In this interview with journalists, Adamawa State governor, Senator Jibrilla Bindow speaks on the chances of APC in the general elections, strides of government in the Northeast and other burning national issues. ANDREW ESSIEN presents the excerpts.
Are you not worried with the state of internal bickering in your party on the eve of an all-important general elections?
I use to be worried but right now, we have settled ourselves and things have started taking shape. The centre is stable now and so, there is no cause for alarm. Even the reward system has been addressed. These type of things happen everywhere. There are problems in all the parties. The PDP have more problems than the APC. Even the venue for their Presidential campaign in the South-south is an issue because I learned one of the governor’s is refusing to release the venue. So, you can imagine, if that is true, how they will go through election when a governor from the same party will refuse them a venue to campaign. For the APC, the governors are coordinating the President’s campaign and we don’t have problems with our people. All politics is local. So, the problems are minor and right now, I am not worried.
Some of your colleagues are reportedly supporting their preferred candidates in other parties because they could not get the ticket from the APC. What is your take on this?
If it is happening, it is very unfortunate because in democracy, I don’t think it is acceptable for you to support another party’s candidate. For us in Adamawa, we are all APC and there is something we call sak. That is from top to bottom, there is no chance of voting another person. It may not even work because the electorates are not that educated to be able to distinguish and when they vote for one person, the chances is that they will vote the same party all the way.
In spite of the obvious odds that were mounted against you, you scaled through the primaries. How did you achieve that feat?
It is normal, you know in politics, everybody is struggling to get a ticket. So, this is not the first time I will be undergoing primaries. I was in the Senate and I went through a lot of problems during the primaries. But you know, I am always the masses’ candidates because of the perception that I can turn things around. When I was in the Senate, I did very well and people were talking about what I did as a senator. Then in 2015, when I came for governorship, it was tough for me too, but God saw me through and in the last primaries, the only challenge we had was the stakeholders said indirect and then at the last minute they changed it to direct but we surmounted the hurdles, did the direct and we are happy. For me now, whenever we are doing any primaries in our party, I will suggest the direct method because it is about popularity. If you are not popular, you cannot go and do direct. In the direct primaries, I got about 196, 000 votes and so I just need another 50, 000 to win my general elections because if I have 250, 000 or 270, 000 votes, I will win the general elections. So, if my party people voted me and gave me almost 200, 000, how about the general public that are happy with what we are doing?
You see, development is something that you cannot hide and it is what the masses want to see especially when they are not used to seeing it. The problem I am having in this state is that I have brought change; change of development and naturally as human beings, we do not accept change just like that, we have to go through it slowly. But I am happy that the masses have understood why even some elites are struggling with me. The masses know the reasons. The good thing is that I don’t join issues with them because I do not have to. As a governor, even if somebody does not like me, it is normal. You do not have to like me. You see, in a democracy, when you want to vote for leaders, you may not have to like him; you don’t have to like me as a person called Bindow. All you have to do is to go for competence. Like, going for a reelection now, people should just base their analysis on what I have done or put on ground. They should be able to assess me based on what I have done in the last three and a half years. I have constructed 397 roads in this state; it is not something hidden. It is physical and everybody knows because where they know there were no roads before, they are seeing roads now and there are four major General Hospitals that we have in this state and I have even built a complete new hospital in Numan.
With the little money we have, we have renovated the Specialist Hospital in Yola. We have renovated the Ganye Hospital. Where I come from, Mubi, if you go now, you will think it is a specialist hospital and with some NGOs trying to assist us too, bringing us some machines and the resources of the state is nothing to write home about. When we came in, there was nothing. Even mere salary of the state was not paid. There was about seven months arrears that the former governor refused to pay. So, of recent, I have been able to offset the areas with about N5 billion because this state is a civil service state. They say, yes I am laying infrastructure, but they also want their stomach infrastructure by way of salaries taken care of too and of course people must eat. If there is any country or state that cannot pay salaries, that country or state is a failed state because personally, paying salaries is not a yardstick for performance. It is compulsory that you pay people because they are working. So, it is not a developmental yardstick. You cannot say because this governor is paying salaries, then he has performed.
Now that you have flagged off your campaign, what’s next?
We are going to start our local government campaign. Before then, we will zone the state into three segments and start within the zones. We have already established campaign councils in each of the zones and have already inaugurated them to campaign for the President, the governor and all other candidates of the APC. By Monday, we will start going to the local governments and to continue what the zonal campaign teams have started already. Basically this is what we are going to do having inaugurated and flagged-off the campaign. You saw that the flag was given to us and l will now go round to give members of the Assembly and other persons their flags.
During the flag-off, you did say that President Muhammadu Buhari does not need to campaign in Adamawa and you know that this is the home state of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Don’t you think there is a challenge?
