Ahead of the forthcoming general elections, an APC chieftain and former commissioner of Finance in Gombe State, Muhammed Inuwa Yahaya, says he is the governorship aspirant to beat in the state. He spoke with MUYIWA OYINLOLA
The governor of Gombe State has declared his intention to run for president and one of what he counts to his credit is that he has tackled the issue of security in the state. How do you react to this?
As far as I and APC are concerned, President Mohammadu Buhari is our candidate and he is the candidate to beat in 2019 presidential election. So, whoever is aspiring, let him aspire, because he has the right to contest and do whatever he likes as a Nigerian. But for us, and I believe that is the resolve of Gombe people, that we are going to deliver to the APC and Buhari. Mind you, in 2015, 85% of our votes went to Buhari and I guarantee you or anybody that nothing short of that will happen again. In fact, this time around, it is going to be 100% . There is no going back.
Current situation in the country has shown that states should no longer rely on federal government for survival. As a former commissioner for finance in the state, what are your plans to increase the IGR of the state and improve in its economy?
Normally, what helps government to generate revenue is private sector development. By providing industry and businesses that will support the economy of the people of the environment. That is why if you go to Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna, Rivers and Kano; those states generate more internal revenue than those that don’t have companies. Presently in Gombe, it is only ASHAKA cement that is contributing to the revenue generation in the state. If one has to improve on the economy and revenue generation in particular, you must improve on a lives of the people. Eighty five percent of our people are farmers. You must give inputs and soft loan arrangement for them to develop agriculture. That is possible because the APC at the federal level has intervened and provided money from the CBN through anchor borrowing and SMEDAN support.
But because of the political difference, this government has refused to corporate and access that facility so that it can be extended to the people. If I am made the governor, definitely that is going to be a priority and that will change the fortune of the people and by the grace of God, we will be able to charge them minimally in terms of tax so that it will add more to our revenue and then move forward.
From that one, we can also generate industrial revenue in terms of small and medium enterprises that can equally generate money for the people and equally generate money through tax so that we can add it to whatever has been generated for development in the state. Those things, if we’ll addressed, will give us a head way in terms of getting more revenue. And we will make sure that we provide the facility that will attract investors so that they can come and tap from various resources that is within Gombe state. Besides lime stone, we have coal, we have kaoline and many other resources in the state.
Presently, What is your relationship with former governor Goje under who you served as commissioner?
Goge is an APC leader, and for me, he is my leader. We still relate very well and I still give him the respect and honour that a subordinate should to give to an elder and mentor. I give him that regard.
How much support does he has for your aspiration? Is he still your godfather?
I don’t believe in godfatherism but we have very good understanding about a lot of issues.
Looking at politics, whoever is leaving office would always want somebody that would succeed him and you are on the other side. How sure are you that you will be able to upstage whoever the present governor may want to succeed him?
If you go and ask any PDP member in Gombe, they would tell you that I have what it takes , the name and capacity to fight and take power for APC in Gombe and that was why I emerged as the candidate of the party in the last election.
In Gombe state metropolitan which I share with Dankwambo, I beat him hands down with a difference of about 9,000 votes. Our immediate constituency which is House of Assembly, two seats were won by APC. Our House of Representatives seat is APC and our senatorial seat is APC, apart from the candidate that defected to the PDP. APC is on ground in Gombe. In fact, in the last election, we got two out of three senators, four Reps seats. Despite the way security agencies and INEC conducted themselves then, we were able to get 245, they got 280 . That is a small gap we can bridge easily.
How sure are you that INEC will conduct a Free and fair election in 2019 both in Gombe and at the national level, going by what you suffered in the last election?
You see, Nigerians are learning by the day, and I equally believe that INEC itself is learning. With the intervention of the NGOs, Civil Society Organisations and our foreign development partners, INEC is improving and transforming by the day. I believe that with the new electoral law, which is an improvement on the old, the scenario will be different and there will be fair and free election that will produce credible candidates as leaders for Nigeria.
