2023: I’ve done more for my people than most Senators, Reps – Abbas




Rtd. Hon. Aminu Iya Abbas, is the Speaker Adamawa State House of Assembly, and the PDP senatorial candidate, for Adamawa Central, in 2023 elections. In this interview with MUAZU ABARI, in Yola, he speaks on his ambition and how he succeeded to stabilise Adamawa Assembly in the last three and half years, among other legislative and governance functions

At what point of your life did you join active politics and why?

I joined politics to serve my people well to the best of my ability with zeal, energy and passion, to bring development to my people. I came into politics with intimidating records of achievements after serving the country in different places and capacities. After my graduation from B.U.K  with second class upper degree in accountancy, and my NYSC at the NLNG, I took up appointment with Stigma Securities Limited. I later moved to the Economic and financial crime commission (EFCC) as a forensic expert, pioneer accountant and investigator and to other places like African petroleum (AP) and KMPG, until in the build up to 2011 when I joined active politics and contested for the House of Assembly seat of my constituency and won where i served my people meritoriously. During my first tenure, i was Chief Whip, Deputy Minority Leader, Minority Leader, Deputy Chief Whip, chairman and member of various standing committees.

Talking of serving your constituency meritoriously, why did most PDP lawmakers by then, including you, lose re-election in 2015 if really you served your people well?

We didn’t lose election in 2015, due to non-performance. Infact, we have performed credibly well, that was why our people realised their mistakes and decided to bring some of us who still contested in 2019 back . We contested in 2015 against the government and we lost because of APC but what most people din’t know was that the day we lost election and when we were parking out of Adamawa, about 20 of us sat together and agreed that we were not leaving PDP. We agreed to give ourselves four years and come back to take Adamawa back to PDP because we studied Bindow in the one week we worked with him before our tenure ended and we came to realise that Adamawa would be in trouble because he is not a promise keeper and is not reliable and that is what happened. We took Adamawa back to PDP and I became Speaker even though, some of us moved to APC but those of us that have faith remained in PDP and I become speaker.

Most people in the state expected you to either return to the State Assembly and maintain your position as Speaker or at most move to the House of Reps, but you decided to go for Senete.what informed this decision?

I’m a realist; if I study a scenario and know that I can’t succeed in something I don’t go into it, and whatever i know i will succeed, i go into it with everything at my disposal, if I lose i know that I have done my best. That is my own way of life. I came into politics from a disadvantaged area, I mean a constituency that has only a single ward of Fulanis and a single ward of Marghi the other wards are controlled by Kilba. We only had the opportunity at the early stage of return to democracy to contest for the State Assembly. We can’t become local government chairman, even vice chairman, it is only when they want to give you that they give you. So when it comes to contest, you either go for councillor in your ward or State Assembly which you know that the election is by INEC and anything is possible. After I became Speaker, people started asking me what will you contest again?i told them that, I’m not going to contest for House of Assembly again. In my life I’m done with it. So they said why can’t you go for House of Reps, I rejected it and decided to go for the senatorial seat of Adamawa Central.

Why did you turn down the calls for you to contest for House of Reps which has only two local governments and instead went for senatorial seat which has 7 local governments. Most people see this as political miscalculation.what is your take on this?

That was the first thing they told me when I was coming to contest election in 2011 and I said no and now, they wanted me to still contest for Reps, still i rejected. The reality is that in the history of Gombi/Hong federal constituency a non Kilba will not win election for Reps and from 1999 to date, it is only one non-Kilba that won election into this federal constituency by accident and that was Chief Emmanuel Bello. He didn’t win the election because his name was on the ballot, it was Haske Hananiya’s name, a Kilba man that was in the ballot so Haske campaigned and won election into House of Reps without knowing that his name was not with INEC and when he went to collect his Certificate of Return, he was told that it was not him, it is Emmanuel Bello’s name that was with INEC, that was how he emerged as a rep member. Knowing all these, I said if I’m to contest and win election, then it should be Senate. Also because of the history of this senatorial district where most people that occupied the position in the past were Fulanis and muslims, so i ventured into it, knowing there is possibility for me to emerge and i won the primaries to emerge the PDP candidate and now waiting for general elections.

Do you think that your performance will grant you the trust and confidence of the people of Adamawa central and lead you to victory in 2023?

