Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, was the Deputy Senate Leader in the 8th National Assembly. In this interview with AHMED IDRIS, he narrated his experience in the Senate and some of the politics that played out before and after the emergence of Dr. Bukola Saraki as the Senate President, among other issues. Excerpts…
You are just beginning another tenure of four years in the Senate, what are some of the areas you will be focusing on?
The fundamental requirement of a responsible society is to educate the people. Education is power, education is key and I am very sure you know the level of my investment in education. On your way to Kebbi, if you are to go through Maga, you would have seen that I demolished the entire primary school. I am building something with very conducive atmosphere, some of the offices have been equipped for the teachers, not even the local government chairman has those kinds of furniture. It is to make the atmosphere conducive for them to be able to put their minds into producing qualitative pupils.
Education is fundamental and that is why my focus is to provide a conducive atmosphere to learning. I will equip the primary schools, I will rebuild them, I will provide water for them and wherever I can get help, I will bring it and put it there. I will continue to promote healthcare delivery. If you have noticed, in almost all the 71 wards that I represent, I have succeeded in putting solarpower boreholes.
You know what water is to health. I decided that in addition to that, in some towns like Ngaski, Fakai and Grazer, I am going to give them what is called reticulation. Reticulation is a big issue because in Fakai and Ngaski you can tap from the overhead tank, directly into your house. So, people in Ngaski are taking their showers while in some cities, it is very difficult to shower. We will also try and see where we can get employment for our people in the Federal Civil Service.
You were the Deputy Senate Leader in the 8th Assembly. Is it true that your role in the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as the Senate President gave you that position?
Let me tell you a story I hate to tell people; and this is the first time I am going to say it. While practising as a lawyer between 2013 and towards the end of 2014, I provided free legal services to all the senators that wanted to leave PDP and join the APC, for the purpose of making sure that President Buhari emerge as the President of this country. In the meetings, you can go and find out, it used to be normally chaired by Senator Bukola Saraki and the venue of the meeting used to be the house of Senator George Akume.
In attendance most of the times, were senators Jumai Alhassan from Taraba, Kabiru Marafa, Hubende from Delta and Akume himself with some few others. Go and ask; for the whole of that period, whether I ever charged a kobo for providing my services to that group. My duty then was to offer advice to the group, to look at how the Senate is going to sit and what rules to apply to make sure they were not armed simply because of their decision to leave PDP for APC.
After that, I came back to Kebbi and wanted to establish the party. We started with Abubakar Malami, who is now the Attorney General and we were virtually the only people sponsoring that party until Senator Abdullahi Yahaya came and massively invested in promoting the party. Yahaya wanted to be governor, and I was told that Mallami also wanted to be governor, but for me, I don’t want to be anything. All I wanted was good governance for my country.
Is it true that you were spying for the APC, pretending to be in PDP?
We agreed that some of us will pretend to be in PDP so that we can take it to the burial ground and be sure it is effectively buried. So up to the last week of campaigns and nominations, we were in PDP but everyone knows that I, in particular, was no longer in PDP. I did not officially resign from PDP, we were attending their meetings. Late Senator Kure, Anthony Anenih and the rest came, they wanted to reconcile us with the governor because he was in PDP until the last day of the primaries. Myself, Alierio, Ibrahim Nasiru Junju and Jari Mallam followed him and came on the day of primaries to elect Aminu Tambuwal as the governor of Sokoto State.
In the hall, we had our final meeting for Wamako, Alerio and Atiku Bagudu to come back to APC. By that time, I was effectively in APC. I had my card and we sat down and said let us quickly put in place somebody that we can promote to be the governor. Bagudu never wanted to be governor, he wanted to just take back his seat as a senator and while we were flying from Abuja to Sokoto to meet Wamako, we agreed that we should promote Bagudu.
Our intention was to go back the same day and then circumstances decided that myself and Aleiro should go back. Since we have agreed that Bagudu would be governor, he should stay and do further consultations and we left him behind. We went back and agreed that we are going to promote Bagudu. At that time, I never even wanted to be a Senator. I was actually looking for somebody that can become Senator either from Yauri or Zuru. In our last meeting before we flew into Kebbi, I protested that we must be given the seat of the deputy governor. They agreed that we can be given the seat on the condition that I yield my senate seat to Yauri. I said I have no problem, give us Deputy Governor, we will give senate seat to Yauri.
