Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo
Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf Represents Taraba Central senatorial zone in the eighth Senate and has been re-elected to continue in the ninth Senate. He speaks on the 9th National Assembly leadership tussle, the illegal mining in the North and other critical national issues.
What is your take on the ninth National Assembly leadership tussle?
The National Assembly is an independent arm of government so it will be difficult for anyone to say he will dictate who will be the president of the Senate or Speaker of the House of Representatives. However, you know that in the 8th Assembly, there was miscommunication between the party, the legislators and the executive. And as a result, the leadership of the National Assembly was not in good communication with the party as well as the executive and that has great effect on the smooth running of government. That is probably why the party has decided this time that we would not allow what happened in the 8th National Assembly to happen in the 9th National Assembly. So it has taken the lead to make sure that there is good communication with the senators and members of the House of Representatives so that there would not be a repeat of what happened in the 8thNational Assembly. That is why the party has recommended a candidate that it is trying to sell to the other senators. This is not an imposition, contrary to what a lot of people believe. That is where we stand at the moment.
Since some members of the party feel aggrieved with the position of the party, don’t you think the opposition would cash in and take advantage?
Remember we still have over 50 days to the end of this current National Assembly and that is a lot of time. In politics, a lot can change within 24 four hours. So whoever is still interested should not depend on the nomination or recommendation of our party. Instead, they should go and meet each of the other senators or members of the House of Representative and sell themselves as to why they want to vie for the positions. Once you are elected into the National Assembly, you are going to work with other colleagues across party lines, and that also means you can vie for any position irrespective of your political party. Luckily, the office of Senate president has been zoned to the North East and whoever is interested has the responsibility to do their homework. The party has given us a sense of direction but the actual work is for the candidates who will also have to go and meet the other members of the Senate, irrespective of their political affiliation.
As one of the senators from the North East, are you also vying?
No I am not vying for the singular reason that the time is too long to talk about it. We see the direction of the party so we would work with the position of the party. Of course there are about six or seven of us in the region who are qualified for the position but we have to do it in tandem with the understanding of the party and our constituents who voted us to represent them.
How will you assess the outing of your party in the last general election?
I will say that the APC did extremely well in the last election; it has beaten all past records in the state for instance, and enjoyed overwhelming support of the people who have come to believe so much in the APC. However, having done very well, there are a lot of things that happened leading to the results we have. We need to look at the manner of the election and its conduct whether it was free and fair and the rest of it. APC has become so popular in Taraba State that it is the people versus government situation that we have. The people are APC but the government is PDP. So we are looking at the issues and we would redress the situation.
Do you see the party winning the governorship case at the tribunal?
Well, when it comes to election tribunal, there are a lot of things that come to play. We have our own facts and the other side also have theirs, we know how the election went with the contradictory figures that have been posted all over the place, and so we are challenging those figures and I can assure you we have a very good case especially in relation to the 2019 governorship election in Taraba State.
Insecurity has become a major issue affecting the entire country. What do you think is responsible?
You see a lot of people are pilling the blame on the Federal Government especially on Mr. President but I think we all have a role to play in curtailing the security situation in this country. The reason is that, the citizens are stakeholders in this Nigeria project and we must all work together to tackle this menace because we are all involved. Insecurity in Nigeria is so complicated, it has political connotation, it has socioeconomic connotations, it has religious connotations and so many reasons that one can attach to it, and so it is the responsibility of the government and the governed to make sure that they come together to solve this problem. So for me, the way forward is for the government to engage the citizens in each state of the federation. I tend to agree with the governor of Kaduna State who said that we should not blame Mr. President but the governors who are the chief security officers of their states. There is a limit to what the president can do. He cannot just ask the army to start shooting and bombing places in a bid to curtail the activities of insurgents or bandits and others. It has to be through a consultative approach. Again, you know that we have a teeming population of idle youths in this country. The rate of unemployment has added to the level of insecurity and so we need to engage our youths in more fruitful ways. That is what the APC government plans to do in the next level.
What is your take on the state governors’ quarrel that they are toothless bulldogs and such would need a state Police to function effectively?
I totally disagree with them. You know when you say that you are a state governor and you feel because the constitution has given you your own level of participation in the Nigerian politics, you will not respect the Federal Government because it is headed by a different party, there will be problem. Every governor should work very well with Mr. President. If the president who is at the top there strives to work well with the governors, they should be able to reciprocate that and show him some respect as well. The president has demonstrated willingness to work with the governors. Look at the monies he gave out to them for the clearing of pensions and salaries. So clearly, the Federal Government, led by President Buhari is doing very well to make sure he extends a hand of fellowship to the state governors, so it is left for the governors to also reciprocate the gesture. So we need to stop politicising insecurity. The threat is real and serious and so every governor should sit up and make sure that they work closely with the Federal Government and its agencies in their respective states. So for me, state Police should not even be contemplated at this time when you have governors who are not able to even pay salaries and pensions and meet their basic requirements of running state architecture. How can they now come and run state Police which is very expensive?
What is your take on the claims of your party that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is not a Nigerian?
I don’t have much to say on this because it is a constitutional matter and I am not an expert in constitution matters. Let the party prove its position on whether or not he met the constitutional requirements to be a Nigerian or not. If he does, that’s fine; otherwise, the constitution should take its course.
What do you think of illegal mining in the North?
Mining is a very complicated issue. For example, who has the land, and who has the authority over land in the states? It is the governor. Now if I go to ministry of mining and obtain a license to come and mine on your land, there would certainly be issues there. That is why the issue of mining is very complicated. And until we are able to sit down and address these issues that are conflicting, we might not be able to get these things right. I am not in any way supporting illegal mining. Mining should not be illegal; it should be controlled to the extent that most mining activities are done legally. Of course you can not completely rule out illegal mining activities even in very developed countries. So for me, I don’t see it as a conspiracy by the North to cheat the South or something of that nature in terms of benefiting from the crude oil in the South and then mining our resources illegally. I don’t think that is the case here. What we need to do is to sit down and address the issues surrounding mining activities so that we can make the best of it as well. It is a very critical sector that is crying for attention obviously.
Give us an overview of your performance in the current National Assembly and your plans for the 9th National Assembly?
Well, we can look at my participation in the Senate from three perspectives: lawmaking, representation and over sighting. These are the three fundamental roles and mandate of every parliamentarian. So within the context of these, I have been able to sponsor some bills which of course are in the pipeline, and I hope they will be passed before the end of the 8th Senate. I can say I have also done very effective representation. Representation entails protecting the interest of your constituents and I have done that as best as I can. I have been able to execute some constituency projects as much as I could. We have uplifted and empowered our youths in so many ways, we have given good support to our women and I have played key roles in supporting the Federal Government on the issue of the Mambilla Hydro Dam which will benefit not just the people of the state and nation but humanity at large. I am also working hard to make sure that we connect the Taraba Central zone to the national grid. So to that extent, I have done the little I could do I am positive that we are going to do a lot more than we have done so far in the 9th Senate.
How will you assess the PDP- led administration in Taraba State in the last four years?
Like I have always said, I wish the governor had done a lot more than this. I wish he had done better. I just wished he were a different PDP man. I say because PDP as a party is even preventing her own members who are governors from performing very well and effectively developing their respective states. So I think Governor Darius Ishaku would have done extremely well that he has because he is a professional, he is a mature person and probably has good plans for the state but he is prevented by virtue of been in the PDP and the PDP figures who surround him.