APC Govt Has Performed Creditably Well-Senator Yusuf

By Ikenga Chronicles July 28, 2017

APC Govt Has Performed Creditably Well-Senator Yusuf

Senator Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf represents Taraba  Central Senatorial District. In this interview with Ikenga Chronicles, he rates the APC-led Federal Government and talks on other key national issues.

Excerpts:

IC: How will you rate the performance of the Eighth Senate for the past two years?

Abubakar Yusuf: Let me first of all thank you for this opportunity. I will say we have done well and have out-performed the previous Senates comparatively and have summoned the courage to pass some of the bills that the previous Senates could not pass. To this extent we have done well. You are aware that we have passed the Petroleum Industry Bill–at least part of it– which is one of the most difficult Bills that the previous Senates could not work on. You are also aware that we now have Railway Authority instead of the Railway Commission. We have also made doing business in the country easier. For the first time in history, we have subjected the budget to a public hearing and have made public the budget of the NASS contrary to what was tenable in the past. So to this extent, I think we have done well so far. We have been able to demonstrate that we truly represent our people.

IC: But the Eighth Assembly is considered to have a frosty relationship with the Executive. What is your take on this?

Abubakar Yusuf: I would not say that there is a frosty relationship but yes in every relationship there are bound to be some challenges. The relationship between the Senate and the Executive is expected to have some checks and balances and you would naturally expect some challenges but that is nothing new. It is not something out of place and is ordinary. It is simply relationship in its excellent form.

IC: So what is your assessment of the APC-led federal government after two years in office?

Abubakar Yusuf: You see, how you perform today depends on what has happened in the past and what your projections are. In the past sixteen years, the PDP government has not done well for this country. There is a lot of misinformation that has been fed to the people. When this government was coming in in 2015, our promise was to fight corruption, insurgency and revive the economy. So far, the war against corruption is going on well, insurgency has been brought to its knees and work is underway to revamp the economy. So we are gradually meeting the expectations of our people in terms of the primary promises that we made.

IC: But the fight against corruption is considered by many as being selective and ineffective, considering the number of cases that the EFCC have lost in recent times.

Abubakar Yusuf: Whether the fight is selective or not is not the issue. Our concern should be; has the Federal Government shown enough courage to take on the fight? Once that is established in the affirmative, the issue of selectivity becomes inconsequential. We need to stop politicising the fight against corruption in this country. It affects all of us. In any case, the EFCC has said that they have won more cases than they have lost. So the war is a success so far.

IC: You said that insurgency has been brought to its knees but the herdsmen-farmers crisis is just as bad and some believe that it is the Boko Haram that has metamorphosed into this militia herdsmen.

Abubakar Yusuf: Well I think they are wrong. We should not mix apples and oranges. The challenges of herdsmen and farmers have been there even before the advent of Boko Haram. These are two different issues altogether. One is a major security concern while the other is a matter of providing a means of livelihood both for the farmers and the herdsmen.

IC: What is the solution to the herdsmen-farmers crisis?

This is very simple. We should be honest with one another and we should be just. During the regional arrangement, there were clearly defined cattle routes where cattle would follow, not just in Nigeria but across the entire West African region. Over time, probably as a result of population increase or depletion of land fertility, these roads have been taken over. In this part of the world, cattle rearing is a mobile business. Grazers have to move as the seasons dictate. So if these roads are not opened up, it would be very difficult. Because of how fertile those roads had become, farmers moved in and took over these legally and clearly defined roads, illegally. So we need the political will to address this issue. We need to try over time to reduce the nomadic life of the rearers. The people are already used to the system. I agree that ranching is the solution but that has to come gradually. It shouldn’t come abruptly. It is a gradual process.

IC: What is your take on the anti-grazing bill under consideration in your home state?

