Legal Practitioner, Barrister Abdulwaheed Yusuf is the Kwara state Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in this interview with NAIJ.com's Ibitoye Shittu at his office in Ilorin, he explained the level of poverty in Kwara claiming that the present administration under the leadership of governor Fatah Ahmed are not capable of handling the state.
He also suggests that the Senate president, Bukola Saraki should have resigned and properly face his trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
Can you tell us a little about your antecedents?
We are majorly into litigation and I’ve always been involved in politics but not actively – we criticise where it is necessary as well as do some other important things. But precisely, some three years ago, I came into politics fully and that time I contested for the position of House of Assembly, Ilorin East.
We did the primaries, I won and I contested against all the other candidates from other parties then the election was determined and they said that we lost but we took it in good faith. After that, some of our party executives decamped to APC and that was when the position of the secretary became vacant, so the person that left the position was from my local government and based on the position of the party, we need to bring somebody from that local government.
So, the elders decided and the excos also decided that having viewed my background and having seen what I did during the primaries and during the electoral campaign, that I should come and that was how I answered their call and with the support of my people, I eventually became the secretary of the party since the 2015 and since then, I have always been on ground to see that we work for the party and to see to the sustenance of the party and by the grace of God, hoping that by 2019 we should be able to win the state for the party.
How can you rate the performance of the current Governor of Kwara state Abdulfatah Ahmed so far?
Well ordinarily without being political, honestly speaking, I have not seen anything on ground to say that okay this government has performed; honestly speaking because considering my background in which I also practice in Lagos and we see other governors – what they do in their states. I do not see the basis of comparison of Kwara State with any other state that I have been to.
Though, of recent, they have always been complaining of dwindling resources or dwindling allocation, the question we need to ask is when the allocations were coming the way it ought to come, what did they do then? They have been in government for more than 16 years – Bukola was in government for 8 years, he (the current governor) was in government for the first four years, this is his second tenor.
Forget about the change of name, moving from PDP to APC, it is still the same set of people who are in government, so what have they done? That is the question we need to ask. The second issue again is: When they say that it is the PDP that have really damaged and they are trying to repair, who are in the PDP as at the first tenor?
They were in PDP, they were the same set of people especially in Kwara state here; they were the same set of people who were in government in the last 16years, so what did they do when the allocation was coming the way it ought to come? So definitely, I don’t see anything.
Even without going too far you’ll hear they have been owing people salaries, they could not pay salaries, they could not even manage things. I mean, you are in the state already, look at the infra structural development, what do you see on ground? Nothing! So to me, I am rating them very low.
Looking at it from the salary issue, what can you say about Local Governments being owed salaries in Kwara?
It is really bad. When people earn their salary, you ought to pay them, they have worked but unfortunately most of these people have never handled their personal businesses before coming into government.
I have a chamber which I have been managing for more than 20 years; it is not the business of my workers how I pay, I must pay since they have worked. That is the way it should be. So these people have worked, they are entitled to their pay and unfortunately, what you hear this day is that some people are instigating them, it is the opposition and all that, no! When people are hungry you don’t need to say anything before they react.
So ordinarily, for every action, there must be a reaction, people are reacting to bad governance. If you say the allocations are dwindling, what did you do when the allocations were coming the way it ought to come, and what investments have you made? There is nothing on the ground. Other states are paying salaries despite the fact that they are also experiencing dwindling allocations from the central. So definitely, it is not an excuse, it is just as a result of bad governance, nothing more.
But the last time we met the State Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Ajeigbe, he made us to know that there is no connection between the State Government and the Local Governments as regards revenue allocation. In other words, he said that the State does not pay the Local Governments.
Okay, the question we need to ask them is that, what is JAC account meant for? They have this joint account, so when the allocation come in, the whole money goes into the state, so it is now for the state to give them their dues accordingly.
So it is for the state government to make their own allocations available to them (the local governments) but the government has not been doing this, so they have been diverting the money to somewhere else. So when they (the workers) are now asking “pay us our money,” they (the government) are now trying to seafare them from the state government; that cannot work. So definitely, they have a joint account and they must be responsible for whatever problem the local governments are facing now. It is just unfortunate that most of the so called local government chairmen, because they belong to the same party, they cannot come out and say what is happening – it’s happening, but we know what is happening.
