Interview With The President, Abuja Market Women Association

ImageAll her life, she had been an advocate of women emancipation. She is passionate about organizing women traders  and making them more productive. Long time when she started pursuing this passion, She  went on to establish popular market in Benin City called  known as  Iyanga market. That market is still there.
Today she is the President of Abuja Market Women Association and a trustee of Market Women Association of Nigeria. In this interview, She spoke on several issues. Exerpts
What is the Abuja Market Women Association all about. what exactly has the association achieved for its members under your leadership?
The Abuja Market Women Association is actually  non governmental, non tribal and non political. But the fact of the matter is that every human being is involved one way or the other in some kind of politics because it is your responsibility to vote in your leaders and again, you ought to be interested in your government at any level. So our association, though non political is some how involved in politics. The Abuja Market Association actually started when General Jeremiah Husseini was the FCT minister and a  section of market in area1 was demolished. What they did that time was to demolish and immediately, pack away the debris. When children came back from school, they could not locate their mothers because the structures were no longer standing. So when I observed this, I invited the woman traders from the market. That time the market was in area1 and suggested that we should gather all the school children who couldn’t locate their parents and then, I also suggested that we should register the association. At general Husseini’s residence, his wife, late Mrs. Husseini was very kind.  She gave us all the assistance we needed and soon, mothers started trooping in to collect their lost children. That day, the Abuja Market Women Association was formed.
How far has this association advanced the cause of women economically?
Well when people don’t like you, you have to like yourself. This is very important. It was obvious then that government does not have interest in women. How did I know that? Simple: government was silent about women. I mean you don’t hear anything about women. So we decided to come together instead of waiting endlessly for a government that does not have any clear policy on women, we decided to come together so that we could empower ourselves economically. My banking experience was an asset as I took the women to different banks to access facilities. Now we did not even end there; we went ahead to do something else. Our women, who travel to buy garri to sell in Abuja, were always involved in road accidents, most of them, fatal. Our association decided to do something to minimize the frequency of our women’s trips in other to reduce the hazards they face regularly on the roads. So we went to a village in Delta state and asked them to teach our women the art of garri processing. The name of the place is Ezeonu in Ukwani local government area. When we got there, we went to the chief and elders of that community and the people were so kind and receptive. For three weeks, we were there learning every thing about garri processing. We went there on the 14th of July. Years back when we came to Abuja, garri was common man’s food and a measure was actually N40. Gradually, the price increased. Our traders who were into garri business told us that some Chinese people were buying cassava and taking same back to their country. So we went to ask them what they were doing with cassava and they told us that they use cassava to produce starch. So we came and told our Minister of Information, but he never had time for us and told us to see the Minister of Trade. You won’t believe this, but it took us three months to book appointment with the Minister of Trade, but we couldn’t see him. Meanwhile, the price of garri continues to rise until it rose to an outrageous N150. So with this skill that our women have acquired, we want to go to all the area councils and mount our machines and fry garri in large quantity so that the price would be forced down. We also sent some of our women to Kano to learn how to make tuwo and how to grind corn because it is mainly done in the north. As I speak with you, we enjoy cordial relationship with some banks and they give us loans. Our association stands as guarantor for you to access a loan and so far, non of our women has defaulted.
There is so much on television and in the press about the wife of the president’s activaties towards women empowerment. Do you think all those activities is making some impact on women?
Frankly speaking, this is the first time in the history of this country where a president’s wife is putting so much efforts in addressing issues that has to do with women. Market women are not sycophants. We will tell you as it is. If you are not performing, we will tell you so, because no matter who you are, you don’t teach us how to count our money.  All we do is to go to the market and trade. We are not looking for the post of a minister. We are not interested in being appointed as a minister or director. What we really want is to go and trade and make some profits. Therefore, we can speak out our minds freely and fearlessly. Frankly speaking, Dame Patience Jonathan has played a very prominent role in the lives of market women. As a matter of fact, she approached us and pleaded that we should vote for her husband. We obliged her and followed her. Any where she was going, we went with her. All the market women in Nigeria followed her and supported her husband. We are not just praising her, she has tried. We have respect for her. She is the only First Lady that has actually come down to our level. That is the highest display of humility considering her exalted status in the society.  She embraces us every time she meets with us and we are really so pleased with her. The First Lady has empowered our women. Women don’t need much to be empowered. Take for instance; when you give one of our women N100, 000, it is enough to start her on the path of economic stability. N20, 000 is enough to start akara business. We are talking about grass root women and the First Lady is down to the grass root. We in Abuja here do not really need much money to trade with. We have gone to places like Dobi and we realized that there is a lot of food in Dobi , but no road. We have gone to Gafa to empower women. We have actually gone to several other places within the FCT for the purpose of women empowerment and that is what our association is all about. When the First Lady empowers us, we go on to empower the rural women.  We brought our women from the villages to meet her and she gave them money directly and they have all started various businesses. One of those women just left before you came. She started with kwosai and later, added Kunu.  Now she has been able to multiply her capital. There are several other women like that.
Is the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory also encouraging  the women traders?
Yes. The honourable minister has magnanimously allocated  a parcel of land to our traders to enable us establish a market. That man, Bala is a nice fellow and all the market women in the federal capital territory supports him. As a matter of fact, we are  grateful to the president for reappointing him as minister of the FCT. The day he was reappointed, all the market women were dancing. We actually closed the market that day to enable us rejoice over his reappointment. We support Bala because if you visit a sick person and tell him sorry without  providing that person with drugs, then , you have not really done anything to help that sick person. Bala actually knows our problems and try to offer solutions. He has encouraged us in several ways. Bala has really encouraged us to make money. I am using this medium to tell Nigerians that they should not encourage people to give them what I call free money. How long would somebody continue to give you free money? Please get yourself engaged in productive ventures, Make yourself useful and stop idling around. Minister Bala and Dame Patience Jonathan  have really touched our lives in positive ways.
Thirty five percent of all position is set aside to be occupied by women. Are you satisfied with that?
First and foremost, I want to say it here that if  not for this president, who would have remembered the Nigerian women? Nigerian women wouldn’t have gotten anything. Who would have given the Nigerian woman the Minister of Petroleum and other sensitive positions? The administration of President Jonathan has  given women a sense of belonging. This government has really encouraged Nigerian women to embrace education, because by these appointments, women  now do have hope that at the end of their schooling they could go far. Let me tell you what happen in Portharcourt in 1957, a woman was beaten almost to the point of death just because she said; “vote for NCNC”. That time, if you were a woman you dare not raise your voice to speak out. I remembered what happened that day. Azikwe and people like Adelabu finished speaking at a campaign rally on the field  and this woman was given the platform to also speak. As soon Zik and his entaurage left, they decended on the poor women and gave her the beating of her life. I know that woman. She was from the present day Imo state. Her offence was how dare a woman speak at such an occasion. But now, women have been encouraged to talk at any particular time without fear. Apointing them to such exalted position means that younger women are encouraged to go to school since the benefits are obvious. The place of women is no longer in the kitchen. If  we continue to think that women are confined to the kitchen, then we are deceiving ourselves. Now, we have gotten to the stage were everybody has accepted the fact that women must be treated fairly and president Jonathan is giving us that fair treatment.
In a nutshell, what is you ultimate vision for Abuja Market Women?
My goal is to make our women realize that we are the neck of the nation. I want them to embrace hard work and avoid all forms of laziness. I want them to become good and productive wives who would be assets to their husbands. I want them to be good mothers and conduct themselves with dignity and the fear of God.  I want them to be highly industrious. Okay, look at me at the age of seventy, on, July 22, I became 71. I am still working. My parents trained me in such a way that the only thing I know is hardwork and I am imparting that on all the women around me. You have yo work. If you don’t work, don’t eat. Its as simple as that. The meal we just finished eating now, I prepared it myself. I don’t want to leave on sympathy and that, I am teaching other women too. We are trying to change the pattern of our women’s life into something better. Now market women must conduct themselves peacefully at home and in the market. Before you hear of market women fighting. But today, if you fight I ask you to pay N10,000. You don’t have to fight. I am training them to conduct themselves as ladies.
At 71 you are still looking beautiful. In fact, you don’t look that age……….
Thank you. George you make me blush. I am not a glutton. I eat what is necessary. I don’t waste my time on frivolities. You wont catch me  talking rubbish. I don’t gossip and I don’t encourage it. I get myself involved in lots of activities, like encouraging and helping others. All these contribute to ones life. The other day, I was driving my jeep along Area 3 here in Abuja and I saw some boys, probably  bettween 14 and 16 tears old. They were flying their shirts and you know in those days, boys have to tuck in their shirts. So I parked and asked them to tuck in and look clean.  One of them tucked in with his belt dropping low. So I told him no you got it wrong. Low belt or low waist as they call it here is  something that is identified with American prisoners.  Look at the provocative dressing our ladies put on now. It offends people’s sensibilities. Look at the queen of England, she still maintains decency in  her dressing. We must be decent in all that we do. I don’t compromise on decency. I have no excesses and I try as much as possible to reach out to other people. You know, such things give me joy and that has some effect on your life too.
What exactly should  government at various tiers do to encourage women towards a better standard of living?
No. Our women shouldn’t wait for government to start anything for them. They must begin by helping themselves. If you are seated in your house and you don’t come out for government to know what you do, how can they assist you? When you are home, you can still be productive. We have women in purdah who are part of our market women. They don’t come out, but from right inside their houses, they trade. Some fry groundnuts and send them out to be sold. One of our women traders in purdah, but she travels to Dubai to buy and sell furniture and she is not even schooled. But what I really want government to do is what they are doing now. Build more roads and ensure constant power supply to every part of the country.

