SENATOR Kabiru Gaya, is representing Kano South Senatorial District at the Senate on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, (ANPP). The former Governor of Kano State under the Social Democratic Party, (SDP) in this chat with REMI KOLEOSO accused former President Olusegun Obasanjo of practicing military democracy which he said silenced other opposition parties.
He also spoke on why the country should not break even though he pointed out that the north can survive if the worst came to the worst. According to him, the North is not afraid of any break up, saying it would survive on its own, but however submitted that it would be better to be together as one entity.
How was it during your time as the Governor of Kano State?
I was elected as the governor in 1992 but during that period, the monthly allocation from the federation account was between N50 to N70million which is not at present up to one local government monthly allocation and l had 36 council areas. But, l was able to embark on projects that were beneficial to the people. I started earning foreign income that time from the exportation of meat to Saudi Arabia as l revived the moribund abattoir. Also, we developed sport; we sold some players to Saudi Arabian Clubs and we made good money from this. In Agriculture, l told the then President, Ibrahim Babangida that if Kano State is given a conducive atmosphere, it would produce all the wheat required for the country but politics crept in and that was the end. Nowadays, over 70 percent of money available goes to re-current expenditure.
The issue is that the government must have plans for the people.
Many States are going to the capital market before they could embark on developmental projects, What do you think is responsible for this financial crisis in many states today?
If you look at it critically, only four states could survive without the monthly allocation from the federation account. They are: Lagos, Kano, Rivers and Delta. To me, what really caused the financial problem is lack of focus and vision by the various administrations in the country. Interestingly there was vision during the administration of our late leaders, in this country. Leaders like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, Ahmadu Bello among others, they had in their plans, mission and vision where Nigeria would be in the next 50 years.
However all of them focused on Agriculture because of the virgin land and the favourable weather in the country. But shortly after they left, oil was discovered and all of us became lazy, the discovery of oil was a curse rather than a blessing. In those years, Agriculture was the main focus and it worked well and we were exporting palm oil to the countries like Malaysia.
But Malaysia came here under our nose to pick the fruit, but today the reverse is the case. Then we equally produce groundnut in abundance that we export to some Western countries that from it produced groundnut cake, biscuits and oil, but today we import groundnut oil.
Sincerely, the only way you can give people employment is through Agriculture as you cannot give everybody job in the offices.
A good example is when late Audu Bako was the governor of Kano State; he followed the footsteps of our former leaders and concentrated on Agriculture. As one of his strategies then, he built Dam for irrigation to supply water to farmlands and it did for many acres of land. The benefitting farmers throughout the year are busy; they could feed their families and made money. During the period, many River Basins were established to assist farmers throughout the country. Unfortunately during the Military coup in 1985 all the existing River Basins were taken over by the military government a development which took us backward.
Later the government went to sleep with the coming of oil, instead of investing heavily on Agriculture and secure our future, the money realized was used to build Abuja as the headquarters and many bridges that leads to nowhere.
Another mistakes was the establishment of the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill. It was even a white elephant project because the wrong template was used.
We started with the production of iron rods because we are going to build Abuja city, but we should have started with flat sheets and followed by block for car engines; but instead, we made bullet bar which could be cut into pieces for iron rod, but is that our priority? If we had started with flat sheet we would have been able to produce so many things but we went on making rods, so you could see how we were misplacing our priorities.
Also in the automobiles industry, when we wanted to set up assembly plants; instead of starting with one type, we brought varieties, Peugeot, Steyr, Volkswagen and all of them, was just assemble the parts since all of them came with engines and other parts, the country did not learn anything from that. If we had redesigned the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill to a certain requirement for our factory it would have helped us a lot.
Also the Defence Industry Corporation (DIC) Kaduna; in the beginning, the Brazilian came to Nigeria to learn more about the technology there, but today from what they learnt here, they are now producing aircraft. But today, DIC cannot only produce furniture.
We totally misplaced our priority because we have the oil and we forgot everything. The essential things for us to do were that the investment we had in oil, we could re-invest in those areas like Agriculture in particular.
The financial crisis is the problem of some leaders of the country who misplaced our priorities and the effect is what we are reaping today as we used the whole money generated from oil to build structures that are not profitable and cannot stand the test of the time.
What is your own opinion on the clamor for Sovereign National Conference (SNC)?
What are they going to talk about? Personally l don’t even know what they mean and understand what the lapses. Somebody said recently that we should go back to Regional Government; but to me we have since passed that stage because in those days of regional government, what was the total sum of revenue generated compared with the present.
lf you would agree with me, the revenue generated in the Northern Nigeria was used in funding projects in Southern Nigeria, that is why l laughed when some people say that we are using oil money to develop projects in the North, but people forgot all the development we have like Ports in Apapa, Port Harcourt and Warri are from the revenue generated in those days from the Cocoa, Cotton, Groundnut, Palm oil among others.
