Abdullahi Sule, Nasarawa State Governor, in this interview speaks on why he deserves a second term, the 2003 presidential election and the alleged anger of some northern governors who are against Bola Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress Presidential Candidate
Sule argues: “If there is any governor that is unhappy with Tinubu and is trying to go to opposition, believe me, I have never heard from such a governor, nor met such a governor. And I think such governor(s) will have some difficulty being able to defend himself in the sense that it is the same northern governors that came together to say power must return to the South.”
What have you been up to in the last one year in terms of concrete development?
A lot has happened and it is difficult to just summarise, but I can say that we have done quite a lot in agriculture, health, education, industrialisation, and other sectors. We have achieved a lot.
In the last one year, we have reviewed some security protocols and seen a lot of improvements in the security architecture. We have been able to arrest situations before they occur. There are still situations happening in the state, because our state is becoming more attractive because of mining activities and discovery of lithium which has jumped from $8,000 to $80,000 per kilogramme. Because of this, we are beginning to see a lot of interest coming into Nasarawa State. And so, we are arresting potential areas of situations of difficulty. And because the elections are coming up, there are also lots of interests coming up. And we are learning from what has happened in other states, especially in the North-west. So, in the area of security, we have seen great improvement and strategies to overcome the challenge.
In the area of education, we have employed more teachers into the system in order to equip our students. We have done more accreditation of our tertiary institutions. In fact, tomorrow, we would have a combined convocation for seven years of the College of Education, Akwanga, same with the Polytechnic which is over nine years in existence; and the College of Agriculture which has been upgraded to College of Agriculture, Science and Technology. Also the accreditation went through in the last one year. We have seen the building of more primary and secondary schools in the last year.
In agriculture, we have seen more improvement. Our power supply is better with the sub-station. It’s not everything that has been good. We have seen challenges. Because we are an active state, it’ll be difficult to summarise the last year which could take a 10-hour discussion.
Why do you think you have been so successful in attracting investors and getting them to put billions of dollars in Nasarawa State? What makes them choose Nasarawa?
I think it’s a combination of so many indices. Nasarawa State has great potential and it is a good place for agriculture or land-related investments. We have also seen people who are comfortable with the kind of peace that we maintain in the state. Investors are also looking for the proximity to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which they see as the potential market. Investors are also comfortable with our administration, because they believe we have excellent understanding of investment, and will protect their investments.
Your predecessor changed the face of Nasarawa State because of its huge infrastructural and human capital development. In your first tenure, have you completed all the projects?
If we look at the projects he started, he completed most of the projects he started. The few he did not complete, we were able to complete. And they are the Institute for Vocational Studies, the airport, Faculty of Engineering, and some of the road networks. Every other project we started on our own. We have opened up the rural arrears with roads from Mararaba to Dege, Sisin-baki to Kwara. We have completed all the markets and bus terminals across the state. But we went beyond my predecessor. The banquet hall that we have today started by the late Aliu Akwe Doma. We completed it because we believe it is the right thing to do. Every project we undertook, we tried to see the value they would add to Nasarawa State.
Does the discovery of crude oil in Keana signal a future of financial independence and non-reliance on Federal Allocation? When are you likely to start production?
No. Even with the oil we have in the country, the federal government is not completely independent, because there are times the federal government borrows to pay salaries. But I think the state will be comfortable in the next three years, coupled with other interventions. Oil is not going to have a real impact until another three years. Right now, they are going to do the analysis of the crude oil there. They will then draw the development which will take them another one year before the real production starts. But remember we are thinking of integrated field development- to produce, refine and then ship. It would take roughly three years with a lot of effort, impact before we can get there. Otherwise, it can go another 10 years without seeing anything. That’s the way oil and gas works.
Are you also eying power generation?
Yes. Power generation, crude oil refining, fertiliser production and more are on the radar. We want to tap the gas and produce LPG (cooking gas) as well. We want to have a complete value chain of oil and gas.
As the Governor of Nasarawa State, what would you consider as your greatest achievement so far?
