By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
Captain Joseph Din (retd) is a personal friend and political ally of President Muhammadu Buhari for over 50 years. In this interview with GYANG BERE in Jos, Plateau state, Din assured Nigerians the President would relinquish power to the Southern part of the country in 2023. He however said the only thing he’s not sure of is whether the presidency would shift to the South East, South West or South South. He spoke further on this and more with GYANG BERE in this interview
Some people believe Nigeria is more divided today than before October 1, 1960, do you share their view?
You see, when they say more divided, we ask, how? In what sense is the country more divided? I don’t understand why some people are saying we are more divided. We have 36 states and the FCT and everybody is ruling his/her own state, how is the country divided, how? How can Nigeria be divided when every state has its own governor and living together? It makes no sense to me when people say Nigeria is divided, in what aspect?
The states have not been merged, we are a formidable and united country with every state having its own governor. It sounds so strange to me when some people say the country is divided, divided in what sense?
Some people believe that the country is divided politically because the North is more interested in what it will gain over the South while the South is also thinking of what it will gain over the North. That is why many people believe that the country is divided on politically; don’t you see it that way?
We have a constitution that guides Nigeria and we also have political parties with different ideologies and different constitutions. Every party has it’s own way of conducting its affairs. For instance, I am in APC and emphasis is placed on the six geopolitical zones with three zones in the North and three in the South. When a particular zone rules for eight years, the Presidency moves to another zone. In the North, we have the North Central, the North East and the North West and when you go to the South; they have the South West, the South East and the South South. Anybody can come out from any of the zones in the South to be President. We have to be sincere to ourselves. Like Mr President now, in three years time, our term will end in the North and the Presidency will go to the South and it could either be South East, South South or South West. Anybody from these areas can become a President. So nobody from the North in our party that will say he will contest, already we have agreed that when the North serves eight years, it will go to the other zone. The APC rotates the Presidency between the North and South, nobody will divide us on that, it is a clear thing unless those who want to create problem but they cannot succeed.
What do you think about those who are clamouring that the Presidency should remain in the north?
Remain in what sense, how? The Presidency cannot remain in the north because the North will finish its own term on May 29, 2023, that is when President Muhammadu Buhari will relinquish power, I can assure you he will go. He will not rule for any third term, he is a man of integrity and he will abide by it. He has said it several times that he has less than three years to go, then anybody can emerge from the South; be it from the South East, South South or South West. It is up to them to sort it out among themselves and we in the North will support.
What was your experience during the civil war?
It was a bitter experience, I fought the civil war and I thank God that I came back alive; many of my colleagues lost their lives during the civil war. I am lucky that I am alive today, it was a bitter experience, a very bitter one. Thank God that it was able to come to an end and it is about 50 years now since we fought the civil war. We have been together but it was a very bitter experience that nobody will want to have again. Those people from the South East who fought the civil war, none of them will want to hear about any war again because they saw what happened. Those younger ones don’t understand what happened that is why they are saying all sorts of things but those who are still alive from the South East won’t want to hear anything about war.
Where were you during the civil war?
I was a Commanding Officer based in Northern depot, Kaduna and our GOC that time was late General Muhammad Shuwar, he was based in Makurdi, Benue state. We were in charge of supplying arms and ammunitions, my unit was in charge of supplying the equipment to the war front.
Some people have said that Boko Haram and banditry have claimed more lives than those killed during the civil war, do you believe this assertion?
Who has the figure of those people who died during the civil war, do they have the figure? They need to have the figure before they can compare. As far as I am concerned, it is not true that those who died in Boko Haram attacks are more than those who perished during the civil war. A lot of people died during the civil war.
How did people survive during the war?
Well, it was a very sad situation that the war lasted longer than expected. People were lucky to have survived but it was a very bad experience. Government was providing people some assistance to survive during the war.
With your experience working with Mr President in the Army, do you think he has taken advantage of his rich background in uniting this country?
Of course, why not? You see, people don’t understand, if not for Mr President, only God knows where Nigeria would have been today. If you remember before President Goodluck Jonathan left office In 2015, the Boko Haram people had taken over so many local government areas in the North East but when President Buhari came into office, he pushed them back. You should also know that this is not a conventional war that you know the people fighting. They are wearing civilian cloths so that when you see them you will not recognize them as enemies, it is a very difficult war. Nigerians are very good in fighting wars, we have gone to so many countries of the world for peace keeping, we are highly respected but in the Boko Haram war you don’t see them. They wear civilian cloths to tell you that they are part of the people, then how will you know them? We have been fighting it and I thank God, we have been doing our best. I know these people get equipment because there are some people who don’t like this country and they supply them equipment and sometimes even when you have your money, they will not sell to us, you beg them to buy and they won’t sell to you, so it is not an easy war.
Is the war political?
Of course, it is. People have political interest in this war.
With the current level of insecurity in the country, will you say the President has succeeded in the war against insurgency?
