Rt Hon Aminu Tambuwal, ex Speaker House of Representatives and current Sokoto state governor in this interview with select journalists, including EMEKA NZE, relives his experience as a speaker and contrasts it with his present position as a governor, the security state of Sokoto, the possibility of floating a regional security outfit for the northwest and othersExcerpts:
You were a speaker of the House of Representatives before becoming the governor of Sokoto State, what has been the experience.
It’s like you are talking about two different world, House of Representatives, National Assembly Federal Republic of Nigeria and Sokoto State. In the House of Representatives, you have representations from 360 constituency of Nigeria who are from different and diverse backgrounds coming with their different degrees of experience, some definitely older than you, some more educated, some wealthier than you, some younger than you and holding equal mandates, representing their constituencies with different worldviews and perspectives on issues and all of that. Here in Sokoto one can say that the people in the state are largely from the same background, even though we have the Fulani’s, we have the Hausa, some Kanuri’s and other Nigerians that are living here with us, it’s not the same as what we have in the National Assembly, particularly, in the House of Representatives. When you talk about leadership of the two, the House of Representatives whereby with the grace of God and support of my colleagues I served as speaker and here that I am serving currently for the last 6 years as governor, there are two different constitutional roles and you are dealing with two different sets of people, if I may put it that way. Here, we have all those diversities that I mentioned, even here, some people are richer than you, some are older and more educated, but in terms of close contact and micromanagement, it is a different ball game, you are first among equals as speaker, in the state, you are the chief executive, not just first among equals. That alone tells you that the experiences are not the same and as governor, you deal more closely with the minute of the minute of the issues affecting the lives of the people. As governor, if somebody’s wife has a stillbirth, they will say it is you, if they take light in somebody’s compound, they will say it’s the governor, their tap is not running, they will say it’s the governor, it is not the same experience either as parliamentarian in the federal level or as speaker. That is why I said it’s two different worlds, two different experience.
What are you missing?
That relationship, that solidarity and working together like schoolmates, unlike here where I am the chief executive. Aside my deputy who was elected alongside with me, every other person is my appointee, it is part of what i am missing and, of course, the debates, when you are talking about and discussing national issues, bigger issues.
Security is gradually becoming an issue, Sokoto has the history of being one of the most peaceful states, what is happening and what are you doing about it?
Let me give you a background of how we got to where we are. Unfortunately, Zamfara has been the epicenter of banditry and kidnapping in the northwest, most of the states including Niger really are getting the heat from Zamfara, what is the distance between Sokoto and Zamfara? Substantial part of almost about 14 local governments are either neighbouring Zamfara or Niger Republic, and with what is happening in the Sahel region which includes Mali, Niger, Central Africa Republic is permeating and creeping into Nigeria. Talking about banditry, Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) and all of that, agents of instability that are carrying out their acts around the Sahel region have a way of coming into Nigeria through our porous borders. So by geography, being neighbours with Niger Republic, sharing common borders is part of it.
Secondly being neighbors with Zamfara state, the epicenter of banditry and kidnapping in the northwest is part of it and to a large extent, especially, recently, the inability of the security agencies to coordinate their operations in Zamfara against our own advice as governors of about eight states that have met the President several times in the last three to four years, advised him and even advised the service chiefs that whenever they are going to undertake this large scale operation, it should be simultaneous, they should have a blocking force in parts of Kaduna, Niger, Kebbi, Katsina and Sokoto simultaneously and carry out the the operation simultaneously, they didn’t do that.
Again, the timing of the operation at the peak of the rainy season. One, the forest is thick, two the military and security agencies do not have the equipment that can move into those difficult terrains, that also did not help matters, So whenever they carry out operations on the bandits in their camps, they pander towards our states that are opened and porous so instead of getting them and get done with them in Zamfara state, they disperse them into our states and most of those that come in to attack our people, most of them are as a result of those operations recently. Another factor is also the fact that as I have said, they do not have enough to carry out the operations, I mean the security services, no enough manpower, no enough equipment, firepower. So it’s not as if it is about the people of Sokoto state, it’s more having to do with the situation with our neighbours. And talking about what we have done, there have been a lot of synergy with government an the security agencies in Sokoto state from the beginning.
I must commend them, they have been working together and we have been working together with them in terms of addressing the challenge. We do the much that we could and we are still doing because there was never a time any of those security agencies approach us for support without getting it. In the last four to five years, we have given out not less than 500 vehicles to security services in Sokoto state, it is on record. How many states have done that? As I said, we pay them their allowances from our coffers and we are up to date in the payment of those allowances. You can check what I am telling you, we have refurbished for the police virtually all their divisional police headquarters in Sokoto state.
