Governance world over has been the yardstick to measuring performance in a democratic setting. Dr Jamilu Isyaku Gwamna, A chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in this exclusive interview with Ruth Tene Natsa speaks on governance in Nigeria and in Gombe State in particular…excerpts
After the elections, how would you assess in Nigeria?
Governance anywhere in the world is often endangered and threatened when the electorates get it wrong with the electoral process of selecting leaders. Election is the most powerful tool in any democratic process. Looking at governance in Nigeria, I see hope and huge potential for growth in economy through agriculture and other up-coming sectors. I am saying there is hope because the voters did not make the mistake of choosing the wrong leader at the national and in my state, Gombe. Though I think it is a little too early to give an accurate assessment of governance but with the new direction of the political compass in Nigeria, I am sure Nigerians will reap the fruits of their political investments, having chosen President Muhammadu Buhari for his second term in office. One thing that has bedeviled Nigeria and Africa as a whole in the past is the lack of continuity of programmes. If the opposition had taken over in Nigeria, where do you think the over 500, 000 youths on N-power would be by now? What of the school feeding? I have been in touch with politics for long and I can tell you that the social investment programme of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is the best I have ever known. It has become a model for other African countries.
What in your opinion are the biggest challenges of governance in Nigeria, aside corruption?
As far as Nigeria is concerned, the worst challenge of governance is the lack of sincerity of purpose. Many of our leaders in time past were ironic leaders. Leaders that would say one thing and immediately they win the elections, they do another. They say what they won’t do during campaigns and do what they never said while campaigning. I can tell you, if all the promises of politicians from 1999 till date had been fulfilled, do you think we won’t be competing with other European nations? We know how Singapore started and where they are today. It is a function of sincerity. Today, we have a sincere leader and that’s why for the first time there was a highly minimized campaign extravaganza during the elections that were just concluded. Mr. President allowed his integrity to speak for him as against the norm where leaders buy back their way into office.
Another big issue that must be checked if we must sustain the good governance that Mr. President is availing Nigerians, is the issue of ‘politicization’ of governance on religious, ethnic and tribal divide. It is only in Nigeria that opposition parties condemn governance for four years just because they want to get power. In doing that they drag the good intention of government to the floor with the tool of religious and other means possible to them. Today, everything is politicised from security to health to appointment and everything. Mr. President has had some of his good intentions politicized and demonize by opposition parties just to ensure he doesn’t succeed.
The emergence of the 9th Assembly was filled with suspense and intrigue within and outside your party, the APC, do you see that as a threat to good governance?
In a much as I believe in the principles of separation of powers, I believe more in good governance orchestrated by harmonious relationship triggered by the project Nigeria ideology to improving the living standard of the people. The suspense and the intrigues witnessed prior to the emergence of the 9th Assembly is good for internal democracy as it availed the party the opportunity to know the place of negotiation and understanding which are basic tools for realignment of the ideas of the party. So, I don’t see that as a threat to good governance. All that happened did happen within the ambit of the law. In the cause of the whole issue, the interest of the party prevailed as some party chieftains like Senator Danjuma Goje who interestingly is from my state had to step down their interests for the interest of the nation. That is a good precedence as we mature in our democratic walk to good governance. I believe with the emergence of the party candidates in the 9th Assembly, it would be issue for the party to implement its promises to the people. The Presidency would get the needed supports it couldn’t get in full from the 8th Assembly.
Many have said the 9th Assembly would be a rubber stamp to the Presidency, do you share the same sentiment Sir?
This is part of the challenges of governance that I mentioned earlier. If it is not the politicization of issues like this, why would you have such mind set toward the Assembly. Is it because it is the APC that is in power that things like this has been given unnecessary attention that is really uncalled for? The Assembly is not made up of APC senators only and the leadership of the 9th Assembly cannot take sole decision on their own as it is often laid before the house for scrutiny. When the PDP was in power, the leadership of the Assembly was handled by the party and no dusts or questions were raised as to being rubber stamp to the then Presidency but today everything is politically inspired based on interests. I don’t share that sentiment and I don’t see the 9th Assembly becoming what they suspect them to be. My belief is that the 9th Assembly would work better with the presidency to supplant their interests with the interests of Nigeria without reneging on their own promises as individuals elected from their various constituents to the good people of Nigeria.
