Alhaji Isa Yuguda was governor of Bauchi State on the platform of ANPP and PDP, between 2007and 2015. The politician who recently defected to the governing APC, in this interview with select journalists, explains why President Muhammadu Buhari deserves another term. JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH was there for LEADERSHIP
What has been your experience these past few days since joining the APC?
It has been exciting to be in the party where I met some of my old colleagues already in APC and we are working together.
You said you are in APC to help Governor Abubakar and President Buhari win re-election, what happens if they don’t?
Insha Allah, that is why I’m in APC. But the question does not arise because you don’t know what will happen tomorrow. So, I’m not even thinking of failure. We are not going to fail, we are going to win.
How much of a threat do you think your former party, the PDP, poses to the APC in 2019?
No politician should take the opposition very lightly, or else he’ll be making a big mistake. He has to take his campaign and agenda to the people to convince them that he is capable and able, backed by sufficient experience and education for the position he is aspiring for. That should be the purpose of a politician.
As for me, I’m a very serious-minded person, in my vocations or private sector career as a banker and later as Minister, I have always achieved my set targets and delivered on my promises to the people. There is no assignment I gave myself that I don’t complete. I do a lot of planning, with milestones that I have achieved. As a CEO of banks, I delivered on my promises to shareholders and that is what I did in politics.
Do you think it is a good strategy for the APC and Presidency to opt for low-key campaigns ahead of 2019?
I don’t know of the plan of the presidency. APC is the party which brought the presidency. Whatever it will take to win the election, it is the party that will decide, not any other person. The party is in charge of party policies and programmes.
You were still in the PDP when former President Jonathan lost election, what do you make of his account of events in his book, the ‘Transition Hours’?
I haven’t read the book. But what he said was his experience as a president. When I read the book I will be able to understand it better. Besides that, I may not be in a position as governor to know what he was experiencing or his schedules and programmes or what he perceived. He had his own experiences and I had mine too as governor. Although I may know some things in my position as governor which he may have put in the book that may not be correct, until I read the book I can’t form my opinions on it.
With your strong support for President Buhari, what do you think can form his campaign points?
I believe he has done very well in terms of power. Power supply has improved so much that I can restart my flour mill business in Bauchi, because I could not sustain it with diesel. I believe many other industries are also powering back to life and breaking even or making profits.
Government has done well in decimating Boko Haram even though the war is still on. At least, we know it’s not as fierce and deadly as it used to be in 2015 when this government took over. Also I’m very impressed with the efforts in agriculture, especially rice production. The temporary pains are essential to secure the future generations that we will not import rice. Besides, we’ ll be able to feed ourselves and not subject ourselves to external uncertainties. Then we are creating employment, and making savings from reducing rice imports while empowering our local farmers with more income.
I am equally impressed with the efforts of the Minister of the FCT, unlike others before him who focused on allocating land. Abuja is now like a city. All the adjoining districts are now well connected to the city centre and the city roads tarred.
In what areas do you think the President can do more to serve the yearnings of Nigerians?
I think the public service needs a shake up. I will like to see SERVICOM rejuvenated to ensure better civil service delivery. There is need to train and retrain civil servants so that ethics and culture of proper civil service do not disappear, especially as it appears there is no serious attention to capacity building. Government should also try and improve the welfare of public servants. They are the engine room of government and should be well catered for so that they don’t look the other way and be cutting corners. They need not become like contractors doing business with government but should be appreciated enough to face their core duties. That cannot be achieved without remunerating them properly. Another area that needs special attention is improvement in healthcare delivery at the state and federal levels.
Having recently lost the senatorial bye-election in Bauchi, where next is your political bus stop?
I didn’t lose the election, I won the election and I know I won. That is the much I can say. I want to assure you that I wouldn’t have been so angry at God while pursuing Senate seat after being a governor. It is my people that called me and convinced me to contest for the seat and they actually voted for me. The rest is just history.
Where then are we looking to see you in the nearest future?
I have paid my dues in the country, I have operated as a two-time Managing Director in the private sector – banking – and I served as a two-time Minister in the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Aviation and I also served as Governor for eight years. What else do you want me to offer Nigeria more than what I have done? Very few Nigerians can have the privilege that I was given by the Almighty God. So now that I have retired, I want to start a new life at the age of 60. I want to venture into a business that I can grow before I die.
How do you rate your successor in office, Gov. Abubakar?
