By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State is a leader, who believes that there is no justification for anyone to talk about dismembering Nigeria after we have lived together as a nation for over a century. In this interview, Yuguda, one of the governors honoured last weekend in Ghana for educational development, speaks on contemporary issues, among them, his relationship with his predecessor, Ahmed Mu’azu, who he nominated as the PDP National Chairman and how to check rising terrorism in the North. Excerpts:
How do you feel about the Award for Excellence in Education bestowed on you by the African Achievers Forum in Ghana?
I feel happy and fulfilled that the work that I have been doing in the field of education has come to be recognised by the international community and Africa. I am happy that I have been able to achieve the target that I set to attain in education in Bauchi State.
What major policies have you put in place to bring about the upliftment of the education sector in Bauchi State?
First of all, we have put in place a strategic plan for the development of education. That plan will last for the next five years and we have started developing the plan. We will factor the contributions of development partners into the plan. Things are really going to change tremendously in the state education sector because of the development plan.
Can you break it down so we can see the plan for each sector starting from primary to tertiary education?
Each segment of the plan has a timeline and we hope the resources would be there for us to implement it. There is need for adequate financing for us to be able to achieve the set target. We also need to train and retrain our teachers in order to meet the goals of the educational system. We need to bring in more facilities and procure books to cope with the number we are catering for.
Right now, we have bought books for all the sectors. For primary education, we have elaborate programmes for the pupils and teachers. We have recruited more teachers and outlined more incentives for them and those in secondary schools. We want to increase the number of boarding schools in Bauchi State while also looking at enhancing incentives to motivate teachers to work harder and improve the feeding of our students.
For the tertiary institution, we are trying to expand some of our schools to degree awarding status and bring in more experts and apply international best practices in our programmes.
Have you been able to resolve the discrepancy in the number of teachers who are qualified to teach?
They have all agreed to subject themselves to re-evaluation and test and examination before going back to class. For those who cannot make it, they may have to disengage or be sent back to school for training.
Bauchi has been relatively peaceful despite the crisis in the North-East. What is the magic?
Our magic is God. We are very prayerful, both Muslims and Christians, on the matter. On the average, our people are morally upright and are their brothers keepers. They keep working with security agencies to ensure that peace reigns in the state. They are ready to identify criminals in their midst. But we have displaced people.
Only a few days ago, we have a lot of people fleeing from Zamfara to Bauchi State for refuge and we had to accept them. These people need help and we have to help them. We have to commend the security agencies for the work they are doing in the state to keep criminals at bay. But we have to continue to do our best to ensure that the people can live in peace.
What are you doing about out-of-school children to be integrated into the society?
They are there in their thousands and it is a pity that we don’t have all the resources to take care of them as we would have loved to do. If we have the resources, we would have opened more schools, trained more teachers and give the children incentives to go to school. It is very difficult to get them to leave hawking and come to school without having the means to sustain their parents. But, recently, the MDGs office and the state have been engaged in supporting the poorest families so that their wards can go to school and the number we could accommodate in conjunction with the MDGs office was over 5,000 families. But 5,000 out of about six million population in Bauchi is just like a drop in the ocean. But we have started and we know that the matter is a major challenge to us and Nigeria.
Do you think you can attain the Millenium Development Goal in health by 2015?
Bauchi stands shoulders above others in health care delivery under the MDG. Bauchi has always been among the best states in terms of the implementation of the MDG programmes on health. So far, we have 1,200 primary health care centres though the joint effort of the state and Federal MDG. We have invested a lot in health care and we believe that we have achieved a milestone in that area.
Many were quite excited that you easily made up with former Governor Ahmed Adamu Mu’azu, and you were the one who nominated him as the National Chairman of the PDP. How did you make up with Mu’azu, who was seen by many as your political opponent?
There is a Fulani saying that even the tongue and the teeth sometimes bite each other. All the same, they stay in the mouth. There may be misunderstanding between brothers, but God has made it possible for us to reconcile. I have no reason to have any grudge or problem with Mu’azu. He is my brother. I wish him the best and I will give him all the support he needs to succeed. His position as PDP Chairman is a sensitive one and his success is my success. I know that he will do a good job and I am very proud of him as the National Chairman of our great party. That is why I moved the motion for him to become the Chairman.
Do you encourage Bauchi people to go for the forthcoming National Conference, which many people in the North has described as Jonathan’s conference because he is accused of selecting many of the delegates?
I don’t know the agenda of the conference but what I have always said is that any person who goes there to talk about partitioning Nigeria should be stoned out of the conference because I believe in the unity of this country. Our parents could not have shed blood to unite this country only for our generation to decimate it or partition the land and say we cannot live together.
Nobody is greater than God, who created Nigeria. Nobody can stop who should be the President of Nigeria. It is also God who put the resources we are enjoying today and nobody should use religion or tribe to break the country. The conference should rather focus on issues that will unite us and not divide us. It should reinforce what should unite us and that is what should be discussed.
It should not be a forum for complaints about our country. The problem of Nigeria is Nigerians ourselves. We know how to fix Nigeria. We should sit down and see how to fix Nigeria. Whoever has been selected by either the President of governor should sit down as a patriot and think of how to put Nigeria on a solid pedestal.
They should not be a party to those who want to divide Nigeria. We have over 500 ethnic nationalities, which are not going to be represented at the conference. There is pressure that the conference should have representatives of each of the ethnic nationalities and I hope the President should look into that aspect. Those who are selected should have the interest of Nigeria at heart. We should learn to live together the differences in culture notwithstanding.