In this interview with ATTAH EDE, a senator in the Third Republic and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress in Benue State, Prof. David Iornem, says the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration needs to make less noise about its anti-graft war
What is your view concerning the fight against corruption with some people alleging that President Muhammadu Buhari is fighting a selective anti-graft war?
Inasmuch as I embrace the fight against corruption, the anti-graft commission is giving Nigeria a very bad name. You can fight the war without necessarily making too much noise about it. We are fighting the war as if we are campaigning. If you go outside the country, you will not like the bad image of the country.
President Buhari is advertising Nigeria badly. There is a concept in communication called bad-advertising. What I mean is that there is advertising and there is bad-advertising. When you are advertising, you are promoting, advocating and telling people that this thing is good, people should embrace it but when it is bad-advertising, you are telling people that this thing is bad and people should run away from it. If I go to any airport outside Nigeria and people look at me as a very corrupt person, who is to be blamed?
Buhari should be blamed. You can fight this war without making noise. Do the actual thing, you don?t talk too much. America has corrupt people but if you search the internet to get the top worst countries involved in internet scam, Nigeria is not among the top 20 countries. The United States of America is number one. But the way Nigeria is being portrayed over internet scams; you will think Nigeria is number one. I bought a book in Johannesburg, it has a chapter on Nigeria?s scams and anybody who reads e-commerce will think that Nigeria is really one of the topmost countries where internet scams are being perpetrated but Nigeria is not one of the top 20 countries. Even South Africa is one of the top twenty countries known for internet scams.
They did not write the chapter themselves, it is the way we project ourselves. I watched a TV programme where one of the presenters described Nigeria as one of three top countries where internet scams are perpetrated. There is nothing like that. Nigeria is not the one that presented the figures. It is authoritative; the research was conducted by the World Bank, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals and they came out with the results. So the anti-corruption war can be fought without damaging Nigeria?s image too much.
Benue people have been saying that President Buhari?s failure to visit the state after the recent killings by suspected Fulani herdsmen has political undertone. What do you think about this?
Yes, they are right and I am using this medium to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently address the insecurity occasioned by Fulani herdsmen in Benue State. He should urgently take step to address it as he has done in other places where there were problems. I urge him to come to Benue so that he can have first hand information on what has happened in the various local government areas like Agatu, Logo, Guma, Gwerwest, Kwande, Buruku, Makurdi, Tarka and other areas not mentioned because it is only when the Fulani herdsmen attacks are scandalous that they make newspaper headlines. If they kill two or three persons in Ushongo, Vandeikya, nobody reports because they have seen how many people were killed in Agatu, Logo. Buhari should address the issue urgently.
Do you also agree with people who have described the President?s appointments as lopsided?
Maybe nobody is complaining to Buhari that his appointments are lopsided and that he is marginalising others. His score card on appointments is very poor and he cannot stand up, beat his chest and say, yes, I have balanced my appointments. When you go and make few appointments and then you leave out some groups, they will feel they have been left out. Why can?t he sit down in his office, take time, compile all the appointments, take all the ethnic groups into cognisance, have balanced appointments and then release the appointments at once without marginalising anyone?
If he has done that, nobody will complain of marginalisation but you always make few appointments, favour one group and ask the other groups to wait. It is not fair. You are in your second year in office and you are telling others to wait when you have only one more year left because the fourth year will be for campaign. Whether he is running in 2019 or not, the party will be in turmoil because there are political issues involved. Buhari has demonstrated that he has no intention to balance all the appointments.
Nigeria is having problems with various agitators. Do you agree with Nigerians who insist that the government should negotiate with the Niger Delta Avengers and others?
The Buhari-led administration made a mistake, which is taking up too many wars at the same time. You don?t open too many fronts when you want to fight and get results. So if you want to confront Boko Haram, you don?t do things against the Niger Delta militants, like suspending allowances, cancelling contracts and that. You can leave that one for another day and fight Boko Haram first to secure the North-East and Nigeria as a whole. At the same time, this government started another war with the Shi?ites. First of all, that group is not friends with Boko Haram but when you go and attack its members, it is likely that they start their own, although they may not join Boko Haram.
