Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State was a guest of Media Trust Limited at the weekend. He spoke on a range of issues affecting Bauchi State, the North and Nigeria. Below are excerpts from the interview:
You have been Governor of Bauchi State for six years now. How has it been like?
In Bauchi State, we’ve done a lot in education, health, rural infrastructure, youth employment, incentives to civil servants and reforms in the judiciary. For instance, we inherited a judiciary in which the magistrates rode on motor cycles to go to their courts and the salary of a magistrate was about N28,000 and that of Alkali was about N15,000.
A director was earning about N50,000 and perm secs were earning about N70,000. In the civil service alone, I have made 92 interventions. Today our perm secs are earning about N420,000 and our magistrates have cars and security personnel so that they are not exposed to attacks after they may have delivered their judgements.
For the House of Assembly we have done a lot too. We’ve rebuilt the House of Assembly which was built in 1982, and no government has retouched it. Today, it’s one of the best in the country. We have many ambitious projects. We are building a brand new international airport in Bauchi. We want to make Bauchi State a tourists’ destination.
We’re reconstructing rural roads. In the education sector, we have rehabilitated 45 schools and provided 6.5 million textbooks in different subjects for all levels of education. They were supplied by Longman Publishers in 180 trailers. We’re challenged with teachers and have been making do with youth corps members. We had a setback with the killing of eight youth corpers in 2011, but given the tremendous improvement in our security, I’m happy to say NYSC posted 1,500 youth corps members to our state, as against 500 members of the corps posted to Bauchi in 2011.
On security we are facing a lot of challenges, especially in Tafawa Balewa axis, which has been a flashpoint for communal clashes. Publications give them religious colouration, but I believe that conflicts are caused by those who have selfish interest in order to take control of government resources. We’ve been able to nip Tafawa Balewa crises in the bud.
We also have the crisis by miscreants in the North East zone, but since 2010 we never had any major incident that has to do with the violence perpetrated by the criminals. We’ve had those of robbers who robbed banks and police stations. They rob banks to get money for their nefarious activities and they rob police stations to seize guns.
The recent attack was aborted because we were three days ahead of them. We knew they were coming to attack churches. We sensitised all pastors and imams and all the security agencies were put on alert. We cordoned off churches. The bomb the attacker was carrying detonated and he killed himself. I can say that Bauchi is the safest state in Nigeria.
Recently the German Ambassador in Nigeria was in Bauchi State over the solar power project that is coming up. There was a ground-breaking ceremony. She flew into Bauchi with her husband to perform the ceremony.
If Bauchi was not safe, the German ambassador cannot fly to Bauchi. But Nigerians will tell you they would not go to Bauchi because Bauchi is in crisis. We’ve guaranteed our people security, so our Sallah celebration was the most beautiful since the creation of the state. We’ve not had a durbar like the one we had during this last Sallah.
In the health sector, we now have a VVF centre, second to that of Katsina. We’re supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). All the operations carried out there were successful. We’re working on a project on cardiac centre where there can be heart operations. There’s no such project in Nigeria. Also, 13 hospitals have been constructed and/or rehabilitated and fully equipped. For nurses, we’re collaborating with Cross River and Anambra States, who have promised to support us with as many as possible, and for our nurses to be trained in those states.
We have the benefit of a teaching hospital. The president has approved the sitting another teaching hospital in the state so that medical students in ATBU may come there to learn. We have a new kidney dialysis centre, with seven machines working 24 hours. We have the best machines, as compared with other centres.
The climax of our educational achievement was to open a state university. I went to the National Universities Commission (NUC) to do a presentation of the need for a state university here. That same day, they gave me the certificate. Professor Okojie said the documents presented to them were perfect.
Now if anyone wants to ask for private university, NUC will ask him to go to Bauchi State University to use it as a model. We now have a College of Medicine. Before now our children were denied admission to read Medicine because of the quota system.
Before now there was only one teaching hospital in Maiduguri for the whole North East zone. This year, we’ve admitted 700 students into the Bauchi State University.
We’ve empowered youths with skills acquisition, train-the-trainer programmes etc. Now we have not less than 2,000 candidates who pass WAEC with at least five credits including English Language and Mathematics...
What is the prospect for peace in the North-East, considering the Boko Haram crisis that has ravaged the region?
It is just a pity that we’ve found ourselves in this mess. One factor in this issue is the damage done by those so-called preachers on both sides – Christian and Muslim. The so-called Muslims appear to be preaching Islam as a violent religion, and those on the Christian side give the impression that Christianity is violent. This is not so. This thing didn’t start just in one day.
Some people may have invested heavily in dividing the North. We must come to terms with the reality that there’s nothing like religious war or conflict in the North, but certain persons who have invested so much to create that environment, to breed those animals that kill in the name of God. The Quran talks about peace, and Christianity teaches love. Christians and Jews are called people of the book in Islam.
We must go back and search our souls. Nobody should talk about jihad when he doesn’t know the meaning of jihad. There is the big and the small jihad. The big one is that of oneself – cleansing one’s mind so that people would admire you. For those who want to convert to Islam, they will do so because of your character.
