Yusuf Tugga: Gov. Abubakar Must Retrace His Steps

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Hon. Yusuf Tugga is a former member of the House of Representatives, and a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bauchi State Chapter. He speaks with Damilola Oyedele on why some leaders of the party including Speaker Yakubu Dogara, have disagreements with the Bauchi State Governor Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar

Some leaders of the party in Bauchi state, including the Speaker and yourself, recently drew attention of the party and President Buhari to issues of alleged impropriety against Gov. Abubakar. What are some of the issues?
I must say that it is really an unfortunate development, as we are all members of the same party as Governor Abubakar: that is myself, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, the three senators representing the state, the 12 members of the House, and the Minister for Education. We had to speak up against the policies, or lack of, of Governor Abubakar; the divisive politics that he has been practicing and the threat posed by his style of governance to Bauchi. We cannot, as leaders, stakeholders and indigenes, just look the other way while our state is being destroyed by one individual and his praise singers. That is why we decided to come together and take these steps.

Did you all make any efforts to reach out to the governor before going public?
It is not personal, it is based on issues and several attempts that have failed to make him see the light, to make him change his ways.
We all come from the APC. Some of us, like me were in the ANPP, we created the CPC together with President Muhammadu Buhari before we merged with the other parties to form the APC. Governor Abubakar joined us after the merger. Before then, he was a member of the PDP and before that, he was an INEC resident commissioner in Rivers State. We all accepted the flawed result of the APC 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.

You were a candidate in the primaries, and did not raise any objections then, and now you are saying the results were flawed…
There was over-voting in the primaries. I could have easily petitioned but I chose not to do so at the time simply because I did not want to appear selfish. It was not all about me, it was not 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 against the results that declared him governorship candidate. I did not do that. We all rolled our sleeves up, and campaigned for him, down to the polling units. He won and the first thing he did was perceive us to be threats, to fight and to begin to systematically alienate all sections of the society in the state. And that is why he has ended up this way: as a governor who does not get along with all his senators and all his members of the House of Representatives?

But some of the Governor’s supporters have described your group as Abuja politicians who are not in touch with the people at the grassroots. What would you say to that?
It is not enough to just try and label people Abuja politicians. What defines an Abuja politician? Pray tell! Because if you are elected as the Speaker of the House of Representatives or as a senator or a 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? Yes, I used to be a legislator, but at the moment I am not holding any public office. Bauchi has been ruined, there are no opportunities, I am a businessman, am I expected to go and just sit in Bauchi and just and simply watch the state unravel right before my eyes? So there are no opportunities that have been created. It they want us to become Bauchi based politicians, then the governor should make sure he puts Bauchi in order. He should create opportunities because saying most educated people that are either in business or in the federal civil service are not indigenes of the state.

The bail-out funds was one of the basis of your petition against the Governor, who has since said he has provided explanations to the president. Are you satisfied with his explanations?
I am very sure of my facts. We know how much Bauchi is earning, and we know how much Bauchi was also getting from the bailout. Like I said, when the premise itself is wrong, when you are not able to tell us how much exactly the state is owing, then it gives you wiggle room to play with figures. If you have some clever accountants that can juggle figures, you can print anything and present it as what has been done.
If he says everything was used for the payment of salaries, then what is the sense of this money he is using for this flamboyant lifestyle, or for the N80 million for the monthly upkeep of the Government House. Where is the money coming from, because money doesn’t fall from the sky?

What are some of the other allegations that your group levelled against the governor?
The allegations are simple and straightforward. There is a saying in Hausa to the effect that one 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, and handling of the funds for the committee was not transparent. For instance, there were allegations that the committee collected N565 million from the outgoing governor, Isa Yuguda, before swearing in and there is still no clarity as to what exactly the money was disbursed for. Apart from that, there was a lot of uncertainty as to what the agenda for M. A Abubakar was going to be in Bauchi because there was none was specified. He did not appear to have a 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.

