By Olanrewaju Lawal
Former member of the National Assembly and Spokesman of the 8th House of Representatives, Zakari Muhammed in this interview speaks on the politics of Kwara State among other issues.
As a former Commissioner, former Federal lawmaker, how has the journey been so far in politics?
I would say it has been so well, so good. But it is a journey that is not without its hiccups. But above all, I will say Allhamdulilhi, we thank God. One was not chosen for all those elected positions for being extraordinary other than the grace and favour of Almighty God. And I am very thankful to Him because I remember that as a reporter, I never had the insight that I was going to be in politics one day.
I want to thank the people of Kwara State, my constituency, particularly my community. I thank my party, the leadership of my party led by Former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and several other leaders. I thank them so much for giving me the opportunity to serve.
Going back to your days at the House of Representatives, what would you consider were your major achievements?
In the 7th assembly, I was the spokesperson for the House of Representatives. And without judging myself, I will leave that to posterity and people to judge me. One of the things I remember is the sponsoring of a bill to extend the retirement age of our professors in the Universities from age 60 to 65. What is it all about? Because we discovered that some of these professors, if they retired at age of 60, they will still go back to bring them as contract lecturers. I now replicated the bill to cover Secondary School teachers too. These teachers should be allowed to retire at the age of 65 years. Because when they retire, we will still go back to bring them as a contract staff. So, why not leverage on their experience since at 60, they are still active. We can still draw it back to 65 years. It is one of the bills I introduced in the 8th Assembly.
Another bill that was very close to my mind that I co- sponsored was the bill on the separation of the office of the Accountant General of the federation from the Federation Account. Among others, these are few bills that were very keen to me and I believe that they were bills that were very progressive, that aim at changing the system for better . And I know for a fact that I co- sponsored a lot of bills from the 7th to the 8th Assemblies.
What do you think were the major reasons why the PDP as a stronger party in 2019 lost in Kwara?
Basically, we had in-fighting and the fallout of the governorship election; there were people who thought they should get positions -Assemblies, Reps, Senate. I think we need to go back on the drawing board, look at our recruitment system in terms of those who contested all positions, and of course, we never had a full proof and a perfect system anytime, any day.
What is important is the fact that, those who won purportedly in Kwara know they didn’t win elections. We know what happened but we decided not to go to court. We decided to take the will of God and embraced it. Sometimes in life, when God takes His decision, He wants you to go through a process. So, allow him to go so He would place you better even if we had won this election. We have been following them to see what they are going to offer. If I may ask, each time they want to talk, they will say our 16 years were a waste; agreed but some of the projects you are renovating were done in the last 16 years . And I heard that they want to renovate the football Academy. But someone did the football academy, Aviation, Diagnoses Centre. Somebody did it all but you are adding value to some of those things. Some of the roads were constructed by some people; even the secretariat you are commissioning, somebody did it up to 95 per cent. So, you completed it by just paying N300million and you are like promise made and fulfilled! So, who is fooling who? So, for us, I believe that whatever we say would be like opposition views. But you can deceive some people for sometimes, but not all the people all the time.
Most people believe that the PDP lost, especially your Zone (Kwara North), because of the misunderstanding between you and your elders on one side, and the impression in some quarters that you were not accessible; how do you react to that?
You know people are entitled to their opinions. What I want to say here is that the people they are talking about, Senator Ahmed and the Former Minister, Issa Bio Ibrahim all have gone to APC. And when Bio was in PDP, we moved to APC and when we came back to PDP, he returned to APC. So, you could say that the trajectory is not about Zakari. Then Senator Ahmed stayed back in APC and one thing I want you to understand from all what I have said is that in terms of my projects and the bills, the people at the grassroots could feel the impacts.
Coming to the loss of election in Kwara North, Kwara North felt alienated. They believe that since 1999, none of their sons from the area had been a governor of the state. And ofcourse, in 2011, we were promised that we shouldn’t worry, that by 2015, it would come to our turn.
But the Governor had to be given a second term because we changed party.
We kept quiet. I know that late Governor Lawal when he was coming in with the support of late Baba Saraki then, he won in Kwara North by 65 per cent. Based on Kwara North history, they have five local governments but four of the local governments vote in block on one direction and simple arithmetic.
Where we have population in the Central, they don’t vote more than 40 per cent; very obvious because Central is made up of different people, not only the indigenes of the Central but different parts of the country. Imagine the Yoruba community who are living here; they would all vote in their own way and Kwara South has unpredictable voters; they would bring like their 35,36 per cent. When Governor Lawal came in and when Senator Saraki was coming at the first time, we got 73.5 per cent in his first coming in 2003; go and check your records. That was what we gave you from the North; the second term was when we delivered 85 per cent from the North for him. When Ahmed was coming in, it was around 72 per cent, his second coming was around 77, 78 per cent. When the incumbent governor came, we gave him 85 per cent of our votes not because he came to campaign to us but out of annoyance.
Because we felt that we are not loved here and we must prove that.
What is your next plan in your journey in politics?
Yes, like I said several times and I will still say it again, for me in 2023, if God spares my life, because it is only God that gives power and it is God that knows those who would survive beyond 2023, as long as I breathe -in and out, and I am sound, I will contest for the governorship of Kwara State.
And the reasons are very simple because I believe that I have all it takes to move Kwara State forward because this was not the state of our dream. And I believe as former state executive member, as former special assistant, as somebody who has worked in Ilorin, mingled in Ilorin, I am a home boy, an Ilorin boy. I know every part of Kwara State either by following the military administrators or at least when Alhaji Sahaba Lafiagi was the governor. I followed him to tour the entire state. During the military administrations, I followed them to tour all the state. So, I know kwara State as a whole.
I believe that God would be on our side; Inshallah, with the support of the people of Kwara, we can make a change happen.
You mentioned that the votes for APC in the last election were protest votes; has the current administration been able to justify the 85 per cent votes it got from your Zone?
Anything I say, they will view it as the expression of an opposition party man. I will take you back; when they were celebrating 100 days or one year in office of the last administration, the projects that were commissioned cannot be compared to what we have now. I mean having to come and be re-roofing schools, fencing schools, any idiot can do it. And then, projects that have been on ground, they were able to tar one kilometer of road in a local government headquarters which a local government council can do. We know that local councils have done such roads. So, they should stop deceiving us with those kinds of achievements. Those projects are coming at what cost? One thing people of Kwara should realise is that we know what governance is all about. At what cost is some of these projects coming? I was in the ministry of energy as the commissioner when we commissioned the Ganmo power plant, what were we able to achieve with that? Before now, the power plant we had was the one behind College of education Ilorin and that one could barely give us 100megawatts. Even if 150 or 160/200 megawatt is coming into Kwara and in the wisdom of the government then under Senator Saraki, h said okay, this power plant that is coming as a capacity of almost 1000 megawatts, being futuristic, let us look at Kwara going forward; what do we do, let us complete that project.