The last may not have been heard as far as the frosty relationship between Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and the Bauchi State governor, Mohammed Abubakar is concerned. In this interview, the Speaker made some chilling revelations insisting that his grouse with the governor centres on good governance.
The relationship between you and the Bauchi state governor seems to be frosty. What is at the centre of the problem?
Let me start by saying that for me if I have to address this issue I will do so with a lot of pain for so many reasons. It is something that I always wanted to suppress, always, I have treated it with extreme maturity in the sense that a lot has been said, a lot has been misrepresented to the general public but we always show maturity in that it is not every issue you respond to and that we will work regardless of what is being bandied about as the truth to be able to find solutions to this. So I have been extremely cautious of making public comments about these issues because we cannot tell our electorate that we are fighting, and that is why we cannot deliver the dividends of democracy to them. In the state, I was one of those leading campaigners of the change agenda, the APC change agenda in Bauchi and I know I cannot easily extricate myself when it comes to none performance from any member of our team. That is why I took everything calmly with extreme maturity praying that somehow we will be able to find a solution until it became apparent that so much has been said and if there is no response from my quarters, the tendency is for people to take it as truth because they said lies often repeated takes the character of the truth over time. So it has become absolutely necessary for me to speak to some of these issues, even if it means this is the only time we will do so and then we will wait for the right time so that we bring out the issues as they are. Now, in addressing the issue directly as to what the problem is, as a matter of fact I truly don’t know where the problem is. We started very well but I must say that from the beginning I noticed certain things that really didn’t make me comfortable because we were projecting change agenda right from the very day we started having campaign funds. When the President was going to visit Bauchi, we held meetings about the resources that were available to organise the rally and specifically, if I could recall very well, that meeting took place in Senator Suleiman Nazif’s house; we started it somewhere but we concluded it there, and what transpired at that meeting – granted my deep knowledge of the situation at hand – gave me a lot to worry because as at that time we already had the primaries and knew who the candidates were and to be candid, from that time I started praying that our worst expectation as a people would not be realized. Initially I was told that I was in a fight with the governor or the governor was fighting me but I didn’t just believe it as I thought it was just a joke. So until the matter came to a head when my three local government chairmen in the constituency, together with some elders of the party, decided to pay me a courtesy call in the National Assembly in the glare of the media in one of the halls where I enjoined them to support the people, support the government and the governor so that we can realise the promises we made to them and everybody was there. Clearly that message was on record and was published and aired on all major media outfits but as soon as they went back to Bauchi, they were suspended and queried about why they visited me. On this, I had cause to confront the governor when we met at the State House and I sought to know from him why he did that, he then told me that because he had taken an oath to enforce our laws and that these chairmen came to Abuja without his approval and the law says he must approve, he had to implement the law otherwise he will account for it on the day of judgment, since he has sworn that he will execute the law faithfully. So I said okay, if he feels strongly about it no problem. But apparently these local government caretaker chairmen had taken permission from the Permanent Secretary in the State Ministry of local government but because it wasn’t the governor, he said he must be the one to grant such permission and not any other person. So he suspended them and I said well, that must be it. Few weeks thereafter, I decided that I was going to intervene in improving the wellbeing of the people in my constituency so I dispatched a medical team to go the constituency and attend to the health needs and challenges of the people there. When they got there, they were specifically told that they cannot use any of the state facilities for that intervention. I just couldn’t understand why, but that was when I started really getting signals that all may not be well. I was taken aback. On account of that we had to relocate that particular intervention to AbubakarTafawaBalewa University Teaching Hospital in Bauchi since that is a Federal facility so no one could stop us. The events escalated to the point where we were told glaringly that I led a team to report the governor to the president, that was one of the allegations and that the members of the National Assembly had requested the governor to buy vehicles and houses for us in Abuja and because he said even if he is swimming in money he will not embark on that kind of bazaar. He actually said that even in the media but unfortunately right now he has bought the vehicles and given cash to some members