Honourable Ahmed Aliyu Wadada, the Sarkin Yakin Keffi, represented Keffi/Kokona/Karu constituency in the House of Representatives and ran for Nasarawa state governorship election in 2019. In this interview with Ahmed Tukur, he bares his mind on how Nigerians have been subjected to abject poverty, those that should be appointed as ministers as well as autonomy for local governments and other national issues.
What in your view can help to check the security situation in the country, especially with the increasing spate of kidnapping and banditry?
It is most unfortunate that Nigeria is bedevilled with a high level of insecurity today. Boko Haram insurgency is almost gone because Boko Haram has now been confined to a geographical zone. First and most, I personally attribute the high level of insecurity in the country to high level of poverty. Nigerians are in abject poverty; Nigerians are really suffering, Nigerians are subjected to a livelihood they should not experience at this material time. That is not to say that the government of President Muhammmdu Buhari is not doing the much it needed to do, but it has to do more in the aspect of making the economy much more flourishing, buoyant, and reliable for the sustenance of Nigerians.
We have an army of youth all over Nigeria, and I get scared each time I go to my local community, you see youth looking healthy and hearty with full strength, but merely roaming the streets. This is not just because they want to; it is because they have nothing to do. Those that have certificates are not gainfully employed, those without certificates are willing, but there are no skilled jobs for them to do.
The small and medium enterprises that were in existence in Nigeria or in particular in Nasarawa state are no longer there. These youth are just there, their fate as citizens is in abeyance, their means of sustenance is in abeyance, and their socio political ambition is in abeyance because nothing seems to be promising. Lack of employment is not enough reason for one to want to engage in banditry, Boko Haram or kidnapping, but an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. I call on state governors to look inward. And in looking inwards governors should have a re-think over the issue of joint account. They can’t continue to put in their total custody what is due to local governments because that is greatly contributing to the level of poverty in the land. While growing up as a child in my local community, most of the well-to-do and rich people we looked up to were local contractors from the local government. Today, there is no local government in Nasarawa state that will boast of a local government contractor because the local governments are not contracting anything as really they do not have anything to contract.
This is most unfortunate, unacceptable and after all the Constitution provides for three tiers of government – local, state and federal. So, that is one of the avenues I feel state government should look at and do the needful because it will greatly impact positively on the level of poverty and beyond.
On state governments
State governments should look much more inwards. Nasarawa state, for instance, is endowed with solid minerals of all kinds, but as far as solid minerals are concerned in Nasarawa state, there is no solid minerals development agency. One could comfortably say that exploration of solid minerals is in the exclusive list, which is the right of the federal government, but this does not mean that the state cannot invest in that sector. If Nasarawa state has a functional investment company, in collaboration with private sector players that have the expertise in that sector via an agreement with the federal government indigenes can benefit from that wealth. All I am trying to say is that there is no provision of the Constitution that is supposed to be a constraint. For Nasarawa, we have the opportunity to be richer today by taking advantage of our proximity to Abuja. This applies to all states in the country, particularly of the northern extraction.
In 2006, I present a paper to the then Northern Governors Forum under the chairmanship of Aliyu Babangida, a former governor of Niger state. I suggested that if Sardauna of blessed memory could conceptualise and put in place NNDC in the days referred to as dark days which now happen to be our brightest days. I said if Sardauna could do that and now the fate of NNDC is in abeyance, why don’t we resuscitate it or put in place something similar to that? I suggested that every state government should from source contribute N100 million every month to a common pool, which means at the end of every month N1.9 billion will be generated and a secretariat will be put in place to ensure that the money is judiciously used. In doing that, every state will present three proposals and the secretariat will now look at the proposals and take the best out of the three and embark on full implementation of that project. There is no bank in the world that you will approach with N1.9 billion monthly income that will not partner with you.
In a few years, every state in northern Nigeria will have one factory or industry that will employ the indigenes. Our governors need to look much more inwards and our electorates too should shine their eyes and open their ears. The era of just going to vote based on political sentiments is gone. When such persons do not have the requisite capacity to deliver, nothing is going to change. At the national level, this government is doing the much it’s doing, but this is twenty-first century. If President Buhari will concentrate in this last four years only to provide effective power supply in Nigeria, he will have done very well. There is virtually nothing you will do today, and not only in Nigeria, that will be fully achievable and result-oriented without steady power supply.