You are reputed to be a courageous woman. Some people say that you are fearless. Is that true?
(Laughs) Well, it is true. Fear weakens you as a person. I don’t fear anybody except God who is above all. There was time some burglars broke into my house. I confronted them and asked them what they wanted in my house, people hid themselves, but I faced them. I am not afraid of anything because you die only ones. I then told them to get out of my house. Believe me sincerely, they apologized and left my house without taking any of my properties. My head was clean shaven and they were asking is this a woman or a man. I took after my father. He was a courageous person and I look exactly like him. My dad was a powerful man. In those days, he would take me to the late Sardauna of Sokoto Sir Ahmadau Bello in Kaduna. The Premier was his friend. I even spent on of my holidays with the Premier. Sardauna was a great man.  He doesn’t discriminate along ethnic or religious lines. He doesn’t discriminate at all. So my father told me not to be afraid of any person. El-Rufai said that I was insulting the government and I told him at Arts and Culture that you have no right to make people refugees in their own country.  He demolished people’s residents without making alternative provision for their shelter. The whole exercise was done without plans of relocating them I told him what they did were wrong. The sycophants around him told him that I was insulting the government. After that encounter, he went and demolished my shops, including the first standard restaurant in Abuja which I owned.  He demolished my 18 shops in Wuse market. They demolished my place in Area 3. This country is funny. They broke my shops reallocated it to somebody else and that person is doing the exact thing I did there. But I don’t bloody care. I have told him my mind that what they did to people was wrong and they say that they want one Nigeria. What El Rufai did then was to cause quarrel between those who came to Abuja and the original settlers of the place. They’ll approach the Gwari people and ask them to point to their own houses. After that, they’ll go ahead to demolish houses belonging to Nigerians from other places. I don’t see any reason they should go around demolishing people’s houses and say that they are non indigenes.. Nigeria’s constitution permits every Nigerian to reside in any part of the country without being discriminated against. When I went to my village the other day, I saw people from other parts of the country leaving there without being harassed. This sort of thing caused the problem in Jos when they said that these are indigenes and these are not. We should learn from past mistakes. Jos which was one of the most attractive places in Nigeria has been turned into a battlefield. It the government that is responsible for that trouble. It is that government that allows people to differentiate between indigenes and non indigenes that is responsible for the Jos crisis. This is one Nigeria and nobody has the right to trample on people who came to settle in other parts of the country. In Abuja when you start saying that this is indigene and this one is not, then you are brewing confusion. Our leaders must try as much as possible to do things that will cement Nigerians together as one large family. Any leader who does not try to promote peace among the people is not doing  his people well. Nigeria is a beautiful country and it is God that has placed  us together and must continue to cherish this divine arrangement. Let  us continue to promote and pursue  peace where ever we find ourselves.

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The Looting Of Nigeria By Moses George