that he believed are loyal to him. So maybe he has started swimming in money now that he has done that. That can be confirmed. Some of the members he gave the vehicles have come to me as their leaders and told me that this is what the governor has done for them, so they are not lying. He said that was why we were fighting him. These are specific allegations that I think we owe a duty to rebuff so that people can really know the truth. Did we report him to the President? The answer is no. Not at all. But I don’t know if there has ever been a governor in Bauchi that was stoned in his first year in office, yet that was becoming the order of the day in Bauchi as anywhere the governor went to, he was being pelted with stones. These reports were everywhere and it came to the ears of the President and obviously, if the president wants to know what is going on in Bauchi I am the one who is close to him here so he literally summoned me and sought to know what the problem was. Why would the people who brought in a government with so much zest and expectation start stoning the governor? The President wanted to know what was really going on in Bauchi and I told him (President) that Sir, they said I am fighting with the governor and any time I have an opportunity to discuss anything with you, you know that I don’t discuss personalities or mundane issues. I always bring issues of national interest but because they say I am fighting with this man so I am not in a suitable position to tell you, but I beg you, if you give me another appointment, I am going to bring elders from the state that you can speak to and they will be in a better position to tell you what is wrong in Bauchi. So the President instructed his protocol and said that Bauchi is home to him and he values the contribution of people of Bauchi to his election and wants them to pick a day that he will have minimum of two hours that he will devote to this problem. So that shows you how important the President considers this issue. But it wasn’t because we begged him for vehicles and he didn’t give us. It wasn’t because he refused to support me to be Speaker that was the issue, it wasn’t because anybody had reported him. It was because the people were getting so angry that they decided to take their own destiny into their hands and everybody knows you can find out from them in Bauchi that that was the direction we were heading to, a very dangerous direction and the President needed to intervene. So after this appointment was given to us, the President suggested about two persons that were going to join the team. We formed that team, went to the President and briefed him, he listened to us, all the elders, each person in that delegation took time to talk to the president so after, the President now said go and enlarge or expand this forum, when you have expanded the forum, articulate all the issues that you perceive that if they are addressed, all will be well in Bauchi going forward; itemise them, call the governor, give him and then I give you two weeks to bring back the report to me and bring a copy to me as well. That was the directive of Mr. President. So we went and enlarged the delegation, they are all alive today and can testify to this and then we set up a committee of the APC elders in Bauchi to draft the document and come up with all issues as directed by the president which we could then use to meet with the governor. When the work was completed, we studied that document and found out that we had a perfect document; if the governor could solve between 60 to 70 percent of the issues, then we will forever solve this problem of people taking laws into their own hands and trying to express their grievances by pelting the governor wherever he goes.We then summoned a meeting with the governor and he gladly attended. We had a discussion and presented this document to him and he said he had already solved more than 80 percent of the issues we itemised, but that in the new found spirit of brotherhood, it was just because we had not been meeting or he would have informed us but that he can guarantee that he had solved most of the problems. So we now said fantastic, take this document sit down with your team, review it, all the ones that you have implemented make them as implemented, if there is one or two or three issues that are not there, we will come back, meet and agree on them then we will now take to the president that these are the issues that are still outstanding and need to be resolved. No sooner than he left the place, he said that he was no longer interested in the intervention so we were left with no choice but to report back to the president on what happened. He had the document for two weeks with all the issues that we raised and that document is still available out there, we even gave it to the party. It was after two weeks of handing over that document to him that we saw the president and told him this is how far we have gone and this is the document we have given to the governor, so whether he will resolve it or not we don’t know but this is what happened and where we are because we owe it a duty to report back to the president. That was done and then on account of that we thought it was good that the party should also know because the leadership of the party was beginning to express worry too about the turn of events in Bauchi, so we decided to take the same document that we took to the president and gave it to the party. So where is the issue of reporting someone in this case? The issue of reporting does not even arise.