Abubakar Yusuf: Ultimately, ranching is the best solution. There is no doubt about that but it has to be gradually like I said. You need to enlighten the people. A typical example of the benefits of ranching is Gembu where you have full ranching. But then there must be some movement of cows anyway. Even when I ranch my cows, there may be need for me to move them from time to time. The political leaders must develop the feelings of the nomadic herders, otherwise, these crisis would continue to reoccur. The only thing here is that it should not come up abruptly like this.

IC: Your constituency suffered some crisis recently. What do you know about this crisis and how do you feel about it?

Abubakar Yusuf: I feel very sad. I feel very bad about it. There is a lost of lives, both human and animal and the destruction of homes and other issues. It is an unfortunate incident that should not have happened at all.

IC: How do you rate the role of the state government in handling the crisis?

Abubakar Yusuf: The primary and fundamental role of any government is the protection of lives and property and if you look at it in that context, you wonder what limited the state government from acting at the time that it should. I don’t know the challenges that they had but from what I’ve gathered, the situation would not have gotten so bad had the government acted as and when it ought to have. The political atmosphere seemed to have been charged, even before the crisis. If the political elites had sat down to tell ourselves the truth and address the issues, this would have been avoided.

IC: Do you see politics playing a key role in the crisis?

Abubakar Yusuf: I very much want to say that I have no knowledge of the political implications of this crisis. However, one can only say that this thing has happened as a civil case between two people but has gone unchecked to this extent with so much damage to our economy and sense of oneness. I am a politician but I wouldn’t know if there are political interests. What I know is that lives are lost and the economy is pulverized. I just hope that the political leadership of the state would be able to bring back the mutual trust among the people to enable them to live together.

IC: What do you think differentiates this crisis from the others in the state?

Abubakar Yusuf: From the information that I have from different sources, compared with other places, this crisis is very different from the others in Takum, Ussah and the rest. It is not like one is as a result of the other. On the Mambilla Plateau, it is not a fight between ethnic groups. It is an attack. This thing started in Ngoruje and within twenty four hours, it had gone to as far as places that are over seventy kilometers from there. So certainly it is an attack on innocent persons on the other side of the divide. So I think we need to do a lot more intelligence work. We need to study the situation a lot  more by talking to people to establish what has happened.

IC: Land ownership on the Mambilla is considered to be the remote cause of the crisis. Do you think there is need for land ownership arrangement there to be revisited as a way out of this situation?

Abubakar Yusuf: Thank you for that. You see these are all challenging issues. Both human and animal population is increasing without a corresponding increase in land mass and fertility. Yes, land may be an issue. The process of addressing land control is what is probably the major problem. If I have my Certificate of Occupancy given by the government and I have been meeting my own obligations in terms of rental payments on the land and you want to take it away from me, certainly I would try to resist. But if we all seat down as stakeholders to talk instead of you blackmailing and arm-twisting me to do your bidding, maybe it could be done. Let us sit down and frankly talk about it. Yes I have large expanse of land and whether I bought it or it is allocated to me, once I have the titles, I am entitled to that private ownership as enshrined in the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria. Now we can seat and talk about it and not by forcing me. Okay, what has animals done? Do animals own land? But you have situation where animals have been killed, maimed and you begin to wonder why. I think the problem is not the allocation of land  or its ownership but the process of redistribution of the land that has caused so much problem and that is why I say the stakeholders, the government, ought to have sat down and determined honestly is the problem and how we can solve it. That would have saved a lot of lives and trouble. As a Senator representing Central Taraba, I was born in Ngoruje but as we talk now, I don’t have a single animal on the Plateau. I don’t have a piece of land for ranching or grazing. I have a piece of land that I bought in 2015 to start building my own house there. So you see that this thing ought to be looked into in a wider perspective rather than a parochial context. If we could sit down, we would resolve this issue and it should never have resulted into this carnage.

IC: Even before the crisis, the state government had set up a committee headed by the deputy governor resolve the issues there. Don’t you think this was enough?