The activities of the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) on the privatization and commercialization of federal government owned public enterprises in Nigeria from 1999 to date were opened up with the inauguration of a seven-man ad-hoc probe committee headed by Senator Ahmed Lawan (ANPP, Yobe North). Other members of the committee were Senators  Babafemi Ojudu (ACN, Ekiti), Alli Ndume (PDP, Borno), Philip Aduda (PDP, FCT), Infeayi Okowa (PDP, Delta), Hope Uzodima (PDP, Imo) and Mohammed Magoro  (PDP, Kebbi).
               The whole scenario started sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan (ANPP, Yobe North) and adopted by the Senate pursuant to its resolution No. S/Res/004/01/11 passed on 19th July, 2011. Senator Lawan and 25 other senators had sought to open a comprehensive investigation of the privatization and commercialization of government companies undertaken by BPE since 2000. Lawan had argued that privatized or commercialized government companies had failed with huge consequences on the nations economy.
         Privatization is a phenomenon that is a necessary concomitant to the principle of liberalization. What this involves is the transfer of control in terms of ownership and management from the government to private investors. The principle of privatization has come to be embraced as a way of eliminating inefficiency in the public enterprises sector. The phenomenon gained worldwide support following the privatization of British Telecom in 1984 under the Telecommunications Act. Several other privatizations took place in that country. Soon,  other countries, particularly, in Africa embarked on the practice.
               Nigeria was not left out of the frenzy as it  embraced privatization as a cardinal principle of the state’s economic policy. Since the oil boom years in the 1970s, Nigeria has developed a large public sector investing over100 billion dollars from that period to 2005 and getting as meager 0.5 percent annually as returns.  Unfortunately, as the years rolled by, these establishments suffered recession. As a result of this, in 1988, the federal Military Government under a programme of privatisation and commercialization embarked on a major reform of its public enterprises.
                 Privatization was formally introduced in Nigeria by the Privatization and Commercialization Act of 1988, which later set up the Technical Committee on Privatization and Commercialization (TCPC) chaired by Dr. Hamza Zayyad (who died on March 12, 2002)  with a mandate to privatize 111 public enterprises and commercialize 34 others. In 1993, having privatized 88 out of the 111 enterprises listed in the decree, the TCPC concluded its assignment and submitted a final report. Based on the recommendation of the TCPC, the Federal Military Government promulgated the Bureau for Public Enterprises Act of 1993, which repealed the 1988 Act and set up the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) to implement the privatization program in Nigeria.
      In 1999, the Federal Government enacted the Public Enterprise (Privatization and Commercialization) Act, which created the National Council on Privatization chaired by the Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
         A Decree promulgated in July 1988 specified a total of 110 enterprises to be privatized and another 35 to be wholly or partially commercialized. Before that Decree came into being, a total of 36 public enterprises were privatized through public offers in the privatization exercise that took place then. Among them are the four biggest banks in Nigeria which were formerly under government control and ownership.
                  However, investigations conducted by National Mail has revealed facts that the Nigeria’s Privatization and Commercializations programme, from 1999 by the Bureau of Public Enterprises, has  some rather serious issues that undermined the scheme. The ongoing privatisation process in the country, has  certainly not attained the expectations of Nigerians. It is disheartening that some companies that had been privatized for over 10 years have not been working as almost all of them are moribund .
        Vice president  Namadi Sambo – who heads the National Council on Privatization, said 80 per cent of sold government companies have failed. He attributed this ugly trend to lapses in the privatisation process.  Senator Abdul Ningi from Bauchi state, on the other hand, described the whole process as the biggest fraud the nation has witnessed.
      It is pathetic to know that from 1970 to 1999, the Federal government invested over $100 billion in building enterprises, but earned only 0.5% return on its investments. These companies were costing the government a whopping N265 billion annually to maintain. While a total of 146 billion was realized from the  sales of over 122 privatized companies under review. That is more than a hundred times their market value.
         One of the major impediments against the initiative, is the issue of high profile  impropriety of directors and management of the privatisation scheme, in collaboration with highly placed personalities in the society.  
          With the facts emerging  from the sales and concessions of public enterprises, compared with their actual value and collateral investment made by years of public funding, one has no doubt to the fact that  Nigeria has  indeed been pillaged  by unscrupulous elements for far too long.  
                 The Nigerian public have been taken for a ride in the whole  scheme as politicians connived with wealthy businessmen both at home and abroad to loot the nation’s common wealth in the name of privatization.
     The privatization process, according to the former Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Dr. Julius Bala, lacked transparency and accountability between 1999 and 2003.
            Accusing fingers are being pointed at different directions as Nigeria  makes efforts to get to the root of the matter. Without any doubt, the entire process was infested with high profile corruption involving the BPE executives on one hand, top government functionaries and businessmen on the other hand.
          A former Deputy Director of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Mr. Charles Osuji, was said to have collected bribe from Globalcom Chairman, Mike Adenuga for Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, after the sale of National Oil. Osuji, who was   eventually dismissal from the BPE by Rl-Rufai claimed that his boss actually directed him to get the undisclosed sum from Adenuga.
       In his reaction, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufai admitted that Osuji first brought a N25m Zenith Bank cheque to him.    He said after he ordered Osuji to return the money to Adenuga, who had already acquired National Oil, Osuji subsequently returned with $100,000 cash which he did not accept. El-Rufai further claimed to have reported the matter to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who as Vice President was the Chairman of the National Council on Privatization, and also to the then Attorney General, late Bola Ige. Both of them ordered that Osuji should be prosecuted. But he said that he couldn’t  prosecuted Osuji because Ige died shortly after that, but the NCP directed that he should be dismissed.
      The Ajaokuta Steel Plant is the largest integrated steel complex in black Africa. The steel complex, built by a Russian firm, was Inaugurated on September 16, 1979.  The complex was initially expected to produce 1.5m tones of long steel products per annum. Its capacity was, however, expanded to between 3.6m and 6m tonnes.
       Obviously from all indications, the steel company has not met its objectives. To turn around the company and make it attain its production capacity, the Federal Government decided to invite investors to run the place profitably.
.                  Some corrupt  Nigerian businessmen saw an ‘opportunity’ and brought in  Indian investors as fronts. A concession agreement  was hurriedly put in place in May 2007.The Indian firm, Global Infrastructures Limited paid about $300m for a steel complex that was valued at  about $5billion.
              According to the Minister of mines and steel development, Architect Mohammed Musa Sada, former President Olusegun Obasanjo was the one who approved the concession of the Ajaokuta Steel Complex to Global Infrastructure Limited against due process.
            Cases of corrupt  Indian businessmen  kept coming up every now and then. These class of entrepreneurs come to Nigeria with nothing, but their briefcases. Their equally corrupt Nigerian partners lead them to our banks to take loans and use our assets as collaterals.
                      It is only in Nigeria that such is practiced. In other countries where there has been privatization, an investor  brings in capital to refuel the economy. But that is not what they do here. This practice  has made Nigeria vulnerable to corrupt foreign investors  who collaborate with their Nigerians partners to steal billion of dollars and ferry them to be lodged in foreign accounts leaving the nation dry and broke.
           The federal government spends  N3.6 billion annually on the wages a the moribund Ajaokuta Steel Complex, that is about N300 million monthly, while only N650 million is required to bring the company up to a production level where it can generate enough funds to sustain itself.
            Investigations revealed that the concession of the company to  Global Infrastructure Limited  was an arrangement of some corrupt Nigeria to to use the gigantic project as a vehicle to steal public funds. This becomes even more glaring against the background of the fact that the Indian firm lack the technical capacity to manage the complex.
          The   firm had to had re engage about 50 Russians and Ukrainian experts, who built it. As if that is not enough, the Indian company has reportedly stripped the complex  of all valuable equipments and machineries. Alarmed, he federal government decided to the cancel the deal.
             Former President Olusegun Obasanjo  reportedly  breached due process in the sale of some public assets, especially, the multi- billion dollars Ajaokuta Steel complex. The former Director General of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, Nasir El-Rufai. Mallam El-Rufai who supervised the privatization of 23 of the 122 enterprises that have been privatized to date (about 18% of the total), accused the former president of overbearing interference. He said that he repeatedly disagreed with Obasanjo when he made moves to dictate to him. He said he also disagreed with Atiku Abubakar when he (Rufai) insisted that the laws must be followed, even as he said that former President Obasanjo also blocked the successful privatization of Nigeria Airways following the stories he received from former Minister of Aviation, Chief Kema Chikwe.
          Another public enterprise that has suffered similar fate is the  Aluminum Smelter Company at Ikot Abasi in Akwa Ibom State. The company which was worth $3.2 billion was auctioned to a Russian Company for $250 million. Curiously, the Russian  firm was asked to pay only $130 million. The balance of $120 million to  was said be used to dredge the Imo River for the company to ferry its equipments. Up till the time of writing this report, work on that project is yet to commence many years after the ‘sale’. where did all that money go ?
     The case of the risk giant NICON, reportedly acquired illegally by businessman Jimoh Ibrahim’s Global Fleet at over N18 billion is worrisome. Curiously, even the 5 per cent equity holding of the federal government was sold in  that deal thereby contravening the Public Enterprise Act 1999.
        The brazenly fraudulent manner in which the National Insurance Corporation of Nigeria (NICON) was sold, and the asset-stripping that followed should  stir every responsible government towards taking concrete legal actions against those involved.
          But Barrister Ibrahim   dismissed this allegation, saying he injected N17.5 billion and met no money in NICON’s account when he acquired the company.
        However, allegations by KPMG and Assurance Acquisition Limited (AAL) disclosed that the Global Fleet chief used forged documents to acquire. It claimed that Ibrahim withdrew 20 million pounds from NICON’s foreign account in London and stripped the company of N6.37 billion.
      The funds were categorized into; Investment in NICON Investment Limited, N2.484 billion proceeds from closure of HSBC Bank 1-Day call and Euro currency accounts, N1.739 billion, balance in the Oceanic Bank Plc domiciliary Account, N1.623 billion, investment in NICON Airways Limited, N350 million. Expenses incurred on behalf of NICON Airways Limited, N192 million; erstwhile GMD’s drawings, N12.9 million; expenses incurred on behalf of NICON properties Ltd, N12.5 million; expenses incurred on behalf of NICON investment Ltd, N10.2 million and liquidation of placement with NICON Investment Ltd, N51 million.
          
        These revelations and many more that are unfolding paint a grim picture of the reality of the corruption among politicians and public office holders in Nigeria. The question is: what can be done about it? Does the government of President Jonathan possess the political will, to deal with this national tragedy?
       The probe by the Senate is timely because it is shedding some light into the massive pillage of Nigeria’s national patrimony by officials that were sworn to protect it.
         It is also suggestive that it is time the government revisited the argument that the private sector does better in the management of utilities and businesses. Argument for this review is strengthened against the backdrop of the inability of practically all those who benefitted from the auction of various government companies have failed to  make any one of them successful. The extent of collusion between those in  positions of authority and a band of well-connected speculators in shattering the prospect of having a veritable private sector that can support growth and development is astonishing.
         Nigeria is witnessing a situation where its common wealth has fallen into the hands of privileged few who are gradually establishing a strong economic base that may that  could bring the entire nation on its knees before them..
    According to Dr Harold Chukwuma, a public comensator,  “ we know these people. We even fondly call them the new kids on the block. It is this same guys that are being used by our politicians to loot this country. Now that we now what transpired, relevant government agency should go after  them  and  get all that they have stolen back. Concerning the Senate probe panel, I wish that for the first time         something tangible should emerge from this probe by the Senate in order to send the right signals to those who may wish to take the nation for such a nasty ride in the future. It is also important that such inquiry is extended to other sectors of the economy with a view to recovering the enormous looting that some privileged members of the society have perpetrated against Nigeria. Those who stole the nation’s wealth must be shamed in public”.
            As  Nigerians wait to see appropriate action taken  against those who  created financial empires with stolen money, this administration should demonstrate some muscle in dealing with these issues. Nigeria should be a sacred cow and any person who connived to steal its wealth should not be spared.

 

 

