I'M IBB'S IN-LAW, JONATHAN IS MY FRIEND
As the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP's) primaries appear skewed in favour of President Goodluck Jonathan and ex-military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, Governor Mahmuda Aliyu Shinkafi has revealed how he would handle the daunting task of balancing his support for the two leading aspirants.
He said his close relationship with them is coincidental and the two candidates 'understand his situation.' He is therefore not suited to dictate to Zamfara State delegates who they should cast their votes for, assuring that there will be level-playing field. The governor is IBB's son-in-law while him and President Jonathan have been friends since their days as deputy governors in 1999.
He also speaks on his strained relationship with his former boss and ex-governor of the state, Senator Ahmed Sani, Yariman Bakura, the development initiatives of his government, skill acquisition for youths, the state's mineral deposits, which he said account for 60% of the country's mineral resources, and what has endeared him to the Zamfara electorate. Excerpts…
You are contesting in the 2011 elections. What is your strategy and what have you done to earn the people's confidence?
Politicians normally claim to be called by their people to contest election. For me, by 2003, I had already got nomination for the 2007 election. That was when I was nominated as the candidate of our party. The agitation for me to re-contest started in 2008. So in my own case, I always get into it through people's agitation. It is apparent people want me back.
What have you done that endeared you to the people?
Governance is basically the same for whoever is at the helm of affairs. There are fixed functions of government that any leader can do as an elected representative -socio-economic development and political development for the people. For instance, when you are elected or before you go for an election, you organize a campaign that will inform the electorate about the social amenities you wish to put in place for them such as potable water, health, electricity, good roads and security of life and property.
For economic development, whatever people are doing, if you look at the comparative advantage of the area you come from, you empower your people in that direction so that the economy can be amply sustained and improved according to the citizens needs. Political development is about enlightening and stimulating development; wherever you go, whoever is conducting an electioneering campaign that will not be out of the promises the politicians make.
And while you are elected too, whatever your plans, whatever your blueprints are, it is not going to be out of this socio-economic/political developments. So that is what we are trying to do now. We are trying to tackle some of the socio-economic development issues in our area. We want to develop our people through education, because if the people are not educated, they cannot develop. The world is changing; new ideas spring up every day. That is why we have to educate them. If the people are educated, the enlightenment will be easy. That is why education is very important. Right from the tender age, every level of education is very important for the development of society.
So education in Zamfara is a priority, after a long neglect of especially infrastructure. Since the introduction of UPE (Universal Primary Education), there has not been corresponding infrastructure development in comparison with population growth. In the output from primary to secondary school and up to tertiary institutions, it is the same story of neglect. This is applicable in the health sector, in the agricultural sector and in water supply. Any politician that knows his onions should develop his programmes and policies to improve these facilities.
Generally, we are doing fairly well on these in Zamfara. Apparently people have noticed this change and they think we can be trusted to sustain it if elected again. Our comparative advantage is agriculture. We subsidise agricultural inputs more than any other state. We guarantee minimum price, we collect grains and sell cheaply. When the price is high, we release our stock to the market to bring down price. Apart from agriculture, we have solid mineral development whose exploitation could help develop the economy of the state. There is the need to plan. That is why we have a blueprint for development. Nigeria is a developing country and anywhere you turn, there is the need to do something.
In 2007, you were the only deputy governor that succeeded your former boss. Many people thought your relationship with Senator Ahmed Sani was 'cast in stone.' What suddenly happened that made you part ways?
From Maiduguri to Sokoto and to Kebbi, Jigawa, Bauch, Kano, it is the same story. Even in Katsina, the late president when he was governor had problem with his deputy. Here in Zamfara, it is with Yarima. In Niger, it is the same thing. It is always the problem of the incumbent and the former; maybe…not because I started doing something good or I defected to PDP.
My problem with the former governor, Ahmed Sani, started before I was sworn in. So it is the same story of 'they don't want anybody to surpass their performance.' I have never conspired against him but Senator Sani has engaged in many conspiracies against me. It is just about political opponent trying to stop the government and the government trying to defend itself.
As a beneficiary of his 'large-heartedness' I thought you should embrace him. However…
When you have a plan for your people and you swore to do things for them and someone tries to stop you from executing such plans, would you try to stop the development of the people because of some personal issues between you two? No, you cannot.
What is happening now is what we call political development of the people and also socio-economic development. So when you are trying to do that, political opponents naturally try to stop you. His attempt to stop you and your effort to go ahead is where the crisis is. The clash or the problems start from there. It is quite normal. If what he was doing was personal to me (as Mahmuda), I can endure it. But when it concerns the interest of the people and the development of the state, I can't accept it.
What are some of the things he was doing?
He tried to stop people from coming back to PDP when I defected. He wants to measure his popularity and wanted to stop people from defecting from the ANPP. Is this personal…?
But why did you defect to PDP when you won under ANPP?
We want homogeneity in politics and you have to be in the majority. When we were in ANPP, Yarima always wanted to stop me. Using the good relationship he had with the then chairman at the centre, he restated that during the primaries and election time that he had the capacity to make things difficult for me and everybody around me.