Some of the people in PDP were in government in APC before, they know how they do it and that is what we have been saying on radio every; you don’t need to say you are seafaring anything now, you the state government is responsible for the problem of the local government workers as at today, and they have to settle it.
In the same line, pensioners in Kwara State are grumbling over their dues not being settled and this has generated speculation across the state. What is your opinion on this?
The way I look at it is that pensioners are elder statesmen. They have contributed their quotas, they have helped the State in one way or the other, this is their old age, so they are entitled to being taken care of.
If somebody worked for so many years and after retirement and is not getting what he ought to get, what are you telling the people working now? You are telling them to be corrupt because nobody will care for you; whatever you can steal, steal. And that’s the problem we are having.
We need to take care of these people, as at now they are helpless, they are elderly people, they need help and that is why they must be paid as at when due, but unfortunately, when you don’t pay them, many of them are dying, many of them have even died without even getting their pay.
So definitely, it is not encouraging and it is not the best for the state; they ought to pay them as at when due. And to add a little, those who are in government – the political officers, they are not being owed. So how are you paying their salaries?
You are paying Commissioners, you are paying Special Advisers, you are paying so many political officers. Why? If you now say people should sacrifice, I think it should start from them not from elderly people who don’t have any other source of income. So it’s not fair and it is ungodly.
I will tell you what is happening now and I’m telling you this is the truth. In December last year, they paid 70% of December salary leaving 30% outstanding, so February, they paid maybe another 60%, so now when salary was coming, they paid another about 70% again.
So how do you calculate that? In almost about 7 or 8 months, you paid thrice and did not even pay fully, you just paid percentage, therefore if you are to calculate it, some workers are being owed as far back as maybe January, February this year.
So, they are owing them. If you pay for example, up to May or June for example, we can now say you are owing them just one month salary, that is not the case; in December you paid about 70%, in January or February you paid another about 60%, this one again you paid about 60% or 70%, so how are you doing it? Even some of them are complaining that they are being confused because they cannot even see the more they have paid because even the more you claim to pay, it’s just 30%.
So if you pay 70% for example in December and maybe in February you now paid another 60 or so percent, you need to add that to the first you have paid so it means you have just paid only one month salary. So definitely, a lot of salaries are outstanding and even when they now pay the money into the bank account of the workers, by the time the banks deduct all the money these people are owing, at times some of them go home with just four or two thousand naira.
I’m telling you, there is a particular vice principal of a secondary school who complained to me that when she went to the bank, she was only given two thousand naira. She was now complaining that is this for recharge card or something? They now said well after the deduction, that was what was left. You can see the kind of problem people are facing in this state. It’s not because we are in PDP, but that’s exactly what is happening.
It is being said that Kwara is one of the non-performing states in Nigeria. What is your reaction to this assertion?
Ordinarily, we should not be non-performing state, the only problem we have is that we have lazy people in government. We have so many means by which we can generate fund; when you provide services, people will pay.
We have been to other states where they are even going to some other investments but unfortunately in Kwara State, even the investments our own people went into before the coming of this government, they cannot even account for them.
Most of these things are going into even private hands. For example, I think about two weeks ago, our presenters on radio, that is “PDP Gbode”, were invited by the Police, that we said some things about some of the Kwara state investments being made in some people’s names in the memo and article and we said it is true and we showed them the memo with the names of those who are there; it’s a kind of subtle diversion.
So this is the problem we are having, they were managing our resources, instead of using the resources for the benefit of the people, they were using the resources for self gratification, it is very unfortunate. And luckily for them, people had not been complaining but this time around, things are changing and we are giving them a meat to chew.
Reports indicated recently that the Senate President Bukola Saraki was alleged to have taken about 4 years salary even after his time in office as the Kwara state governor. What is your take on this?
Yes we have been hearing it and to the glory of God it came out now into the open. We had been hearing it, but one interesting thing about the whole thing is that he is now in court and that was why initially when they started that matter and he was running from one court to another saying he should not be tried based on one technicality or the other, I was particularly pained.
The reason being that people are saying you are corrupt, this is an opportunity for you to go to court and tell the whole world “this is how neat I am” and you are running away from the court, what impression are you giving the people. So, as at now he has every opportunity in face of the whole world and tell them that “I am neat,” and that is why it (such thing) is good for our democracy.
Is it true that Kwara State is in bondage of the Senate president Bukola Saraki?
