Chief Albert Horsfall, former director-general, Department of State Services, DSS was the pioneer director-general of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency renowned for his expertise on security issues. Horsfall one of the most prominent statesmen from Rivers State trained as a policeman and worked in the Special Branch of the police who became part of the pioneer staff of the defunct Nigerian Security Organisation, NSO which later translated into the DSS. Horsfall on retirement from the security services became the pioneer chairman of the Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission, OMPADEC. As OMPADEC boss, Horsfall is remembered for initiating the first Federal Government specialised intervention infrastructure and other development programmes in the oil producing region and employed the former lecturer, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as a staff of the commission.
In this interview he canvasses for the balancing of political offices in his native Rivers State, the security challenges in the state and the country as a whole. Excerpts:
What are your comments on political developments in Rivers State?
I should alert the nation and the Rivers people in particular of the potential security dangers and the socio-economic destabilization that may be about to happen in Rivers State in the face of current political developments.
As has happened before, by being docile and by trying not to engage in the realities of our situation, Rivers people are sleep-walking into a state of disaster. We are being taken for granted, once again.
Rivers people do not accept the imposition of another mainland governorship candidate of the state by one of the main political parties after sixteen years of governance by candidates from the mainland. We therefore appeal, very strongly to all political parties to present candidates from the riverine communities for the governorship race of the state in 2015.
Will we forget so soon that between year 2000 and 2002 the seeds of insecurity were deliberately and purposefully sown and sponsored by top political players in the state? Assassins sponsored by these groups and engineered through a serving police officer at that time murdered a number of persons including Hon. Monday Ndor, etc. and thus drove the state to a downward spiral of insecurity and instability. Fear descended on the citizenry. This state of affairs caused me to issue my warning captioned “STOP THIS MADNESS FORTHWITH in a press release to all Rivers people sometime ago. I took various other actions to try to arrest the reckless drift to insecurity in the state. Nevertheless and inspite of my little efforts, the state of insecurity persisted and by 2003 assassinations and cult driven gang warfare and gun fights were to be seen all over the state particularly in Port Harcourt, the state capital! At the same time some top politicians had actually sponsored and armed a number of young radicals who soon became “WAR LORDS”. We know them.
And in fact, the weak institutions and leadership in our polity have now promoted some of them to public recognition and status! Meanwhile the series of unjustified killings and destruction of properties including the destruction of oil and gas installations, attack and kidnap of expatriates, etc. continued. All these dangerous events continued to happen in Rivers State until 2007. In some cases respected chiefs of communities, heads of war canoe houses, were brought to the open, flogged and de-humanized by the so-called war lords, etc.
Thus from 2003 until about the end of 2007 Rivers State was practically dead. My fellow Rivers men and women, boys and girls, are we, once again, going to let ourselves to drift into this state of anarchy and helplessness?
Chief are you speaking as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party or of any other political party?
No. I serve only one platform, my God, my conscience and the ordinary Rivers people.
The second thing is that I love the youth. I have done most of my charitable activities and services in the promotion of youth interest. I believe very strongly that the youth is the future of any nation.
Rivers State is for all its people and those others and there are numerous such others who have come to live and work in it, the process that dates back to many decades. We all reside side by side as fully integrated Rivers people. My vision and expectation is that we keep it that way.
The various ethnic nationalities of the Rivers State otherwise called the Rivers people have lived together in co-operation and collaboration for centuries. They had had economic, cultural, political and educational collaboration for that long. I am proud to say that I am part of the expression of this socio-cultural process. I am linked by blood, etc. with several parts of the state, mainland, riverine, including the Ikwerre and Ogoni. My father’s first daughter is from Ogbogoro (Ikwerre), I finished primary school in Emohua (Ikwerre), my family had linkages in Aluu and my nanny who nursed me when I was a kid is from Ogoni, etc. So what I advocate today for the riverine communities I will do so as a steward in the court of justice and fairness, equally to protect the interest of any of the mainland communities.
Are you not afraid of your personal security?
Yes there is glaring evidence that those who are bent on using violence to serve political ends will stop at nothing and will not hesitate to apply thuggery or violence to express themselves. My answer to this question is very simple. ‘Those who live in glass houses must not throw stones.’ Perhaps you have not heard the story – indeed a fairy tale story that when my political convoy was attacked in Okrika in 2002 I disappeared!
