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Yakassai: Government should consult more before embarking on policies




Alhaji Tanko Yakassai is an elder statesman and Chairman of the Northern Elders Council (NEC). In this interview with SAXONE AKHAINE, he addressed the many challenges confronting the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and how that might affect governance in the state.

What is your stand on the position taken by the Kaduna State government over the activities of the Shiites?
Well, we are really in an unfortunate situation. At the beginning, I commented on the killings and I said it was wrong for the members of Shiites to block the road against anybody, not necessarily the Chief of Army Staff; because the road is a public property and no section of the community should prevent anybody, anywhere in Nigeria for using a road facility provided by the government for the public. It was unfortunate that the issue that looked like a small matter resulted in shootings and loss of lives. I advised the government at that period that the matter should be handled with care. One, because we are still struggling with Boko Haram insurgents; and the Boko Haram insurgency, although affected Nigeria as a nation, but northerners and Muslims are the biggest victims. And unfortunately, it was northerners killing fellow northerners, Muslims killing fellow Muslims. It is not a good thing for the country. But, I advise the government that they should remember how this Boko Haram matter started. What exacerbated the whole problem was the killing of the Boko Haram leader, Muhammed Yusuf. The loss of that single life was responsible for the thousands of lives, destruction of properties and rendering many to be refugees in their own country, in thousands. And they are still there; they are Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Nigeria. Most of them are not back home yet. With that, we should learn a lesson as a people and not to engage in any crisis that would lead to Nigerians becoming refugees in their own land, apart from those who would lose their lives. My advice to government is to be careful.

Secondly, I said in terms of support, Shiites have more supporters than Boko Haram in Nigeria and also some of them are fanatics. If they can take the trouble to trek up to 200 kilometers or more to attend a religious event, it is rarely by any stretch of imagination, they are fanatics. And they are more fanatical than the Boko Haram and they are more in numbers than Boko Haram people. And on top of that they are an extension of a movement, which has worldwide supporters. Their members stretch across the world. And there is a very strong nation, which is controlled by Shiites. So, I thought the matter should be handled with care, it should not be allowed to degenerate. But, what I am observing now is that the matter is degenerating. And I will still appeal to the government to handle this matter with extreme care. If it is allowed to snowball to a serious crisis, nobody would claim victory over this matter.

Apart from the Shiites issue, there is also the attacks and killings by Fulani herdsmen in Southern Kaduna, coupled with the internal crisis of the APC, of which the Governor is the central figure. How do you see these problems impacting on good governance in the state?
These are two separate issues. The dichotomy between the people of Southern Kaduna and the Northern Kaduna has been there for a very long time. If you remember, during the regime of Babangida, there was a crisis that claimed so any lives in Zangon Kataf. And as a result of that crisis General Zamani Lekwot and many others were sent to jail. Now, I will repeat it, it was God who created the people of Southern Kaduna and it is God that created the other people living there. And religious matters and religion is absolutely a personal matter for the individuals. It is matter of belief. It should not lead to crisis and conflicts that would lead to loss of lives. And these are conflicts that you cannot overcome, because neither the Christians nor the Muslims in Kaduna can relocate to somewhere else; everybody would stay there together forever and ever. The same applies to those who are Hausa-Fulani and non-Hausa Fulani, in Kaduna or in other parts of the country. Their children would remain there forever. So, the sooner they learn to live together with one another in peace and harmony the better, because they cannot go elsewhere. So, it is sheer stupidity for people who are created by God in a place to continue to fight one another, because forever they would remain there together. The sooner they learn to live together the better for them and the better for the country and

So, my appeal is for them to listen to my advice and learn to live together. On the disagreement between the governor and the senator, it is a normal thing to engage in political disagreement. But, what is really surprising is when political differences degenerate into physical conflict, bodily harm to persons, because there is disagreement. So, it is common in Nigeria as it is all over the world, that in a political party you have individuals who support one leader and others who are not supporting him. So, to that extent it is wrong for people to allow personal political differences to
resort to bodily harm simple because you don’t agree with somebody. It is wrong. The sooner they forgot about their differences the better for them.

With these pressures on the government, how do you think good governance and dividends of democracy can be achieved?
Well, one of the most important qualities of good leadership is foresight. That when you are going to do something, first and foremost you must think of the consequences of the actions you are going to take.

If it is going to lead to peace then go ahead and do it. But, if your instinct tells you that this action will lead to trouble, crisis or even into bloodshed don’t do it. What happens in any democracy, which is properly ran is when you introduce a policy and you find out that people’s reaction to it is not favourable, then what you need to do is to retrace your steps and engage in public enlightenment. I happen to be a member of Audu Bako’s Government in Kano State, when he wanted to construct a dam for irrigation purposes, the farmers said they would not agree and protested.

What Audu Bako did was to consult with stakeholders and the people gathered together and he addressed them, and we all in that government addressed and enlightened them and the people who didn’t want it, after persuasion later agreed on the policy.

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