“My father never lost confidence in Buhari’s ability to fix the country, but he was worried about some people the President surround himself with.”
Mustapha Mahmud Kanti Bello who is the Commissioner for Resource Development, Katsina State and son of late Senator Mahmud Kanti Bello. In this interview, he declared that if his father is alive, he would’nt have supported the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar in the next year’s election.
He said even though his father few months before he died faulted President Muhammadu Buhari’s choice of ministers describing some of them as incompetent, yet his father was confident of the President’s ability to fight corruption, saying with that Bello would have supported Buhari’s re-election bid.
He speaks on other issues and his last attempt to go to the Senate.
You lost at the primaries for Katsina North Senatorial bye-election on platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), can you share your experience being the first time you contested election?
Let me use this medium to thank members of Senator Mahmud Kanti Bello political structure in Kastsina State for their unflinching support given to me during the just concluded Katsina North Senatorial bye-election in which I participated. I won’t say I lost because in any contest there must be winner and a loser and there can only be one winner. You are right, this is the first time I’m seeking elective office hence it is a learning process. It is very rare for upcoming politicians to win election in first attempt as some end up being discouraged after tasting defeat at the poll. But in my case, I’m more encouraged because of the level of support I enjoyed from my people. I came third in the keenly contested primary without spending a kobo. So, it is a credit because we were eight aspirants and I came third. It is indeed, an achievement I must build on. Also, it is worthy to note that politics is not all seeking positions, but creating a better society. I have always tried in whatever position I find myself to bring about positive change that will transform the lives of those that come in contact with me.
Katsina State is among states that refused to pay N30,000 minimum wage, as a cabinet member of the state, why can’t state governments pay the wage?
I don’t think there is any state in Nigeria that pay the N30,000 minimum wage apart from Lagos that has the capacity to generate revenue internally. Not all the states are able to pay the 18,000 as some find it to pay minimum. I understand that things are hard for Nigerian workers because of high rate of inflation in the country hence the N18,000 minimum is enough. For instance, in Katsina State some local governments find it hard to pay salaries even with monthly allocation they receive. My expectation is that the state governments and labour leaders should reach a compromise and I urge the federal government to look at ways to assist states in order to reduce the suffering face by workers. The central Bank should look into the exchange rate and how to reduce the rate. I was disappointed when CBN recently pegged the exchange rate at 14%. Before I was appointed commissioner, I was a businessman and the challenge I had was high exchange rate which makes it difficult for businesses to grow
Can’t states find ways to improve on Internally Generated Revenue, instead of going cap in hand begging for monthly handout called allocation?
You are right and I agree with you that government officials’ especially state executives should cut down on the cost of governance. Even if they do the impact will not be much on the workers. I think it is a drop in the bucket.
This is where dissolution of powers comes in, because it is unfair for Zamfara and Kebbi for instance, to receive the same allocation with Lagos and Rivers states because Lagos and Rivers generate huge revenue. So, I call on the Revenue and Fiscal Mobilisation Commission to look into how it can reduce salaries of public office holders. And also look into revenue accruing to state government so that we can have entitlement structure that is different from what we have now base on the earnings of a particular state.
Nigeria is the most blessed country in the world. There is no state that is not blessed with something that can contribute to the development of that state and economy of the country. The nation loses billions of dollars to illegal mining annually. So, states can do deep thinking and see how they can harness those resources hence each state can be self sufficient. For instance, in Katsina State, base on the research carried out by the Raw Materials Development Agency (RMDA) , we have over 36 mineral resources in the state across the 36 local government areas. We are trying hard under this administration to see that we harness these resources. What we did at the ministerial level is to form the state own mining company. We have already acquired 8 exploration licenses and we have received various proposals from companies for the development of those licenses. We are hoping that by next year we will begin exploration in order to increase our revenue.
Would your father have supported Atiku if he is alive?
My father was an ardent supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari and as a childhood friend of Mr. President; he encouraged Buhari to go into politics. So, I don’t see how he would have worked against Buhari’s re-election bid and if he would have done so, it will be on another platform, but not PDP.
But few months before his demise, your father faulted President Buhari’s choice of ministers describing some of them as incompetent. would he had supported Buhari’s re-election bid?