Abubakar Yusuf: I think that government already knows the people who own the land, the sizes and usage. However if the government still wants to reconfirm the information and engage the stakeholders, they have to do that through advocacy. Government has the powers to do most of the things but probably, as a result of lack of involvement of the stakeholders, it may create lack of trust in the effort of the government. The people have the right to be involved in what the government was doing.

IC: Despite the huge natural resources in Taraba, the state remains highly impoverished. What do you think is responsible?

Abubakar Yusuf: You see, historically, we have not seen any commensurate impact and I continue to say that for sixteen years, the PDP government failed this country. When you talk they say it is politics but let us look at what is on the ground. We must begin to love ourselves and see the Taraba project as our collective responsibility. It is so saddening to see how other states that are younger, less endowed and that collect less allocation are growing. Is it that we are so different that we cannot harness our collective intellect to move the state forward? Is it that we have such a fundamental issue of disunity among the leaders? The issue is with the leaders because I don’t think the followers have so much differences. I think the problem is the failure on the part of successive political leadership in the state.

IC: How will you rate the performance of Governor Ishaku so far?

Abubakar Yusuf: The truth is that, we must all put our hands on deck for the development of Taraba state. The state needs a lot of roads. The entire Taraba Central which is my constituency is not connected to the national grid. You have been to the Mambilla Plateau and you know there is only one road that is not even in a good shape. The state government has awarded a contract for the construction of the road a long time ago though. But as leaders, we need this passion, this vigour, this strong political will to move the state forward. And this is not just about the governor. No. All the political elites from the local government to the state assembly to the national assembly members, irrespective of party, tribal and religious affiliation. Development should be a function of all this. In my opinion, development should be a collective responsibility. You will notice that our problem is purely the selfishness of the political elites. They want do out-do one another in terms of resource control, monopoly of political power,etc. In my opinion, religion and ethnicity play very minimal roles compared to the elitist selfishness that has come to bear on the development of our people. So we need to restructure our habits and how we relate with one another. We need to imbibe this change mantra and accept that we don’t have monopoly of everything and so we need one another in order to move forward.

IC: Restructuring is the trending word now in the country. What is your understanding of the word?

Abubakar Yusuf: My take on restructuring is simply redistribution of resources from the rich to the poor. That is the best restructuring that we can have in this country. Devolution of power, states creation and all that are hardly the solution. Like Murtala Muhammad of blessed memory said, the more you create states, the more you highlight the problem of minority groups. And so the only solution is in identifying ourselves first and foremost as Nigerians. For us to achieve this, we must change our habits for the good of the country. Wealth is concentrated in the hands of very few while the greater majority are very poor and impoverished. So in my opinion, the only form of restructuring needed is redistribution of resources so the larger majority are beneficiaries. So long as a few continue to control the wealth meant for many, the problem would persist. Dissolution of power, creation of states and all other efforts would only continue to highlight the problem of minorities, in terms of religion, ethnicity, socio economic status, age and otherwise. There are many areas that can be restructured but the most important area is wealth redistribution across borders because there is poverty across boards just as there is concentration of wealth in a few hands everywhere. This is the only restructuring that I want to see in my lifetime.

IC: How do you propose that to be done?

Abubakar Yusuf: Simple. You just need the political will. Only 20% of the population pay taxes. Why can’t we have more than that. The rich are not paying taxes. They evade tax. The government need the will to tax the wealthy for the good of the generality of the people. Luxuries are not taxed in this country. Why would the poor continue to subsidize the rich. The rich are enjoying formidable subsidies while  the poor are suffering. So it is very easy. Taxation, so long as it does not discourage investment.

IC: What are your achievements and your plans for your constituents?

