Nasarawa State Governor-elect Abdullahi Sule spoke on a live Television Continental progamme, ‘The Platform’, anchored by SAM OMATSEYE, on his victory, vision, and challenges of governing the Northcentral state.
When the presidential election results came out, a record was broken. President Buhari has never won in this state won, but it was a cliff hanger; a 6, 000 vote. How did it feel going into the governorship?
First and foremost, we thank God Almighty for giving us the opportunity to even get to this state. I think you have to look at the history of how it all started for Buhari in Nasarawa State. Buhari has never won election since 2003 when he started in Nasarawa State but gradually, he kept improving.
In 2011 when the CPC won, Buhari actually left just roughly about a hundred and something votes. By the time it went to 2015 when he also lost, he now lost very very marginally. So, it was expected that if it was going to go in that train of improvement, even if Buhari would win, it was going to be just maginally. You have to understand that Nasarawa State has been historically a PDP state. There were a lot of people who understand nothing but PDP and as a result of that you know, they were looking at it from that direction. So, yes, it was by a cliff hanger as you said, but we are glad, at least, that he won and historically because a lot of people who are naturally also in PDP had now joined to participate to vote for Buhari. But, more importantly, the governor had done a wonderful job that people now see and that is why he had the slogan “seeing is believing.” Also, people had seen a lot when it comes to the Buhari administration itself. He has done alot in the area of security, in the area of economy and, of course, you know all the other areas that the president mentioned that they were going to work on.
You are the transition mode to become governor. How is it like looking towards it and also anticipating it at the same time?
I have been in different kinds of transition. May be, this is the first time that I have been in transition of governance. You know I was in a transition where when we bought a company, we came in as management and we were going to take over from that management and it was a transition period. So, and I notice what it means during transition. You have more or less a period of tension because a lot of things that you were trying to… you were so much eager to understand certain things and people were so eager not to disclose certain things to you. So, I understand what it means to go through a transition. In this case, however, it is a little different because it is an APC governor –elect taken over from a very dominant APC governor who has also done well. If he had done the other way round then the question would have been more investigated during the process.
This is a question of a governor that has done so well and you are trying as much as possible to learn from the good things he did so you can be able to build on top of that, that is the type of transition we are having.
You worked in the US. You also schooled in the US. You schooled here and you also worked in the US and you worked here. You are also known to have done very well in turning African petroleum around from loss to profitability, some people say that is good resume. But, that is not governance in its sense. How do you think we can convert that experience to governance because in the corporate world, one plus one equals two in governance one plus one could be minus one?
Yes, if you look at the history of governance worldwide, you will see where people that have come from the private sector have also participated in turning governance around. No governance is an island and there is nobody who is coming into a government and thinks that he is going to be the only person turning the entire thing around. Even in African Petroleum, I didn’t turn African Petroleum alone. In Dangote, when we moved Dangote from less than 100 billion to over 250 billion, I didn’t turn it around. What we did was that we put a team together. It is a combination of this team that was able to team together, focus together, vision together, had a mission together and worked together towards turning the entire system around and I think it is the same thing that is going to happen to me in governance. We had a governor also who came in from the private sector and he was able to do a lot more than those who were dominantly in politics from what we saw in Nasarawa State and I have my energy from there. I have my aggressiveness from there believing that I can also do the same or better by putting a comprehensive team together that will support with all the idea. All the vision so that we can build into one vision and be able to turn the company around.
I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that coming from a private sector will not be a disadvantage. In fact, it is the other way round. I strongly believe that coming from a private sector is going to be more advantageous because we are going to reduce inefficiency. We are going to reduce waste. We are going to encourage productivity and we are going to reward performance. If we go in that direction, we are going to generate revenue for the state, which the state badly needs, without necessarily infringing on the rights and privileges of any other persons. So, hose are the areas that we strongly believe we can work on.
What is your focus? Your predecessor did a lot in terms of infrastructure work, education and stuff. Where are you going to focus?
We are going to build industries. The number one thing is industrialization is actually security in the state. We are focusing more on the areas of security to make sure that people live in peace. People can leave their homes for their farms. They will be able to work and come back home safely. With that in mind, then, we focus on industrialisation.
Industrialisation doesn’t mean building factories, doesn’t mean coming to build big industries. That is not just industrialisation; it is a complete and comprehensive economic development of the state. The state has a lot of potentials, not only in minerals, but also in land and the accessibility to the FCT. Our intention is to focus on that area so that the industrialisation that we have in mind will create a massive economic activity in the state, bring about employment opportunities. All these so-called minerals that we have that are in totally in control of the Federal Government so that we can jointly work together and make a progress. A good example I give is the hydro carbo presence that we have in Kalla which we are already working seriously on. We know that it belongs to the Federal Government, but we at the state are going to put a lot of efforts to make sure that it materialises. We will bring up all our ideas because we are very interested in that 30 per cent that is going to come from there and we believe that those are the areas that are going to create the activity for economic and IGR for the state.
In the lst eight years, we had herdsmen crisis and the overflow of IDPs from neighbouring states. There is also the tension increasingly created by the fact that you are close to the FCT and there is an overflow of people from the FCT into Nasarawa State. How do you now navigate this kind of tension?