Peace and unity of the people. Forget about all the big structures we have constructed, employment we have created, pipe-borne water and road constructions, and paying people salaries as at when due, it is something we are supposed to do. The greatest thing I have achieved is peace and unity that Nasarawa State citizens enjoy. We are becoming more united, and that is my greatest joy
What is your biggest challenge now as governor?
Resources. It is not one of the richest states; it is worse for me coming from the background of the private sector where there was money to do everything and now no money to do everything. But I think we have overcome it.
Second, is the educational level of our people. The level of education is still low, and that is a major challenge we have.
We were having challenges with interests, because the state was more or less unknown. I remember we were travelling from Lagos with Alhaji Aliko Dangote one day, to arrive in Makurdi and then drive from Makurdi to Lafia. So, Alhaji called a very prominent person – very important in the country and said we were just taking off to Lafia. The man said ‘Lafia, close to Yola, right?’ Alhaji said no, Lafia is the home of the governor. To be honest with you, that is the way it was. But today, the story is changing.
You are seeking reelection for a second term; why do you think you deserve a second term in office?
I believe people voted for me because they believe I could make a difference in Nasarawa State; so, they voted for me. And that has been my challenge, to prove to them that I could make a difference and I think we have done the best we can. If the people say we have done well so far and believe we can do better, there is no better way to be deserving of a second term in office. I have seen a lot of governors that have done well, but were not re-elected. Jubrila is an example, Ambode is an example.
Those names mentioned have the backing of the godfather, but you have a good relationship with your predecessor. Or is there an interplay of godfatherism in your state?
We are lucky in Nasarawa State; we don’t have any godfather figures. My understanding is that God has His ways of selecting our leaders in ways that are not understood by us. I wouldn’t discredit anyone for losing the election. I’m very lucky I have good experience in life, and so nothing shakes or bothers me so much.
Many governors are believed to use the second terms to pillage the state treasury for themselves and their cronies. If you are elected as governor for a second term, what will you do differently from your peers?
I think I will continue to improve on what we have done, especially in the areas of industrialisation. It doesn’t happen overnight because it takes a process. We have started a process and want to be able to complete the process. In education we have moved from 32 to less than 20. We want to work on being in the top 10. I’m also poised to improve the health sector with the use of technology.
Do you think the APC under President Muhammadu Buhari has done well enough for the APC presidential candidate to ride on his back to take a shot at the presidency in the 2023 general election?
I think he has done well on the promises he made. Yes, he faced some challenges in the system, but the challenges he met, he has been able to do well on them. Has he achieved 100 per cent? No. Could it have been better? Yes.
We would have done better on the economy. On security, I think he has done fantastic. Another area of insecurity opened for him which he has not been able to resolve, and that would be resolved by another administration. On fighting corruption, he has done a bit here and there. Has the other person who wants to take over from him done well? Yes, he has. Does he have a good track record of building people and systems? Yes, he has. Can he be elected based on his merit? Yes?
There are allegations that aggrieved northern governors’ are angry with Bola Tinubu, and have concluded plans to work against him and support Atiku Abubakar in the forthcoming presidential election.
Firstly, I don’t know them. Secondly, none of them has ever approached me. If there is any governor that is unhappy with Tinubu and is trying to go to opposition, believe me, I have never heard from such a governor, nor met such a governor. And I think such governor(s) will have some difficulty being able to defend himself in the sense that it is the same northern governors that came together to say power must return to the South. So, if someone comes in today to plan a shifting base to the opposition, he will have difficulty convincing other northern governors to do that. So, if there is one, I don’t know.
Isn’t your party weary of the kind of gravitas and reception the presidential candidate of the Labour Party has been receiving?
No, Peter Obi’s movement is a social media movement, and I don’t have any problem with it. For some of us, we are not social media compliant people. We are people on ground. A good example would be the same Peter Obi. When he came to Lafia, did he get the kind of reception he received on social media? No?
You are also setting up industrial zones in your country home, Gudi. Can you shed more light?
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