You were a speaker of the House of Representatives before becoming the governor of Sokoto State, what has been the experience?
You are welcome to Sokoto, it is like you are talking about two different worlds, the House of Representatives, National Assembly Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Sokoto State. In the House of Representatives, you have representations from 360 constituencies of Nigeria who are from different and diverse backgrounds coming with their different degrees of experience, some older than you, some more educated, some social and wealthier than you, some younger than you, and holding equal mandates representing their constituencies with different wold views and perspectives on issues and all of that. Here in Sokoto one can say that the people in the state are largely from the same background, even though we have the Fulani’s, we have the Hausa, some Kanuri’s and other Nigerians that are living here with us, it is not the same as what we have in the national assembly, particularly in the House of Representative. When you talk about the leadership of the two, the House of Representatives whereby the grace o God and support of my colleagues I served as speaker of that House and here that I am serving currently for the last 6 years as governor, there are two different constitutional roles and you are dealing with two different sets of people, if I may put it that way. Here we have all those diversities that I mentioned, even here, some people are richer than you, some are older and more educated, but in terms of close contact and micromanagement, it is a different ball game, you are first among equals as a speaker, in the state you are the chief executive not just first among equal. That alone tells you that the experiences are not the same and as governor, you deal more closely with the minute of the issues affecting the lives of the people. As governor if somebody’s wife has a stillbirth they will say it is you, if they take light in somebody’s compound they will say it the governor, if their tap is not running, they will say it the governor, it is not the same experience either as a parliamentarian in the federal level or as speaker. That is why is said two different worlds, two different experiences.
What are you missing?
That relationship, that solidarity and working together like schoolmates, unlike here where I am the chief executive. Aside, my deputy who was elected alongside me, every other person is my appointee, it is part of what I am missing, and of course, the debates, when you are talking about and discussing national issues, bigger issues.
Security is gradually becoming an issue, Sokoto has a history of being one of the most peaceful states, what is happening, and what are you doing about it?
Let me give you a background of how we get to where we are, unfortunately, Zamfara has been the epicenter of banditry and kidnapping in the Northwest, most of the states including Niger are getting the heat from Zamfara, what is the distance between Sokoto and Zamfara? Substantial part of almost about 14 local governments are either neighboring Zamfara or Niger Republic, and with what is happening in the Sahel region which includes Mali, Niger, Central Africa Republic is permeating and creeping into Nigeria, talking about banditry, ISWAP and all of that, agents of instability that carrying out their acts around the Sahel region they have a way of coming into Nigeria through our porous borders, so by geography, being neighbors with Niger Republic sharing common borers is part of it, secondly being neighbors with Zamfara State the epicenter of banditry and kidnapping in the Northwest is part of it and to a large extent, especially recently and the inability of the security agencies to coordinate their operations in Zamfara against our own advice as governors of about 8 states that have met the president several times in the last three to four years, advised him and even advised the service chiefs that whenever they are going to undertake this large scale operation it should be simultaneous, they should have a blocking force in parts of Kaduna, Niger, Kebbi, Katsina and Sokoto simultaneously and carry out the the operation simultaneously, they didn’t do that. Secondly, the timing of the operation at the peak of the raining season one, the forest is thick, two the military and security agencies do not have the equipment that can move into those difficult terrains, that also did not help matters, so whenever they carry out operations on the bandits in their camps they pander towards our states that are opened and porous so instead of getting them and get done with them in Zamfara State, they disperse them into our states and most of those that came in to attack our people, most of them are as a result of those operations recently. Another factor is also the fact that as I have said, they do not have enough to carry out the operations, I mean the security services, not enough manpower, not enough equipment, firepower. So it is not as if it is about the people of Sokoto State, it more has to do with the situation with our neighbors. And talking about what we have done, there has been a lot of synergy with the government and the security agencies in Sokoto State from the beginning and I must commend them, they have been working together and we have been working together with them in terms of addressing the challenge, we do the much that we could and we are still doing because there was never a time any of those security agencies approach us for support without getting it or having it. In the last four to five years, we have given out not less than 500 vehicles to security services in Sokoto State, not less than 500 vehicles, it is on record, how many states have done that? As I said we pay them their allowances from our coffers and we are up to date in the payment of those allowances. You can check what I am going to tell you, we have refurbished for the police virtually all their divisional police headquarters in Sokoto State, we are building about 12 new ones for them, we have given them every support, coming up with a framework of engagement with His Eminence, the traditional institutions and other leaders, community support and all of that is being galvanized by the government and Sultan-in-council. So we are not sleeping, we have a standing committee headed by the Sultan, you know he is a retired general, that is also working on the issue of security in the state, we hold regular stakeholders meeting, even three days ago, we held one when we introduced yet another measure of outlawing a self-styled vigilante that was coming up because they were part of the problem in Zamfara State, a few individuals without any cooperating from any authority will just form themselves into self-help vigilante, they will start going from hamlet to hamlet identifying Fulani’s and just killing them and attacking them, so we outlawed them, it is part of the measures we are taking. And when the government of Zamfara decided to go into that operation in collaboration with the military, I went on my own volition to Zamfara a few days to the commencement of the operation, and that was what they told me. I was there to condole with the family of Ambassador Adamu Umar my boss under whose tutelage I passed in his law chambers, he died and I went to see his family so I went to see the governor in the Government House, that was when the governor informed me for the first time that such an operation was in the offing and there was a need for us to also pass an executive order and certain measures to contain issues of movement of fuel, movement of motorcycles in certain areas and shutting down communication networks, so it was not like it we had discussed it with him before and yet we came here I conveyed the security council meeting and we agreed on the same to adopt the same measure they adopted in Zamfara State through an executive order and we are doing quite a lot in terms of talking to the people, in terms of sensitizing the people, in terms of supporting the security forces, so it is not as if we are sleeping. But certain times, these things happen because also we have problems with informants, members of communities who are now compromised and bought over by the bandits and criminals and they are collaborating with them no they give the information on the movement of security personnel and before you know it a security detachment that is going to carry out an operation is ambushed, so it is a whole lot of complex situation that we have been managing, but you know the limitations of every governor in Nigeria, they are very clear, they are very manifest so for anybody to begin to see it as if a governor is not doing what he ought to do, no governor can do more than what I have told you, I have not seen any governor who has taken a cutlass or a machete not to talk of a gun and pursued a bandit or a book-haram in the bush, at best what we do is to support the security agencies and give support to IDPs, that is what we have been doing.
