I WAS AN OKADA MAN - GARBA, GOMBE SPEAKER
He strikes as a subject of controversy to many including some who see him as over-zealous. But Rt. Hon. Innwa Garba who was the former Deputy Speaker and now Speaker of the fourth Gombe State House of Assembly radiates a passion to entrench a strong foundation for the Nigerian legislature. Calm and careful he is indeed a young man with lofty aspirations to leave his foot-prints on the sands of time. In this interview, the Speaker asserts his commitment to contribute his quota to lift Gombe from economic and political doldrums.
Congratulations on your electoral victory and your emergence as the Speaker of the Gombe State House of Assembly. How was the journey?
You see, right from the inception of my political ambition, I firmly believed that destiny belongs to God. No one can manipulate it. Anything that has to do with God, no one has the power to manipulate or change it. So, I think that is destiny and I thank God for that.
So, how did you beat the other contenders to the job?
Well, there must be an interest because it is politics where everybody must have his own interest, but God has His own plan. I believe I had an interest.
I am a politician and politicians always like to expand their territory, politically and otherwise. Yes, I did contest to become Speaker because I think , from my experience from 2003 to 2007 as honorable member of the House, even when I was the Deputy Speaker, my activities in Nigeria's legislature at the state level gave me an insight to know the main business of legislation, not only in Gombe State but Nigeria at large. I think that gave me the credentials to start thinking that I'm supposed to look for the support of my colleagues to be able to lead them as the Speaker. And above all that, that has been achieved.
As you were the only nominee some claim that you were selected?
I disagree with the word 'selection', rather I will use election because even in elections, there are procedures. In politics today, we have inter and intra politics. If we unanimously agree that yes, you are fit, we elect you because by the agreement, we have given our consent and by the context of Nigerian law, if I ask you , do you want to eat food and you remain quiet, it means you don't want to eat because your being quiet is your consent. But if you want to eat, you will say 'yes' because in eating you must have to be interested first. But despite what happened, I have a very good rapport and relationship with the honourable members of Gombe State House of Assembly.
Hearing my name from afar can give you whatever impression but if you come very close, you see a different thing. That's me. That's why if you put me in the midst of whatsoever category of people, you can't hide my name. My name must always be there, not because I am too educated to be known, not because I'm too intelligent, but that's is just me. That's my spirit which I can never change or cheat.
One month in office what is your experience as Speaker?
What is before us, not me, is very challenging. By the Grace of God, I'm contesting to be Chairman of the Speakers Conference of Nigeria and that's what we are strategizing to do because, I know a lot that is supposed to be achieved under that Forum that has not been actualized. And I have the vision to carry the Forum to the next level. My colleagues from other states have been calling and advising that I'm supposed to lead the Forum. And I think by God's Grace, we are strategizing to see how we can achieve that in all the 36 states and return victorious. I want to believe that it can be possible even where people think it is not. Nigeria now needs people that have the capacity to think for Nigerians and act on behalf of the rest of us that are sleeping dormant. I believe I'm among those few individuals that can do that.
What is your relationship with the leaders of the other two arms of government?
You see, a good politician or Leader will not differentiate relationship and responsibilities. You must have to carry the two together. As a responsive Legislator, you must have to build a relationship, that is not just only cordial but meaningful relationship between the heads of the Executive and the judiciary.
The three arms must have to work together and their basis is trustworthiness, understanding and transparency. If you bring these together, then the people at the receiving end who are the electorate will enjoy the relationship, not just from the aspect of cordiality but from the aspect of result.
The positivity of the result of the relationship must translate to both human and infrastructural development. And I think in Gombe state, I have that quest and my spirit is always telling me that there is going to be a new system. There is going to be improvement both in politics and other aspects of human endeavors. I am putting one and one together to see how result will come and how all these ideas will be put into practice, so also the Governor of the State and other people that are in government. We are trying our best and I think we are going to continue with the cordiality and expression of our relationship to see how we will positively move the state forward.
Does that mean that executive proposals would be rushed through the House?
You see, that is the meaning of positive cordiality and relationship. Where you are supposed to say 'no', there is no reason to refuse to say 'no'. Where you are supposed to say 'yes', there is no reason to refuse to say 'yes'. I think we can only say 'no' if it is the right time to say 'no'.
We can always say 'yes' if it the time to say 'yes'. But that depends on the interest of the people of Gombe State, not our interest. Like now, we have received the 2011 budget for the Local Governments. We asked so many questions through the Ministry. Why was it delayed? We questioned that, and we are giving them, in writing that we cannot accept anything of that nature in the future.
We are scrutinizing what is there, asking all the necessary questions that need to be asked. I don't think that will create fracas. We are doing what is expected of us without even creating impression of any disagreement. I think where we are saying 'no', we do and where we are saying 'yes' we equally do based on the interest of the electorate that are at the receiving end.
Some have said that even before proving yourself that you are already aspiring to chair the Speaker's Conference?