On the issue of begging for vehicles or even houses in Abuja, this is the third time I have won election. Truly speaking, I don’t know if it is in the culture of the state to buy houses for members from that state or senators as I have not receive any anyway, so I can’t remember when we sat with the governor to discuss this. There was never such a meeting and we have challenged him if that meeting took place, where did it take place and when? But he was on BBC and all major media outfits that it was because we begged for vehicles and houses and that he said even if he is swimming in money he won’t do it, that we are fighting him. There was never a discussion like that. I cannot recall any. If they ever discussed such a thing, perhaps it could be with some of these members that he has bought vehicles for right now. I don’t know if they were the ones who asked him, I can’t even recall. That meeting did not take place. Now at another fora, he even jettisoned those as excuses and said well I am fighting him because he didn’t support me to emerge as Speaker. I found that to be laughable because that shouldn’t be the case as there are many people out there who didn’t support. As a matter of fact we have Dr. Sani Abdu who is a member of the House from a constituency that is neighbouring mine, if there is anyone we should be closer than any other member from Bauchi because we share proximity and he was the one that nominated my opponent in the election but we now have excellent working relations with him. Even the man who contested against me Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila himself, we are not sworn enemies so why should I be an enemy to the governor on account of the fact that he refused to support me?
Is it true that the governor didn’t support you to become Speaker?
He has said so, so it is true because this one is a confessional statement directly from his mouth. He has said so and therefore I am not the one saying he didn’t support me. But he told the told the whole world that he refused to support me and that is why I am angry with him. However, that is not the basis of our anger. God gives leadership to be candid but everyone in Bauchi will tell you the circumstance under which the governor emerged during the primaries. God used human beings and I am happy to say that I am one of them. In fact, that is why these issues have lingered for this long without me saying anything because my fear has always been that if he fails, I must account to the people of Bauchi because I gave my words and went with him, campaigned with him and told everyone that cared to listen that this is a credible alternative to what we had then.
You said the meeting of the elders with the President produced the document which you gave the governor, what were some of the specific problems that were identified by the elders’ forum?
Even though I wasn’t part of the committee that drafted it, I reviewed it before it was passed to the governor, the president and the party. Major issues that came up in the course of that deliberation was first of all the interest of the state, how finances were being managed. The issue of accountability was the number one thing, sticking to the APC core principle of fighting corruption and promoting transparency. The feeling was that nobody knew what was accruing to the state and what was being used for, and as a matter of fact, the trend has continued. Even during this Paris Club debt refund, nobody in Bauchi knows what truly accrued to the state, nobody knows what was done with the money. Even the state Assembly that must appropriate the funds were not even informed, they just heard that he took money and spent it. That was one serious example and then we were owing workers, pension has not been paid so use the money you were getting to pay salaries, pay pension. When people don’t have salaries, everything collapses, the economy of the state collapses, so that was first and foremost that was addressed in that document, pay salaries, pay gratuities and stop the endless verification, it has lasted for more than one year now and they are still doing verification in Bauchi state as we speak; stop it, pay people, be transparent. First thing on that document, once people see that you don’t have money, nobody will pelt you with stones. And then there was the treatment of traditional institutions, how they were treated in a manner that majority of them were just involved in one swoop, so some people felt that it was on account of that agitation of someone that was promoted as a District Head and being unceremoniously removed from the post, from virtue of the fact that the law was just repealed overnight, so it means that everybody went back to the status quo where they were before they were moved to be District Heads and that was creating tensions in the state too. We said that that should be addressed, and we talked about developmental projects, in line with what is going on in Jigawa, Adamawa and Yola for instance, you’ll see the transformation, go to Plateau, you’ll see that construction work is ongoing. We considered that there has to be serious indications that something is being done by the APC government in the state. If that is done, fine, and carrying stakeholders along because government is not a zero sum game. The State Government should always engage with relevant stakeholders, always hold consultations, but he felt well he’s the governor, he’s not bound constitutionally or by law, he hasn’t seen where it requires of him that he must consult, that where he deems it necessary he will, where he doesn’t deem it necessary, he’ll proceed. So these were the issues that we discussed, and more so there was this issue too relating to the projects, they are being awarded without any due process, they are never advertised in the papers. You are a journalist, you can go through the papers and see. There are no projects mentioned that they are doing, and check whether they are advertised; there’s no competitive bidding, are we getting value for our people or not? Why is it that the laws are not being followed? In most cases, we don’t even know who the contractors are, we just see people carrying equipment in this century, people boil the tar by the road sides and they fetch it in buckets and just pour on the roads, that’s the kind of construction we are witnessing and as APC government really having criticized the government before, we don’t have the liberty to engage in this. These were some of the issues that we addressed in those documents and urged him to be more transparent, to really embark on legacy projects and resolve the lingering issues of salaries and then the management of local government funds too; that was another thing because he promised in the course of the campaigns that he wouldn’t touch local government funds, but unfortunately as they say in modern terms, local government funds in Bauchi has gone into voicemail, we don’t know where it goes to. Sincerely speaking, you can investigate if you want.