The next place, according to this sweet story, that I resurfaced was in Israel. Have you not seen that I have disappeared from the scene for about four weeks since September, 2014? Where have I been? All over! Perhaps to consult with those – FBI, International Court of Justice, MI6, etc. – who will deal decisively with anyone or group should anyone be foolish enough to attempt violence against me.
In any case the law will say ‘buyers beware’. And I will say to the fools that threaten violence, ‘beware’ – the Horsfalls are a unique specie. Read their history and you will know that no sane person attempts violence against them otherwise the consequences will be too grave for such persons to bear.
Yes did they say that during a funeral ceremony Dr. Peter Odili had said that I frustrated him from becoming President of this country in 2007? Yes I did, and if he said so he is correct. I did so because he was attempting to answer ‘my father’s’ name in his attempt to become president on the platform old Eastern Nigeria. I regard Odili as my personal friend.
I think he also regards me as his friend in spite of our different political viewpoints in Nigerian politics. But everybody who knows me will know that I will speak the truth as I see them. If you ask me to comment on the performance of Dr. Odili as Governor of Rivers State. I will not, because friends don’t run down friends. Let others do that.
But will you mind a comment on the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan so far?
Again you asked me about President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. Jonathan is my kinsman. He came into politics by accident. But no matter what anyone says about him and his administration he has given democracy a new face in Nigeria especially in the area of free speech and human rights. No past administration of this country has given such opportunities and been tolerant of criticisms as his administration has been. So I am sure people will vote for him not because they like him as such but because they have found true expression of their democratic views in his style of administration.
The former Minister of state for Education, Mr Nyesom Wike appears to be the only mainland aspirant as you chose to call it. Are you in anyway by all you have said, against his governorship ambition?
Again you asked me about Nyesom Wike the former Minister for Education. Obviously I do not know enough of him to form a correct opinion. However, I will ask him to advise his media people to look at his image more seriously and carefully.
The rumours being spread about him especially his physical engagement with his opponents, etc are not palatable. Hopefully these stories may not all be genuine or true but as a budding politician he should look after his image so that he can prepare himself for future political office but must forget the idea of becoming Rivers State governor just now!
Let me say in conclusion that the Rivers people will not sacrifice their long cherished association and collaboration and their need for peace and stability so that the selfish interest of a few people may be satisfied. No. It shall never happen!
What is your reaction to the ongoing challenge by Boko Haram against the nation?
In all fairness, Defence and Security Services have not been particularly well managed. It seems at first that the magnitude of the problem and the threat posed by Boko Haram had not been well appreciated.
In my presentation as deputy chairman of the security committee at the National Conference I did say we must not go to sleep on this issue of Boko Haram, that it is a very serious threat. Ideologically based security threats are not easily resolved, they are the most complicated and difficult and we must look at them very critically and carefully.
I did say that the issue of ISIS which was not prominent then, was still building up, I had said that the expression of extreme Islamism will have a bearing on Boko Haram activities. What is happening now is that Boko Haram is being supplied or guided by these extremist external elements and we have now got a real threat. How prepared we are for the threat is the issue our defence and security forces should educate Nigerians on.
I am afraid that some of the things our defence chief in particular says are rather premature, he should not have said them if they were not ready to say them.
On the issue of the Chibok girls I do not see why it is the Chief of Defence Staff, and not a politician who should come out to say Nigeria had now agreed a cease fire with Boko Haram.
It’s a political issue, a politician should have handled it and not the Chief of Defence Staff. It seems to us now that at that stage they were only discussing the issue of cease fire, they had agreed no cease fire it would appear because Boko Haram was still kidnapping, killing and attacking. That is why I said the Defence and Security services have got to get their acts ready.
The press in some ways too have not helped much, they should consult with the defence and security. We are all Nigerians, whether you are a press man or a soldier. What has confronted us today via Boko Haram is a threat to our national integrity. Some portions of Nigeria territory are being excised.
These people have expressed an aim to take over, control, cease Nigerian territory, therefore undermining the country’s territorial integrity. Something we must never, ever compromise as a country. I am not in the position right now to really judge anybody. We now really have a grave security threat on our hands.
Was the confab worth it in your opinion as a conferee?
The confab was worth it. For the first time government is acting on the confab matters.
There is also an implementation committee (working) already on some of those issues which perhaps have to do with executive actions. The decisions we made there were very far reaching. The only thing we did not agree on was revenue sharing.
This is a strange federation where we take money and spend that we did not work for. Everybody is depending on this sharing. We discovered that there are natural resources in each of the states capable of sustaining the economy. Because oil is freely mined.
SOURCE: Vanguard Newspaper