The senator representing Anambra Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Chief Victor Umeh, tells Tony Okafor that President Muhammadu Buhari should restrict cattle business to the Hausa-Fulani areas in order to end killings by herdsmen
There are killings in several states in the country being perpetrated by herdsmen. What is your take on this?
What is happening in Nigeria with regard to herdsmen killings shouldn’t be there if we had been strongly disposed to what is right. There is no way a business run by some people can be used to threaten the existence of other people. The business of cattle rearing has been there from medieval times. Nigeria has always been known to have certain agricultural practices domiciled in specific parts of the country. There is palm produce in the defunct Eastern region; the Western region was famous for cocoa production, while the Northern economy hinged on cattle, groundnut and cotton. People should be confined to their areas of comparative advantage where they can do well. If government had been proactive in its industrial policies, meat processing factories should have sprung up long ago in northern Nigeria, while ranches would have been built there. People now take off from Zamfara to Calabar with their cattle, leaving behind mayhem, loss of lives and property. This is a business that cannot be allowed to continue. So, if you ask me I will say that it should be restricted to the North.
The APC recently set up a committee to see how best Nigeria will be governed. Does this tally with the expectation of the 2014 confab report?
I believe that the recent statement by the All Progressives Congress for a gradual restructuring of the country is paying lip service to the problems of the country because the APC is not Nigeria. It is a political party and only Nigerians can find a solution to their problems. The way Nigeria will be arranged structurally will not be left in the hands of a political party. It should be left in the hands of the people and that was what the national conference of 2014 addressed. The 600 resolutions produced in that conference are critical to the survival of this country. That report should be brought forward and given effect. The APC boycotted the conference and they should apologise to Nigeria for that.
The South-East people of Nigeria are badly treated in the area of state and local government creation. The region has five states and 95 local government areas; the South-South has six states and 123 LGAs; the South-West has six states and 137 LGAs; the North-West has seven states with Jigawa and Kano states alone having about the same number of LGAs as the South-East. When you make dialogue impossible in the affairs of men, you continue to experience revolt and all these agitations in the South are fallout of cries of marginalisation and neglect; it cannot continue without being addressed. The ‘fire brigade’ approach does not solve any problem. The Fulani herdsmen went to Benue State and killed 73 people in one fell swoop and they were given a mass burial and the only thing government did was to order the Inspector-General of Police to go there and find out what was happening, instead of giving an order that herdsmen should be restricted to their states of origin.
The late former Vice-President Alex Ekwueme was buried recently. What would you want him to be remembered for?
The greatest thing Nigeria can do for Ekwueme is to go to his intellectual contributions towards national discourse. Ekwueme desired a Nigeria that every Nigerian would love. He belonged to everybody. He desired a Nigeria where citizens have equal rights; where citizens of Nigeria can aspire to become president, irrespective of the geopolitical zone or tribe he or she comes from because of his personal experience. He devoted much of his time to researching on power sharing. That is why he proposed six geopolitical zones and rotational presidency between the North and South. These are the intellectual contributions he made towards the nation’s development and politics.
You were recently sworn in as a senator after about three years of legal battle. How do you feel about your victory?
It is regrettable that the legal battle to sort out the representation of the Anambra Central seat took about three years to resolve. The regret in it is that the matters that caused the delay were frivolous suits which the courts dabbled into, and delivered wrong judgments that made the struggle protracted. I believe the judiciary needs to be reformed so that judges who wilfully deliver wrong judgments on matters that come before them are punished.
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