Hon Kaka Gujibau represented Maiduguri federal constituency in the 7th House of Representatives, and in this interview with RUTH CHOJI, the agro allied consultant stated that Nigerians are quite resilient and patient but government must come up with palliatives.
As a former member, were you disappointed when you heard about the crises on budget padding that came out from the house recently?
I never heard the word budget padding in my short four years in the house. When I started seeing it in the media, I was surprised just like Mr. President, who said he never heard of it in all of his career in public service. I believe most members too, particularly the floor members, hardly knew what the word was until it started coming up frequently in the media recently.
Now that you have asked about budget, as a member in the 7th assembly, I observed that there is a strategic and structural fallacy in the way and manner we formulate and draw our annual fiscal budgets. One example, is the age-long envelope system being adopted whereby lump sum allocations were appropriated to the MDAs every year. You find that in that type of system, the governing administration’s policies are not reflected in the annual budget based on strategic priorities and progression. I am of the opinion that the relevant ministries such as National Planning, Finance and Budget departments need to come up with something better. An ingenious budget template reflects the true prioritisation of the governing administration’s policy goals and objectives.
Some have asked the speaker to step down pending investigations, do you share such views?
You don’t ask somebody holding an elective office or any public office for that matter to step aside on mere allegations, except through the same due process of law that brought the occupant into that office. The speaker and all the elected representatives of the people are in those offices by virtue of the statutory law we operate in this country. So you cannot ask the speaker to vacate his seat or any officer for that matter. According to the extant laws of the land, a person is assumed innocent until proven otherwise. If you prove him guilty, then you ask him to vacate the seat. That is my understanding and my take on this issue
As a member that represented Maiduguri metropolitan region in the 7th house of reps, what is the state of the place now that government said they have dispelled the insurgence?
Not only Maiduguri, but the whole of the north-east was affected, including Abuja. Now, as you experience and hear, a lot of peace regime has been gained. We must admit that there have been a lot of successes recorded, security wise and we should give this government a distinction. There was a time the insurgence took over local governments, even the government house in Yobe, though they were repelled, hours later but even going this far, it shows the kind of problem we had. This government came primarily on the mandate of security and to be fair to them, they have succeeded to a large extent. The economy conundrum we are facing now was unforeseen, however, we should be patient and believe that things will get better. Nigerians are quite resilient and patient, and I urge the government to devise some palliatives in addition to the on-going ones.
What is the state of IDPs in Borno State?
I wouldn’t know because I am no longer in government. This is the sole responsibility of government at the state and NEMA. I am a private citizen now.
Is this government doing enough to get us out of recession?
Most of the cabinet ministers have launched their road maps long ago. The ministers in charge of Agriculture and water resources have wonderful road maps, the two most strategic ministries to launch the nation on agricultural revolution. And this is what this nation ought to have done long ago. Well, better late than never. Probably, we are abiding by the saying that, necessity is the mother of invention.
Yes, it’s painful now. You see, the similitude of a citizen and that of the leader is just like that of a child and the mother. Just as no mother will give her child raw food to eat, no matter the hunger and the tantrums of the hungry child. But the moment the mother finishes preparing the food and puts it in the presence of the child, he starts smiling. I use this comparison, because leaders and followers are like parents and their children. Substantial parts of information available to leaders are not available to us, the sleepless nights they have because of the state of the nation and pressure being put on them to turn things around. It will be unfair for anybody to think that the government is not doing anything.
What advice can you give the government on how to solve our problems?
I think the government has started well by focusing on agriculture but it goes hand in hand with water resources. We were in China recently with a trade delegation and we were opportune to visit one of the Chinese factories that import sesame seeds across the world. China imports about $600m worth of sesame seeds across the world. When we went to the lab where they analyse the samples from different countries, I asked of the sample from Nigeria but they didn’t have any Nigerian sample. And this country is supposed to be a leading exporter of sesame seed. With proper strategy and good policy, we can capture at least 20-25percent of the Chinese market. With this and leveraging on a lot more of similar competitive advantages, Nigeria can generate multi-billion dollars of the elusive USD and create millions of jobs. The time for us to look inward and tap into our human and natural resources is now. We have to provide food for our people and also export but we need the machineries, the fertilizer and other chemicals to start the business. Our competitive advantage is in mechanised production to target countries like China and the Middle East. It is very crucial now. The government can tap into the cordial bi-lateral relations with the countries of these regions so as to access their markets. There are some countries that never had crude oil but they developed their agriculture and so, things are working for them. Look at counties like India, Brazil, Europe and the rest, even America started their technological advancement with agricultural revolution. We have to use the knowledge we have and also apply the ones that have worked for others. No nation has succeeded in technological advancement, except may be Japan, without first passing through mechanised agricultural revolution.
The issue of restructuring has been out there, are you in support of it?
I don’t understand the calls for restructuring. We are operating a federal system of government. So when they say restructure, does it mean that we should go back to the original state of south and north dichotomy or protectorate system or go back to the six region zones or back to the 19 states? What type of restructuring are they talking about? It is like a child that is grown and yet, you are telling the child to go back to his adolescent stage. There are some areas that can be looked at in our structure like the major lacuna concerning the local government structure. To me, that is the only place we can look because we are operating a three-tier of government, the federal, state and local government. Unfortunately, the state and federal governments have their powers clearly stated in the constitution but for the local governments, there is a serious lacuna and all attempts to clearly define their role has failed. They are supposed to be as autonomous as the federating states but all efforts were met with stiff resistance.
The local government is the closest strata of government to the people and if that tier of government enjoys the same level of autonomy the state enjoys, I think it will do better and we will fare better but today, what we have is the state governors controlling the LG resources. This shows that something is wrong.
The whole essence of taking government to the people has been defeated. Why should governors control the money in one account? Instead of going straight to the local government, the money is lumped in an account controlled by the governors and local governments are suffering. Imagine if the federal government holds onto the funds meant for the states in Abuja, do you think there will be peace in this country? I think the way the local government has been planned in the constitution needs to be revisited. I pray that the president will come up with an executive bill to resolve this problem. I was in a meeting with one of my former governors and he talked fervently on the need for the autonomy of local governments but it wasn’t possible when he was there, he was also against it. We need to do it now. The governors should know that they aren’t going to occupy the state government houses for eternity.
With militancy in the south-south, IPOB in the south-east and herdsmen/ farmers clashes, some are afraid that Nigeria could be heading towards a state of anarchy that could disintegrate the nation?
We have gone through worse situations than this. We have seen worse trials and tribulations. It is like marriage, couples do have clashes and they don’t just wake up and divorce. Nigeria has held lots of fora to bring us together. Remember when it was predicted that Nigeria would break up in 2015 based on a simulation conducted in one of the foreign countries’ agencies, but here we are in 2016 waxing stronger. In the last elections, people took their funds out of banks, some were buying dollars because they thought the country would break up but we are still united and it is one of the peaceful elections we have had in a long while.