Have you considered having a regional security outfit?
Over the years, we’ve had sub-regional governors meeting in the Northwest including Niger, at a point in time, each of us contributed N100 million as initial contributions for operations to be carried out by the military, this was almost five years back and for those who have the neighboring Niger Republic, we have been having meetings with our colleagues from the Niger Republic, we go there and they come here. So it is not as if that we have not been having regional cooperation. But we have not discussed forming a regional outfit because of the perception associated with that, but we have done and we are working with the security is that we strengthen our vigilante at every state level and aligned them to work with the security services and the Amotekun and the Ebube Agu are not better than the vigilante, they are just a similar version of vigilante so what we are doing is to put them under some training by the police and supporting the security services.
The Southern governors recently held a meeting and agreed that the presidency should come to the south come 2023, given that you may be interested, will your ambition not offend your friends from the south?
Let me tell you this when you look at my history, I find it difficult to talk about zoning, first, when I got to the House of Representatives in 2003, the ANPP caucus was not comfortable with the leadership style of the then leader of the caucus, minority leader of the House, somewhere in 2005 there was a change in leadership and as at that time he ANPP had zoned the forum principal officer positions to leader-Kano/Kaduna/Jigawa; Whip-Sokoto/Kebbi/Zamfara; deputy leader-Borno/Yobe because that was where we had ANPP and deputy whip to the South-south. Based on these, leaders of the ANPP emerged in 2003, when members felt they were no longer comfortable with Ahmed Salik and there was a change, they altered the zoning, and Don Etiebet, the chairman of the party issued a statement disagreeing with the members of the house that they must go back to zoning, meanwhile the rules of the House provided that leadership should emerge amongst members, so relying on that members carried out the change of guards and I came in even though from the bloc where is supposed to be the whip of the House in the minority caucus of the ANPP, I became the leader against the zoning of the party. In 2011, the PDP zoned speakership to the southwest, members of the House of Representatives came together to say look we are looking for a speaker with certain qualities, they approach me, all that went on and I emerged as a speaker, not from the southwest. Clearly, from the two scenarios, based on the assessment of members and their criteria of the type of leader they are looking for I have enjoyed these two privileges in the past, that is why I said I find it difficult to talk about zoning. But when you talk about what my friends the governors of the South said, they are entitled to their opinion, when the Northern governors met in Kaduna they said their own, so it is not for political parties to sit down and look at the issues and plan how to win elections, that is the Bottom line.
Will you give the presidency a shoot in 2023?
You know that in 2018 I participated in the PDP primaries held in Port Harcourt and I thank God, I came second and several people are talking to me to give it a trial, at this moment, all I can tell you is that I am going to commence my consultations \and \whatever feedback I get with the prayers that I have been doing then I will make my position known very soon.
Somewhere along the line.
You have been in the APC and the PDP, can you compare both?
It is on record that the PDP, even the name has remained PDP right from 1998, the APC was formed as recently as 2014 and it is the amalgamation and coming together of about four to five political parties the CPC, the ACN, ANPP N-PDP, and APGA with the sole objective mainly of taking out Jonathan, with so many strange beg fellows working together for that objective. Almost immediately after the 2015 elections, problems began to manifest because the relationship was not cemented. I can tell you that virtually all groups were still seeing themselves as what they were within the APC and even possible until now, we don’t have that in the PDP, it has remained as one political party, whether you go in or out of it. It has not merged with any political party, which should b noted. and in terms of building political culture, we can at least say that the PDP has been there since 1998 with its positives and negatives, ups and downs, highs and lows you cannot say so of the APC.
The PDP has only 13 states and APC has 22 states, yet people are still moving out of the PDP, will this not affect your party in the presidential election?
