Agitation For Biafra Uncalled For, Says Zuru Monarch
The Emir of Zuru, Maj-Gen. Sani Sami (rtd) spoke to JOHN OGIJI in Zuru, Kebbi State, on a wide range of issues.
CONGRATULATE you on your 20th anniversary on the throne as the Emir of Zuru. From the barracks to the palace, how has the experience being in the last 20 years?
Well, very interesting. I was in the Nigerian Army for over 30 years.
I join the army in 1962 when I left the secondary Government College Bida, along with Generals Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar, General Mohammadu Magoro, Mamman Vatsa, Col. Sani Bello and so many others.
I can tell you that we had a fulfilled military career.
So, after serving for 30 years, I retired and became a businessman in Kaduna and was doing very well and comfortable until I answered the call of my people to come and serve them at home, to become the Emir of Zuru, which am serving now.
I became the emir in 1995 and now I am 20 years on the throne. I give thanks to Almighty Allah.
I can tell you the experience is a wonderful one, because I enjoy working for my people, I like helping the needy and helping to improve the quality of life to the people.
I have spent a lot of my meagre resources to do that and I am happy doing it for my people.
How have you been able to achieve peace among your people in the last 20 years?
I don’t want to blow my trumpet, but with experiences I have had in the military, as an ex-military governor of Benue, Sokoto and Bauchi states, and again as Chief of Staff, United Nations (UN) forces in Southern Lebanon, as well as other military responsibilities, coming home to serve my people in a small emirate shouldn’t be a difficult thing.
So, when I came in, I observed so many things among my people, including poverty, illiteracy and superstitious beliefs and these constituted a lot of security challenges, because these were causing friction among the people, especially among Christians and Muslims.
So, I decided to sit down and introduced inter-religious committee within the emirate headed my some prominent people in the emirate and which members were drawn from both Christians and Muslims.
That took care of all the religious frictions that we were having in Zuru, which died a natural death and since then, we have been living peacefully in Zuru Emirate.
I also did the same thing in the area of security, because before now, we were having serious security challenges here in Zuru. I sat down with all the security agents (agencies) and I asked why we were having security challenges and we were able to identify the reasons, worked on them and we have peace now.
Despite the calibre of people that Zuru has produced, development is still slow here. What are you doing to mobilise sons and daughters of Zuru to ensure meaningful development of the emirate?
Again, having achieved peace in the domain, the next thing was how to mobilise the people to tackle the challenges facing us and in doing that, we decided to constitute different committees and associations.
Right now, we have elders meeting in my Council. We have the Zuru Emirate Council meeting and we have an association that is given much responsibilities- Zuru Emirate Development Society.
So, we meet regularly with our elites to discuss developmental issues as it affect the emirate.
It came to a point that we agreed with the elites and we gave them assignment on what to do in Zuru. They can to see that we have started development the town, giving it a face-lift.
These are done by our elites willingly and in addition to this, I task them to always identify with their communities, because everybody has a village. They should identify with their communities and see what they can do for it.
Honestly, many of them have done a lot of things for their communities and the emirate has introduced a reward for anyone who has done something good for his or her community.
In addition, it may interest you to know that at my individual level, I floated a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Sami HIV/AIDS Trust, which has been working in the area for the past seven years now, because of the high rate of the disease in my domain.
I decided to do this because we don’t want to lose our youths, who are very productive in agriculture and so many other things, so I have to float the organisation and I can tell you that awareness is very high here.
What can you say about the current agitation by pro-Biafran agitators in the Southeast?
So many Nigerians have voiced out their opinion on this issue, but I don’t think there is any need for such agitations now within the country, because we have had nasty experiences in the past.
We fought a civil war, for example, which claimed so many souls in Nigeria. We have leant our lessons, we know our differences, we know what to do and we had demanded the creation of states just to bring development to the people within the country.
So, some of these agitations, I think, are uncalled for. Why should we go back to what we have done before? They want us go and fight another civil war again? What are we agitating for?
If you have some things that the government has not done for you, come out and say it. You have your representatives both at the Senate and the House Representatives and you have your elders that you can channel your grievances through.
So, so why don’t you explore those avenues? Why should you take to the street to start killing yourself for nothing?
My advice is that the elders from the Southeast states should sit down and re-examine this thing, so that it doesn’t get out of hands. Let us not make another mistake again.
What can you say about Boko Haram?
The case of Boko Haram, yes, so many people have said a lot about Boko Haram, even some western countries have also advanced reasons such groups come up.
But I think it is poverty and illiteracy that is worrying people in these areas, and I think we should be able to address these problems.
Boko Haram was a religious sect that started under the watch of so many political leaders who do nothing about it.
