North-East deserves Senate Presidency or House Speaker – Ibrahim | Independent Newspapers Limited
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North-East deserves Senate Presidency or House Speaker – Ibrahim

Posted: Apr 28, 2015 at 12:20 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Former Governor of Yobe State, Abba Bukar Ibrahim, a Quantity Surveyor, is the representative of Yobe East Senatorial District in the upper legislative chamber of the National Assembly. In this interview with AUSTIN OBOH, Ibrahim, elected as senator for the third time in the last general election, insists that the office of the Senate Presiden or Speakership of the House of Representatives should be zoned to the North-East for the purpose of fairness by the incoming ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).  He also speaks on other issues. Excerpts…  

Abba Bukar Ibrahim

Abba Bukar Ibrahim

In very specific terms, especially since you came to the Senate, what are the tangible achievements you have recorded that may have given your people the zeal to continue to have you as their representative in the Senate?

My tangible achievement in the Senate is my active participation in debates, especially debates on very important national issues for the purpose of making good laws for the governance of Nigeria. Any motion or bill brought to the floor or to the committees or at the public hearings, I usually make my valuable contributions. I participated in committee bills and committee motions either as a sponsor or as a contributor. That is my most important contribution. Also I have taken my oversight function very, very seriously. In whatever committee I found myself, I always take it upon myself to make sure that what has been budgeted for is being implemented; what has been implemented is done properly with good quality and no money is spent anyhow. Whatever amount of money that was spent gets a value in return and beneficial to the good people of Nigeria. And the next thing is that I attracted quite a number of projects in spite of the insurgency. I have attracted quite a number of projects to my senatorial district, even though some of the projects I attracted were not implemented because of insurgency. Some were started and they could not be completed because of insurgency. This insurgency has really set us back. It will take Borno, Yobe and Adamawa a minimum of twenty years to catch up with the rest of Nigerians. They have really cheated us. I really don’t know what to say about this. The only thing I will appeal to the incoming government is to quickly dish out a Marshal Plan for the three states for a minimum period of five to ten years so that all the dilapidated structures, all the burnt structures, all the destroyed structures will be reconstructed, rehabilitated and the people in one way or the will be empowered to go back to their normal life. If you go to Maiduguri today, there are fifteen IDPs, Internally Displaced Persons camps in Maiduguri. People who cannot up till now go back to their towns and villages to continue with their normal work. They cannot farm. They cannot do anything. They are just there being fed by the government day and night with contribution mainly from the state and a little bit from the federal government.

How interesting has your experience been in the last eight years that you have been in the Senate? How has the experience been so far?

The experience makes sense only if you compared it with something. In this regard I will compare it with what I was doing in my state earlier before coming here. Everything I have done as a politician, all along as a civil servant, as a Commissioner and Governor for ten years were local. They all had to do with Borno and Yobe and mainly Yobe. But now we are doing something at the national level. We are making good laws for the good governance of Nigeria. So, that touches on all states of the federation and all manner of people. So, there is a big difference by way of comparison between what we are doing now with what I was doing before coming here.  This one is a national assignment and the other is a local responsibility. So, obviously there are clear-cut differences in the ways things operate where I was before and where I am now. I did more as a Governor than as a Senator.  Even if I stay as a Senator for ten years I cannot do half of what I did as a Governor in my state, because as a governor you had all the resources, you had the power, you had the cabinet, you had the House of Assembly, you have your commissioners to implement all manner of projects. We established nine tertiary institutions when I was governor. We established 1,100 primary schools when I was a governor. We established 28 new secondary schools in addition to expanding existing secondary schools when I was a governor. We constructed thousands of kilometres of feeder roads and hundreds of kilometres of tarred roads, including some federal roads when I was a governor. Some of the roads we constructed Obasanjo refunded the money. Others were not even refunded until I left. I don’t even know the situation right now. I believe we are still being owed money by the federal government of Nigeria on federal roads which we had inevitably constructed. Up till today my current governor is constructing quite a number of federal roads because they are very important; they are very key to our development and federal government is not ready to do them right now. So, the only thing if they accept it you do it and then go for a refund. This has happened several times.

How confident are you that the Nigerian people will fully enjoy the benefit of this change that they happily voted for?

Through the ballot box, through their votes, the people have made it possible for change. Now change has arrived in Nigeria. Change will soon, insha allahu, change Nigeria for the better. Change has always been what we were looking for. We have got it now and we will make the best use of it in order to minimize the suffering of our down-trodden masses.

