Question: Your Excellency sir, as the APC gubernatorial flag-bearer in Nasarawa State, do you still have other issues that will constitute the basis for your campaign as a candidate?
Answer: Thank you, very much. First and foremost, there is no serious aspirant that will show an aspiration or a desire for governor of a state without laying down his own manifesto. So, like the engineer that I happen to be, you know engineers don’t just work off the wall. You have to start with a concept, sketch or draft, and then you finish the masterpiece before you start the work. And that is exactly what I did before I approached this exercise.
So as I plan to be governor of Nasarawa State, I came out with my own manifesto, which begins with a true survey of what Nasarawa State needs and what prospects does the state have in order to satisfy its needs. And then, how do we achieve that? What model, procedure do we use to achieve that? So that is the way I approach this exercise.
Now we know that Nasarawa State needs peace first of all; we must live in peace in order to achieve what we àre looking for. Secondly, Nasarawa State needs employment very badly. Thirdly, the state needs economic development very badly. Fourthly, the state needs revenue in order to implement the various plans that the government will have, to be able to pay salaries to workers as and when due. These are things that the state needs immediately.
Furthermore, Nasarawa State needs massive infrastructural development and the biggest of them all is the industrialisation of the state.
Question: So, sir, are you saying that apart from the achievement recorded by the APC government in the state, you also have your own areas of which you base your campaign?
Answer: Yes. Governor Almakura has achieved tremendously in the areas of infrastructural development, also in the area of inclusive governance as he has been able to bring people from all categories together – from all areas – in order for us to have true governance. This is where the disabled also belong to the same society, where the youths also know they belong to the society. This is where the elderly, the women and so on all belong to the same society. Governor Almakura has also helped in improving the revenue in the state. But what we are saying is we need to concentrate massively in the area of revenue generation. So we are just building on the solid foundation the governor has already set, so that we can build solidly on that solid foundation.
Question: Sir, in your manifesto you talk about providing practical solutions to some challenges identified in the areas of economic development, etc. How do you intend to go about providing these practical solutions?
Answer: Well, practical solution will only work if you have practical knowledge. So we have to start with the practical knowledge. We have to start with people who believe in the policies and procedures we have to put in place – to bring in people who also believe in this practical solutions. And you have to empower them and provide them with tools, training, education and proper compensation.
Looking at the area of agriculture for instance, we have to look at it from the practical form because a lot of people talk about agriculture but when they go into it they will come across all other challenges associated with agriculture. They will come across the type of soil they have to use, they will come across land acquisition, compensation, etc. So that is why I said people need the education in itself, the knowledge – in order to carry out the task ahead. So in everything we do, that is the approach we intend to take. A good example is in the industrialisation. I will be lying to you if I said I will bring the biggest cement plant here because we don’t have limestone. I will be lying to you if I said I will bring the biggest oil production to the state because we don’t have the hydrocarbons to do that. So that is not practical. Practical solutions are the ones that are realistic, applicable and we have the right team to apply it.
Question: Your Excellency sir, Nigerian politics is believed to be full of intrigues, backbiting and the rest. But you seem to be a gentleman and especially since you are coming from the advance country where politics is a descent game. What has been your experience in Nigerian politics like so far?
Answer: Well, Nigerian politics is exactly what you have mentioned and there is no doubt about it. Nigerian politics is the kind of politics whereby people must find fault in you no matter how clean you are. And there are people in Nigeria who don’t believe in displaying what they can do, but really in destroying the opponent. For them to win they must destroy the opponent so that the opponent is not electable, so elect me. That is the idea that most people go about with. I don’t go about my own politics in that manner. I believe in telling the people what I believe I can do. This is what I can do, this is how I can do it, and this is how to approach it. So, yes as you said, I have been in the US, yes I have also lived in Nigeria for a while now. I have been the MD of Dangote for ten years and earlier I had been the MD of African Petroleum AP for six years. So I have gone through this exercise and I have associated with some of the biggest politicians in the country and I have lived with them and seen the way they carry out all these challenges. One thing that I have learned is, I thank God that I have been gifted with honesty and patience. So I am able to take a lot of heat, a lot of insults without necessarily responding to what people are saying because I am focused on the direction I am going and I will not allow myself to be actually distracted by insults. People insult even people who are higher than me, people who are better than me. So who am I not to be insulted or blackmailed.
