It’s now self-defence, we’ll not run away
Ameh Ebute, former Senate President speaks on carnage in Benue Wants Buhari back as President in 2019 Says senate invasion a reflection of state of the nation Fears things will get worse before elections next year
A former senate president, Ameh Ebute in this encounter takes a swipe at the current senate, blaming the face-off between the executive and the legislature on the manner the senate leadership emerged. He spoke on the killings in his state, Benue and said they would not resort to self-defence and will not run away from their state. He also attributed the invasion of the senate on youth restiveness, borne out of laziness of youths who would not work honestly to earn a living but like President Buhari said, are depending on oil money.Excerpts: The 8th National Assembly seems to be a house of discord. For the first time, the Senate President and his deputy are being prosecuted while in office; the senate was invaded and a mace stolen during plenary and then, there are also the Omo-Agege and Dino Melaye issues. To what will you attribute these? Senator Ameh Ebute The way the senate president and his deputy emerged were very unconstitutional. When few senators were invited through the back door to elect a senate president and his deputy, this is the kind of thing you will see. Things have never been like this. The foundation of this senate is badly laid. So, the lack of cooperation between the executive and the legislature is based on this faulty foundation and it will remain like this because there is no trust between the executive and the legislature. That mutual suspicion will always be there. This senate has a faulty foundation and that is the cause of the problem. Other senates had one or two issues with executive but this one is so bad. It has never been like this. And it is an abomination for thugs to walk into the senate and remove the mace, the symbol of authority of the senate without which there will be no deliberations. It is the height of nonsense. It has never happened before and I’m sure, such a thing will never happen again. You were there once as a Senate President. What about security in the chambers. How did the hoodlums scale it? They couldn’t just have entered. Everything was planned and somebody was followed to gain entrance into the chambers. There is security in the Senate but what happened was because of the cooperation of Senator Omo-Agege. He entered into the Senate chambers with the thugs. As far as I am concerned, if there is esprit de corps between him and other senators, he wouldn’t have gone into the chambers with the thugs. If he came to the chambers to challenge his suspension, he didn’t need to bring thugs. But where was security when they escaped because, security at various points would have hindered the escape with the mace? That goes to show you that there’s the complicity of the executive arm of government. After the commotion that was already going on in the senate chambers, I don’t see how they could have escaped. The truth is that, the whole country is not safe. If it were gunmen that gained entrance into the chambers, the worse could have happened. It has never happened and I’m sure, it will not happen again. But something happened somewhere that created the loop-hole for the invasion. So, this whole thing bothers on the security of the country? It’s a reflection of the deterioration and security challenges facing this country. But I’m optimistic that it is going to end very soon after the elections if Nigerians vote right. As things are currently, I don’t see any improvement before the next elections. It can only get worse and as the security challenges around the country are getting worse, the relationship between the executive and the legislature is also getting worse. So, things will get worse and in the case of what happened in the senate, I think the executive compromised and I don’t see any improvement in the executive/legislature relationship before the next election. You are from Benue, herdsmen are having a field day in your state . what attempts have you made on your own as a former Senate President to curtail it. My state is the number one place where herdsmen are killing people. I will not run away from my village because of herdsmen. We are trying to put an end to it all. We are talking to herdsmen. We are making our own self defence preparations. We are not keeping quiet because this issue is very unfortunate. The recent carnage is not something to write home about;those herdsmen went into a Church, killed two priests and 17 worshippers …. It will not continue and I’m saying it. We are doing something about the situation. This is my village, this is where I come from. I cannot run away from here and we are not keeping quiet any more. We are working on self-defence mechanisms. The carnage is being perpetrated by young people, be it Boko Haram insurgents, herdsmen and even the stolen mace. Some people would say Nigerian youths are lazy but politicians are culprits too. I agree that some of our youths are lazy. It’s something that really baffles me. They are not doing anything meaningful. Is it not an act of laziness to leave a business to go the senate to steal a mace? That is what the president was talking about. Instead of them to go out and do something profitable, they go about as thugs, stealing mace and doing strange things. I agree with the president. It is not all of them though because there are good ones working honestly to make lasting impressions but the majority are not hardworking at all and these are the ones who present themselves to be used as thugs in doing dastardly acts. When we were young, we used to go to the farm but these ones don’t go to the farm, but they want to eat. Who is going to provide, who is going to produce the food? When we were youths, we were going to farm. In my old age, I’m still going to the farm. In those days, mechanised farming had not come to Nigeria . We relied on hoes and diggers. But we are in the era of mechanised farming which the youths ought to capitalise on but they don’t want to do that. Everybody is rushing to the city to do nothing but thuggery and other bad things. That is why we are where we are: laziness amongst the youth. You think the relationship between the executive and the legislature will not improve till after the elections? It will never improve until after elections. Even with Buhari coming back? How do you know who is coming back? Anyway, I agree that he should come back. At least, things are no longer as usual especially in government circles. He has done well in the area of fighting corruption and for that alone, he should come back. Some people may have different views but my own view is that he should come back to continue what he has started especially in the management of funds. Nigerians are hungry and poor under the Buhari regime; it’s perhaps only those in government that are eating 3-square meals a day. If you don’t work, you won’t eat. I’m in my village farming. I’m not hungry. I am farming and eating. So, let the youth go and farm. They have the energy to farm. If you are not working, you are not a civil servant ; you are not an engineer or a doctor and not in business, and you keep running from Abuja to Lagos, from Kano to Kaduna looking for something, why won’t you be hungry? When you run away from the village and refuse to produce food for yourself and the country, then the youth will continue to be hungry. Graduates are being churned out the universities everyday. They come out and join the league of other jobless youths. Those who are working don’t get paid… There is no country in the world where employment will automatically be provided for graduates. It has to take sometime for people to get employed. The situation is unfortunate but people should exercise patience and also try to do something on their own. That is why I want to urge Nigerian universities to change their courses with less emphasis on academic courses like History, Public Administration and lay emphasis on engineering and subjects that will create room for self employment. Somebody who studied History, Public Administration or Management will come out and become a liability to government. Why not go for engineering and come out to become self-employed. Haven’t you seen unemployed engineers, doctors and others? That somebody studied Engineering does not mean he will graduate and become automatically employed. Unemployed professionals are not only seen in Nigeria. They are also elsewhere. But with certain certificates, people can get self-employed. If corruption is curtailed, more industries would be opened and more people will get employed. But the youth keep looking at the oil money which then ends up in the pockets of the rich and the powerful, and those who are in government. Go to the villages;some villages are practically empty except for old people. The young ones have all run to the city looking for jobs. Unfortunately, I know of so many people who are billionaires but they have not done anything for their villages. They didn’t even sink any boreholes in their villages for people to drink water from. Nigerian people should rise against all that. You talked about billionaires who do nothing to help their constituencies. In the national assembly, legislators earn tens of millions monthly and some don’t even go to their villages and constituents. These earnings are too much and could be used to employ the youth. I am a lawyer and I work with evidence. It is not just okay to allege legislators earn millions every month. Where is the evidence that the National Assembly people earn so much? It’s mere allegation. In my time, we earned N15,000 every month. We didn’t have constituency projects then. So, I won’t just buy the allegation that legislators earn tens of millions every month. It wasn’t like that in our time.