At the end of your first tenure as a governor, what should the people of Gombe expect at the end of your first tenure?
I have a manifesto and I blelive the manifesto covers all the issues that one will expect to bring in development if one gets the opportunity to serve, particularly in the capacity of a governor. I have a vision to provide good and quality education for our people, provide good and quality health care for our people, to provide quality infrastructure for our people, to also provide good business environment for our people so that it would attract good investors and change the economic landscape of our people. I have both the private and public sectors experience that can be useful and I have the magic wand that can be used to achieve all these so that we can give our people the succor and take Gombe state to the next level.
Once I am given the opportunity, with the experience l have, all these are achievable. By the time one is on the saddle for two years, the results would have started to emanate and people will see it and acknowledge it is better than what is happening now.
What is your comment on this recent face-off between the state and the federal governments where states are saying they are being shortchanged in the NNPC funds. How do we get out of this?
If various agencies of government operate within the law that established them, there wouldn’t be any complaint. What comes to the federal account is the revenue that comes from NNPC, Department of Petroleum Resources, Customs and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). Constitutionally, there is a ratio for sharing. If among those agencies, somewhere, someplace, some people decided to do certain things different from the norms, definitely, there would be issues. That is what causes that ripples and I hope that they have been able to sort it out.
As an economic expert, how will you rate this APC-led federal government in terms of economic growth and what it has been able to deliver in the last three years ?
In fact, I will give it a pass mark, if for no other reason but for the fact that immediately this government came on board, there were no records and the economy was so messed up that one would find it difficult to know where to start but this government has been able to put things into proper shape now.
Secondly, because of the nature of the economy that is virtually dependent in oil and the price of crude oil that dropped then, despite all the challenges then, including all the leakages here and there, government has taken the economy out of recession and the GDP growths are in the positive instead of negative.
For me, this government has tried for taking us out of recession, this government has at least stabilised the Naira even at this stage and the government has been able to block all the leakages to the extent that our foreign reserve is now hitting $50 billion and that would translate to a reduced
dollar price and reduced cost of goods and services which now ordinary people will acknowledge and feel. The government has taken us from where we were and to where we like to be. Very soon, with the support of the people for the APC, Nigerians will begin to smile.
A lot of people have been defecting from APC to PDP despite what you claimed to be the achievements of this government . Why are you still in the APC?
I am still in APC because it is only the APC that has what it takes to transform and change Nigeria. And we in Gombe state have to move in the positive direction so that our people can get out of the present situation they are in and that we have found ourselves. I am in APC because I believe that APC will deliver. Defection or no defection, the people at the grassroots are not moved. Mind you, as one person is defecting, there are many that are also coming to APC from PDP and other parties. In Gombe state, APC is waxing stronger.
What is your opinion on the blockage of National Assembly by DSS operatives considering the fact that it is a threat to our democracy?
It was really a sad development. Coming from 1999 to date we supposed to have learnt a lot in terms of practising democracy and it is because politicians themselves don’t play the game the way it suppose to be played. There are wranglings and fighting from all the parties and that is what translated to the situation that we have in the National Assembly. I will advise all of us whether in government or out of government, whether in politics or out of politics, to be mindful of our behaviours. I advise that we should sort out issues in the normal ways rather than engaging the intervention of police or military.
About N5billion is lying down that the state government has not accessed from UBEC. How are you going to pay the counter part fund and access the fund if you become governor?
I was a finance commissioner. I will make sure that we have a relationship with commercial banks that will assist us in credit and we will pay it over a period of time. Anytime our money is due in terms of allocation, we will make sure that we access it and pay up on time so that it doesn’t pile up in terms of interes. It is with a proper management of scarce resources and with the support of our financial institutions and our development partners, I will make sure that we make judicious use of it and improve on Gombe state basic education.
It has become traditional for politicians to defect to other parties close to election year, how can we put a stop to this?
Unless and until there is a law that sanctions people, it will be difficult.