Yes, as a former Senator – not only that – l was opportuned to be in the Senate, l was also the Vice Chairman on the Committee on Defence and l knew how this area used to be in terms of insurgency struggling and the way our people were suffering and what have you. I was almost the de facto chairman because the chairman didn’t like coming to the North-east because of Boko Haram. He is from Rivers State and he was not comfortable coming here. Honestly after President Buhari was sworn in and we started seeing what he was doing in terms of fighting insurgency.
The commitment of the President in fighting Boko Haram is what everybody here must commend. Before now they (Boko Haram insurgents) used to go in thousands to capture villages, towns and what have you and for your information they even captured my own local government, Mubi – the second largest town in the state. Some people will tell you that Mubi, in terms of population is even more than Yola but Boko Haram almost captured that place for 14 days and at that time, the Chief of Defence Staff, Badeh, who is now late is from there. He was in service and they captured that place and even changed the name of Mubi to Midinatumhanji Islam. But immediately the President came in, before you could say anything things started getting better and not only that, we in the state collaborated with the Military and with the local hunters in the entire process. The local hunters really helped us. This Boko Haram thing, honestly up till now nobody has told me the real objective of this struggle that they are doing. For me, it is just a bunch of international criminals that are just trying to terrorise everybody because they would go and burn churches, burn Mosques, kill children, kill women, break banks and do all sorts of crimes. So, what is it about? It has nothing to do with religion.
There is no any religion that says go and kill women and children and something like that. Basically the President has done very well and even with the IDPs that were left with us in Adamawa. When we came in we had about 25 IDP camps and out of the 25, l will tell you that 95 per cent of the contents of the IDP camps were not from Adamawa State so we have to close some because we came at a time the IDPs were used by some criminals to collect money from international agencies.
That they have NGOs and they would come and snap children and you would never see them again and they would just go and do something else. We say no, this must stop. We don’t want to say we have IDPs and it will stop us from developing Adamawa. So, we try to send those IDPs back. Those from Adamawa were taking back to their communities and those from other communities, mainly Borno we tried to talk to the governor to take them back and from there as far as Adamawa is concerned our security, generally is stable and every where is calm.
Are you saying that there is no chance for the former vice president who is the son of the soil to defeat President Buhari?
We want to campaign based on issues. On fighting the insurgency, President Buhari has done a lot of things in terms of community development in the State. There’s no road today in this state, federal roads, where work is not going on. You can go and verify it. From Yola as you are going to Mubi, you will see contractor working. From Mubi to Maiduguri, people are working physically now. You can see it. From Yola to Gombe, one Chinese company is also working. From Numan to Taraba, they are on site. From Mayo Beluwa to Jada, which is where Atiku hails from, that road has been there for over 20 years, nobody has done the road. That road, Jada – Ganye – Tonga, has produced vice president, Atiku; Bamanga Tukur, the former PDP National Chairman, he is from Jada; PPS to former president Goodluck Jonathan, Hassan Tukur; the former Comptroller General of the Nigeria Custom Service (NCS) is from there. Many personalities that could have done that road are from there. So, will you go and tell those people not to vote for Buhari. This road is going on. They have seen development and change in their own life.
So, by the time we say ‘go and vote for Buhari’, they will do it. I hope you understand what I’m saying. The fact is that we can campaign based on issues. I don’t talk on anything personal. For me, it’s not politics. Once you start personalising things, then you are not a politician. I don’t want to be part of that kind of uncivilised things.
We want to campaign based on issues. Even in the State, if not because the President is helping us by bringing the Paris Club refund and all sorts of things, we cannot build all the infrastructure you are seeing. And the people know. So, when we say vote for Buhari, they will vote. You will see Buhari winning Adamawa very clearly at the end of the day.
Your counterpart in Borno State, Kashim Shettima, wept at Villa when he took stakeholders to President Buhari. Would you say government has done enough in view of the current development since they claimed before that the group has been decimated?
With the word ‘enough’ that you use, they have done more than enough. If you have said they have eradicated Boko Haram, I will say no. But whether they have done enough, I will say they have done more than enough. That is what I just told you. Before, towns were taken over. But since Buhari came, no single town, no matter how small it is, that has been taken over by Boko Haram. You never see them moving in groups engaging in guerilla and suicide attacks.
They may be looking for soft targets like markets where people are gathering and release bombs, killing people. But taking over villages and towns like before even in Borno, the case is now different. So, the president has done wonderfully well. Nobody can deny that, especially anybody living in the North east, particularly we that are the front line States – Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
Before, if they tell you to come to Adamawa, you will not come because of the perception that there is Boko Haram. If they tell you that there was a time when Boko Haram operated here, even if you go to where they had reigned, you won’t believe because people have already assimilated into the community.
