Mallam Ali Wakili is the Senator representing Bauchi South Senatorial District at the red chamber of the National Assembly. In this interview with journalists in Bauchi, he bares his mind on the issue of local government autonomy, clamour for restructuring of the country, IPOB agitations for actaulisation of Biafra and the rift with Bauchi State governor and many others. SAMUEL LUKA was there.
You are one of the senators who were worried about the plight of the third tier of government, that is the local government. For some years now local government elections have not been conducted in Bauchi State and other states of the federation. What do you think is the cause of this?
If you look at the constitution amendment or alterations that we have proposed, we have said that the local governments should be made to function on their own.
All federal allocations meant for the local governments should go directly to the local governments and that as a democratic country there shouldn’t be any caretaker system and that this money can only be released to an elected local government council Chairmen.
We have created our own path from the National Assembly. The various states Assemblies and the people of the states, the challenge is now between them and their members of the state Assembly, either they concur and become alright or they throw it out and we are still in square zero. You see we have said it, part of our problem in Bauchi State is part of the issue of this election.
When we were campaigning, we did promise that we were not going to operate the caretaker system, but unfortunately the bulk stops at the table of the governor and the state Assembly and in the wisdom of the governor he has decided to continue using the caretaker chairmen. And remember there is a subsisting court case. Some citizens have gone to court to challenge this issue on this one, so let us not be prejudicial.
Some Nigerians are calling for restructuring of the country. How would you react to the recent call by Arewa Youths that the Igbo in the North should leave the region by October 1st and how do you want this country to be restructured?
No, I don’t think the issue of restructuring is because of the so-called Arewa youths. You will remember since the annulment of June 12 election so many people have come up with so many lexicons, restructuring, true federalism, fiscal federalism, zoning and other things. As an individual I am always baffled.
You know Nigerians we are always good in sending hypes when it suits us. Ordinarily we know the meaning of restructuring. When you want to restructure something you make it better.
That is the aim of restructuring. In our own case, this restructuring, what do we mean by it? Do we want to go back to the pre colonial stage? Or do you want to go back to the colonial state?
Or do you go back to Independence Day? Or go to the military administration from 1966? I don’t know. When people are talking about fiscal federalism, when they are talking about true federalism, when they are talking about devolution of power, all these things are restructuring. I don’t know what Nigerians want.
Remember some of them that are the proponents are saying that let us go and restructure this country into six zones, some are saying that let us have an autonomous three regions and other things. What are we trying to move?
When the world is trying to unite our own we are trying to bulkanise ourselves and if you even restructure this country the way some of the people are thinking there is no monolithic Yoruba, you are either an Ijebu man or an Ekiti man and other things.
When you come to the North, somebody will tell you that he is a Middle Beltan, somebody will tell you he is a real Hausa Fulani man, somebody will tell you he is a Kanuri, somebody will tell you he is a Nupe man.
What are you going to do with that one? Or somebody will tell you he is an Ebomina man from Kabba and other things. So how are you going to restructure this country? You go to the East, historians have said there is nothing like the word Igbo.
Even the Igbo people as of today you know are Republicans. Everybody cherishes his independence. It used to be from Arondizogu, or Aninri man or other things or Nnewi man.
Today if you go to the Anioma side they will tell you they are not real Igbo or if you go to Onitsha they will tell you they are not real Igbo.
So if you restructure this country are you going back to the obesian state where you go within your vicinity, where everybody wants to bring about his own supremacy and you decimate yourselves? I think what we need do as I continuously say is that we need equity within the Nigerian state. We are not looking for the equality.
Don’t you think that our leaders especially the Igbo leaders and the National Assembly need to call Nnamdi Kanu to order because he is the main brain behind the agitation for Biafra?
No. I don’t think so. You see we have not reached that level. Nigeria is supposed to be a sovereign nation with set of rules and that each and every citizen as long as he believes in it as a citizen should be amendable to the rules.
