Alhaji Sagir Muhammad, who holds the title Waziri Ringim was the leader of defunct Arewa Peoples Congress, APC. Known as a front line General Ibrahim Babangida loyalist, Muhammad, who retired from the military as intelligence officer in the 1990’s, in this interview spoke on burning national issues.
Is it appropriate to describe the current agitation by the Indigenous People of Biafra for Biafra Republic as a transfer of aggression to the Nigerian state?
Those Indigenous People of Biafra have a hidden agenda. Their hidden agenda is to declare Biafra and then go recolonize the South-South. They would go and within a question of less than one month they would capture all those South-South and colonise the oil fields that is the agenda of IPOB. If you look at the East, it is land-locked; they don’t have any serious minerals apart from coal.
Even the geography and geology of the East is so poor that even to build a good house they cannot unless you build a house in a bush because it’s all bush, it’s all forested and that is why you find the majority of the elite Igbo are now half of the owners of the houses in Abuja. If the Indigenous People of Biafra are now saying that they want to have Biafra what are you going to do with more than three quarters of the Igbo who are outside the East? Those in Kano, those in Lagos what are you going to do with then? Will you take all those people back to Biafra? They have no houses to live, they have no means of livelihood. They make money outside and not in the East so you find that they are crawling into fantasy world.
They were talking vaguely during former President Goodluck Jonathan administration but what is really happening is they still say that Nigeria is not fair to the Igbo. One, up till now they do not have an Igbo President.
What do you think is responsible for an upsurge in the activities of the insurgents despite claims that they have been technically defeated?
Insurgency is the most difficult aspect of military operation because you don’t know your enemy, you don’t know where he is, you don’t know the kind of tactics he uses which is not conventional tactics, you don’t know the kind of logistic he uses and you don’t know where the logistics are or where they are hidden. And above all why it is extremely difficult is that the insurgents are usually embedded within the civil society.
If you probably know where their training ground is like Sambisa there may be other training grounds within the civil society. As you are trying to go to Sambisa you find that the insurgents are fighting you from the back, the right and the left. Then you find that dividing your forces to fight the insurgents is extremely very difficult and probably when you are trying to go to North-East, you hear bomb blasts in Lokoja, Sokoto, Kano, etc. Now tell me how do you plan for this kind of operation? It is very difficult. In September I heard an interview with the press over the Federal Government’s deadline to obliterate the insurgency. I said it is a mistake to put deadline because of the complexity and the intricacies involved in fighting the insurgency.
Now, the bulk of the fighting forces of the insurgents had be rooted out but the problem is that so long as there is bomb blast and people are being killed the insurgency has not ended. It is not a question of capturing ground. It is a question of ending the state of criminality and the use of human being to commit terror. It would still go on because we are saying “we would end the insurgency” but we are not doing anything to tackle the psyche of the insurgents, the foot soldiers and supporters of the insurgency who are everywhere. So it has to be a four-face operation: One – to diminish the effectiveness of the insurgents to launch high level attack like using anti-tank and high calibre weapons. Two, to use our intelligence and liaison to stop insurgents who are within the society that can turn themselves into human weapon. Three, there has to be spiritual counselling and guidance to get captured or repented insurgents reintegrated into the society and to conform with the acceptable norms of the society. Four, there should be rehabilitation and reconciliation.
Are you suggesting dialogue as a way out?
If there is no dialogue how do you stop the remnants, supporters, children of those killed from metamorphosing into another insurgents? There has to be a way of making them know that what they are doing is not helping them and that their concept of Jihad is off mark. If they are fighting for the cause of Islam, they are killing Muslims more than they are killing anybody. So you find that we can only do that by peaceful means.