Umar Ahmed Suleiman, Gombe State Commissioner for Information, speaks on the reported bid of his principal, Governor Ibrahim Dakwambo, to contest the 2019 presidential election.
What’s your take on the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party?
From the look of things, PDP is becoming stronger and stronger. Going by the convention that took place, PDP members are trying to ensure that all their differences are resolved. All issues causing challenges within the party are being taken care of following the transparent election that took place at the convention. Looking at the way the convention was conducted, people are beginning to understand that members of the PDP are getting united unlike what happened in the past when due process was not followed in terms of electing officials of the party. That showed that PDP members are willing to be united and once unity is achieved, we can truly face the so-called ruling party.
Gombe, being one of the two PDP states in the North, do you think your principal, Governor Ibrahim Dakwambo, can help the party to retain the state in 2019?
The answer is yes. I don’t think there is any opposition in Gombe. Looking at the political activities that took place in 2011, the margin of the votes PDP showed that we are the dominant party in the state. PDP is the ruling party in Gombe and, with the way things are going, I do not think there is any opposition that can face us because we are united. If you look at the way APC is operating in the state, you will find that they are not united. The members keep fighting each other in a way that portrays them as a party in disarray. How can an opposition party in disarray face the ruling party? Even when they control the federal government, at the level of this state, I do not think there is nothing they can do because most of them in the APC today are former PDP members. In fact, some of them could not add any value to us when they were in the PDP. So there is nothing to fear. I don’t think they are going to win in 2019. It will never happen in Gombe.
Governor Dakwambo promised to pay N56, 000 minimum wage if approved by the Federal Government; how easy has it been to manage the finance of the state in view of numerous projects so far completed and the poor allocations from the Federation Account to the state?
There is economic downturn across the world which affected us because of our sole dependence on oil. That is basically the cause of our economic problems. Meanwhile, Governor Dankwambo has the requisite experience to manage the financial activities of Gombe having worked as Accountant General of the Federation and he actually worked with three different presidents. As I am talking to you now, the governor has paid workers’ salaries up to date. This is a product of prudent management of resources by Alhaji Dakwambo. And it will interest you that we are executing many viable projects across the state.
Can you tell us some the projects?
One of them is the international conference center under construction. Another is the Gombe City Center which gulped about #5billion. The state government has taken delivery of the project from the contractor after the successful completion. And because health and education are high on the agenda of the administration, the governor has established the College of Legal and Administrative Studies in Nafada, the College of Nursing and Midwifery in Duku, the College of Education in Ileye while starting a university of science and technology due to take off in the next couple of months as it has begun admitting students. The state just got approval for the university from the NUC but the structures and facilities required for the take-off are already on ground. The governor has been able to do this despite the fact that Gombe is second to the last on the list of allocation from the federation account to states. The administration has also constructed more than 500 kilometres of roads across the state while the government has connected many areas and states Adamawa, Bauchi and Borno. He has started an agricultural revolution in Gombe that has seen the supply of implements, farm inputs, the training of farmers and distribution of loans.
A group within the PDP is urging Dakwambo to contest the 2019 presidential election. Do you think he has what it takes to lead this nation?
Of course yes. Presently what Nigeria needs is someone who has solid financial and management background. If we decide to elect someone without solid financial background, it will be very difficult to turn around the economy of the nation. It is just like what is happening now. President Muhammadu Buhari is someone that is committed. But so many things need to be done to ensure that the economy is revived. Government is saying we are out of recession but go round the country and see how people are suffering. They are emphasising farming now but, at the end of the day, how much is a bag of maize because what we are growing in the country is not sufficient to feed us? If we want a leader that has vision, a leader that has financial and economic background, Dakwambo is that person we need to turn around the economy of the country. I just showed you some of the projects that have been completed by the administration in Gombe despite the small allocation that comes to us. Look at how this man has been able to manage the scarce resources to actualize our dreams In Gombe. So, if well-meaning Nigerians are asking him to come and contest as President, there is no problem as far as I am concerned. The constitution has stipulated the criteria for those who are eligible to contest and to be President. And as far as I’m concerned, Ibrahim Dakwambo is qualified to do that both academically and experience wise.
The Buhari administration has less than two years left to finish its tenure. What can you say about the administration?
In some areas, I can say they have done well while they need to put in more efforts in some areas. Actually, more needs to be done in the area of the economic revival of this country. They need to revive the economy. The economic team should be reviewed because the economy is still sick and something needs to be done. But in terms of security, we from the North are happy with the federal government in terms of the intervention and the establishment of the North East Development Commission. These are very good initiatives that were embarked upon by the administration. But they need to do more work because so many things are not working in accordance with the expectations of the people. In some cases, it’s like the ruling party at the federal level has failed Nigeria and the common man. After fixing the problem of insecurity, what next do we need to address? We need to address the issue of hunger and diseases. These are some of the issues bothering Nigerians across the country. People hardly take their three square meals because of the high cost of foodstuffs. So, government needs to do something either by importing to support the locally produced foodstuffs or adopt any other means of ensuring adequate food in the nation.