Nigerians are complaining about perceived communication gap between the President and the citizenry, particularly regarding the interventions by the government. What is your take on this?
Leadership is a burden and what makes one a leader is your ability and capability to respond to the yearnings and aspirations of the people. The president has a cabinet, personal staff, chief of staff, chief of protocol, then down the structure of government – there is the secretary of government, ministers, heads of boards and parastatal. So, I really do not understand communication gap between the president and others. Of course, the president naturally cannot see everybody, but does it mean that what the people write for the president to read is not conveyed to him? The ministers, the president appointed, are they from heaven or the sky? They are from Nigeria, from one constituency or another. Are these ministers not communicating to the president because they are supposed to be the bridge between the government and the citizens; so, don’t they feel the pulse of the citizens? If they do, don’t they communicate such to the president? I don’t want to know the channel of communication, but does that opportunity even exist?
This is a question for the presidency, whoever reads this interview can give an answer to the public because the president needs to be appreciated by citizens of this country. And with the much he is doing people don’t seem to appreciate the president that much and partly it is because of this that you have said.
What calibre of people should the president Buhari select this time?
The president should appoint competent persons; he is not a novice in leadership. He was a head of state and as military man he headed so many commands. He headed many positions and today as a politician he was elected for four years now getting to the end of the first tenure.
He has been re-elected for another four years; nobody needs to tell him the kind of people to appoint as members of his cabinet because he knows what is right. If he appoints the right people, things will be good, if he doesn’t, it will be unfortunate and we shall all suffer it.
For the first time the president won election in Nasarawa state; what do you think was responsible for this?
We should first give gratitude to Almighty Allah that made it possible. All that happened in the past were destined to happen the way they happened, but in every divine action there is always the human aspect. Let me start by saying that Buhari won election in Nasarawa because most of the political gladiators in the state today are of the APC extraction and the gubernatorial primaries of APC rather than divide those that aspired alongside their supporters, God in his infinite mercy made it possible for the aspirants to be much more united, cohesive, concerned and focused. When I said the aspirants, I mean with their followers and with due humility Hon. Ahmed Wadada chaired the campaign council. We tried under my stewardship with other stakeholders to ensure that the people were educated and enlightened enough as far as the happenings within the party were concerned, right from the commencement of political activities gearing towards 2019 general elections. And, of course, the people were responsive and they really got it deep into them that continuity is a veritable instrument for development. In order for the APC to be in power in Nasarawa state and to succeed itself, as well as provide the required and decent successful transition that will further deepen socio-economic and political developments in the state, it became necessary to enlighten and educate the people. We did so much to make the indigenes to appreciate President Buhari such more than ever before. Like I said, greater percentage of the stakeholders is in the APC and, of course, led by Hon. Aliyu Ahmed Wadada.
This gives you the human angle of the success, but the spiritual aspect is that God destined it and it happened. But God, of course, will not come down for anybody because he never came down for his prophets.
You were the chairman of the campaign council for both President Buhari and the governor-elect. What in your own view should the governor-elect do to sustain that unity among aspirants preceding the election?
For our governor-elect, I think he is on course because from the day the results of the primaries were announced, he kept good and close relationship with the association of APC gubernatorial aspirants, which I created immediately after the primaries to enable all of us to come together. This is because politics is not enmity and if is truly about Nasarawa state, then I said, let’s come together. He is fully in touch with members of the association. We were all carried along to a reasonable extent all through the campaigns and I think he is still in touch with members of the association, from the sitting deputy governor to all of us. If he keeps the pace and does not get carried away by governance, he will succeed and I don’t see him as somebody that will get carried away because of his background. I think he will give little attention to rumour mongers and mediocre who feel the only way to be patronised is to go about abusing and insulting people, criticising and blackmailing to get patronage. You know, he is of the private sector background, where result, productivity and due process are the order of the day. I think it is going to be a different ball game, all things been equal. And if it is not, we are still the stakeholders, and we will look at him to his face and caution him, urge him to retract his steps to avoid any problem. But for now, I think the governor-elect is on course.
Is it that you chaired the campaign council as a bargain for a ministerial appointment?
