Although the signs are evident everywhere, politicians from the north are often reluctant to tell the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration how poor the people have become under his government. But the Gombe State Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftancy Affairs, Ahmed Walama, has chosen to speak out. In this interview with Segun Awofadeju, he said Nigerians are more impoverished than ever
How would you appraise the process and the outcome of the recently conducted local government elections in Gombe State?
Gombe is a PDP state, so the whole election that took place last month was good because themPDP is on ground. There is no local government that you cannot find tremendous improvements in infrastructure, the wellbeing and wellfare of the people, so this is what led to the peaceful election and our victory in Gombe. Every body was happy with the PDP government under the leadership of Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo. That is it.
But the outcome of the elections was rejected by the coalition for progressive political parties. How do you react to this?
I don’t know what they call coalition of progressive parties. Who are the progressives? The so called progressives, what have they changed in the country? What I know is that the conference of all political parties has endorsed the election as transparent, credible and acceptable. So if you have APC that are complaining, naturally they will complain in Gombe.
On Monday, February 27 we were able to swear-in our 11 council chairmen, they also have gone back to their respective local governments and sworn- in their deputy chairmen and councillors. If there is any problem they wouldn’t have gone back to their places. Playing politics is not about sitting in Abuja and making noise. If you want to be a politician come back to your locality and play politics, period!
As a former chairman of local government as well as ALGON chairman, what is your take on the call for local government autonomy?
The issue of autonomy depends on which angle you look at it. Most of the local governments we have in the country today, if you say they should be autonomous, believe me, they can not operate more than twenty four hours before they close down because our local governments have been depending on the federation allocation for so long. No work has been done for them to generate revenues internally to sustain their operations. As as today, I am telling you that 90 percent of the local governments in my state cannot afford to stay on their own without the support of the other local governments. So, that is the beauty of the joint account system that people have been complaining about.
For me personally, we don’t have anything against the autonomy of the local government but it all depends on how you look at it. Some local governments will be very comfortable with the autonomy, some cannot survive it because of the capacity of the local government to sustain their operations.
There is this accusation that the PDP government played politics with security and economy. What would be your argument against such allegation?
For now we have a government in place, God has brought in an APC government at the federal level, and PDP was in government for 16 years and gone out. We don’t want to play politics like the way APC has been playing politics with security and economy. We thank God the situation has improved, this is not a political issue, but those people that believed the security situation was compromised by the PDP government, they have seen what is going on now, I don’t want to make comment on that, I am not a security expert. So, also is the economic situation, people are not better off than they were three, four years back, they are even more pauperised and impoverished than ever. As said, I don’t play politics with two things, security and economy. I believe we need to put heads together so that we can move the country forward but as at now the common man has not been finding things very easy, whether you are APC government or PDP government, because most of the states and the local governments have been dependent on the federal government and the federal government is not doing very well because financially. I don’t want to talk politics on economy, its time we put our heads together so that the government and the people will get out of this terrible recession that we are facing which has been the worst recession in the last 30 years.
But I believe that the federal government, right from the beginning has no policies in place, no blueprint,they have no programmes, never knew they would win the elections. That is why we found ourselves in the situation we are now today.
But you know, especially people in the northern part of the country, they have one kind of dogmatic followership of the federal government but let people open their eyes and be less sentimental and let us put heads together and get out of this recession that our people are facing, people are terribly in a bad situation, they can hardly feed themselves, which is not good for the sustenance of democracy, and for the good will of our people we need to get out of this mess that we are in today.
Most of the local governments we have in the country today, if you say they should be autonomous, believe me, they can not operate more than twenty four hours before they close down because our local governments have been depending on the federation allocation for so long. No work has been done for them to generate revenues internally to sustain their operations.