From Olanrewaju Lawal,Birnin Kebbi
Alhaji Abdullahi Muhammad, was Kebbi State Chairman of ANPP during the Muahammad Adamu Aliero administration and he served as the Commissioners of Education, Budget, Special Duties under Aliero.
In this interview, the APC Chieftain spoke on those sponsoring secessionist agitations, the politics of Kebbi State, among other issues.
How did you join politics?
I joined politics since when Kebbi was under Sokoto State. Dr. Musa Bunza was the Commissioner for Education in the old Sokoto State. He came to Bunza and some people are saying I should go and meet him for my appointment as the Principal. That time, a Commissioner had no business in the appointment of Principal. It is the sole responsibility of the Director not even Permanent Secretary. When we went for exhibition in Lagos State, my school emerged the best. Then, Professor Jibril Aminu was the Minister of Education and Abacha was the Chief of Army Staff. When he saw the wonder my students exhibited, he ordered that I should be appointed as the member of the Technical Education Board. And that was the beginning of my journey in politics.
My in-law, Umaru Kaoje was the Federal Permanent Secretary before he was redeployed to Finance. He gave the appointment as the Assistance Director and Assistance Director of Immigration in 1989. Unfortunately, when I consulted the late Emir of Yauri, Alhaji Shuaibu Yakubu, because he was the Headmaster when I was in primary school, Late Emir Shuaibu Yakubu insisted that he would not allow me to go to immigration, where I shall be restricting aliens from entering the country. He said I should go home and be thinking of another thing. .
A week latter, I wrote a letter to NRC national Chairman, that I am their supporter and anytime they need my assistance, they should count on me. Ordinary letter, when they were searching for the Chairman in my area, they started looking for me. One midnight, they came to Emir Yauri palace, looking for me and Emir sent for me. Around 12 am, Emir’s Messenger reached my house, calling me. When I got there, he told me that these people wanted to give me ticket to run for Local government Chairman. I said, me, upon all the people in this area! I told Emir, sir, whatever you said, I will abide by it. But there is one problem sir. He asked me, what was the problem? I told them that, I am a civil servant and I have collected another one month salary and I have spent it. If a civil servant must quit the service suddenly, he must return such salary. Somebody stood up that he would pay up the salary. Others stood up donating clothes and other things for me. Then we were still under Sokoto State in 1990. I contested the election and I won. I operated with full power as the chairman of the local government because the governor has no influence on what we were doing. We were getting our money directly from the Federal Allocation.
Were you operating joint account system then at the Local government level with the State Government?
There was nothing like joint account and I performed excellently. Some of the projects I did then at the Yauri Local government in 1991 still stand till today. If you go to Emir’s palace, you will see my project. I took care of my workers. I employed artisans from my local government, that helped us to construct many projects within the council and the people were happy with us. Instead of bringing labourers from outside the council, indigenous people were engaged. That time, labour fees were N5 per day and we decided to be paying labourers N10 per day and they were all happy and the council was expanded.
All the projects done under me were standard and till now, they are still standing. And I have the full cooperation of the people.
How did you handle the security at the council?
There was no serious insecurity then. The Area Commander and DPO were in good terms. They worked together as the team. There was no intimidation or harassment, they worked together and I gave them all they needed to work with directly from the council, not from anybody. Because, I got my allocation directly. When Yauri, Shanga and Ngaski were together, my allocation in a month was N894, 000 every month as my statutory allocations and I used that to pay worker’s salaries, executing capital projects. During our time, we didn’t allow ghost workers; only those who worked with us were given salaries. The local governments now are mere errand boys of those in the higher authorities.
So, all along, you have been in Kebbi State politics?
Yes, from 1999 till date, I have been serving at various capacities and I did not steal any body’s money. That was how God designed it for me.
We heard that you are part of those agitating for rotation of power ahead of 2023 general election. Can you shed more light on this?