Prince Abubakar Audu Speaks on Kogi State

Prince Abubakar Audu is a household name, especially, in  the political landscape of Kogi state. He rode to power as Executive of Kogi State in 1993.  He was reelected again and again. His aggressive infrastructural development efforts set the state on a fast pedestal of development.  Prince Abubakar Audu, who recently stepped into the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, where he is contesting for governorship is  a very  influential politician with a strong political base. A lot of people see him  as the strongest contender for the governorship position. One advantage he seem to be enjoying is  that lots of Kogites appreciate his efforts when he was in Lugard House and they want him back again  to continue with what they describe as his legendary development of the state. In this interview, Prince Abubakar Audu Spoke  with Editor Moses George on his plans to salvage Kogi State. Excerpts:
Thank you Your Excellency. Lots of people would want to know why you are so keen on being reelected as governor of Kogi State.
Thank you very much Moses George. Well to start with, it is the people of Kogi state that are agitating for me to come back and as far as I am concern, the voice of the people is the voice of God. Whatever my people see me as being fit to do, by the grace of God I will readily make myself available to them. There has been so many questions regarding whether I am going to come back or not. Some say I am too old, some say I should support somebody else… my simple answer has been, if you find somebody more competent than me, produce him and I’ll be too glad to support him. The question is not me choosing somebody. It is rather the question of somebody competing with me and whoever it pleases God to emerge at the end of the day would have it. But the people ought to judge between  us. For those who are of the opinion that I should sponsor somebody else… I don’t know what prompted them to say that because I am 62 years old, whereas Ibrahim Idris is 67 or 68. He has done 8 years as governor and he is on the ninth year contrary to the stipulations in the 1999 constitution. The authors of that constitution never contemplated that any person holding the position of governor should have more than 2 terms of 4 years each, bringing the total to 8 years and he is doing 9 years. In my own case. I did only 4 years. Besides that, he has also made his son to go to the Federal House of Representatives against the people’s wish and desire. He made it possible for his son to go to the House. Ibrahim Idris has failed but people do not reason from that perspective. Since he has failed woefully, why should they accept his son?  Somebody who has failed woefully, why should he be given that opportunity? Well, people say that I should sponsor somebody else. But am I constitutionally unfit? No. Don’t I have the mental capacity? I do. Don’t I have the intellectual capacity? I do. Am I not physically fit? I am. So why should anybody say that I should not contest. The kind of contacts I have, only few people in Nigeria have that kind of connections and it manifested in my administration. That time, our net monthly take home from the statutory allocation was between three to four hundred million and with that, we were able to provide numerous infrastructures for our people in Kogi state. We constructed a total of about 9,000 kilometers of road network across the state….surface dressing, asphalt overlay….we established the polytechnic at Lokoja and the university at Ayangba. We established the largest cement factory in Africa, which is the Obajana cement. We built a five star hotel; we dualized roads, upgraded secondary schools and some other tertiary institutions. Anpka used to be an Advanced Teachers College, but we converted it to a college of education with the intention to make it a degree awarding institution. The list of what we did while in office is endless. The facts are on the ground for anybody to see. But sadly, all these infrastructures that my administration put in place between 1999 to 2003 have been totally devastated. As I speak with you now, Kogi is a failed state according to the Central Bank’s Economic Bulletin. My baby is sick! Kogi state is my baby. If my baby is sick, it is my responsibility to nurse the baby back to health. It is only an irresponsible father that will abandon the baby when it is sick. I have the formula. I have demonstrated it before and I did it very successfully. I have been tested and trusted. So the question of how can you do it again does not arise. Like I said earlier, when the statutory allocation was very minimal at 400 million naira, because crude oil was selling at 12 dollars per barrel and you will appreciate that Nigeria is a mono product country that relies absolutely on crude oil. Between 2004 and 2011, crude oil was selling at over 100 dollars. The net take home for Kogi state, this is also in the Economic Bulletin, at a time, it is 5 billion naira and more. With excess crude, the state was getting 18 billion naira and yet, the administration has nothing on the ground to show for the huge amount it was getting monthly. Ibrahim Idris’ administration has not initiated any project and completed it. The president has been going to other states to commission projects. But in the case of Kogi state, he comes on project inspection, work in progress. I will give you an instance: I started the modern Lokoja stadium. Up till now Ibro could not complete it. When Mr. President went there, he did not go to commission the project. He went on project inspection. The Gananja road for instance, that is the road that link up Lokoja with Ajaokuta, I built it, but after several years of usage it became imperative that the road should be resurface. After resurfacing it with asphalt overlay, he brought in the president to commission it. What he did was just to rehabilitate that road and for that, he had to invite the president to commission it. It is ridiculous. We have commissioned several projects without fanfare. What else? Is it the hospital that he built and calls it a specialist hospital?
Can you compare that with the diagnostic hospital that I built in Ayingba? In the case of what he built at Lokoja and calls it a specialist hospital, three different people have commissioned it so far. Firstly, it was commissioned by David Mark, the President of the Senate, then Chief Olusegun Obasanjo also came to commission the same project. Lastly, President Jonathan also commissioned it. It is a big shame. Is it the Government House that I built which was classified then as the best in the country? The whole place now lacks mantainace.  The walls are dirty. They’ve not been able to white-wash the structure with paint for a period of 8 years. Go to the Lugard House, it is now a complete rumple, a mumbo-jumble. When I came in 1992. It was a ramshackle, completely dilapidated. After Lugard vacated the place in 1902, it was not put to use again. The whole building  was collapsing. It became an abode for dangerous reptiles. Because of the great sense of history that I had, I renovated the place. Today, it is a beautiful edifice. Look at the Glass House. Look at the Government lodged I built at Kabba, Idah and so on, they  have all depreciated due to lack of maintenance. In Abuja here, I heard that the Government Lodge has just been renovated at an astronomical amount.
Since you are saying that the administration of Alhaji Ibrahim Idris has failed. What exactly are you planning to do when eventually you become governor?
What I did between 1999 and 2003, was to initiate a scheme where unemployed youths were placed on some kind of monthly allowances through our youths empowerment programme. As a matter of fact, it was as a result of the choking level of unemployment in the state that made me to initiate the Obajana cement project. According to the agreement we entered into with foreign investors, Obajana cement factory would employ 15,000 workers. We also had a written agreement that out of that number, 13,000 workers must be indigenes of Kogi state, while the remaining 2,000 could come from anywhere in Nigeria. I don’t think that Idris and his team have taken the trouble of studying the agreement. By the grace of God, when I return back to office, I am going to dust up that agreement and ensure that the right thing is done. The right thing is getting 13,000 jobless young men employed in Obajana cement factory. That would certainly reduce the pressure on the government. I also have plans to apply to the federal government to grant concessions for us to run the Ajaokuta Steel Company. When the steel company becomes operational, it will be producing billets for local use and iron rods for exports. That was the plan I had when I built the road from Lokoja to Ajaokuta. There are several byproducts of Ajaokuta Steel that will feed small scale industries and stimulate the economy. That will also reduce the pressure on the labour market. We have plans to boost agriculture. We wanted to bring in farmers from Zimbabwe and South Africa to embark on large mechanized farming. Our ultimate goal is to make Kogi state have enough to feed the entire nation as well as for export. When that is achieved, it will again go a long way to reduce the pressure on the labour market. Such initiatives will provide our youths with so many opportunities.
The Sally Tibot staff audit in Kogi state laid off a large numbers of workers. Most of these people, we are told have not been able to find any other source of livelihood. In specific terms, Your Excellency, what exactly are you going to do with regards to these workers when you are re elected?
First and foremost. I will make sure that all those workers that were retrenched are reinstated. I will also ensure regularity in the payment of salaries and emoluments like I did between 1999 to 2003. When I came in 1999, there were salary arrears of 7 months that the military administrator was unable to settle. Within the period of 3 months, I settled everything in line with my campaign promises, Now that we have very comfortable accruals in  the form of statutory allocations from the federation accounts; I should be able to ensure that salaries and arrears are paid promptly. We will ensure that promotions are cash backed. When you make promotions without any financial benefits attached to it, then it has no meaning. This is what is happening now in Kogi state. Pensioners are not paid. We will ensure that all this unhealthy developments are put behind us. For them to even admit that the authentic staff list was the one that took place between when the state was created up to 2003 from 2004 up to date was seen to be obnoxious and full of irregularities. As far as I am concerned, that is self indictment. How on earth can a state exist for 8 years without employing one single staff. Are you doing justice to the economy? Are you doing justice to our young school leavers? Are you doing justice to the labour market? Are you doing justice to economic stimulation? No. The answer is no!  I can assure you Moses George that more staff will be recruited and engaged in productive sectors. There are so many jobs for young people to do. But unfortunately, the only way the   administration of Ibrahim Idris deems fit to engage young men  is to recruit them, train them, arm them and ask them to kill during elections. They engage them as thugs. It is very unfortunate, it is very dehumanizing. No sensible administration will so dehumanize its own people. You see, you train up your son even to the level of obtaining masters degree, but the next thing he does is to become a thug. That is what has been happening in Kogi State and we are going to ensure that all these stops as soon as we come into office.
How exactly do you intend to transform these boys you talked about into useful members of the society?
What I am going to do is to get them engaged in gainful employment. The 13,000 or thereabout vacancies in Obajana Cement that I told you about earlier on, will absorb these boys. We will send a lot of them to abroad, like what happened to the Niger-Delta boys. We will send our own boys abroad too to get some good education there. By the time they are through with their education, thuggery will become unattractive to them and other boys around. I can assure you that political thuggery in Kogi state will become a thing of the past.
The issue of women empowerment is so important that most people, especially, women will want to know what is in the offing for them when you take office as governor of Kogi state.
I believe in the 35 percent affirmative action. But most importantly, because the women of Kogi state are enterprising, we will encourage their sense of productivity by getting them engaged in small scale industries. We will encourage them to form themselves into cooperative societies so that they can access some facilities that will enable them improve their trades. As a matter of fact, we do have a comprehensive blue-print for women development. I can assure you that our women will be given a better deal that will usher them into buoyancy.
Since you left office, one will assume that you must have reflected on all what transpired while you were governor in Kogi state. What will you do differently when you get back into office?
I have done it before differently. When I get back, it will be a complete re-enactment of what I did before and we will also try to improve on it. During my administration, Kogi was the fastest developing state in Nigeria. When all the 36 governors were assessed, we were number one in terms of performance in various sectors, especially with regards to infrastructural provisions. Our performance is going be to  more advanced. I have reflected on the problems that our people are confronted with and by the grace of God, we have the solutions on our hands.  My administration, like I mentioned earlier was able to put so  much on  the ground for the benefit of our people despite the meager resource at our disposal at that time.When I get to  Lugard by the grace of God, I shall ensure that our state is lifted  to greater height of social and economic advancement. Our people certainly deserve more than what they are getting now. And to get them out of this valley of underdevelopment, we decided to yield to their agitation for us to take reigns of power so as to use it as an instrument to provide them with respite.
Thank you your excellency for your time.
It being nice speaking with you Moses George.

