Honourable Yusuf Tagga, a close ally of President Muhammadu Buhari and governorship candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change in 2011, was among the major Bauchi APC major stakeholders and Leaders of Thought who dragged the governor before the President and APC national leadership over sundry allegations. He spoke to journalists in Abuja on some of the contending issues. .JACOB SEGUN OLATUNJI was there. Excerpts:
You were one of some Bauchi APC leaders, who have leveled sundry allegations against the governor of your state, Mohammed Abubakar. You took the matter to the President and the leaders of the party. We want you to give us an insight into your case against the governor?
First of all, I will like to say it is really unfortunate, having all come from the same political party with Governor Abubakar; that is, myself, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara, the three senators representing the state, the 12 members of the House of Representatives, the Minister for Education, all found ourselves in this situation. We had to speak up against the policies, or lack of them of Governor Abubakar; the divisive politics that he has been practising and the threat posed by his style of governance to our home state of Bauchi. This is why we find that we cannot just look the other way. We can’t, as leaders and as stakeholders, as people and as indigenes, look the other way while our state is being destroyed by one individual and his praise singers.
Have you not made any effort to reach out to the governor before going public?
That is why we decided to come together and take these steps. It is not personal;;it is based on issues, it is based on several attempts that failed to make him see the light; to make him change his ways.
If that fails, the next thing you need to do is take the necessary steps preclude further danger to the state, and this is what we are doing. We all come from the APC. Some of us, like me, have been in the ANPP; we created the CPC together with President Muhammadu Buhari, before we merged with the other parties to form the APC and Governor Abubakar joined us after the merger, after we had already created the APC. Prior to that, he was a member of the PDP and before that, he was an INEC resident commissioner in Rivers State; a state that had a laughable record during elections because the sort of results that were returned from successive elections during his tenure as INEC resident commissioner were the type you can only find in former communist states or may be Syria, during the regime of Hafiz Al-assad, where they will come close to returning a hundred and ten per cent for a particular party or a particular candidate. It is scandalous. So, for somebody like that to come and take charge over a state like Bauchi and for all of us to even accept the flawed result of the primaries at the time simply because we wanted to win, we felt that it was not in the best interest of the state for PDP to continue. That is why we all decided to come together.
Are you saying that the primaries that produced the governor as candidate was flawed?
There was over-voting in the primaries, I could have easily petitioned; I chose not to at the time simply because I did not want to appear selfish. It wasn’t all about me; it wasn’t about my ambition or becoming governor, no! It was about bringing about constructive change in the state. And that is why I refused, in spite of all the pressures and overtures by supporters, by colleagues, by friends, to try and appeal and fight the results that declared him candidate. I did not do that. We all rolled our sleeves up; we went and campaigned for him. Down to the polling units, he won and the first thing he did was (to) perceive us to be a threat; to fight and to begin to systematically alienate all sections of the society in the state. Which governor have you seen today in Nigeria that does not get along with all his senators, all his members of the House of Representatives? Which governor and why? So, we have to look at the root cause of this.
The governor described your group as Abuja politicians, who are not in touch with the people at the grassroots?
It is not enough to just try and label people Abuja politicians because that is the song that the governor and his aides and praise singers have been singing. But, what defines an Abuja politician? Pray tell! Because if you are elected as the Speaker of the House of Representatives or as senator or member of the House, where are you supposed to reside for most of the year? Are you not supposed to be serving in Abuja? So, is it not laughable for you to be labelled an Abuja politician? And if you take somebody like me, I am not holding any public office. Yes, I used to be a legislator. But at the moment, I am not holding any public office. When Bauchi has been ruined, there are no opportunities, I am a businessman, do you expect me to go and just sit in Bauchi and simply watch the state ruined right before my eyes? So, there are no opportunities that have been created. If they want us to become Bauchi-based politicians, then the governor should make sure he puts the state in order. He creates opportunities because you can begin to say most educated people that are either in business or actually working in the federal civil service are not indigenes of the state. This is what they are working towards, when we know exactly who is not an indigent of the state.
In specific terms, what are those allegations that you have leveled against the governor?
The allegations are simple and straightforward and there is a saying in Hausa to the effect that you can tell a Friday that is going to be good from Wednesday. Things started going wrong immediately, even during the campaigning, we could tell that there were issues but I am not going to go on to that for now. We will save that for another day. Immediately after the elections, there was a transition committee that was constituted. That committee itself came up with its own issues because then we started talking about how much exactly the transition committee spent. There were allegations that the transition committee collected N565 million for instance, from the outgoing governor, Isa Yuguda, before swearing in. Apart from that, you could see that there was a lot of uncertainty as to what the agenda of Governor Abubakar was going to be in Bauchi because there was none. None was specified. So, he didn’t appear to have any blueprint. It is difficult enough governing a state like Bauchi with an agenda, with a clear, succinct, policy programme, let alone coming in without a clue of what you want to do. And it is only after you assume the position that you start running around to find something to present as what you intend to achieve. This is precisely what transpired.
Are there other allegations?
There is another road in Fadama Mada, which, coincidentally, is being built at a place where the governor’s second wife happens to have her home. So, he has a house there. Now, what informed the choice of where to cite this project is something that requires clarity as well. Now, apart from that, you have to also bear in mind that Bauchi is one of the states in Nigeria that has domesticated the Pubic Procurement Act. There is a public procurement law that was passed many years ago by the state House of Assembly. I was chairman, House Committee on Public Procurement, so I know exactly what public procurement entails and especially when a law has been passed. There are certain criteria; there are certain steps that you follow before you pass a contract, and I can confidently say there hasn’t been a single contract that has complied with that law because there are no adverts, no invitation to tender. The only invitation we have had is most recently for SUBEB contracts and yet, he even has a special adviser for Due Process.
