Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim is the chairman, Senate Committee on Housing and in this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the three-time governor of Yobe state says that new All Progressives Congress (APC) will provide real transformation against the ruling PDP’s lip service transformation. He also speaks on various topical issues.
What should Nigerian expect now that the opposition parties merger is as good as concluded?
Nigerian should expect a brand; new mega should party of the progressive. Progressive Nigerians should expect progress once the merger and registration is completed. We will also put up structures on ground and then go on massive enlightenment campaign. We will contest elections and win and form a government. Nigerian has never been ruled by progressives; it has always been in conservative hands.
For the first time we are going to get a government being led by progressives to show the world that our government is going to be different. We will not just talk about transformation like Jonathan and his people do, we will transform the society. Governments in this country have always lacked vision and sophistication, a dimension that would have led to the real transformation of Nigeria.
What will make APC different from other parties?
The manifesto is being written now, but it is going to be government by the people, for the people. One of the key things we are going to do in this government is to declare free and compulsory education up to secondary school level from one to six. We are going to fight desertification, erosion and other environmental factors. We will also place emphasis on the solid mineral of this country that will diversify resources instead of depending on oil alone.
How does this mega party intend to capture the grassroots being new?
We will take it down to the grassroots, as soon as merger arrangements are finished. We will start going to the villages, right from Abuja, to the zonal headquarters, to state and local government.
Is the party going to use the zoning formula that is prevalent in most parties?
If you look at the composition of APC, right from now, religion is not going to be a major factor. We have the whole of Nigeria being well represented. It is going to be an open democracy; we are not going to fix somebody on the basis religion. We will treat people on basis of parties’ faithfulness and commitment.
Who are the governors that were reported to have indicated interest to join the APC?
I have been told but I have not personally heard any governor from the PDP wanting to join. But I have been told by some of our colleagues that some have indicated interest, particularly the two-term governors who will be finishing their terms. For senators, quite a number of them have already indicated their interest by saying that, we should make sure this thing succeeds; that they are coming, we should prepare a fall-back position for them.
There has been renewed agitation for generational shift; will older politicians give way to new breed in the APC?
Its too early to talk about fielding anybody; this party is about the good people of Nigeria, it is about giving credible, alternative leadership to the PDP. At the appropriate time, people will come out and show their interest. It is democracy that will decide who contests what and who wins what. It is not party policy to emphasis on generational shift. It comes naturally.
As a former governor, will you support the removal of the joint state and local government account?
I support the idea of scrapping the local government joint account because it has been abused in many states. There are states where it is properly done but in many states, it is abused. So it is better for us to allow the government at the lowest level to decide their faith themselves than for somebody to do it for them because that is what it amounts to.
If local government is allowed to have their moneys, development will spread. I have seen situations where governors have taken money from four, five six local government and constructed roads, but that was not the priority of those local government. Local government should decide what their priorities are.
Do you think there is a need to review the on shore/of shore dichotomy law?
I think there is a need to review this on shore/off shores dichotomy law because many states are going bankrupt. None oil producing states hardly have any money to do anything rather than paying salaries. This is not fair. The amount of money oil producing states get in this country today is very unreasonable, it is too much and too high. This is why they are squandering the money; they cannot even effectively utilize the money for real development.
Ways must be found to try and change the situation relatively in favor of none oil producing state. Other places have just one source of revenue while the Niger/Delta has different sources of revenue in a year. It is not fair in a federation. This kind of thing doesn’t encourage peace and stability.
Is federalism working in Nigeria, some are clamoring for a return to regionalism?
It is not working very well; it can be improved. But it all depends on what you mean by federalism, because what I just described cannot be said to be federalism in a country where you have thirty-six states. The oil state have the federal allocation, 13% derivation, a ministry was specifically established to work for them with hundreds of billions of naira budget, the NDDC with hundreds of billion of naira also working for the Niger/Delta only.
The oil companies are paying a lot by way of their corporate social responsibility. The federal government is pushing plenty of money now and then to that area for amnesty; it is not fair. Just recently I read in the papers, that four South/South states take home more than what the 19 northern states take together. We must learn to be our brother’s keepers, today oil is being produced in the Niger/Delta, and every oil man is enjoying.
This oil will not last forever. This oil is not on ground because of anybody efforts or determination. Nobody produced it; it was put there by God and the Nigerian constitution said that anything on the ground belongs to the federal government and it must be used by all Nigerians and this is not happening right now. We need to adjust to some changes; we need to review a few things in our revenue allocation formula.
Coming back to your committee; has there been any law that will compel government to provide housing for Nigerians?
No, there is no law that will compel government to build housing for Nigerians, but there is a law which says it is desirable for local, state and federal government to produce decent and affordable houses to the people of Nigeria. You can’t enforce it. It is just like education, every Nigerian child is entitled to education, but you cannot force government to take anybody child to school
What will it take to produce mass housing for Nigerians?
That is what the Social housing Bill is all about; we are trying to give Nigerians housing built by government at a relatively low cost using mainly local building materials in mass all over the country.
The bill will be passed and then go to Mr. President and the president will accent and it become law. We have identified several sources of funding that can be used like the ecological fund, unclaimed dividend, shares in banks, using part of pension money and so on. We have identified several sources of funding for the mass housing.
Going to Yobe State, there were reports that the governor and official have abandoned the state because of the insecurity, what is really happening there?
I have not been to Yobe State myself for the last six months, so I don’t know what is happening there. But I know that life is returning to normalcy in Damaturu and also Potiskum, if not for the recent slaughter of foreign doctors.
The same I believe in Maiduguri, but I believe these are flash points. I don’t know what brings about it, but peace is gradually returning to this states.