Senator John Kojo Brambaifa was in the fifth and sixth Senate from Bayelsa State. He was one of the rallying points in the politics of the Senate of his era when he served as Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta, among others. In this interview, he described the recent letter written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo as a good omen for the Buhari administration. Group Politics Editor, Taiwo Adisa, presents the excerpts.
How are you reading recent political events around the country?
If you are particularly making reference to the recent letter that the former President made, I have few observations. First of all, if you go back to memory lane, you will find that Obasanjo has made himself a king maker. I remember vividly that just one year to Goodluck’s reign, Obasanjo wrote similar letter in 2013 that Goodluck has woefully failed the electorate and he has no place in running this country. Similarly, we are seeing a playback of what he did. If Obasanjo thinks he is a kingmaker, you don’t make a king just now and within just a short period of time, you identify that person as a failure. That shows clearly that you don’t examine your facts properly. That is not good leadership. You don’t come up to say that something is bad and then only to say that it is good again. I don’t think that is good leadership.
On the flip side, is it not also possible to see it as having the courage to admit one’s mistake, and also looking at what is best for the country?
Do you have reservations about issues he raised in the letter?
Obasanjo has not said anything new. There have been debates all over this country saying exactly what he has said. Obasanjo is one way trying to claim the opinion of Nigerians that he is the person that is saying that. Everybody says it and it is nothing new. But my grouse is that as a leader at that level, you should be conscious of the fact that your word is a bond. If you say that this man is an angel and you encourage Nigerians to vote for that man, you should be a little patient. You don’t carry the mantle of leadership to run down that person. It’s wrong. I agree that he is saying the truth and of course whatever he says, everybody has been saying it but he should have been patient with the President.
Are you in agreement with the loyalists of the President who have said that the President was merely talking politics?
The patience one is attributing to Obasanjo is not the same that one will attribute to the man who is on the chair. We want to get solutions to our problems. If you are the leader in this country and you cannot provide instant solution, then you are not a good leader.
Buhari says he wants to think over issues. There are some cases that require instant solutions and you now say you want to wait until you think it over. For how long? We don’t want such leaders. We want a leader that can make proper consultations, he takes instant decisions.
Decisions are not always meant to be correct. A leader that takes a decision and finds that the decision he has taken may not solve the problem, you can review the matter and look at it again. But to say that when something is wrong, we should wait for one year, two years before you take actions, it doesn’t show good leadership.
Is there any particular area you think this government has handled well?
I don’t think that we will in a swoop say that this government has failed. Anybody saying that is not being honest. There are certain aspects that you will see that since the government came into power, there is some improvement. We may not see a total improvement but there is a slight improvement. Take for instance the corruption situation, if you go to the civil service and you want to bribe somebody, he will look back even if he wants to take. Why will he do that? it is because of the way the present government has handled corruption. That does not say that they have handled it absolutely well because for me, if you want to handle corruption, why will Maina’s case be swept under the carpet. If you want to handle corruption properly, why will you not handle the former SGF’s case until now? Why? There have been so many complaints about people who are in APC that are corrupt, but nothing happens to them. Meanwhile, you see a lot of investigations on the opposition that is one sided.
That in my opinion is wrong. But generally, there is a feeling that there is a big eagle eye watching everybody and we have to be careful and that is the result of the present administration’s ability to go on with the corruption.
Will you be ready to give the government another chance?
Well, I don’t know about another chance. For me, Nigeria is a complicated country. Nigeria is complicated because of the diverse nature of the people. So, if Nigerians see you as somebody who is nepotistic , who will now favour your own ethic group. If Nigerians see you that you are fighting corruption and you are only one way, that in my opinion does not qualify you to manage this country. We want somebody who is totally free, who is totally clear in his mind that I don’t care whether you are my son, if you are wrong, we will treat you according to the law. That is the kind of person we want. But Buhari has failed this country because he has not done so.
Former President Obasanjo has dismissed your party, the PDP and the ruling APC as no good enough to lead in 2019. He has called for new movcemnts, how did you see that?
Any action based on constitutional provisions of this country is in order. The constitution does not limit INEC from registering parties.
The constitution does not limit INEC on when to stop and when to start registering parties. So, it is in line with the provisions of the constitution. But what I don’t see is the way they are registering the parties. If you follow the constitution and you are registering the parties, it must be done in line with the constitution . But in some cases, we’ve heard that some organizations are refused registration with no sufficient good reason. That does not work again with the provisions of the constitution.
Bayelsa is one the states being lined to donate land for the cattle colony that the Federal Government is planning, how do you feel about it?
I don’t think you are getting it right. I don’t think Bayelsa State has granted the cattle colony. As far as I’m concerned, what the Governor is saying is that the issue of herdsmen rampaging everywhere with their cattle is not in the best interest and if it is possible that they can be restricted to an area, it will save everybody the problem of cattle destroying the farmers’ crops and farmers fighting the herdsmen. That was what he said.
But the Governor has already allocated a place for the herdsmen to stay?
This is a debatable point. If somebody wants to come to your place and says he wants an area to do farming and you think it’s a good thing for him to do the farming, wont you allow the person to do the farming, not necessarily with the bad intention of killing the people.
Won’t you allow him? If he talks to you, he begs you, you see him as a responsible farmer, won’t you allow him? You will. But the underlining thing is that if the intention is to come and do otherwise, then it turns out to be a bad thing. A cattle rarer is a farmer and he is free to do his business anywhere as long as he has no other thing in mind. If he comes to you and says I want to have a place so that I can do my farming, if you investigate that it’s genuine and he’s going to pay the taxes that he’s supposed to pay, then what is wrong? The only bad thing here is that you want to come in with a bad intention of colonizing the people.
Do you nurse any fear for this country during and after the next general election?
My fear is that the present government’s attitude towards the herdsmen and farmers, if it’s not properly handled, will develop into a very serious situation. It will develop into a situation that people will resort to defending themselves and when it happens like that, it will be unpleasant. I don’t see myself keeping quiet when a group of people in disguise say they are farmers or cattle breeders, come to destroy farms, killing people. Nobody will like that. So, if the Federal Government does not sit up to nip this thing in the bud, it can escalate. People are running out of patience. How do you now stay and somebody comes and kills hundreds of your people and you keep quiet. There is a limit to patience.