Alhaji Aliyu Bello is the State Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nasarawa State. In this interview with our reporter, Bello who just returned to the country from a medical tourism in India, speaks on the achievements of Governor Abdullahi Sule, who recently clocked one year in office, among other issues. Excerpts:
Recently, Nasarawa State Governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule attained one year in office. As the State Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), how can you describe the journey so far?
At the risk of being selfish, because what you are saying involves my own political party, which I’m the chief scribe in the state, it also involves the achievements of my governor, who belongs to my political party.
However, being a grassroot politician, I have always been in the midst of people. So far, so good. People are really appreciative because he has agreed to build on the foundation laid by his predecessors. And that is what we are saying. Because most of the achievements that he has recorded, are achievements that are very visible. Some where his personal initiative, some were started by his predecessors, especially former governor, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-makura. You can see among those he initiated, a very interesting one is the 15km Sisin Baki- Farin Ruwa road. This road has been there, with all previous governments promising to execute that project but only Engineer Abdullahi Sule is finally able to do that. Also, the 25km Mararaba Udege Mbeki road, has been in the pipeline through successive administrations. Under this present administration led by Engineer Sule, if you go there, work is presently ongoing. The employment of teachers, about 2500 teachers, that the immediate past administration engaged but now have been issued with appointment letters and all of them posted to various schools for their primary assignment. There are lots of things that the governor has done. In Lafia, the state capital, the Al-makura and Abuja streets have remained dilapidated, having been built for over 30 years. Engineer Sule is reconstructing these popular roads now. The Shinge road that was started by Senator Al-makura is presently being completed. The solar lights installed across the 13 local government areas, is something of joy for the people. If you look at the mega bus terminals being constructed in Karu and Lafia, with another coming up in Akwanga, these are initiatives that will reposition the state in terms of revenue generation. Most importantly, Engineer Sule is the most friendly, the commonest governor that I have ever seen. He is too common. He is very close to the people. Whoever you are, if you call Engineer Sule on phone, he will pick it and attend to your complaint. As far as we are concerned, we have seen what he has achieved so far. In a nutshell, in one year of his stewardship, Engineer Sule has indeed exceeded the expectations of the people of Nasarawa State and we are happy about that.
As a grassroot politician who has witnessed and being part of past administrations in the state, what in your view stands out this present administration led by Engineer Abdullahi Sule, particularly in the area of leadership style?
He is a servant leader. This is the first time, let us be frank, apart from Al-makura that came and a lot of people that were previously unknown and he brought them to limelight, Engineer Sule is a servant-governor because he likes everybody to giving his own bit. If you are a commissioner, he wants you to do your work properly, he doesn’t discriminate or hijack or bye-pass his subordinates. That is why we see him, I call him the uncommon governor and he is the most common governor, the simplest person that I have ever seen. If you look at how he dresses, he looks like any other person in the society. If you look at his relationship with the civil servants, it’s one hundred percent OK. If you look at his relationship with political appointees, it’s one hundred percent OK. His relationship with the electorates, the people that voted for him, it is also one hundred percent OK. The people like to see things going in a different direction but this is the man that is always focused, this is a man that wants to do things rightly and correctly. That is why even if you blame him, he doesn’t care. He is not the type of person to pay attention to needless blames. Once Engineer A. A Sule sets his mind to achieve an objective, he makes sure he gives his best to achieve that goal. Most of the places, the schools he constructed and commissioned, just within just one year, you see, he is a silent achiever. I am telling you, he is a silent achiever and people are so happy with him. Everywhere you go, every patriotic citizen of Nasarawa is happy with him.
