It’s greedy to serve as gov and still aim for Senate –Bafarawa, ex-Sokoto gov
November 21, 2021
Former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, shares his views with CHUKWUDI AKASIKE on the state of insecurity in the country, 2023 general elections and other sundry issues
You were the governor of Sokoto State for two terms, what would you describe as some of your legacies?
When somebody is a leader, he cannot begin to mention legacies all by himself. Legacies are supposed to be talked about by the people he governed. However, some of the legacies I think I can mention are that I created a disciplined society by giving education priority. Many schools were built. This is because when you educate people, you educate the world. When you make them ignorant, then they will be ignorant forever. I think my legacy is in the way I prioritised education and the health sector where we trained over 100 medical doctors. I never borrowed any money whether during or after my tenure as the governor, and when I was leaving, I left over N14bn in the treasury of the state. So, these are some of the things I can mention as my legacies. I reduced poverty among the masses; artisans had access to loans; my government constructed many roads, which were up to 1,000 kilometres. The roads were inaugurated by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo. I was able to connect the entire state to the national grid without borrowing a kobo from anywhere. I was able to change Sokoto from Emirate Council to Sultanate Council.
Insecurity is ravaging the North, including the banditry in Sokoto and some other states, and it’s as if there is no definite solution in sight. How best do you think this issue can be addressed?
The North is facing the challenge of insecurity, but it is important to note that the government is for everybody and security is for everybody. It is not about the number of persons in APC or the PDP. Every Nigerian has one role or the other to play to ensure there is security. So, it is not a question of political party. We must all work towards achieving peace because if there is no peace, there is no nation. The problem is also the type of politics we play in the country where the winner takes all. When the winner takes all, others will start protesting and say the winner has taken too much.
You were one of those who brought the APC government to power in 2015 and the President said at Chatham House in the UK that the world would have no reason to worry about Nigeria in terms of security if he became the President, but the opposite is the case now. Would you agree with those who said the APC-led Federal Government had failed Nigerians?
Of course, the APC government has failed the country. They have failed to fulfill their promises to Nigerians.
If you were to be President, how would you have handled this insecurity, ranging from banditry to Boko Haram and other violent crimes?
Unfortunately, I am not going to be the President and I don’t want to be the President.
Why did you drop that ambition, given that you were part of the race for the 2019 presidential election?
It is a question of not having the will to do something. There was a time I was in politics; the will to do it was there. Now, I don’t have it. I feel I have done my best based on the opportunity given to me and I am grateful for what God has done for me. Therefore, I will never go for any elective office for the rest of my life and I will never accept any appointment for the rest of my life. But I will always give my advice whenever it is needed.
If you were to advise the President on what you think he should do to stop banditry and other violence crimes, what advice would you offer him?
When I have a President who has a listening ear and would listen to the masses, then we can advise. It is a waste of time for anybody to embark on any advisory role when nobody listens.
What is your view on restructuring, as many people have argued that decentralising the security apparatus and making more money available to the states would help our development?
Nigerians should stop deceiving ourselves. Things are changing to digital and not analogue. We need to move the country forward by promoting areas that are our strength as a country. So, we have to encourage competence within the society so that we can be able to move the country forward. We cannot decentralise everything we have because if we do so, we will never go anywhere.
It has also been argued that depriving local governments of their funds is partly responsible for the slow development at the grassroots. Would you support those who advocate the scrapping of local government councils?
I am not in support of the scrapping of the local government councils. The masses are not close to the Federal Government; they are not even close to the state government; they are close to the local government. They should allow the local government, which is the third tier of government, to remain and allow them to get their monthly allocation.
But why are governors opposed to their financial autonomy?
The governors would have to answer this question because during my time as a governor, that was not the situation.
When you were the governor, did the 23 local governments in Sokoto State have autonomy?
Of course, the local governments enjoyed financial autonomy. They enjoyed their autonomy 100 per cent, and that is the reason why some local government councils are proud of what has been done.
Groups seeking self-determination have blamed marginalisation for their action, what can be done to assuage their feelings, especially the South-East?
In the South-East, it is the Indigenous People of Biafra, and in the South-South, it is the Niger Delta militants. The South-West has Oodua Peoples Congress. The right thing to do is for a listening leader to sit down with them, talk to them and listen to them. The South-East people are asking for their right. They say they are being marginalised; there is no doubt about that. They are Nigerians. The Niger Delta militants are also saying the same thing. The best thing to do is to listen to them and give them justice, give them amnesty. They are human beings; they are like every other person. The only thing that should be done is that justice must be given to everybody. Talking about the Niger Delta militants, it is better to sit down with them and discuss with them and introduce amnesty to them. If this is done, they will feel better because they are also human beings.
Since you joined politics in 1976, you have been in some political parties, including the Great Nigeria Peoples Part, the Peoples Redemption Part and the Democratic Peoples Party, which you founded. Which one would you say has a strong ideology?