What we look at is that we look at the development of the state, how developed is the state? You people have been in government for close to 16, 18 years and you can’t see the development index on the people, you cannot see rise in the standard of living of the people, you cannot see infrastructure and people are not complaining, what do you say to that?
People have been so pauperised that they can hardly complain. People are becoming docile, so this is the kind of problem we are having. It is just for you to go into the community and see what is happening.
If you see the level of Kwara State as at today, you will be sorry for the state. And surprisingly, people who are supposed to talk and cry out, for God’s sake are keeping quiet because maybe they are subservient or they are getting some little change from… so you look at the indexes and you will see that definitely, Kwara has a big problem; a big challenge, we just know that we’ll be able to overcome it.
So you mean to say that Kwara State is in bondage?
I won’t use that language, because unless you put yourself in bandage, you understand. As far as I’m concerned, I do not see myself as being in bondage, the reason being that I will speak out and I’m speaking out now when I feel things are not going the way it should go, you understand. When I now have freedom to speak out, it is now for every Kwaran to come and reason with us and let us change what we feel is not (in order). So don’t let us say we are in bondage but definitely when we look at the indices, you will see that definitely, the people are in poverty and which is not good.
As a barrister, don’t you think Saraki’s case is taking too long, as there too many processes involved?
I won’t say it is too long, you know, one thing is that we have our judicial process; it may be slow – quite alright, but at the end of the day, you will always get to the desired end. Ordinarily, by our acquisitorial system, when you accuse somebody of infringement or misdemeanour, it is for the state to prove because everybody is presumed innocent until proved guilty.
So, it is for the state to prove his guilt before he is called into the witness box to come and prove his defence.
That is what the EFCC is doing for now. You can see people have been complaining about the case, especially the adjournment to maybe next month, and i told people that it is normal because between July and September the court is always on vacation, so we are all on vacation especially the High Courts. So they don’t do anything during that period and that was why they adjourn to that length, it is not as if maybe because of any other factor. The judgment will surely come.
Do you think Saraki’s perpetuity in the case is healthy for the country considering the lofty post he occupies, or do you rather think his resignation would have been better?
If he resigns, it would have been better. In a clime environment, immediately you are accused of some misdemeanour you hands off and you let the investigator go into the investigation. But in our system here, we still presume he is innocent until proved. If he says he is not resigning, let the case get to its logical conclusion, and at the end of the day, we will know that nobody is above the law.
But by the time you now say okay let us stop a case or so, then we are not helping democracy at all and we are not even helping him. By the time we say okay let’s put a stop to this case and all that, you are not helping him. He has an opportunity now to go before the whole world and prove to the world that he is not corrupt and that he has not stolen anybody’s money.
That is the beauty in democracy. And if at the end of the day he was found guilty, the law would naturally take its course; and if he’s found to have committed no crime, he would be set free, so I think the case would get to its logical conclusion.
We want you to educate Nigerians on the budget padding issue; Hon. Dogara’s rebuttal of allegations levelled against him by Hon. Jibrin, and the latter’s insistence on his claims.
You know, one thing with padding is just that you say several projects for instance will be done in your constituency and they allocate money for that particular project. The problem with the country is that is that project ever done? Have they always done that project? That is one question.
The second question is that even when the projects are carried out, was it the money allocated for it that was expedient on that project? So definitely, where either by omission or commission, you corner project to your constituency, that is a kind of corruption, because definitely, we have to spread it (the allocations) and develop all sector or segment of the country evenly.
By the time you now say okay I’m in a position and I’m cornering as much billions of naira contracts or projects into my constituency, it is a kind of corruption, that is number one. The second kind of corruption; when the money is even allocated for construction or for carrying out of those projects and the project is not carried out, that is the second one.
The third one is that when the project is even carried out, but not the total money that was allocated on that project was expedient on the project then the money might have gone into somebody’s pocket. So definitely, padding is wrong and the EFCC or whatever agency that is necessary ought to go into this thing and let us know what exactly is going on.
READ ALSO: Uganda hits by earthquake
Can you tell us what effect does the budget padding have on the economy?
It has a lot of effects on the economy. By the time you now say okay 20 or 30billion is allocated to certain project in certain constituency and it is not done, definitely the economy would suffer because ordinarily, the money would have been used to better a lot of lives. So it’s just … of corruption that en slaves this country and so until that area is carefully monitored and we know what is happening there, then we would be having problem with our budget; we won’t be able to execute most of the lofty things they put in that project because the money would be cornered to somewhere else.
