Deputy Governor of Kebbi State, Col. Samaila Yombe Dabai (Retd) started his sojourn in the Nigeria Army at the age of nine when he was enrolled into the Nigeria Army school in Zaria, Kaduna State. From there, he joined the Defence Academy before he was posted to the second battalion. In this interview with Saturday Sun in Birnin Kebbi, the former military administrator of Rivers State, turned politician shared his experience as the civilian Deputy Governor of Kebbi state in the last six and half years.
You recently embarked on trips to some parts of Kebbi state on security issues. What are your findings?
If you recall, we share the same border with Zamfara and over the years, Zamfara has been facing issues of banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling and other crimes like that. That never manifested itself in our area. But the development in recent years has shown that there is spill over of these crimes into Zuru land, specifically Bena area, Manci and Fakai. These are areas that have boundaries with Sokoto and Zamfara. These incidents have continued to the extent that a whole village is being attacked, and the people driven away and their properties carted away. Not only driven them away, they killed people just like in a recent village I visited.
It is unfortunate that such incident happened, because of lack of sufficient security agents. The security agents, especially the soldiers, have spread over the states. There is no state you will not find soldiers fighting crimes, fighting armed banditry. So, we are not left behind in Zuru, as a result, we have a backup of the military. But limited as they are, they are doing a wonderful job. But because of the continuous attacks, the natives decided that, look, let us help ourselves by coming together, arm ourselves and defend our areas. And they gave themselves the name ‘Yan-Sakai’, meaning, voluntary organization, to help themselves. And somehow, they are the people that are subsidizing the security. Unfortunately, unfortunately I say again, some unscrupulous people, criminals, wear the uniforms of ‘Yan-Sakai’ to commit atrocities and so on. They will kidnap an individual from Zuru, take him away for ransom. They are getting involved, judging cases up till the extent of harassing judges and lawyers. These people are not ‘Yan- Sakai’, they are criminals and we cannot tolerate that. We would not tolerate that.
In fact, His Excellency, the Governor of Kebbi state, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu was visibly angry with me, telling me that ‘you are a soldier, you have served this nation diligently, patriotically, don’t allow your image to be tarnished by these characters, you better do something.’ That informed why I relocated to where the trouble is. And I have gone, sat down with ‘Yan-Sakai’, those that are legitimately defending our borders. I had discussion with them and I told them that while they are busy defending our territorial borders, some criminals are hiding behind their glory to tarnish their image. We have decided to form a group that would be hunting these people down.
How has it been from being a military chief to a civilian Deputy Governor?
It has been very challenging, having been in the military all my life. I started soldiering at the age of nine years from military school Zaria to Academy, then, to second battalion where I was posted. At that time, the President, Commander-in-Chief, General Muhammadu Buhari was my first Company Commander. Throughout my military career, I have the privilege to work with all the Heads of States minus Chief Ernest Shonekan; the rest of them, I have the privilege to work with them.
This is because; I was commanding a strategic weapon and only few of us were trained to handle that gun. The weapon is mounted on the Land Rover and it is very big. We have two Commanders then, late Clement and myself Dabang. When Clement Dabang was shot as a result of the fact that he was backing the coup, we brought another officer, Garba Gusau who took over that aspect. So, I have the privilege of working with them. The rest is history.
What impact has your military training on your current assignment as Kebbi Deputy Governor?
Discipline, and I have been cultured in such a way to be a disciplined person and obey a lawful command. And I am fortunate, to be assisting a leader, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu who is the Governor of Kebbi state. And my military training has given me the opportunity to train under his leadership and he has given me a lot of responsibilities that are close to my career just like the one I discussed earlier (Yan Sakai), the security of the state. I have been performing well, but I can’t praise myself. But I can say, we have been having very good results.
In your years growing up through military service, did you ever imagine yourself in your current role?
Never, I grew up to be a soldier; politicking is not for a soldier. A soldier is not expected to ask what, but to obey command. He is not trained to be asking questions. But politicians would be asking questions why this thing is happening. He has to be debating. But as a soldier, once you are asked to do something; you bang your legs and say, yes sir. Even if you cannot do it, you must go outside there, begin to do it. Your Company Commander will see your weakness and of course correct that weakness. So, there is a wide difference.
When I came in officially, it was like I am in a strange place and I was asking myself what am I doing here? I asked people who are guiding me, there is one particular gentleman, Suleiman Argungu who is a Chief of Staff, who was even once a Deputy Governor; I told him, I have submitted myself to you, if I go wrong, it is you that have gone wrong. And he has been wonderful to me. He has not only been my friend, he has been my brother and that is why I find myself going on smoothly. What helped me a lot is the military discipline, which has been seeing me through.
How has been your working relationship with Governor Bagudu?
Fantastic. He is a very, very intelligent leader and very good listener. Don’t come with any question that you too already know the answer yourself before him, because he would smile at you that you know the answer, why do you want to waste time. He is a very wonderful leader. I have learnt a lot from him especially where it concerns civil leadership, which is quite different from military leadership. In this democratic environment, people try to ignite crisis between Deputy Governor and Governor, they have failed to do so because they have seen His Excellency and I, have understanding, which is unpredictable. So, we have cordial relationship and respect each other till today.
In another eight years, where would you want to see yourself sir?
Wherever God Almighty wants me to be, that is where I want to see myself.
Some Deputy Governors hardly get things to do because there is no constitutional role for them. How busy have you been in office?
I have been very busy; His Excellency has been keeping me busy; recovery of anchor borrowers’ loans, and security activities. Security of the state is not for a softhearted person.
A former Governor of Benue state, Gabriel Suswan has said the PDP will be zoning 2023 presidency to the North. Do you believe your party, APC should do the same?
Whatever the national body of our great party decides, that is what we are going to do.
Do you find time for recreation activities like sports?
I play handball, I am an old man. But I played handball for Nigeria and am still playing till now. And I also play golf, I built a golf course in Port Harcourt when I was the military governor there. We are building one now for Kebbi state. We have a place where we are playing with people.
And of course, I like biking, I do ride power bikes but I always cover my head with helmet so that people will not see me, otherwise, they will ask, Baba why?
When coming to your compound, we noticed the presence of nature; different birds and animals are making sounds. Why do you keep these domestic animals?
I am from Zuru, and Zuru people are known for meat eating. We do eat meat a lot. In fact, the Hausa man would say, “ komi namo”, which means that, everything is meat. But seriously, I love nature, I love birds of all kinds. As you can see, there are four or five species of birds here. I have antelopes and they are here. This is because of my love for nature. If you noticed during this interview, we have to drive away one cock, once it sees me sitting down here, the cock will come over to be with me. I nurtured the cock when it was very small, I do feed it with my hand.
So, I love nature.
What is your favourite meal sir?
Amala with gbegiri.
What is your favourite holiday destination?
In the past, it used to be San Francisco, for two reasons; when you go there, you do a lot of skipping and in the afternoon, you do a lot of swimming. But now, I would like to go to East Africa because I can speak Sahel language and they are peace-loving people. If you speak their language and you are not from the place, you will have many friends than you need.
How do you manage your time between official and family demands?
My wife has been with me since I was in the Army. She knows how to manage time, so also my children. When I am at home, I make up time for them. When I am busy, they don’t bother me. I just completed a PhD programme.
In which course?
In Air Transport and Logistic in Porto Novo.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I want people to remember me as a person who fears Almighty Allah, a person who fears our God. And, with the realization that, whatever you do, good or bad, it’s going to follow you. So, fear God, do the right things so that you could be at the side of God’s people.