Baba Abubakar Suleiman represented Azare/Madangala Constituency in and served as Minority Leader in the 7th Bauchi State House of Assembly.
In this interview, he bares his mind on a wide range of issues regarding politics and governance in Bauchi State. Excerpts:
You initiated the Bauchi State Rebranding Project in 2015 which was endorsed by Gov. Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar to develop a policy direction roadmap. What is the position of the project two years after?
Shortly before this administration came on board, I observed that there was lack of planning and preparedness for the task of governing the state amidst higher expectations.
Therefore, I thought that the key to success was to plan even the planning itself. I initiated the Bauchi State Rebranding Project because of my concern for the APC-led administration to succeed in providing an acceptable leadership that is people oriented. The aim of the project was to mobilise resources, sons and daughters of the state from all walks of life to include intellectuals, retired public officers and professionals that will serve in the project. In my best judgement, this will guide the administration in achieving its mandate and people might be convinced to have confidence in the leadership, having known the strategic direction of the government from day one.
Before presentation of the project’s scheme to the governor, I discussed the idea with Alhaji Garba Gadi (a former Deputy Governor of Bauchi State) and many other chieftains of the APC. I also met with Air Commodore Ahmed Tijjani Baba Gamawa, Ali Sa’idu, Hon. Iliyasu Ibrahim Zwall, Alhaji Shehu Barau Ningi and Hon. Garba Sarki Akuyam. I briefed them on the proposal and we later met the governor and discussed. He approved it and tasked us to constitute the secretariat of the project; we did and began the assignment. Prominent among the people that volunteered to serve in the project were Prof. Garba Dahuwa, who is now the DG of NTI. He was made the chairman of the project. Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, the current INEC Chairman was the co-chairman and Dr. Garba Ibrahim Kirfi was the secretary of the project. Alhaji Garba Moh’d Gadi, Prof. Abdulsalam Sambo, Alhaji Ado Wanka, Dr. Danjuma A. Dabo, Salisu Lukman, Prof. Garba Magaji and many others all travelled from far and wide in order to answer the call of service in their state.
Sixteen committees were constituted that reflected the entire critical social and economic sectors of the state such as education, health, hydro carbon and solid mineral resources, lands and housing, physical planning and development control; infrastructure, rural development and public works, economic development and management; amongst others.
Every committee was given terms of reference and were expected to develop policies and programmes. The idea was to develop a compendium of policies and programmes that will run the administration beyond eight years; it will provide comprehensive strategic roadmap for the smooth running of Gov. M.A Abubakar’s administration.
What happened next?
I later wrote a post-inaugural report and requested for funding to take care of hotel accommodation for non-resident members, refreshment, lunch etc. It was at this juncture that the project suffered a bottleneck. We tried hard for the request to be approved so as to complete the assignment and submit our report but there was no response from the government, up till now. Perhaps some people close to the government are not happy with the assignment, thinking that most of the people that will serve in the project might be considered for political appointment and so they did all within their ability to scuttle the rebranding project.
What is your take on APC as the ruling party in Bauchi State?
When talking about APC leadership in Bauchi State, the first thing that comes to mind is to ask whether the leadership style is effective and satisfactory to the expectation of teeming party members and supporters. Are the party leaders carrying all the exco-members and other party stakeholders along? The answer to all these questions is no. This is because the opinion among majority of party members, and even some members of the exco is that the party leadership has fallen short of acceptable standards of transparent leadership that carries everybody along. In fact, it is so characterised by poor party management, highhandedness and arbitrary disciplinary actions against some exco members and/or elected officials through expulsion or suspension without recourse to the party constitution or political implications.
The conduct of party leaders has eroded the confidence and loyalty of the majority of party members across the state.
How can you then assess the performance of the APC-led government?
Let me start by saying that the APC government at the national level, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, can be adjudged as satisfactory within the first two years. He was able to fulfill most of the major campaign promises like the war on terror, fight against corruption and economic diversification.
What of at the state level?
The performance of the Bauchi State Government in the last two years was so insignificant compared to other states, even within the North East, not to talk of states like Kaduna, Nasarawa, Kano, Jigawa Zamfara, Plateau and a host of others. It is disheartening to note that after two years in office, no single project was commissioned, no jobs provided, pensioners are crying, businesses are winding up and poverty is increasing. Workers are going through avoidable hardship through endless verification exercises that yield no result.
In fact, workers verification exercise has become a government programme in Bauchi State. The administration is yet to deliver most of the campaign promises it made. Take for example, the promise to conduct local government election and to release their funds. This promise has become something illusory, without substance or reality. Failure of the Bauchi State Government to conduct local government election has induced and increased the poverty level of people living in local government areas.
The immediate past Governor, Mallam Isa Yuguda conducted only one local government election in his eight years. That was in 2007 when he was first elected and since then, it has been series of caretaker regimes which is alien to the Nigerian Constitution. Appointing caretakers to administer the affairs of local government councils is illegal and the present APC government in Bauchi State has upheld the illegality.
You seem to be an opposition from within considering the fact that Governor Abubakar had during his second year anniversary showcased some of his achievements.
Yes, it is true the Bauchi government flagged-off some road construction projects; notably in Bauchi, Misau and Azare, and some rural roads and urban infrastructure, but they are mostly rehabilitations. Let us take for example the CBN roundabout rehabilitation which is about 4.5km; it was awarded at the cost of 2.3bn two years ago but it is still a work in progress, the same with all of the projects. It is only one project, the Misau-Udubo road that you can see a semblance of progress, even though it is only 30 to 40 per cent completion.
How would you assess the performance of members of the 8th assembly in Bauchi?
In modern democratic societies, legislatures perform basically three conventional functions of representation, law-making and oversight. And this will form the basis of my comparisons. At least in the seventh assembly, we stood out in all the three responsibilities.
On representation, we were always on the look out for the concern of the people and raised the matter at plenary and made resolutions directing the government to implement. We passed several executive and private bills; I personally sponsored about five private member bills and more than 30 motions and a lot of members did same, and we were able to take difficult decisions for the common interest of the public, which were against the will of the executive. Consider the removal of the Commissioner for Education, relocation of a local government headquarters for security purposes and stopping SUBEB chairman from dismissing over 6000 primary school teachers.