INEC, you went to the tribunal, his victory was affirmed, you proceeded to the Appeal Court and his victory was upheld, you are now at the Supreme Court, do you have confidence that you will get the judgment?


Well, I have confidence, but I don’t decide for the judiciary. So far, I have not been happy with the judgment. Like for instance, there are some places where wrong information were provided by the governor and even the tribunal said it, and yet they say it was not strong enough. When we went to the Appeal, there are two places we thought the they will consider, but they didn’t take note of it.

For instance, we have 21 witnesses who gave good accounts of all that happened during the election, the manipulations and everything that went wrong during the election and I remember that APC then decided to go to the Appeal Court when we were still at the tribunal because they wanted the tribunal not to admit those witnesses and the Appeal Court ruled in their favour and we decided to go to the Supreme Court and it ruled that those 21 witnesses must be taken.

We thought the Appeal Court will take note of that but it didn’t mention it at all.

Maybe they wanted to cover up what they did, but the Supreme Court said no, the witnesses should be considered, that was before the judgment of the tribunal. But when we went to the Appeal Court, they didn’t even talk about it at all, the Appeal Court didn’t take note of the false information which the governor gave.

We didn’t say the governor wasn’t qualified, we didn’t say the governor didn’t go to the university to read law, but what we are saying is that he mentioned so many names on his certificates and there is a place in the oath paper that asked whether he has other names, but he wrote nil, which meant none, that means he lied and the tribunal said so, he lied and it is a very serious offense.

But the Appeal Court said it was not serious enough to squash the election, these are some of the areas that took us to the Supreme Court.


Your party, the PDP is in crisis in Plateau despite the intervention of the National Working Committee, what mechanism are you putting in place to resolve the internal problem so that it will not affect your chances in 2023?


We have not got to 2023 yet and the people who are causing confusion or trouble are the ones thinking of 2023. What we have at hand, let us get it done first.

The people who are talking about 2023 are the same people who caused us this problem years back in 2015, when somebody spent eight years and wants to bring somebody from the same place to contest and we said no, let this thing go round and he said no that was how Lalong had a free day because the people in PDP gave him protest votes and it is the same people that are doing the same thing, we cannot continue to behave like that.

You are either in the party or you are out of the party. So, 2023 is still a long way, none of us knows whether we will be alive tomorrow. The party has a case in court and some people are talking about 2023, they are not bothered about the court, but we will get over it.

Lieutenant General T. Y Danjuma was quoted recently saying that that if he opens his mouth to talk about Nigeria and what is happening that a lot of people will not go to sleep, the same thing with Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and Nigerians are waiting for leaders like you to speak out, how will you encourage Nigerians?

Well, I am surprised you talk about only these two. Rochas Okorocha also said something that if they continue to push him, he will say so many things that some people will not be able to know their houses, and Oshiomhole also said that if he is forced to leave chairmanship of APC, he will tell the world how the election was run, I don’t know why you forgot about these people.

These are personalities and everybody has a way of getting information, they know the details of what they have and those of you who publish, don’t publish what you don’t understand.


What is your assessment of security situation in Nigeria?


We have security problem, there is no doubt about that, we have security problem. But, you see we have different people who can interpret differently how they see the situation.

The situation is bad, there is no doubt about that, why is it that people find it difficult even to travel from Abuja by road, some people told me that the saw Inspector General of Police in a train traveling to Kaduna and I said I will travel by road to Kaduna if I want to go to Kaduna from Abuja.

I remember during our time with Sani Abacha, if we get you, we will deal with you properly, if you are wrong you are wrong. People said that was military regime, that does not mean that in civilian regime you do what you like, no. There are rules to be obeyed and why are people behaving anyhow.

People will say we are not in the military era, but democracy, but if you study the history of the world very well there is no democracy without military regime, everybody must obey the law, we don’t have to wait until we are locked up before we do the right thing. If you know the right thing to do, why do you do what is wrong, people must try to behave like human beings.


Don’t you think the government needs serious action to flush the current bandits and kidnappers in the country?


I’m  happy you said when you go to war, if you are in the war it means you are facing a soldier who is just like you, you shoot before your enemy shoots. A soldier is trained to keep peace, he is trained to fight war so that to defend his country, a dead soldier is useless to the country, a wounded soldier is a problem to the country because he will not fight for you yet you will be feeding him.

So, a soldier must stay alive to make sure that it is his enemy that he kills. But in Nigeria, we are not doing war, we are talking about insurgency within war, the situation we have is not a normal war, it is not that we are facing a country in a war.

What we are having now was different from Biafra, Nigerian soldiers decided to fight against Biafra because where they come from is not Biafra, it has to be soldier to soldier, but this one is civilian to military and we are helping the police to keep peace, we are not fighting war inside Nigeria now, no.


How do you think the insurgency issue can be addressed?


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It is being addressed, we are reading in the newspapers and watching on television how Air Force has been bombing areas that these people keep their arms or have been coming from to attack people.

There are times that they overtook the police and the soldier came in to assist to keep them away, there are a lot of things going on because even within the civilian, there are a lot of people who don’t provide correct information, some of them are even the insurgents themselves.

We had a situation when the former president called us for a meeting when Boko Haram started from Borno State and somebody from Borno said that there is no Boko Haram and that soldiers should go away from Borno, that soldiers are chasing their wives and children.

President Goodluck Jonathan said if the situation is okay I will remove them then a General stood up and said if they remove soldiers, I will give you one week, there will be no Borno because two weeks later, that General was killed, they went to his house and shot him dead.

When the Boko Haram started, people said it was Muslims fighting Christians, today it is not the same story. The killing is going on everywhere.


There is an ongoing agitation now that power should shift to the South while others are saying that the presidency should remain in the North, what is your own opinion?


Well, it depends on the party, there are so many political parties in the country today, so it will depend on the political party.

Some parties might decide that they want presidency to remain in the North and some might decide they want it to come from the South, some people in the North said it should go to the South and from the South said it should remain in the North, it is the party that will decide.

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