There are regulations that sometimes you don’t know what is happening to this country. This charlatan is on bail. He has a certain condition that he should not meet with more than 10 people at a time; he should not hold public rally, he should not use bombastic statements, yet he is going round those ones. What is the authority doing? Are they afraid of him or what? What are we showing?
The law needs to take its course. We need to be up and doing.
What do you think should be done in Kanu’s case?
There are abundant laws. I have told you. The man is on bail and the court has given condition. By his actions and inactions, have those conditions been breached? If it has been breached, I don’t need to call any word for you, the law needs to take its course.
Still talking about restructuring, the recent proposed amendment by the National Assembly was faulted by some Nigerians because you were under fire, because some Nigerians believe some of the proposed amendments were for your own selfish interest, what is your take on this?
What selfish interest? You see even this issue of immunity, nobody is saying that because you are at the center you are immune to the law.
What they are saying is that with legislative practice of the world over, with parliamentary practice the world over, whatever you say within the pretense of the chamber and at committee level nobody will hold you accountable for it. That is the only thing.
But you know Nigerians, because of the issue of the immunity thing nobody wants to sit down and read it. You see the whole thing is that we are very impatient as a people.
Sometimes you just read one word and you read meaning into it and you just don’t want to have the patience to read it through. This immunity we are talking about, we are not saying anybody should be immune from prosecution. No.
What we are saying is that nobody should hold you for what you said within the precinct of chamber when the plenary or at the committee levels. That is what we are saying.
Recently some Northern Elder rejected zoning, saying if President Buhari will not be able to contest another election in 2019, another Northerner would come in to succeed him, what is your take on this?
I am hearing that for the first time from you, but whatever some of the Northerners have to say, it has to be in conformity with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and you can see even during the alterations of the constitution I have been very proactive, so that this issue of transition, if there is any eventuality, and at any rate which of the Northerners or any Nigerians is thinking bad that there will be catastrophe that somebody will not agree.
Let us leave some of these things. Let us continue to be good citizens. Let us continue to be compassionate as religious people. Let us have empathy for ourselves and our citizens. Let us not be thinking negatively every time.
It has happened so many times in this country. When the acting National Chairman of the PDP was sick, people wrote him off. Today he succeeded, he became a senator and is still in the struggle for the Nigeria state with him.
Let us not be thinking negatively. I don’t think anything can happen that will warrant that kind of thing. I don’t even want to comment on that line, but what I know is that we have a constitution that if there are emergencies, the constitution takes care of it.
There seem to be no end in sight on the crisis rocking APC in Bauchi State. Recently during the last delegate meeting in the state you weren’t invited by the state chapter of the party which claimed you have been suspended from the party. How would you react to this?
I have spoken to so many of you on this issue. First of all this is very sad, that we have allowed people who don’t even know what the constitution of the APC said on procedure for suspending anybody. There is no record anywhere in the National Headquarters that I have been suspended.
You may recall that out of selfishness, out of the fact that some people wanted to bring me down, after they have brought so many antics, after they said that I would be recalled and couldn’t do anything, after they said that I don’t like Buhari, it couldn’t fly, they said that I was over ambitious, it couldn’t fly, after they have come to incite religious crisis to say that I have left my purview of constitutional duties to become an errand boy of the Speaker. When all these kites didn’t fly they decided to call an illegality.
People that are not even members, all of you are here. They have come to your press centre to address you. Two of them that were members of the exco in my ward came out to say they were misled. They apologised.
The chairman of the ward came out and denounced that it is just out of mischief. You see I have told you that it is all about 2019. People are thinking that they want to play God. People are betrayals.
It is the same people that I helped to assumed power at the state level, the governor that is behind this. Him and his errand boy, Uba Nana.
The majority of the State Working Committee are not with them, but because they can do nothing. Look at the height of illegality. They came and replaced an elected deputy chairman, elected treasurer and elected state vice chairman, South. I don’t think any one of them has this party better at heart than I.