Abubakar Yusuf: First of all, I must say I am proud to be part of this Eighth Senate. We have the mind to be able to do the things that could not be done previously. And then, contrary to general believe, we have been able to establish a more harmonious working relationship with the executive for the ultimate good of Nigeria. And within the framework of that harmonious working relationship, I have been able to do a lot in terms of making motions and Bills that I have sponsored and a lot of oversight functions which centre more on how to recover revenues that are misappropriated by so many agencies of government. Imagine a revenue budget of about 1.5 trillion and government can only get four hundred billion. That is not good enough and needs to be corrected. By the grace of God I am part of that team. We have also passed a wonderful motion about pre-shipment inspection. We discovered that the Nigerian government is not getting the right value for its export especially crude oil export. So we are participating in uncovering this. Once that is done, we would have more value for our currency and that would be a major boost to the economy and development. I have also worked hard to see how we can complete the Mambilla Hydro Dam which has the potentials of producing many Megawatts of power. Once we can get that, it will be beneficial to the state and federal government and even neighbouring countries. For a project that could not be actualized in thirty four years, you know what it means if we are able to get it running. So by the grace of God, and the working of the president and the minister of power and significantly, the governor of Taraba state who is also working so hard, we hope to actualize this and soon too. So I am proud to be part of the team that would get this done. Over seventy five thousand people would work on this for about seven years. That would do magic to the economy of the state and the country at large. So we are working. I am sponsoring some students in the universities, I have sponsored some candidates who sat for JAMB, I have also assisted some to join the Police, Immigration, and others. So ultimately we are working. I have been able to do some developmental projects such as provision of boreholes, town halls, computer centres and more. So we are doing a lot actually.

IC: As the leader of the APC in Taraba, what do you think is the fate of the party in the state and the country at large, ahead of the 2019 elections?

Abubakar Yusuf: Well we have no fear whatsoever. We are not talking about the dwindling fortunes of the PDP. No. That is not what is giving us power. It is about doing things that would sustain the acceptability of the party in the state as it has been since 2014 and to make sure that we attract even more people to the party. We have no reasons not to sustain it. Look at the N-Power scheme alone. About four thousand from Taraba. And that is just the N-Power. We are not talking about other empowerment scheme like the home grown school feeding, soft loans for agriculture and businesses to help people grow their own wealth. More people are going to benefit this year and in the years ahead and more people are going to be more convinced that APC is the party that has the interest of the people at heart. We are going to provide a much more unified understanding of Taraba.

IC: Do you see the APC winning Taraba in 2019?

Abubakar Yusuf: Well, even in 2015 we won the elections, just that the court in its wisdom decided to give victory to the PDP. So I don’t see any reason why the party would not win in 2019. We would definitely win.

IC: People have expressed a lot of concern about the health of Mr President.

Abubakar Yusuf: Yes that is true and it shows just how much Nigerians love and care about the wellbeing of Mr President. But you are aware that the President spoke to Nigerians during Salah. That alone renders what Gov. Fayose was saying useless. As leaders, we must have respect for other leaders and the sanctity of human lives. Everybody gets ill. So why politicize his illness? He has spoken to Nigerians and yes he is sick but he is also recuperating and that does not mean his illness is beyond him talking to the Nigerian people. For me, the most important thing is for us to continue to pray for him. In any case, the President has transmitted power to the acting President and constitutionally, there are no issues. The acting President is doing wonderfully well, he has demonstrated uncommon competence and capability and with the understanding of the party and the national assembly, he has every reason to excel. So for me, I don’t see any challenge. Remember he signed the budget that would be implemented. So ultimately, our prayer is for the President to have speedy recovery and return home but until then, the acting President is doing a great job of it.

IC: What is your message to the governor and the people of Taraba state?

Abubakar Yusuf: First of all, I want to condole with the governor over the lose of his SSA media Sylvanus Giwa and the entire people of the state over the lose of our former governor Danbaba Suntai and the many lives that are lost in the Mambilla. Life is sacred and any loss of life is a sad experience. I am sad we lost those lives and I pray that God would give the people and government of Taraba the fortitude to bear the loses. My heart also reaches out to those who are in the hospital beds and in IDPs camp. I pray that God would give guidance to the government and people of the state so that they would take decision that would benefit the people.

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