Prince Abubakar Audu Speaks on Kogi State

 

Prince Abubakar Audu is a household name, especially, in  the political landscape of Kogi state. He rode to power as Executive of Kogi State in 1993.  He was reelected again and again. His aggressive infrastructural development efforts set the state on a fast pedestal of development.  Prince Abubakar Audu, who recently stepped into the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, where he is contesting for governorship is  a very  influential politician with a strong political base. A lot of people see him  as the strongest contender for the governorship position. One advantage he seem to be enjoying is  that lots of Kogites appreciate his efforts when he was in Lugard House and they want him back again  to continue with what they describe as his legendary development of the state. In this interview, Prince Abubakar Audu Spoke  with Editor Moses George on his plans to salvage Kogi State. Excerpts


Thank you Your Excellency. Lots of people would want to know why you are so keen on being reelected as governor of Kogi State.
Thank you very much Moses George. Well to start with, it is the people of Kogi state that are agitating for me to come back and as far as I am concern, the voice of the people is the voice of God. Whatever my people see me as being fit to do, by the grace of God I will readily make myself available to them. There has been so many questions regarding whether I am going to come back or not. Some say I am too old, some say I should support somebody else… my simple answer has been, if you find somebody more competent than me, produce him and I’ll be too glad to support him. The question is not me choosing somebody. It is rather the question of somebody competing with me and whoever it pleases God to emerge at the end of the day would have it. But the people ought to judge between  us. For those who are of the opinion that I should sponsor somebody else… I don’t know what prompted them to say that because I am 62 years old, whereas Ibrahim Idris is 67 or 68. He has done 8 years as governor and he is on the ninth year contrary to the stipulations in the 1999 constitution. The authors of that constitution never contemplated that any person holding the position of governor should have more than 2 terms of 4 years each, bringing the total to 8 years and he is doing 9 years. In my own case. I did only 4 years. Besides that, he has also made his son to go to the Federal House of Representatives against the people’s wish and desire. He made it possible for his son to go to the House. Ibrahim Idris has failed but people do not reason from that perspective. Since he has failed woefully, why should they accept his son?  Somebody who has failed woefully, why should he be given that opportunity? Well, people say that I should sponsor somebody else. But am I constitutionally unfit? No. Don’t I have the mental capacity? I do. Don’t I have the intellectual capacity? I do. Am I not physically fit? I am. So why should anybody say that I should not contest. The kind of contacts I have, only few people in Nigeria have that kind of connections and it manifested in my administration. That time, our net monthly take home from the statutory allocation was between three to four hundred million and with that, we were able to provide numerous infrastructures for our people in Kogi state. We constructed a total of about 9,000 kilometers of road network across the state….surface dressing, asphalt overlay….we established the polytechnic at Lokoja and the university at Ayangba. We established the largest cement factory in Africa, which is the Obajana cement. We built a five star hotel; we dualized roads, upgraded secondary schools and some other tertiary institutions. Anpka used to be an Advanced Teachers College, but we converted it to a college of education with the intention to make it a degree awarding institution. The list of what we did while in office is endless. The facts are on the ground for anybody to see. But sadly, all these infrastructures that my administration put in place between 1999 to 2003 have been totally devastated. As I speak with you now, Kogi is a failed state according to the Central Bank’s Economic Bulletin. My baby is sick! Kogi state is my baby. If my baby is sick, it is my responsibility to nurse the baby back to health. It is only an irresponsible father that will abandon the baby when it is sick. I have the formula. I have demonstrated it before and I did it very successfully. I have been tested and trusted. So the question of how can you do it again does not arise. Like I said earlier, when the statutory allocation was very minimal at 400 million naira, because crude oil was selling at 12 dollars per barrel and you will appreciate that Nigeria is a mono product country that relies absolutely on crude oil. Between 2004 and 2011, crude oil was selling at over 100 dollars. The net take home for Kogi state, this is also in the Economic Bulletin, at a time, it is 5 billion naira and more. With excess crude, the state was getting 18 billion naira and yet, the administration has nothing on the ground to show for the huge amount it was getting monthly. Ibrahim Idris’ administration has not initiated any project and completed it. The president has been going to other states to commission projects. But in the case of Kogi state, he comes on project inspection, work in progress. I will give you an instance: I started the modern Lokoja stadium. Up till now Ibro could not complete it. When Mr. President went there, he did not go to commission the project. He went on project inspection. The Gananja road for instance, that is the road that link up Lokoja with Ajaokuta, I built it, but after several years of usage it became imperative that the road should be resurface. After resurfacing it with asphalt overlay, he brought in the president to commission it. What he did was just to rehabilitate that road and for that, he had to invite the president to commission it. It is ridiculous. We have commissioned several projects without fanfare. What else? Is it the hospital that he built and calls it a specialist hospital?
Can you compare that with the diagnostic hospital that I built in Ayingba? In the case of what he built at Lokoja and calls it a specialist hospital, three different people have commissioned it so far. Firstly, it was commissioned by David Mark, the President of the Senate, then Chief Olusegun Obasanjo also came to commission the same project. Lastly, President Jonathan also commissioned it. It is a big shame. Is it the Government House that I built which was classified then as the best in the country? The whole place now lacks mantainace.  The walls are dirty. They’ve not been able to white-wash the structure with paint for a period of 8 years. Go to the Lugard House, it is now a complete rumple, a mumbo-jumble. When I came in 1992. It was a ramshackle, completely dilapidated. After Lugard vacated the place in 1902, it was not put to use again. The whole building  was collapsing. It became an abode for dangerous reptiles. Because of the great sense of history that I had, I renovated the place. Today, it is a beautiful edifice. Look at the Glass House. Look at the Government lodged I built at Kabba, Idah and so on, they  have all depreciated due to lack of maintenance. In Abuja here, I heard that the Government Lodge has just been renovated at an astronomical amount.
Since you are saying that the administration of Alhaji Ibrahim Idris has failed. What exactly are you planning to do when eventually you become governor?
What I did between 1999 and 2003, was to initiate a scheme where unemployed youths were placed on some kind of monthly allowances through our youths empowerment programme. As a matter of fact, it was as a result of the choking level of unemployment in the state that made me to initiate the Obajana cement project. According to the agreement we entered into with foreign investors, Obajana cement factory would employ 15,000 workers. We also had a written agreement that out of that number, 13,000 workers must be indigenes of Kogi state, while the remaining 2,000 could come from anywhere in Nigeria. I don’t think that Idris and his team have taken the trouble of studying the agreement. By the grace of God, when I return back to office, I am going to dust up that agreement and ensure that the right thing is done. The right thing is getting 13,000 jobless young men employed in Obajana cement factory. That would certainly reduce the pressure on the government. I also have plans to apply to the federal government to grant concessions for us to run the Ajaokuta Steel Company. When the steel company becomes operational, it will be producing billets for local use and iron rods for exports. That was the plan I had when I built the road from Lokoja to Ajaokuta. There are several byproducts of Ajaokuta Steel that will feed small scale industries and stimulate the economy. That will also reduce the pressure on the labour market. We have plans to boost agriculture. We wanted to bring in farmers from Zimbabwe and South Africa to embark on large mechanized farming. Our ultimate goal is to make Kogi state have enough to feed the entire nation as well as for export. When that is achieved, it will again go a long way to reduce the pressure on the labour market. Such initiatives will provide our youths with so many opportunities.
The Sally Tibot staff audit in Kogi state laid off a large numbers of workers. Most of these people, we are told have not been able to find any other source of livelihood. In specific terms, Your Excellency, what exactly are you going to do with regards to these workers when you are re elected?
First and foremost. I will make sure that all those workers that were retrenched are reinstated. I will also ensure regularity in the payment of salaries and emoluments like I did between 1999 to 2003. When I came in 1999, there were salary arrears of 7 months that the military administrator was unable to settle. Within the period of 3 months, I settled everything in line with my campaign promises, Now that we have very comfortable accruals in  the form of statutory allocations from the federation accounts; I should be able to ensure that salaries and arrears are paid promptly. We will ensure that promotions are cash backed. When you make promotions without any financial benefits attached to it, then it has no meaning. This is what is happening now in Kogi state. Pensioners are not paid. We will ensure that all this unhealthy developments are put behind us. For them to even admit that the authentic staff list was the one that took place between when the state was created up to 2003 from 2004 up to date was seen to be obnoxious and full of irregularities. As far as I am concerned, that is self indictment. How on earth can a state exist for 8 years without employing one single staff. Are you doing justice to the economy? Are you doing justice to our young school leavers? Are you doing justice to the labour market? Are you doing justice to economic stimulation? No. The answer is no!  I can assure you Moses George that more staff will be recruited and engaged in productive sectors. There are so many jobs for young people to do. But unfortunately, the only way the   administration of Ibrahim Idris deems fit to engage young men  is to recruit them, train them, arm them and ask them to kill during elections. They engage them as thugs. It is very unfortunate, it is very dehumanizing. No sensible administration will so dehumanize its own people. You see, you train up your son even to the level of obtaining masters degree, but the next thing he does is to become a thug. That is what has been happening in Kogi State and we are going to ensure that all these stops as soon as we come into office.
How exactly do you intend to transform these boys you talked about into useful members of the society?
What I am going to do is to get them engaged in gainful employment. The 13,000 or thereabout vacancies in Obajana Cement that I told you about earlier on, will absorb these boys. We will send a lot of them to abroad, like what happened to the Niger-Delta boys. We will send our own boys abroad too to get some good education there. By the time they are through with their education, thuggery will become unattractive to them and other boys around. I can assure you that political thuggery in Kogi state will become a thing of the past.
The issue of women empowerment is so important that most people, especially, women will want to know what is in the offing for them when you take office as governor of Kogi state.
I believe in the 35 percent affirmative action. But most importantly, because the women of Kogi state are enterprising, we will encourage their sense of productivity by getting them engaged in small scale industries. We will encourage them to form themselves into cooperative societies so that they can access some facilities that will enable them improve their trades. As a matter of fact, we do have a comprehensive blue-print for women development. I can assure you that our women will be given a better deal that will usher them into buoyancy.
Since you left office, one will assume that you must have reflected on all what transpired while you were governor in Kogi state. What will you do differently when you get back into office?
I have done it before differently. When I get back, it will be a complete re-enactment of what I did before and we will also try to improve on it. During my administration, Kogi was the fastest developing state in Nigeria. When all the 36 governors were assessed, we were number one in terms of performance in various sectors, especially with regards to infrastructural provisions. Our performance is going be to  more advanced. I have reflected on the problems that our people are confronted with and by the grace of God, we have the solutions on our hands.  My administration, like I mentioned earlier was able to put so  much on  the ground for the benefit of our people despite the meager resource at our disposal at that time. When I get to  Lugard by the grace of God, I shall ensure that our state is lifted  to greater height of social and economic advancement. Our people certainly deserve more than what they are getting now. And to get them out of this valley of underdevelopment, we decided to yield to their agitation for us to take reigns of power so as to use it as an instrument to provide them with:

