interviewBy Mahmud Jega
Former Bauchi State governor Malam Isa Yuguda recently left Green Party of Nigeria [GPN] for APC. Here, he explains his reasons and his remaining mission in politics.
You recently left Green Party of Nigeria [GPN] for the All Progressives Congress, APC. Why this move?
The time had come to make the move. It was God’s time, which is always the best. The decision to move was made together with my followers.We decided to leave GPN because it is a small party, even though it has a very good chairman, Dr. Sam Eke. GPN only existed in Bauchi State, so we did not see ourselves making any serious impact countrywide. We did not want to mortgage our political future in a small party. So we decided to move to a bigger platform where we can contribute towards producing a good leader for the country.
Going to APC is also appropriate because its leader, President Muhammadu Buhari has a number of programs in place that when implemented will move the country forward.
You contested the last Bauchi South senatorial bye election on GPN’s platform. What happened?
INEC announced that I lost the election, but there were more questions than answers. Many thingswere wrong with that election but I decided to remain silent. I stood for election three times previously in Bauchi. I won the first two governorship elections [2007 and 2011] and lost senatorial election in 2015. In Bauchi Local Government alone, I never got less than 80,000 votes but this time they said I got 33,000 votes in seven local governments [laughter]. It didn’t add up. There were many malpractices in that election, frankly. Over 120,000 of my votes were cancelled, for instance. I however pray for the man who went to Senate to work for the betterment of Bauchi State and Nigeria.
But you didn’t go to the election tribunal.
Why should I go? It was the people that asked me to contest even though I personally had no passion for becoming a senator. I don’t want to be ungrateful to God. I headed two banks in my career, including NAL Merchant Bank.I was a minister for six years under Obasanjo. Many of the transport sector policies being implemented today were initiated by the late Chief Ojo Madueke and I, including the transportation masterplan, railway masterplan and Nigeria attaining Category 1 status in aviation. I was also a governor for two terms, so I believe there are bright young people today who should go become lawmakers. I only contested because my supporters insisted. In politics if you don’t do what people ask you to do, one day you will ask them to do something and they will refuse [laughter].
You were a PDP minister for six years and you were a PDP governor for many years. Why did you leave the party after the 2015 election?
PDP’s integrity vanished after the Obasanjo and Yar’adua eras. Obasanjo had his problems with Third Term but I believe he was one of the best leaders Nigeria ever had. PDP became something else after Yar’adua’s death. It lost its soul and spirit and became more of a jungle.I was governor of a North Eastern state at the height of the Boko Haram crisis. I saw firsthand how Jonathan’s government handled the Boko Haram. In Bauchi State especially, they handled it in a cavalier manner. I was left alone, together with a very committed Compol, DSS director and Brigade Commander. Without that, the state and Nigeria would have been overrun.
A military operation in Bauchi captured all the top Boko Haram commanders and they were in Bauchi Prison. I repeatedly appealed to the Federal Government to move them out of Bauchi because it was a colonial era prison. They failed to do so and a year later, Boko Haram attacked the prison and freed all the commanders.I did all I could with our little resources to protect lives and property, including hiring hunters to protect communities and also doing a lot of conditional cash transfer to prevent disgruntled youths from joining the insurgents. For all that effort, I did not receive a kobo in aid from the Federal Government. Not a kobo! We did many major operations with soldiers to prevent insurgents from regrouping in Lame-Burra and other forests but not a single kobo!
The soldiers were requested for that were guarding our long border with Yobe State to prevent infiltration were poorly equipped and their allowances were not being paid. In Bauchi we were also receiving and burying the remains of soldiers lost in the war, many of them. I still have nightmares from that episode. Only for me to read later what Sambo Dasuki did with the money meant for the equipment that would have saved the lives of those young soldiers. How could I remain in that circle?
Then we got a PDP National Chairman like Ali Modu Sheriff. As a governor he could not protect the security of one state. Federal Government is still spending billions if not trillions in Borno due to what he left behind. The night we were to conduct an operation against the insurgents in Bauchi, I called and advised him to secure all the key areas in Maiduguri because there will be a spillover effect. He never did and he never cared. So, I said if this is the only Northerner that Wike, Fayose and Jonathan could find to come and head the party, I must leave.
Some people are saying that you changed parties too many times since 2007.
Well, that is partly because the parties we have today lack a philosophical vision and mission [laughter]. Our parties have become ladders to win elections. Though no law stops a politician from changing party but politicians will not move around if a party has the right focus, the right leadership and it does justice to all its members. Sometimes you have a very good party leader like Dr. Sam Eke, but he doesn’t have a party that has the capacity to win elections [laughter].
In 2008 we had to leave ANPP because of the conduct of its leaders. Though we won our elections in 2007 with wide margins, ANPP leaders still treated us almost as Harijans. For example, ANPP entered into President Yar’adua’s cabinet and when we got a ministerial slot, Sheriff gave it to his younger sister. We felt very bad about it and we unanimously decided to return to PDP at that time because we had encountered a bigger devil.When we left PDP in 2016, we went to GPN but when we saw that the going was not good, as professional politicians, we decided to have a change. Is Isa Yuguda the only person who has been changing parties? [laughter].
You were together with President Muhammadu Buhari in ANPP. Since your recent entry into APC, what kind of reception have you received?
There is no reason for me not to get a warm reception in APC because I play my politics in such a way as not to offend anybody. I am not offensive in my language or actions and I always respect elders. When we were in ANPP and General Buhari was my party’s presidential candidate, I gave him every honour and respect and support. Some people felt I should not have left ANPP but if they were in my shoes, they would have done worse, because of the injustice in the party. Remember that after I left ANPP, the president also left and formed CPC [laughter].I therefore expect a warm reception and I am receiving it. I am not in APC to contest for anything. I am here to assist President Buhari and my governor in Bauchi State to secure re-election.
My people in Bauchi know my worth. The state university that I set up, the roads that I built, the radio stations, even the security architecture I left behind and Yankari Game Reserve, will people reject Isa Yuguda just because he changed party? We have 90 parties in Nigeria so as to give people the chance to change if they like.
You have been a minister; you have been a governor. So, what is your remaining ambition in politics?
I am very grateful to God for all the favours He did to me. I had a good progression in the banking industry. At one time I was the one recruiting my classmates into the industry, because I benefitted from Savannah Bank’s highflyers program. All the banks I headed, I left them very healthy. As minister, I also left my footprints. I went to China to sign the railway contract. The Cabotage Law meant to save Nigeria $4billion, we did it. We had a fantastic plan to dredge River Niger. In aviation too, I left a mark. We achieved Category 1 status for Nigeria, we also professionalized NCAA, completed the Total Radar Project which is why vertical separation of aircraft is no longer a problem, etc.
As governor I did not leave one uncompleted project. I completed the ones I inherited and I completed the ones I started.And I left one of the cleanest balance sheets. So what else can I be looking for? I have no wild presidential ambition [laughter]. My remaining foray into politics is to see that the best president emerges, and right now I see that best candidate in Muhammadu Buhari. In Bauchi too, I see the best candidate in my friend Muhammed Abdullahi Abubakar. Whatever mistakes he made earlier, I believe he will correct them because as humans we make mistakes.
You worked with Atiku Abubakar in the Obasanjo regime. Why are you not helping him to realise his ambition?
I believe he also has the capacity to be president but he still has another chance in the future [laughter].