Senator Usman Jibrin Wowo is a former senator representing the FCT and also a chieftain of the APC in the territory. In this interview, he speaks on what the minister, Muhammad Musa Bello, should do to win the hearts of the people in his second term and the need to make streetlights in Abuja city centre work, among others. Excerpts:
The ruling APC has formed government for a second term. What are your expectations especially from the area council chairmen?
On the issue of what the current council chairmen need to do, having been re-elected, I will say that from experience, it is to first of all have an all-inclusive policy. What I mean is that he must involve people in whatever policy he has. So whatever policies you intend to implement based on the manifesto of the party, you need to consult with the people who voted you into office so that together you can map out areas that are their main concern.
If as chairman you just sit in your office and enunciate polices, you may find out that they may not be a priority to the electorate. What some of us did was we involved the people; brought them on board, sat down with them and collectively agreed on the policies that best suited them. So I will expect him to sit with the electorate of the area council and discuss what the administration has in the offing for them and let them make contributions to it.
This way, I believe whatever policies the administration is putting in place will be very rich. He also needs to find solution to the deplorable state of rural roads to enable farmers move their crops to the markets. In fact, as I talk with you now, some of the feeder roads have become terribly bad. This is one other area that the electorate will be very concerned about.
Are you suggesting periodic town hall meetings where stakeholders and community members come together to deliberate on policies to be implemented for them?
Exactly, there should be town hall meetings. I remember when I was in office I organised town hall meetings yearly. And what I did then was to create a place close to the rural people so that they didn’t have to worry themselves how to come to the area council headquarters. I designated places where they converged and all of us will discuss issues about how to move the administration together.
If the council chairmen adopt a similar system, it will help them as the people themselves will feel they are part of the government; they will feel they are being carried along by the administration. If they don’t do that, they will have problem of exclusion; a problem of not getting the people to know what they have in the offing as an administration.
It they put such things in place, they will be going along with the people who voted them into office and it will go a long way to get the people understand at every stage where their leaders are and where next they will be going to.
The FCT elite have often been very critical of area council chairmen who they accuse of doing nothing for the people with the allocations they get. What is your advice to the chairmen in making their projects visible to the public?
You see, you need as a chairman to let people know what you are doing. If there are projects that you have sunk money into for the benefit of the people, publicity here is very important. For example in AMAC, the chairman is not taking publicity into consideration by telling people, or asking people to come and see what he is doing.
If you check, the chairman could have performed well but without publicity, the people out there may not know that. So I think the chairmen should do enough publicity to get people to know the efforts they have made in the area of projects execution.
Besides, in AMAC, only six or so wards are within the city centre. Other wards are outside and a bit distant from the city. That is where concentration should be in terms of provision of infrastructure like access roads, portable water and other sundry activities that will improve the lives and well-being of residents.
So I think what the area councils need to do to avoid such accusations is to engage in massive publicity. So what you need to do is to involve the services of information managers to tell the populace or the public what you are doing and what you have done
Also publicity, apart from making sure they know what their leaders are doing, is part of transparency. And that is it, but if you don’t do that, people will just think may be the allocations that come to you, you are just diverting them. And that is why in some cases, you will hear people saying some local government money was been shared. You can only let people know what you are doing through publicity. So that is my advice to them.
The FCT minister has just assumed office for a second term. What are those projects you will want him to do or complete that will make your party stronger in the FCT?
He has been here and in fairness to him, I must say that he inherited a lot of uncompleted projects. But before the end of his first term in office, he had almost completed most of the uncompleted projects he met on ground and that is why if you go into the city, you will find that there are many roads that he has completed and many other infrastructure within the town.
However, some of us still advise that in his second coming the minister will improve on these by going ahead to face those other ones that he was unable to complete. I also believe that the city centre in a city such as Abuja, in the night, illumination is also very important. So I will advise the minister to address this too. If the city is properly illuminated, there may even be less crime in the city.
So I must say that in fairness to him, he did his best in the first tenure and I am expecting him to improve on what he did in his second term.