Recently, when you said the basis of your disagreement with the governor is because of non-performance, the reply was that you are not in a position to say this because you rarely visit Bauchi. Is it true that you rarely visit home?
For me, honestly, they are so childish to result to these primitive instincts to try and defend themselves. Very primitive instincts, in the sense that I was elected to work in Abuja, not in Bauchi, they were elected to work in Bauchi, and so if I’m seen more often in Bauchi then it means that I’m not doing my work. If they see me more at home and not in Abuja they should query me, the other way round, if we see them more in Abuja than Bauchi we should query them. Unfortunately, that is the case now, they work more in Abuja, maybe they want me to go back and take over their responsibilities. To be candid, it’s not my responsibility to be home every day or every week, because I work in Abuja. To claim that because I’m in Abuja, I don’t know what is going on at home, is to engage in acts of denial; I have my parents, my aides and people at home, so if anything is going on in Bauchi I must know, I have aides who work with me in the National Assembly here who go home every week and they feed me. Members go home but as a Speaker, you have the entire nation as your constituency, perhaps as a governor you can say I have a domain, I don’t have to go anywhere else, unless I want to, but in my own case I don’t have that luxury. If a Member is empowering his constituents in Lagos, you’re expected to be there, if you’re invited, you just have to go there to provide him support, if the event is in Kano, you just have to go, so you find out that virtually every weekend, those who watch TV or are on social media, and they will see me there. Its part of the responsibility of doing my job, sometimes they offer chieftaincy title when you go as a gesture to show that you were there. So it’s not a job that gives you that latitude that to say that every week, you must be in Bauchi to check what is going on, that is why I don’t see my job as a class monitor, to always go see what the governor is doing. But if you have developmental projects, they speak for you, you don’t have to promote them, you don’t have to speak about them, they will speak for themselves, and thousands of people will see them. Bauchi is on the highway; ask anyone about Gombe, they’ll tell you what is going on, ask anyone about Yola, they are on the highway, you don’t have to be in Yola to know that there is a government, to know that roads are being constructed, to know that development has come to that place, but have that conversation with anyone who passes through or in the course of their journey traverses through Bauchi and let them mention one thing that they have seen. So if they wanted to belie what I’ve said all they could have done is begin to do something like take to the pages of newspapers and advertise or itemize their jobs. The point is if I’m an illiterate, I don’t know anything, I don’t listen to people, I don’t even know people from Bauchi anymore, then educate me, put it there in the papers, tell the public that these are the roads you are doing, these are the schools, these are the contractors, this is how much for which you have awarded those jobs, shame me, I want them to shame me, but I cannot be shamed by being branded an absentee Legislator, for goodness sake, I’m not a Member of Bauchi State House of Assembly.
But there are concerns that 2019 may be at the heart of all this asthe reason may not be far from you wanting to run for governor in 2019…
No, I don’t have that issue, and I cannot fight because I want to be somebody.
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