Hon. Aminu Suleiman is represents Fagge federal constituency of Kano state. In this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TetFund states that reports of crisis in the ruling APC are being blown out of proportion, among other issues.
Some are advocating that TetFund interventions be extended to private institutions as well. Do you support this notion?
That Bill came and we struck it out. It is nonsensical for TetFund to give intervention to private universities. How do you expect public funds to be used to develop a private and commercial initiative? When I saw the Bill, I said to myself, it is a waste of legislative time to discuss it but because of our mandate, we still discussed it and even held a public hearing on it. As a matter of fact, even some proponents of the Bill were ashamed to come out and defend the Bill. If you do that, everybody will go and borrow money from market women to build one classroom and then will be using TetFund money to develop it the way they want and be making their money. I like the idea of private universities because they are complementing the efforts of the public universities, but it is unthinkable that anybody will propose that we use public funds to develop private initiatives.
Should the Federal Government continue to fund tertiary institutions in Nigeria?
That is where our Professors and the universities themselves should focus their attention. I see a sort of contradiction because our institutions are advocating for autonomy, yet they are putting more pressure on the Federal Government to fund them 100%. Now you are saying that Federal Government should give you money to run your business and they shouldn’t ask you how you manage the fund, it doesn’t make sense. I think to further defend and strengthen the universities and the autonomy the universities hold dearly, I will recommend that our tertiary institutions should begin to think of ways of funding outside government. As desirable as government funding is, we must also realise that, there are other sectors of our society that require serious funding too by government. So, if every sector will hold government by the jugular, then we will be strangulating the economy.
Let’s talk politics. There are fears that the unresolved crises that trailed the APC primaries might hamper the chances of the party in the general elections. As an APC member, what do you think?
It will be an unfair compliment for anybody to say that what happened during the APC primaries are strange to other parties. Probably the crises were overblown because we are the ruling party, therefore any issue which is overblown is splashed on the pages of newspapers. I concur that, there were issues in some parts of the country and it won’t be fair if these issues are not revisited. I believe with the capacity of the national chairman, and of course the dexterity of the president must be brought to bear to ensure that those who feel greatly aggrieved have to be accommodated in one way or the other. Not necessarily by way of creating a window for elective purposes but it can be by appointments. All over the world where primaries are held, grouses usually arise from the process of electioneering, but the capacity and dexterity of the leaders to assuage those aggrieved and ensure that they are accommodated are what keep the party strong. I believe the party has resolved some of these problems by making the aggrieved people understand that, the party comes first, and it requires a Buhari as a president to sustain the foundation he has laid for the recovery of Nigeria and the future of our children yet unborn. For us to return to 16 years for the same party and character that has plunged Nigeria into this anomaly, we will be doing an injustice to ourselves and political life. I must advise that we should not dismiss anybody.
Adams Oshiomhole is being blamed for some of these crises particularly allegations of bribe taking. Is this not image dent for APC which came on a mantra of change?
Accusing the national chairman of the APC for whatever happens is normal, because he is the head of the party, therefore rightly or wrongly every action stops at his table. Those who are happy applaud the chairman and the aggrieved blame the chairman whether rightly or wrongly. But on the allegation of receiving money, I think those who made the allegation are grossly unfair to Oshiomhole. You can accuse him of high-handedness with due respect to him, as one person that seeks to dominate his environment, that you cannot exonerate him from it, but the Adams that I have known who I have worked with for 25 years before coming here, it will be strange and unbelievable that he is involved in this kind of racketeering. If you give me the opportunity, I will say that, he cannot be involved in such graft as far as I am concerned. It is the right for whoever feels bad to ask for Adams’ resignation. I cannot deny them that right but I will not support anybody or even Adams himself to say, he will resign simply because some people have called on him to do so otherwise, we will be a country of resignation. The only two things are one, you prove your misdemeanor allegation against the chairman and you proceed to follow due process of the APC to challenge the chairman or you accommodate the circumstance you find yourself having lost out. It’s just a matter of four years, you can still try again. Others were removed through elections and voted in after some time. The beauty in elections is not in winning but in taking part in it. The leadership of the APC and the government would have learn from the last primaries. Adams became chairman amidst crises in the party created by other people. In the process of reconciling those initially aggrieved, it is not impossible that he will step on toes. So, In trying to solve the problem, he might be creating another one without knowing it.
PDP’s Atiku is seen as a major force that will likely win the election against APC. What do you think?
Yes it is a concern because PDP as far as I am concerned have proven to the world that, they have not learnt any lesson. They came out to say they are sorry, they have wronged Nigerians and who were the drivers that wronged Nigeria? It is Atiku and Obasanjo. They directly and indirectly brought about the hardship we are currently going through. You don’t go to a doctor with a cancer that he couldn’t treat for 16 years and still want to go there again after another one has saved you. So, the architects of Nigeria’s sufferings are Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar so much that Obasanjo said if he ever support Atiku, God will never forgive him. But because of political interests and enimity, Obasanjo chose for God not to forgive him, and go back to support Atiku. Therefore our concern for Atiku is not borne out of fear but out of concern that any sane Nigerian with capacity to reason and reflect will contemplate an Atiku as a president.
Coming back to labour matter. NLC has demanded for N30,000 as minimum salary for civil servants, do you think this is feasible?
As a comrade, I do not see this as a challenge because all my life I have been negotiating for the Nigerian workers. As a matter of fact, more than that, it is desirable for the Nigerian worker. I am concerned that the Federal Government might be able to pay and some selected states, but two-thirds of the states cannot pay N30,000 and still embark on other projects.
What is the way out?
The way out might not be palatable for some workers if I advocate it, but let me use Dino Melaye’s words even though I am not his admirer. ‘If you lie, you will die, if you say the truth, you will still die’, so I will say it the way I see it. I will suggest a sort of deregulated arrangement, the Federal Government can agree with the workers on what to pay their workers and the states should negotiate what they can pay their workers. For instance, you cannot say that what Kano can pay, Jigawa can also pay. You don’t expect Lagos and Osun to pay the same thing to their workers. So, let’s have a benchmark which we cannot go below and then, the states can negotiate with their workers from their.