I remember vividly that the Federal Government then borrowed money from the Northern Nigeria which they never paid back. Why are Nigerians so forgetful? Now you have oil and you are saying let us talk. What do you want to talk about? At present some section of this country are rich, let them share their own money within themselves but people tend to forget that if I invested one million naira in those days in a company and that company is a billion naira company and if that my one million share is just ten percent of the company that means that l have ten percent of one billion naira.
Then, why are people saying that some states are just taking money from oil money without contributing. This oil money is our money, what happens to the oil we produce off shore? I think all this problem is the issue of greed. As of now we have 360 House of Representatives members, we have 109 Senators who are also representing Nigerians then who do you want to bring to discuss Nigerians problems if not these people. At the state level we have states House of Assembly members and at the local government level we have councilors.
These are the people you can communicate to and give them your views and allow them to discuss it and take resolution.
One other thing is that those people, who said they wanted to talk, are they going to be elected or nominated by the government. Let me tell you, if the North wants to break up fine and if the South want to break up then it is fine but what of the investment in the North and the investment in the South? What do you do with all those investments especially Ports Authority?
Would it go to the North or the South as we used the joint money to build it? That’s the major revenue generation from the South and when you go to the South /South, they are producing oil, but how did they drill and set up refineries to refine the oil. Was it not the initial money collected from cocoa, groundnut, cotton that was used then? So what do you want us to break for?
The North is not afraid of break up at all as we have so many potentials that we can survive on. If a country like Niger could survive and discover oil when the land is not even good at all for agriculture, the North equally have potentials of producing oil, but oil is not the solution as many countries without oil are surviving extremely well.
However for those who belief Nigeria must be united for peace and tranquility they are the one who believed that the more the merrier because if we have the population of 150million people then we are the heart of Africa. Personally, issue of disunity would not help us as people forgot that this country must remain united and they must all realize that we fought a civil war to get this country united and l don’t think we want to fight another civil war.
Those who witnessed the civil war would not pray for a repeat. To me why do we need to fight on a resources we can tap and enjoy together. l think the problem we have in this country is how to manage our resources, but every Nigerian wants to be corrupt and be too rich. In this country, if all of us are sincere and honest to our selves, we would achieve greater heights.
But some parts of the country believed that what they are getting from the federation account are not commensurate with the output while others are getting without making any contributions?
People only fight when they want to share money; even thieves anytime they wanted to share their loot. Some parts of country are thinking that they need to take all the resources from what they produce, but the North equally produce groundnut and cotton and we did not take all the resources then. What we are saying now is that if you say you want to manage your resources at this time and the present situation in the country, it means that what you are stealing at present is small and they want to have more so that they can steal more.
The population of North West is about 33 percent of Nigeria population and one state in the South-South is receiving an equivalent allocation of seven states in the North West, then are you saying that is equity and balancing, but is not. If you say you are ready to talk, we are equally ready as there is a lot to talk about. There is a lot of deprivation by other people from other parts of the country. But I don’t want to talk like Northerner but like a Nigerian because l am a Nigerian and l value all Nigerian people and l respect them and l also believe we are all brothers and sisters and if we believe in the biblical injunction that love your neighbours as yourself, why then are we saying that your neighbour is taking too much or that he is taking too much and l want to reduce it. In Nigeria we should try and realize that we must survive together.
Some analysts believed that some parts of the country have more states than others in the 36 states structure of the country and there is need to balance it; that is the more reasons for agitation of states.
The North East has five states, North West has seven while other zones have six each, but look at the map and take the land area and the population of the North and compare to the land area and the population of the South. The creation of the states is not based on the North and South, but we should look at the viability of the states. Let me tell you, no state from all the zones is viable and they are still yearning for more.
The issue of creation of states is to bring development and government closer to the people but not based on balancing. Creation of state is good but what we are saying is that such a state must be viable and able to stand alone.
What has been the role of the opposition in governance in the country?
l am a member of the opposition. In the early 1999, All Peoples Party (APP) as the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) was known then was very strong, but the government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP under President Olusegun Obasanjo who had a military background, liked to dictate and give orders.
He also has political strategies of getting what he wants by directives. Though, l like his courage for that, but, it affected opposition seriously. Before now, ANPP had about 12 states, but because of government pressures, some got scared and ran to the ruling PDP and we came down to nine states and from there, other people were frustrated and blackmailed and equally joined the PDP and later came down to six states and from there we now have three states.
For example in Sokoto and Kebbi states we had picked our gubernatorial candidates, but overnight they left and joined the PDP because they wanted to win. All l am saying is that it was the system, and Obasanjo was having his way. l am however happy with what Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is doing by maintaining South West in the presence of stiff opposition.
I am happy Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) is doing well in the West and equally trying to spread to other parts of the country. If you however look at the way the politics of the opposition is being played under Obasanjo, he played a military democracy which did not give opposition any chance a breathing place. The government made it difficult for the opposition to function.