Sule Lamido: Taking Jigawa State To Greater Heigths

Sule Lamido, the Executive Governor of Jigawa State was born on August 30, 1948 at Bamiana Village in Jigawa State. He started his education in 1955 at the Birnin Kudu Primary School and later gained admission into the famous Barewa College in Zaria in 1962. At the end of his secondary education, he did a course in Railway Engineering at the Permanent Way Training School in the ancient city of Zaria.
On graduation, he started work as a Quality Control Officer at the Nigerian Tobacco Company (NTC) in Zaria. He was later transferred to the North West Zone of the firm as a salesman, covering Gusau and Sokoto.
After some years, he moved on to Christlieb as Field Manager and later Brand Manager in charge of provisions. He was for sometime also Chief Executive Officer of Bamaina Holding Company.
Subsequently, he veered into politics and was a founding member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). After having served as pioneer Chairman of SDP, he became National Secretary of the Party in 1992. He was also a member of the G 34, the group that formed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which he presently belongs to.
For his contributions to the growth of the party, he was appointed the Foreign Affairs Minister on June 30, 1999 in the then President Olusegun Obasanjo’s first cabinet on his accession to power in 1999. At the end of his tenure, he went back to base and prepared vigorously for the 2007 governorship race in 2007 which he won on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He was sworn into office on May 29, 2007.
Immediately he took power, he embarked on welfarist policies which have been after his heart since his days in late Alhaji Aminu Kano’s Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU). He improved the conditions of service of workers and approved special allowances for the disabled in the state. Also, because of the dearth of housing in Jigawa after the creation of the state from Kano, which necessitated the transportation of civil servants from Kano to Jigawa and back every day, Governor Sule Lamido immediately on coming to power embarked on the construction of 5,000 housing units at the cost of N2.5 billion to ease the shortage of accommodation?

How I Stooped The Oil Cabal – Senator Ahamadu Ali

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Senator (Dr) Ahmadu Ali, a trained surgeon was born on March 1, 1936 at Gbobe near Lokoja. .  He was educated at Nigerian College of Arts and Science, Zaria between 1955 and 1957 before moving over to University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan from 1957 to 1963. He was also at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh.
     At one time, he was a Minister of Education, he is the first Director General of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC,  he was a senator for three times, he was a National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he is the Chancellor African Business School. Presently, he is the Chairman Petroleum Products Pricing Agency, PPPRA.  Senator Ahmadu Ali is a distinguished statesman who has served this country well.  In  this interview, Senator  Ali spoke to a team of editors from National  Mail, led by Moses George Editor-in Chief. Excerpts

