How has it been in the last three years as the man at the helms of affairs in Bauchi state?
First and foremost it is appropriate for me to thank God for choosing me to experience governance at the state level. It has been an enlightening experience. But, at the onset I knew what I was getting into. I knew it was not going to be a bed of roses because of the circumstance in which we found our state. Everything was in shatters, the economy was completely shattered, the treasury was completely empty there was no single kobo left in the treasury and even civil servants were owed four months salaries. This was not because Bauchi State was at any time suspended from attending FAAC, they were attending FAAC and collecting monies much more than we have ever collected during our own time. But in their own wisdom they choose not to pay even salaries.
Apart from not working for the people of the state, Bauchi state was actually retrogressing by 2015. Retrogressing in the sense that Bauchi State government was not even able to maintain what it inherited from the previous government. If you ply roads you will see the roads even within the city of Bauchi with huge potholes some of which could swallow Morris Minor if you like. If you go to our hospitals, schools, I visited schools, if I was the type that shed crocodile tears, I would have done that. I went to a local government called Giade, I saw the state in which the boarding secondary school was, I thought I had seen the worst of it but by the time I got to another local government called Zaki, I saw the state in which the secondary school at Zaki was, I nearly shed tears. By the time I went to a place called Bukori and I saw the secondary school and the health facility, particularly the secondary health facilities all over the state, I have visited Jama’are, the home town of my former deputy, visited Alkari, Darazo the home town of the former speaker of the house.
So the state in which I found Bauchi state is to say the least a sorry state. But nevertheless we thank the Almighty, so far so good we have been able to stabilize government. Even the Civil service that we met was in shatters. I had to embark on immediate reform of this civil service. All the systems that had been thrown away, people were behaving as if anything goes in the government we found. So, I had to bring back sanity, I appointed a well experienced consultant who studied the system and made recommendations for me. So far, I have not by executive fiat remove anybody from government, I have been using tact to take care of all my problems.
In the civil service, I inherited 60 permanent secretaries in a small state like Bauchi with 20 local government, and these permanent secretaries retire with their salaries that was why the government of the day was dashing out the position of permanent secretary if you are a good boy of the governor. So, we had phenomenon such as Chief Medical Director/Permanent Secretary, Managing Director, Bauchi Minerals Company/Permanent Secretary, Auditor General//Permanent Secretary. These were abnormalities that distorted the service. So, through this consultant we were now able to streamline and bring back sanity into the system.
The issue of salary is now a thing of the past. Bauchi state is no longer one of those states that owe salaries, we don’t owe a single kobo salary. In fact during festivities like Sallah or Christmas we pay salaries before its due to enable our people celebrate these festivities.
What are the landmark infrastructure you have put in place in three years?
Infrastructure in all the sectors particularly in education sector, it was a sector we found in doldrum also. That is a sector that is very very dear to me because I know education is the bedrock of development of any society. So when I came, I have priority to education. But, people will be surprised, the stage we found education, the percentage of success in the basic examinations of WAEC and NECO In the state was a dismal 3.5 percent in 2016. By 2017, we were able to raise it to 17.6 percent, by 2017 we were able to raise it to 27.8 percent and this is as a result of the fact that we give the lion share of Bauchi state budget to education. We have addressed the issue of infrastructure. If you drive around Bauchi, every nook and cranny of the state, anywhere you come across a primary and a secondary school and you see a blue roof on a new building, that is my work and it’s replete all over the place.
We have rehabilitated dilapidated infrastructure, we built brand new additional classrooms and we equipped them all. The most important aspect which is the welfare of the teachers, we have addressed. We have addressed the welfare of the teachers, retrained and we are in the process of retraining our teachers. We embarked on a train the trainer programme in conjunction with National Teachers Institute (NTI) in Kaduna. We were able to train co-trainers from among our educationist and they came back home and we continuously are training our teachers.
We have addressed the issue of welfare, if we post you to a rural areas, we have a special allowance that you get from the government. This has given impetus to teaching in our schools all over. In our senior secondary schools, we have embarked on the programme of renovating senior secondary schools. The secondary school I earlier gave example of in Giade, if you go to it now you will not believe that that is a secondary school in a state in northern part Nigeria because we have rehabilitated it and the job we have done is not the usual wishy washy contractual jobs. We select our local contractors but are reputable contractors to render quality work. So, we are addressing the issue of even the senior secondary schools. Our tertiary institutions are doing very very well, I challenge anyone to go to them, particularly the Abubakar Tatari Ali Polytechnic and I have a very good reason for selecting that Polytechnic.
