The Bauchi State Governor, Mallam Isa Yuguda, recently met with some journalists in Lagos where he spoke on topical national issues. Olawale Olaleye was there. Excerpts:
How do you see the rejection of amnesty by the Boko Haram sect?
Amnesty has been given to the real Boko Haram and I believe that they are willing to negotiate with the government. That is my belief. But you know, there is the criminal Boko Haram and there is the real Boko Haram. So, the criminal and the political Boko Haram are the armed robbers and they are the para-military arm of the politicians. They go about attacking people. The real Boko Haram is willing. But those that are criminal, may be, they are the ones responding that they don't want amnesty because they are benefiting from it.
Some of them are gunrunners; some of them are armed robbers. Some of them are doing that on behalf of politicians. So, they just hide under the name Boko Haram to perpetrate evil and criminality. But for those that call themselves the actual Boko Haram, there is something agitating their mind, not about killing human beings, probably joblessness in the society. Some of them are university graduates. They finish school and for 15 years, there is no job.
Now that the President has extended that olive branch to them, I will like to strongly believe that they will embrace it. There must be an end. Once they accept, we know we have to face the criminals. Any other person that is doing this and calls himself Boko Haram is an armed robber and a political Boko Haram. So, the definition of Boko, you should try to understand it. May be, from the definition, you try to rationalise.
Boko in Hausa is learning, including learning rocket science, chemistry, medicine, biology. That is western in English. But if you learn rocket science in Arabic, is it Boko to you? It is not Boko; it is Arabic. If you learn it in Chinese language, they don't call it Boko. So, you tend to get confused. A medical doctor who went to learn in Indian language or Arabic, as we have close to 40 students from Bauchi learning Medicine in Egypt and they are about finishing next year.
When they come back, they can do a lot of things. So, why should a group come out to say that Boko is Haram. Haram in Hausa is 'forbidden'. Would you forbid the knowledge of medicine? Would you forbid the knowledge of pharmacy? Would you forbid the knowledge of civil engineering or construction engineering? Would you forbid the knowledge of financial management? So, you sit down and ask yourself. What do they want? Let us know what they want. As far as our thinking is concerned, there is no meaning in what they are saying. There must be something that is agitating them.
Is it going to be a doctor by using English, or going to be aeronautic engineer or going to learn rocket science, or sophisticated architecture? And you are using aircraft and pilot. Is it Haram to fly aircraft to Mecca, to Jerusalem? It is a food for thought for all of us. That is why it makes sense and in fact, we have to commend the President for extending that olive branch to those that we know are Boko haram members. But for the criminals, we will fight them; the criminal Boko Haram, the political Boko Haram, the armed robber Boko Haram and the gunrunner everywhere.
Is it true you want to replace the vice-president by 2015?
It is more of the figment of imagination of somebody who wants to play me against somebody I look up to as a senior brother. He grew up in Bauchi. I have known him since I was a small boy. He is working with the President and he is very loyal to the President. He is competent because he is a successful architect. I was in Part one when he was in Part four. We have close family relations and he takes me like a younger brother. Why should I, Isa Yuguda, be blinded by ambition? That I will not be grateful to God but want to be vice-president or president is blind ambition. The Almighty Allah will test me with what is more terrifying to me.
I had the privilege of being an average intelligent human being. I went through school and never failed my exams. I graduated at the age of 20 and at 21, I was doing my NYSC. And I consider myself privileged and have been so favoured by the Almighty God. Sometimes, I even weep in the night when I remember the favour that Allah has done to me. I was one of the bankers that enjoyed the fastest promotion in the banking industry. I have a Bachelor’s Degree; I went through development banking, to commercial banking, mortgage banking and investment banking. I worked with the mortgage bank, development bank. I worked with a commercial bank. I ended up as an investment banker. I was the MD of NAL.
So, if I had that privilege from the Almighty Allah- a two-time Managing Director and I was the youngest branch manager in Savannah Bank at the age of 27. I was 32 years when I became the Director of banking Services. I don't have other diseases in my body than malaria. I am happily married. My children are all healthy; no deformity, nothing. My wives are also healthy. In fact, right now, I have five graduates with master’s degrees and another four are graduating next year. I have the means to send them to school, in spite of the hardship in Nigeria.
I am a two-time minister and by the time I joined the cabinet, I was the youngest minister in Obasanjo’s government in 2000. I never had the ambition of becoming the governor. People were saying, Yuguda, you cannot be a politician because people have a definition of politics that has to do with violence, rancour, arson, mayhem, looting the treasury of government. I am not like that. But today, I am a second term governor. And you are saying that I am begrudging somebody who is the vice-president. What will I get from the office of the vice-president that Allah has not tested me with?
