“The present crop of people parading themselves as PDP members (in Borno) are just doing so to deceive President Goodluck Jonathan.
Ayuba Wakawa represents Hawul constituency in the Borno State House of Assembly. He is a graduate of chemistry from the University of Maiduguri and also has an MBA from the same university. He is married with three children. In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ correspondent, Ola’ Audu, the state lawmaker spoke on general issues concerning Borno State especially on the insecurity that has continued to bedevil the state in the past three years.
PT: You’ve been a member of the House of Assembly for three years now; in what way would you say you have been able fulfil your campaign promises to your people?
Wakawa: The job of a state lawmaker, just like any other, is all about legislation; though people tend to misconceive a legislator’s duty to that of the executive. As legislators, we are part of a system called government, and we work in synergy with the executive and even the judiciary to achieve a common good for the citizens in the state and the country at large. But the politics now is for you to be able to succeed as a legislator and be able to lobby or legislate democracy dividends to your constituents; you must be in good working relationship with the executive in the state. Where I came from, that is Hawul local government, we are known for one thing; which is education. I think and I stand to be corrected, that we have the highest number of educated population in the state. That is why in most core professions ranging from medical doctors, lawyers, engineers, you see more people from my area. In my area, we give education the highest priority more than any other thing. So throughout my campaigns, I have emphasized to my people that since education is not only our industry, but also part of our culture, my interest will be development of education, education and education; then we can later talk about agriculture and healthcare for our people. That is why today I am a happy man and proud to say I lobbied for the building of Government Secondary school, Marama, Government Secondary School Sakwa, and then Government Secondary school Shaffa and Kwajaffa. These are alongside a list of other primary schools that are either being built or renovated through the universal basic education board.
PT: How are schools coping in your constituency despite the insecurity that has challenged the existence or functioning of schools?
Wakawa: First, it will be good to understand that the issue of insecurity is a global phenomenon, and our state is not exempted. But to the glory of God, despite the security challenges, the level of school enrollment keeps increasing in my constituency. This is due to the fact that we don’t have any other preoccupation other than education. That is what our people in Hawul and even Southern Borno in general are known for; I mean our parents and fore-parents had been brought up to appreciate education. As I am talking to you right now, there are community primary and secondary schools that are being constructed through the efforts of the community people – all they need is our support, because they don’t always have to wait for government before their children get education. So as you can see, we don’t have problems related to insecurity that hampers on the zeal we have for education. Despite the challenges and threats, parents are still willing to send their wards to school. It is a must for you to send your child to school; it is a policy deliberately created long ago by our people that every child must at least attain a level of education. Let me inform you that one of the successes of education in southern Borno is the kind of foundation our parents laid. In those days, if you went to school and become a graduate, then you got a good job in the city, you had to go back home to show how you have benefitted from education. If you don’t go back to invest one way or the other in your community, others would not appreciate the values of education. That is why if you go to our villages in any part of Southern Borno, you will see investments, you will see buildings that make you think you are in Abuja or Lagos. That has been a motivating factor for us; it has encouraged most of us to work hard at school so that we too can be able to do like our fathers or big brothers have done. Many of us take a cue from that, and it has become a cultural policy that you have to go home and build a house either for yourself or for your parents. And most importantly, like we normally do, it is like a compulsory policy for us that during Easter, Christmas of any of the Islamic celebrations we normally go back to celebrate with our people, and that also gives us opportunity to interact and encourage our younger ones that out there in the cities of the world, you are nobody if you are not educated.
PT: The State government had introduced a policy that ensures that any parent in the educationally –backward Northern part of Borno state, who enrols his or her child in school, would be given a monthly stipend as encouragement. Did you make any case for similar gesture for your people in southern part of Borno state?
