Paul Omokuvie, Bauchi
Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed has said that security is one area that has given him sleepless nights since he assumed office. In this interview with a select group of journalists, he also spoke on his recent victory at the Supreme Court among other issues.
After the Supreme Court verdict, you invited ex-governor Mohammed Abubakar to come and move Bauchi State forward. But has he congratulated you after the Supreme Court judgment? If no, it means he may turn down your invitation.
You saw what happened even during the court process, we greeted each other. We always have respect for each other and because I am younger, the onus is on me to go and greet him. I greeted him when we were seated in the Supreme Court and after the verdict, I went and greeted him and said well this is over, and he said yes. So, to me, we are still good compatriots. We are still good friends and there is nothing to show that he will not welcome the opportunity of working together unless he chooses because sometimes we politicians, our own lieutenants are the ones putting things into our ears because if there is peaceful co-existence, they won’t be able to get what they are getting. But I will advise him to take the olive leaf so that we can be our own brothers’ keepers and we can be co-compatriots.
How would you describe the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment in Imo State that sacked Emeka Ihedioha of your party?
The Supreme Court judgment is a manifestation of the judicial process. I know it was a very painful outcome for me as a PDP member and for me as a friend of the former governor who was affected; also for me who knows what Emeka stands for democracy and the roadmap he has established in terms of trying to rescue Imo from the vagaries of that state. So, it was very painful and it was something very unexpected and definitely my state of mind was such that I was even out of the country and I felt very bad because I knew what happened to him could happen to anybody. The Hausa say the outcome of any judgment is normally diametrically opposed to rational thinking. So, it is not about rationality. It is about the outcome that affected us which was diametrically opposed to what we expected or what we want. When the Supreme Court gave us Zamfara, we were very happy but when it went against us, we were very unhappy and that’s why you saw us demonstrating. That is democracy. But certainly, it has given me some hiccups, some fears for the first time thinking that the confidence expressed by my competitor has something to do with some assurance in some quarters and somewhere but I still had faith in God. The court processes are definitely big distractions. To me, they were uncalled for because I was coming from the opposition and nobody gave me a chance of winning and Mohammed Abubakar knew that I didn’t rig that election and I know he knew I won the election. I would not have manufactured any resources to come and dislodge him if not because of the will of God and the mandate given to me by the people.
I didn’t even have the wherewithal to do that. That is why I considered it very painful. But painful as it was, I am ready to forgive because that is the expression of democracy. He has the right to go further and make sure he exercises his universal suffrage, his right as a human being to go to court and we have gone the whole hog.
We wasted so much time and we were not able to plan very well. We would not be able to plan like Emeka planned in Imo and at the end of the day, all this has come to naught. Definitely, it was a big distraction.
You started with former Governor Isa Yuguda against all odds and became a success; you defeated a sitting governor to become a senator, moved the doctrine of necessity and became FCT minister for six years. What makes you thick?
We started with Yuguda during the ANPP and we did so much for Bauchi and no sooner the same kind of political situation emerged. I was a senator so I decided to do my senatorial work and that was what brought us to the Doctrine of Necessity before I became a minister. I didn’t go to Abuja to become a minister and that is why I am telling people that they should believe in God. They should have the courage to say things that are difficult to say when it is their responsibility to say it. It doesn’t matter who that person is. I have never had anything in common with Jonathan. We were not even in the same party and he gave me a state and structure, that is the Federal capital city to run. That is why today, I am completely detribalised. I don’t have any feeling of differences in terms of human relations because to me, it depends on what anybody can do for you. Even at the moment, I have some SAs that are from the South because they can do a lot to add value. What I believe in is opening new frontiers in doing things that are difficult to do, in making sure that we bring to active thinking, inventing, creativity. That is why I invoked the Doctrine of Necessity; that is why I got the Land Swap where we were to do things to centralise the private sector to bring in one point two trillion and at the end of the day, the EFCC said that one trillion was in my account. It’s because they didn’t understand the scientifically based template that we came up with in terms of doing it with the Dangotes and the rest. So, we will do it but we will be careful with the GDP and the economic level of Bauchi so that we don’t exercise our discretion and put the common man in jeopardy. Bauchi is a place where there is no development control. You will see so many developments on the road corridor but we are exercising patience.
Somebody like me from Abuja, we don’t tolerate that but today I have to tolerate it because I must provide alternative before I remove those shanties on the road. If you just do it, you will make so many people jobless and already, there is joblessness. Already all the Suya spots, they are all on the road corridors but if you remove them, many people will lose their jobs so you have to do something to make sure you don’t cause pain and loss to the people in trying to make the city neat. So, I am a person who believes in doing things and a person who takes everybody along. I want to give everybody opportunity especially those brilliant people, more brilliant than me to be able to work and do things for the people, and leave legacies and landmarks the way we built the Airport road, the Outer Express way Kubwa; people were thinking it was done by the Federal Ministry of Works. It was I who did it. We built the World Trade Centre, so we want to do something in Bauchi. One thing I must say, out of our former leaders, my former boss Yuguda has left legacies and landmarks. He built an airport, a hospital and he built a university. Nobody has done that. So, whatever you call him, he has done something and that is what leadership is all about and I will leave legacies and landmarks.
