interviewBy Soni Daniel
Mallam Isa Yuguda is one governor whose Bauchi State has witnessed many socio-economic challenges capable of dampening his spirits and stifling development. But, in spite of that, the governor is defiant, working to fulfill the mandate for which he was elected, first in 2007, on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, and, later in 2011, on the platform of the PeoplesDemocratic Party, PDP. Although Yuguda, popularly referred to as Mallam, rarely publicises what he does, he says he is fulfilled, having changed the face of the state with the provision of numerous facilities and projects that the state has not seen in its over 30 years of existence.
In this interview,the governor boasts that he has nothing to hide and will not attempt to impose his lackey on the people at the end of his tenure to cover his track. He points out that he has abolished the dichotomy between indigenes and non-indigenes in Bauchi to give residents equal opportunities irrespective of state of origin, religion or tribe. Excerpts:
What is the state government doing with community radio stations instead of providing more concrete projects for the people?
What do you do with communication as a media person? You see, you must find a veritable platform to communicate effectively with the people because they elected you in the first place. Community radio is a wonderful and very useful vehicle to achieving the desired synergy because it makes sense to them. They see it as their own. In Bauchi State, for instance, we have over 50 linguistic groups and each of them needs a means of communication among themselves and with others in the state. Of course you know that it is not possible to speak all the 50 languages on Bauchi Radio. So, what we do is that we speak the language that binds all of us, which is Hausa.
Now that we have community radio that is very dear to the grassroots, the people are fully involved. They have drama and religious songs that are tailored towards education and other campaigns to improve their fortunes. It is indeed an innovation that has changed lives in the state and brought a new sense of belonging to the grassroots. Something the people never knew has been brought to their doorsteps. They can come to the open to complain about what they don't like and can make informed inputs into government programmes and policies. The community radio has given them an opportunity to ask questions and get answers at the same time. It affects the lives of the ordinary people directly and I can say that it is the pride of the local people.
What has happened to the Sara Suka gangsters who used to terrorise Bauchi State day and night?
Most of them are gainfully employed and they are off the streets because of what the government has put in place to cater for their interest. Some of them have been employed to learn skills while others have been recruited into a special security outfit called Spider Web. Others have been trained as artisans-painters, vulcanisers, carpenters and bricklayers-just to give them a sustained means of livelihood.
What my administration is doing is that we give them seed money to start their business after training them. Many of these people are being given some other forms of training and equipment to enable them to work and earn decent living rather than being on the streets and causing trouble. In other words, the government was able to take this group of people off the streets through a well designed programme of empowerment and I believe they are happy with themselves and the government.
Why are you building an airport when Bauchi already has one?
This present airport in the state has a runway of only 2.5 km to accommodate narrow bodied aircraft. It cannot take wide bodied aircraft. On the eastern flank of the airport, there are NEPA pylons and cables, which we tried to remove when I was the Aviation Minister. But we discovered that the cost of doing so would be higher than constructing a new airport. And we opted for a new one. But let me say that the new airport is a Federal Government project. It was approved for us during Shagari's time.
Its construction suffered a lot of delay until when I came in as a minister that President Obasanjo approved it again for construction. This airport is going to be the fifth international airport in Nigeria. Our own is going to be registered with International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO. The equipment for the airport is already being assembled and we have configured the call signs. The registration is inside the equipment. By December they will arrive.
On completion, the new airport will service Yankari. Now that its call sign has been registered with ICAO, any person who will be managing Yankari will have to know how to strategise to use the airport effectively because if there are tourism agencies that want to bring in tourists to Yankari, they can connect directly with the airport. We are very serious to use the airport that is about to commence operations to boost tourism in the state.
We strongly believe that if we develop our tourism sector effectively, it would bring twice as more money as oil. It has a lot of multiplier effects, one of which is to create jobs and add our own quota to the economy of Nigeria. The airport will generate a lot of foreign exchange for us and Nigeria. It will boost our tourism industry. It is a top foreign earner for us and Nigeria.
What is your plan for the Yankari Games Reserve?
I want to give it out to a private firm to manage since government cannot do it effectively. We have a lot of untapped potentials in the place that can give us an edge if well managed.
Having built many secondary health institutions and a tertiary health facility in the state, where do you hope to get doctors to run them?
I am training doctors while I am also looking out to other states to give us their extra. I am training doctors by establishing a Faculty of Medicine at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University. For 19 years, our students could not get places to study medicine because the institutions gave priority to their catchment areas. When I came in, I raised a programme to train doctors so as to cope with our own requirements. I have some of them in University of Alexandria, Egypt. Twenty three of them are female while 15 are male and they should be graduating next year. I will send another set before the end of my tenure as governor. Upon their return to the state, they will help in no small measure to advance the cause of medical care and we will continue to explore ways and means of ensuring that the system does not suffer as a result of inadequate personnel.