The efforts at reconciling the PDP appear not to have yielded. Why is that?
In every environment, that is why you have a manager; if there are no problems, there won't be any manager. That is why you have the chairman of the party. A party is an association of like-minded people. But sometimes, there is the conflict of ideas, thoughts and vision, and in the process, you have misunderstanding. In families, there are squabbles and misunderstandings here and there which the neighbours should not hear, but they get to hear. If you are not a PDP member, you are a neighbour. I assure you that what you read in the newspapers is not the actual picture.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees and the National Chairman are elder statesmen. At their age, you don't expect rancour from them. Baba Anenih is one of the finest men I have ever met in my life, especially in the political landscape. He loves Nigeria with passion. And, he is a man of peace. Take it from me. I know him closely. He has vision for our country. He is interested in helping Nigeria to grow. PDP is intact, I assure you. And PDP is going to win 35 out of 36 states in the next elections.
How about the crisis in the Governors Forum?
It is not a crisis. The formation of association is provided for in the constitution. Today, the opposition parties have formed an association and we call them the APC. If the PDP governors feel that there are certain things that are exclusive to them as the PDP governors, that there is a PDP manifesto and there is the need for them to discuss together to implement the programmes, the manifestos; we should do that.
But the Governors Forum is Nigeria Governors’ Forum. It symbolises the unity of our country. And I had the privilege of going to the meeting of the American Governors’ Forum. Let me tell you, if the Governors Forum of Nigeria is not like this, then, I will look so cheap.
But how constitutional is the body?
Whether it is constitutional or unconstitutional, it is in our own interest to re-unite and solve our own problems. Is there anything unconstitutional in uniting and discussing our problems?
Is it true the governors are holding the President to ransom, as alleged by Chief Edwin Clark?
What do you mean? Tell me. Let us exchange ideas. I am in government and it is my responsibility to explain certain things to you. You may agree or not agree with me. I owe it a duty to talk to you because I am paid to talk to you so that you tell the people what the government is doing. If we don't talk to you, we are not doing our job. You are saying that the Governors' Forum is holding the President to ransom. I am not bothered by what Baba Edwin Clark has said. I am bothered by what you my younger brothers are saying.
In the interest of the larger Nigeria, our governors are united. I am closer to Fashola than many of the PDP governors. Of course, there are ACN governors that are closer to PDP governors than their own colleagues. When we get to the Governors' Forum, believe me, in the name of Allah, we discuss Nigeria's problems, not the President, not even any other person.
We speak on issues that will unite us. Any issue that we believe that will create a problem for the economy, we thrash it there before even going for the National Economic Council meeting, and we agree and we tell the Chairman of the Governors' Forum that this is the consensus view of the governors. All of us, we speak with one voice on all the issues that concern Nigeria.
But it is said that whenever the NGF Chairman, Governor Amaechi, speaks the mind of the governors to the President, the President sees him as an antagonist?
No. I am afraid, when you talk on what the governors have decided upon, nobody can object to it. The excess crude account is not recognised by the constitution. Is it a fact or fiction? But it is in the constitution that the President has leverage for the purpose of good management of the economy of the country. You take certain decisions. And that is subject to the interpretation of the court, to determine if the excess crude account can be factored in for the good management of the economy. These are questions that you need to ask.
So, there are things we need to discuss generally. Should we have an excess crude account? The position of the governors is that, look, we don't have sufficient money to pay salaries. In the budget, you have recurrent and capital expenditure, but you need revenue to fund them. That is why you have a balanced budget, a deficit budget and excess, a surplus budget.
But all our budgets today, from the federal to the states, are deficit budget. And if you are running a federal budget and you have a deficit, there are three ways of financing a deficit. One is long term borrowing, either from the international capital markets through the raising of bonds. The repayment may take 30 years. But you have to plan very well. If you take this money, we should know precisely where it is going because you are taking the money to fund capital projects. There is nowhere in history an organisation will not be called a failed state if you borrow to finance recurrent expenditure.
The second way of funding the budget is from your reserve. You can run down the reserve and fund your deficit. And the last option is printing money. It has negative effects. A state can raise internal and external loan. For instance, I have the sovereign guarantee of the federal government, approved by the National Assembly, to take a loan of 171 million dollars to build a power plant from China Bank. That facility of 171 million dollars will be paid back in the next 25 years at two per cent.
I am building 150 mega watts power plant. From all indications now, with oil in a town that is not more than 200 kilometers from Bauchi, the cost of transportation of crude oil will not be difficult. So, we can pay back in four or three years. I have signed agreement with the distribution company that will distribute to the zones. I am just waiting for the Minister of Finance to sign the agreement. In the next 18 months, we will have a power plant.