And nobody is sending me away from this party. I have said it. I have spoken to the National Chairman. I have sent a letter to him. They are not even aware.
The constitution is very clear that you cannot suspend an elected official let alone an elected senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is a rehearsal of what will happen and it is not only in Bauchi State.
Most of these governors have concluded the fact that they will shut some of us out in 2019, but they don’t have that capacity, because the situation has changed.
You see if you shut me out, you will lose because people are going to vote individuals now, whatever hurricane people even within the hurricane they are going to make sure that they make the best of choice of the hurricane. So what you need to do rather than fight me, come and deliver dividends of democracy to the people so that you can be able to talk to them.
But as I am telling you, it’s unfortunate the way we are going inside this APC, not even the PDP have done this impunity within the first two years, the PDP waited for eight years before they started this impunity. We can’t start it.
Did you make efforts to reconcile with the governor and the party?
The National headquarters of the party has intervened. The Ngige committee is there. It has not submitted its report and they continue to do their impunity.
I am sure even the Ngige report before they submitted their report had advised them on some of their illegality. They have advised them on how to go about it, but because they have this arrogance, they still don’t want to concour.
The PDP with the recent victory at the Supreme Court is re-strategising to take power from your party, the APC in 2019. Is there any hope for the APC in Bauchi State in 2019 considering the lingering crisis rocking the party?
Leave the PDP out of it. The party to beat any where anytime in Bauchi State is the APC. But as long as the governor does not come out from his Olympia Heights, that is where we are going to have problem.
I have told you times without number it is not the members of the National Assembly that are his problem. What we need to do is to go and reconcile with ordinary citizens that has feel alienated.
You see in politics most especially in a rural state like Bauchi State there are some segments that are the power base of anybody who wants to win election. The ordinary citizens are there, the religious clerics are there. The traders and the artisans are there. The civil servants are there. You have alienated them all.
You have gotten so much amount of money. The pensioners are there. Just go through the Central Market to Ran road. It is there on the Social Media. The so-called road has already started crumbling.
So the governor needs to come down from his Olympian height. I hope he use this opportunity that he has dissolved his cabinet to ensure that the issue of inclusiveness that some of us complained about is addressed.
That core party men are brought, not latter day party men that fought us to the last day and are being speculated because they have the capacity for mischief that they are being brought on board. If he does that the chances are foreclosed for him.
Two years have gone now. What would you say has been your major contribution as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
Let me use the parable of the Igbo people, they say when the Agama lizard falls from a tree and nobody claps for it, it nods its head by clapping for itself.
Without being arrogant and with all humility and appreciation to the creator I would say there is never a time that Bauchi South had the best representation in the National Assembly as when Mallam Ali Wakili became a senator.
We have continuously been engaged within the chambers, speak our mind, to give an effective representation that nobody can deny, not even Barrister Mohammed Abubakar can deny, not even Uba Ahmed Nana can deny, not to talk about the ordinary person across the globe, everybody will want to see the senator of Bauchi South speaking.
We have talked about issues affecting our people in terms of peace and stability. We didn’t shy away when we were talking about the issue of the Fulani herdsmen, we didn’t shy away when we talked about the issue of religious pilgrimage which we felt was too exorbitant, we did’t feel shy away when we were talking about the insurgency in the North East or the kidnappings and other things.
We were there when we were the harbingers of the North East Development Commission. Even though I am averse to the issue of saying how many bills have you sponsored, at least we have sponsored so many bills.
We are part of those that sponsored the North East Development Commission Bill, we have the Federal Polytechnic Act, we have the Customs and Excise Repeal and Reenactment Act, we have the Federal Hospitals Bill, we have Customs Pensions and other things and we participates in all the robust debates.
That is our core duty as legislators and representatives. We have touched the lives of the people. You go to Lere, you go to Zango, go to Nabordo, you go to Shongo, you will see clinics that we have built.