What are you doing to get enough teachers to cope with the increasing students' population in the state?
I go out myself to teach in some schools from time to time.
Education holds the key to development. If we continue investing in education in Bauchi in the next five to ten years, the state will get out of the woods. You will never see anyone who will come here to say he is poor. If you are educated, by the time you finish from the university, your head will be boiling with ideas for progress and development.
Now, where are you leading Bauchi to?
I am leading the state to posterity, full employment opportunities for the natives and a state that is secure and an environment with people who are highly educated, cosmopolitan and patriotic. I am leading Bauchi to become the leading state in Nigeria with the best human development index and to make it the first state in Nigeria in terms of developing the minds of the people to ensure that no human being suffers any sense of deprivation.
Are you happy with the followership?
I am not very happy with the followership because, going by where we come from, they have been traumatized and left in a position of hopelessness and frustration. These are people who have, over a period of time, witnessed the deterioration of the entire educational and health care system. These are the same people who have witnessed the worst form of insecurity in the history of this country because we are the victims of many crises since we take the heat when our neighbours have problems. Now you can see that I have over two million refugees as a result of the crises in our region. The impact of these security challenges on our very meagre resources can be better imagined. You can see that this kind of challenges can frustrate the government and its people over time.
Are you saying that you are not fulfilled given the misery that your people have been subjected to by the challenges beyond their control?
I cannot say I am not fulfilled. I am happy with myself for what I have been able to do for my state since I became the governor. At least I have done my best and I feel contented. My conscience is clear because I know that I am putting tax payers' money to effective use. After more than five years as governor, I am very happy with the result on the ground. I can say that I have done my best and I can see it myself. I don't think that, in the last 30 years, Bauchi State has witnessed the kind of development that I have brought to the state in the last five to six years.
What makes you happy when you look at Bauchi State and your leadership so far?
I feel so contented as a person because my covenant with my Creator, the Almighty God, that I will protect lives and property and bring about development in the state during my inauguration as the governor of the state, has been kept given the experience of our neighbouring states. I have cause to be thankful to my creator for protecting lives and property under my leadership. I have been able to secure this state. Yes, it is true that we have had some incidents in the past, but I want to be corrected that Bauchi remains the most secure state in Nigeria, the safest state in Nigeria. At least we can say that given what obtains in other places. The fact that people are able to move about freely as late as 3 a.m. even though we share boundaries with others with serious security challenges, is something that makes me happy when I look back.
I swore by the Q'uran that I will protect lives and property and I have done my best in that regard. I also swore to protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by doing right to all manner of people no matter their religion, place of birth or tribe. That also entails that I do not do anything that falls short of the law of Nigeria. In my state, I see myself as the leader of everybody who should be protected and catered for. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing like Bauchi indigenes and non-indigenes. I have integrated all Nigerians into Bauchi State. We practicalise it by removing contract appointments from the public service. I have absorbed all non-indigenes who were on contract appointments into the Bauchi civil service. Before I came into office, there was that dichotomy between indigenes and non-indigenes.
I have also abolished discriminatory fees in all Bauchi schools to ensure that all Nigerians irrespective of state of origin can access the same quality of education.
My argument is that all Nigerian children should have access to education. I don't want any child in Bauchi State to grow up and begin to imagine that he or she is not from here or somebody will come and tell him that he is a non-indigene because he has another state. I want a situation that will make it possible for those who are from other states but are staying and doing business in Bauchi to have a sense of belonging and benefit from all that the administration can provide. It is by so doing that our country Nigeria will make progress and prosper as a united nation.
For the civil servants that I have offered permanent employment in Bauchi, why would they say they are not from here? It is not possible because they enjoy the same salary and allowances that we offer all in the service. I have provided the critical needs of the people-roads, health care, water, electricity and schools. I have increased staff salaries and allowances and given the people a sense of hope and pride. When I came into office, a Permanent Secretary, for instance, was earning less than N100,000 per month. Today, they go home with over N450,000 monthly. So, we try as much as possible to ensure that money circulates and have multiplier effect on the populace.
What is your regret as a governor?
I cannot think of any so far.
Who are you handing over to at the end of your tenure?
This is a very difficult question. But let me say that as a person, I do not dabble into how a leader emerges. My belief is that power belongs to God. He is the one who gives power to who he wants to give at any point in time. I do not want to play God by saying that this or that will be the successor. I will not want to force people to elect a particular person.
Let us wait and see who God wants to take over from us. I have nothing to hide and therefore do not need to anoint anyone who will cover my track. I have nothing to hide. I have been running an open administration just like I did when I served as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.