Senator Jeremiah (Jerry Boy) Useni is a retired Lt General who distinguished himself in service to the nation in Nigerian Army. The Plateau State born general was also a onetime Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, after which he joined partisan politics and became the Chairman, Board of Trustee of the now rested Democratic People’s Party, DPP. Currently, he is representing Plateau South in the National Assembly on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; he spoke on wide range issues affecting the Nigerian polity during which he cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari to be focused rather than being diversionary in managing the affairs of the country. He spoke with our man, Raymond GUKAS in Jos.
Going by what has been happening in Nigeria since the return of democracy in the country; do you think the military was right in interfering in governance in the past?
The military was very justified because looking at what was happening at that time, there were lots of crises all over the places, the situation in East, West and so on. Don’t forget that the first State of Emergency ever declared in Nigeria was during the democratic rule. I’m sure you know that there were lots of indiscipline in the democratic rule and civilians were going round saying to the military, do you want us to die before you do something? So the military did not just wake up and said give us power, it was the civilians who instigated the military to come into governance and to see what was happening. It is just that the way the 1966 coup took place was one sided, it was mostly Igbos, what did they do, they killed the leaders in the West, killed Okpara in the East, killed Sardauna in the North. If not, if it was a general thing and in agreement with the military, that type of selected killings wouldn’t have taken place.
With the way President Buhari is going about governance since he got power eight months ago, having in mind the way he is handling the Biafra issue and the detention of Nnamdi Kanu, do you think he is upholding the rule of law in governance?
He is following the rule of law and I don’t know where he has gone wrong, unless you will tell me where he is going wrong, we just fought a war during Biafra and we just have peace. For some people to come again and start reviving Biafra they are not asking for peace and you want a responsible government to just keep quiet. Biafra issue had been locked up, it should remain locked up. May be that time the person in question was very small, he didn’t know how people suffered; we fought for three years so you can imagine the number of people dead and you want to revive that?
How do you foresee the chances of governance in 2019, what will be the fate of the North?
Well, the problem of the North now is this Boko Haram we have which affects three states, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa. Those are where the Boko Haram is really affecting but the government is really taking care of that. What the North needs now is to really organize itself and think of one thing, getting a credible leader like we had in Sardauna. Sardauna was a real leader in the North but when Sardauna died, young politicians brought many things into politics like tribalism, the Boko Haram hide under religion that they don’t believe and everything changed but now that we are taking care of the Boko Haram and people are returning to their villages and also with this rehabilitation scheme headed by General Danjuma, may be by the end of this year, things will be much better and people must have learnt their lessons. I know we have problem not only in the North but in other places like in the Delta area and what the Biafra people are trying to create in the East, but the whole country needs to readjust itself and move ahead but I’m sure we still remain relevant.
Recently, former President Olusegun Obasanjo indicted the National Assembly, accusing it of corruption, as a member of that constituency, what is your take on such indictment?
He has been replied to and I agree with the response. He brought corruption to the National Assembly with the way he was giving out money to Senators especially when he wanted to go in for third term. He spent a lot of money he can’t account for and it is just that what Buhari is doing now, it is like what Awolowo said when he was Minister of Finance under General Gowon and the government then put up a probe and wanted to go backward to past government. But Awolowo said no; new logs go on top of old ones, to get to the old ones; you must remove the new ones first. That is what Buhari is doing now, trying to clear the new logs so that he can get access to the old ones; when he clears the new ones and get access to the old ones, the case of Obasanjo will come up. So he has no excuse at all to say such a thing because if there is any corruption at all in the National Assembly, he was the cause.
The People’s Democratic Party, PDP especially in Plateau State seems to be falling apart after losing the last election, do you regret joining the Party at this time, if not, what are you doing to revive the Party in the State ahead of the 2019 elections?
No, no, no; I don’t. I’m not regretting anything at all. You know I don’t like running from Party to Party but I am only sorry for our boys who were deceived by those who were saying PDP is going to rule for another 60 years and when they were given some money to campaign they just put the money in their pocket thinking that people will just go and vote for them. It is not like that, some of these people need to transport themselves to where you want them, and you have to feed them so a lot of things went wrong. I can’t say I regret joining PDP but I’m just sorry for some of our people who indulged in such things and put us in this situation but we are trying to sort them out.
What is your personal effort at reviving the Party in the State?
The first thing I tried to do was to get my Senatorial district intact and I have done that. I had meetings about seven times but none of the other Senators have had even a single meeting in their Senatorial zones. I have done that and have been going round and I am concentrating on my Senatorial zone but I have spoken with my colleagues that whether we like it or not we must take responsibility of our Senatorial zone then three of us will see how we can move the whole zones forward. Whether Plateau South, Central or North, there are Senators like me and when we meet, if it comes to doing something for the entire State, we are saying that we made mistakes by losing the Governorship, we must learn from our mistakes and work hard now to gain the Governorship in 2019. So we are working on that and I’m already spearheading that as far as my Senatorial zone is concerned. We have gotten the message and we are working hard towards it.
Do you foresee a possibility of mass defection from your Party to the APC in the State?
If there was any, you would have known but no more movement anywhere, it is APC that will come back to us.
How do you see Lalong’s administration in the last eight months?
I am not against Lalong as an individual, he is a friend but all I have been saying to him is look, you won on the platform of the APC that is what the constitution says that you must win an election on a platform of a party. Having won, you are not a Governor of APC and we call Buhari President of Nigeria, we don’t call him President of APC. He must take everybody along whether in your Party or not but if you think someone is good somewhere who can handle any assignment for you, call the person, that is what the civilized world is doing. So if you do that, you will gain more for your Party but if you think that the winner takes it all which of course will not go down well with the majority then go ahead. He should be grateful to the PDP because if not for the imposition of candidate by Jang, he wouldn’t be there. The people voted him out of annoyance, they are not talking about APC, it was out of annoyance and the same people are still in the PDP anyway. As an individual I have nothing against him but that is my warning that let him do it properly so that he has a good name but if he fails, he knows why he failed. PDP failed in the State because we made a wrong choice of candidate and somebody insisted on imposition of a candidate but we are not out.
Okay sir, what is your advice for the people of Plateau at this time?
Well, they should remain calm and peaceful. I am happy that all these killings have been on the reduction though there are still concerns in some part of Plateau North especially Riyom and Barkin Ladi. It is still not very peaceful yet around Northern Plateau but I am saying that there is no excuse for people to continue to fight and kill. In my area for instance, in the South, places like Wase where Hausa/Fulani and the Tarok people were having issues and in parts of Shendam and Langtang South, things are improving because if you go there, you see the people moving together and it is very peaceful. We have high hopes that the peace will be sustained, people should just live in peace with one another.