November 29, 2021

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Any governor that can’t protect lives, property has no business in that seat – Ashiru

Isa Muhammad Ashiru, a former member of the Kaduna State House of Assembly, as well as House of Representatives, was the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kaduna but lost to Governor Nasir el-Rufai of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2019. In this interview, the civil servant turned politician spoke on the challenges facing his state, the status of the PDP and his assessment of the present government.

 

Daily Trust: What have you been doing since you lost the last election?

Muhammad Ashiru: After the 2019 elections I thought I should go back to my farm. I also do some trading in goods and services. With the new government in place, I felt it was time for me to spend more time with my family and rest for a while, pending when the time is ripe. But between that period and now, my party, the PDP, has successfully conducted congresses with new executives in place.

DT: Why do you think you lost the governorship seat of Kaduna State in 2015 and 2019?

Ashiru:  In 2015, I lost at the primary level to Malam Nasiru el-Rufai and remained with the APC up to the level of formation of government, but unfortunately, they felt we were a nuisance, so I and others had no choice but to leave. I returned to where I was known – the PDP. Coming back to the PDP was on request by the executives of the party.

During the party primaries in 2018, I emerged victorious out of the nine of us. The votes I got were overwhelming and the people we contested with embraced me and promises to work with me. I know that we won the election in 2019, but what really happened is now history and I have no regret.

DT: There are insinuations that people worked against you because you are too gentle; do you think so?

Ashiru:  I don’t have to be a thug to prove to anybody that I can be hard on people. Why should I even be hard when governance is about the people? As a governor, I won’t be the only one to govern the state. The problem we have today is the inability of the governor to bring everybody on board. He is not the listening type. The kind of governance in Kaduna is that of a garrison commander, where the people are required to obey the last order. That is not democracy. They don’t want criticism and have no respect for anybody because they claim to know everything.

The policies the APC is implementing, both in states and at the national level, are anti-people, and I don’t think the party can succeed. That is why it is only God that can save this country; the problems are beyond human comprehension because nobody seems to be in charge. It is even better in Kaduna that you can see El-Rufai as the arrowhead, at the national level, the situation is pathetic.

DT: Are you blaming the ruling party for most of the problems facing the country?

Ashiru: They came in by accident; they never believed they would win the election, so they were not prepared for the job. They got the mandate of the people and lost control. Their programmes were cooked by selfish few to meet their selfish interests.

The PDP handed over power when petrol was N67, but today, the proposed price that has been approved by the National Executive Council is N385 per liter. Are we progressing? Dollar was selling at N215 when we handed over, but two days ago, it was about N503.

In Kaduna, they promised to employ more hands to reduce poverty, but what is the present situation in the state? You are in a better position to answer as investigative journalists. