Bauchi State Governor, Mallam Isa Yuguda, a close ally of President Goodluck Jonathan, is one of the outgoing Peoples Democratic Party governors, whose political sagacity is being tasked in the bid to re-elect President Goodluck Jonathan come March 28 this year.
By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
Although he has won many political battles in the past, the forthcoming election remains a test case that may push his political wizardry to the limit given the challenge being thrown at him from within and without his party. But in this interview, the two-time governor boasts that he is equal to the challenge, insisting that Jonathan cannot lose in Bauchi with him presiding over as the governor of the state.
From your assessment of the political atmosphere in your state, can you say with confidence that Bauchi State is ready to re-elect President Goodluck Jonathan on March 28 this year? The question is pertinent given suspicion that some northern governors want to elect Buhari and then work for their cronies in the PDP to succeed them. Any truth in this?
Well, I must say that for any governor of northern extraction to take that kind of position would be a very satanic betrayal because for me, I am not in PDP to tell the president that I am with him and will turn round to do something against him as the president and leader of my party. That would amount to betrayal and betrayal is one of those things that is forbidden by Islam. I will never be a party to that. I would rather have told President Jonathan face to face, just like the other governors who left had done that they would not work with him and I would have walked away rather than remain in the party to work against him. After all, what have I not seen in this country? I have been part and parcel of the Nigerian project. I had served before as a two time minister, a banker and as a governor for eight years. Having come this far in the politics of this country why can’t I tell the truth and stand by it as a governor of a state?
But are you not afraid that your people would see you as an infidel if you don’t work for Buhari?
Look, there is no such issue. The issue at stake is this: are you talking about the votes of the governors themselves or the votes of the people under them? There is no way Nigerians in Bauchi will not vote of Jonathan and Buhari during the election. What we should be talking about is the percentage of votes for each. Don’t allow anyone to deceive you that the votes will be cast for one person. It is not possible in today’s Nigeria. But I want to assure Nigerians that Jonathan will win in Bauchi to enable him to continue the good work that he is doing in Aso Rock. In that case, I want to assure the president that he cannot lose election in Bauchi State when I am the field commander.
There is this allegation that Jonathan was stoned at the Bauchi Stadium when he came for campaign. Was he really stoned because as we speak, no such picture has been released to the public domain?
I want to say that I am not aware of the destruction of vehicles during the rally. All I am aware is that at the time when we were at the venue of the rally, there were some incidents of some youths throwing missiles at the podium when the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory was speaking. That I knew about. Again, at the time I came with the president and we were going round, some miscreants pelted us with some stones. Also, as we drove into the town with Mr. President, some youths were organised to raise brooms as our convoy was passing by.
That I know was organised ostensibly to give the erroneous impression that Isa Yuguda is hated by his own people. But that is not the true position. I think the social media carried some clips that seemed to suggest that there was stoning of some people on the podium.
But I want to assure all Nigerians that President Goodluck Jonathan was not stoned at the Bauchi Stadium on the day he came to campaign there. I was also not stoned while making my own speech on that day. In fact, when the president stood up and shouted Asalamilekum, everybody stood up and answered him and when I came and shouted, “Nigeria!” the same crowd rose and answered, “Sai Jonathan” up to five times.
That was the reaction of the people of Bauchi to Mr. President when he came campaigning in the state that day. So, that goes to confirm the acceptability and the support that Mr. President has in Bauchi as against the impression being given by some persons that he was stoned and rejected in Bauchi. That is far from the truth and Nigerians should know that. Mr. President is definitely welcome in Bauchi. If that was not the case, I would have told the President and pleaded with him to allow me go elsewhere. But to the extent that I know the people of Bauchi are with me I have the comfort to tell the president that I am with him.
There is this open suspicion that the three most senior PDP leaders in the state -the National Chairman, the FCT Minister and you the governor-are not working together in the process of delivering the state to Mr. President. What could be the problem or the missing link?
Well, what I can say is that I have tried very hard to work closely with these people you have mentioned to bring about peace and success for the party and the president. I think that if the two of them do not want to work with me, Nigerians should understand why it is so. They should understand that I stand out as the elected governor of Bauchi State and that they are appointees of the president.
I am the field commander for Mr. President in my state. I won my election after leaving PDP in January 2007 and two months later I won my election as governor under the platform of the ANPP, defeating PDP and the same party should know today that I decided to return to PDP after leaving ANPP. They should also remember that in 2011, I stood for election under PDP and won despite the fact that these same set of people fought against me. So, it is the will of Allah that I am with my people. And it stands to reason that if I am with Mr. President, my people too, are with him and there is no reason to fear. I can say that there is no reason Jonathan can lose election in my state except some of these people you are talking about are sabotaging us.
But let me say that winning election requires only 25 percent and Jonathan is going to get it this time around. In 2011, he did not get it but this time around he is going to win in Bauchi. But I should be allowed to carry my cross and deliver the state to Jonathan; I don’t need anybody’s assistance. I only need God’s assistance and I am praying that Mr. President gives me his support. Let him allow me to do my job as his field commander. He does not need to come back to Bauchi for campaign. I am there for him. I will deliver for him. After all, there are many states which do not have Abuja politician and they are winning elections for him. Jigawa is one of them, Niger is another. , Sokoto was one of them and many others. So, If I can perform the feat that other governors have not performed, they should give me the chance to prove my capacity as I did before, that is leaving PDP, defeating PDP, coming back into the PDP and defeating the opposition, then they should know I am not just there to make noise but to deliver.
As you are about to hand over to your successor in May, have you been able to deliver on your promises to the state and its people?
Yes, absolutely. I can say that I am more than satisfied with what I set out to do when I assumed office in 2007 and 2011. I can say without fear of contradiction that I have delivered on all the promises I made to the people of the state. Of all the things I promised I would do, there is only one that is yet to take off, that is the Kafinsa Dam project, which is a Federal Government Project.
Can we have an idea of some of the projects?
Let’s start with health: I have constructed over 50 brand new hospitals and a specialist hospital, which is now a referral one, which is the best hospital in West Africa today. I can boast that there is not one of its kind anywhere in Nigeria as at today and I challenge any hospital management in any part of Nigeria to visit Bauchi to see things for themselves. Nigerians don’t need to go outside for any medical attention with the completion of this hospital in the state. All the equipment are there and it is not mere talk. I have delivered on all the rural projects I promised. These are in terms of roads, water supply and electricity. I have constructed over 400 motorised boreholes and schools. I have constructed over 1000 primary health centres, I have rehabilitated almost 90 percent of all secondary and primary schools in the state and fitted them with chairs and tables and 6 billion books. Bauchi and Lagos states are perhaps the only states that have been able to supply books from the primary to the secondary schools to their people.
I have established a state-owned university with all faculties except that of of Medicine. I have made it possible for us to have a teaching hospital. I handed over the facilities of the then Bauchi Specialist Hospital to the Federal Government to set up one and it is one of the best. I have constructed one of the best airports in Nigeria and it has one of the most modern facilities as at today. It is ready to support the economy of the country because it can handle any type of aircraft.
There is a rumour that you are owing workers’ salaries. Why have you not paid?
I do not owe anyone any salary. I have said it before because some people claim that the state is owing them one month salary arrears. I still maintain that it is not true we are not indebted to any category of workers. What happened was that I was going to pay what we call 13th month salary to workers as a bonus but since they claim that it is a debt; I have withdrawn the bonus so that we maintain a clean record of payment of staff salaries. Bauchi state is the only state that does not owe any salary arrears to its workers. That is the truth.