There is no family in Sokoto without relations in Niger Republic, Uthman dan Fodio was born and raised there — Aliyu, Sokoto PDP chieftain

Honourable Kabiru Aliyu is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Sokoto State and a former Special Adviser to the immediate past governor Wof the state. He speaks with OLAKUNLE MARUF on the relationship between Sokoto people and Niger Republic and why the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) should not declare war on Niger, among other national issues.

WHAT are your views on ECOWAS’ move to achieve peace in Niger Republic?

I think the statement they made is okay but it’s unfortunate that the war option is still available. I would have wished that they (ECOWAS) put off the war option so that a genuine diplomatic method can be pursued. I said this because when you pursue diplomacy and war at the same time, it is a sort of contradiction.

You have to put off war mongering and discuss diplomatically until and unless the diplomatic option fails. It is then that you can bring on the war option. It is supposed to be the last option.
You cannot put all your cards on the table. I don’t think it makes sense. So, I still prefer the diplomatic option. It should be exhausted first; they should do away with war threats.

The Nigerian government has imposed some sanctions on Niger Republic. What is your opinion on that? How do you see the situation?

I can tell you that even with the sanctions, they have gone too far. They should not have slammed all the sanctions at once.

For example, they can close borders but cutting off electricity to Niger Republic, which was based on agreement, I believe, is too much.

The electricity that Nigeria supplies Niger Republic is based on the agreement that they (Niger) would not dam River Niger where we generate power most.

So, like I said, it is wrong to put all your cards or options on the table. You can’t do that. You do it gradually. Let them feel one, then put another one. If they don’t concede, then you put another one until they begin to realise they are at the receiving end of it. But to give everything at once is madness; it doesn’t make sense.

On a personal level, do you have any relations in Niger Re-public?

I doubt very much if there is any family in Sokoto that has no relation in Niger Republic. Let me tell you one historical fact, the father of Usman Dan Fodio and the great-great grandfather of the Emir of Niger Republic are from the same father and mother. In fact, Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio was born in Niger. Although his grandparents came from Senegal, he was born and raised in present-day Niger Republic. So, like Usman Dan Fodio, I am also a descendant of that great clan which migrated to present-day Sokoto and we still have relations in Niger Republic. Every prominent family in Sokoto has relationship in one way or the other with the people in different parts of Niger Republic. The truth is, we are related in so many ways. We share common religious background, common tribal background. Our cultural ties with Niger Republic are stronger than those with southern Nigeria. That is the truth.

If anyone tells you in Sokoto that he has no relation in Niger, such a person is not an indigene of this place. Their parents were not here over 250 years ago; anyone whose ancestors were here 250 years and above ago must have relations in Niger Republic.

Away from Niger Republic, how have the policies of the APC-led Federal Government affected the people of Sokoto State?

I think they have negatively affected the people not only here but in the whole country. The subsidy removal has affected every aspect of the lives of the people of Sokoto and, by extension, Nigeria. It has affected the costs of goods and services, especially essential commodities.

You see, that is a very bad start for the government of the APC. Also, insurgency has become worse. You cannot imagine that every day, the people of Sokoto East senatorial district are either killed or kidnapped by bandits. Even those who have started to go back to farm have been sacked from continuing to do so. They have all gone into hiding. This is an everyday af-fair. It is in the news daily, even though it is under reported. So many things are happening that are not being reported by the media, but I’m telling you that so many things are happening everyday: bandits ransack villages to kidnap the inhabitants; they destroy their farms.

These soldiers that the APC government is trying to send to Niger and fight, they should be fighting our enemies within. They should be fighting bandits. It is unfortunate that just recently, another military aircraft was brought down by bandits and bodies of our soldiers were displayed on social media by these criminals and nothing has been done. So, you can see that the APC government’s policies have affected not only our physical, mental, social and economic activities, but they have also affected our mental health. The APC is a complete failure for now.

President Tinubu just assigned portfolios to his ministers.
What are your views on that?

As a Northerner, I will say that the North West has been treated badly. We have never had it worse this time around.

The nominee from Sokoto here was named Minister of State for Water Resources. Compare that to the senior ministers we were used to before now.

The votes the APC got during the presidential election in the state were about 49 percent, which means the APC people did very well for their party. When you look at it from the angle that they were then in opposition, the government in place then was PDP and still they managed to get such votes in the state. So, why should we be given minister of state in a small ministry?

Even the whole of the North West has not been rewarded with any of the big ministries.

So, we feel that Tinubu is not interested in Sokoto and the North West, if he can give the FCT minister to a PDP person and an APC person is being made a junior minister. The people of Sokoto are really complaining. Both the APC and the PDP people are not happy. The APC people, as well as the PDP, are not happy with the portfolio assignment.

If you were in a position to advise President Tinubu on the handling of Niger Republic crisis and his economic policies, what would you tell him?

Let me start on the government policy on economy. I heard that a sum of N5 billion has been earmarked by the Federal Government for each state as palliatives to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal. I believe that the amount is too small.

It cannot do anything, especially considering the fact that some states still owe salaries and other allowances of workers.

If he is actually interested in giving palliatives to states, it should be within the range of N100 billion or more so that at least, they can start doing something that will alleviate poverty.
The people are in real poverty. Lack of food is real. The people are hungry. They are not only in poverty, but they are really hungry, especially in the rural areas.

Now, about Niger Republic, I think the president and ECOWAS should put off the option of war. They should stop parading soldiers and telling anybody that cares to listen that they will send troops to Niger Republic. Let them send those troops to Niger State, Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara states to fight ban-dits. They should not be sending troops to Niger Republic at this material time. Let them finish their internal wars in their respective countries.

They should not be listening to Ghana. Ghana has no insur-gency; they have no banditry, nothing to worry about. But the other countries in ECOWAS that are having insurgency and banditry should go and find solution to the banditry first. If America and the European countries want to help ECOWAS, they should help them to fight insurgency. The issue of Niger Republic’s coup is an internal problem. Let the people of Niger deal with it. Let Nigeria, ECOWAS and the rest help the democratic institutions in Niger Republic.

Let them help the political class in Niger Republic so that they can contest against the soldiers, they can restore democracy as we did in Nigeria. When we had military intervention, nobody sent troops here to come and fight for us; we fought them through our politicians. The politicians chased out the military in 1999 and we restored democracy.

But when you force people to do democracy, it is not going to be rooted in the heart of the people. Let the ECOWAS help them to restore democracy by themselves. You can do this by assisting democratic institutions and politicians in that country. You don’t have to send soldiers. Even if you send soldiers, what will they do other than to create millions of excuses to destroy infrastructures? You cannot go and kill all the soldiers and take President Mohammad Bazoum to the Government House. You cannot stay there and make him rule over his people. So, what is the essence, if not madness? I think the best option is to force the military junta in Niger Republic to come up with an agenda for returning the country to democracy within the shortest possible time. Give them a time frame, say, between three months and one year, to conduct elections and return the country to democratic rule.

If they agree, that will be the best way as there is no country in the world where a coup led to a change of government and troops were brought in and they succeeded in restoring the ousted person to power. It has never happened that way before anywhere and it’s not going to work. It doesn’t make sense. The best option is to allow them to start all over again and return power to a democratically elected government, not necessarily one led by Bazoum. Let the ousted president participate if he so wants, but you cannot return Bazoum is too late; it can never happen.

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