We have these teaming youths in Bauchi state, our population is 60 percent youths and the economy of Nigeria went into recession, we thank God for Mr. President who has been able within the period of less than two years to bring us out of the recession we had gone into. But it is not yet Uhuru if you like. We have to address the issue of the employment of our youths. If we go the way of traditional education, by traditional education I mean the bulk of the children going to the universities read sociology, political science or the like, we will still continue to have the problems. We must go the way of technical and vocal education and that is why I choose the Abubakar Tatari Ali Polytechnic. The moment I became governor, I paid attention to that Polytechnic. When I took over, the Polytechnic has only one course that was accredited, today it has 88 course including degree courses that have been accredited. I invite everybody to that Polytechnic and in terms of physical infrastructure we have been doing well for it and in terms of management of that Polytechnic we have been doing well. The same thing for our college of education, Idris Alli College of Education in Zakali. If anybody goes to that place, it can compete with any university anywhere. That college of education too is now offering degree courses. Our baby university, which is just about six years old is already making giant strides and that is because of the attention we have given to it.
Along the way, I had to do the unusual, appointment an interim management for that university. The National Universities Commission (NUC), initially was opposed to what I did but by the time I cited the law to them because the law setting up the university gives me power to intervene in unusual circumstances because I am the visitor to that university. But thank God now the Council in conjunction with my humble self as the visitor were able to put in place a substantive Vice Chancellor for the university and they are making giant strides.
In terms of infrastructure, I have even received accolades and awards for the urban renewal that I am doing in the major cities of Bauchi State; Bauchi the capital, Azare the second largest city and Misau the third largest city in the state. In Bauchi and Azare, we have been dualizing roads, beautifying the city. In Misau we have been embarking on the construction of nine roads all at the same time and all the nine roads have been completed now. The roads in Bauchi only two have not been completed, they are very long. The one that is remaining is Gidama to Biri which is eight kilometers. We are dualizing and putting street lights on that road. The second is the one from state secretariat to federal road to railway road. The one in Azare has been completed and we are building eight different focal roads in the rural areas that are dear to the people of those areas. We are building road in a local government called Itas-Gadau, Darazo, Dass, Jama’are,Toro, Giade, Ganjuwa. So we have embarked on infrastructural revolution. We are going to embarked on building 500 kilometers of roads in rural area and that is RAM projects. RAM project is a World Bank supported projects between the state and the World Bank, the state contributes her counterpart funding and then the World Bank brings it own money. In fact it is the World Bank that is slowing us down because states around us have not been as ready as we are. We have deposited a big chunk of our own counterpart fund, N300 million and the World Bank is ready to start us off with $60 million to be able to do this. Our aim is to deliver 1,000 kilometers roads in the rural areas not earth roads, surfaced dressed roads in the rural roads to open up these rural areas.
In the health sector also, we started building 19 brand new primary healthcare centers along with staff quarters, toilets and boreholes and equipment. In areas where there are no ambulances in any of the secondary healthcare institutions, we have supplied ambulances to the primary healthcare centers. We have not commissioned them, I have promised the minister of health that he is going to kickstart the commissioning of these projects either one or two, the moment he does that then I will take off and do the others.
Water supply, at the onset we started by building 34 solar powered boreholes all around the state. And then it became a tradition. Whenever I travel around the state, villagers will come and mount road blocks and stop me and they will tell me their requirements. Mostly because of the location of Bauchi state you will discover that it is either electricity, water or healthcare delivery. I have developed the habit of approving on the spot their demands the moment they stop me and the moment I get to Bauchi the agency in charge of that project will now move to supply what they need. Through this process I have provided so many of these boreholes but I cannot give you a number now. It is now the norm now to the extent that the youths have coined a phrase in Hausa that the governor never lies. That if I promised something I must deliver and citizens all over the state have latched onto this and they have formed the habit of stopping me from time to time.
But the opposition say you are not working?
