The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Niger State believes that despite funds paucity, its government has performed creditably. In this interview with DANIEL ATORI, the State Secretary of the party, Barrister Mohammed Alhaji Liman, challenges the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to point at any project it executed during its eight years that is worth N20billion out of the N825bilion the state received from the federation account
What is the state of the party since inception?
Yes, as a political party, we have a core mandate, and our mandate among others is to ensure that we put in place a political party that is capable of producing candidates that will give the country a good leadership. Secondly, to sponsor these candidates for the election and ensure that they win and after the winning, it is also our mandate to ensure that the candidates operate within the confines of the manifesto of the party. Yet from 2016 till date, the political party called APC has done a lot, it has done what it should to ensure that the political mandate of the party is achieved.
How do you go about it?
We look for people with vision and mission to pilot the affairs of Nigerlites, and ensure that they win the election that is why the party was so lucky after serious effort to bring in candidates that are capable of winning the election and ensure that those candidates won the election. In 2015 we won the gubernatorial election, in 2015, we had 26 out of the 27 state House of Assembly members, in 2015 all the 10 House of Representatives seats were won by APC from Niger State, in 2015, the party also strife to ensure that it won the three senatorial seats, not only that, in 2015 the party led in the votes that brought in the presidential candidate who is our President now. We produced the highest votes from the entire North Central, that is to say, through the party, President Muhammadu Buhari got a landslide victory from Niger State, and the same thing was replicated in 2019.
What happened in 2019?
Like I said, same thing happened. In 2019 election all the three senatorial seats were won by APC, 10 House of Representatives were won by APC, the same with House of Assembly. Governor Abubakar Sani Bello also won, had a landslide victory in 2019, by and large, the party did not do badly since 2015 up till now. It is one thing to bring in leaders to pilot the affairs of the state and it is another thing to make them work within ambits, the scope of the party manifesto, and that is why we try to ensure that the government of the day at the state level, work within the ambit or the manifesto of the party especially the core areas, in the field of agriculture, in the field of education, in the field of health and so on. These are the things that the government of the day has achieved as against our predecessor. The APC has devoted energy and effort to do within the little resources available.
You have highlighted some of the achievements of the party from 2015, so what would you say are the major challenges you have faced?
Well, democracy in this country is developing day by day. And as a political party we won’t say we have no problems, our problem as a party is that we try to work within the scope of the slogan of the party, the slogan of the party is ‘change’ and when we are talking about change it is also our believe that change must begin with us. Before now, we know how political parties especially those in government lived, they were living in affluence, they were living in money, they had too much money to play around with, that money we all know how they got it, some of them dipped their hands into the pulse of the government and took public funds to run political parties, that is what we say should change, now we need funds on the dues or rather the funds that is being remitted by our elected and appointed members and also within the confines of the constitution of APC in the 6th Chapter of the constitution of APC on how the party generates its funds without going into the pulse of the government and pick money to run the political party, so if by so doing we live on the dues received by members, you find out that, for example you find in Niger State here, we are yet to put in place structures.
What are you trying to say?
What I am saying in essence is that we do not have enough money to do most of party activities that we ought to do, but thank God we manage the little amount we have to ensure that we keep the party running that is why 24hours, I mean if you come to this secretariat you see it booming, party activities and functions are ongoing. We do not rely on government. We run the party by ensuring that we comply with the constitutions as it relates to raise funds so that we can keep it running.
Does the fact further confirm the allegation that the APC and the state governor are not in good terms?
I don’t know what the people mean by not being in good terms, are they saying that because we say we are not relying on the government to fund the party? That means we are not in good terms? The party and the government are fine. Of course, how can we fight with somebody that we produced? The government is called APC-led administration, hence whether we like it or not, we are part and parcel of the government. Are we going to back out? What I was just telling you is that we are much more aware of our linage as a party, we work within the confines, we religiously work in accordance with the constitution of the party. We make sure that we interface with the government from time to time; bring ideas as to how to move the state forward. So if anybody says the party and government are not in good terms, I categorically say that is a big lie.
Recently the PDP chairman said your party, the APC between 2015 till date, cannot stand to beat their chest and point at a major project. Can you comment on that?
My brother, in Nigeria, especially opposition party in Nigeria sometimes amuses me when they say something. Of course, they are entitled to what they say. I want to say categorically that there are lots of projects being executed by this government. I heard them talking about SUBEB, I heard them talking about certain amount spent by SUBEB, forgetting the fact that you can only access SUBEB fund when you make your counterpart fund. Is it not an achievement that we are now accessing SUBEB funds to do what they say we are doing?
They are not denying the fact that SUBEB is working but what they are saying is that the amount we say we spent does not commensurate with the work done, where do they get their funds, assuming what they are saying is right, they were in government of this state, the last one was for eight years what did they do with all the billions? Lastly, on this point why is it that they could not pay their counterpart funds to SUBEB the last two years before their tenure ended, so that Niger State can access funds. So, whether they like it or not SUBEB Niger State is working.