You go to Kandahar here in Bauchi or you go to Mangoro here in Bauchi or you go to Dandurin Toro, or you go to Malari in Alkaleri, or you come to about 12 wards here in Bauchi Local Government Area, the quantum of water we have sank and built for the people is there to see clearly.
We have ensured that to reduce the poverty level we have sank irrigation equipment to our various constituency, we have availed them with fertilisers, we have ensured that teachers that are the back bone of the society are given training and retraining.
The National Teachers Institute Kaduna trained 100 teachers for us. We want to ensure that we teach our youths how to catch fish. Nigeria Institute of Transport Technology, Zaria has trained 50 people on welding for us.
The National Directorate of Employment (NDE) in conjunction with the Professor Iya Abubakar Community Resource Centre has trained for 12 calender weeks 50 youths for us that will learn about Information and Communication Technology, video editing, computer repairs and other things. These two sets would soon graduate.
We are going to equip them with the various tools that they are going to start on their own with. We have tried to empower the people because ours is an agrarian society. My wife started by experimenting, where they gave N10,000 to about 200 women.
When it was successful, I took a cue from them. We have done it in Tafawa Balewa, we have done it in Alkaleri, the other local governments will follow suit. You have witnessed my sharing of mobile laboratories.
We are in scientific age and we need to prepare our children to compete internationally and externally and since we are in a technological era we can’t do that without them having access to these instruments and we have shared to over 33 schools that have yielded dividends.
We have tried to ensure that those of them that have helped us in APC, we have prepared them. We have empowered some of them with motor vehicles that can help them sustain their lives, with motorcycles, with and with tricycles. So you can see that, we have shared block engines, molding machines so that people can be on their own.
There are so many things we have shared and we can beat our chest even before God and say we have achieved our mandate and that we are fulfilled and that whosoever is coming after us whether in eight years, or in 10 years or in four years will have a greater challenge.
Do you have any regret or feel threatened?
I don’t think there is any formidable contender. Is it the one that the government is propping, who is a member of the National Assembly? That nobody has ever seen him contributing on the floor? Or is it the Yotai that is deceiving him, that will tell you that they are the backbone in the Buhari Campaign Organisation or are those politicians that will come in four years to put their posters? I tell you we are on the ground.
That is why each and every time we are here to have continuous community engagement, that is why even those of them in authority in the state feel threatened by us because of our continuous stay with the people.
We have not ran away. They can’t accuse us unlike those politicians that you hardly see. Every week we are here to inform the people and to have engagement with them and to mix with them to know there problems.
So I am fully on ground and I don’t feel threatened. You remember that it is only one thing now they have said from the government circle that I am not interested. Only the presidency.
They have told you that I want to be the vice president. They have told you that I want to be the governor. All these things are about 2019 so why would I be bothered? The fact that I am the phenomena now in the politics, I should be able to thank God.
Many people are wondering that you are one of the figures among those people challenging the governor in the state, why?
Nobody is fighting with the governor but I have told you before, if you have forgotten, let me recap, it’s because they are jittery, because of their non performance and they think that because we were the ladder that they used to come into governance and because of that jittery, that by 2019 if we said we are the kingmakers, we will want to become the king that is why they are jittery.
You will remember since the annulment of June 12 election so many people have come up with so many lexicons, restructuring, true federalism, fiscal federalism, zoning and other things. As an individual I am always baffled. You know Nigerians we are always good in sending hypes when it suits us. Ordinarily we know the meaning of restructuring. When you want to restructure something you make it better. That is the aim of restructuring. In our own case, this restructuring, what do we mean by it?
You see if you shut me out, you will lose because people are going to vote individuals now, whatever hurricane people even within the hurricane they are going to make sure that they make the best of choice of the hurricane. So what you need to do rather than fight me, come and deliver dividends of democracy to the people so that you can be able to talk to them. But as I am telling you, it’s unfortunate the way we are going inside this APC, not even the PDP have done this impunity within the first two years, the PDP waited for eight years before they started this impunity.