Honestly speaking, earlier this year, the zonal chairman of APC invited us for a zonal meeting in Shanga LGA. All the senior stakeholders were there, including Deputy Governor, General Muhammadu Magoro, SSG from Yauri, Commissioners, members of the State House of Assembly. And they started telling us that they converged the meeting to look into the problems of APC and how best to tackle it for us to continue in one journey. When we were there, some of them were sacrosanct, they could not talk. Therein, I raised my hands up and I told them, look, if we were really sincere to ourselves, we should no longer enter a room and concoct names and declared them that these are our Executive members of our party or members of our delegates. Majority of our people will no longer accept it. That, we should allow people to elect their leaders.
I said number two, other states are enjoying rotation of positions of Gubernatorial, Senatorial, House of Representatives, House of Assembly, Chairman of Local Government even Councillorship seats. Why we in Kebbi remained adamant and I am calling all of us to consider this. I told them I am not challenging anybody or accusing anybody. That we should sit down together, to address this issue. That we are all Kebbians, we should be treated with Equity. So my prayer was answered; General Magoro took the matter to Abuja to Senator Adamu Aliero. They discussed it with other stakeholders. So, they called us for another meeting in Zuru and that was the beginning of this agitation. When we finished our meeting, we paid a courtesy visit on the Emir of Zuru and we told him our mission, he endorsed it and prayed for us. We called for the second meeting in Argungu after the meeting; we selected the caretaker committee, and Samaila Magaji is the chairman being a retired Comptroller General of Customs. We appointed somebody from Zuru as the Secretary and I became the Publicity Secretary of the committee, that is PRO. Thereafter, People started asking me what is my mission? My point is that Kebbi Senatorial District has been in power; Governorship positions for several years; it is now either Kebbi North or Kebbi South Senatorial District; they should be given a chance to produce the governor. All what we want, is equitable consideration, free and fair treatments. We want all of us to sit down and get best candidate for the various positions.
Why is this agitation coming at this period? Or, was it targetted at a particular aspirant from a senatorial district from contesting in 2023?
Agitation can come at any time. If people felt that they were not satisfied, or that they are neglected or marginalized, they can voice out. If not because of the efforts of the Federal Government, go to Yauri and see our condition. Before, from Birnin Kebbi to Yauri, it used to be a whole day journey. If you want to go to Zuru today, a distance less than 30 kilometers, it would take you hours. We have to speak out that we need our daughters and sons to be given chances to come out to contest so that our people could have access to social amenities and be relieved.
Are you aspiring to realize this agitation under APC or under another political platform?
I am an APC man and the agitation started from us APC members; even some other political parties have embraced our clarion call. The intention is that, we need to have a level of fair play, give and take.
Would it be right to say that this agitation resurfaced due to the inability of your party, APC to deliver dividends of democracy to the people of Kebbi North and Kebbi South senatorial districts?
No, no, the issue on ground is, why does the governorship position remain in a particular senatorial district? We have three Senatorial districts, Kebbi Central, Kebbi North and Kebbi South. And the intention of our agitation is to ensure that the power is being rotated. We want it to be rotating from one Senatorial district to another. We are not targeting any aspirant. Even, that of the seat of Senators, as well as that of Governorship ticket, Senatorial tickets, should be rotated too.
How loyal are you to your party, APC sir?
I am absolutely loyal to my party. We are even planning to go and meet our party’s chairman on this crusade and members of the State Executive that we are crying for Justice and equity. That, we want our party to make sure that all the political positions are rotated. We are not accusing anybody for marginalization, or somebody cheating us, no, that is not our concern. Our concern is that we want gubernatorial position to go round the senatorial districts.
Are you not afraid that you can be accused of working for opposition parties?
I am a man of principle, If I stand for a position, I stand for it.
Your party APC does not seem to be uniting the country, hence the agitation by some ethnic nationalities; what do you think is the problem?
Nigerian politics is like that. Those behind these agitations are people milking Nigeria’s economy. If you go to PDP, they have enough crises. If you go to APGA, they have crises. Whichever political party you go, there are armful of crises. But the fact is that, at the end of the day, the majority will have their way.
But your party, APC came with a lot of promises such as providing security, economy, among others
Man proposes, but God disposes. You cannot surpass what God has destined you to do. Ours is intention; we declared our intention and God says no.