You mentioned the fact that Engineer A. A Sule has committed himself to completing projects started by his predecessors. But there are some people who think, for the state to develop properly, the present governor must be in loggerhead with his immediate predecessor…
Yes, we know that there are people who don’t even wish the state well. They are not even wishing only Al-makura and Engineer A. A Sule well but the entire state. There are some people who would prefer to see the state been put on fire. We know those kind of people, we know their antics, we know their antecedents and we don’t care about those people. All what we are saying is that, there was a peaceful transition from a brother to a brother, a peaceful transition from a political party to the same political party. For someone just to wake up one day and advise that there should be quarrel between these two patriotic citizens of Nasarawa State, such a person does not mean well for Nasarawa State. I want to believe that Senator Al-makura and Governor Sule will continue to shame their detractors, because Al-makura has achieved a lot and even if it is the candidate of APGA that, God forbid, that was emerged as governor of Nasarawa State, there is no way that he can wished away the achievements of Almakura in Nasarawa State, talk more of a person that is a brother to Al-makura, from the same political party. How can he be so confrontational, especially with the tremendous achievements recorded by the former governor? We are with them, we will continue to support them, we will make sure that nothing, by the grace of God, comes in between them. Except peaceful co-existence and harmonious relationship. This is our own bid, on our part in the party.
It’s common knowledge, based on his private sector background, Engineer A. A Sule is being seen as Mr. Revenue, considering the thrust of his administration towards raising the revenue profile of the state. Particular reference is made to his drive to attract investors into the state. Even though this have begun to yield results, people are complaining that these are yet to translate into gainful employment for people of the state. What is your take?
For a start, let these people visit the sites of these companies. If you go to the sites, you will be able to see whether or not people are being employed. If you go to Tunga, for example, people are working there, engineers are working there, drivers are working there, labourers are working there. What kind of employment are you looking for? But by the time these industries comes into full swing, you will see a lot of our people being employed. Even now, if you go to most of these sites, it is our indigenes that are engaged. If you go to the bus terminal being constructed by the state government, there are people working there. The consultant is from Nasarawa State, he has over 200 people under his employment. Architect Shehu Tukur is the consultant. With this, are there not employment? You can’t sit down in the comfort of your house and begin to insinuate that you didn’t see employment. You go to Tunga, there are lots of people working there. You go to Toto, there are lots of people that are working. Even for you to establish a site plan, you have to employ a lot of people to do the site plan for you. A lot of people have started benefitting from the patriotic initiative of Engineer A. A Sule. He is being patriotic but we know you cannot satisfy everybody. Once you are patriotic, you have lots of problem with people who does not want to see the progress of the state. So many people are consumed by religious and ethnic bigotry, and we can’t move forward if we continue to imbibe that culture of religious and ethnic intolerance. Engineer A. A Sule, so far, in this one year, has exceeded all expectations and we believe in that.
Considering the hardships brought about by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the state government has been making efforts to alleviate the plight of vulnerable persons in the society, by way of distributing various food items as palliatives. What role is the party playing in ensuring that government achieves its desired objectives?
Certainly we are doing that and the distribution is going down into the grassroot. The party is there and government is doing everything to ensure that people at the grassroot access these food items, regardless of political party affiliation. And nobody is complaining about that except the people who don’t want to see anything good about the government and the party. So far, so good. Nobody is complaining. I was discussing with a medical doctor, who told me that our isolation centre is one of the best in the entire country. That people, mostly positive cases from Abuja prefer to be isolated in Nasarawa State. We operate the best isolation centre in the whole of Nigeria. You see, the governor has done a lot but people who does not like him, will not see it. The people that don’t like our party, will not see it. They people wo don’t like to see the progress of the state, will not see it.
Recently, there was controversy on the alleged second term ambition of the governor, barely one year into office. It was alleged that some detractors are insisting that Engineer Sule will only last a single term, which elicited response from the governor during a parley with newsmen. Is the APC in agreement with what the governor stated?