Question: Sir, the opposition have been pushing forward a narrative that being a Dangote employee, you are likely to be doing Dangote’s bidding when you eventually become governor. And they also allege that you are not a native of Nasarawa State, which however I see as outlandish. We like you to set the record straight?
Answer: Well, you have already answered the question by saying the insinuations are outlandish. Let me start from the second question. When they are saying I am not from this state, what they are saying technically is that Gudi Station where I belong is not in Nasarawa State. That is the only way you can take me out of the indigenization of Nasarawa State. Once you are able to take out Gudi out of Nasarawa State, then you have taken me out, so I am not an indigene. This is because my own grandparents actually established the town Gudi and to show the practical example of that, the royalty of the town still remains in our hands and my own father, who gave birth to me is still my traditional ruler for the past 50 years. And today, he has to sign that yes, you are an indigene, no matter your tribe before you even get indigenisation of the local government once you are from the area. So that’s why when you said it is outlandish, yes – it is outlandish.
Now coming back to your other question about Dangote. That’s why I am very practical and I believe in practical solutions. So, let’s say I do the bidding of Dangote when I come. What are the interests of Dangote in Nasarawa State that I will do his bidding? Does he own the employees of the state? So far he is about to establish a factory in the state, indirectly to also help the state because the factory he is establishing is actually what Nasarawa State needs. If the state can’t get it from Dangote, they have to go and get it from somebody else because you have to create employment and the only source of employment right now is industrialisation. And the biggest industrialist in the whole of Africa is Alhaji Aliko Dangote. What Dangote is coming to do in the state a lot of states – indeed countries, are going to his office begging him to do the same for them in their states or countries. I have personally seen African presidents coming to beg him to set up such an industry in their countries. The presidents of Tanzania, Ghana and many others are some examples while other African countries have awarded Dangote their highest national honours begging Dangote to come. So if you are doing the bidding of Dangote, what is it that Dangote needs in Nasarawa State that you have to do the bidding for him? So this is equally outlandish as the accusation that I am not a native of the state. And when someone begins to wait to be perturbed by such accusations then you will not get to where you are going.
Question: Sir, what do you think are the factors that distinguish Engr A. A. Sule from other contenders for governorship in the state?
Answer: I think the No 1 reason is the experience and the exposure. The experience in the sense that of all these candidates, nobody has seen more diverse knowledge than I have – with due respect and with all sense of humility. I have worked in all kinds of places. I have worked in various countries around the world – not that I planned it but God Almighty planned it that way to set me up in companies that would take me to different countries. Forget about the fact that I worked in the US with the oil company that took me to several countries for oil acquisition and possibilities, look at it from the point of Dangote, who today is in 14 African countries. So even at that I’ve seen a lot of exposure.
From my oil background I had opportunities to establish relationship with some of the wealthiest people, not only in Nigeria, in Africa but also across the world. So I am one person that has seen all that. I don’t know if there is any among these contenders that has seen similar exposure and experience. The other thing I have is the burning desire in me. I’ve always said that when Nasarawa State was created I was actually in the US. I do not take any credit, I did not participate in anyway in the creation of Nasarawa State. So because of the burning desire in me I want to see what I can do to contribute to the development of my state. The next thing I have is the understanding of the state. I have spent a lot of time to understand the needs of this state from my experience of other places I have been to. So collectively I stand alone different from these other contenders.
Question: Sir, in your manifesto you recognised that the present administration has set up a solid foundation especially in terms of infrastructural development and other things that you enumerated earlier. There is one area under critical consideration and that is tourism. Do you have any particular programme to boost tourism in the state, especially with the state’s proximity to the FCT Abuja?
Answer: Thank you very much. From what I said earlier I believe in practical solution. I don’t want to be beating around the bush in areas like this. A good example is the Farin Ruwa project. One of the key objectives of the project was to attract tourists. That is why a hotel was built. But right now the hotel is being occupied by rats and lizards because it was not practical, it was not realistic. There is no good road between Sisinbaki all the way to the site. There was no power at the location. What kind of tourists would actually spend their time to go there? There are also security challenges when you’re driving from Akwanga to Sisinbaki and from there all the way to the site. Those challenges have not been properly taken care of. So what tourist is going to go there?
