Elder statesman, former governor of the old Gongola State, one-time Minister of Industries and former General Manager of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA and lately, former member of the Board of Trustees of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur recently in Yola spoke on some burning national and international issues. Excerpts:
Tell us your impression about the country. Are you satisfied with the way things are going on?
Recently, I came back from the United States of America where I addressed the General Assembly. Also, I was in Dubai and Hague with our respective Ambassadors who have decided to bring businessmen from Nigeria to their areas of assignment. Globally, it is no longer political diplomacy but economic diplomacy; people now know that for there to be development, there is need to address the economy squarely considering its importance. It is believed that the political structure is there to move the economic development forward.
I think we should be sincere to ourselves and stop putting our heads in the soil like an ostrich. We are Nigerians and we should ask ourselves if we are really satisfied with what is happening in the country today. For Godâ€™s sake, look at the decay in our various communities all over down to the local and state government levels. I am saying this because in the USA it is the small scale industries (SME) that are growing the economy. This is one of the reasons why they are the worldâ€™s most prosperous nation.
In Dubai and the Netherlands, agriculture is their mainstay. We all know that in agriculture, land is one of the most important elements followed by water, which God has given us. Today, nothing is being done to boost agriculture and our youths are leaving the villages for urban areas solely because of unemployment and poverty.
When I came back, my compound was like a market place. If you were here, you would have seen over 100 people waiting to see me.
Those who used to be profitably engaged can no longer be, simply because things have gone bad in the system. Vulcanizers, hairdressers, business centres, welders etc find it difficult to operate again because there is no steady power supply.
For Godâ€™s sake, donâ€™t we know before of what was called rural electrification? I was born here in Yola. There was a power house then giving Yola and Jimeta more than twelve hours of electricity power. But today, itis longer possible.
I agree with Barrack Obamaâ€™s statement in Ghana that we Africans should stop blaming slavery and other economic factors as the bane of our under- development. We need visionary and committed leaders.
In Nigeria today, there is no local government council out of the 774 that have not got more than N1billion naira from the federation account. The rural dwellers are still suffering without meaningful and life saving projects being executed by most of those running government affairs at the grassroots level. What we have are chairmen of local government councils who build palatial homes and squander tax payersâ€™ money without anybody questioning them. This is the reason why many people fight for political offices; they venture into politics to loot public treasury.
This is where the press comes in. As watchdog of the society, the press should continue to focus on public office holders, at least it will help to reduce this kind of penchant stealing going on in the country. Where nobody is checking the activities of those in government, believe me, they will continue to siphon public funds for their selfish interests. Even in the face of all these decay we are facing, yet we call ourselves a democratic nation. What kind of democracy is that?
I represent the private sector throughout Africa; I travel around the world, honestly, I have never seen a country that is naturally endowed like Nigeria . It is time we went back to the drawing board to get this country on the right pedestrian. We have to plan for the future generation. What are we going to do with these children growing up now, and have gone to school without unemployment.
Everyday, universities, colleges, polytechnics etc are pouring out graduates and there is no job for them to do. Frankly speaking, these are signals of a very dangerous situation because where somebody is hungry, that person can do so many terribly things to feed. However, we are lucky in this country because of our seasonal crops; at least people are eating. If it were to be a kind of climate or environment where you donâ€™t find these God-given crops to feed on, we could have been in bigger problem.
With all these catalogue of problems, we need to evolve a socially responsible action in agriculture rather than focusing on politics. Let us prioritize our social responsibility to our communities. In whatever area of human endeavour we find ourselves, let us use it to alleviate the sufferings of those in the rural areas.
The state of the nation is generally an issue we all have to reflect on and find a lasting solution to. Like Obama rightly pointed out, the future of Africa is in our hands. But honestly, the system has collapsed and there are so many factors that have undermined the body polity over time.
Fundamentally, we are really going down the drain, and therefore must regenerate our energies towards strengthening the foundation we met on ground and then move forward. We must do this, otherwise we better forget about socio-economic development in the country.
A country canâ€™t be developed when 80 percent of its people are unemployed. There must be proper logistics to address whatever that is necessary. A farmer is supposed to get all his inputs before the drop of rain, but we are not concerned about that. Due to the malaise, so many things we are not used to like robbery and criminalities are happening. Honestly, government is not really addressing all these issues.
Getting things right in this country requires purposeful, focused and visionary leadership. But visionary leadership without action is meaningless. If you are a visionary leader, let your vision be tied to action in order to translate it into reality.
I feel ashamed to be even known as one of the founding fathers of a party that cannot deliver. We formed the PDP but today, we are members only in name. If there is meeting, we are not informed. Most of the founders have been pushed out. The party has been removed from the arena of owners to the arena of those who hijacked it for whatever reasons best known to them.
There was a time the PDP held a meeting in Calabar, and there Dr Alex Ekwueme Committee was set up to reconcile aggrieved and founding members and bring them back to the party. Has there been any true reconciliation to that effect?
Thank you. If it is a well conceived and intended panel, its recommendations would have been implemented to a logical conclusion. Ask Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, the National Chairman of the PDP what happened to the Ekweme Committeeâ€™s recommendation. You see, if you have a very strong party, it is the party that will direct the executive. But if the party succumbs to the pocket of the executive and legislature, it is very bad and it affects governance.
The original structure of PDP is no longer working. The party is supposed to be the conscience of the executive. We have party leadership at all levels, and if people are not feeling the impact of government, it is those party officials that will check the chairman of the local government, check members of the House of Assembly, members of House of Representatives etc with a view to calling them to order.
Narrowing this to Adamawa State, what is your comment on the lingering rift between the Mijinyawa Kugama led PDP executive and the break-away faction of Medan Teneke that is insisting a congress must be held for the party to choose its executives?
Honestly, I only read about the internal crisis on the pages of newspapers. I know nothing about the skirmishes in the party. But Kugama and most of the politicians are only flying kites. They donâ€™t even know what needs to be done. The truth is that, it is wrong to have a party chairman and the governor from the same local government area if we are operating real democracy. Those involved in that shoddy arrangement are allowing people to raise eyebrows, I expected them to do what is right.
Why do we insist on having for instance a president from the South, and his deputy from the North? We alternate it because in politics you have to understand the system and then follow suit to ensure geographical spread. We divide all these elective positions for political balance. Everything in the party structure is supposed to be shared democratically because we want to spread the ownership and give sense of belonging to everybody.
Having a governor and party chairman from the same local government in Adamawa State is very shameful. The chairman is supposed to be at par with the governor for checks and balances. He should check the governor and mobilize the legislators towards making the governor work in accordance to the partyâ€™s programmes. If we are really copying American democrats and republicans, we should learn how they go about their politics. If we want to copy, we should copy correctly.
We must bring checks and balances in the act of governance and people should be made to feel that they belong. Politics of exclusiveness is counter-productive and retrogressive in democratic governance. We should be able to acknowledge when we have erred and make amends rather than trying to paint wrong as right. I am not against anybody, but what is happening is not right.
I donâ€™t care who the party chairman in the state is. Or donâ€™t we know why in Adamawa, if a governor is a Christian, the deputy should be a Muslim and vice versa? It is aime
d at giving a sense of belonging to people. Where you know there is controversy, for Godâ€™s sake, address it. Failure to address the rift is why it has been resurfacing and not because of anything
But the argument in some places is that Kugama being the Deputy Chairman took over naturally when the party chairman Joel Madaki decided to run for the governorship position. Yet some still say that Governor Nyako met the Chairman on ground. Are these valid arguments?
For God sake, if you want to rationalize anything that is flawed, you can do it.