ALHAJI Muhammad Sagir Hamidu, is a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara State. In this interview with JOHN AKUBO, the former governorship aspirant speaks on the imperative of restructuring and need for a part time federal legislature to save cost.
•Zamfara pays N6, 000 as minimum wage
Do you subscribe to restructuring as the way for Nigeria to go forward?
Restructuring is inevitable, because it is glaring that the center can no longer hold. Every person is talking about his tribe, his religion and his region. Even within a state they are talking about Local Government.
Last week, some people came to me to say I should come and lead the agitation for my Local Government to produce the next governor. Every frontline has been reduced to the barest decimal point. So, the people that are enjoying power now and do not care that history is beaming searchlight on them, that should they not take the courage to address this issues there are consequences whether we like it or not.
We have the laws, the regulations all lying fallow. When it comes to true federalism, what is it that people are asking for? Please give us some latitude to explore our resources, to govern our state according to our ability.
Those against restructuring fear that when we structure, resource control will set in and those without oil will suffer…?
I can tell you that there is no state that God has not endowed with natural resources, under the ground. Some may not have natural resources or oil, but they are endowed with human resources. That is something.
Look at the Suez Canal, they had no water there, but they made canals and you can see the size of the ship passing through there. It is time for us to sit down and forget about any imaginary fear and face the reality. It is inevitable.
Take for instance, my state, Zamfara, has no business with poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment if the laws allow us to tap our resources. We would be one of the richest states, but when we are integrated into a system that was designed not to work according to the tenets of federalism, we are now being tagged as the most backward state.
We are still carrying on and we are doing nothing about it, why? How can Zamfara State join other states in rejecting restructuring that would have enabled us to access our resources, which is one of the most valuable resources, Gold? What business do we have to reject and refuse to embrace resource control or true federalism.
Our state has not been able to pay even the N18, 000 minimum wage, they are paying N6, 000. The governor till today has not been able to implement the N18, 000 not to talk of the N30, 000. How do you expect us to operate on the same frequency with Kaduna, Lagos and the rest?
No matter how the governor tries, he cannot raise internally generated revenue. There is just nothing he can do. Will he tax unemployed people, who do not have what to eat? Where are the businesses that you can tax? No industry, no nothing. That is why, when they wake up they change clothes, they are heading to Government House or commissioners’ office to loiter around and become nuisance.
We only don’t want to face the reality. There is a lot to restructure. We need a leader, who will make us forget where we come from, what religion we practice. We need the leadership that would be looking for the next economic opportunity that they can come up with and we all need to rush for it and harness, it rather than emphasizing on religion, ethnicity and region.
How has that helped us? It is a good thing that we are heterogeneous as we are. It is beauty in itself to share differences culturally. Regionally, you travel from one region to another, it is beautiful to see how God has made us to appreciate one another and then to use that to be our brothers’ keepers towards building a viable nation. That is what I think.
As far as we are going, the way I see it, with the democracy we are operating with over-bloated government, high cost of governance must be addressed. All these things, I appreciate what the President is doing, even though I would not say I am happy, but I appreciate him. That is the bitter truth.
What would you tell advocates of part time legislature and calls for Government of National Unity?
Of course, do you know how much can be saved from there? A lot and if what is spent on them on yearly bases is allocated to primary health centers, in 10 years every local Government or village can have comprehensive medical center. It is a very serious work that we have to do.
Let me tell you, I have looked at this democracy, multi-party presidential system of government, and I have come to the conclusion, don’t get me wrong, I am not a pessimist, I am only saying things the way I understand them. That, as long as we pretend to practice multi-party democracy in name, that we have different parties, but with the same characteristics, as long as we continue to practice this presidential system of government that emphasizes more on party patronage that leads us to over bloated cabinet, the democracy will continue to be fragile.
It is not that the presidential system of government, per se, is not good. It is good for our country, given its tenets or principles, but at the outset, we failed to set the perimeters right. We started with fanfare, emphasis was not on governance, but on appointments and you know what, appointments come with money.
We have to reduce cost of governance. Cost of governance is our albatross. In fact, cost of governance and corruption are intertwined, they are at par. Corruption will take away the money. Cost of Governance might seem legitimate, but the government can do without some positions.
So, what I see in all of these is, we should take advantage of this call for restructuring.
We should take this call seriously on true federalism, because so many things are wrong. If we cannot sit down to address them genuinely, honestly for the next generation they will address it themselves, because it is inevitable.
Do you think state governors are strangulating the Local Government, as some people claim?
Let me start with the Local Government. If I will have the opportunity, I will drive a campaign to say that power, more resources must reside with the Local Government. Let us bring down the weight of the Federal and State Governments to the local level, that is the beginning of it. Let us devolve power to the local level and when we do that, believe me, that is when you begin to see Local Government taking charge of education and health.
The way it is today, do you know that most of these governors, at the end of the month, some don’t have even N200, 000, 000 left for them to do any work and they cannot come out and tell anyone that there is no money.
They think if they do that it will reduce their status, because they are not connecting truthfully with the people they govern. So, they are looking for how to gather the money left, right and center and go into unholy arrangements with the Local Government. They will sign the cheques for them and claim all sorts of projects. It is a whole lot of mess, which we are also failing to address squarely.
President Buhari is trying to see that happen. I think, the day Buhari says it will happen, it will happen. All these problems we talk about can be solved, because governance at that level is absent. So, let us devolve power to the local Government. I am an advocate for that.