You graduated as a medical doctor from the University College Hospital, Ibadan in 1963, and then, you went on to enlist into the Nigerian Army. Firstly, what attracted you to study medicine and why did you enlisted into the army as a doctor?
Right from my secondary school days at Barewa College, Zaria, and the flagship profession of students of Barewa College was the military. That is why the first, the second and the third generations of Nigerian army officers were all from Barewa College. The attraction was that right from secondary school class one to three, you only did two lessons. The rest, you went to the army barracks and train with recruits on how to shot, how to take cover and how to blow up bridges and so on. So, we were atuned towards the military. I actually wanted to join the Air force, because the Vice Principal of Barewa College, who was a mathematician was an ex pilot during the Second World War. Eventually, they now enlisted us into British air force and sent letters to our D O’s and so on and they interviewed our parents and my mother being the only living parent rejected my joining the air force. That suppressed my ambition for the air force. My study of medicine came, because  when I completed my secondary school, my result that year was the best in the whole of Barewa College. Another Igala boy, Momoh Sule from Ankpa had the best result ever before me.  One day, the late Northern Premier came to our school and promised that no body from our class of 1954 would be employed by the Northern regional government. He said that we should all go to the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology which was starting at that time. Those to be employed were those who failed their school certificate examinations. In making a choice of wat to study, I remembered that my late father was ill and refused to take western medicine and I said to myself, well, I would rather study medicine.  So I went through the Nigeria College, did advance level London and gained automatic admission to Ibadan to study medicine. In my final year at Ibadan in 1963, there was an advert for recruitment of young people, especially, university graduates into the army. So three of us that were friends, Professor Humphrey Anyawu, late Brigadier General Adelaja and I decided to apply. After the interview, we were taken and commissioned as second Lieutenant on March 14 1963. My final exam at UCH was in October. So I joined the army without a degree actually. What that means is that I graduated from the university as a soldier, because I was already a second Lieutenant. So you can see that it was this old ambition that I now give expression to it again.
What actually led to the ‘Ali Must Go demonstration in 1978 when you were Minister of Education’?
Demonstrations by undergraduates in Nigerian Universities are not new. After the one of 1978, about three ministers who came after me also suffered the same fate. Students carried placards and insisted that they must go. ABU students carried placards against Professor Ango Abdullahi…they said that Ango Must Go. In my own case, I was not part to anything that led to Ali Must Go demostrations. As Minister for Education, I fought for money for education. The money meant for the universities, the treasury handed it over to the National Universities Commission. I recreated the National Universities Commission during my time, just as I produced the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB. I brought in Doctor Angulu who was the Register of ABU to come and be its pioneer Register. Professor Jubril Aminu was lecturing at the Ibadan Teaching Hospital; I also nominated him to become the Register of NUC. Government’s revenue at that time was dwindling due to sharp fall in oil revenue. So one of the measures they took to beef up income was by asking students to pay for the food they eat. I think then, they were already paying twenty five kobo and it was going to be fifty kobo per meal. This was unacceptable to them. But this decision was not taken by the ministry. It was the NUC that took that decision. The NUC did not route that decision through the ministry. They went through General Yar Adua who was then Chief of Staff to Obasanjo and it landed at the Supreme Council which is superior to the Federal Executive Council were I belonged. So the they took that decision and we heard it on radio. So myself and the Permanent Secretary wrote a letter of warning to Professor Jubril Aminu who was the Executive Secretary of the NUC at that time, that they had no right to do a thing like that and that they should pass through the ministry. Well, that was what led to all the meetings that culminated into that demonstration. Before then, I got on well with them as a onetime Secretary General of the National Union of Nigerian Students. I tried to reach out to them. I even flew to Maiduguri to talk to them. It was after the secret meeting they held in Calabar that the whole thing erupted.
You were said to have always held independent views, even from that of the Head of State when you were Minister for Education, especially at Federal Executive Council Meetings. How true is this?
I don’t know about holding independent views. What you saying is that all through my life, I speak my mind. I do not play politics with people’s lives. When discussion are on, what I feel, I say it. I know a Head of State who used to throw his files at me. I collect it and then take it back to him. They know me as someone who would always speak out his mind. That is why General Gowan appointed me a minister on 24th of January 1975. They overthrew him in July of that same year; Murtala came in as Head of State. Murtala and I never agreed, we were always at each other’s throat. He was my junior in Barewa College. Immediately he came in as Head of State, he said he will not have any body in education, except me. When Obasanjo became Head of State after Murtala’s death, he insisted that I should continue to be Minister of Education, even when people like General Danjuma wanted me to go back to medical because that area was suffering as a result of my political appointment. Obasanjo insisted I remain in education.
Considering the vision of the of  founders  of National Youth Service Corps of which you were the pioneer Director General, would you say that the scheme is living up to its objectives or has it outlived its usefulness?
Only short sighted people in our society would say that the NYSC has outlived its usefulness. As far I am concerned, it can never outlive its usefulness. In a society of almost three hundred tribal groups, there is nothing you need more than understanding of one another. That is the key to living together. The scheme helps young people to learn how to live with other people. It helps them appreciate other people. A child from Ogun state goes to serve in Borno, Calabar goes to serve in Sokoto and so on. This will foster unity. That is why we believe that NYSC can never outlive its usefulness.  Apart from the great understanding it forges, inter marriages happen. By accident, these are the most useful people that can make election credible in Nigeria, at least, for the time being.
The Igala/Bassa people of Kogi east elected you into the Senate three times, making you the first Nigerian to be so honoured. What was responsible for this and what have you given back to them in return?
I keep giving back even when I am no longer a Senator. I keep serving Kogi East and the whole of Nigeria in every capacity I find myself. The creation of Kogi State was under my Chairmanship for eleven years. I was the leader of the movement for the creation of Kogi State. I travelled to America and everywhere to see that I could make use of all the levers to create Kogi State. The Igalas made a big mistake when they left Kwara for Benue. I was in government and I had succeeded in convincing the Federal Executive Council that the Igalas should be left to remain in Kwara until such time when states will be created on provincial basis, then, we will have a Kabba province state. That was my position. But some of our boys went and lobbied at the Supreme Military Council, and some emirs and chiefs also lobbied powerful people that they will never belong to a state with the people who are now in that state. So they had to remove them from that province and used the Igalas just to fill the gap. Within a year, those who criticized my position in the Federal Executive Council for wanting Igalas to remain in Kwara summoned me and they were begging me to take a letter to Obasanjo to return them back. So I told them that I was not Obasanjo’s Chief of Protocol, so why should I carry the letter, that they should post the letter. When I told General Obasanjo that this is what my people are saying, Obasanjo said,”but I told you.” Because Obasanjo had told me earlier that my people had gone to lobby some emirs and that they will go to Benue and suffer.  Eventually, It was the Attah of Igala that told me that I have been elected to lead the movement for the creation of Kogi state when the agitation started. My wife, I think must be the first woman to stand on the drum to campaign for the creation of Kogi state. She also made donations ofcourse. General Babangida who created the state, went to the United Nations to speak at the UN as Head of State, so I flew there with my wife. We were in the United Nations floor, in the Ministerial kiosk, because I had told Ambassador Gambari who was Nigeria’s Representative at the UN to reserve a place for me. He booked accommodation and a seat. After Babangida’s speech, we all went to World of Astoria in the evening for cocktail. When Babangida saw me he said, ‘Likita, you came all the way. You are not a business man. It is business men that follow Heads of States around. What have you come to do”? I said well, I came to give you support. So the Inspector General of Police, Gambo Jimeta said to Babangida, ‘So you don’t know why he is here? He is looking for the creation of Kogi State that is why he is following you about.” So Babangida said,”wallahi, by the grace of God I will create Kogi State for you.” So that is the secret.

When you aspired to become the governor of Kogi state under the platform of NRC, lots of your admirers were excited at the prospect of having you as their governor. What truncated your ambition?
I did not succeed in standing for any primary election. After the creation of the state in 1991, everybody said, well you brought the state, so come and be our governor. My old teacher, Alhaji Abdulrahaman Okene summoned me and told me to take a shot at it since the elders have decided. So I was preparing myself for primaries when Babangida made a law banning any Chairman of any committee of the National Assembly or State Assemblies from standing for elections. So, that cancelled me out.
As national Chairman of PDP, what were your achievements?
What would be the achievement of a National Chairman of a party more than how well you ran the party? We instilled discipline into the party and put it back in its frontline position. We made it a party that you can reckon with at all angles. We went to the general elections and captured twenty eight states out of thirty six; I transited the federal government from civilian to civilian without any hitch in 2007.     You must remember that my predecessors in office were sacked because they fiddled with the finances of the party. Before I left office, I gave one billion naira for the building of a permanent secnetariat of the PDP. I then created a committee that will handle the project under Goodluck Jonathan, the Vice President, who later turned out to be our President. This committee had to go round raising funds so that when I leave office the project would go on. I even got the C of O of the land for them. At our secretariat, we owed fourty five million when I got there, I paid off the debt and it became our own. I met no Kobo when I came, so I was carrying bowl in hand to be able to pay staff. After the nomination for the election, the party came into plenty of money. I didn’t believe that my predecessors stole any more initially….but I eventually realized that there was money. Ten people will pay the party to buy forms for one post…. Over to billion naira came in as result of that process. When I realized this, I was shocked. One day I called the Director of Finance and asked whether all the money people are paying for forms across the country was going into a particular account. He said yes sir. He brought the statement and there was N1.5 billion in Zenith Bank, half a billion with Standard Chartered or so. I told myself that this money will not disappear like the last one. So I decided to do something reasonable with the funds.
You have been Chairman of Petroleum Products Pricing Agency since December 2009. The agency is being accused of negligent in its operations by allowing unscrupulous companies and government officials to defraud the country in the name of subsidy. What is your response to this allegation?
They are talking bunkums. Rubbish… They don’t have any vague idea of  how PPRA operates. This agency is the body that is supposed to regulate petroleum products and pricing. The consumption of fuel every three months is determined. So the PPRA gives the PPMC over sixty percent of that quantity. To import. So PPRA itself imports only one third or there about of this quantity. PPRA processes the application of those marketers who have got the ability to bring in products. We have no power over the sixty percent that is given to PPMC. So the agency does not know how they administer it or who they give to, but the PPRA knows those that have satisfied all the conditions that are required for the license to import.  One day, the late President Yar Adua asked me to assist him because all the petrol stations in Nigeria had long queues, but no fuel and that it was an embarrassment for him. I obliged him and plunged into the job with all my energy. The first thing I found was that it was just a group of major marketers that were getting most of the licenses to bring in the product. And these major marketers complained to me that government owed them over six months of their subsidy claims. So I had to approach Doctor Rilwan Lukeman, the Minister, and begged him to process their payment because they don’t get paid then, they won’t bring in products and there will be scarcity. I also found out that these major marketers, most of them big name,…you give them 300,000 metric tons of PMS, they need one quarter of a billion dollars, none of them would want to invest that kind of money into an investment only to be pursuing papers from one office to another. So when they are allocated this quantity, if you are lucky, they bring in only 90, so there is already a shortfall of 210,000 metric tons. By the time this happens in 2 or 3 companies, there will be scarcity.  So I decided to look into the law establishing the PPRA, which says that the agency must provide a level playing field for all marketers. That is why I made two statements on the television…I said the cartel that is holding this country to ransom, I will break it. I then told the Executive Secretary of the PPRA, that the number of marketers you are giving licenses is too small…. Allocate more licenses to more companies so far they can satisfy your conditions. Don’t restrict it to these people alone. Many companies started applying.. Some for 45,000, 30,000 metric tons and so on depending on their abilities. At the end of the day, they may bring in only 15,000 etc. But because they are more, more fuel is coming. That was how I created the glut in the PMS market that eventually broke the monopoly of the cartel. Even the Shehu of Borno came here and said, all his life, fuel had never sold at the same price as it sold anywhere in Nigeria. Everywhere, it was selling at 65 naira. Again, the PPRA does not give the license. It is given by DPR. Our own is to process the application and DPR will still conduct their own evaluations. So from 16, the number of marketers rose steadily 51. The number that PPMC deals with, we don’t know. They are dealing with bigger groups that we never know. The PPMC fuel is actually for strategic reserve….most people don’t know this. There is no nation that can run without a strategic reserve of fuel for a certain period in case of an emergency, like war and so on. They have their own tank farm like Atlacove and so on. When it is full, they go and hire other people’s tank farms to store products.  Then ofcourse, there was a time I called all marketers when they accused me of promoting portfolio carrying marketers, so I told them that all of you carried portfolios before you were able to build tank farms, give others a chance. These small marketers actually came to save the nation. They may not be big names, but their effort created the glut we had. And that was my initiative. But what we could not guarantee, is whether the liter you got is exactly one liter. That is the work of DPR. So all the noise about fraud in PPRA is absolutely trash. But if anything is happening in that wise, then there must be a massive collusion, because there are checks and balances mechanisms.
There are rumours in certain quarters that your relationship with former President Obasanjo has not been very cordial lately. What actually happens?
I don’t comment on rumours. Please go on to the next question.
What is your appraisal of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, especially, considering the high rate of unemployment, dwindling economy and high level of insecurity in the country?
The administration of Goodluck Jonathan is battling with a lot of problems. That is not unheard of in other administrations. Boko Haram was there before Jonathan came. Before then there was MEND and these Niger Delta Militants blowing up oil installations, kidnapping people and asking for ransom. All these have been going on. But the magnitudes seem to have exploded in recent times. But we have to ask ourselves; if fire for fire does not solve the problem, perhaps jaw to jaw will.  But President Jonathan is trying his best. We have to give him a chance before we can make a honest and critical assessment.
What is the prospect of this country staying together in view of the recent challenges confronting it?
Moses George, I will like to tell you categorically just as Babangida said. I am ready to carry arms against anybody that want to break Nigeria up or to tear it apart. So if there are people nursing such intention, they jolly well be ready for an unprecedented resistance from those of us who do not want to break Nigeria. Having said that, we should all be careful not to make pronouncements that will cause friction and heat up the polity.
Thank you for finding time to talk with us,
It’s my pleasure. Thank you Moses George.