The general talk now in the country is what shape the government is going to take and the zoning formula for offices, including the National Assembly. Reports indicate that the Senate President has been zoned to the North Central and Deputy Senate President to North East, while the Speakership of the House of Representatives is said to have been given to the South West. As a Senator from the North East, are you comfortable with such zoning arrangement?

It is inevitable that we zone positions right from the leadership of the National Assembly down to the cabinet, that is the president, the ministers, down to the chairmanship of boards, down to members of boards of the MDAs. But the first step so far taken is a wrong step – the Segun Oni adhoc committee has made recommendation for the leadership. It has made a wrong, biased, heavily lopsided recommendation to the party. That first step is a wrong one, a very bad one. I just hope the party will do something about it. I hope Mr. President-elect will do something about it. Of course, whatever anybody says, whatever the party says, whatever the President-elect says, at the end of day it is the members of the National Assembly who are going to elect their leaders, anyway. So, I just hope this first step is corrected. It is wrong for this committee to recommend that North Central which has produced four different Senate Presidents in this country should continue to produce another Senate President while the Northeast which has never ever produced a single Senate President, never ever produced a single Speaker. The highest we have ever held in the North-East zone is the Deputy Speaker. Now, again, the zone is not given either the Senate President or the Speakership.  The south-West which has the Vice President is again given the Speakership and the north central which has produced the Senate President for four times before is again given another chance to produce another one. This is very, very unfair. This is lopsided. This is a continuous marginalization of the northeast which we have been fighting against all this while.  The continuous marginalization and neglect of the northeast has always been our bane; has always been our share in the Nigerian project. We have always been relegated to the background. With over fifty years of marginalization, they made us poverty-stricken, the poorest part of Nigeria, the most underdeveloped part of Nigeria. They still want to continue the same practice. This is the practice of the Southwest, the North Central. The North West of course has always been everywhere marginalizing us. Now they have the President they still want to continue to marginalize us. So, this is a very wrong step. I just hope we are not going to go along that line. The way we have started is very, very wrong. We hope and pray that Mr. President-elect understands the situation, those who are close to him understand this situation and correct these mistakes.

From what you have said so far you are strongly of the view that the Senate President should go to the North-East this time around?

Of course, it is not just me alone, a lot people from within and outside the North-Eastern region have made very, very strong, argument in favour of the Senate President seat or at least the speakership going to the North East. One region cannot continue to have the Senate Presidency. It is not proper. How can the speakership go to the South-West. It will be completely unfair if the North-East is not allowed to produce any one of the two top positions in the National Assembly this time around. Either the Senate President or the Speakership should be zoned to the north east. That is the right thing to do now.

Your name has been mentioned in various media reports as one of those eminently qualified to man the seat of the Senate President. If your party eventually decides to zone the Senate President position to North-East, will you contest for it?

This is very, very immaterial whether I’m going to go for it or I’m going to go for whatever else. What is important to me is for the position to be zoned to the northeastern part of Nigeria. That is the most important thing. If and when they zone it, then you can ask me whether I am interested or not. For now, it is irrelevant whether I am contesting or not. Whether I am contest for any post at all for now it is irrelevant. What is important is let us get the first step right, the zoning. Then, next the candidates will come out. Then next, the National Assembly will elect. Then next, the leadership will take its position. Then we continue making laws for the good governance of Nigeria, while Mr. President struggles with constituting his own cabinet. And I hope also that when the cabinet comes, it is also not going to be the way we have always been treated either by the military or civilian regimes of Obasanjo, Shagari and others. We are always given the least of ministerial positions, mostly Ministers of State who cannot contribute anything to the geo-political zone called the North-East. That will be the next thing. I just hope that as we move along fairness and justice prevail.

The outgoing Senate President, Senator David Mark, is believed to have held the position with all sense of maturity which ensured effective leadership in the Senate that brought about stability in the Upper Chamber, putting an end to the Banana peel that earlier characterized the Senate before he took over. Do you not think there is need for effort to be made to ensure that whoever is taking over from Mark will be able to sustain his good legacy?

Senator David Mark has been a fantastic Senate President. He has ensured stability, unity and peace in the Senate for eight good years. But I believe that there is no zone in this country that cannot produce another David Mark. Our population is such that whatever your requirements are, place it before Nigerians and they will get you a Nigerian who fits that qualification you are looking for. So, I believe we can have more David Marks inside the Senate come June, insha allahu.