As far as I am concerned, as a politician and as a democrat, I believe the governor has trespassed into an area that does not belong to him. The issue of second term or whatever term, belongs to God and the people of Nasarawa State. It’s not the purview of the governor to decide whether thee could be a second term or not. This decision belongs to God and the people of Nasarawa State. So, the governor made a mistake by even answering them. Based on his achievements, based on his antecedents, based on his popularity, simplicity and common nature, I mean he is the commonest person that I have ever seen. Being a governor he is too common, because he is always together with the people. It’s the people that will so desire to answer those questions. But if one person out of every ten, comes to say you are going to do one term, mind you, it’s there liberty to say what they want to say but the people of Nasarawa State will decide at the appropriate time who they want to be their governor in the next four years. I believe Engineer A. A Sule as governor of Nasarawa State, whether you like it or not, the people of Nasarawa State will ensure that he is being re-elected for the second time. So the issue of whether he doesn’t care they vote for, that’s not for him to even say that. We, the people of Nasarawa State, myself and other patriotic citizens of Nasarawa State, will call him to come and contest, we will even beg him because of what he has been doing for us. So, he has trespassed forgiving that answer because that answer does not belong to him, it belongs to the people of Nasarawa State. And we will continue to say, if next time, if anybody wants to ask, whether he is going to contest for a second term. He should ask the people of Nasarawa State. Nasarawa State belongs to all of us, it doesn’t belong to anybody, it doesn’t belong to any Majalisa or tribe in town. It belongs to the entire people of Nasarawa State. You can say what you want to say but the majority will have what they want to have. I want to believe that based on the qualities that I have enumerated, for Engineer A. A Sule, it will be an easy ride to a second term, by the grace of God.
Considering the policies of the administration in the areas of education, investment, industrialization, etc, juxtaposed against the backdrop of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, how does the party comes in?
Now that the governor has an economic team, and all these that you have outlined, are fully the responsibility of the economic team. Politically, we will advise the governor and that is why there is no political crisis in Nasarawa State. We are going as a family. Maybe you must have heard that there was a primary election just about few days ago and the governor said he has no candidate. Even though his own coordinator contested the election, he said he had no candidate and he refused to support anybody. His coordinator contested the election, his special adviser contested the election and all the people that contested the election are ardent supporters of Engineer A. A Sule. And he said he has no candidate. It was one of the most transparent primaries ever held in Nasarawa State. And all the contestants have agreed, that yes, the primary election was credible, free and fair and they are going to support APC one hundred percent. By the grace of God, on August 8, you will see what will come out of that election. Ours is to advise him on the political aspect, he has his economic team and I know, that is why things are going fine for him, the economic team are advising him appropriately because he has selected professionals to give him that advise and they are doing it.
Recently, the NWC of the ruling APC was dissolved, which led to lots of controversies. What is your take on this dissolution?
I am a party man. And one of the highest organs of the party, which is responsible for this, has spoken, which is the National Executive Committee of our party. As a party man and as a loyal member of the party, we have no option than to abide by the decision of the NEC. And if you look at it, the party was seriously in a mess, because at a particular time, it seems that it is only one organ of the party that was functioning. Other organs were not functional. And that was what brought the problem. Once we follow the constitution, we follow the rules, the guidelines, we have no problem. No matter how imperfect is your own rule, follow it. But by the time you refused to go by the rules, we will have problem. And that is what we are facing. When because of selfishness, we decided to jettison our own rules and continue to do as we want it and they way it will suit us, we will have problem. We sincerely thank our leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, for rising up to the occasion by ensuring that, yes, the NWC is dissolved and by the grace of God, election is going to be conducted and if there are people that are fit among them, will definitely be re-elected. Nobody is closing the door for them. Bu certainly, this thing came at the right time and as party men, we are in support of it. Personally, I am in support of that decision by the NEC.
Nigerians are reading meanings into this development within the APC. Some are seeing it as agitations towards 2023 presidential election?
We always say it, not only 2023. Nobody knows who and who will reach 2023. Certainly, God knows already who will become president come 2023. And nobody can change that. As far as I am concerned, it’s time for governance and we should support our various governments from the federal to state, to perform the constitutional function that we elected them to do. Which is the four-year mandate we have given them. For us to start thinking about 2023, I think it’s too early. It’s too early. My take as a politician, everybody should be giving the chance to participate in whatsoever position he or she wishes to contest. That’s my view. And there should be give and take. Once I agree to allow you, you should also agree to allow me and there won’t be any problem if we do that. That’s my take.
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