My answer to them is to quote Mr. President even though his speech was delivered in Hausa at the stadium when he visited recently, after he had commissioned projects then we took him to kick start agricultural development programme, by the provision of 500 tractors to Bauchi. This is unprecedented, it has never been done since the state was created till date. He told the people that from what he has seen, the governor has remained true to the oath he has sworn, that whatever promises I have made I have remain true to that going by what he has seen. So this is a clear answer to any doubting Thomas. The opposition have been very very unfair to Bauchi state. It has gotten to a point that if they think they are aiming at me, they are making a mistake. Because, if it is my wish to become governor, the Almighty has already answered that. So, what they are doing is degrading our state because they do it mostly in Abuja. These people are modern politicians, they forget that basic politics is done back at home not in Abuja. From what you have read and seen of the recent congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bauchi conducted peaceful congresses, there was never a mention of any parallel congress taking place in Bauchi. You can only have parallel Congress when you are strong on the ground but when you are not strong on the ground there is no way you can conduct a parallel Congress. So, politics is played in Bauchi not on the pages of newspapers in Abuja. To the extent they claimed I was not paying salaries until when some people went and investigated. When Ngige committee came to Bauchi, he requested to meet with the Head of Civil Service and I said no sir because the Head of Civil Service is my functionary, so he may likely tell you what I want him to tell you, why don’t you invite labour directly so that you can hear from them? So he invited them and asked them pointedly, are you being owed salaries? They said sir, we are not owed a single salary, neither are we owed a single kobo pension that the governor of Bauchi State has a commendation from the President of NLC for payment of salaries. So that was completely debunked.
The issue of the governor not working, one of the vociferous of the opponent, a member representing Misau Damba, the first project I started was from his home town. 105 kilometers roads, asphalt, two bridges all completed and I extended to a place called Gamawa. I discovered a portion from Odubo to Gamawa was very bad but I said continue and complete it. Of the nine roads I have said I have built in Misau, the first one I kickstarted, I chose the street where he has his family house. The plague is still there, I completed that project just to prove to the world without saying anything. So all these are stories.
How are you engaging the youths who you say are 60 percent of the state’s population and how are you attracting investments to the state?
Let me debunk one assertion that there is no direct flight to Bauchi, that is not true, tomorrow (May 26) I am going to Bauchi from Abuja by direct flight by Arik. They started two weeks ago. On the issue of security, Bauchi is the safest in the northeastern states and it has remained so from the time I have taken over till date.
When we took over, we determined for ourselves three areas of comparative advantage, first is agriculture for the simple reason that we occupy one fifth of the total land mass of Nigeria. Most of it arable land. Two because 80 to 85 percent of the total population of the state are farmers and it is true that 60 percent of the population are made up of youths. So it is in our self-interest to go into agriculture. We have been achieving a lot quietly. We may not be making the same noise that Kebbi is making but don’t forget that Kebbi has an advantage, the river Niger runs through Kebbi State. So as far as irrigation is concerned they already have advantage. But that notwithstanding, today I have a commendation letter from the minister of agriculture for the boost in the production of rice. The first time I embarked on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchors Borrowers Programme during the last dry season, we boosted the production of rice immediately in the state. So, agriculture is an area that we are giving attention to like I said. The recent visit by Mr. President, it was in the open that we earn the trust, we have set up the process for the delivery of 500 tractors. If you hope to attract youths to agriculture you must change the way it is practiced, if it is practiced the way we inherited it from our fathers, there is no way that the youths will be attracted. One way is by mechanizing agriculture. You saw what the president launched when he came to Bauchi? He launched a programme of agriculture mechanization, 500 tractors, 150 power tillers, planters etc. we are on the verge of mechanizing agriculture in Bauchi state.
The second aspect is to do large scale agriculture by attracting investors from within and without. We have started already. Last year, we signed an MOU with a company to start the production of sugarcane in a local government called Waraji, they are to produce 7,000 metric tones of sugar and they are to employ 7,000 youths of that area along with the electricity that they are to produce using the bye products of the sugar production. We are developing the faculty of agriculture in Bauchi state, we have signed an MOU with the university of Life Sciences of Prague in the Czech Republic. Right now they are 13 sons and daughters of Bauchi state undergoing their post graduate studies at the university of Life Sciences. I have revived the fertilizer blending plant, it is working 24/7 now. When Mr. President started access to fertilizer in Nigeria at N5,500, our fertilizer blending plant was one of those engaged for producing the fertilizer to supply the north eastern part. A lot of these youths are engaged in the fertilizer plant.