Wakawa: Like I told you, we are already over stretched in terms of school enrolment in most part of southern Borno and especially my local government, Hawul. What we need here is the infrastructure. We don’t need to pay anybody to enrol his child in school. No, we don’t, because we have long appreciated the values of education and we’ve been holding onto it tenaciously. So instead of waiting for government to give us stipends because our children are in school, all we need to do is to encourage government to help us with more schools and classrooms so that our pupils and students alike can have a better learning environment. The people are ever willing to learn and be educated.
PT: If a state legislator, as you mentioned has to have a cordial working relationship with the executive just to get democratic dividends to his people, does that give credence to the insinuations in town that Borno House of Assembly has been a rubber-stamp of the executive?
Wakawa: The honest truth is that government is not all about confrontation amongst the three tiers. I think even in the definition of government, there is no confrontation there. All arms of government have to work in synergy in order to achieve a common goal for the people they are meant to serve. So it is not all about fighting. We in Borno state are very lucky that we have a listening governor that is willing to work for his people. Once you are able to approach him with anything that is developmental and beneficial to the people of the state, he will always gladly endorse his approval. Of course you can confront a governor or even fight him when such a governor is not willing to do the right thing for the people. It is not even in the character of Governor Kashim Shettima to turn down any good initiative advanced to him by the House of Assembly or any other stake holder in the state. For God sake do you go and start fighting where there is no contention? Like I said, in all aspect of our jobs as legislators, there is nothing better we can offer to our people more than education – and education seems the pet project of the governor. He is doing everything, including feeding and free tuition for our students.
PT: There are allegations of poor implementation of projects in Borno State in the last three years; as a member of the state House of Assembly with an oversight role of supervising the budget implementation of the government, what is your take on this?
Wakawa: Thank you so much for this question, because I have long yearned to lend my voice on this issue. The honest truth is that we just have to give due credits to Governor Kashim Shettima because nobody under these circumstances in Borno state can easily achieve what this governor has achieved. We all know what is happening here; the unfortunate thing is the federal government has not been supporting us. But this man (governor) here judiciously utilizes the meagre resources at his disposal to do his best in trying to bring back peace, and even sustaining the military formations deployed down here by the federal government to curb the insurgency. It is obvious that our main problems in Borno state is not the amount of projects you put up, but security! I think it is high time we gave kudos to Governor Shettima for steering the affairs of the state all these years despite the daunting challenges of insecurity. There are still other states in parts of Nigeria where there is absolute peace and yet the governors there cannot even boast of what Governor Shettima is doing here in Borno State. And throughout this period, the governor has never shied from visiting any part of Borno State where there is problems, to either address the issue or commiserate with the people; even when it seems dangerous and unsafe for him to do so.
One thing we must appreciate is that there can never be any development without peace; but despite that the governor still strives to see that he measures up, even when he had the excuses of not performing by hiding under the guise of insecurity. People should not go accusing government of poor implementation of projects when if given the opportunity they would not have done better. We can’t have budget for insurgency, because no one plans or hopes for it; even if you plan ahead any unforeseen circumstance, you cannot predict the magnitude of the insurgency. As far as we are concerned in the State Assembly, the governor has been doing well given the circumstances that we find ourselves. I am the chairman, house committee on Animals and Fishery, and I can tell you that the state government had done more than enough in the area of capacity building for our young graduates. Just recently, we have been able to train over 300 graduates abroad on fish and poultry production, and after their training they have been asked to open accounts where funds would be made available to them to start a business – all is in the bid to create jobs. That is just for the ministry that I supervise. There are others where thousands of youth are currently engaged positively in one vocation or the other just to ensure that they are not idle. We have seen schools being renovated across the state, despite the continuous attacks on them; we have seen how the health care sector has become so robust and functional to the effect that the state governor was awarded the best performing in the North-East zone and the fourth state in the whole of Nigeria. Development partners like the World Health Organisation, WHO, UNICEF, have severally commended the state government for paying counterpart funds for various developmental initiatives that they are sponsoring. We have major road projects going on across the states, except in volatile areas where it is, for now, not practicable. We have seen several housing projects for both public teachers, doctors springing up within and around the state capital. So when you say poor implementation of project, I don’t think that Borno state is being referred to.