Considering the mammoth crowd of supporters that welcomed you to Bauchi after the Supreme Court verdict, how will you manage the high expectations of the people against the backdrop of the lean resources of the state and the promises made to them?
You can only manage expectations by being transparent and telling people the truth. I know people have highest expectations especially my mammoth supporters Everybody is looking up to me. I know almost everybody. I grew up in the neighborhood where everybody knows me.
Everybody knows my parent. I am from a very large family, a royal family. I have so many constituencies, a politician who knows almost all the political operators, a journalist who knew almost all the reporters, a civil servant who knows almost all the civil servants in the federal civil service. So, you can see even the expectations of my three constituencies is enough to coerce me and most especially as somebody who has gone to the nook and crannies, calling people to vote for him without giving them money; they sweated, they cried, they delivered and so their expectations are high. But I believe in my fidelity, in my sincerity and fear of God. Don’t live anything anymore. I have achieved so much. There is nothing people have not done to bring me down; they have not brought me down. What I need to do is to leave legacies and landmarks and to do something that will benefit people collectively, not necessarily individuals. Where they will benefit individually, I will be very happy to do it. You have seen what we are doing on water. We took a World Bank loan for four years but they only started when I came on board. Six months ago and we are exiting in June this year. We are fighting with WB because their resources must be freed and taken to another state. We’re doing it. We will make sure we finish all the connections, the reticulation and the metering by the grace of God. If we are not able to do it, then we look for resources because WB will not wait for us.
Are you going to investigate your predecessor?
It is not what I have come to do. I have always drawn a line but in the course of governance if I find out that there is anywhere the= government of the people of Bauchi State are shortchanged, I am not going to let it go because nobody spared me when I left FCT. I was the most investigated person in Nigeria and I dare anybody to tell me any account where I kept money which warranted that investigation. But I took it as an expression of accountability. I don’t think MA should be afraid of being investigated if he has no skeleton in his cupboard. It is not a priority to investigate him only that if in the course of what my ministries and departments are doing, you have cause to do that, then definitely we are not going to spare him because doing that will shortchanged the people of Bauchi and will make them unhappy.
You expressed a hand of fellowship to the former governor to join your administration to move the state forward. How do you intend to do this collaboration?
It is about the issue of continuity. I am continuing with his programmes which he might have taken over from others. Dynamism in governance is what is called collaboration. I am not going to set aside my own and give him to operate as a governor but definitely, if he gives me opinion, because he has been there as a governor, we are going to take it and use it . The only thing is that I have expressed that I am ready to work with him. It is now left to him to accept.
Definitely, we are not dependent on him but certainly we recognise his position as a former governor and because, me too one day I hope I live long, one day I will become a former governor and somebody will look for my opinion.
In your quest to take Bauchi to the New Level, how do you plan to involve indigenes of the state residing outside the state?
I have always told journalists that my success or failure is your own because you don’t have many journalists as governors and I own whatever I become to your constituency because I was a reporter for many years. Journalists have helped me and I have the burden of making sure I reciprocate what you did to me. I am the most vilified person, most misunderstood person. Maybe because of my background and attitude because I can make some leaders hate me by virtue of my pronouncement or what have you. My astronomical rise is a source of discomfort to so many people and so I am someone that is put on the spot. I must confess that since I left office in 2015 and I faced challenges you have been with me. They wanted me in prison but you stood by me.
You have frequently talked about saboteurs in your government… when are you planning to tackle the issues?
It is not about the beggar. It is a double edge sword. Yes we are peaceful, we are tolerant, we are accommodating, we are forgiving butn we should not be dared. Nobody should dare us. If you see our accommodating attitude as an expression of weakness, then you are mistaken. We are just doing it because that is leadership. Leadership is about accommodating all the differences. Not all the things will be palatable to you but you must accommodate them. At the same time, if somebody is going to throw the carpet under your feet, you will not just look and look until you fall and at the end of the day, you take the blame. There are areas that you can be sabotaged in governance. I have been an administrative officer from Grade Level 8 to 17 at the federal level and I know administration that you don’t want to be sincere on your opinions on this and that. That even goes to the bureaucracy. If you think your loyalty is to the last administration we are not going to tolerate it. Or you are leaking our secrets and so on and so forth, we are not going to tolerate it. We will punish you. If you sabotage us or do things that are inimical to the progress and peace of the state, we are not going to tolerate that.
What is your take on youth restiveness which has become a hydra-headed monster in the state? Because most of these restive youth are your supporters.
Youth restiveness was not caused by me. We inherited it from the administrations of the past and we will tackle it. We will open so many windows, show many ways and means. As you said, they are our supporters and we are not doing it on party lines. We will do it as a government. Whether they are APC youth, they are PDP youth, we are going to make sure that we give them something to do and definitely by the next two or three months, you will see us visiting all the 20 local governments, doing things that will provide some palliatives before we do something on a permanent basis.