Segun Awofadeji discusses the administration of Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed of Bauchi State and his visible efforts at ameliorating the harsh living conditions of the people in the last one year with Hon. Hamish Mu’azu Shira, former Member, House of Representatives and current Commissioner of Housing and Environment in the State
Bauchi State electorates voted out APC- led government because of poor performance. How has the present government faired in the first one year?
Some of us that are very close to His Excellency, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, right from his days as a minister are not surprised at his level of achievements within his fist year in office. I want to tell you without fear or favour that since the advent of democracy to the best of my knowledge as far back as 1979 when Shehu Shagari took over, Abubakar Tatari Ali became the first Executive Governor elected on the platform of a political party, no governor has done what Bala has done so far. Tatari Ali did so much, so well that till tomorrow we will continue to praise him because he brought about development into Bauchi state. He built hospitals in Alkaleri and Darazo. He carried out a lot of developmental projects across nooks and crannies of Bauchi state. He was so honest and he carried all the people along, since that time, another governor we had whom I will compare Bala with is Ahmad Muazu but even Ahmad Muazu was not able to achieve what Bala achieved within one year, because he took over from the military. By and large, in four years or eight years of Muazu you will not deny the fact that he also tried his best but I can assure you that Bala is going to beat Muazu’s record hands-down even within the first four years, the first term which we have spent only one year for now and I have no doubt in my mind that Bauchi state people will reciprocate this very good service to the people of Bauchi state by voting him for a second term, without even going out to campaign, if the people can appreciate service and loyalty and work, development with the meagre resources that we receive today I think there is no point for us to go out and campaign, because already we have proven to the people of Bauchi state that Bala is a good manager of resources, that he can deploy little and achieve great. You can see that since the beginning of his administration salaries are paid at almost every 25th day monthly. For the first time since he took over salaries are paid,. People were saying that what they were predicting has happened, that Bala won’t be able to maintain the tempo, that Bauchi state is broke and that is why we have not been able to pay on the 25th as we started, it is not true, the money was there, they were contemplating on embarking the payments on a platform that the people we brought wanted but we later realized that they had some challenges and so we had to advise them to suspend it and that was what brought about the two or three days delay and I want to assure you that this month we will revert back to 25th as usual.
There are rumours going round that Governor Bala Mohammed is eyeing the Presidential seat come 2023.What is your take on this?
There are those who are clamouring, with rumours flying here and there that Bala is interested in going for the presidency come 2023, I want to tell you that Bala is capable, he has the capacity to lead this country, that I have no doubt in my mind but as of today, that is not his priority, his priority for now is to ensure that he delivers what he promised Bauchi state people during our campaigns, we went round the 20 local government areas of Bauchi state and Bala is the first gubernatorial aspirant to have visited every single ward of the state to see things for himself with the view to taking note of what is on the ground and of course designing a blue print to know where to start if eventually he was voted into office and Alhamdulillahi, he was voted into office. After that, he brought in some consultants.. that came up with a blue print, he gave them the mandate to carry out a study and see why the state is left behind, what is it that we can do to better the living standards of the citizenry and they came up with series of recommendations, many are being implemented and of course quite a number of them are still on the drawing board, we will get there soon.
On the issue of presidency, let me come back to it again Bala has the capacity like I said but like I also said, that is not his priority, some are saying that he is going for vice president, some are saying he is going to be picked to serve as a vice president, that I don’t know but I can confess to you that he has the capacity to serve in any position but that is not his interest for now. They are not doing it because Bala has in any way expressed his interest to run for the office. It is because of what they have observed he has been able to achieve in his first one year in office as the governor of Bauchi state that prompted their desire to invite him to come on board and lead this country because Nigeria truly needs proactive leaders like him. It’s just like out of their appreciation for what Bala has been able to do in Bauchi within this short period of time that has generated that clamour. He has been able to achieve in one year what the previous administration did not achieve in five years, that is what is bringing all these rumours. So, the truth of the matter is we have no plans for that but I am not ruling out the possibility, at the end of his eight years, by the grace of God I will be one of those who will call and urge him to come out and contest because I know him very well, he will deliver.