The Peoples Redemption Party has a very strong ideology. That party did not talk about money; it was only interested in the leadership of Mallam Aminu Kano. Like I said, members of the PRP then were not interested in your money; they were only concerned about the leadership protecting their rights. So, the PRP was different from other political parties where people are looking for money. Such political parties are without ideologies because their interest is money.
As a presidential candidate, you promised that if you were elected, you would scrap the Niger Delta Development Commission because of the level of corruption in the agency. Why has it been difficult to run the commission transparently and efficiently?
Yes, I said I would scrap the NDDC if I was elected the President then. Now, you can see that nothing has changed in the commission. Would you say what I said then is not happening now? What I said over 10 years ago, is it true or not true today? Look at the time I said it and now, it (NDDC) is something else.
Do you still hold that view that it should be scrapped?
Well, I leave it in the hands of the Federal Government to decide whether to scrap it or not. But whether they scrap it or not, the Niger Delta people have seen what is happening there with their eyes. Now, let them decide. I have discussed it then, and I am leaving it to the Niger Delta people to decide.
Some people are asking that the forensic audit report should be made public, but politicians who are complicit seem to be lobbying against that. Do you think President Buhari is assertive enough to act on that report, because many Nigerians expect better?
You see, a leader who has the will does not need to be told what to do in this situation. The current government came with the promise of fighting corruption. Unfortunately, they have done the opposite of what they have said. We have never had a corrupt government in the history of this country like this government. But you, the media people, should be blamed because you are not helping matters. You are supposed to be for the common man.
Why do you think the media is to blame?
I blame the media because you (the media) are keeping quiet. If we want a good society, the media has to come out and do the needful. We are Nigerians and whatever happens, we will all be affected. The media doesn’t want to say it. The media will say, ‘Look, these people give us adverts; we will not have adverts if we talk. When we have adverts, we will pay salaries. So, don’t use that story.’ Corruption is a national issue.
Aliyu Wamakko was your deputy when you were the governor, would you say he managed your legacies well when he became the governor?
That question should go to him and not me
You have always been of the view that it is an insult for governors to retire to the Senate at the end of their tenure. Do you think that action is propelled by greed?
Yes! Why would you serve eight years as governor of a state and then you come again and take one part of the state and say you are going to the National Assembly? After serving for eight years, why don’t you allow others to go to the National Assembly? As a former governor, the only thing you can look forward to is the presidency. Anything less than that is an abuse of privilege. Out of 200 million people, you are one of the few chosen to become governor, and after two terms, you come back again and say you want to go to the Senate. What are you going to the Senate to do? As a former governor, ask somebody to go and represent the people there. Then you give the person your wisdom.
Many Nigerians would even argue that governors and legislators want to remain in power because they are afraid of poverty as they seem to dread not being in power, what do you think, especially when you look at the billions of naira they are often accused of stealing?
It is a question of time. They would be smoked out anywhere they are. Like I said, it is a question of time. When someone is elected as a governor, sometimes, he does not even have a house in his own locality. But suddenly he begins to build a mansion. So, where did he get the money to build that mansion? Things will not continue like that.
Some people have asked that power should return to the South, especially South-East, what do you make of the power rotation argument ahead of the 2023 presidential election?
I am not looking at all that. I am not looking for a President from the South-South or South-East; I am looking for a Nigerian President not minding where he comes from. I am looking for a true Nigerian President who will love all Nigerians. We should pray to God to get the best that will save Nigeria. We are all Nigerians.
Many people argue that it is only fair for a southerner to succeed Buhari, do you see logic in that argument?
My prayer is that anyone that will occupy that position; let God use the person to save Nigeria. That is my prayer. Let the best lead Nigeria.
What is your take on the PDP crisis that led Uche Secondus to seek redress in court?
I think that matter has not left the court. So, I don’t want to comment on it.
Don’t you think this may affect the PDP and its plan to win the 2023 general elections, including the presidency?
You may see it as a crisis but we (PDP members) are not seeing any crisis. You are not there; so, you don’t see something that you are not part of. There is no crisis and nothing has affected the party’s objectives or ambition.
The Senate has approved direct primaries for political parties. What is your take on this?
Members of the National Assembly are representing their people from various areas across the country. The people elected them to be there. So, if they think it (direct primaries) is good for our democracy, then there is no problem.
There are rumours that former President Goodluck Jonathan might recontest the presidency, what do you make of that?
He (Jonathan) can decide for himself. I cannot decide for him and I cannot advise him on the matter unless he seeks my advice. If he seeks my advice, then I will advise him according to my own understanding. But I cannot just begin to advise him when he has not approached me to do so.
Overall, how would you rate the Buhari government based on the promises it made during the electioneering?
I have answered all your questions; you should answer this particular one yourself.
The North has some disturbing indices compared to the South, like higher number of out-of-school children, illiteracy, child marriage, etc. Why have the political leaders in that region failed to address these problems?
The leaders in the North will decide. When they see that others from other regions are doing well, I think they will sit up. Definitely, I have 100 per cent hope that all these will be addressed.
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