In this interview with some journalists at the weekend in Kaduna, Elder statesman and pioneer National Chairman of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Solomon , kicked against moves by the federal government to dialogue with the faceless Islamic terrorist group known as Boko Haram, insisting that members of the sect must first reveal their identities. Our Correspondent, RANA BAYOK was there. Excerpts:
The recent killing of Gen. Mohammed Shuwa (rtd) in his home in Maiduguri by unknown gun men has against raise questions on the failing security situation in the country. What are your comments on this?
The development is very unfortunate. I read in the newspapers that one of the Nigerians who fought seriously to keep Nigeria one during the civil war, Gen. Shuwa was shot and killed by gun men. Gen. Mohammed Shuwa is one of Nigeria’s unsung heroes. He was a hero but nobody talks about him. Government upon government never did anything to bring him up and recognise his contribution to Nigeria. Nobody sang his heroism. It is unfortunate, the government must do everything to find out those behind this unfortunate incident and bring them to justice. This is my plea. I know the government of President Goodluck Jonathan is doing its best about the security situation in the country and I am sure the question of Boko Haram is a matter of days to flush them.
The security situation has persisted for too long and there is general feeling among many Nigerians that the federal government has lost control of the situation.
I don’t agree with that assertion. The federal government has not lost control of the security situation. The government is in absolute control and that is why are still meeting here (in Kaduna), people are moving about freely. If the federal government had lost control, it would have meant that Nigeria is a failing state. Nigeria is never and will never be a failing state under the People Democratic Party (PDP). But more should be done to see that we live in peace. I called on all Nigerians to be patriotic. Let them think Nigeria and once we do this, we will have no much problems.
Do you subscribe to calls by some people that the federal government should dialogue with the Boko Haram Islamic sect?
I disagree completely, unless they show their identity that Mr. X, Y, Z is Boko Haram. For them to name some people to be their representatives, who are they? They are faceless people, let them come out and say we are the Boko Haram.
In other words are you saying that the federal government should jettison Boko Haram’s proposal for dialogue, having nominated Buhari and others to represent them?
Has Buhari agreed? Is Buhari their representative? Is Ali Mungonu their representative? You see, I didn’t want to mention names, but if they (Buhari and Mungonu) said yes, they are their (Boko Haram’s) representatives, we would. But have they agreed to represent them? Let them come out. During the Niger Delta militants, some people came out and said they were the leaders of the militants. That was very reasonable and that was how the late President Musa Yar’adua was able to tackle the problem of militancy in the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta militants were not faceless like Boko Haram. Why didn’t Boko Haram follow the example of the militants by showing their faces?
With the present state of things in the country, what are the chances of the PDP in 2015?
2015 is still a long way to go. Everything will depend on Nigerians. Nobody should take Nigerians for granted. This is what I always say. We are in a democracy, I Solomon Lar strongly believe in democracy, I am always for democracy. Nigerians are the ones that will decide. It does not mean that PDP will be there forever. Whenever Nigerians decide to change to another party for better, they can do so, but meanwhile while the PDP is doing wonderfully well. The National Chairman of the party, Dr. Bamanga Tukur is doing extremely well and I think Nigerians reasonable people and would appreciate him.
There are agitations for the creation of more state; do you think we need additional states?
Let us be patriotic. When we are patriotic, we will talk Nigerian. We are all Nigerians
Some people are saying that we are spending too much on governance in Nigeria, especially by maintaining two parliaments instead of one. Do you agree with those advocating that we should have one parliament in order to reduce the cost of governance?
If that is the general opinion of Nigerians, I subscribed to it. If Nigerians feel that we should have one or two parliaments, it is left for them to decide. But each of the two parliaments has their merit. For example, in the presidential system of government, the two parliaments ensure checks and balance and it helps us to have a stable government in place. If you have two parliaments, it would not be as easy to remove the president as it is in the parliamentary system.
We have to look at what is suitable for us. We do not need to have a very expensive parliament. Our members can cut down their salaries and other benefits.... everything depend on we the Nigerian people. No parliament can hold Nigeria to ransom. Nigerians have the power to change anything.
You headed one of the panels that investigated one of the bloody crises in Plateau state, your panel made far reaching recommendations which is yet to be implemented. What is your concern about the frequent killings in some parts of Plateaus state?
I think the presidency said they are still working on the report and I believe the presidency.
For the past eight months now, both teachers and local government workers in Plateau state have been on strike. Why have elders like you who are from the state fail to prevail on the governor to find a solution to the problem in the interest of the school children whose future is in jeopardy.
I have not been in the country for quite some time. Now that I have come back, I will go to the governor and find out the problem between him and the striking workers. I am sure he is a listening governor and he will listen to me and we will see how the issues could be resolved.
You were the National Chairman of the PDP when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was president. Some people say Obasanjo, as president was very firm and decisive while President Jonathan is very weak and indecisive. Is that correct?
What answer do you want me to give you (laughter)? The current president is a good man, he is humble. When somebody is humble, it doesn’t mean that he is weak and there is strength in humility, there is power in humility and there is wisdom in humility. So he has all these qualities.
Was Obasanjo not humble?
I am not saying that none of them was humble. Both of them were humble but as human beings all of us have different approach to doing things.