I said the cartel that is holding this country to ransom, I will break it. I then told the Executive Secretary of the PPRA, that the number of marketers you are giving licenses is too small…. Allocate more licenses to more companies so far they can satisfy your conditions. Don’t restrict it to these people alone.

Bamanga Tukur: The Resurgence of PDP

By Atek’ojo Samson Usman
March, 2012 the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would hold its National Convention.The party adjudged as the biggest political party in Africa would have among others, its National Chairmanship slot contested for.
Presently, top notchers of the party, particularly, from the north easern states of Borno, Adamawa, Gombe and Bauchi are leading the pack of contestants. They have all been perfecting strategies for the onslaught in order to have their way as the party national chairman
. Interestingly, the national chairmanship position has been zoned to north east. Alhaji Bamanga Tukur,a political heavy weight from Adamawa state, a one time governor of old Gongola state in the botched first republic between (1979–1983), and currently, Chairman of Africa Business Round Table (ABR) and Africa Peer Review Group, as well as Presidential Economic Adviser to some African nations is one of the leading contender for the slot. Others include Professor Jibril Aminu from Adamawa state, Senator Babayo Garuba Gamawa, who is the immediate past deputy governor of Bauchi state, former governor of Bauchi state, Ahmed Adamu Muazu, Musa Babayo, (Talban Katagum), Kaulaha Aliyu, Senator Abba Aji from Borno and Abbas Bunu. The number is however, still increasing.
Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, a founding member of the PDP and former member of the Board of Trustees of the party, understands the cosmogony of politics from the grass root level having being governor of old Gongola state.
His entrance into the race has, unarguably, sent jitters down the spines of other contenders, considering his political pedigree which is contemporaneous with the envisaged quality of would-be national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party.
The party which has been ruling since 1999 after the entrenchment of democracy continue to witness what analysts refer to as absurdities in the ways the affairs of the party were handled by some past national chairmen.
Lack of good leadership has brought so much crisis within the party. Several factions have emerged that is threatening the fortunes of the pa highly favoured to be the next chairman of the party, submitted that in strengthening democracy, he is ready to face the challenges inherent in taking progressive decision so as to position the party for greater tomorrow.
Alhaji Tukur has always been convinced that the task of leadership should be seen from the perspective of sacrifice, which is a condition that precedes permanent success.
The vision of Peoples Democratic Party is not only to be a foremost ruling party in Nigeria, but to rule the African continent. That could only be achieved through pragmatism, astuteness, accountability, transparency and cohesiveness of the party’s national chairman
To attain a robust political, economic and social status for Nigeria, the chairman of the ruling political party, should be a man that is not only versatile, but must also possess strong contacts across the board. This is important.
Fortunately, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur’s extensive international contacts would come handy. The recognition accorded to him by the United Nations as Chairman of African Business Round Table, Presidential Economic Adviser to some of African countries, as well as his role as a trusted and reliable counsel to the United Nations, U.S and the European Union, has equiped him to fit into the highly exalted position of the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
While briefing newsmen at his campaign office in Abuja recently, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur observed that democracy remains the will of the people, and as such, he calls on all delegates from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory to vote for him en-masse so that he could propel PDP to greater heights,..
Reacting to imposition of candidates which, the leadership of the party had been accused of perpetrating at previous convention, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur stressed that the current leadership of the party has long seen imposition of candidates as an unpopular practice, which is capable of derailing the successes of the party. He expressed confidence that what is on ground presently would allow for free and fair contest, where all the votes of the delegates counts.
Investigations conducted by National Mail has however, revealed that the battle for the chairmanship position of the party has been hifted to the presidency in order to get the nod of President Goodluck Jonathan before the convention.
President Jonathan who is naturally introversive and highly unpredictable seems not to give a close tab to all the contestants so that his body language would not be read by newsmen. But sources from the office of Political adviser to the President, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak reveals that absolute loyalty, untainted integrity, political antecedents and experience would do the magic.
While reiterating his commitment to party ideals, the chairmanship hopeful said, he is seeking the support of elder statesmen of the party and the National Working committee (NWC) as well as political leaders through consultations, which he has started a long time ago. In lending credence to the move, an inside source at the Wadata House, Wuse, the headquarters of PDP who would not want his name in print, emphasized that, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur has been consulting widely and stated that from what he knows about him through his friend, he commands high profile charisma to take PDP to the next level. According to t5he source, “Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, former governor of old Gongola state has been consulting widely on his intention to become the next national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party and I think from what my friend told me about him, he has the high profile charisma to take the party – PDP to the next level”, he stated.
In a related development, an aide to the governor of Niger State who is the chairman of Northern governors forum, Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu confided in our correspondent in Minna that the issue of national chairman of PDP in the next national congress that has been zoned to North East remains on the front burner. That the northern governors were already on top of the matter so as to determine where their pendulum of support would swings to.
According to the source, Dr Babangida Aliyu was over heard saying that the support would among other things, be hinged on charisma, political clout, international connection, wealth of experience and willingness to foster unity among the party faithfuls.
However, the race is becoming unwieldy day by day, taking into cognisance the number of contestants from the northeast where it has been zoned to. But Bamanga Tukur is banking on his many years of unparallel services and management of both public and private institutions as being fit for the top job.
Alhaji Bamanga Tukur is no doubt man of impeccable character, who has focus, foresight and resilience to successfuly pilot the affairs of the party.His critics from the other side of the divide point at his age as a barrier to his ambition. In reaction to this and according to the document obtained from his Director General, BMT Campaign Organisation in Abuja, Alhaji Abu Fari, Tukur described his age as exceptionally matured and experienced, which is indeed a helpful and necessary criteria for the chairmanship of such a large political party – the PDP. It further posited that as an older person, Bamanga Tukur’s ambition is expected to be a product of deep calculation and wide consultations. “He would work amicably with the President and the National Assembly, he would offer quality leadership and command respect, especially, as the President and the National assembly would be facing great national issues in months and few years ahead (e.g. labour issues and national security challenges, which will sometimes pitch the Executive and the Legislature on collision course.
A matured and experience Party National Chairman would be the best ombudsman, who is seen to be effective at ensuring that both sides sheath their swords.
The performance and management of the National Assembly currently by Senate President David Mark is a case in point where experience leadership and counsel is indeed better to effectively manage institutions that accommodate a variety of ages and interest groups”, the statement said.
In the statement, Alhaji Abu Fari was hopeful that his Bamanga Tukur would avoid the mistakes of past chairmen of the party given the ethnic/political fault lines that the last national elections was exposed to.He described Alhaji Bamanga Tukur as a bridge builder who commands widespread respect capable of uniting disparate sides in the party and woo back most members who defected from the party for one reason or the other. The statement further reads in part: “…… Given Bamanga Tukur”s extensive political experience and contact base across ethnic divides, he stands out amongst other namesbeing touted for the post”.