Now, shortly after he became governor, there were some contracts that were awarded for 4.5 km of road from the CBN in Bauchi metropolis towards the railway, for N2.3 billion. Doing the arithmetic, that amounts to N517 million per km. For crying out loud, how is that possible? Can one construct road for N517 million per km even in Delta State where they have perpetual rainy season? Not even in the Niger Delta. This contract was awarded to a company called “Qumex”, with a Kaduna registered address. Okay, the huge contract has been awarded; one would have expected that equipment would be rolled out to commence the work, but no, they are using manual concrete mixers for all the people of Bauchi to see. This is not just us, it is the whole of the people of Bauchi that are seeing it and are putting pressure on us to do something about it because they consider us leaders. They believe that we should be able to do something about it because it is our party, because we are the ones that came and campaigned and sold the party to them and said vote for this man. And that is why it is important to us, that is why it is incumbent upon us to get up and do something and when you talk to someone privately and he does not listen, then you have no choice but to make it public so that the whole world knows what is going on.

There is another road in Fadama Mada, which, coincidentally, is being built at a place where he has a house. Now, Bauchi is one of the states in Nigeria that has domesticated the Public 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. There are certain criteria, the certain steps that must be followed before a contract is passed, and I can confidently say there has not been a single contract that has complied with that law because there have been no adverts or invitation to tender. The only invitation we have had the recent one for SUBEB (State Universal Basic Education Board) contracts. So the manner of award of the contracts are a violation of the laws of Bauchi State.

Now, I mentioned SUBEB to you. I am sure you are conversant with the requirements of UBEC (Universal Basic Education Commission) and the fact that states have to come up with counterpart funding. Lat year, the governor sought for a N1 billion loan from GT Bank in the name of UBEC counterpart funding. But it was a case of putting the cart before the horse because you have to prepare and ensure that the counterpart funding is ready and you have done your paper work with UBEC, before you go out and take such a loan. That was not done and it is only now that Bauchi is chasing after UBEC to perfect its documents. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on that N1 billion loan and what I am hearing is that we are likely to have lost about N600 million of that loan in deductions. When you take a loan from a bank, the clock starts ticking the moment you walk out of the bank. They are not going to wait for you to go and do your paper work, that is your business.

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 claims he left a debt of N86 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 M.A Abubakar was campaigning in Bauchi, when we were all also campaigning for him and for the APC, they could see him, he was visible, they could see the clothes he was wearing, they could see the watch he was wearing, they could see the car he was driving, and if you know, within a very short period of time of becoming governor, they notice a huge change in lifestyle and a level of ostentation that was hitherto not there, people are going to start complaining, and this is what is happening in Bauchi. It is understandable, it is normal, everyone knows that Nigeria has 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 the point he is missing is that in other states you don’t have a governor sending for a plane from Abuja to come to Bauchi empty to pick him up and take him to Sokoto to go and console the family of the late Marafa of Sokoto, Umar Shinkafi. And from Sokoto, take him to Maiduguri to console the family of Shettima Ali Mongunu and from there, bring him to Bauchi, spent the night, and then, take him to Abuja. At a time when there are pensioners and workers that have not been paid salaries.
This what the people of Bauchi State consider an affront, it is an insane system because they know that prior to winning the elections, they had never seen M.A Abubakar in a private jet.But he is doing this with millions of Naira and then telling workers there is no money to pay their salaries.

Does this not look like a gang-up of elites against the governor?
Why would we gang against him? Why did we not gang up before to reject him? This is the crucial question. It is easy to just play the victim and say there is a gang up against me but there is a need for self examination. Before we visited the national secretariat of the party, some of us, (I was not a part of them) had met with him privately, and appealed 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 elite, but also civil servant 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 be able to do that. You should have done your home work. It is deceitful to lead people on. 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 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 know that the state house of assembly member from my constituency was not consulted, I know that House of Representatives members were not consulted, I know that the senator from my constituency was not consulted. So who did he sit down with to come up with this decision?

But the governor said he met with your group and the meeting was supposed to continue on another date but the group was not patient enough. Is that true?
Put yourself in ours shoes. You approach someone and tell him there are problems, that yes, we want to work with you, but things you are doing right now would have terrible consequences for the state. He gives you his word, then turns around the next day, and does what he promised not to do. So do we just fold our hands and continue to hope against hope?

Many of the caretaker Chairmen are appointed are PDP members. They are not card carrying members of the APC. 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, so we do not know what his actual intentions are.

What do you suggest the governor should do differently?
M.A Abubakar has to bear in mind that Bauchi is actually historically the epicentre of opposition in Nigeria. Hiring thugs to protect you and follow you everywhere with a bus is not going to work. Trying to shut people up from talking, either by cracking down on media and all sorts of authoritarian tactics do not work. The only thing that works in Bauchi is for you to go back to the people that voted you in, apologise to them and make sure you start working positively for the development of Bauchi. 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.