What is happening now is that people are used to getting money but the President has stopped them from acquiring illegal money, so they device all means to sabotage the country. They started with Boko Haram, they went into kidnapping and now banditry for them to succeed but they will not. President Buhari is the only President of Nigeria that came into office to fight corruption, no President of Nigeria has ever fought corruption like President Buhari. He came in and said no to corruption; he has recovered more than a trillion naira from people who stole money. Look at Abacha’s loot, how much has come in. Look at his assets at home and abroad, people should thank Mr President for what he has done, no President in Nigeria has done what President Buhari has done, it is when he leaves office that people will understand what he has done. We should be grateful to this man, he doesn’t talk much but he acts, he is not a talkative. He has been my personal friend for over 50 years.
Being his friend for over 50 years, how can you best describe President Buhari?
He is a very humble man. He is a man of integrity, very humble and honest to a fault. You will never see Mr President doing the wrong thing, nobody will ever mention Mr President in any business. Anybody who comes to him for a deal he will chase them out and we are lucky to have him, particularly now that we are fighting this war. If not for President Buhari, we don’t know where we would have been now. You remember before he came in, Boko Haram people were even going to the Southern parts of the country but he chased them back. You know these equipment to prosecute the war, we have to buy them because we don’t manufacture them but those who don’t like Nigeria will not sell them to us and we need to look for a means of getting them. I want to let you know that if the Service Chiefs are changed and we don’t have these equipment, they won’t get any result, they will just be punishing the people for nothing. Buhari is a man that knows what he is doing; if you remember during the Maitasine fight in Kaduna, he chased them out when he was GOC under President Shehu Shagari.
What was your relationship with President Buhari during your days in the Army?
We knew ourselves since 1965 when we were young officers. He was a second lieutenant while I was a lieutenant; he was a very young man as of that time, very honest. Of all the positions that he has held; he was a Governor at one time, he was a Minister of Petroleum and Chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) during Abacha era, nobody has ever accused him of anything, we knew ourselves since 1965.
How will you advise him at the moment in order to move the country forward?
I will advise him to continue with what he is doing, see the development he is making. Look at the second Niger Bridge in Onitsha that was abandoned by so many Presidents, he will complete it in the next one or two years, look at the railway from Ibadan to Lagos, Abuja to Kaduna and to Maiduguri with so many road projects. A lot of development is taking place in this country under his administration and some people are saying he has not done anything, he has done quite a lot.
Recently, former President Olusegun Obasanjo accused President Buhari of driving Nigeria to a point of a failed state, how do you react to that?
When people talk about this; you know since COVID-19, nothing is happening anywhere, the withdrawal of petroleum subsidy by the President would free funds to be used elsewhere. Some people have been taking our crude oil outside the country to sell it and make more money. Buhari is a better administrator than Obasanjo, there is still this case in the power sector where Obasanjo was accused of taking billions of naira, he has a case to answer. The best thing is for EFCC to continue to find out what happened to that money, they took billions of dollars, how many billions of naira would that be.
The recent Kaduna killings appear to have compelled some retired military officers and top politicians to form North Central Peoples Forum and pulling out from the Arewa Consultative Forum, do you think that will resolve the challenges of insecurity?
But that does not meant they have pulled out from the Arewa Consultative Forum, it’s just that every zone has its own Forum. We have six geopolitical zones, the North West has its Forum, North East has and now the North Central has its forum but that doesn’t stop them from being members of the Arewa Consultative Forum, we are still their members.
How do we tackle the issues of insecurity in the North Central and Southern Kaduna?
The issues of Southern Kaduna, I understand that recently, there has been some understanding between the natives and the Fulani and they want to settle their differences. Military cannot bring peace in Southern Kaduna even if you send the whole battalion unless you decide among yourselves that you want to live in peace. The good thing in that I learnt they have sat down and agreed to go and see the governor to seek for lasting peace and to forgive each other. We can’t say we don’t want anybody in our midst, they have been there for years and you can’t send them away. The only way out is the unity of the people, which will end the violence. If you send a battalion of army there and you are not united, that will not bring peace. What I am begging for is for the indigenes and the Hausa/Fulani to seat down together and forgive one another to end the senseless killings because a battalion of army cannot achieve peace unless the people agree. They should not be thinking of issues that had happened in the past, they should forget about it and look for peace in the interest of younger people that are coming up.
What do you think is the biggest challenge of Nigeria 60 years after independence?
We need to work to ensure that what is happening now stops; the resources of government being used to fight Boko Haram, kidnapping and bandits. If we are able to control all these, things will work well because we have so many resources untapped in this country, there is everything for everybody. Foreign countries are coming here and if there is nothing they won’t be becoming here. It is for us now to unite and forget about the past and agree with the President so that we can move forward. The unfortunate thing is that some of these things that are happening are caused by some of these people who have stolen a lot of money and they don’t want to go to jail, that is why they are causing all these problems so that the attention of government will not be on them. I read in the papers today someone was saying that EFCC should be scrapped and that Ministry of Justice should form another unit but I think it is ridiculous, it is nonsense, EFCC should remain, because it has done a lot of things.
Some people have accused the President of being too slow, is that who he is?
The President is no longer a military man, if he takes certain actions people will say he is acting like General in the Army, so he is taking his time because we are in a democracy. Nigeria is a big country and if you rush some things will not work, if you rush over some things, it will not be good for the country, that is why he is taking his time. He receives reports from different people everyday so he is taking his time so that he can come up with something.