We are building about 12 new ones for them, we have given them every support, coming up with a framework of engagement with His Eminence, the Sultan, the traditional institutions and other leaders, community support and all of that is being galvanized by the government and Sultan-in-council. So we are not sleeping, we have a standing committee headed by the Sultan, you know he is a retired general, that is also working on the issue of security in the state. We hold regular stakeholders’ meetings, even three days ago, we held one when we introduced yet another measure of outlawing a self-styled vigilante that was coming up. They called it El-zakee because they were part of the problem in Zamfara state. A few individuals without any cooperation from any authority will just form themselves into self help vigilante, they will start going from hamlet to hamlet identifying Fulani’s and just killing them and attacking them. So we outlawed them, it is part of the measures we are taking.
And when the government of Zamfara decided to go into that operation in collaboration with the military, I went on my own volition to Zamfara a few days to the commencement of the operation, and that was what they told me. I was there to condole with the family of Ambassador Adamu Umar, my boss under whose tutelage I passed through his law chambers. He died and I went to see his family so I went to see the governor in the Government House, that was when the governor informed me for the first time that such an operation was in the offing and there was need for us to also pass an executive order and certain measures to contain issues of movement of fuel, movement of motorcycles in certain areas and shutting down communication networks.
So it was not as if we had discussed it with him before and yet we came here I convened the security council meeting and we agreed to adopt the same measure they adopted in Zamfara state through an executive order and we are doing quite a lot in terms of talking to the people, in terms of sensitizing the people, in terms of supporting the security forces, so it’s not as if we are sleeping. But certain times, these things happen because also we have problems with informants, members of communities who are now compromised and bought over by the bandits and criminals and they are collaborating with them.
They give them information on movement of security personnel and before you know it a security detachment that is going to carry out an operation is ambushed, so it is a whole lot of complex situation that we have been managing. But you know the limitations of every governor in Nigeria, they are very clear, they are very manifest so for anybody to begin to see it as if a governor is not doing what he ought to do, no governor can do more than what i have told you, I have not seen any governor who has taken a cutlass or a machet not to talk of a gun and pursue a bandit or a boko-haram in the bush, at best what we do is to support the security agencies and give support to IDPs, that is what we have been doing.
Have you considered having a regional security outfit?
Over the years, we’ve had sub-regional governors’ meeting in the Northwest including Niger. At a point in time, each of us contributed N100 million as initial contributions for operations to be carried out by the military. This was almost five years back for those who are neighbours with Niger Republic, we have been having meetings with our colleagues from Niger Republic, we go there and they come here. So it’s not as if we have not been having regional cooperation. But we have not discussed forming a regional outfit because of the perception associated with that. Why we are working with the security is that we strengthen our vigilante at every state level and align them to work with the security services. The Amotekun and the Ebube Agu are not better than the vigilante, they are just similar versions of vigilante so what we are doing is to give them some training by the police and supporting the security services.
Did the ban on open grazing by the southern state governors put pressure on Sokoto state?
Maybe because of the geography or the state or the climate, I can say that we have no pressure as a state as a result of that ban because we don’t have many cattle rearers from Sokoto moving around. Even if you leave Sokoto to the next neighbouring states, we dont have much of that. Herdsmen that are of Sokoto origin moving out of Sokoto, traveling to any other state we do not have it in the past and even now.
So if they say herders should go back to their state, you will hardly find them coming back to Sokoto because they have not left here now, they are not from here, so they are not coming back here. But of course, we have Fulani’s in Sokoto, we have herders in Sokoto, we have grazing reserves in Sokoto, we have been trying to really upscale and modernize the grazing reserves for the herders and on top of that, we made a scheme by the past administration on animal husbandry and animal insemination, the scheme was abandoned by the past administration.
There was a programme to import some species from Argentina, when we came in, we looked at it and realized that it is good, we took it and completed it and brought in some of these species, as we speak, we are having another consignment of those species from South Africa coming into Nigeria whereby we subsidise them to our farms and ranches and encourage people to go into ranching. So we have for long been on ranching in Sokoto even before the federal government project of ranching came on board. So it is an issue that we have been living with, with all of its challenges. It’s not that we don’t have our issues with the herders and farmers in Sokoto. We have some of them coming from Niger Republic and we have been having fair share of that problem over the years, decades even centuries but we have been managing it. So also the local herders and farmers used to have their clashes and a number of their cases go to the traditional rulers or the courts and whoever is found wanting is made to pay compensation.
You have been in the APC and in the PDP, can you compare both?
It is on record that the PDP, even the name has remained PDP right from 1998. The APC was formed as recently as 2014 and it is the amalgamation and coming together of about four to five political parties the CPC, the ACN, ANPP, nPDP and APGA with the sole objective mainly of taking out Jonathan, with so many strange bedfellows working together for that objective. Almost immediately after 2015 elections, problems began to manifest because the relationship was not cemented. I can tell you that virtually groups were still seeing themselves as what they were within the APC and even possibly until now, we don’t have that in the PDP. It has remained as one political party, whether you go in or out of it. It has not merged with any political party, that should be noted. And in terms of building political culture, we can at least say that the PDP has been there since 1998 with its positives and negatives, ups and downs, highs and lows you cannot say so of the APC.