How would you assess the present administration in the state in terms of project execution?
To be fair, we have done so much with the little resources. The number of projects Bala has been able to execute within this short period of time, I can mention few: Sabon Kaura, Burga and Tafawa Balewa to Alkaleri, there are quiet a number of roads that he has been able to fix. Contractors were fully funded and the balance of the payments is on the ground, in fact 60 to 70 percent of these projects are completed, some are even at 100 percent completion stage for now. Let me give you another example, it is that of my Ministry of Environment and Housing, within the first one year, he gave me a marching order, he took me to Abuja, that’s what he did, he picked almost all his commissioners one after the other, traveling with us to Abuja, not for leisure but to go and pursue what rightly belong to the people of Bauchi state and to look for partners to come and partner with Bauchi state to develop the state for the people of Bauchi state and that was how we succeeded into partnership with Family Homes Fund Limited, a private developer they agreed to give us the sum of N12 billion to develop 2,500 housing scheme for Bauchi state, and true to his words, all parts of the state are to benefit,he does not segregate, he does not prefer one part of the state when it comes to project, one part of the state than the other, he directed that we should spread the project across the six emirates of the state and that is why you have 1500 houses in Bauchi emirate council, 350 in Azare/Katagum emirate, 100 in Jamaare emirate, 100 in Dass emirate, 200 in Ningi emirate, even though, there was slight amendment to the initial agreement that we are completing the first phase block of 1,250 before we embark on the remaining 1,250, but I can assure you that the fund for the first phase of 1,250 is at hand and is not controlled by only Bauchi state, it is controlled by Bauchi state and Family Homes Fund. Every single certificate that is raised for a particular project in respect of these houses are duly signed by the finance ministry and the finance department of Family Fund. So, the fear of diverting funds for a particular project to another is not even there, it’s not even in Governor Bala’s character to do that, he has succeeded in paying some kind of counterpart funding, where if you pay N500 million or N200 million and then you are given N2 billion or N3 billion to go and do what you are supposed to do. If you look at the record you will discover that because of the previous administration’s inability to pay a hundred million or two hundred million Naira counterpart fund, Bauchi state missed opportunity to execute projects worth billions of naira, look at what we have done in SUBEB in just few months, it is because of our ability to pay the counterpart funding, our brother who is the Minister of Education who is not even a member of our political party faced the reality and he said if Bauchi state can come up and meet up with this, why not? go ahead and give them, and that was how we have been able to achieve so much in the education sector, the road construction, water supply, you are a living witness, you are in Bauchi, you have seen so much that is happening in the water ministry, check out the health sector, that is another area that you can assess what Bala has done so far, we must look at some of these sectors as a parameter to gauge his performance.
Taking into cognizance, the way and manner he came on board. How would you describe the journey so far?
Well, it is an act of God, we thank Allah because is part of the destiny that Bala will be our governor and Allah made it possible with all the hurdles, he is one of the most persecuted governor we have in this country as at the time he was going for this governorship, if Bala was not strong hearted, if he was not somebody who seeks the will of Allah, who understands that it is only Allah that gives power to whom He wishes and takes power from who ever He wishes and whatever time He deems fit, Bala would have chickened out because there were all manners of threat, there were all manners of intimidation, there were all manners of stumbling blocks that were set for him, simply because they didn’t want him to become the governor, and in fairness to Mr President, I don’t think Mr President has a hand in what Bala passed through in the course of our campaign or our road to the Bauchi state government house, if nothing, Mr President has decided to leave the situation to take care of itself, and God has proven us right.
When you talk of his own habit, it will be surprising to see people like me, a friend, a politician you know for the past 20 years, since you came into Bauchi state, I have been in politics, I was a member of the House of Representatives for two terms, I have served in many capacities as a board member, as a director Styr, Muslims Pilgrims Welfare Board member, as a Bauchi State Housing Authority Board member, what am I coming to do to serve as a commissioner having achieved all these? Let me tell you, the truth of the matter is, Senator Bala took his time to plan very well, the selection of his cabinet, the quality, nobody influenced him.