Everybody in Adamawa state can attest that I have done well as a Speaker and a lawmaker representing my constituency with so many projects and achievements on ground to showcase, which i believe, will take me to Senate in 2023. I have done more for my people more than most Senators and Reps. That is why i challenged some of them on projects to tell me what they have done, especially, in my constituency. I challenged the incumbent member representing my constituency in the National Assembly who is the only member in the history of the constituency  to be elected for second term and now going for third term on projects, to see if he has done 30 percent of what i have done for the people of my constituency. If you are talking about my constituency, yes I have done more than enough for my people to be a Senator. If you are talking about Adamawa central as a whole, I have not been a Senator; I’m still a member of the State House of Assembly but I have done well as Speaker and most of the laws we passed, approval granted and over 60- 70 percent of the money we spend in this government, is in Adamawa central.

Adamawa Assembly over the years was always known to be rancorous  but in the last three and half years the House has witnessed stability even on issues that ordinarily should have polarised it. How did you achieve that?

There is nothing secret about it, the only thing is that everything is open. Whatever you are told, if you go and find out, you would realise that it’s like that. Everything I’m doing it is open. I always put it on the table and give everybody the opportunity to participate and make inputs, that is why there is no rancour in the assembly and I’ve been able to stabilise the assembly.

Even those that were suspended were given the opportunity. For instance, there was a particular member we declared his seat vacant, before that action, I went to him around 1 to 2am to tell him that he should forget this thing. His seat will not be declared vacant  and only in the morning, I was told that thugs took over the Assembly that we want to declare his seat vacant. That’s why we said, ok, if by bringing thugs, you think u can stop us, let’s see. That is why we declared his seat vacant. Why should somebody take advantage of someone that is open and transparent. Let  me tell you, I don’t just wake up and declare a seat vacant. If i want to declare a seat vacant or suspend a member, I make sure that, 60-70 percent of members want the seat to be declared vacant or member suspended, not me. That is why there is no rancour, because everything in the house is being discussed. Of course, there will be dissenting voices but the majority will have their way and minority, their say.

But most people believe that the present House of Assembly is always doing the bidding of the executive, especially, on this suspension, and approval of unnecessary loans, particularly, Agric loan of 100billion which have further indebted the state and failure to checkmate the excesses  of the executives. What is your reaction to this?

What people don’t know is that our own House is autonomous for over 13 months now so. We don’t depend on executives for funding,  I mean completely autonomous. We manage our funds and decide what to do and what not to do with our resources. So it is not a question of somebody taking advantage of us.

Among the state Houses of Assembly it is only Adamawa and Plateau states that have taken the advantage of autonomy to be independent of the executives and we took this decision to strengthen democracy and protect the institution of the legislature. Other States also have the opportunity to do so, but by the time they look at what the autonomy will give them comparing to present arrangement, they felt it is better to stay in their comfort zone. What people don’t know is that our own House is autonomous, it is not a House that depends on the executive for funding. That is the mistake people are making saying that they are giving us money. Our own House has been autonomous for over a year now, 13 to 14 months back. I mean completely autonomous. We run the House ourselves, we manage our funds and decide what to do and what not to do with our funds. So it is not a question of someone taking advantage of us. 

On the issue of loans and Agric bond, this kind of loan is the first of its kind in Nigeria and I told you that I’m an accountant, I mean a chartered accountant and a fellow of the Institute of Accounting as well as a member of a professional committee. So you should know that before I put my hand in this thing, i study it very well and know what it is all about. Kaduna has done their own on land, we are doing our own on agric. Lets start our own and take advantage of what we have. Even if the thing fails, it is part of life, if the thing succeeds, it is still part of life. Even those that were opposed to it, did not give us any tangible reason. All what they said is that the thing might fail, not that the thing will fail. So it is only when the IGR does not go up the way we want, that is when people should have a cause to worry. The bond is not even N100billion,  the 100billion is for four years, you can only access N25 billion  and if N25 billion fails, other money will not come and if it succeeds, another government can continue with it. Let me tell you something, when we came newly, we the lawmakers asked the governor to access loan because at the end of the month, the governor hardly have N40 million. it was always between N15 million to N20 million.

Even some local governments will have more resources than the state government after FAAC, JAC and everything. That was why it took us six months to start giving appointment so we  have to re-engineer the finance and restructure the loans. When we started restructuring the loans people started saying that we have taken loan even the restructuring we did, people said they have taken loans again and we asked them which loan? For instance, there is a loan of N30bn which we supposed to be paid in 5 years we said  no, it should be paid in 25 years, any bank that is not ready to follow us or restructure the loan sell the loan to another bank. It is either you restructure or we allow other banks take them over. 

That is how we succeeded to restructure all the loans and government started getting money for development projects even at that, the money could not take care of our development needs so we asked the government to access loan but they should pay it within the period of their tenure. So the  money the administration borrowed was N15billion. I can tell you as of today, the money has been cleared using portion of the bond. When we are restructuring people should try to understand what the House is doing because most people don’t understand the workings of the legislature.

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