As many Nigerians throw confetti in celebration of yet another Independence celebration, there are others who are yet to come to terms with reasons of whether @ 61, Nigeria is worth celebrating at all.
As questions of insecurity, economic development and social welfare remain unanswered, stakeholders and nationalists are beginning to thinker the way forward for the country’s sustainable development.
In this exclusive interview with The Union Nigeria in Abuja, former Borno State Senatorial Candidate, entrepreneur and statesman, ALHAJI AMINU YAHAYA BAPPA, bares his mind on myriad issues bedeviling Nigeria and what he thinks is the way forward. Read it, it is worth your time…
Who is Alhaji Aminu?
I am, Alhaji Aminu Yahaya Bappa, from Gworza Local Government, Borno State, where Shekau made headquarters of his caliphate. I was born and brought up there. I went to school in Gworza, Maiduguri, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. I did a little bit of intensive water engineering in the Netherlands.
I have taught from primary school as a head master, to secondary school as vice principal and later principal. I voluntarily retired when I had almost 20 years to serve, I saw that I would be more active and viable to sustain my family.
By then my salary was three thousand naira and my expenditure for a week was more than three thousand naira. I thought I should not deceive myself so I left.
I opted for business. Thank God I am better today.
How do you compare the Nigeria of yesteryears and Nigeria of now?
It is terrible. The experience we are having is very frustrating. Hence, we are recording more cases of high blood pressure. Before now, living in Nigeria was not based on tribalism. Living was communal.
We read Walter Rodney’s book, “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.” I can analyze that book chapter by chapter. He went on to describe who an African was. That was exactly how Nigeria was too.
At the time I was born, my neighbor was my parents. Most times, my father was with Christians. My grandfather was the chief of Gworza. I was brought up in the emir’s house. Every house belonged to everybody. When one is roofing, you see people helping. Respect for elders was sacrosanct. Unlike today, your son or grandson can push you off the road to pass.
Unlike today where parents fight teachers for flogging their children, then anybody can discipline a child and the parents would be happy.
I remember when I was in mubi, an Ibo man, Ajaka was sharing the same fence with my grandmother, Hajia Mashinkafa. Do you know that during the biafran/ Nigeria war, this man was the wealthiest man in Mubi.
He called my grandmother during the war and opened a room filled with money. He told her, if I go home and return, then this money is mine, but if I don’t return, this money is yours. He left. My grandmother told only me. She told me the money belonged to Ajaka and that if she dies before Ajaka returns, I should give the money back to Ajaka.
After the war, Ajaka retuned to find that my grandmother didn’t even open the door. He used his money.
In those days, you see your elder carrying a load and help him immediately. We are now in a disaster. These days we hear stories of teachers molesting students to pass them.
I remember my lecturer, who is from Gworza, He was the vice chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Vice Chancellor, University of Gombe, now I am hearing he opened the Nigeria Army Univeristy in Biu.
This is somebody who stood in the class and told us that even if it is Aminu that scored 39 and its fail, he swore by God that he will not give me the one mark to make it 40. It was the same thing with Bala Usman our lecturer who was also his lecturer.
As a politician, is the current political scenario what you envisaged?
When I was born, I saw my father in Northern People’s Congress (NPC), with a green flag bearing a black horse. So I knew what politics was all about. When the late Shehu Shagari visited my village, he was lodged in my father’s house. I was the one who served him as small as I was.
Politics at that time was superb. Even though there was rivalry, it ended during the campaign. During elections, they were united. There was no religious coloration.
But now, political moves are geared towards religion and ethnicity. Like now, it is unfortunate, that, where there are majority of Muslims, a Christian will not be voted in, which is vice versa.
The politics I knew was based on pedigree. What was your contribution to the society? It is not based on how much you have. What we have now is not politics. We are just deceiving ourselves. The more you loot, the more elections you win. The more you squander money, the more you win.
All these party names we hear, APC, PDP, APGA are all rubbish in the sense that if you don’t have money, you amount to nothing and I can say that authoritatively.
I vied for constitutional conference in 1978, I lost with one vote, I contested for House of Representatives under General Sani Abacha’s regime I lost because I didn’t have money. The man who won was my student, a grade three teacher. He used religion and ethnicity as bait. I contested for senate in 2015 and when I saw that there was incoherence in the PDP, I left for APGA.
I failed because I was fighting PDP which has federal might, and fighting APC which has President Muhammadu Buhari and the government over there. APGA refused to support with funds. I assumed that my credentials would sell itself. It is getting worse.
Let’s not deceive ourselves. Almost all the senators and reps members will return because they have starved Nigeria and are looting by the day.
