The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Bauchi State governor on media and communications, Comrade Sabo Muhammad, in this interview with BEATRICE GONDYI, speaks on the achievements of the administration so far as well as allegations of non-inclusive governance in the State.
Of recent, there has been altercations between the Bauchi State governor and some stakeholders who accuse the governor of running an exclusive government. What is the problem?
To begin with, we have a united APC in Bauchi state under the leadership of our able chairman, Alhaji Muhammad Nana. And as enshrined in the party’s constitution, Governor Muhammad Abubakar remains its leader in the state. The governor contested along with eight other aspirants but because of his open mindedness, he nominated Engr Nuru Gidado who was among those that contested with him, as his running mate. If you look at his cabinet, it is peopled by persons who are either campaigns director or chieftains of the party from the camp of people who contested against the governor at the primaries. Even myself, I was the director of media, publication and research of the first runner up, former minister, Yakubu Lame. So for them to talk about non-inclusion is just a sheer display of their desperation.
Governor Abubakar always seeks for advice of the party and other stakeholders before taking any decision that is why the governor is living peacefully with the House of Assembly and the leadership of the party at all levels. But you see, the problem of the members of the national assembly, like I have always said, they won the election on a platter of gold because Bauchi is a very strong hold of President
Muhammadu Buhari and our people voted for Buhari from top to bottom that is why they are using this opportunity, thinking that they have grass root base, trying to harass or intimidate the governor. But we keep on asking them to come back to Bauchi because Bauchi politics is played in Bauchi not in Abuja. I could recall that immediately after Governor Abubakar Muhammad was sworn in, there was a parley between the major stakeholders. During the meeting, one of them, who is now an arrow head in the other group of the Dogara people, begged the governor that he should either bought a house for them in Abuja or rent an apartment for them for three years and give them money to buy flashy cars. Of course the governor refused in line with his stands of prudent management of resources. I believe that is the very beginning of their problem with the governor. Secondly, the governor supported the party during its zoning of the leadership of national assembly and urged the members of the national assembly from the state to respect party’s arrangements. That is why Dogara is not happy with the Governor and is doing everything to undermine the success of the governor and criticise his political success in Abuja but not in Bauchi because the governor is in full control of the party and he is living peacefully with the tradition, opinion and community leaders and, most importantly, the leadership of the party at all levels.
Are you implying that the wrangling between the governor and some stakeholders from the state is borne out of selfishness on the side of the stakeholders?
Of course, from the side of the national assembly, that is very obvious and too glaring for anyone to ignore. It is obvious that they are trying to hijack the state resources for their selfish interest.
And then, Dogara, because of his position in the national assembly and the politics of the nation, is trying to make sure that he frustrates and truncate the vision and mission of the governor.
Any possibility of the governor reconciling with the stakeholders, knowing very well that should the misunderstanding continue, the state will suffer?
Yes, the governor said it when he visited the president, that the door of reconciliation is still open. He is the leader and we appreciate the fact that these people are members of our party and we worked with them towards the success of the party in the state. The governor is magnanimous and he forgets and forgives. So any time they decided to abandon their selfish cause and respect the leadership of the party, the governor will be willing to discuss issues with them.
The governor has been accused of mismanaging N8.6b bailout funds. What is your take?
You see, the money is N8.6 billion. When we took over in May 2015, the civil service is being owed four months salaries. This is the debt left by the Yusuf Yuguda administration. So the first assignment of Governor Muhammad Abdullahi Abubakar was to settle that backlog of salaries. Don’t forget, the governor, having started his working career with the Bauchi government where he rose through the ranks to the position of permanent secretary, knows the value of the civil servants and is committed to repositioning the civil service for effective service delivery. That was why when he came on board; his first assignment was to settle workers’ salaries. You may recall that only recently, ICPC, investigated 17 governors on this issue of bail out. Governor Abubakar was given clean slate by the ICPC. The governor is running a very transparent and all inclusive administration and that is why ICPC, including the leadership of NLC, have commended the governor for being the only governor in the northern part of the country who is paying more than the N18, 000 minimum wage. So these people are just trying to create issues out of nothing because of their desperation.
Bauchi state is riddled with various challenges in the critical sectors of health, education among others. What is government doing to reposition these sectors?
When the governor took over leadership of the state, he inherited both internal and external debt of over one hundred and twenty five billion. But notwithstanding the fact that the nation is recession and knowing fully well that Bauchi is purely a civil servant state, the governor was able to turn round the fortunes of the state within the shortest possible time. The state was among the first states to pay its counterpart fund for the Bill and Melinda gates foundation for the continuation of routine immunisation. That is why the organisation gave him about two different commendation letters for his steadfastness. Additionally, the state was able to pay its counterpart fund for UBEC and is set to undertake total rehabilitation of all dilapidated primary and junior secondary schools in Bauchi. Over four billion naira is on ground for this. Only recently, the state government secured a N500 million loan from the World Bank for the expansion of water projects in the state capital so as to cushion the effect of water scarcity in the state capital occasioned by the influx of people from the neighbouring states of Yobe, Borno, Gombe and even Adamawa and Taraba. A lot of attention has also been paid in the area of security and that is why we have influx of over three million people from these states that I have mentioned. With lean resources, the current administration in the state was able to construct twenty PHC clinics in each of the twenty local government areas of the state.
I can go on and on. Inspite of the lean resources, things are going smoothly in Bauchi state.
Recently, WAEC released school certificate examination results which indicated that Bauchi State performed abysnally poor. What is the government doing to change the tide?
The governor envisaged this problem that was why education go the lion share of the 2016 budget and he appointed his deputy as commissioner of education. Aside from this, the governor instituted a high powered committee to overhaul education at the state level. This is to tell you that there are concerted efforts on the part of the governor and the government, to revamp the state of education. A lot of projects are currently being executed in the state owned tertiary institutions.