Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Insecurity - the North Is At a Crossroads - Yusuf Maitama Tuggar

interview

In this interview with Victoria Uji, Hon. Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, who made a bid for the Bauchi state governorship seat in the last general elections but lost to the incumbent, speaks on the security crisis in the north and the failure of leadership in the country, even as he charts the way forward

Can you give us a glimpse into your background?

My name is Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, from Bauchi State. I am an oil and gas consultant. I was also a member of the House of Representatives where I chaired the House Committee on Public Procurement. I was also a member of the Petroleum Upstream Committee that worked diligently on the Local Content Bill and saw it through passage.

In addition, I was also a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, House Committee on Agriculture, House Committee on Internal Affairs as well as the House Committee on Legislative Budgeting.

I contested the Bauchi governorship post as a candidate on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2010. We won but the peoples' mandate was confiscated. To retrieve our mandate, we went to the election tribunal, the Court of Appeal and even the Supreme Court where something very puzzling and mind boggling occurred.

At first, our case was heard by a panel of five judges who ruled on a preliminary objection in our favour, which paved the way for arguments to be heard. This incident occurred on a Thursday and we were told to come back on Monday.

By the time we came back on Monday, they brought a fresh panel of five justices, including Justice Ibrahim Tanko from Bauchi state, which to us meant a conflict of interest because he was from our own state and was not a member of that panel prior to then.

The new panel, which was chaired by the Chief Justice of the Federation at that time, Justice Dahiru Mustapha, overturned the ruling of the previous panel and decided that they wanted to hear the preliminary objections of Governor Isa Yuguda's lawyers again. And after listening, they then ruled in favour of Yuguda and the PDP which meant that the case could not be heard. But then I am still an active and loyal member of the CPC.

What is your take on the on-going merger talks between the CPC and other opposition parties?

I think it is a welcome development and something we have been yearning for. I think it will strengthen the opposition in Nigeria. Without opposition, there will be no democracy. In many parts of Africa, there is a strong urge for the ruling parties to annihilate the opposition, which is not good for the continent. There should be a healthy feud between the executive and legislative arms of government so that you can get the best out of the system for the people.

In the American system, for many decades now, they have a situation whereby the executive is controlled by one political party and the legislature is controlled by another political party, thereby getting the best out of the system. Hardly do you have one dominant party, which is what we have today in Nigeria. So, when political parties come together to form an alliance, they will become a formidable force that would get the best out of the system for the people.

The North is reeling under the yoke of insecurity, how, in your opinion, did the region get here?

We went wrong with corruption and by veering away from long-term planning. We had a situation in the First Republic and some periods under the military rule where we had long-term plans and we recorded certain milestones through those long-term plans. Then we could focus, project and develop in line with our demographic growth.

But at some point, because of the military interventions and people being brought in as ministers, governors or administrators who had very little understanding of the political economy, that system was corrupted and we veered away from long-term planning and that meant that we were making things up as we went along and we were not preparing for the future.

This is why we have a lopsided focus on recurrent expenditure at the expense of capital expenditure and of course we were growing in terms of population and breeding a group of poor, uneducated youths, who of course will become an issue in terms of security because there are so many of them who are jobless and angry.

The family unit as we know it has broken down and we are simply breeding people and letting them out into the streets without any clear sense of direction, education and guidance and we lost our values. This is where we went wrong and that is why we have insecurity in Nigeria today.

What is the way out of this quagmire?

First, I think we need to go back to the long-term plans that we had abandoned and implement them. We cannot say that we have stuck to the Vision 20:2020 blueprint for instance. There is a disconnect among our annual budgets, the actual capital projects that we do and the country's long-term goals. When you look at the President's Transformation Agenda, you'll see that the annual budgets are not drawn with a view to achieving it.

In the north where we have serious security issues, what we need is not sinking MDG boreholes in villages; that is not enough to solve the region's problems. What we need are major transformative capital projects. When we talk about diverting some tributaries of the Congo River to rejuvenate Lake Chad, this is a transformative project that will alleviate problems, create jobs, stimulate the local economy and put money in the hands of the poor. These are the sort of projects we should be talking about.

We should be talking about Trans-Sahara gas pipeline that will take gas all the way to Algeria and Europe or the Trans-Sahara highway. These are what we need in the country now. Even if we solve the problems of Nigeria and the North and right across the border in Niger, Chad or Cameroun there is conflict and poverty, it will always continue to be a problem for us.

We need to transform the region with these sorts of major capital projects and we can get assistance from the international community. But you see nobody has the conviction to push it. This is what our governors should agitate for, especially the northern governors, but they are not doing that. Most of them are not bothered about such things.

They are not looking beyond their noses and I think they only spend years in government to solve their own personal problems, which is rather unfortunate. If you look at other parts of the world, these sorts of projects have worked and transformed their economies and the lives of the people. Look at the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal, if people in other parts of the world could build these, what is the big deal about us focusing on the trans-aqua project to rejuvenate Lake Chad or lay gas pipelines to Algeria?

Do you see any hope for Nigerians?

As the saying goes, when there is life, there is hope. We are still alive and we believe there is hope but there must also be a sense of urgency because if these generations of Nigerians are not able to act fast and begin to actualise some of these aspirations, then we would have squandered the future of some of these Nigerians and generations to come. We need to begin to act and push ourselves back into the right path so as not to miss the boat.

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