So that’s why I’m telling you that before you talk about tourism in Nasarawa State, you must be able to provide the practical solutions to attract the tourists. We have some tourist sites in Karu Local Government Area. As a matter of fact during the same Abdullahi Adamu administration (that commenced the Farin Ruwa project) there was a tourist site there visited by the Queen of England. What have we done to even develope that site? So before you have proper tourism, you must have proper infrastructure provided.
And let me take you back to the US. The state of Nevada was actually a state in the desert. There was no Las Vegas, now the state capital city. So when America wanted to make it a tourist place, they said what kind of tourism would be attractive to Nevada? What do the people of the neighbouring States like most that would make Nevada attractive to them? They replied, it is gambling. So they said make Nevada the gambling capital of the world. That’s why today Nevada is the gambling capital of the world and it has become a tourist centre. And even people who don’t gamble go there. Now as a result of the gambling so many hotels were built and as long as you would come to gamble, living in these hotels is free. So these are practical solutions and that’s why whatever I do I ask the question, is it possible? So before you build tourism in Nasarawa State, you have to build the structures to support it.
Question: Your Excellency sir, how would you react to the insinuation that if you don’t dance to the tunes of Dangote, maybe you will dance to the tunes of Governor Almakura considering the role he played in your emergence as APC flag-bearer in the state?
Answer: When you say dance to the tunes of Governor Almakura, the governor is in charge as a governor that a lot of people are happy with. Yes, he will not be 100%. A lot of people will not be happy with him. Isn’t it in Almakura’s interest if I come in and do better than he has done? Would he like it if I come and do worse than him. Almakura, from my knowledge of him, would not want me to come and do worse than him, but to do better or at least up to what he has done.
A lot of people refer to Almakura as the architect of modern Nasarawa State. So if someone is an architect, that means he has done something physically that is good for the society. So if you dance to the tune of such a person, what is wrong with that? But you know I am an independent person, I am a knowledgeable person. The kind of working experience and exposure in the public sector that I had, with all due respect, maybe the Governor did not have. So why would he not want me to present those qualities of those experiences that I have, but would instead want to restrict me. So those are just insinuations that are as bad as saying Nasarawa State is for sale to Dangote.
Question: Your Excellency sir, can you confirm or deny that campaign organisations of those who contested with you for the APC governorship candidacy have been collapsed into one entity and they are now all working for you?
Answer: We have had meetings with all other contestants. They all agreed that we are all going to work for the APC – from the president all the way to the state House of Assembly. They have all agreed that they would be members of the campaign committees – that is Board of Trustees. They have all agreed that their own campaign DGs would also be part of the Campaign Council for the governor and the president. They have all agreed that Hon. Ahmed Wadada who came second would be the chairman of the Campaign Council. And I am surely in talking terms with all of them. I have had one-on-one meetings with almost all of them and collectively we have had meetings with all of them. So that is the confirmation for you.
Question: Sir there are accusations in the field that you are stingy. Is it true that you are stingy?
Answer: There is a proverb in my language that only a beggar knows the form of a stingy man. So if you don’t beg you won’t know who is stingy. So those who say I am stingy are probably also beggars. You see the question of being stingy is something that has gone round and I will start even with Ta’al himself. Ta’al is also considered stingy. A lot of people have called him a stingy person. My boss, Alhaji Aliko Dangote is also considered stingy. A lot of people have called him stingy in front of me and in front of him. So who am I not to be called stingy? I don’t take it as an offence and I always look back at the Hausa proverb: Only a beggar knows the form of a stingy man.
So the idea is that we have spoiled our politics in Nasarawa State where you just take money and spread it to people whether they deserve it or not. That’s the type of money people are used to. But because of my training and background I am not that kind of person. There are times, however when I do things not just for politics, but for God, the Almighty. There are many times I have done things I don’t even want people to know and things like that people will call you stingy because they don’t know about it. But one thing that I am not stingy about is employment and empowerment. I like to see women empowered. Anytime I get the opportunity to give women money to develop themselves I do that. Anytime I have the opportunity to employ people so that they can be useful to the themselves and their families, I do that. Anytime I have to support somebody for his/her education, I do that. Most of the time when people call me that they have issues with their medical attention, I support them. Anytime people have issues to do with their religion or their places of worship and they believe I can be useful to them, I do support them.
