From James Ojo, Abuja
Twice he took a shot at the Government House in Kebbi state, and twice he missed his target. Nonetheless, Isa Shehu is not giving up. Not only is he still nursing the ambition to contest, he is cocksure of grabbing the ticket of his party from the incumbent governor, Atiku Bagudu, whom he said had performed creditably low, particularly in the vital education sector.
Why are you declaring your interest to run for governorship election when the contest is still far away, and how prepared are you to realize your ambition?
I am a politician. I have contested for the ticket of governorship election twice, but I want to try again and I am sure, this time around, I have the qualifications, in terms of education, exposure and experience. I will make it because of the kind of government we have now in Kebbi. I am an experienced politician who is exposed to politicking at all levels. I have travelled wide and organized conferences to bring together, people of diverse knowledge and exposures. I think I am now better equipped to deliver quality services to my people if they give me the chance to govern the state.
As a member of APC, the ruling party in your state, how will you wrestle power from the incumbent who seems to be performing, at least in the agricultural sector?
That is what people outside the state think, but we in Kebbi know the true position of things. The present government led by Atiku Bagudu has not done well for the state. People of Kebbi are regretting now because nothing has changed. There is nothing to write home about the education sector in the state. The sector is suffering. If you want to develop any society, you don’t joke with education. You would pump money into the sector so that human resources would be developed, because if you develop human resources, other sectors would be developed. Unfortunately, that is not what we have in Kebbi State now. It is sad. I want to help my own people, because we are lagging behind in education. Our education sector is backward. I am just trying to fight for the youths, so I have to go on and contest the election. I have to concentrate on education, agriculture and public sector reform to enhance a smooth administration.
How prepared are you to confront the leadership of APC in your state?
That is a non –issue. I am a national member of APC, now the New APC. The Old APC has passed away, because the APC in Kebbi State is now divided. What we are looking for is transparency when it is time for the primary and general elections. That is why I’m now the coordinator of the New APC. Talking about my projects in 2019, I have the youths with me in all the wards and local governments. I have no problem with the youths because I am one of them and they relate with me at that level.
How do you see all these criticisms about the (APC) government as a government that has failed to fulfill it promises to the people and that hardship is taking a heavy toll on the country?
Things are hard in the country now, but truth is, if you want good governance, you need to have very credible and good people. All I can say is that we must support President Buhari and encourage him to bring young, talented politicians into his government. As at now, people are complaining a lot. The best thing to do now is, if you want to focus in developing the agricultural sector, do not give money directly to the state governors; use federal institutions like the Bank of Industry or Bank of Agriculture to distribute money directly to farmers, and in no distant period, government would reap the fruits as production of food items would become surplus. But if money is given directly to the governors, they will not utilize it. Instead, they will keep it in the hands of their cronies for safekeeping ahead of the 2019 elections. This is why I think that we all must support President Buhari who had shown determination to move this country forward.
Is that the only solution to the problems people are crying about?
No, no, no. The Buhari government cannot solve all the problems inherited from past governments. He only has to listen to advice from people who want his administration to succeed. I am an advocate of public sector reform. I had served both in public and private sectors. There is need to reform the public sector. There is nothing wrong for NCE, degree or masters holders to teach in primary or secondary schools. This is a major step to own the education sector. Also,
I strongly believe that this government should make better use of retirees from the armed forces and from the public service, by engaging them in agriculture and small scale production to add value to products from farming.
What can you say about the collaboration of your state with Lagos State which produced the Lake Rice last December?
My answer to this question will reveal what many did not know. It will let the Central Bank of Nigeria and the presidency know what is going on there. What is Lake Rice is what we were producing before this new rice farming scheme came into being. It is the same quality we are producing now. People should know this. The only additional thing is the packaging and expansion to the size of farm which gave some people employment. So, it is not about what the federal government is doing or how the present governor maximizes the agricultural sector in Kebbi state. We have these things going over a long period of time, and everyone knows. The quality is still the same from what we have been producing before.
But the Lake Rice project had been well received and the state government was praised for the collaboration, why is your view different?
I can only give credit to the partnership which produced Lake Rice, but it was not in the best interest of Kebbi state. The money was not given to Kebbi state people. Rice planting is what we have been doing, so it is not new. Agriculture is what we know how to do best. I don’t believe that the money which came directly to the governor for agriculture was used for the purpose of expanding agriculture. The youths who benefited are going to be used for the 2019 general elections. This is what we know in Kebbi.
Can you substantiate this allegation?
People in Kebbi know this. Some may be afraid to talk. The truth is, instead of empowering farmers directly, the loan was given to youths who in turn gave it to the farmers. Youths who benefitted were given appointments by the state government. It was a ploy. That is why I suggested that if we are to develop, the first thing to tackle is the problems in the education sector. That will open people’s eyes. Then secondly, the agricultural sector, followed by the reform of the public sector.
Are you still interested in the race for the governorship of Kebbi State?
Of course, I am very much in the race. We have started mobilizing the people at the grassroots. Apart from mobilizing the people, I and my team have identified many loopholes in the present government of the state. We have taken notes of ministries that are overlapping in duties. There is need to restructure for effectiveness and productivity.
The youths should be able to determine on their own what to do with the federal government allocation. We are having a lot of problems because we don’t have the initiatives in the education sector, but we are promising to partner with countries that have developed their education sector like Russia, India and Malaysia.
How will you tackle the principles of rotation of political offices which obtains in every states of the federation including your state, Kebbi?
I am not afraid because we are in a democratic society, and we want the best for the society. The truth is we don’t have that kind of rotational clause in our party’s constitution. Once the people say they want you, that is all. We don’t have to go for rotation, because it would bring confusion, crises and discrimination. You work for it––go to the people, do consultation, if they want you, good for you; if they don’t want you, go back to your house and allow someone who is credible and qualified to contest. We don’t want anybody to talk about rotation. It will not take place in Kebbi state.
Are you comfortable with the composition of the Federal Executive Council and several of the appointments made by President Buhari?
Many people are complaining about the lopsided appointments into key federal establishments. I shared their sentiments, in fact, a lot of people thought I’d be called to represent my state, but I thank God for the person representing Kebbi State in the cabinet, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN. He had represented the state very well. He is a talented lawyer, very humble. If a person like him is allowed to stay long in government, there would be positive changes in government’s businesses.
How will you score the Buhari administration so far?
I think President Muhammadu Buhari has done well. He is changing a lot of things without making noise. He is trying to reduce corruption to the barest minimum. From the way he is going, he will cut down the cost of doing elections in the country. The youths are getting back hope that not only people with deep pockets will always win elections. I believed that after his first term in office, he will be nominated for the Mo Ibrahim leadership award. Buhari has a trusted loyalist in the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, an honest and hardworking man. Some of the ministers are working very hard on their mandates, ministers like Fashola, and Mohammed Bello of FCT.