By Olalekan Bilesanmi
Alhaji Ahmad Mahmud was deputy to former governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who served for eight years. On the eve of the 2015 general elections, Mahmud decamped to the All Progressives Congress, APC. Presently, he is the Director General of the campaign organisation of Governor Abubakar Badaru, who is seeking re-election. In this interview, Mahmud says the Badaru administration is a big deal in the political development of Jigawa. According to him, the governor not only abolished jettisoned security vote, he also operates the finances of the state according to the budget.
What would you be telling people about this government in terms of its achievements in the last four years?
When this government came in 2015, it found out that the previous administration had badly affected the psyche of the people such that impunity was the order of the day. Things were messy. It was when this government came that Badaru was trying to change the orientation. You know that there was a lot issues in the country before the 2015 elections. There was Boko Haram insurgency, insecurity everywhere; the economy was down. But with the coming in of the Buhari administration, things have started looking up.
The economy is on the rise, insecurity has reduced. Boko Haram has been contained. All these actions by the federal government will naturally trickl down to the states. So, Jigawa is a beneficiary of the federal government positive actions. Coming back to this administration, what the Badaru administration did, immediately it assumed office, was to place premium on investment of the people, and that is by way of education. Education is a priority of this administration. He believes that once education is right, every other thing will be right. The other one is the issue of agriculture.
Agriculture for this administration is like crude oil. And that is why the government is investing heavily in agriculture such that it even has a slogan, ‘Farming is a business’. The governor galvanized the youths and ensured that they not only participate but they are making a living from it now. There is what we call the cluster farming initiative. What this government did, through this initiative, is to refocus the subsistence mindset of the small holder farmer and open his eyes to the commercial potential of his farming activities.
The government then registers these subsistence farmers and clusters them for target input provision and extension service. Initially, a maximum cluster size of 50 hectares was formed in each of the 287 wards in the state. But so far, a total of 1,306 clusters have been established with 61,184 farmers presently in this initiative. At the moment, Jigawa is heavily into rice farming. What we grow presently is even more than what some states produce put together. Very soon, Jigawa will not only supply the rice needs of the country but of the entire West African. All this is achieved in less than three years.
You were in the Sule Lamido administration and now with Abubakar Badaru. What is the difference?
There is a great difference. Before now, the country was heading for a rock. Security was a big problem, the economy was collapsing. I was the Commissioner for Finance 2000-2005. So I know how the ministry is run. I have never in my life thought of having a leader who is so prudent, so accountable like Badaru. Unlike before, this governor is a budget man. Everything and anything that the government must do must be documented, that is, it must be in the budget. If it is not in the budget, then you won’t see him appending his signature. We lack his type in this country. He will never do anything outside the budget. His action presently is a big deal in our political development. When I say it is a big deal, I am talking from experience. I know how government operates in this clime but for him to have a completely paradigm shift from the status quo, it is a big deal. When he came into government, he abolished security vote. He is the first governor in Nigeria to do that immediately after he assumed office.
Unlike what happened in the past, the governor insisted on completing past administration projects even though they are from different political parties with different manifestos?
Yes. That is why I said this governor is a big deal in Nigeria today. His actions are totally different from what is happening in Nigeria. It is unheard of that a new government from another party and different manifesto would continue the projects of his predecessor. He completed the projects, first of all, because they are for the benefit of the people. He completed projects worth more than N100billion that he met before starting his own. We need more of Badaru in the polity. We need more clean businessmen in the polity. We need more of clean and God-fearing like Badaru in the polity. If everyone is staying back, there won’t be serious minded people in politics. If Badaru too had stayed back, how would we have had the benefits the state is presently enjoying? The more of Badaru we have in the polity, from ward to local government, state and federal government, the better for this country!
There has been gale of defections from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to your party. However, some people say the defections were monetarily induced. How true?
If you know Badaru very well, you will know that the governor would be the last person to induce anybody with money. Badaru is not different from President Buhari. He is a very prudent person. I was once in PDP. I was the deputy governor to Alhaji Sule Lamido for eight years. Now let me say this, whosoever is coming to APC is coming essentially because of two things: One, he is coming because he has since discovered that his lifestyle has changed and dependence on him has also reduced because the people are busy themselves, they are seeing the developments everywhere which are also beneficial to them as well; two, some of them are coming because of some of us who left the PDP. If we could leave the party, they believe they also have no reason to remain there. Presently, I have more than 70 groups waiting for me to declare their support and decamp to the APC. Not only in PDP but also in several other parties, including SDP. In the last one or two weeks, that is what we have been doing, receiving new members who, interestingly, are even willing to support us financially. Last week, I was in two local government areas where we witnessed the defection of 22 ward chairmen and two local government chairmen.
If everybody that matters in the state is coming over to the APC, are we not likely going to have a one-party structure in the state?
Yeah, it may happen because if the government is truly for the people, caring for the people, there is the likelihood that the people would be voting it into government all the time. Now, everyone can see that nobody is stealing money because there is nothing to steal; besides, the governor, a self made, contented person, a businessman of international repute, will not steal your money and the little resources he receives are accounted for through the various projects across the state. Nobody is preventing you from joining the party, nobody is bribing his way to secure contracts; everything is done on merit. I don’t need to know the governor before I get certain things done. Rules are rules. Unlike what we had under the previous regime, rules here cannot be broken. The problem with our country is that people go along with the trend, talking about trend I mean where the money is, that is where people go to, even if it is detrimental to the development of the generality of the people.
Things are changing. Ideas rule the world. Prudence is one word and the major reason the people are in love with this administration. Now, everyone is trending towards agriculture which fortunately is paying their bills. As we speak here, I am the director of campaign; we are not collecting money from government. We source the resources ourselves. Badaru isn’t giving us a dime. This campaign is being financed by the people. Now, people are watching and looking at our lifestyle, they know that their money is not being stolen. They know that whatever that is earmarked for a project will definitely go into that project; not only that, they know that the project will be seen physically, not on paper. With all that is ground presently, both in the state and at the federal level, APC will be returned, God willing, to power.