From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Bauchi State Governor, Mohammed Abubakar in an interview with journalists, Abubakar said contrary to claims that his administration is not performing well, he has actually done so much to move the state forward.
He also bared his mind on the controversial security votes for governors in the country and his frosty relationship with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, among other issues.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara and some other political elite based in Abuja have been at loggerhead with you, what is the bone of contention?
The answer to your question in one word: ambition to become governor of Bauchi state. My argument is that now is not the time for that, now is the time to work for the people of the state. By the time we are ready to begin politics everybody is free to come and aspire for any office. When I was not governor, I contested along with seven other people for the ticket of APC, I was the underdog. When I visited the headquarter of my party for the first time, I went to see the general secretary of the party, he told me clearly: “We don’t know you, we only know of two aspirants in Bauchi state” and he mentioned their names. I said it is because those people have access to you and they are always on the pages of newspapers showing themselves as the leading candidates of Bauchi state while we were going to the actual people who will do the election.
So, I am not afraid of anybody who wishes to contest for any office, but now is not the time. Now is the time for us to put our heads together and work for this state and when the time of politics starts everybody can aspire.
I told people at one time, the people think they are denigrating me, they are doing this against me, but they are not in reality, because if my wish is to be the governor of Bauchi state, God Almighty has already answered that, it has gone down in history. So, it is not me that is concerned, it is the image of our state, our state has never been like this, we have never had it so bad and we are not the only state that has those crop of people.
Every state in Nigeria has members of House of Reps, Senators but none of them is misbehaving the way our own are misbehaving; so it is essentially ambition, but they are free to aspire.
Dogara recently said he is criticising your administration because you are not performing well. Now, you say it is all because of ambition. Do each and every of your critics want to be governor?
I don’t know whether they are ganging up to support a particular candidate, but each one of them is harboring an ambition. But is it true that I am not delivering from what you have seen? I hope you have the opportunity to go to other states for you to compare with what you have seen in Bauchi state.
What is your relationship with the party structure in the state and at the national level?
The party in the state is in tact behind its government and there is no problem with the party in the state. Politics is a game of numbers. I went round to ask questions and even went to INEC to obtain some figures, some of the constituencies of our antagonists do not have more than 70,000 registered voters. My ward has over 69,000 registered voters. And these people by the time they finish all their hullabaloo in Abuja, when the time now comes for politics, it is here that this politics is going to be practised and at that time there wouldn’t be any gang up, because everybody will go to his constituency and answer his father’s name. That is how politics is played.
So, what they are doing is mere grandstanding, they have some money to spend so they are using that money for campaign of calumny against their state, because that is what they are doing essentially. Even when I was contesting for the ticket of APC, I was not the favourite of the so-called powers that be, but God in His infinite mercy chose me over and above their favourite and of course they will not be happy, but that will not deter them anyway, because the reason they wanted their favourite is for business to go on as usual in Bauchi state, and that is what I am changing. People alleged that we are not doing anything in Bauchi state. Everybody knows the situation in Bauchi state. Everybody knows the situation, what Nigerians do not know is that Kano is the most populous state in Nigeria and it has 44 LGAs but it has a total man power of 92,000. Small Bauchi state on the other hand with 20 LGA’s has 105,000. that is the number of people on my pay roll.
This outstanding salary that I said we used Paris Club to pay arose from my attempt to verify these civil servants to know the true civil servants in Bauchi state. I met with a very strong concrete wall, the entrenched interest that takes away about a billion naira from the earnings of Bauchi state every month in the name of ghost workers, joined together with detractors of Bauchi state that had been denigrating the state and made it virtually impossible for us to get to the bottom of the problem of this manpower.
In addition to this, Bauchi is one of the states that pay above the national minimum wage. Our minimum wage is N18,500. So, our wage bill every month is 5.1billion naira and if you go back and take a look at the release, you will discover that from the time I took over till date, there wouldn’t have been more than three months that I collected over five billion naira. In the other months I was collecting less than 5billion. Today I am proud to say that Bauch state does not owe a single kobo of salary. Our Internally Generated Revenue is Pay As You Earn, which hovers around N 250 – N300million tops, most months less than N300million.