It has been succeeding in the past before September 11, 2001. Now, we hear of Islamic Terrorism. There’s no terror in Islam. Islam is peace! Terrorists are terrorists; they’re criminals and should be treated as such.
For the Christians, the Bible came 640 years before Islam. I’ve read it from Genesis to Revelation. There’s no where it says one should kill in the name of religion. So where did we get that idea of fighting and killing one another in the North? I always ask, don’t we have Christians and Muslims in the Western part of the country? Islam came to Kanem Bornu before it spread to all parts of the North and Christianity came through the Western seacoast. Have you heard of religious crisis in the West? No. That shows that the crisis is not about religion, so let’s look for the cause of the violence.
The small jihad is, when as a Muslim, somebody who is not a Muslim comes with a weapon and says you should stop practising Islam or else I slice off your head. That is when you should take weapon to defend yourself and your religion. You’re not supposed to go to his house. He’s the one who has to come to you. That’s when a jihad is legitimate.
But even then you must not kill his children, women or burn his place of worship. Today in the North people are killing one another in the name of religion. We must go after these people, get a rallying point, and make sure these things are curtailed, otherwise it will degenerate. We may end up having a catastrophic situation in the North. These people have been turned into monsters because they look at things from one prism.
Unless the people come and say, if I have a child who is a criminal I will surrender him to the police to deal with him, this violence will not be curtailed. Those who have tasted human blood in the North must be isolated and dealt with, else they will continue to kill people.
The other aspect is the issue of transparency and corruption within the North. Governors must know that every kobo of government money that we spend that is not in line with appropriation process, we’ll account for them before God.
If I used that money to marry more wives or engage in pleasure, I will account for it. The people must have a stake and should benefit from the resources of the states. The leadership of the North must know they stand accountable before God for every kobo they spent in any way that is not in line with the law.
The next thing I will talk about is empowerment. Jobs must be created. If you build school, market, hospitals and nice infrastructure, and forgetting that somebody is sleeping with his children without food, there’s a problem. In the North money must circulate to the poorest of the poor. People must have purchasing power.
At least 70% to 80% people in the North are starving. It is simply because people don’t have purchasing power; money is not circulating. We have to ask ourselves how we should manage our balance sheet so that money will reach the poorest of the poor. If you go to a community of 1,000 persons and ask them to produce N100,000 so that you support it with an additional N100,000 you will be shocked to find that not more than N20,000 will be produced by the people. The poverty in the North is as serious as that.
What are you doing to change this situation?
If I tell you what I’m doing in Bauchi State, it will not solve the problem in the North. There must be synergy between northern governors in tackling this situation. This depends on the perception of governors on what politics is all about. Some politicians believe the only way to manage people is to impoverish them. Some governors have different priorities; some are pleasure seekers but some of the governors we have today are facing the challenge of empowering our people with the little we get.
For instance, I attempt to empower people in the remotest places in Bauchi States. I have 313 wards in Bauchi. I want 50 persons in each of those wards. I want to ensure each of them earns N10,000 in a month. They’re employed as vigilante or whatever to earn the money. It will improve on the purchasing power of the people in that place. We have over 50,000 of such persons all over Bauchi State.
In schools we’ve provided borehole, overhead tanks, generating sets so that students don’t just fall sick. Western countries have safety nets for their unemployed and underprivileged people, but what have we done for similar people in the North? Nothing. The rich are flaunting their wealth. We must create purchasing power, and this will expose them to the culture of hard work because from the stipend they receive, they can establish some small scale businesses, feed their families. Then the famine we have today will not be there.
There must be security. They’re many who graduated for 11 or 15 years without jobs. When I left ABU Zaria, I had nine job offers and after my NYSC I had two more job offers, making a total of 11 jobs. But today graduates have no jobs, while politicians are flaunting their exotic cars all around. This kind of life has to stop.
The debate on the onshore/offshore dichotomy is on now. Some governors say it has to be reopened to enable you have money to transform your communities. What’s your position on this issue?
We should appreciate the fact that communities in the South-South have been traumatised and bastardised by the Federal Government of Nigeria by allowing the oil majors to impoverish them; to waste their land and pollute the environment. Billions of naira has to be pumped into them to revive them to what they were 40 years ago. I recall receiving a book written on Nigeria by a German showing Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on a boat going to the first oil well in Oloibiri. Ever since then they have been bastardizing the environment. Today if you go to Bayelsa or Akwa Ibom or Rivers or Delta, there are millions that are very poor.
They are living the same life that the northerners are living because there is no redistribution of money. Some have zero purchasing power. Many live in shanties. So, much as you would want to look into the aspect that has to do with the decision of the National Assembly we had members of the National Assembly from the North who felt it was better that the littoral states should take derivation to the offshore. And we elected them to represent us; we should ask them how they could reverse that.