We have had such experience before, the Maitasine in Kano, which was engineered by some politicians and the Army quelled it. I was part of those who did, because I was in 1 Division then. But the one in the northeast was unprecedented.
If the people in that zone had done their homework early enough, especially in Borno State, to suppress this sect called Boko Haram, it wouldn’t have escalate to this level.
We shouldn’t have allowed it to escalate beyond Borno state; we should have stopped it, by doing the right thing to settle those young boys.
I am one of the few people today who does not believe in the mobility of these people called Almajiri within our northern region particularly. Why should we allow Almajiri? Somebody from Maiduguri to come to Zuru, for instance, to come and learn Quranic school? Why? Don’t you have Quranic school there? Don’t we have mallams there? Don’t you don’t have a local government there that can take care of these things?
I think our governors should sit down and re-examine themselves and stop mobility of these children. Every local government should hold its Almajiri and resettle them and do the correct thing, instead of allowing them to go to long places, giving wrong interpretation of this religion.
You have a mallam sitting down in his village with four wives and maybe 30 children. He doesn’t know what to do with them, so what he does at the end of the day is to distribute the children all over the place to go and fend for themselves.
That should be stopped, because we have passed that age now in this country. This is what is bringing about Boko Haram.
With your experience in the military, why do think the fight against Boko Haram is taking this long?
There was a problem of insincerity, I am sorry to say. The former administration didn’t tackle it properly, and you can see what is coming out of the investigation that this administration is doing, how funds meant for the purchase of weapons to assist the military to quell the insurgence were diverted.
So, I think there was insincerity in the whole operation against Boko Haram, but now that President Muhammadu Buhari has come on board with a change slogan, things are changing quickly, the military ae being trained and equipped and being motivated to fight. They now know that they have a common enemy now.
So, very soon, the war will be over. Boko Haram don’t have any chain of command now anywhere. What they are doing now is gorilla warfare.
Does it disturb you that most people involved in the arms deal are military men?
I don’t think that is correct. Yes, some military men were involved, but quite a number of politicians who know nothing about weapons were given contracts to purchase weapons and these contracts were not executed.
Again, some of the few military chiefs were insincere and greedy and didn’t do the right thing. The military was supposed to be clean and do the right thing, but it was only during our time that we did that. These days, I don’t know what is happening, so many things went wrong.
During the last administration, there were a lot of lies told to the public about the operation, equipment on the ground and the rest.
Those people were contractors, they were businessmen in uniform, stealing our money and doing nothing. A well-trained professional and properly disciplined military man will not do that.
Don’t you think that this would affect the morale of the military, especially those on the battlefield?
No! How does it affect the morale of the military? Come to think of it, we have the Service Chiefs who should be able to work out all these things.
So, what happened was done for a purpose and that is why we are having this problem now because a lot of things were done by unprofessional people, not the military.
Unfortunately some few military men were co-opted into it to be able perfect the stealing of public funds in the name of arms purchase.
As military administrator of Bauchi State in 1983, you introduced what you called back to land programme, which is one of your major achievements. What do think is wrong with our agriculture today?
Every administration gives it a name and mine was back to land, but it is not the name that matters; it is sincerity of purpose.
We depend so much on oil in this country and we are being told that it is a time to diversify, as oil will dry up one day.
This is agriculture; that is the main occupation in this country, but abandoned because we have a cheap source of funds. That is why we are having serious problem today.
But I am happy that the President, who is all out for a change, will do something about it. Recently, he came and commissioned an agricultural project in Birnin Kebbi sponsored by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
We have to diversify our economy. That is the only thing we have to do now. Relying solely on oil is deceitful.
In 1982 in Kuru, Plateau State, I produced a paper on local revenue generation and when I came on board as emir, I organised a seminar, invited some intellectuals from Kuru and Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria and we produced a very fine paper for the state, so that they go into revenue generation locally.
But nobody is looking at one;, we wait for federal government to send money. We must go back to land, if we must do well as a nation that is the only solution.
What is your assessment of the present administration?
I think the President is on the right path, especially his anti-corruption campaign, the recovery of public funds from these thieves, which he is pursuing vigorously now and I leant he has recovered some funds, running into billions naira, for a start.
It is going to be tedious exercise, but I am sure the President, with the cooperation of Nigerians, will recover more money that could be used for development.
Again, the present administration is trusted by the outside world, they believed in Buhari very well, because he is honest and straight-forward, an achiever and a very disciplined military officer with great respect.
I have worked with him right from when I was a second lieutenant, so I know what he can do. He is a very dependable leader.
Let Nigerians support the man. He can take us to places; all he needs is support from all Nigerians.