That is what I said earlier. You see in Gombe State, from 1999 to date, I am the only Deputy Speaker that presided over sittings in the absence of the Speaker. In the Speakers Conference, out of every three ideas that was presented to the Forum one must have come from me.
And the Forum will always see sense in my presentations. So, forget about the impression some people have about me.
What some people do think about people like me is that if you are not a son of General So, So, So, Professor So, So, His Excellency So, So, So, you are not worthy to become somebody. I disagree with that. As you know, I was an Okada man (commercial motorcyclist). I was in the secondary school then. After my classes, I would go for Achaba because I had a target. I am heading somewhere. And then, it was such that my parents were not able to take care of my responsibilities and I didn't want to become a liability to anybody.
When I finished my secondary school, my father was just a staff in the Local Government, not among the senior officers, he begged, he pleaded to the Chairman of Alkaleri Local Government ( in old Buachi State) to give me a job of a clerical Assistant. When he called me to come and receive my appointment letter, I refused. He started crying because then it was a privilege. But I knew then, I was not supposed to be there because I had a journey of a lot of miles ahead of me and could not trap myself in the Local government working as a Clerical Assistant. Everybody there was confused and said 'see this boy. People have been lobbying, looking for this and your father has been going up and down to see he succeeded in getting this job for him and now, he refused'.
My father started crying. I pleaded with him and said Baba, please, leave me, I want to do something. I later travelled to Cameroun, alone. I was there for 2 years and came back. That was when I started in NNPC. As a boy, people always sent me on errands and if there was balance they asked me to take it. Sometimes I went to buy food, the remnant was my share.
Eventually, I was among the few people that became marketers. I was the youngest that became a depot supervisor working with three companies at a time; became a member of IPMAN; became a member of Depot Supervisors Association of Nigeria before you knew it, I had gone far. That helped me to further my education.
Before then, I could not leave to go to school because I had the responsibility of my younger ones. I am the most senior in my family. So, I had to start from somewhere. When I joined politics, before I became a member in Gombe State Assembly, I was among the only few young men in Nigeria that were privileged to meet with former President Obasanjo one and one. So, if you have a destiny, God knows how he can push you to reach your destiny.
Sir, what of the allegation that you are seen as arrogant?
Let me start from the House. You see, when I was the Deputy Speaker, because of my activities in the House, people always tried to push me ahead of my boss, Honorable Manga Musa Bojude who was the then Speaker because, they saw me always trying to create solutions to some major problems.
They were trying to sideline my boss to make me the head. That was when I decided to disagree with them. Whosoever came to me to try to convince me, I said 'no', go back to the leader of the House. When they refused, I became aggrieved because they didn't want to do the right thing. Secondly, there were some that had funny, funny tendencies that were not straight forward. Whoever you are, if you are not straight forward, I would not even know when I will start shouting on you because, I don't accommodate that.
And you know majority of our people in our society now enjoy being funny in trying to create unnecessary misgivings and whatever. Me, I don't agree to that. And if you try to maneuver your way, I will honestly lose control and shout on you. But then, I am not a bad person. If you say I am a bad person, people are watching and even those that say I am this and that, they are the people that enjoy me most.
That's why when I was elected as the speaker; I called a meeting and said I deliberately and systematically tried to be hard so that you cannot push me ahead of my boss. But now, I am the head. My doors are always open for you if you have a reason to go through. You cannot use the open door to create problems for me or for others. If you are a cleaner or whatever you are, come to me. Let's discuss and find solutions to problems. But if you don't have any reason, I don't accommodate coming to backbite or try to create whatever problem for others.
That's my policy. And I'm assuring you, I'm going to die with that policy. Now, going back to the society, like I said, it is in this Gombe that I drove my Okada. Most of them knew when I was doing Okada. They are looking at me as a son of nobody, heading to somewhere. They don't agree that God has his own way of doing things…Who was the father of Yakubo Gowon? You don't know him. Who was the father of Shagari, Babangida, Obasanjo, Atiku, Danjuma Goje? You don't know them. You see, people forget to agree that God has destiny for each and every individual. It is not a must that if you are a son of 'somebody', you must be somebody. It is not. That belongs to God. Dangote, the richest black man in
Africa today, who was his father? I can count a number of things to make you understand that people have a misconception of what God can do.
Some members have been accused of dozing during plenary sessions while others have seem to lack passion to the affairs of the House?
You are dealing with nature. In as much as you didn't sleep in the night, maybe awake doing your oversight functions, browsing your papers or whatever, you must have to pay back. But then, the Chamber on plenary is not the best place for any sort of trivialities.
Who is Inuwa Garba?
He is just a young man, trying to see how he can contribute to the development of democracy; to the development of Nigeria and Nigerians more especially, my colleagues, the less privileged.
How old are you?
(Chuckles) I'm not very old. I'm just 42.
What should Gombe people expect from the new Assembly?
In as much as I'm here as the Speaker, I'm assuring you that by the Grace of God and with the cooperation of the honorable members, Gombe State House of Assembly will be amongst the most productive Assemblies.