‘I couldn’t have stolen as FCT minister to develop Bauchi’

‘I couldn’t have stolen as FCT minister to develop Bauchi’

FREEPRESS – A former Minister of the FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed, is the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Bauchi State. He speaks with ARMSTRONG BAKAM on his aspiration and other issues

What is your assessment of the political situation in the country?

There is a general spread of apathy and disillusionment within the political milieu of Nigeria. People are becoming disenchanted with the political process including the capability of INEC to conduct free and fair elections. The apathy stems from the hunger, lack of employment and youth restiveness across the country. They are not happy that we have failed to provide the required services and infrastructure. The quarrels, rancour and conflicts between the elite and the leaders have adversely affected the provision of dividends of democracy. Irrespective of party platforms, we have failed to give the kind of hope that is required. The internal democracy and our leadership recruitment process have been fraught with a lot of problems that bring about suspicion and mistrust.

We are still talking about primordial issues based on dichotomies, tribal differences and religion. We have not really conquered all these divisive tendencies in us. We are heading for a situation whereby, if we are not careful, there will be a general vote of no confidence in the elite.

What inspired you to contest the Bauchi State governorship election?

My modest contributions in the FCT prompted me to contest. I discovered that Nigerians are good and intelligent people. Given the opportunity, we can create a small London in any part of Nigeria.

In the FCT, I brought in people from different parts of the country – the North, South, East and West. These are intelligent young people who were ready to work and could compete with their counterparts in any part of the world, in terms of competence, initiative and innovation. We introduced the land swap programme which is being copied by the United Nations and the World Bank. We gave incentives to the private sector to bring in alternative funding. We brought frameworks that were bankable. Institutions, such as the emergency services and the revenue board, were introduced to establish some kind of financial independence and raise the GDP. We cleaned the city very well with the money we had. We had funds to give to our local governments. We made them independent and self-sustaining. We ensured that there was no form of discord for the six years that I was there, not even from the communities because we deepened community relations. We were able to give good governance. This was not done by me alone but with the help of an array of intellectuals that I brought around me. And I think this is what we lack (in Bauchi). There was no consideration for tribes or religions; it was just based on competence, and that is what the world is doing. Why can’t we bring Dubai to Nigeria? Why do we have to rush there? We have the best vegetation and we are creative. Most of the houses provided in Dubai are bought by Nigerians. We provide the world’s off-takers of investment. So, we should create investment and wealth in Nigeria.

What do you hope to do for the people of Bauchi if elected the state governor?

I want to improve the business environment in Bauchi State using creativity and innovation as I have done in Abuja, where I had no authority; my authority was a delegated one in the constitution as a minister. We used land as a resource in Abuja. I want to use the land in Bauchi too as a resource. We must take the baseline studies. Our land and tourism resources, agricultural capabilities, demonstration farms, animal farms and agricultural institutions will be developed so that we can take the youth out of the streets. We want to create a large number of extension workers in the villages to bring the best of seeds that can increase the farm yields and create off-takers of agriculture within and outside Nigeria. This is what they use in California. I have seen how other climes have built resources and wealth. I want to create wealth, create a level-playing field for people in Bauchi.

In Bauchi, there is no government today. Salaries are being owed. Pensioners are owed. No good service is being provided. There are no drug revolving funds in our hospitals. So, a common man cannot get drugs at subsidised rate. Our schools are in a dilapidated state; our teachers have not been paid. Of course, when you come to other sectors, the story is the same.

You are accusing the present government of non-performance. They have also accused you of not doing anything for the state when you were the minister of the FCT. How do you react to this?

Our neighbours, Gombe, Jigawa and Plateau states, used their bailout very well. But there is nothing to show in Bauchi as products of the bailout given by the Federal Government.

As the minister of the FCT then, my statutory responsibilities did not extend beyond the FCT. I cannot steal money from Abuja and bring it to Bauchi. But as a member of the federal cabinet then, I encouraged the Federal Government to rehabilitate an 80-kilometre road and construct new roads such as Yashi-Duduri road from Duguri to Kashere. These are federal roads that were done through my initiative. I was also able to make the indigenes of Bauchi State to access employment opportunities in the FCT as well as access allocation of land and houses. As a member of the cabinet, I don’t think anything less than N100bn came to Bauchi. That explains my popularity in the state. You have seen my house; I’ve been here for the last 25 years, I have not changed it. I have been able to touch the lives of people within my community and the whole state. People are happy with me. Despite the character assassination, people still love me; they know the truth. Even the FCT administration attested that no kobo was missing in their coffers. No civil society, no individual has complained about me in any petition to the EFCC. But because of political exigencies, I am facing one of the greatest challenges. But that is my destiny; I don’t blame anybody. I was put in the EFCC custody for 60 days unjustly. I am not blaming anybody; it is my destiny.

Don’t you think all the allegations levelled against you will affect your chances in the governorship election?

I am just an accused person and there are many accused governors in government houses. There are many accused senators and members of the House of Representatives. I am an innocent person. If I am not innocent, I will not even dare come out and seek a political office. I am honest and sincere and it is left for the authorities to prove that they can stop me. I don’t think they can stop me because they have nothing, no witness against me.

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