What areas do you think government should give more attention in Nigeria?
In Nigeria today, everyone would agree with me that the biggest challenge is insecurity. The government is doing its best to tackle the issues and to be frank to Mr. President, he has done quite impressively except people want to be economical with the truth. In my state for instance, before 2015 the issue of insecurity was at its best in Gombe. People lived in fear and that chased away investors and impoverished our people who are mainly farmers. Today Gombe is a settled case as far as insecurity is concerned. Yes! the fight against insurgency and other vices is not one that you can flush overnight but to be candid we are winning the war. The President should be supported in anyways possible to get more weaponry for our gallant men in the battlefield. Aside that the federal government should further strengthen its entire agricultural programmes to expand our capacity to export and earn more from the agricultural sector, while boosting food security. That sector is an ecosystem of wealth creation sub-sectors that could be harnessed to fast-track the diversification drive of the federal government and solve the challenge of unemployment
What major policy programme would you want the federal government to sustain?
One programme that President Buhari initiated and sustained against all financial odds was the engaging of 500, 000 N-power graduates which to me became the best social palliative against unemployment. It has given financial empowerment to youths and graduates. This I think should be re-energized to engage more graduates. In addition, the government can engage in partnership with the private sector to see how to empower more youths with skills for more opportunities especially in agricultural sector.
Talking of partnership, several partnerships have not really helped Nigeria in the past, so how do you see FG’s willingness to join the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)?
Well I believe in PPP because of the huge financial booster it is capable of providing. I can’t quite accept in totality that partnerships have not benefited Nigeria. We may have our challenges in that area but partnerships have been very useful especially when the terms are very genuine. Coming to the free trade, that’s an economic partnership with other African countries and President Buhari has agreed after thorough scrutiny. This is what leadership is all about. You don’t jump into things like that. This is why Mr. President was cautious while expressing concerns that it could allow neighboring countries to inundate Nigeria with low-priced goods, and confound efforts to encourage moribund local manufacturing and expand farming. If after due consideration the federal government is giving a node, then it means there are openings to boost our economy in that regard.
How do you see governance in Gombe State following a political switch over from PDP to APC?
Well it is getting better now. The new administration has been changing the narrative as far as governance is concerned. We are now for the first-time having synergy between the federal government and the state. This is what we all clamored for that was missing then. You can’t run a government at the state level in isolation from the central government, it will be bad for the state. Today, we have seen series of partnerships between the federal and state government which is good business for Gombe in terms of politics. In fact, a lot has changed from the education sector, agriculture, water supply and the willingness to push for good governance for the people to feel the deep-rooted impact of the APC led government in the state. With the current push and vigor of Gov. Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya, Gombe has potential to becoming a good example of a state where good governance can be said to have relocated to.
What do you think could be the major challenge against this current administration drive to good governance in Gombe?
I really think the major challenge is the huge debt profile heaped down for this administration to inherit. Without money governance is difficult. But with the astute financial prowess of Gov Inuwa, as a successful businessman and a financial resource person, he will make his mark and leave a legacy that Gombe State will be proud in spite the limited resources.
What areas would you like to see improvements in Gombe?
Every sector matters. You cannot concentrate on one and leave the others. But based on what the campaign promises are and the available resources, I only wish the governor well and pray for him too. One thing is sure, whatever area affected; the people would be the ultimate winner. I want to commend Gov. Inuwa in the area of education. Meeting key stakeholders in Abuja and other international bodies barely 30 days in office is an indication of a man that is prepared for governance. This is good for Gombe looking at the bad educational record the present administration inherited.
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