As far as I’m concerned I want money to be utilised to fix oil producing areas. The Federal Government and state governments and the oil majors neglected them, only their community leaders and some few politicians have been feeding fat on the wealth, whether onshore or offshore.
The injustice started since the creation of Nigeria. When the white man came to Northern Nigeria, who was financing government, both at local and federal levels? At least in Northern Nigeria, it was the Jangali (i.e. cattle tax). The same Fulani man that is rearing cattle, the white man respected him as he was the only person that was taxed because he had the resources to pay and which was why then they had cattle routes mapped from Maiduguri up to Oturkpo.
Nobody dared to farm on their route and they had grazing reserves reserved for them. They had places where their animals were sprayed with chemicals so that they don’t catch rinderpest. They were highly respected by the white man, but eventually the white man went into buying cotton, groundnut and tin mining on the Plateau, then cocoa in the West and coal in the East.
But what has been the fate of the Fulani man today? The people in the oil producing states, if they are unlucky, if their environment is not fixed, their lives would be like the life of the nomadic Fulani man. He will not have access to schools, health care, drinking water or electricity. He is chased from one place to the other, stoned and matcheted in the name of farmers/pastoralists’ clash, because the Fulani are no longer relevant. We don’t want that to happen to the people of the South-South to suffer what the Fulani are suffering now.
What is your position on the current arrangement, therefore?
As far as I’m concerned, the current arrangement should stand for some time. But let there be justice, because the Supreme Court has passed a judgement on the boundary of the littoral states, which is the watermark.
Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, for instance, has said no one can understand why there should derivation on oil that is located well into the sea where there are no local governments.
The Supreme Court has a ruling and an Act of the National Assembly has been passed on this. But I would not want it to be reopened immediately. My people have suffered the fate of financing Nigeria and today they’re still bleeding.
I don’t want the people who have been producing oil from coastal areas to be neglected. Government should do something now to empower them and fix the environment. Yes, our territorial water is called Nigerian maritime waters, hence it is for Nigeria.
The National Assembly may have to decide on what to do about this matter, but my position is that it should not be immediately. Let the injustice be tackled first.
Politicians in Bauchi say you’re an absentee-governor. Is there any truth in what they alleged?
If you can’t talk evil, if you can’t frame somebody to paint him black, then, among some Nigerians you’re not a politician. Those saying such things are not only satanic and evil in their mind because they want to paint Yuguda bad.
I must go out of Bauchi to carry-out some assignments for my state. If I have a Governors Forum meeting, I have to travel. If I have to travel abroad to seek investment, I have to travel. For instance, we are the first state government to obtain a sovereign guarantee of the federal government to obtain a facility of $171 million to finance our power plant.
Secondly, we have the solar power project. We are the first state to get it. For the purpose of educating these people, they may have been satanic in the way they think. If any manager cannot leave a succession that can lead the system on autopilot, then he’s not a good manager. There’re many people who run their offices from their homes through the internet. You don’t have to be visible for the job to continue.
My critics didn’t say I’ve not worked; they didn’t say I’m corrupt; they said I’m not sitting in the state. If I sit it’s the same people that will abuse me; If I don’t, they’re the same people that will abuse me! Bauchi is working; money is circulating; our youths are working; our women are working. Glory be to the Almighty.
There’re many project you started in 2008 which have not been completed and there’re fears that they may be abandoned. These projects may not be completed before you leave office. What are you doing about them?
I wish you’ll one day emerge as a governor and be faced with a situation in which you need to balance your cash-flow in the face of a crunch and a situation in which you have to make everybody happy.
Money that comes in to Bauchi annually is not much. The Ningi-Bura road that I’m constructing had been ignored even before Independence. It’s about 120 kilometres. Who’s Isa Yuguda to construct it in two years or three years? At the end of the day, that road costs N7.5 billion. That road has nine bridges and over 50 culverts.
You think you’ll finish it in two or three years? It’s not possible. Then, if you have to balance the polity, you’ll consider that Ningi is Bauchi Central, Katagun is Bauchi North. I constructed Giade to Azare which used to be one hour and is now 15 minutes. I constructed Algarno to Azare, 33 kilometres. The 120 kilometres from Magangu to Rahama is eight kilometres from Saminaka. The place that remains is six kilometres. If you go to Alkaleri is up to the boundary of Taraba – it’s 120 kilometres.
Don’t forget, I also domesticated the procurement laws. I don’t want to run afoul of the laws. What I do is, immediately I came into government, I had to sit down and determine what budget I will run.
Of course it has to be a deficit budget. You have to borrow to finance long term projects. Then you start this construction.
Every year you do a bit, until you complete the roads. It is within the cash flow that I pay contractors. I had to plan that right from Day One. The longer the tenure is the better for you. I booked a facility of N10 billion and I paid all of it by April 2011.
When I came in 2011 I did a deficit budget again. That has been the major challenge. I had to fix schools, hospitals, etc. You have to find a way of balancing, because you’re in politics and people have voted for you.
I have a management team that has captured all the projects, from the needle to road projects. We’re focused on finishing projects and repaying our loans.