There is nothing like contractor now. Go to any ministry to confirm. You see tender journals flying all over the city. Go to the ministry and somebody close to you inside will tell you that so and so project belong to this senator or this reps member or the permanent secretary or minister.
When budget is being passed, the lawmakers sit with the ministry’s staff and agree that the budget will be passed but execution must be with them. Hence, the ministry has no might to stop payment for unexecuted contracts. That is why our economy is dwindling.
Let me give you the secret behind the exodus from APC to PDP in the 8th Assembly. The same senators brought in hair driers, sewing machine, motor cycles and bicycles into river basins budget. The minister at the time Alhaji Adamu Suleiman, said no, that River Basins has nothing to do with hair dryers and sewing machines.
The senators moved against him but President Muhammadu Buhari was with him. In the bid to deal with him and the government, the senators moved from APC to PDP. That is what is happening. It is going on by the day.
What is the future you see for Nigeria’s development?
To me, this is my personal view and I am not selling it for anybody. Let people be voted due to their pedigree.
Today, ministers, senators and government officials are sons of so and so former big wigs before they became whatever they are. As I told you earlier on, the more you steal, the more you are recognized.
Somebody will steal N100 billion and is jailed for six month. The day he comes out of the prison, you will see drums rolling to welcome him back to society.
How do we change this rotten experience? Today, governors are mini-gods, their decisions in states are final. No more respect for the party.
You ask of the future. Prof. Attahiru Jega, Prof Pat Utomi and others have floated a new party. It will not work because they are all academicians. They don’t have the money to forge ahead. The battle remains between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
As 2023 approaches, do you see any new trick popping out of the cap?
The battle is between PDP and APC. Nevertheless, considering the tension in the country, someone like former President Goodluck Jonathan can come handy. To me, if we can vote Jonathan, the agitation of Biafra will disappear. The more we vote for the north, the more the secessionist agitations will intensify.
But the mistake they are making now is that, south governors are dishing out orders of compulsion to the north. Politics is a game of numbers. Bring out your candidate and convince us. But you cannot tell us that the candidate must come from the South or… There is no compulsion politically.
We must be cautious of our decisions. I cannot sell an Igbo candidate or a Yoruba candidate because they have all clamored for secession. What will stop them from diving the country if you give them power.
To me Jonathan is a better choice. Some query that Jonathan brought in Boko Haram. I tell such persons that those are just political gimmicks. The man did not believe the Chibok girls were kidnapped for over nine days. He was thinking it was just a gimmick.
To me Jonathan is a better choice. I also hope that if Goodluck Jonathan succeeds, I believe he would have learnt his lesson. He will not allow somebody like Deiziani Madueke to come near him.
In all, it is just my opinion and I am entitled to it.
Which party are you in now?
I was a registered member of the All Peoples Grand Alliance (APGA), but when I saw that APGA has sidelined me may be due to my ethnicity or religion. I had no option than to register in the All Progressives Congress (APC). Why?
I contested under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for senate. I bought the form with 4.5 million naira of my hard earned money. The PDP till date did not come to me to mend fences.
I am in the APC. I planned to run again for senate until one of my sons came to me that he wants to run. I cannot run against him, so I have given my support. I can only give advisory role. If he wins I have a better role to play as adviser.
Do you see the Nigerian economy improving soon?
Nigeria is solely dependent on oil hence we must tread carefully. The price of oil is not in our favour. President Muhammadu Buhari is borrowing to fund the country. Nigeria is credit worthy and viable. But this borrowing should be focused on development.
Which reminds me of one thing General Olusegun Obasanjo did. The United Arab Emirate came to Nigeria to borrow one to two million dollars. He refused citing that dubai was a desert. Look at Dubai today.
The good and bad thing about our current borrowing is that Buhari will not borrow to squander. But let him monitor the delivery of the projects as opposed to his sitting down in the villa.
This was how Nigerians were deceived in the Mambilla project. After pumping in billions of naira, up till now, nobody can access the place with a car.
If he is borrowing to put the country in order then there is no problem. But if he is going to sit down the way he has been doing, then there is no point in borrowing. England is indebted, France is indebted, even America is indebted, so what is the big deal about Nigeria being indebted. My stand is if you are borrowing for development then there is no problem.
Your word to Nigerians
Let us watch and see whom the two parties would field. Whoever is fielded, whether governor, senator or reps member, should put in writing what he wishes to do for the country and be documented.
Once sworn in he should implement it. We should forget about religion and ethnicity and focus on pedigree. Don’t allow politicians to buy you. Collect the money but vote credible candidates.
Let us not fight over politics. Buhari’s son married recently and Atiku Abubakar stood as father for the groom. When Buhari was asked, he pointed at Atiku. These are people who could not stand each other in 2019.
We must learn from that and focus on what matters, which are policy driven governance and personalities. Thank you.