From the day the result of the primaries where announced, which I came second, it was a contestable situation. I am saying this for the world to hear, with due humility so that I will be understood and appreciated. The situation was a contestable one, but I choose not to do it because the betterment of Nasarawa state supersedes my personal ambition. My ambition, as far as Nasarawa is concerned, is to make it a better place. The first thing I did was to dissuade anybody that had some form of possible negative expectation from Wadada because of the result of the primaries. I went to Governor Al-Makura and congratulated him, that was after we congratulated our brother, Engr. A.A. Sule, at the venue of the primary election. I personally went to Engr A.A. Sule and congratulated him. Then governor, Al-Makura, called for a reconciliatory meeting and none of us gave any condition as a demand for us to cooperate. I only said we should be open and everything should be put on the table. After that, my brother, A.A. Sule, invited me for a meeting in Lagos and asked me what I wanted because he needed my support and that of other aspirants. I said to him that I want to be governor of Nasarawa state and which, of course, will not be possible because God has given him the ticket. When they decided I should chair the campaign council, the same Engr. A.A. Sule called me and said this was the decision, but he was not sure whether I will accept the offer or not and I said if I am a true indigene of Nasarawa state and a loyal and committed member of APC, why not? After all, I am going to chair the council for the election of Muhammadu Buhari. I accepted without giving any body conditions. I wonder why the appointment of a minister is becoming an issue, if I am appointed as a minister, so be it. I deserve it and I am qualified for it because I have paid my dues. People should not forget I am a one-time member of the National Assembly for eight years which is more than a minister. I have made my mark, which is still there at the National Assembly. Yes, if I am appointed, it is going to add value to me, to my people; but I don’t want it to be seen as something of big deal and envy that warrant unnecessary castigation. I never gave anybody conditions for accepting to chair the campaign council and I chose not to contest the result of the primaries so that we don’t rock the boat and God in his infinite mercy has vindicated me. If you do not give me credit as far as the state is concerned, you will for the fact that under my chairmanship of the council President Buhari won Nasarawa for the first time and it will go down in history with my political profile.
The North-central has apparently been cut off from the scheme of things in the country, what can you say are the reasons?
Our problem is that our diversity is being taken advantage of and unfortunately those at the helm of affairs in the North-central are not together as leaders. We are not doing anything to help. I can’t remember the last time the governors of the zone met. We had a lot of discussions during our time when Abdullahi Adamu was governor, Kure and others, we used to hold meetings of North-central stakeholders, but today I don’t know if that happens.
So, because our leaders are not together our diversity was further divided by those who see us as a threat because the people of the zone are the true Nigerians. I say this with all sense of responsibility because we have paid much more dues than any zone in the country as far the existence of Nigeria is concerned.
During the civil war, soldiers that fought in the battle front were much more of North- central extraction than any other part of the country. After the war a North-central citizen headed the reconstruction government of Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon. Also, when the fate of the country was in abeyance because in 1984 when President Buhari came in as General Buhari then he was least understood and Nigerians were in total anger. The man that God used to stabilise the system, regardless of any body’s perception, was of the North-central extraction, President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. Today, if you look at the various agencies of government that are created to provide succor to the citizens regardless of the nomenclature were all put in place by President Babangida. When Sani Abacha died, the military was in total confusion as to who was the right person to lead the country, but God gave the mantle of leadership to a North-central citizen, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, who led the country for eight months and handed over to civilian administration as he promised. Coming to the fourth republic, the first chairman of the PDP, Solomon Daushep Lar, was from the zone. But today, where is the North-central? In 2015, we delivered more votes to President Buhari, but what did we get? Now, it is 2019, we have delivered much more votes than the South-west to President Muhammadu Buhari. We are short changed not because those at helm of affairs are willing or intentionally short-changing us, but having realised we are not together, they do all kinds of things and we take it. So, I call on our leaders, particularly the governors, to be united and be meeting regularly and calling major stakeholders from the various states of the North-central. If we are seen to be concerned about ourselves, the central government will be concerned about us, but if we continue to remain this way, we are we will continue to suffer it and it will be must unfortunate.
The zone has been as a theatre of religious crises, tribal warfare and other security challenges,; what steps do you think should be adopted to check the menace?
The leaders of the zone should be much more democratic than they are and be leaders that will welcome criticisms and be leaders that are truly concerned about the wellbeing of their people and be more accessible to their people.
They should also appreciate our diversities and see it as a source of asset and strength rather than weakness. And to the partisan politicians, with due humility, emulate the ways of Wadada because my political activities are centered on electorates’ enlightenments. Let’s continue to educate our electorates they will appreciate us better.