Apart from that, you have the issue of Bauchi debt profile itself. It is very important to establish how much Bauchi is owing because it gives room for venality, for corrupt practices, for shady deals, if you are not able to ascertain exactly how much you are owing. Anybody that runs a household knows that it is important to know how much exactly is being owed, otherwise, you are likely to get hoodwinked by people, let alone when you are running a state and awarding contracts. The governor claimed that Isa Yuguda left a debt of N125 billion, then the transition committee came and said he left a debt of N96 billion. Isa Yuguda himself claimed he left a debt of 86 billion. So, it is very important that for us to even establish that. Now, this administration in Bauchi has not been able to do that, which is quite dangerous. I don’t know why it should be so difficult to establish that.
Beyond all of these, you have the issue of the perception of the general public itself. When he was campaigning in Bauchi, when we were all also campaigning for him and for the APC, they could see him; he was visible.
Everyone knows that Nigeria has an economic problem at the moment; there is a recession going on. There are challenges to pay salaries, not just in Bauchi State, but in other states, which is what the governor continues to echo.
But looking from the outside, one gets a picture of a gang up by the elite against the governor?
And what will be the reason for the gang up? Why would we gang against him? Why did we not gang up before to reject him? This is the question you should be asking and he should be asking himself. It is easy enough to just play the victim and say there is a gang up against me but you have to look at the reasons. He has to examine himself to see what he is doing that is wrong and he has to also bear in mind that 12 members of the House of Representatives, three senators, minister and some of us that are stakeholders that actually helped to build this party in Bauchi State and Nigeria as a whole, are coming from different works of life and different constituencies. It is not likely that all of us will simply wake up one day and decide that we want to gang up against the governor. And even before this visit we made to the APC national secretariat, some of us, I wasn’t present, had actually invited him for a private meeting and had tried to appeal to him to change his ways, to be more conciliatory towards people in the state and to address certain issues. There were certain actions he was taking that was alienating him from not just us that you referred to as the elite, but also civil servants in the state that were not being paid their salaries, teachers, traditional rulers from ward level up, all of a sudden he decided he was going to dethrone and scrap. Mind you, it is not a good excuse to just say you are going to scrap because the state can no longer afford them because when you were campaigning and making promises you should have known that you are not going to do that. You should have done your home work. It is deceitful to lead people on because some people voted for them because they were comfortable that he was going to leave the traditional rulers of their place in place.
On top of that, he unilaterally sits down and decides that he is going to appoint local government caretaker chairmen. In fact, as a litmus test, this was one of the requests of those who sat down with him, including the Speaker of the House of Representatives and some of the senators. They tabled that and he gave them, once against his word that he was not going to swear them in and he walked out of that place and the next morning, they were sworn in; people that were chosen without any consultation with the key stakeholders in the state. I don’t know if he consulted some of his yes men that are appointees of his but that is not good enough because he is the one that was appointed as the governor and even if he decides he doesn’t want to consult people like me because he doesn’t like my face, surely, if you are a smart politician, you will consult elected politicians from your state. I know that the State House of Assembly member from my constituency was not consulted. I know that the House of Representatives members from the constituency were not consulted; I know that the Senator from my constituency was not consulted. So, tell me, who did he sit down with to come up with this decision, and especially when he was standing on very weak grounds? He was not even a part of this party, he just came in at the last minute, so he is not somebody that had familiarised himself with the people, with those that have been toiling and suffering under the yoke of the same PDP that you are serving. You come and you turn against the people.
There was this allegation that most of the caretaker chairmen appointed were mostly members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). How true is that?
It is very true. Most of them are PDP members.
So, you mean most of them are not card-carrying members of the APC?
We do not know when they went to carry the cards of the APC because I can tell you that when this party was formed, we were the ones that distributed the cameras that were used to take the pictures to register people to become members of the party. We were the ones that campaigned together with the candidates that contested for positions at the wards level, at the local government level and at the state executive level. So, I can confidently say that I am very familiar with those who are members of the APC in Bauchi and majority of the membership came from my party, the CPC, that went into the merger. Clearly, the governor is empowering the opposition. We don’t know what his plans are and we don’t know whether he is looking to bid us goodbye or whether it is because he came from the PDP; he only knows PDP people. If the problem is a matter of introduction and making the acquaintance of the actual members of the APC, he can engage us; we can introduce him to the members so he gets to know them and from then on, start to interact with them.
What would be your final word for the governor?
Governor Abubakar has to bear in mind that Bauchi is actually historically the epicentre of opposition in Nigeria. Going back to the colonial era, when you had the Bauchi discussion circle with the likes of the late Saad Zunguru, the late Aminu Kano, who was also a teacher in Bauchi Middle School, the late Prime minister, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, and so, the people of Bauchi actually became politically conscious earlier than other parts of Nigeria, and particularly, Northern Nigeria. History has show that when you start making mistakes as a leader in Bauchi, people give you the benefit of doubt. But there is a certain threshold that you reach and people turn against you and the moment they do that, there is no going back and Sara Suka is not going to help you. Hiring thugs to protect you and follow you everywhere with buses is not going to work. Sending police working under you to go and kidnap people or abduct them is not going to work. Trying to shut up people from talking either by cracking down on media and all sorts of authoritarian tactics do not work in Bauchi. The only thing that works in Bauchi is for you to go back to the people that voted you in, apologize to them and make sure you start working positively for the development of Bauchi for people to see that you are working. This is a period of austerity. It is not a period of flamboyance, for ostentation. It is a period that, if you decide you want to occupy an elective position, you have to be austere; you have to be ascetic, you have to project that image and there is no free money in government anymore.