So even in this politics – during the last primaries l can tell you vehemently that I spent more money than probably anyone of the other aspirants. And that is the way politics is in our place. So there are times to be stingy and there are times not to be stingy. That’s why I also say that if someone is not bringing money to spread or throw away to the public, you would be considered stingy. But I didn’t find money that way, so I can’t spend it that way. I have never been in government that there was money for me to steal and go to throw away. I’ve never had the opportunity to be in the Senate, the House of Representatives or the state Assembly where they will give money for certain projects and I will divert the money. So for that reason every penny I had is hard-earned money. So I am spending it, then it has to be on something that is realistic. I don’t care the amount. I can spend one million naira, I can spend 200 million naira. But it has to be on something practical and worth it. So if people call me stingy, it doesn’t bother me one bit.
Question: Sir, Governor Almakura is actually considered the architect of Nasarawa State for his numerous developmental projects across the state. One issue that has tended to taint the governor’s record is workers’ welfare. So what is your programme like as regards the welfare of civil servants and retirees in the state?
Answer: One thing I’ve always mentioned is that I’ve never worked in any place where my salary was delayed for any month. I have been paid for every month that I have worked in my life. No employer of mine had ever owed me and no employer of mine is owing me at the moment. As a result God will not forgive me if I ask somebody to work for me and I decide to withhold his/her salary. So as far as I am concerned I am approaching it from that angle.
Now I want you to look at it from the perspective of the governor and the state. It is not in the interest of the governor to just make people work and not pay them. So what could be the reason? One reason is what I have always mentioned. It is the resources. I know deep down inside me and practically that Nasarawa State is one of the least paid states when it comes to the Revenue Allocation Formula. The state is not getting much. And while other states are getting much higher internally generated revenue, Nasarawa State is getting sometimes less than N1billion.
So how do we raise the standard of revenue generation so that Nasarawa State can take care of itself, because you can’t change the revenue formula midway. I worked in the US for instance and when I was leaving I did what is called 401K, it is actually a savings programme similar to what we have here as pension. In your pension you can actually have a system that you are also having additional saving for the rainy day when you retire. So I had that and I made more money from that than from my social security when I was leaving.
So I understand the pain of someone after putting 35 years in service. And I know the civil service work, that is why I have never been attracted to it. Every month before you collect the salary people you bought cloth from, people you bought food from are waiting. There are school fees, Nepa and water bills waiting. The money is finished before you receive it and the question of saving is not there. So I understand the pain coming from someone who after putting 35 years retires without getting his/her pension or gratuity. And that is why I said one of the things we would do is to work very hard to generate revenue to make sure we compensate these people and pay them.
But one thing I don’t admire very much is the people just being lazy because it is civil service to be unproductive. I want them to love what they are doing, I want them to be productive, to be trained in what they are doing. And that is what I admire and encourage – a productive, well-trained civil service. That way they should be paid for what they are doing.
Question: Finally sir, what is a day in the life of a governorship candidate like, compared to the private sector?
Answer: It is consultations, meetings, media interviews. Consultations, meetings, media interviews and so on. So to define it in one word – unproductive. (General Laughter) I am used to producing something and creating something and so today I don’t see any of it. (More general laughter).
Question: Sir, just to round up the session. Assuming, in sha Allah that you make it to the Government House in Lafia, how would you like to be remembered after two terms?
Answer: I will like to be remembered by opportunities that I have created for the people. I will like to be remembered by the development that I will bring to Nasarawa State. I will like to be remembered by the number of women who ordinarily I have made them happy. I will like to be remembered by the youths who ordinarily I would have succeeded in making them happy. I would like to be remembered by the security I would have brought to the state where we can live in peace. And lastly, I will like to be remembered by the unity I would have brought to the state where people are living in peace with one another, united without any religious or ethnic problems, etc. And I hope and pray that by the time I finish my term we would be able to bring everybody together so that people are living in peace with one another without bothering about whether they belong to this tribe and religion or not. (General clapping of hands).
Team of editors: Thank you sir.