Alhaji Abubakar Sanusi Gamji is a Board of Trustees (BoT) member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and a leading contender during the governorship contest in Kogi State in 2015. In this interview, the philanthropist tasks newly elected leaders at all levels to fear God, articulate their policies and swing into action for the betterment of Nigerians. Excerpts:
Elections are mostly over at the national and state levels, and those elected are waiting to be sworn in amidst agitations by Nigerians for good governance. What is your take for those elected?
While congratulating them for their success in the last election, I equally want to give them a piece of advice. They should realize that the whole thing about life is vanity – it must end no matter who you are – whether you are a president or governor. That’s number one. Two, from the date you are sworn in, you should realize that you have a term. It’s surprising that most governors, when they get there, and realizing the enormous power at their disposal, fail to put the interests of the masses who voted them into office first. Whether we like it or not, there are some voters that genuinely voted for candidates of their choice.
You, as a leader now carry the burden of trust before God. That’s the more reason why we have to fear God. When you now convert what is meant for these people for your own pocket, and suddenly your family starts living larger than life from what is meant for the masses, we should all know that God is watching us.
To me, politics, sweet as it is because of the temporary power, is the most tempting and unrealistic way of getting one’s position because it gives you a false impression about yourself. You should know yourself; unfortunately, most times, politicians don’t know themselves. When they get there, they get carried away with the bootlickers and those who are ready to call them names. They now have new names, and thus start squandering the peoples’ resources without the fear of God.
That’s the more reason I want to remind them that no state has less than, at least three million persons. So, when you start squandering resources meant for three million persons on your family of about 10 or 15, you should have conscience. So, Nigerians should wake up; this is time to create wealth for our citizens. We are blessed with abundant resources but nobody cares. Everybody is waiting for the money from the Federation Account – N2 billion, N4 billion – and to start spending it. We can’t continue living like that while we have unemployment pilling up, with our children graduating from the university every year in thousands. Unemployment is why we have kidnapping, insecurity and other serious crimes. In fact, it’s a waiting time bomb. It’s time both the federal and state governments come up with strategic plans, using the Chinese model to develop the country.
Don’t you think the burden is too much on the federal and state governments to create jobs for everybody?
We should collectively explore our potentials in agriculture that remains untapped. For now, small scale farming accounts for 70 per cent of our arable land! The Federal Government is aggressively pursuing the lofty goal but states are doing very little and this is unacceptable. Governors have to compliment the efforts of the Federal Government to achieve the desired results by working closely with the private sector.
It’s also time to urge our graduates to forget white collar jobs and go for self-employment; but the government has a large role to play in this regard. We have a large market to cater for – the West African region.
The governors-elect have some days ahead to take over. However, there are fears that some of them only scampered for power without plans on ground. If some of these governors-elect were to ask you, for instance, how do I approach governance, what would you tell them?
Thank you. Again, that’s the problem we have in our political system. People that don’t know anything can become governors by arrangement. But, you see, God chooses leaders. When God says be, it will be. Allah has already destined them to be governors. Alhamdulillahi! I’m even happy with those who ask, how do I start? It makes it easy because he/she must have realized he/she has no agenda. Perhaps, he never even thought he would win the election. Now, he has won. If he genuinely wants to have impact on his people, the first thing to do is to sit down, and have need assessment. With the spirit of no victor, no vanquished, get the best brains within your state.
First, do your need assessment and second, set up committees to assess the debt profile of your state to ascertain if it’s still creditworthy or not. Talk about the economy of your state in terms of wealth creation and comparative advantage over sister states, how to harness the economic potentialities of your state for the benefit of the people, especially the youths. So, the best thing is first of all, set up a think tank with the best brains in your state. Every person in the team has to know his/her task is for the good of the state. Create a blueprint, set up town hall meeting with relevant stakeholders. Make yourself open to your people, don’t become a governor that starts running from his own people. Let your people understand that you have something to offer.
Sir, are you in tune with the thinking that new governors should probe the previous administrations before starting their own projects?
Do we have any meaningful, positive outcomes from such probes till date? Have you ever seen where a governor is probed and billions recovered and brought back to the state? It’s all wasted efforts. That’s why I said the ultimate judge is God. You can’t judge anybody.
So, they should draw line?
Exactly! Draw lines. That’s the need assessment. The public will know; they have conscience. Leave everything to God and show what you can do. This is because if you waste useful time on such narrow-minded pursuits, you end up achieving nothing. If you have the opinion that your predecessor was corrupt or didn’t perform, then you can come and open up governance such that the people would say, so a governor can do this!
What I’m saying is, you decentralize control and give everyone a task. No single human being can do everything. It’s practically impossible. So, such probes don’t give results.
How do you think governors can bring the best out of themselves?
If you see the best brain in any political party and you bring him to contribute, he automatically becomes a member of your political party. In fact, it makes it easy for you because you get more support base. Is it not support base you are trying to create? But that does not mean you should sideline those who voted for you. This is because if you set up a system that is productive, you have a lot of supporters. You become a driver and your supporters become the passengers who even benefit more.
Many states are having financial challenges, how do you think they can overcome these and meet the aspirations of the people?
You see, the challenge we are having is that you have governors who want to have ministries and engage 20 commissioners; sometimes they want to have over 1,000 special assistants. To them, they are creating wealth but that’s not governance.
But every local government will like to have a commissioner, what do you think the governors should do?
What you need to do is to narrow down the ministries to key strategic areas and make the other ministries as departments under the main ministries. You can have ministry of Infrastructure, which will take care of all the amenities. To me, the critical ministry you cannot do without is the ministry of wealth creation, which has to do with employment, private sector driven employment and many other ministries could come under it as departments. This is the key. You can also have the ministry of economy, which will look at how do to grow the economy. That also goes side by side with wealth creation.
You can narrow everything down to six ministries at most, and by so doing, drastically reduce waste. Within a term of four years, teach these people how to fish rather than giving them fish. They will always remain grateful to you as long as they are alive. It’s better than saying all the LGAs should bring 20 aides, and you continue to pay them what ordinarily should have been invested in creating more money to cater for these people. At times, most of the so-called aides don’t even have office. Unlike the Federal Government which can afford large number of ministries, the states don’t have the resources to fund them. Why must we continue to have the same system? Can’t somebody come up and think and say, look I’m not going this way! I want to save money and be more productive.
Don’t you think you will be confronted by politicians who would want to argue that each LGA should produce a commissioner. Is there any way you would compensate them?
Good, in this country, for instance, you have six geopolitical zones. I think the governors can replicate same in their respective states. Then, they can take it to the party and say, shortlist your nominees and we pick the best. However, that doesn’t mean your own nominees will be left idle. They would ultimately form part of the committees. At the end of the day, everybody is happy.
What I’m talking about here is result. You don’t expect to start a new thing and you receive accolades immediately. No! But, if you are sure, it’s better to try something new that has more prospects than to sit down and follow the old, normal system and at the end of the day, fail like others. That has been our biggest problem.