A former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and Bauchi State Governor-elect, Senator Bala Mohammed, speaks on sundry issues, in this interview with FRIDAY OLOKOR
How did you see the recent governorship election in Bauchi State?
We are grateful to God and the people of Bauchi State. We had some hiccups here and there, including some bad situations where one Baba Yola, a Superintendent of Police, beat people and wounded them seriously. Most of these boys were not even our supporters; they were just citizens of Nigeria and Bauchi State, who were presumed to be our supporters. Some of them were hospitalised.
You claim to be on a rescue mission for Bauchi State. How do you intend to improve the fortunes of this state?
We are not afraid of expressing our commitment to taking Bauchi State to the next level. The good foundation for Bauchi has been made by the earlier politicians especially Zakari Aliyu during the days of the National Party of Nigeria whose master plan is still the best that we can remember, and that of Ahmed Adamu Muazu. Bauchi has degenerated and everything has deteriorated as you can see in the educational sector; we have about 1.3 million children that are out of school. The school infrastructure is nothing to talk about, we don’t have teachers, the ratio of teachers to students in a classroom is 1:300 and anything that is bad is bad; no plan to put that right. Teachers have not been paid and they are so disillusioned, their morale is at its lowest and they too require training.
The product of our educational system in Bauchi is so bad, a state that has made a name in terms of exporting labour to the Federal Government and to the outside world. We all went to government schools in Bauchi State and of course people thought we schooled in Oxford or Harvard. No, we didn’t. But the sad situation is that the common man can no longer get this kind of education and with this kind of trend, I think we are heading to chaos because Boko Haram will be a small issue when we begin to have 1.3 million children that are out of school and there is no plan to address the situation.
In the area of health, we have only 44 doctors in the whole state. You can just imagine, we have close to about seven million people in the state in addition to the people coming from other places. There were times when we used to have over 1,000 doctors, even the doctors that their parents managed to train (they were not trained by the state government because the state government is not paying bursary or scholarship), they are not being employed in the last three years. You can just imagine the ratio of patient to doctors in Bauchi State. It is at the rate of 1:500,000 and there are no drugs; no light and water in the hospitals. So our hospital beds are just graveyards and we have to change that ugly trend.
In terms of agriculture which is the mainstay of the state, there are no visible plans to give people agricultural implements, extension services and so on. Our youths are there, they are not being employed, no employment has taken place since the advent of this administration and there is a terrible raise in the cost of governance in the state. Every month, our wage bill has risen from N2.5bn to N5bn and we discovered the prevalence of ghost workers everywhere. We have to change that trend.
There is no corresponding increase in personnel emoluments in terms of employment, salary increment, payment of pensions and gratuity. We have an arrear of N26bn; so why should we have an increase and there was decrease in the social safety nets that were implanted by the previous administration? We have personal assistants and special assistants in thousands, they have been moved into the personnel cost. There is the Almariji system and so on and so forth, I was part and parcel of those that conceptualised it; so we have to bring back that social safety net for people to have something to do. Bauchi State is slow when you compare it to states like Gombe that was extracted from us and Jigawa State. We have become a caricature, and we have become a laughing stock because of the inept administration that we have put in place. So you can see what happened in Bauchi: they bought votes, induced people with rice, detergents, spices and many other things. We told the people what they should do: collect it, it is your money but vote Bala Mohammed; and that was done.
Despite the efforts of the Goodluck Jonathan administration which piloted the Almajiri education in some parts of the North, the legacy appeared to have become a waste. What do you think is responsible for this?
It is completely obliterated. You will see the biggest Almajiri school in Bauchi if you are leaving for Gombe State; the roof is blown off and that is what President Goodluck Jonathan did. Jonathan is a Christian and from the South-South and yet he did it. He formalised the Almajiri education system for us. But the current government of Mohammed Abubakar abandoned it. But in Sokoto and Kano states, it is still working. Even the formal education has been abandoned not to talk of the Almajiri educational system or nomadic education, everything has gone.
How will you bridge the ethnic and religious gaps in Bauchi State, which is generally regarded as a flashpoint of crisis?
My experience in Abuja and the impact that President Jonathan made on me have made me a detribalised Nigerian; he has made me to see the universality of the human race, the experience has made me to realise that irrespective of geography, tribe and religion, somebody that may impact your life may be somebody that is only known to God because everything is driven by destiny. We are connected by a streak of nationalism called Nigeria and of course I will try and make Bauchi State the most conducive place for whoever wants to come and add value in terms of investment.
