Hon. Ahmed Aliyu Wadada represented Keffi/Karu/Kokona Federal Constituency of Nasarawa State in the 6th and 7th House of Representatives and currently a governorship aspirant. In this exclusive interview with RUTH CHOJI, the pioneer chairman of the House Committee on Capital Market and Institutions states that the Abuja corridors of Nasarawa State will be opened to create an industrial hub if he gets elected as governor.
What informed your decision to vie for the governorship of Nasarawa State?
My love and passion for the wellbeing of our people.
Does it mean that they are not properly taken care of by the current government?
That is not what I am saying but I can do better. I am a rallying point for my contemporaries. I was in student union government while I was in school aside holding various positions while growing up. I have also impacted the lives of my people when I got to the House of Representatives. That everybody knows and can bear me witness. We took the Nigerian capital market to the whole world, I was part of the presidential monitoring team that went to understudy the modus operandi of commodity change in India, Malaysia and other places to enable us come out with the right model for Nigerian commodity exchange. We kickstarted the beginning of Abuja Security and Commodity Exchange. I was one of the most active, respected and vocal member of the last two session of the National Assembly. It was under my steward as the chairman, House Committee on Information and National Orientation that the famous Freedom of Information Bill was passed to law. So I am the candidate to beat in Nassarawa State because my antecedents speak for me.
Other prominent persons from the state have indicated interest in the same position. What stands you out?
First and foremost, we are coming from somewhere. The era of people just springing up and declaring their intentions, with rhetorics that are baseless has gone. I have realized that most of the political shenanigans happening are because players like me take advantage of the low level of education of the electorates and voters. That is why the theme of my activities is ‘electorate enlightenment’. I have tried to educate and enlighten the average electorate in Nassarawa state starting from my constituency to the other zones. The people are enlightened now that they can actually look at your antecedents. What contemporary leaders do all over the word, is to either take their civilization to the people or bring the people to civilization. I have a Polo Ranch in Keffi which is contributing to the economic activities of the state. It has opened up the state to the world, it is a tourist attraction. We hold two events in a year, one in support of education and the other for orphans. Our impact is felt everywhere because players come from all over the world to the Polo Ranch. I also own a radio FM station in Keffi. That station is meant to compliment my efforts in enlightening the citizens on their history, which is why it’s called the Cradle of Enlightenment. The name of the station is MALONeY. This is because I want people to ask questions and know the history of the state. Because Keffi resisted colonism to the extent that they killed a colonial master whose name was Master Maloney in 1902. I want people to be aware of things that have happened in the past and why we are where we are.
What are your plans for Nasarawa State?
First and foremost, women are very important members of society because no matter who you are, a woman was your first teacher because your mother was your first teacher. That is why it is said that when you educate a woman, you educate a nation. When I was at National Assembly, we used bring women together and create empowerment scheme for them. My wife used to buy equipment for them and share. As governor, I intend to create cooperative and give them seed funds from these cooperatives that will be monitored because it will be gotten from donor organization. The Abuja corridors of Nassarawa State will be opened to create an industrials hub that will bring in companies. You cannot leave the youths. I am the most celebrated politician by the youths because I advocate for them. I started the under 40years association at the National Assembly. It produced Bankole, Tambuwal and even Dogara was a member of that association. So we will change the narrative for the youths of the state. We will resuscitate where they can learn. We will also create skills acquisition centres for them. Some of these children if properly harnessed can be like children in China who produce phones and other electronics we use. Recently, I sponsor three hundred youths from the three senatorial zones in skills acquisition. I have Wadada foundation which I established since 2007 that sponsors children to school. The last competition we have in polo, we were able to donate the #3m to the Nassarawa State University. Under Agriculture, we intend to create three agriculture cluster that will be based on crops that each zone produce. It will be private sector driven. We will bring agricultural companies with expertise in the production of such crops that will process the crop and turn it to finish product bofore it is sold or exported. Any leadership that is not able to transform its agriculture sector is not fit to be there.