PT: Experts say there could be hunger due to the gross shortage of food as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency which has practically disallowed farmers to till their bushes. Doesn’t this worry the State Assembly; and if it does, what are the remedies being proffered in terms of legislation?
Wakawa: Well, I must say that the problems we have at hand is somehow beyond human understanding; but what I know is that the state assembly appreciates the commitment of the state governor and has been giving him all the support to wade through this trying moment. I know that we have supported the state governors’ initiative of directing all the local government to embark on mass procurements of food crops and be storing them in the statutory grain reserve of the state government for use during the rainy days. We do not hope for any famine or hunger, but we have put in place mechanism to palliate the situation should that occur. But mind you, it is not everywhere that farmers have been denied access to their farms; in large part of the state, especially the central and southern parts, we had a robust farming season last year. Despite the situation, we should know that agriculture is like the main pet-project of government in Borno State, and that was why over one thousand tractors were procured and distributed to all the 27 local government areas of the state.
It is really sad that all these efforts are being sabotaged in some parts of the state, but that does not in any way discourage the government. That was why the state government had sent number of young graduates to Thailand where they went to get trained on modern approach to cropping. They have learnt that farming is not all about the expanse of land cultivated but how to maximize a small piece of land to achieve greater yield. Presently the state government is in partnership with the Thai experts on promotion of agriculture in the state. This insurgency will not last forever, and the dream of our government is to turn Borno into a food production haven when the storms are over.
PT: The opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the state is saying that 2015 will be the end of the road for the All Progressives Congress, APC, government. They say that the government of the state has become unpopular because it has failed even in the last three years to meet up with the yearnings and aspiration of the people. What is your take on this?
Wakawa: Politics is all about people and if we have been in power since the time of APP, then ANPP, then now merging to become APC, it was because we have been with the people. APC is a party of the people in Borno State, and we do not need to engage in any battle of words with anyone over 2015 because there is no basis for doing that. Before the appointment of the present Minister of State for Power, who was quoted in the media talking about 2015, we have never been visited by any officer of the federal government who has come to show concern to us in the state over the ongoing insurgency. None of these so-called Borno PDP politicians were around; all of them went and hid in some comfortable places in Lagos and Abuja. They were off the scene completely. So now that politics is around the corner they are talking about 2015. Do they think the people of Borno are fools? Even the federal government has not demonstrated genuine concerns about our problems in Borno and that alone had earned the PDP a bad name in the state. We have come to understand that the PDP never loves Borno people and it cannot come now and think it will win elections just like that. Here we have a state governor of the APC being left on his own. He goes everywhere in the state to sympathize with the people, provide instant succour to them and so on. The truth is that the present crop of people parading themselves as PDP members are just doing so to deceive President Goodluck Jonathan and the federal government that they are on ground so that they can be patronized. But the fact is that there is no PDP in Borno State. In my local government area, for example, the whole structure of what remains of the PDP collapsed and moved into the APC. This has also been the case in most of the local government areas. We are all around, we will see whether Borno state is for APC of not.
PT: What would you suggest as way out of this Boko Haram insurgency that has taken its deadly toll on the people of Borno State?
Wakawa: There is nothing I would have said or advised that has not been done in the fight to curb the ongoing insurgency. But what we must do for now is to be firm in prayers so that God will have mercy on us and touch the hearts of those behind this. Other measures like education, addressing poverty and joblessness would work out fine, but only in the long run. But presently we need prayers so that God will touch the perpetrators of these evils to repent because they have long crossed the rubicon. We also have to call on God for His mercies upon those innocent poor girls they have abducted so that no harm befalls them wherever they are now. Kidnapping little girls and taking them into the jungle is terrible. Only God can answer our prayers.
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