Apart from the SUBEB issue what other area can you refer to?
I heard them saying also that the government had spent billions of naira on rehabilitating the Minna-Suleja road, but the question one should ask is that assuming Minna – Suleja road has not been touched by this government and it is left the way they left it, what would have been the condition of the road by now? Well, what they are saying is that yes they did not do anything to fix that road when they were in power for 16 years, but we are doing something now, but they are claiming the amount we have spent is not commensurate with the work done. That is to say, we are doing something. Are we not doing something or not? If you say what we are doing is wrong, what did you (PDP) do yourself?
Another point is that they are forgetting the fact that that road is a federal road, most federal roads in this state are very bad. Most federal roads are in deplorable state. I have reliable details here, Minna- Bida road is a federal Road, Bida-Lambata road is a federal road, Mokwa -Tegna road is a federal road, Minna-Suleja road is a federal road. Ordinarily, these are roads that should be taken care of by the Federal Government but because of the traffic in Minna-Suleja road, the state government expended money to repair the roads so as to cushion the effect of the deplorable state of the roads. I think His Excellency should be commended for that. PDP was in this state, most of them were red cap members of PDP but they did not care to even grant a truck load of sand to fix that road. They could not but today they are talking of bad states of federal roads in Niger State.
Despite spending huge amounts of money, the Minna-Suleja road doesn’t seem to be in good condition. Should such spending not create suspicion?
You see, even if this government had spent N10billion, the number of heavy trucks that ply the road is huge and it will soon ware out. If you fix it today, tomorrow it will get bad and the government has continued to fix it on daily basis. The thing is that PDP is not denying that fact; the opposition cannot deny it.
They said that the APC should pinpoint a project worth a billion naira that is tangible that they can see. Do you have such projects anywhere?
You see, the road rehabilitation and construction that is being undertaken by this government deserves commendation. In fact, a lot of money has been spent in ensuring the rasing of education standard in the state. In the whole school approach, two school projects are executed in each of the geopolitical zones, the same way, if you look at the amount of money spent on health care delivery. It is something commendable. If the PDP is now talking about APC not doing anything, in the last 16 years and PDP administration in this state, apart from the funds that went to local government areas, they received the sum of N825bilion from the federation account. Let them point at a project they also executed for the eight years that is worth N20billion; let them even point a single project worth N8billion when the value of naira was better. Lest I forget, this similar amount also came in to the local govern ment account.
What can you say you have achieved?
There is sanity in the polity in the sense that public funds are no longer embezzled and wasted with levity as they were in the time past.
Less than two years after the PDP government commissioned Jumai Babangida Hospital, the General Hospital Annex, Minna, the APC government renovated the same facility with twice the amount used to construct the project. Can you clarify that?
How much is it? How much did they say was used for the construction of the hospital? Is there anything wrong in renovating the project? What is wrong in putting it in the right state? If they are saying twice the amount in the first place how much was spent on it? Let them tell the world that they built that facility with such amount of money and this is how much the APC-led government used to renovate that facility. There is nothing wrong for governments of yester years to build a facility and the present government not allowing the facility to decay, not allowing the facilities to collapse to renovate it. There is nothing wrong with that; maintenance is very key.
The PDP has accused the Governor Bello-led government of truancy and carelessness and that this has led to insecurity in the state. What do you have to say?
I have to correct one impression. When you are talking about insecurity and you are linking it to a single man and because he is not seen on the ground and that is why there is insecurity, that is wrong. Supposing and I am not admitting that his Excellency the executive governor in a whole year is not in the country. But if he is not around, does that make kidnappers to operate at will? When security agencies are saddled with responsibility to ensure the security of lives and properties? Are they not on ground? When resources that will make them to fight those that want to perpetrate insecurity are there, would there be any issue?
Let us put security issues in their rightful perspective. It is not only in Niger State that there is security problem. We admit that we are faced with security problems in some local government areas in the state, like in Shiroro, Munya and Rafi LGAs. That is where you have kidnappers, armed bandits operating. That is where we have all these challenges. Are they saying that Governor Ahmed El-Rufai who does not move here and there has no insecurity in his state? So let them check their facts, it is a general phenomenon. In this country, are they saying all governors that have armed bandits, armed robbers and kidnappers in their states are to be blamed because they are on ground? Is that why they are attacked? No, are they saying that when Boko Haram was attacking the North-East during the administration of Goodluck Jonathan, it was because Jonathan was not a northern?
You see when the late Umar Yar’Adua came as a President, he granted amnesty to the Niger Delta militants. It all depends on the motives. They came up with amnesty and told the people to choose peace let us agree, you are not going back to crime, and you will now become good citizen of this country. And lastly how would they know that those who enter into peace pacts with the government are same people that engage themselves in new attacks, where did they get that information, the public would want to know that Mr A and B that enter into a packs with the government that after they were release came back and continue in their militancy.