Yes, my father may have expressed disappoint over the appointment of some persons as ministers by Mr. President, but he was satisfied with Buhari’s boldness in the fight against corruption. My father never lost confidence in Buhari’s ability to fix the country, but he was worried about some people the President surround himself with. So, if he is alive, I think the only thing he would have done is to insist that President Buhari rejig his cabinet. On whether my father would have supported Atiku’s Presidency, I doubt because Atiku as Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is not alternative to Buhari and my father would not have preferred him to Buhari. With Buhari’s integrity example, it will be difficult for Nigerians to go low and replace Buhari with someone who did not put anti-graft war in the front burner. Even though my father may have found unavoidable faults in the fight against corruption, but so far the fight is on course and the government is winning the war against graft.
You made mention of dissolution of power, are you in the same page with Atiku on restructuring?
No, that is not what I mean. What do you mean by restructure? Restructuring has many meaning and the word restructuring does not mean what most Nigerians assume it to be. Is Atiku talking about resource control? Or to change the present structure to regional government? What does he mean by the restructuring? The issue we are facing as a country goes beyond restructuring. What I noticed within the short period I have been in government is that we need to be innovative and generate fresh ideas in order to grow faster as a nation. The first I did when I assumed office was to look at the budget of my ministry and I noticed that since the creation of the ministry in 2007, it has the same sub head and there was no new ideas injected into the system. It is the same at the federal level hence you discover that the budget of ministry is the same year in, year out.
So, what we need is injection of new ideas into the system to generate development and not restructuring. Before you can restructure the present structure of government in the country, it must go through constitution amendment whereby all sections of the country must agree before that can happen. Even if the President wants to change the revenue formula or resource control, it won’t be possible because the constitution must be amended to accommodate it. It is difficult or virtually impossible for all the states to agree that the country be restructured. So, we should not be talking about what is not possible. We should look at things that are possible such as devolution of powers because so much power is put at the centre. What is the business of Federal Government in primary education? There are a lot of things Federal Government is involved in that it is not suppose to be involved in. Even the revenue sharing formula in which Federal Government take 52% of the revenue from the Federation Account is not proper.
Are you saying APC led government is not aware of this?
I think the APC led government is doing something in that direction. For instance, during the economic recession, government gave sates bailout fund. The problem we are facing today, would have been worse if the APC government did not bailout states with the Paris Club refund. APC led Federal Government would have said that it won’t give bailout because it was not during their administration the deduction was made, but they did it in order to support the states. Until we see the final amendment of the constitution, we won’t know if these issues have been taken care of this in the concluded constitutional amendment.
What is your take on two Muslims, Buhari and Atiku confronting each other in next year’s presidential election, what are their chances?
It is going to be hotly contested race more than that of 2015 and part of the reason is that no government can match the expectations of the populace. That is why you always find opposition working hard to discredit the government. Opposition always comes with promises, but when they get into government, they will be face with reality. The reality is that the APC led administration met dwindling oil price as well as security challenges. So, I can say that we have done well, but there are areas that need to be improved upon. The reason people are talking about opposition is because expectations are high. Politicians during campaign give people hope of things that are not realistic, for example, restructuring which Atiku promised which many people have bought into already because human beings are fill with hope. To me, restructuring is unrealistic. So, I will love to see politicians tell the people the true position of things. They should always say what is possible so that people will know what to expect. President Buhari has done well to preserve the unity of this country even though things are difficult and I believe very soon things will improve. For this reason and other achievements of this administration, Buhari deserve second term to consolidate on his achievements.
With the two major contenders from the North, do envisage free and fair election?
I’m very sure that next year’s election will surpass that of 2015 in terms of transparency and fairness not only because the two contenders are from the North, but because President Buhari has vowed to ensure the election will be free and fair. The immediate past Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega is one of my heroes because I admire him for preserving our democracy by conducting free and fair election in 2015.
I want to call on the current INEC Chairman to improve on what Jega has done. It won’t augur well if just one state we are having inclusive election hence it will pose great danger when we have elections across the country. So, I urge Prof Yakubu to gear up and ensure that the 2019 general election is better than the last one as it will restore the confidence of Nigerians that power belong to them through the ballot box.