What palliatives do you think can be introduced to get Nigeria out of recession?
I think the best thing is that we need to create job. The level of unemployment is just too high and when we create job or we create enabling environment for people to be able to do what they learnt how to do, the economy will bounce back. We all cannot be absorbed by the government, but create enabling environment for people to be able to do their work… we have so many people who are going into Okada riding this day, many of them are artisans but because the environment is not just conducive for them to be able to practice their trade, then they abandon their jobs and take to something else. Let people be given employment, by so doing, people will be able to take care of certain things. If we employ contractors, pay them, when they pay, they also employ other people to work with them and the economy will be buoyant again. Until we are able to do that, we will continue to have problem in this country.
Some national PDP stakeholders have made a call on the President to chicken out. Do you think it is a good idea?
I won’t subscribe to that. What I will just advise the President on, is that he should be able to deal with corruption in this country, fighting corruption should not be if you are not with me, I will fight you or take you to court. Corruption should be based on a thief is a thief, either in PDP or in APC. Whoever is corrupt, let us ensure that by the time we now say that nobody is above the law, people who are stealing would not steal, people would sit down and do what they ought to do and we will be able to know where we are going. But by the time you are now saying some people are with me here or they are doing certain things, I won’t really touch them, you are not really helping things. So we need to really, if it is corruption we want to fight, let us fight it holistically; whoever is a thief, is a thief. So, by the time we do that, the person would be able to do something but as at now, most of the people who said they are even working for him are not helping him at all and it is very unfortunate because it is like they also have their own agenda different from that of the President himself. So until they are focused and they work with him, follow in the way he is going, then maybe we would be out of the wood.
Are you saying now, that the present administration’s anti-corruption campaign is lopsided?
I will say that, that is exactly what is happening. I will not like to mention names here but we know all of them, we know some of them who are just holding some petty positions before they became governors, or ministers or senators and we can see the kind of assets they are boasting of today, where did they get the money from?
And as they are in PDP, they are also in APC, so we should ask questions. And if you look at it, I do not see anybody in APC – if I’m wrong, please correct me – that has been arraigned for corruption, I can’t remember of anybody for now. Why must it be PDP? It is not as if I am really saying that arraignment of the people who are corrupt is wrong, no, let’s fight them holistically; if you are corrupt, you are corrupt, if you have stolen, you have stolen, so let all of them face justice, that’s the way I look at it.
READ ALSO: Basketball clinic opens in Ilorin
Is it true that there is an enduring diminishing of public confidence in today’s judiciary system?
I will say yes and I will say no. You know what, yes because of the aspiration of the people; they want justice as quickly as possible, not because they are not getting it but you know, because of the ignorance of the people about the workings of the law.
The people will want, immediately you are taken to the court… even at times, they feel that within the period of two three month, the matter should come to an end but unfortunately, our judicial system does not allow for that because even when you as a judge, are prepared to go on, if the lawyer is not prepared or is determined to delay, he will still exhaust his constitutional rights:
He will address the court, he will cross examine and he could do this for days. So, that is just the reason people have to be patient, but what I just pray for is that if everybody decides to be upright, no matter how long it takes, justice will definitely be served and if justice is served, I think everybody will be able to sit up and do what is right.
Coming back to what you have discussed either, can you rate the percentage of poverty in Kwara State?
Statistically, it will be difficult for me to say this is the statistics, but what I can say from my own layman point of view – I am not a … but I think the level of poverty in Kwara State will be close to, if not more than 60%. Those who are really up and doing and are making it here cannot be more than 40% if they are up to that.
What is the cause?
It is because of bad governance. You have introduced people to the culture of handouts; come to me, I give you money. That is not the way things should be. You should empower people, when you empower people, they go back and take care of their parents.
So, if I take care of my parents and family, they need not go to somewhere looking for 200 or 500naira, but this is the culture they have given us and unfortunately, because they feel that when they given them money, they can always be sure of their votes at the next election period, they are not doing anything.
They just decided that they do not need to do anything, all they just need to do is that when election is maybe a month or two months to come, we just call them and be giving them money and they will vote and unfortunately, it’s working for them.
But this time around, it’s like people are realising it and that is why you see what is happening; people in different locations, rising up to them. And unfortunately, instead of them facing where the problem is from, they say it is opposition. You don’t need to instigate somebody is hungry before he reacts to somebody who they see as the suppressor.