Nasarawa is one of those states effected by tribal conflicts, what are your plans to stop the killings?
I will be fair and just to all. one of the recipes to insecurity is marginalization, not being fair to all. Having said that, we shall create a society that will bring social order because an idle mind is the devils workshop. Most of the youths being recruited by Boko Haram is because they are not engaged. So when we create activities within the state that can engage majority of the youths and be fair to all, then it will reduce the level of insecurity to the barest minimum.
Traditional rulers and institutions have been abandoned over the years and most people believe if they are revived, they will help in fighting insecurity. What do you think?
I am a traditional title holder, so I know the value of traditional institutions, they will be revived and empowered to help secure the environment.
It is a common knowledge that roads in Nasarawa State are bad. What are your plans on infrastructure?
We shall create ways of raising internally generated revenue. Places like Karu which is in the corridor of Abuja are cash cows that have not been harnessed. If we can provide what the people need to live comfortable lives in Karu, the people will pay. 50 to 60% middle cadre of Abuja workers live in Nasarawa State, yet they still pay tax in Abuja. This will not be acceptable under my stewardship. We intend to open up Nassarawa State. I once sponsor a bill on FCT Satellite Development Agency which was meant to create an agency that will be saddled with the responsibility of taking care of the socioeconomic and environmental situation of the satellite areas. I am not coming from the blues. The constitution of Nigeria provides exclusivity to the FG on exploitation and Nassarawa is the second state that has second largest mineral deposit in Nigeria. Tell me why we cannot go into some form of understanding with the FG to make the rail track from Gudi to a standard gauge and link it up to Abuja. We want to change the narrative with due respect to other people aspiring to be governor of the state.
Does the state of Nigerian economy bother you?
I am worried but not so much because successive administrations have come up with policies that will block wastages in the society without any success. I am worried because the wheels and drive that an average economy needs to be able to be on its feet is still not there. We have an advantage which is of population. The Chinese and Indians of this world are leveraging on their population to achieve what they have. I don’t see any reason why Nigeria should not leverage on our population to grow and develop our economy that way. We have the number for businesses to proliferate in the economy. But those fundamentals that will make the real sector active is not there and it is the private sector. The real sector is driven by the private sector which is no longer there in Nigeria.
You said Nigeria is not taking advantage of her population. Who is to blame for this?
The government and the people.
Are you referring to the current government?
No, no the current government has tried because government is a continuous endeavor. You cannot reduce the state of the economy to this government. Successive governments have also failed to do their part. For example, you cannot blame the government of Buhari for not providing electricity because other governments tried too in their own way.
The Buhari administration has been criticized for not fulfilling its many promises to Nigerians yet it is seeking for another term. What is your take on this?
It will be wrong for you to say the government has failed. There is no way the APC could fully fulfill its promises to Nigerians knowing and seeing what they found on ground in four years. But take for example insecurity. What they met on ground was terrible than it could be imagined, yet they were able to bring it down.
Are you saying they have succeeded in terms of security?
If you compare it to what they met on ground, then they have really tried. The menace of Boko Haram was scary then. It had gotten up to Abuja and beyond but now this government has been able to limit and confine their activaties to the north east. It has really weaken the strength of boko haram. I am not saying they have succeeded completely but no Nigerian will say, this government has completely failed in its effort to fight security.
But there is the issue of the herdsmen/farmers crises which is getting worse by the day…
Yes, that is another aspect of insecurity but you must also admit that it did not start recently. It has been there for year. It’s just that it escalate to another level. Farmer/ herders crises can be checked if we go back to the drawing board. It can be tackled if expectations are not limited to the FG alone. There must be deliberate policies that will be formulated to stop it. I used to know of grazing reserves when I was growing up, but now has been overtaking by development and farmers. We must start ranching because it has a multiplier effect on every economy. Both FG and state government must join hands and set up ranches because it is a cluster. Once it is set up anywhere, you will see other economic activities taking place there. People come from the south of Nigeria to buy cattle in the north. If it is ranched, you will see banks setting up branches there, famers will start growing grass, food vendors and other economic activities will take place within and around the ranch. Even hospital will not be left out because the cattle will need vet doctors and also herders themselves will have to take care of their health. Ranching will stop cattle from straying into people’s farms and the cattle will be healthy because they are confined to an environment where they will feed well. The herdsmen themselves will be healthy because they will be confined to an environment. So ranking is the way to go for any economy that wants to grow. Once it is started by the government, private sector will go in because they will see the benefit that will accrue from it.