After taking the decision, I was then asked to be the deputy governor. In fact, Bagudu asked me why I can’t be his deputy and I said I am not interested in becoming a deputy. All I am interested in is the peace of the state and that we can pick anybody from Zuru or Yauri to be the deputy governor. But my only condition was that we must take somebody who is capable of running the state in the event that something happened, so we laughed at it and then left.
Somewhere along the line, consultations brought Colonel Yombe and I was happy about that and that is how he emerged deputy governor. If you interview him, he will tell you he emerged as deputy governor a day to the closing of the submission of forms. In the meeting, Aleiro insisted that I must be a senator, that was how I reluctantly joined the race to become a senator. As matter of fact, that was how I served for the first four years.
How did politics of the state relate with that of the Senate?
I am giving you this background to tell you the kind of experience I had. So, upon reaching the Senate, so many things happened. We had a new government, a new President and we were not prepared for so many things. So, I specifically in a meeting with Sen. Barau and some others from North-West, insisted that we must raise a delegation to meet with President Buhari so that he can give us ideas on what he think we should do to assist the government, to be able to stand on its own, immediately after inauguration in relation to the Senate and the House of Representatives.
That committee had Senantors Aleiro, Kayya and Abu Ibrahim on board. They met the President and when they came back to brief us, they spoke differently and I said; how did it happen that three of you went to see one man and you are all giving us different stories. Something was definitely wrong and I told Aleiro that from my assessment of what happened, it appeared there is no position taken by Mr. President as to who should emerge as the Senate President.
What was your relationship with Senator Bukola Saraki then?
It is a very long story but I will try to cut it short. If I have anybody that can be called godfather in my life, it is Justice Mustapha Akanbi of blessed memory. He wanted me to go to the Court of Appeal as a deputy chief registrar while I was practising in Lagos. He was the one who told me that Bukola Saraki wants to be Senate President. He said Saraki had told him so and that I should support him.
Then, I had no personal relationship with Senator Saraki. I had only met him about twice or three times; when his father died, I followed President Buhari to Ilorin to pay condolence, that was the first time I met him. The second time was when he became the chairman of our meeting; the one we were holding in Akume’s house. So it was Justice Akanbi that said to me, if there is anything I can do to help Saraki to emerge as the Senate President, I should please do it to help him.
So, with this ‘marching order’ from my ‘godfather’ and with the fact that Buhari had not made up his mind as to who should become the Senate President, I decided on what to do. Before then, I had privileged information that Yoruba PDP senators have decided that they will not support anyone that Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is supporting, so it was obvious from the arithmetic of the Senate, that there is no how anybody else could have emerged as the Senate President.
So that was how we said, let us pick the Senate President, since from all available facts, it appeared that this is the man God has destined to be the Senate President. But before then, we have already conducted primary and elected Senator Ahmed Lawan, on the assumption that he is the favoured candidate of the President, but when the arithmetic in the Senate did not show that he is capable of emerging, it would have been foolhardy of anybody to begin to chase what is going be a failure. So that was how Saraki emerged.
Shortly after Saraki emerged, something happened. I went to him in his house and told him what I heard. I said ‘we were just told that you are not the favoured candidate of the party and the President’. I asked him; can you be honest with me to say whether you have had any discussion with the President on this? He told me in graphic details, what happened between him and the President. And I said we are all President’s children, our responsibility now is to see how we can assist him to succeed. I asked him; what will be your commitment? Saraki told me that he will do whatever is humanly possible to assist the President because Buhari is like his father. In the room, it was only me, him and God. Now, with this comforting words, where lies the wisdom that I will not follow Saraki. I am very close to President Buhari and he never told me that he was not in support of Saraki.
So, where did the trouble come from?
