Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto state, recently, had a media chat as part of activities marking his first year in office. Below are highlights of issues he discussed.
Now let us answer ourselves in objective manner, has the President not succeeded in addressing those things he emphasized during his campaign? Personally, I don’t think one year is enough time to judge the President but the effect of what he is doing is being felt across the land. Public officers are now more cautious in the manner they handle public funds.
View on democracy from 1999 and assessment of President Buhari’s administration
We have to be grateful to God for the return of democracy to the country in 1999. However, we have to be frank to ourselves to say that the level of development in the country is not commensurate with the amount of funds the country received within the same period. We made huge profit from crude oil sales but the impact was not felt by the people as much as it should. From 2015 to now, this administration has made genuine efforts to change things but that effort has been hampered by lack of enough resources. The good thing is that there is sincerity of purpose from those in authority to right the wrongs of the past.
President Muhammadu Buhari has remained his honest self and to me, he has done well since his election. During the campaign period, his emphases were on three things security, tackling corruption and revamping the economy. Before he came on board, the corruption going on was mind-boggling. The economy was in terrible shape and I recalled when some of us in the House of Representatives raised alarm over what was going on, we were called names and branded enemies of the former regime. The recent removal of subsidy shows that the President is on top of things as far as the economy is concerned. If not for the trust and confidence the people have on President Buhari, the removal of the subsidy would have led to protests and breakdown of law and order. Now let us answer ourselves in objective manner, has the President not succeeded in addressing those things he emphasized during his campaign? Personally, I don’t think one year is enough time to judge the President but the effect of what he is doing is being felt across the land. Public officers are now more cautious in the manner they handle public funds.
Differences between Speakership and Governorship
Even though the two positions are important leadership positions, they are distinct of each other and demands are different. The adjustment has been gradual and the experience worthwhile. However, as I said, the demands of the two offices are not similar largely because in the National Assembly, I was representing a constituency from far away in Abuja. But in the executive arm, as the number one citizen of the state, I am presiding over the affairs of the state from the state capital. I am now working from within the midst of the people at all times. This gives me the opportunity to feel the pulse of their demands and work together with them to find lasting solutions to issues.
As Speaker of the House of Representatives, you are first among equals and you do not have guarantee of tenure. You may go into the Chamber for sitting and come out of it as ordinary member of the House. The decision to remain on that seat is at the discretion of 359 members who may decide to remove you from office at any given time without much fuse and at a very short notice. The demands of the two offices are enormous even though not many would want to return to their positions after their tenure in the House of Representatives. Just ask former Speakers Etteh (Patricia), Dimeji Bankole, Ghali Na’Abba and the rest. The same cannot be said of governors.
Continuity of projects
This administration is a continuation of the last administration and we feel it is of paramount importance to complete ongoing projects. However, due to the precarious financial situation we find ourselves in the country, it became imperative to reassess our priorities. We’ve looked into all the projects and decided on priority ones to complete. Our pledge is that there will be no abandoned projects and we will start new ones at the appropriate time. We are working to improve our internally generated revenue and already, wide consultations are going on with experts on different areas of interest. Even though we are determined to improve revenue, we have to be conscious of the hard times. The economy is not in good shape and we are working round the clock to improve the situation.
Education sector revival
We declared a state of emergency in the sector because we felt extreme measures was required to tackle the problems there. In the last one year, we made set up a technical committee under the leadership of Professor Risqua Arabu Shehu to analyse all the problems and proffer solution. Few weeks back, we received an interim report and the committee has continued its work. We are determined to turn around the fortunes of the sector for the benefit of our people. In the meantime, we have intervened in various areas including recruitment of teachers, repairs and expansion of schools and provision of critical infrastructure where necessary. The technical committee recommended the employment of almost 10,000 teachers to fill the gap especially in primary schools. That is a huge number and from our estimation, we cannot source for the huge number from Sokoto alone, so we will employ from other states to fill the gap. We will do anything possible in moving our standard of education forward, to maintain better and productive citizens in the state. So state of emergency declared in the education sector will remain in place until all negative statistics are reversed. Let me add that for the desired progress to be made, the people should complement the efforts of government in funding and protection of facilities within their domains. Someone asked me the difference between the committees set up and headed by Risqua and that of Professor Attahiru Jega. While the Risqua-led committee is concerned with the revamping of education in Sokoto alone, that of jega is basically concerned with revamping tertiary institutions in Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi. We hope to pull resources together and help each other move the sector forward. We thank the two eminent scholars for agreeing to serve.
