Ismail Mudashir, Terkula Igidi, Saawua Terzungwe, Baba Martins & Idowu Isamotu
Presidential Candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, has said he would dialogue with all groups with a view to restoring peace in all parts of the country.
Kwankwaso’s statement came days after his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi, said if elected, he would dialogue with members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other agitators across the country.
Daily Trust reports that of the 18 presidential candidates running for the February 25, 2023, presidential election, the pendulum appears to be swinging towards Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (APC), Atiku Abubakar (PDP), Peter Obi (LP) and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (NNPP).
The country has been facing a series of insecurity challenges. While in the South East geopolitical zone, IPOB has been terrorising the people of the region, banditry has made some parts of the North West and North Central geopolitical zones insecure.
In North East, the Boko Haram/ISWAP fighters have been waging war against the Nigerian state for over 13 years while activities of militants occasioned by oil theft have denied Nigeria the opportunity to benefit from its oil wealth in the South South.
I’ll recruit 1m personnel, deploy technology, dialogue with armed groups — Kwankwaso
In an exclusive interview with Daily Trust, Kwankwaso said he would raise the current number of police and military personnel from 230, 000 and 250, 000 respectively to one million each as part of measures to end insecurity in the country.
He said he would also deploy technology in the fight against banditry, insurgency and secessionist militancy just as he would also embrace dialogue with the armed groups.
“As a former minister of defence and as a chief security officer of Kano for eight years, and as someone who has had the opportunity to go to Darfur and Somalia, we have seen a lot over the years and we sat down and came up with a security architecture. We looked at the world over and looked at our situation and realised that the numbers are much lower than expected and it’s an open secret that the Nigerian military has been overstretched. Nigerian military needs to increase their numbers and going by the best international practice, we thought that about one million military personnel will do the job,” he said.
He also said he was open to dialogue with armed militant groups and that he would partner with the international community to ensure there’s regional peace.
“It’s not just to have peace in Nigeria, if you have peace in Nigeria and her neighbours do not have peace, then we will have issues. That is why we are looking beyond the local peace,” he added.
All options open to Asiwaju – Keyamo
On his part, Tinubu said he is also poised to adopting far-reaching measures to tackle the security challenges bedevilling the country if elected.
The spokesman for the APC Presidential Campaign Council and Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN) told Daily Trust that Tinubu would equally consider dialogue in ending insecurity where the need arises.
“Asiwaju has provided details of his security plan in our action plan document. Besides that, all other options, including dialogue, are open to Asiwaju if and when the occasion warrants that,” he said.
I will tackle agitations with gov’t nat’l unity – Former VP
Contacted, Atiku Abubakar said he will tackle the various agitations across the country by putting together a government of national unity.
Speaking through the spokesperson of his campaign, Senator Dino Melaye, the former Vice President said many of the agitations were caused by injustice, promising that Atiku will be fair to all if elected president in 2023.
He blamed the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari of nepotism and unfair appointments which led to some of the agitations.
“Atiku is not going to be dealing with agitators for the first time, when they (Obasanjo and Atiku) came into power in 1999, there was MEND, there was MASSOB led by Uwazurike, there was OPC and others, how was that handled? Immediately they got into office, there was a government of national unity; the only cure for injustice is justice.”
“All these agitators are agitating because of injustice, but immediately that administration (Obasanjo) put together a government of national unity and people saw that there was justice, everything calmed down.
“What many people are clamouring for is that they should be one Nigeria, not the kind of nepotism that we have now, where 90 per cent of the heads of security agencies are from one side of the country.
“So the issue is not a matter of discussing with one group or another, no, that is not it, Atiku is going to bring justice to every part of this country,” he said.
He said Atiku’s administration is going to be about merit, not ethnicity or religion.
He also said: “What Atiku is assuring Nigerians is that his government will be just to every part of this country and when there is justice, and everyone has a sense of belonging, why are the IPOB people shouting, it is because there is no justice.”
Why I will dialogue with IPOB, others – Peter Obi
Obi had last week told this paper that he would dialogue with IPOB and other agitators to restore peace in the country.
Obi, a former governor of Anambra State said, “ I have said it times without number, Nigeria does not have more agitation than Brazil, if you want I will show you countries that have had agitations in the past, whether it is Brazil, Mexico, whether it is this.
“ In our South East, it is a simple thing, I will dialogue, I will discuss, it is democracy, in democracy you govern by consensus. If anybody says he is not happy, you call him and you sit him down and discuss with him.”
Don’t dialogue with terrorists from position of weakness, ex-AIG warns
In an interview with one of our correspondents, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Austin Iwar, warned any of the presidential candidates who may finally emerge next year to preside over the country not to dialogue with any group from the position of weakness or equality.
Iwar argued that if any new President after Buhari feels dialogue is the best way to put the situation under control, it should be from the position of strength, saying ordinarily, groups or individuals that have already been designated to be terrorists are not worthy of any dialogue.
He maintained that dialoguing with those groups simply means the government or President recognises the criminal offences they commit on daily basis and give them legitimacy.
The retired AIG said, “It should be noted that already, there is a law or a gazette that has declared bandits, IPOB and some other groups as terrorists. Any group that has been declared a terrorists’ organisation shouldn’t be dialogued with.
“The fact is that if you dialogue with them, you’re giving them legitimacy and recognition. These are criminals that committed criminal offences, they should be prosecuted.
“However, if we have a new government coming in, nothing should be off the table. If dialogue is the best way they think can put the situation under control, it is good.”
Its campaign gimmicks – Retired military officer
On his part, a retired Major in the Nigerian Army, Major Muhammad Bashir Galma, said, “Honestly, these are all campaign gimmicks as far as I am concerned.”
“If anybody thinks that promising or discussing with these agitators will give him support or thinks it will be a big stepping stone for him to win an election, he is just wasting his time.
“Let me give you an example. When President Muhammadu Buhari was looking for the first and second terms, one of the main promises he made that made people, especially from the South, to feel strongly about voting for him, was to go the way of people clamouring for the issue of restructuring.
“Since he came to power, there has been any time or a little bit of conference to do with that restructuring taking place? No!
“So, this is just to show you that when politicians are desperately looking for votes to boost their popularity, they will always come with those types of hard promises, which they know that it is not going to be easy without legislation.”