There are two roads that we have completed in Fadama Maga in a section of this state metropolis. We are doing roads from the secretariat roundabout to federal low cost ending at the railway. Then we are dualizing most of the entrances into Bauchi state. When you come in from Jos you will see dualisation going on, this dualisation will go from 5kms outside town to the Zarada hotel and from there we are rehabilitating it because that portion to a roundabout we call Gidamai , we are doing both lanes of that road, and from that roundabout to Awala hotel work is going on. And then from Awala hotel to a place called Giwa Academy that is on the road to Kano we are dualizing it.
For the first time in the history of the state government owned estates with the internal roads are being rehabilitated. For the first time in our institutions we are rehabilitating the roads in Abubakar Tatari Polytechnic, these are realities and they are on-going and from the time we started they have not stopped. We are rehabilitating more roads in the metropolis. There is a federal government owned bridge linking Gamawa to Zaki up to Jigawa state that is threatening to collapse, I am repairing it because I don’t want to wait for the Federal Government, should that bridge collapse, it is my people who will suffer.
We are rehabilitating all senior secondary and junior secondary schools in every nook and crannies of Bauchi state. We have built 34 new solar powered bore holes all over the state, they are functioning and those of them that have problems I have set up a committee, that is apart from engineers who are giving me reports, I now have a feedback from the committee. We have constructed 19 primary healthcare centres along with their staff quarters and sank bore holes in each of these health care centres. I am delivering all these to the people.
The Federal Government of Nigeria gave what is known today as bail out for payment of outstanding salaries. Bauchi State Government got N8.6billion to pay these outstanding salaries. Before we did that, the Federal Ministry of Finance requested from us the level of our outstanding liabilities. We wrote. They then asked the SSS to confirm to them what the outstanding liabilities of the state was, the DSS confirmed N8.6billion and we were given. Out rightly we used that N8.6billioon less N88million at the initial stage and we offset the outstanding salaries completely. For this, labour both Bauchi and national wrote us letters of commendation.
So, when we did this we had N88million remaining. The VC of the state university came to me to say that they too have outstanding and I asked him what he needed, he said N70million and I ordered for N70million to be given to him which left N18million. After a few months, the same VC came back to me and claimed that his visiting lecturers needed to be paid more and I ordered for the outstanding amount to be paid to him. I had a dedicated account for the bail out, it is with Zenith bank.
Then came the issue of Paris club; We received N12.7billion. I was in a bus travelling from the Port Harcourt airport to the stadium for a campaign before the last elections in Rivers when the accountant general of my state confirmed to me that we have got that from Paris Club. My immediate instruction was that, at that time we owed one month salary for the state government and two months salary for the local governments; so immediately I told him to pay outstanding salaries. He now said sir, he will pay outstanding salaries, the local governments will receive more than their share of the Paris club because before the Federal Ministry of Finance released the money to us, they gave us the tape containing the percentage that each tier of government should have, our own in Bauchi state is 42 for the local government, 58 for the state. We gave the local governments their share plus N600million naira, so as I am talking to you today, the local governments of Bauchi state are owing the state government N600million for the offsetting of the two months salary that they had, using the Paris club.
Do you have any window of reconciliation with these Abuja politicians?
Every opportunity that I have, I mentioned it that they are our children; if they do a rethink, we are willing to take them back, we cannot wish them away. because they are our children. There is nothing that I have not done to reconcile with them. I have sent committee after committees, including at one time the entire working committee of the party, I said move to Abuja, sit in Abuja, call these our children, ask them what is their problem, what is their grudge, all these attempts failed. The first class emirs in Bauchi state invited them to come, they did not. They set up a committee of three, they went to Abuja to meet with them but nothing came out of that. Some big names like Maitama Sule, he invited Dogara and spoke with him, but he refused to heed.
We have done all and we are still doing and my reason is simply because I am the leader.If there is peace in the polity it is me that will enjoy the most. I am interested in peace and development in Bauchi state.
Recently, Dogara challenged state governors to disclose their security votes. Do you subscribe to that?
In the first place, governors have no security vote. The state has security votes, but it is not controlled by the governor. The security vote is controlled by the Permanent Secretary Security; in every state there is Permanent Secretary security, and there is a Security Committee in every state comprising the governor as chairman and all the security chiefs that are operating in the state as members. There is the deputy gover