Our ethnic diversity is our strength and that’s the approach that I want to do. On the inflow of people coming in from other states to places like Kalu, Keffi and others that you mentioned, the first part that you mentioned about feeling of the sense of belonging, our governor had made a commitment and being the kind of person he is, he was able to meet that commitment. He said he wanted to practice fairness, which is the whole thing about our political party, the APC, he said since others have already tested power, he wanted to use the opportunity to support somebody from our zone. Well, God is so kind and I thank the governor and everyone who participated to support that mission that our zone had the opportunity to produce a governor. So, at least, that should now dampen the tension that is there, which you were referring to.
The question of Mbaise and the others that you mentioned, these are issues that are very similar to many.The herdsmen you mentioned, for instance, and I think government had done its own best to ensure that they were able to contend with them in Nasarawa State. So, even with the inflow of the IDPs, which you mentioned from the neighbouring states that we have, it has not actually escalated to a level beyond control. So, the government was able to contend with it and manage it and being able to ensure that peace and security remains in the state and that is why in my early comment, I said that security is actually job. We want to make sure that people are secured, people are united, people understand the purpose of living together and the meaning of living in peace so that development can come.
Now, the second part you mentioned about the inflow we are having. Today, in Karu, there are more foreigners, if you want o put it that way, non Nasarawa indigenes living in Karu than the Nasarawa State indigenes living in Karu, and they are both there.I think it is an advantage. I think Nasarawa State is not blessed with a lot of who have the capacities to build industries, who have the capacity to do other things. It is in situations like that we need the people.
That is why America is what it is today. America relied on the Chinese, American-Japanese, American- Germans, American-Indian, Americans all coming in to turn round America. That is why we say African-American in general. These were the people that came together to make American what it is called and made America what it is.
So, for me, I have the dream that if at all any local government in Nasarawa State will have that kind of opportunity , it is Karu that will start and coincidentally, just yesterday, the Ezu Karu, the leader came and he did a fantastic visit to me. When he was coming, he didn’t come alone. He came with all his kingmakers who were Gbagi people. In addition to that, he came with all the other king makers for other ethnic tribes- Igbos, itsekiri, all the tribes outside Nasarawa State. He brought them along with him and they were all seated there with him and he said this is Karu family and I was very happy, very excited to receive them the way they are. So, I think that’s what the second part it.
I went to Maraba. I went to Massaka. On my own, I discovered there are a lot of small industries here and there; soap making factory, water factory, juice making factory, some beverages, all in small scale and 90 per cent of them are not owned by people from Nasarawa State. So, I don’t want to keep these people away. We want to open our hands and welcome these people to come in and help us develop our states. The only way you can do this is to let them feel at home. By giving them opportunity to be part of that, it will help us to develop our state. It will help us to generate revenue. It will help us to create employment for our people. More importantly, it will help us to train our own people so that they can go and get jobs outside Nasarawa State.
You have spoken glowingly about Tanko Al-Makura, and in an interview with me, he spoke glowingly about you and about your competence, resume, pedigree and so on. We have seen how tension has always existed between god father and godson, predecessor and successor and so on. How are you guys going to make your relationship friendly?
The issue really with me, and I am afraid and I don’t want it to look negative on any other way; because of my training, because of where I come from, I always try to avoid the word god fatherism because I don’t want to have a god father in politics. I really don’t and there were a lot of people when I just got back to Nigeria from the US, they would say Atiku Abubakar is my godfather and later on, they said Aliko Dangote was my godfather. Today, it is likely people will say oh, Tanko Al-Makura is my godfather. But, if you go to them,they will talk glowingly about me and the reason why they will do that is because I went in there, I did my job as engineer Abdullahi Sule, I did my job within the context of what I was supposed to do and after I finished, I left and that is exactly the way I intend to approach it here. I don’t intend to approach it outside it. I think a god father is the one who will give you money, power; he will seize things and give to you. I have seen a movie, the godfather. So, for me, that’s the way I explain a godfather. I may be wrong and if that’s the case, I don’t want to have that kind of thing and I don’t want to have just that because I don’t want to be treated like a godson where I will be dictated to because I have a vision, I have a mission and I want to be guided.
What the governor has done to me, I will never ever forget because he supported me the time I needed the support very badly. We had 11 contestants. Everyone of us eminently qualified to do this, but as a human being, there is no way you can support 11 people. You had to pick one and state your reason for supporting him and it happened to be me and I am forever grateful to him and I believe very strongly that I will continue to do that. But more importantly, I think the governor has done a wonderful job and if you look at the state, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you want to say, you must say that he did a good job. So, you can abuse him, you can call him names and do whatever you wish to do, but you can’t take away from him what God has gifted him with and that is the good work that he has done for Nasarawa State. He changed the landscape of Nasarawa State. So, is it not something I want to throw away. I don’t want him to be a god father. Any good thing that he did that I believe I can use, I will take it and I will use it; anything that he did so bad and I don’t believe in it, I will keep it away.
I work for the Dangote family, and many times I argued with Alhaji Aliko Dangote. Certain things he brought that I don’t like, I refused. Sometimes, he wanted me to sign certain cheques, I refused to sign and he knew me as that and he respected me also for that. So, that’s the type of stubbornness that I also have inside me because of my own training, my own background and things like that.
But, it is not rudeness. It is just that to a certain extent ,I am an independent person. I know where I am going. I will look for advice. I will look for everything I can get to do that, but not to the extent of taking whatever is just thrown at me. I am not just that type of guy.