The other area of diversification of the Economy is the area of mineral resources, Bauchi state is replete with mineral resources, from hydrocarbons down, they are found in one part of the state of the other. The latest discovery is gold. In the past they use to say it is only gold that has not yet been found, today gold has been found in Toro. Three months ago I took a sample of this gold that was found to Czech Republic where I engaged an internationally renowned consultancy firm GET, they tested it and told me outrightly that that gold was 94 percent pure. Because of technology they were able to tell me that the main source of the gold is about 20 kilometers from where the sample was picked. Right now I have a big problem, there is an influx of people in that area both Nigerian Nationals and foreigners that are prospecting for this gold and is giving me sleepless night. And it is because of the security implications of that. That is the problem I will address soon, in fact when I return to Bauchi.
You see, what the federal government has not done about solid minerals is the development of what is called internationally bankable report. By bankable reports I mean scientific studies that are undertaken in respect of the minerals to determine first their availability in large commercial quantities, two determine the quality of these minerals. There is no way you can be able to attract investors to come in if you do not have these bankable reports. You will only waste your time. If you go down to Australia, travel for hours, go to Australia, drink tea, speak grammar, nothing will follow because the investor is interested in the bankable report. That is what I am doing now in Bauchi state. I have engaged two world renown consultants one in Czech Republic called Getz that I mentioned earlier and then there is Noren, a British based consultancy firm. They are studying the various commercial minerals that we have in Bauchi state with a view to producing these bankable reports. What Noren is doing for us in addition to producing this bankable reports, is trying to attract funding for us in what I call buying centers for these minerals. These buying centers are actually beneficiation plants. They are like factories where you now go as an artisanal miner, individual miner and you go in and you dig for a mineral, you find it and bring it to that buying center. The buying center will clean it up for you to determine the purity of that mineral. Of course by determining the purity they will also determine the international price, display it for you and of course buyers will come from abroad and pay you the correct price. Unlike what transpires now, you go in and risk your life as an artisanal miner, indeed you bring out a mineral, you may not know the value of that mineral. You go to a Chinese man who will take you under a tree and tell you a price. Indeed he may not pay the actual price of that thing.
Right now what is happening in Bauchi state and neigbhouring Plateau, licenses are given to some businessmen, in some cases briefcase carrying businessmen, they will come to the mining casdastal in Abuja, get their licenses to prospect for a mineral, by the provision of the Construction and Minerals Act, they will not meet me when they come to my state. All the Act says is that they should get the consent of the local community. So this is an aberration. I have said it in several fora, to the minister of mines and everywhere I have gone to that it is an aberration. There is no way a law will provide for a bogus set up like a community to provide consent when there are constituted authorities in the place. In the state there are two major constituted authorities, the state government and the local government, they should deal with them in determining whatever so that value can come to the location where you are prospecting for the minerals. But what happens is that they go there, find one community person who has gone to secondary school and speaks paltry English, they will tell him to lead them to the village head who may not be able to speak English and they will give those people paper to sign. When they sign, they will degrade their land and then they will leave without any value given to them. So it is an aberration we are trying to correct.
Another area of comparative advantage is tourism. Everybody knows the famous Yankari Games Reserves is located in Bauchi State and from the time I took over till date, we have added value to Yankari Games Reserves. What is dragging us back is that we are located within the northeastern sub-region, the world outside Nigeria does not understand that. The moment you say Bauchi is within northeast they will think Boko Haram, the fact that Boko Haram is not happening in Bauchi does not interest them.
Let me tell you an interesting story, the current American ambassador has gone to Bauchi twice unofficial. First time when he arrived in Nigeria he went to Bauchi, I was in Abuja, so he got my number and he called me. And he said your Excellency guess where I am and I said I cannot, and he said I am in Bauchi. And I said how can you be in Bauchi without telling me? He said I wanted to have a first hand feel of the place and so I asked what have you found out? He said the people are hospitable, the place is secure and safe. I said thank you very much. I said next travel advisory you are writing put it there that Bauchi is safe for your people to visit. But they will not do that for the reason that we are located within the northeast. So this is what retards the progress.
Today, I have built an air strip in Yankari Games Reserves which was not there when I took over. I have started building an 18-hole golf course in Yankari Games Reserves, this is all to add value. We are doing well as far as local tourism is concern. From the time of taking over till date, I have been number one marketer of Yankari on twitter and it has paid off. So many things are happening in Yankari Games Reserves but locally. The real business will come when we begin to attract foreigners, when they come and spend dollars in Nigeria. So in a nutshell this is what we are doing.