We proceeded along that line and all of a sudden, we heard that Saraki was going to be arraigned for breaching Code of Conduct rules. I said it is abnormal, it is absurd because throughout the campaign of President Buhari, myself, Abu Kedabir, Dino Melaye, Saraki and late Ochulue were always together discussing what we can do to assist President Buhari to succeed. So, if this kind of thing is happenning, it will look too unusual for me, too absurd and too unnatural. I decided that we should call a meeting. If you remember the popular meeting of the so-called 52 senators which was held on the September 18, 2015, I said to all the senators that we have a problem in our hands and I believe that since we have made commitment to assist the President, it is only fair we become united and be sure nobody drain this administration as early as possible.
So, when we finished the meeting, Misau and Dino were discussing and Dino said, ‘if we fold our hands, we may succeed in promoting a cabal’. I didn’t know what happened, a newspaper reported that I called a meeting of 52 senators and we said we are going to deal with the cabal and therefore we are enemies of Buhari. I just laughed and said what I know is that, almost three to four years before Buhari became the President, virtually everywhere he went, until the real campaigns began, it is either me or my son that followed him. So, which loyalty are you demanding? That was even before we know that he was going to become the President. So, our loyalty is more genuine than those who came after he became President and are claiming to be loyal.
Were you not punished by the ‘cabal’?
The next thing was that some people were sponsored to abuse us; I was called a drug baron and other unprintable names. But in politics, you have to be yourself. I remember one of my children asked me whether I saw what they wrote about me on Facebook and I said; ‘yes I saw everything’. He said ‘what are we going to do about it? And I told him to just disregard it and he was shocked. I asked him; are you aware that there is an institution called National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)? He said yes and I said it is only that agency that can call me a drug baron. I said, don’t worry, I can be called any name, after all somebody said my mother was a harlot, it is normal in politics.
But what is painful was what unfolded later and the idea was to ensure that the relationship between Saraki and Buhari is ruined, of course for political reasons. But whoever is responsible for doing that will fail. Go to Biblical saying; if you must destroy in order to succeed, what will you have at the end of it? This God that people take for granted, the God that people take for a joke is not the kind of God they think He is. He is a God of justice, He equally described Himself as God of forgiveness.
So, we will see the two virtues and many other virtues, which had been mentioned about Himself beign to display. Just wait and see. You will be shocked as to what is going to unfold later because anybody who assists in the commission of injustice will end suffering more injustice than the person who it is first committed against. That’s what life is all about.
What is your take away in all these?
Let me tell you my experience in politics; if you join politics with good intention to help people, God will help you. If it is for different purposes other than this purpose, God will watch you and along the line, you will destroy yourself. That is what people don’t understand. Four years back, we were sworn in as senators, President Buhari was sworn in as President and it has expired. This same time will expire for all of us, but what is important is; can we run away from accounting? We cannot. So if we cannot run away from accounting for our deeds, certainly it is not the intention of God to give power to any mortal for the purpose of destroying another person.
When you go out of your way to take what the favour of God has given you, and deploy it into pursuing personal aggrandisement, God will leave you and when the day of accountability comes, you will account for your deeds. That is the truth, people should understand that I will never use the remaining part of my life doing what I know is wrong, I will not do it.
Why were you emphasising unity and progress of the Zuru emirate during the Ohola Festival?
If you observe before making that comment I started by saying that I am representing 18 military Generals, serving and retired. If a community like Zuru could produce 18 Generals, what that tells you is that there is no any other part of this country that have successfully produce these kind of officers. What it means is that we have paid our own share in the development of this country, but what remains for us is to be united and take advantage of our past and future contribution to this country and utilise it for the benefit of our people.
If we go different ways, it is not going to help us. For example, Late General Tanko Ayuba, not everybody knows he was Baduke, General Magoro is a Bafake, General Bamayi is a Dankakare person, Gen Ango is half Dankakare and half Kerawa. So we are coming from different background and not everybody knows that in Zuru, we have this level of diversity but what is more important is to come together and recover what we have lost in the previous years. Then, we can build upon that to shape our future.