In Adamawa State, we are now safe by 95 per cent. The only local government that is under military watch is Madagali that shares border with Gwosa and Cameroon because there are mountains around there and that is where some of Boko Haram are hiding. Let me tell you, my own belief is that the remnants of Boko Haram are the locals. Like Madagali that I mentioned, it is their children who were in Boko Haram before, who are now back terrorising their own people. While looking for food, they will come, terrorise the people they know and rush into the mountain. To me, the present government has done a wonderful job especially the Armed Forces, the Army and the Air Force.
The Chief of Army Staff has done a good job. He is a very strong person. They are all committed. I worked with them in 2011 up to 2015 when I was in the Senate. I really worked with the military at that time seriously because that was my oversight job. I have key interest because Adamawa was part of it. I’m from Mubi which was also at the heartbeat of the problem at the time.
So, I can tell you elaborately that there’s a complete difference between the military of then and the current one. These are real professional and conventional officers. I relate with them personally because I was in the Senate at that time and I oversight them. I always meet them and tell them to help free my people. So, Buhari has done well specifically in the fight against the insurgents. As you know we have other problems like farmer/herders conflicts. This is a seasonal issue. Before we were born, it has been happening. To me, sometime, I have belief that it is the politicians that are taking advantage of certain problems. Otherwise, herdsmen/farmers conflicts are things that have been there for long.
There was no problem in those days. The farmers will even keep some grasses for cattle rearers. They (cattle rearers) will offer fertiliser in return. But this is no longer happening now. It is generational change that comes with political intonation.
What is your position on the raging debate over an increased new national minimum wage?
As far as we are concerned in Adamawa, whatever the federal government agrees to, we also agree to pay. I cannot do otherwise.
How do you get money to do the work you have done in the state?
I don’t get any extra money. But coming from a private sector back ground, I know how to manage resources. For your information. Management of resources and human beings is what makes a good Governor because it is not easy to manage human beings and then you must know how to manage resources. That is where the difference is and that is why you can say this Governor is doing this or that. Most importantly, God is on my side. I am a prayerful person and I believe in God especially now that I know that I don’t have anybody but God.
We saw Organised Labour at your re-election rally. What is the magic in getting them on your side?
Whatever I do, I carry everybody along. Whatever I do in the state, even if it does not affect them, I call them in and they see how I do things. I have been paying their salaries and do not have problem with them. I am always with them and whenever they invite me, I am always there for them.
Where do you draw your inspirations from?
Honestly, I have passion to serve and I want to serve my people. Also, I know that the God who decided to anoint me to be in this office has honoured me. So, when God gives you a position like Governor, you should not play with it. Try and leave a legacy so that when you leave, people will point to it and say you did this and that because one day you must leave that office. It is either your tenure will finish and you go or you die. So, something must happen and you leave that office and when you leave, people will point to that legacy. So, what is driving me is the passion that I want to serve and make people happy. Probably that is because of my background because that is what I grew up and met my father doing.
On a lighter note, how do you relax?
I don’t relax. If I sleep for one or two hours, I am ok. At night, I sleep around 1.00am and wake up at 5.00am to pray and my day starts. I go to the office at 7.00am. I stay with my mother and Sometimes, I go stay with my mother in the morning before going to the office. People with problems will go and stay in my mother’s place and I will have to start addressing their problems. That is what sometimes delay my getting to the office. I close from pm and then go and inspect my projects because I believe in supervision. I don’t believe in people coming to tell me stories.
We came into office in May. By June of that year, I started constructing roads and don’t go back home until mid night inspecting ongoing projects. When God gives you a position like this, He will also give some angels to protect you because God cannot give you a position and disgrace you.
What will you be telling the people when you go out to Campaign?
Honestly, there are certain local government I may not personally go to campaign especially in the northern zone where I come from because I have done so much in terms of development in that area. They feel that I am their son and why should I come to campaign when I am going for my second term. Seeing what I have done, the know that if I return again as governor, I will do more for them. So, I will rather go to other areas to campaign.
For example, if I go to Shelleng, for 70 years, they had no road. But if you go there today, I have given them an asphalt road. I promised to construct their road and I did fulfill my promise and construct a 47 km road for them with two big bridges and it is there for them to see. Out of 21 local governments, I have projects in 19 and the projects are there for anyone to see. If it is not roads, then hospitals and schools. There are so many things that we can tell the people. In campaigning for the President, I can say that the money we are using comes from the President. The Mayo Beluwa, Jada, Ganye road where Atiku comes from is being constructed by Buhari and there is no way he will not win election there. Atiku is from that area and Bamanga Tukur is from that area and they did not construct the road when they had the opportunity. Except if the people are ungrateful, they will not leave the person who is working for them to go and vote for the man who did nothing for them. If opinion molders who are coming in here have given Adamawa to APC because we have worked for the people, even those people that don’t like me, will try and work for Buhari.
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