It is because of the fact that he knows what he wants to achieve and he needs team players that will give him result oriented development, and he approached us, he sent a delegation to my house where he invited me to come back to PDP because I had left PDP for good, if not for Bala, I don’t think I would have anything whatsoever, to do with the PDP anymore in my life again, I am not being ungrateful to PDP because I served two terms on its platform but because of the way and manner I was chased out of PDP, I took a decision never to look back at PDP but Bala brought me back, he laid on the table, his developmental plans he has for the state and I realized that he himself is coming to serve as the governor in form of a sacrifice because he is not coming to look for money to build house or buy a car, all the goodies you can think of he was in a position to have made it when he was a Minister or when he was a legislator.
But for the fact that he wants to serve, he decided to pick people like us, he laid the cart on the table. He asked me, ‘Shira, you are my friend, what is it that you want when I become the governor? And I told him very clearly, I said sir your success is what I want, I am not aspiring for anything and I am not giving you any condition to become anything or to sponsor me or to field me to contest for this or that, I am carried away by the good intention you mentioned and am willing and ready to follow you anywhere, any day, come rain, come sun, that was how the bond was signed and we came together.
When you look at the people like Gamawa, the Commissioner in charge of Budget and Economic Planning, for goodness sake what is Bala coming to give him in Bauchi state that he has not gotten at Havard University in US, a lecturer for that matter, or when you look at the Commissioner of Education, Dr. Tilde, what is it that he is coming to get in Bauchi state that he has not gotten at the federal level? Or when you look at Professor Adamu who is a very good material for Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, what is it that he has come to look for in Bauchi state that he has not gotten if he were to remain at ABU? I can tell you 99 percent of us in Bala’s cabinet are with him to serve the state and to make a sacrifice to develop the state, not to make anything out of the state. As I am working with him, my personal business is suffering, I made billions, living as a business man when I left the national assembly.
You have spoken of his leadership style. How would you describe his relationship with his cabinet?
We have a very cordial working relationship and above all he has a very good understanding as well as a good relationship with all the members of his cabinet. He also has a good relationship with the members of his political party including the hierarchy and leadership of the party, you can see that the Chairman of the party is always in the government house, he is not kept aside, he carries the chairman along, not because of anything but because he respects the provisions and the constitution of the party, and that is what the party says, that for every governor to succeed, he must carry the leadership of the party in the state along because we have a manifesto and we must abide by the provisions of our constitution and the manifesto of our party.
So, it is not the issue of pocketing the party in the state, no, there is nothing like that, it is all part of the process and it is all part of been an active loyal party member and that is why even the national headquarters of our party appreciate this when they appointed him to serve as the chairman for the Bayelsa bye-election campaign, gubernatorial election and most recently, he was also given the same position for the Edo state and I can assure you, we are going to succeed in Edo, because the margin, even that we got or APC got ahead of us then under APC was merely 20,000, because APC got two hundred and seventy something and we got two hundred and fifty, so for that, now with what our candidate has done in Edo we will definitely have majority of the support and we will emerge victorious.
If you remain part of this administration to the end of the tenure, what are your expectations on service delivery?
My dream and my wish is that if by the grace of God,I remain what I expect at the end of this administration is to see total deliverance, to ensure that all the promises we made, to a large extent we have been able to fulfill to the people of Bauchi state and to be able to go back home with my head high that yes, you have chosen me, you have chosen my governor, we have been able to deliver and we have been able to do quite a lot. I want us, at the end of our tenure to have so many things to show that we have achieved within the period given to us and I believe Allah will see us through and will give us more strength, health, good life and the ability to deliver.
I believe, my dream at the end of it all is to witness the transformation of the blueprint Governor Bala has in mind for the people of Bauchi state to reality.