There was no need to go and kill over 300 people just like that. So it was a very big mistake. Then, the anti-graft war is also a war. There are some people who will be dispossessed of some valuables that they have acquired and would not be happy. There are many ways they can make things difficult for you. They can sponsor people against you. So it is not good that this administration has too many battles he is fighting. Another battle is the National Assembly. It is also a war. People have sat there and constitutionally, they have produced their own leadership, as the President, just accept them and they will work with you, they will never be against you.
You accept, integrate them into whatever you are doing and give them their own respect. That is all but he went and took a hard stance against the leadership. That is an unnecessary war and you will find that there are other battles here and there that Buhari has taken on. Yes, it is proper for government to go into negotiation with the Niger Delta Avengers because even if they start to fight and the Nigeria military goes into the area to get them, it is not going to be done overnight.
What do you think the present government should do to resolve the Fulani/Farmers, Boko Haram and NDA crises permanently?
Security is a very complex issue and one can only advocate for those who have been given the responsibility like the police, the Department of State Services, and so on to step up their vigilance because that is how you can curb the incidence. And when I mentioned increasing vigilance, I meant mobilising the community to help in curbing the problem of insecurity.
On the Fulani issue, I happened to be a member of the committee that was set up by the government of Benue State to look into the problem and recommend possible solutions and when we looked at the issue, toured the state, and saw how every place is now occupied by Fulani herdsmen, we came to the conclusion that it is practically impossible for Fulani to be taking their cattle from one place to the other because no matter how they do it, they will encroach on people?s farms and that will trigger violence or reactions. So we suggested that anybody who has cattle should have a ranch.
A Fulani man from Sokoto can see a good place in Benue where he can rear his cattle; he can approach the land owner and negotiate with him, buy the land, fence it and put his cattle there, plant grass and provide water facility for the cattle.
You can have a ranch anywhere even in Katsina, Sokoto and the desert because you can provide water. We have gone past a stage where we can take cattle from one end of Nigeria to another.
As an educationist, do you see the recent education policy geared towards scrapping the Higher National Diploma and post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination as good for the country?
The British had a similar problem and they found a way around it. People discriminated against HND; people would say polytechnics were not empowered to produce high-level manpower. So in Britain, they started by creating a board called National Council for Academic Award and that body was granting degrees to students who studied in polytechnics. Even at that, some people felt the degrees from the National Council for Academic Award, which were from polytechnics, were also less than the ones from the universities.
So they decided to scrap all polytechnics and they became universities. They asked them to choose a name as a university and clear it with the ministry of education and it was automatic. So, if we do that here, Kaduna Polytechnic can be named Kaduna University and it will be cleared with the Ministry of Education. So when that is done, there will be no need for anybody to discriminate because it is a university and the staff will be motivated because if you teach in the polytechnic all your life, the highest position you will attain is Chief Lecturer, which is equivalent to Associate Professor. If you teach in the polytechnic, you cannot be a professor so there is no motivation for the teachers.
I want to call on government to change all polytechnics to universities in Nigeria. It will motivate the lecturers, the students and make any form of discrimination meaningless. Again this issue of post-UTME is a big fraud and it should be scrapped. You go to secondary school, sit for exams, pass and take the UTME. Then because there are so few vacancies for people to get in and there are about two million each time wanting to enter and since they can only admit 500,000 candidates, they will say let us extort money from those people who want to come in because they know that they have no other place. Then they put another roadblock like the police. You come and pay this, take this chance, pay for screening exams. So it is not post-UTME that qualifies someone for admission into university and it is not necessary for anybody to go through that to get into a university.
So it is right to be scrap it and I want to tell you that the next step is to scrap the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board. JAMB is not necessary. No! It?s an elimination process because we don?t have enough spaces for candidates.
You are saying it is because you don?t have enough vacancies to admit Nigerian children into the universities and when you ask the question who actually gets into the universities, you will find out that it is influential Nigerians who have friends who are professors that are in the universities.
But the child of the poor man in the village and rural area, who has no influence, will not get admission. So the way to solve this problem is to go the way it is done in Ghana.