Some are of the opinion that the capital market if properly tapped can fund our budget. As a former chairman of the capital market committee, do you share this view?
Capital market is a veritable instrument for funding of projects that are long term in nature and again provides such fund as minimum lending rate which is usually single digit. One of this is through issuance of bond. We are not leveraging on our population. While I was at the helm of the committee on capital market, I propagated on the need to integrate ordinary Nigerians and get them to be involved in the capital market. The law provides for capital trade point. You and I grow up to know about ‘Asusu’ which you could put together, a garri sellers association to create a common fund. Instead of the conventional ways of taking the money turn by turn, they can invest the money in any viable stock in the capital market, thereby increasing the capital based of the Nigerian capital market. This will make it stronger and have capacity for corporate bond to be raised and issued. That way, you will teach the local populace to inculcate the habit of saving. During the recapitalization of banks, I stood my ground to say that it is not a viable solution to our problems to limit or force banks to produce N25bn as capital base. I wanted us to stratify our banks to national, state and local before fixing a capital base for the different segments, that way, banks like Lion banks and the rest wouldn’t have gone. They would have been in existence by now. But the government refused to adopt this method and instead peg the capital base at N25bn. Yet today, we are still going back to the small banks issue because the micro finance banks springing up daily are replacing the community and state banks that were assimilated during that capital base issue. How healthy are the mega banks today?
Is this government doing enough for the capital market?
It’s unfortunate that nobody talks about the capital market today. In our days, the whole world knew there was a capital market in Nigeria. The dynamism in today’s capital market was started by us with the Investment and Security Act (ISA) which is why today, you could see instrument like security and securitization being talked about. We were also on top of oversight and so the regulatory bodies were always on their feet. Because of the impact and effectiveness of our efforts, we saved the Nigerian capital market from crashing during the APS share crises between Dangote and Odetola.
What are the main challenges of the capital market today?
The main challenges of the capital market today is that, it is elitist and how many elites do we have in Nigeria? How many of them play in the capital market? The apex regulators must do more than what is doing to educate and enlighten the citizens what the capital market is all about and how they can benefit from it.
Can the capital market fund our national budget?
It’s an avenue for funding and so government can borrow from the capital market but it is not under the whim and caprices of the government. So many state government have issued bond in the past so they can generate funds for their states
Coming back to the APC, are you contented with the way the party is being run?
APC is not being run by angels, they are human beings who are bound to make mistakes. But Adams Oshoimhole has always been a people oriented person. Anytime his attention is drawn to any matter that needs to be corrected, he corrects it immediately.
The issue of direct primaries or otherwise is generating mixed reactions. What is your take?
Politics is about people. Democracy is the nucleus of the people. So direct primaries will give every card carrrying member of the APC, opportunity to choose their leaders. There has been agitation for internal democracy, so direct primaries will pave the way for inclusion. There has been crises with the indirect primaries in the past, the party is also not mindful of how election cost is very high because of Electoral College. APC is democratically flexible and so it has allowed for states that want to do indirect primaries, it’s okay by the party. It can be direct, indirect or consensus candidate.
There were reports that APC is likely to adopt President Buhari as a sole presidential candidate. If that happens, where is the internal democracy you talk about?
If President Buhari is the only person that has declared his intention to run in APC, why won’t he be adopted? Nobody has declared his intention to run under the platform of APC that has been denied the opportunity.
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