Will you probe the outgoing governor?
Definitely! Because of the evidence that we have, he is going to be thoroughly probed because I have not been spared by the Federal Government. I have been under probe by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and because I believe in accountability and was influential in the government of President Jonathan, I chose not to run away; I will stand and answer all questions. I have passed the first battle by winning my case against the Federal Government on human rights, for arbitrarily imprisoning me and then calling me names. Of course, N5m has been awarded in my favour and the next one is the other spurious charges against me. I believe in justice and equity.
And if the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has discovered some documents which shows that over 2,000 ghost workers have been inputted into the salaries and arrears of Bauchi State in the last four years and over N400bn has come to Bauchi and we cannot see anything that has been done for N5bn, if I don’t do it (probe him), then I have abdicated my responsibility.
Will you say your ordeal in the hands of EFCC is politically motivated?
It is completely politically motivated but I believe in justice and that was why I went to the court of justice. People were asking me, ‘you are under investigation by the EFCC, why are you running for governorship? That is the beauty of democracy and good governance because I am just an accused person and I have won my first case. Nasir El Rufai who was in the FCT before me, was he not an accused? Has he been exonerated? He is now a governor in Kaduna State. We also have a senator who was a governor, Danjuma Goje (Gombe State); He is still in the Senate. To be accused doesn’t mean you are indicted, people don’t understand this.
Let me tell you about my case, I have not been accused along with any official of the FCT-neither my personal staff nor Permanent Secretary (about five of them served under me). No director (I had over 120 of them) was accused along with me. What have I taken? No petition from the FCT, no petition from any civil society organisation, no petition from any NGO or individual and they accused me of what they called “intelligence” and what is intelligence?
Somebody like me was thought to be going for Presidency. Definitely, they used a big sledge hammer to kill a fly because I was not even looking at the Presidency and I don’t have anything against Buhari. Instead, I appreciated him first; but one thing I know is that my boss is Goodluck Jonathan. I appreciated Buhari because before I knew Jonathan, he was the one who facilitated for me to become a Senator. He came to Bauchi State, campaigned for me and I defeated an incumbent governor; so I defeated Muazu in 2007 to become a senator when he was governor.
Your party, the PDP appeared to be bouncing back. Being a stakeholder, what do you think should be done to really make PDP to be a strong force?
Honestly, we had a very serious setback. What I discovered is that the PDP has a hangover of some tendencies that are not good for the party because Alhaji Atiku Abubakar lost the election due to lack of team work, planning and strategy. You need strategy to win an election; if you are going to be rigged out, rig too if that is what it takes to win an election. We should not be crying that we have been rigged out. A party that brought revolution in the communication industry, a party that brought the best of infrastructure in the country and a party that has brought revolution in all aspects of our socio-economic life should not be rigged out by people who don’t know governance.
Definitely, there were issues of corruption, nonchalance, lack of commitment on the part of the PDP but it is unfortunate. The setback is so overwhelming that the Waziri of Adamawa (Atiku) lost and some of us are bearing the brunt of that concomitant band wagon effect but thank God for He is the one that gives power.
Do you think Atiku has a good case and will smile at last?
He has a good case but there are issues, there are even evidences here in Bauchi, I am so sad. Our agents were not at the polling units and elections are won and lost at the polling units. Our agents collected money and went to sleep. We had to change our agents in the governorship elections to those who are committed, including stakeholders like pensioners who have not been paid their pensions; graduates who have gone to university and three years they have not been employed. So, they are not looking at what they are paid and neither can they be bought over. These are the kinds of people we used, not politicians, not the party men because they have disappointed us and this is my experience in Bauchi. But in other states, I think we had overwhelming evidences of inconclusiveness, outright arbitrariness, manipulations, change of results and so on and so forth. Atiku is likely to regain his mandate.
Bauchi has a lot of tourist attractions like the Yankari Game Reserves. How do you intend to really boost tourism in the state?
The forest just behind my house is Yankari Forest and in the olden days, Yankari was under our family before it became a national reserve. So definitely, it is in my heart and I would want to bring peace and tranquility in Bauchi State so that it will foster security and of course tourism in all aspects of life.
Election is a game and politics generally is a game and at the end of the day, there would be a loser and a winner. Would you have accepted the outcome of the result if you lost?
Definitely, as a democrat, I will accept any result. You know, I am a protégée and a follower of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, we believe in democracy. But certainly my own difference with him is that if I have been short-changed I will not accept it, I will go to court. But if I am beaten fair and square, I will go and congratulate whoever that defeats me.