How many states was APC having in 2014? ANPP was having Zamfara, Borno, and Yobe, n-PDP was having Sokoto, Kano, Adamawa, Kwara, ACN had Lagos, Osun, Oyo, and Ogun Ekiti was lost halfway and CPC in Nasarawa and then APGA in Imo making it about 14 states against 21 states, now it is 14 against 22. Yes, the gladiators have changed, dynamics and variables might have changed also but you can use the Anambra example as a test case you can also use what happened in Edo, and here in Sokoto. As governor of Sokoto, I could not deliver the state to the PDP to the presidential and National Assembly elections, Akeredolu in Ondo could not deliver his state to the APC, Obaseki with Adams could not deliver Edo to the APC so it is not about sitting governor delivering the states, it is about what the political situation is in the country and the given states and that is why I said PDP should be talking about how to win elections and not zoning. Not only how to win the election but also coming up with leaders that can do the job, Sokoto the difference between President Buhari and Alhaji Atika Abubakar is about 120, 00 to 130, 000 votes, within two weeks the dynamics changed and I won, yes with a slim margin but I won, which means we covered the over 120, 000 votes difference, Sokoto that is largely seen and perceived as politically docile, so the dynamics may change, but when you are talking about presidential election you must also consider demography, how are you going to get the votes, who are you fielding that can bring you the votes, that was what APC did, APC believed that President Buhari was having 11 million votes and its part of what was used to convince the leadership of the APC that we should go for Buhari. So you need to factor in all of these, t is not about the political party, APC won not because it was APC, certain factors were in place certain variables were at play, so many things added up in favor of the APC. So 2023 candidates are going to play a very important role in which party gets it. And you must also remember the young people, they said they want a leader of their generation, ‘Sorosoke’.
Are you happy with where Sokoto is on the FAAC table, if you’re not, where will you like to see it?
A – No state is happy with where it is, not even Rivers and Lagos, so what do you want Sokoto, Nasarwa, and Gombe to say, we are all looking for resources, not even the federal government is happy with where it is, so it is not about Sokoto, it is about what people have been talking about restructuring and devolution of power, we must review the structure, I have said it at the PDP retreat recently, it is our pathway to stability. The federal government must shed weight and devolve more powers and resources to sub-national where the people are, states and local governments and that will give less attraction to the center and we will have more stability, the federal government be dealing with issues of immigration and normal issues that the federal system should be concerned about, what is the business of the federal government with a primary health center or primary schools, not talk of building roads we must look at all of those issues and that is why in our attempt at the constitution amendment in 2014, we proposed as a House of Representatives certain amendments that could have addressed the challenges of either devolution or restructuring, that would have settled a long time ago. In that amendment, we said that the offices of the Accountant-general of the federal government should be separated from that of the federation, which would have engendered transparency and more fiscal responsibility and openness but the system now is opaque, fraudulent and people at the center are taking advantage of it. We said the office of the Attorney-general of the federation should be separated from that of the minister of justice because the minister of justice is a card-carrying member of a political party and an attorney-general of the federation is supposed not to be a partisan individual, it is not rocket science, we said certain items should be shifted from the exclusive legislative list including power, railway and prisons to concurrent, so that if the states of the South-south, for example, want to have a rail system within the south-south, they can, in Sokoto for example, we have not less than four to five sources of energy, Solar, Wind, Gas, Hydro if you get 20 megawatts energy mixed of each that is 80 megawatts, we don’t need up to that, if we generate why must you transmit to the national grid, why? If a village can come up with their electricity system based on solar and service themselves why not? so we have not sufficiently unbundled the power sector and it is part of the restructuring, so all of these, unless we can do that we can hardly really unleash the potentials of this country. With the number of ale bodies young men we have, when we talk about security even recruit is a problem, as I have said before must we wait for America to recruit are we waiting for UK or Russia to recruit and raise the capacity and strength of your armed forces when we have millions of unemployed youths that are ready and willing to join the service and they are prepared, unless we can recall look at this and do the right thing, we can hardly get it, so it is not about Sokoto getting lower FACC, if we do what is rights, states in Nigeria can generate revenue to run their states, that is our target win Sokoto with the reforms we are introducing in governance.
You’re promising this if you become the president?
Look, if I become the president of Nigeria we will drastically move away from the current system and it is all about leadership. Do you imagine what it means if tomorrow President Buhari takes a bill to the National Assembly on State Police, by himself, he takes a copy to the Senate and a copy to the House of Representatives and address them and say please in the interest of this country and for us to engender security I want us to devolve issue os security and loosen up through state police, he should be the chief advocate of his police and his programmes, it is about reaching out? If for example, the president decides to go round every state of the federation before the budget year sits down its stakeholders in the states including members of the National Assembly from those states, identify the priorities of that state and come up with a plan the ones that can be finished within one year takes off and those that can be finished within two-three years in collaboration with the National Assembly members irrespective of the party because we are not talking about party we are talking about people after winning election do you know what that will do to this country, if the president identifies the issues and come up with a National plan on those issues the one that they can do they do the ones that the state should do they take to state the ones that are for the local government they take to local government and devolve and give funding, it is all about building trust and engagement and providing leadership and it is achievable?