You know we have a competitive advantage when it comes to some selected crops like rice, wheat, tomato and onions. In the next harvesting season, we hope to be the number one state in the production of garlic, sesame seed and ginger. Generally, our farmers will testify to the fact that this administration has impacted positively in the sector in the last one year. We have purchased about 20,000 metric tonnes of assorted fertilizers worth over N1.2 billion for this year’s cropping season. We did same last year. The State Government has also intervened in the provision of water pumps, seedlings, drilling tube wells and machineries. Similarly, we have procured 1000 units of Tiller Machines for distribution to farmers. We recently visited China to particularly explore areas of cooperation for agricultural development of our dear state. Accordingly, an MOU was signed on Distance Aid Training to essentially train students on Grains Food Security with Henan University Technology via Polytechnic of Sokoto State. Similar agreement is on the construction of Agricultural Science and Technology Park in collaboration with Henan Province. The State Government has also signed an MOU with Camaco China – Africa Machinery Co-op that provide access for State to concessionary Chinese funding on the platform of the China-Africa Development Fund (CADF). Currently, Data Base Census is being conducted for all farmers in the State with a view to identifying real farmers and their categories to enable the State Government empower them correctly, and put in place proper budgeting for long-term planning.
The corruption in the third tier is simply mind-boggling. We have recovered N300 million within the first month of the verification from the LGAs. We have also found out in only one local government in the state, an official has sold 200 appointment letters to a contractor in Zamfara State. This fraud was blown open when the contractor sent an SMS to the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) complaining that his money had not been sent by the local government council.
Issue of power supply in Sokoto
We have suffered massive fall in the volume of power allocation to our state. Rather than wholeheartedly blame the power distribution companies, we looked inward and decided to complete the Independent Power Project embarked upon by the previous administration. It has reached 85 percent completion rate and we are determined to complete it to boost power supply in Sokoto. We’ve also attracted investment worth N3.3 billion from the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) to Sokoto and it has resulted in the building of three power substations with a capacity to carry 1500 KVA transformers. The transformer will in turn serve approximately 200 households in Gagi, Tambuwal and Farfaru. This will improve the capacity to receive more allocation distributed to our state. I want the people to be patient with us. They should know that the government has not abandoned them. We are working round the clock to fix the problem and very soon, the result of our effort will begin to be felt.
In addition, we are exploring avenue of tapping from renewable energy at our disposal. We have received submissions from various companies and we are doing due diligence to ensure we are not shortchanged. As soon as that process is completed, we will roll out our policy in that regard and work to realize set objectives.
Mind-boggling corruption at the local government level
It is true we have carried out series of verifications to sanitize the payroll and instill financial discipline in both the local government councils and the state civil service. The verification exercise is ongoing and I await the submission of their reports. Many have sent me messages saying we have dismissed them from their jobs. The idea is not to make things difficult for anyone but things cannot continue the way they are. The corruption in the third tier is simply mind-boggling. We have recovered N300 million within the first month of the verification from the LGAs. We have also found out in only one local government in the state, an official has sold 200 appointment letters to a contractor in Zamfara State. This fraud was blown open when the contractor sent an SMS to the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) complaining that his money had not been sent by the local government council. It is unfortunate because all the local governments had their payrolls padded with ghost workers. In the same vein, most of the workers in the local councils were idle and fraudulent. We found out that one staff was collecting salaries in four local governments.
Basically, we did not swear-in the newly-elected local government chairmen because we needed to sanitize the payroll before handing over to them. If we had sworn them in earlier, they would not have saved enough to pay their workers and carry out any project. As things are at the moment, we augmented their income in the last few months to enable them pay staff salaries. As things stand now, we will likely swear them in the next one week.
Trips and meetings outside Sokoto
I am happy this issue has come up because I need to make it clear that the trips I embarked upon were absolutely necessary. Many have questioned my regular meetings in Abuja but to be honest with you, that situation is not peculiar to Sokoto State alone. Left to me, I should be left to remain in Sokoto among my family and friends without going anywhere, but the demands of the office require me to do otherwise. I am aware that some people call me names, but to me, these are constructive criticisms. They have the right to question what their leaders do. So you have done nothing wrong if you criticize me. Citizens have the right to air their opinions on the activities of their leaders.
Another thing to be understood is that we came into office when there was the need to establish a certain level of political stability in the polity of the nation. Due to my previous position as the Number Four citizen of the country, I was involved in many of the consultations held to build a foundation for the success of the present administration. This is a national calling and it is not by my own design or making that I am being involved in seeking solutions to our national challenges. So in the spirit of national stability and cohesion, I accepted the offer to serve in such national engagements while at the same time governing the state. What I emphasized to my colleagues in government is that we must ensure governance at the state does not suffer in any way because of our national engagements. We are in a modern world where governance may not necessarily require physical presence. What is mostly required is my consent and sometimes my signature, and such trips had not negatively impacted on governance in my state.
Plans for 2019
In my view, it is wrong to bring up the issue of 2019 when we are just a year old in office. This is 2016 so the discussion about 2019 is absolutely unnecessary at this time. My philosophy is simple: during political season, discuss politics, during the time of governance; topic of discussion should be governance.