I am not in a position to do so. It will be unethical for me to rate a colleague in government, it will not be fair to him. I have done my best as a governor but he is serving now and I wish him well. He is doing his best to serve our people and I wish him well and wish the other governors well as they serve their people. Governors move around with sirens, but it is not about the sirens, it is about the job. The job is not an easy job. A governor is someone to be sympathised with if he knows his job. Only those who do not know their job are excited about it, but there is nothing exciting about being a governor. If I am asked again to become a governor, I will never contest. That I assure you.
Not that it is not exciting, by the time you serve eight years as a governor, what else are you going to offer that state again? You have given your best, do you mean to say that you are the only person? There are millions of other state citizens who are competent to occupy that seat. So it is not about a seat that you will inherit leadership like a traditional institution. Even if the Constitution didn’t say eight years, I have had enough. I have given my best and other people should also come out and continue.
How then do you wrap up your sojourn in politics?
I have left a lot of legacy projects. I left a university and today they have over eight thousand students and their law students are graduating. I constructed about the best airport in Nigeria. As former Minister of Aviation, I know it is the best. some of the facilities, like the Instrument Landing System (ILS), it is the only airport with ILS that is calibrated with the satellite, all the others are calibrated by an aircraft in Senegal. So you can see how sophisticated that airport is and it has complied with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards. I built 19 hospitals, from a 50-bed hospital to the biggest of which is 150 beds, equipped with MRS and CT-scans. I did many roads and bridges and sank boreholes, rehabilitated schools. I was engaged in capacity building and I ensured that money was circulated round the state and so many other things. So I should feel contented, I can’t do better than what I have done. If today given another opportunity, I cannot do better than I have performed.
What do you say about the call to replace the Service Chiefs in order to rejuvenate the war against Boko Haram?
Anybody who has that view is just being sentimental. The service chiefs we have today are the most committed and they have done their best. You can see that by the time they took over, they did not take over a military that was properly equipped, and ordering new equipment is a long-term process. So the little they had, they managed; I am assuring you that some of the orders they made a year ago, because of procurement processes of government, are just being delivered now. So to sit in your house and start criticising the team we have today is not fair.
We in the Northeast are suffering most in this insurgency, especially Boko Haram. We have seen the service chiefs physically in the field, going to the battlefield to encourage their soldiers and to motivate them. That is what a military man should do. So I don’t know what magic that those criticising their performance want them to do more than this.
The Airforce for instance, never had it so good like under this present leadership. So when are we going to have heroes in Nigeria? Every person that comes, we criticise or abuse him. I have worked so much in Bauchi but nobody is singing my praises. It is only the poor people and the Almighty God that know that I have worked and are happy with me today. That is why I’m happy wherever I go in the saw today. Those who are asking for the removal of the service chiefs have their own agenda.
You have not been heard complaining about the ‘16 years’ of PDP like some of your former colleagues. Why?
You can’t condemn a system that you were part of. They may have performed very badly, and they may have performed very well, the judge is Nigerians. I was an active player and a minister in the government and I know I did my best. The present Minister of Aviation is doing well. But I brought some reforms in aviation, like the law that gave birth to what you have today as Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which led Nigeria to attain Category 1 status in the international Civil Aviation community. We did so many other reforms and reviewed laws that were due since 1964. I did these things to open the sector to private participation. All the things that I did, today, nobody is talking about them.
When we were in the Transport Ministry with my senior colleague, Ojo Maduekwe of blessed memory, we wrote the 25-year master plan for the railway that is being implemented today. We wrote the cabotage law that is supposed to be saving Nigeria over $3 billion today. We did so many things and introduced new policies in the sector that paved way for privatisation of some agencies and parastatals of the Ministry of Transportation. Yet nobody is talking about them. Today, Ojo is dead and buried and that is the end of the story; nobody will sit down and say that this is what he did for Nigeria. That is the typical Nigeria. So for me to come and say that I am criticising all that, no.
Some people that served with me in the past like Governor el-Ruafi are in government now. Everybody has done his best given the circumstances that he found himself and given his own kind of inborn gift from Almighty God, because every person is different.
President Obasanjo that we worked under was also doing his best to make sure that every Minister performed. We were on our toes 24 hours a day because he could call us up to the Villa for meetings even at 3:00 am. So, we can’t spend this time and make these sacrifices for Nigeria at that material time, and you turn round to say we have not done well.
I am not saying that there was no corruption because somebody who is caught stealing government money and enriching himself for the public treasury… I think we have a number of them that served different governments of PDP and it’s left for the the law to catch up with them or if they are let off. But let us draw a line and move forward.
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