So I said I don't like problems; stay in ANPP while I move to another party and try my popularity. If I can get on with it, I'm lucky. If I cannot, I can live with it. Is that not right? I always try to reduce areas of friction between us. If I had allowed him to stop me or oppose me or even interfere with our policies, we won't be where we are now in government.
Your joining the PDP is causing another friction…
What and how?
The 'old' PDP is accusing the 'new' PDP (which you are part of) of taking over the leadership of the party.
That is history already. There are many things that people mischievously allude to about the old and new PDP. At the moment, there is no old or new PDP. Those who are talking of the old PDP are opportunists. They just want a faction that will be reckoned with in sharing political offices, positions and appointments. Everybody is now testing his popularity according to the party's internal democracy.
Even me contesting, I can't stop anybody from contesting with me. Aspirants for councillorship, local government, House of Assembly, Reps and Senate, everyone is free to contest. My interest is the state. I can forgo anything but the responsibility of the people, of the state and my plans for them are uppermost, and nothing will make me deviate from that except it will affect my achieving set goals. These are natural courses of political developments.
You were at the IBB declaration for the presidency and President Jonathan recently visited your state. Who will Zamfara delegates vote for at the PDP primaries?
These are just coincidences. I have known President Jonathan since 1999 when he was deputy governor in Bayelsa State and I was deputy governor in Zamfara. I used to be chairman of deputy governors. So we are still very much together, even when he was governor and Vice President. So you can see he is my good boss, although he refers to me as a friend. But I call him my good boss.
And IBB is your good in-law?
Yes, my in-law, long before he thought of contesting (for presidency). So there is no problem. It is just a coincidence and we know how to sort ourselves out. Both of them understand my situation.
So who will you vote?
Does it really matter? It is also not possible to say, after all I have only one vote. They are both good aspirants of the party.
What will be your instruction to Zamfara delegates knowing the power governors wield? There is also another dimension to it. General Aliyu Gusau is in the race and he is from Zamfara. How will you share Zamfara delegates so that all the aspirants will be happy?
Well, I am not in trouble. It is a secret ballot. Since all of them are capable and can take Nigeria to higher heights, it is difficult for me to say how people should vote. The aspirants know that whoever emerges, all others are going to work hard for the party to win. President Jonathan has promised credible election and that he would hand over to whoever wins. All the aspirants have said that they are going to work hard for the flag bearer/candidate of the party and we are happy about their attitude to power; that it is not a life and death affair. By that declaration, they have made it very easy for us.
When the president visited Zamfara, did you discuss issues relating to the state of the nation, the bomb blast, the insecurity and the trading of blames here and there?
Yes, we did. You cannot have a parley with the president without discussing state of the nation and all that
What did he tell you?
He said some people almost stopped him from coming. But he did and returned to Abuja happily.
What of his hasty comment on the Abuja bomb blast?
All these are political statements. After all, politicians are looking forward to where another politician will make a mistake to capitalize on it.
Do you agree that he made a mistake by such uncalculated and hasty comment?
It is political statement that can be defended. All of them can defend themselves; they have the capacity to do so.
What is in Zamfara that you want the world to hear about?
The people should continue to be peaceful and should at all costs avoid mischief, lying against opponents and the government, and all those things that are all not in the interest of anybody. Let everybody contribute meaningfully to the development of the state. If we all do this in all the states of the federation, we are contributing to Nigeria. We are still a developing country politically and socio-economically. We all need to work hard to attain greatness, to face challenges.
Countries that are developed today are members of the Security Council because of their economic development. So it is only through economic development that nations attain greatness.
How is your government providing employment for the youth?
We are the pioneers of youth skills development. We have over 11,000 graduates of skill development across the state. We give them working capital and equipment to be able to start on their own. Now some of them are in major cities of the country like Kano, Kaduna, Abuja and even Gusau here. We are expanding the scope to include ICT and other trades.
In conjunction with the MDGs' office, we are training them in agro-allied sector too to empower our youth. We have about four centres and have spent N1.2billion on the project. We contributed N620million and MDGs gave us conditional grant of N620million. By empowering the youths, we are taking them from harm's way of becoming touts or political thugs and it is only empowerment and enlightenment that can stop that.
What is the state of Sharia implementation? Is it still on course?
We are the most peaceful state in the country and this is brought about by the introduction and implementation of Sharia law. Sharia is all about moral and religious teachings. There used to be beer parlors, gambling houses and brothels for prostitutes. Sharia prohibited all that. Now, people don't patronize those places. They would rather spend their earning on decent living, healthcare and education and the family is the happier for it.
We no longer have cases of cutting of people's hands because everybody is now Sharia compliant. No vices in the first place, so no punishment of hand cutting, and all these are attributed to Sharia implementation. The peace and even the economic development are all attributed to Sharia. People are using their income judiciously to train their children, give them good health. The family is good, so the society is good.
You spoke earlier about comparative advantage and solid mineral development. What is it about?
It is about concentrating on your area of comparative advantage and empowering people accordingly. We are lucky to have a lot of solid mineral deposits all over the state. We have 60 per cent of the country's solid minerals. Many industries need these minerals. For example, Chinese investors are here exploiting minerals for our mutual benefit. Head or tail, we are going to be rich.