interviewBy Baba Yusuf
He left his prestigious job at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to join politics. After his first attempt to become a deputy governor, he is today the senator, representing Sokoto East senatorial district, under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In this interview, Senator Abubakar Umar Gada talks on a wide range of issues, from the politics in Sokoto State, the polity and the problem with the Nigerian oil sector amongst others.
The senator, makes it bold to say that the April elections in Sokoto State, was "world-class". Find out how. Excerpts:
You left what many would say was a prestigious job at the NNPC to join politics. What would you say necessitated this?
Change! Political authority is the greatest anywhere in the world. It gives you the opportunity to effect change right from the grassroots. As a career civil servant, you can be groomed to excel in one particular area or sector of the economy, which forms a part of your life. Like me, my exposure in the hydrocarbon or energy in the petroleum industry would always be with me, but politics gives me the wider opportunity to reach a wider spectra of the society, beside, sending service to my people.
You contested under the PDP as a deputy governorship candidate in 2003 and lost with your governorship candidate. Today, your party has clinched the governorship in Sokoto State, but in 2007 you are rather in the senate instead of government house. What transpired?
It is God that determines direction and shape of things. You cannot run away from destiny. You can be struggling for something while God's plans are different, if you are not destined to be there, you won't be there. It is God that is the determiner of the shape things take, both in our private and public life.
As a first time senator, how would you described the experience so far?
Interesting and challenging, I guess are the best words, especially in an environment you meet the so-called ranking senators, the word ranking becomes not just a word but denotes seniority regardless of individuals capacities and wealth of experience, the atmosphere becomes an interesting challenge.
Sokoto State, was the least state opinion moulders would have given to the PDP in the lead-up to the April poll. PDP's clinching of Sokoto State was unexpected, yet the party swept the polls. What would you say was responsible for that?
I will still go back to destiny. You are right, many people did not give Sokoto to the PDP, not even an inkling as nobody expected an incumbent to be unseated so easily.
With every sense of responsibility, the elections that were seen in Sokoto state was a world class democratic practice in terms of integrity of the ballot and so everybody attested to that. Even at the tribunals, what they were contesting was technicalities of the election and not the election results.
The magic was that God has the power and he gives it to those he so wishes to give it to. Secondly, I think the people of Sokoto got fed up and simply wanted change.
Were you surprised at the tribunal's verdict then in your favour?
We were not surprised at all. We expected it, because even the petitioners knew they were just a gambling which they hoped went their way. That is what I think transpired. In my own case, I wasn't even thinking anybody would challenge my victory, but they did and my election was upheld. So, I wasn't surprised.
Should we then say that, the PDP has come to stay in Sokoto?
No! No man can say that because it is the Almighty that gives power and takes it. Just the way God gave us the opportunity to serve now, if we mismanage it, he would take it from us. So, lets just say the PDP would carve a niche for itself in the state and allow the people to judge which party they should be at home with.
You attributed everything to Almighty God, are you highly religious?
I believe in one God, that is to say I am a monotonist. I believe he created heavens and the earth and has control over it. So, part of it his creation is the issue of power. He decides who to receive, give or relinquish. It is the Almighty that paves the way. Sincerity of purpose makes life easier. Even as a free thinker, you have a conscience that guides you, it is now left for you to adjudge whether your actions are in conformity with God's expectations.
Late senators Sule Yari Gandi and Maccido, were highly respected senators before their unfortunate demise. Would you say you are hunted by the reputation both had in the last senate and so feel there is some bit of pressure on you?
May their soul rest in perfect peace. As to pressure, I do not agree with that. You see, every senator here has his style and approach, his ideology and purpose, so it is left for you to articulate how you wish to achieve your set goals and targets. The bottom line here is that at the end of it all, just know that it is the overall interest of your constituency and the nation that forms the bedrock of your goal and targets. That to me is my priority.
I had respect and confidence in both late senators, they did their best. So, it is left for us here today to equally achieve and serve the purpose of our people.
What would you say is the greatest challenge facing your senatorial district, Sokoto East?
Sokoto East's problem is peculiar to that of any other Northern part of the country and that is the problem of being educationally less disadvantaged, just as is the issue of environmental degradation.
So, I intend to embark on an intense educational awareness drive backed up with support schemes and policies to boost it, I like also to see water supply receive attention in the district being that it is a sahel and arid region where subsistence faming majorly take place.
So, part of my challenge is to see how I and my colleagues could use the instrumentalities available to us to see that hunger is fought, poverty is reduced and ignorance is also reduced to the bearest minimum.
This senate seems to have gained a lot in terms of reputation and focus. What would you attribute this success to?
This senate consists of high breed senators, senators of higher standards, even though majority are first-timers.
For the leadership, we can see the experience of Senate president David Mark in his third term as a senator come out to bear in the way and manner he conducts and galvanises the senate. I must give him that credit and as far as presiding is concerned, he is a good material.
You are the vice chairman, Senate committee on petroleum (down stream). Various crisis has emerged in the petroleum sector culminating in the fragmentation of the NNPC into various parts. With your background as an NNPC staff, what would you say went wrong or is wrong in that sector?
There are fundamental problems in the oil sector in Nigeria. One of the biggest challenge is the crisis in the Niger Delta. Refineries are the first casualties in the crisis of the Niger Delta. Even if you have your plant functioning and ready to operate, there is no crude and you cannot have crude until the lines of crude are secured and they inturn cannot be secured until you are able to secure the Niger Delta.
When a refinery is up to 20-30 years old, wear and tear sets in, of course it cannot perform optimally. Now , when you have the militants trouble, the problem is compounded.
I would want a situation where president Yar'Adua's seven-point agenda tackles the problem of the Niger Delta to ease distribution of oil.
Today, you see crude is over $100 per barrel, if Nigeria were to refine petroleum products to the level of national requirement, believe me the tremendous impact we would have, and advantage on the price surge will automatically improve tremendously the socio-economic image of the country. But here we are selling crude at N80 per litre and then importing from those who would have purchased this crude at N100 and refine to make returns. We have the cheapest labour, three or four refineries, all we need is to have more refineries so that we can produce for exports if need be. Port Harcourt refinery was conceived as an export-refinery to market within the western region and along the gulf of equatorial guinea, from Mauritania to Angola. Unfortunately the case is not so today.
So, lets secure the Niger Delta and as well produce more refineries. We at the senate would make sure that in our appropriations and over-sights, due consideration is given to these problem.