I used to tell people that I don’t even know what is called fear and cowardice, and I think the story of Zuru should tell you why responsible citizens of Zuru should know what is fear or cowardice. If a society of this nature can produce this numbers of Generals, then you should know that we don’t know what is called fear and cowardice. So with the level of contribution we have made, if you look at Zuru you will know that we have been shortchanged and we don’t want to talk about politics but we can honestly say this nation has not been fair to Zuru people. This is the time for us to take advantage of that knowledge that the country has not been fair to us and come together to demand what we believe is rightfully ours. That is why I made emphasis on unity.
Uhola remains just a festival without economic benefits. Are there plans to expand it as a tourist attraction?
If you heard the Emir in his speech, he was very particular about building what he called Ugula village. If we have to attract foreigners to come here, we must make it easy to access Zuru from any part of the county. If you go to the air field right now, you would have seen that I am developing the air field to almost safety standard that can accommodate the inflow of small aircraft at least to bring tourists.
Nobody is in any illusion about the existence of Girmache as a tourist attraction, nobody is in dispute about the existence of tradition as a tourist attraction. Something we can market to bring tourist into Zuru and Zuru is such a place that is very accommodating and cosmopolitan enough to accommodate visitors. But we cannot do that until we have helping hands from the Federal Government and the state government. If we develop the tourist potential of Zuru, there will be employment, there will be revenue generation for the state and for the local government, and the emirate and we will have also succeeded in marketing ourselves to the outside world to know the kind of people we are. And we never can tell, in this era where warpower goes around recruiting brave men into their army. You will be surprised that America can decide to make Zuru as a recruiting centre for its army because America army is opened to outsiders provided after serving in the America army and you vow that won’t serve in any other nation army for 20 years. So we have a lot to offer to the country, we have a lot to offer to the outside world but we have refused to realise the fact that we are capable of doing so and then to utilise the opportunity given to us because we have not been united enough to come together and chat a course for the development of Zuru.
You recently donated ambulances, dialysis machines and so on. Could you shed more light on this?
If I tell you the history of Zuru you will be amazed. In the olden days, we are just son thrown away from Magajiya. Magajiya traditionally has been one of the hospital that existed which came zuru as top level as far as care delivery is concern. Most especially as related to post-natal and pre-natal health services. Along the line we abandoned that. It became very difficult for our people to the extent that if you have misfortune or having diseases like kidney issues you have to either go to Kano, Sokoto, or Kebbi to get dialysis. Now someone in such condition definitely needs help. So the opinion is that we do our own we don’t need to travel to Birnin Kebbi, Sokoto. So I decided to provide dialysis machine for general hospital Zuru which will serve Danko, Sakaba and Fakai Zuru been the center.
And I decided because I am representing Yauri, equity demands that whatever I do for Zuru, I supposed do it for Yauri. I decided to supply one dialysis machine, the most modern one in Yauri. But the aim is to boost the health care delivery of the zone, so we decided that there is need of the most standard delivery keys and equipment which we have provided for both Yauri and Zuru. We also decided that within the limited resources that I can lay my hands on, I will renovate at least part of the hospitals.
And next is the ability to move patients from one place to another. Those hospitals lacking ambulances, we will provide for them. We have provided for Kayan, Diri-Daji, Nachi, Garin-Baka, Shanga and also provided one for riverine areas in Yauri, altogether we have provided about seven brand new ambulances. This will enable the health care personnel to check the patients requiring one attention or the other. Unfortunately, some of the machine we have cannot be operated even by the health personnel so we are making arrangement again to see how we can send them on courses which enable them to operate those machine and that’s why am talking to Hamza who happen to know that I have a big Sister who is an old nurse that I have a lot of respect for. So I want to set a committee so that we can see what we can do. What I decided to do again, if you have been to Kayan am building an isolated pre-natal center.
We have about six wards over there and am trying to equip the place very soon and we will take soon delivery equipment to those areas. There are some remote arears again where we have difficulties in bringing patients out of that place, places like Mogoro, Nachi so I decided to build health center in these key places so that we will have network of health care delivery system that can sustain our people without them having to show their faces in Birnin Kebbi, Sokoto or elsewhere.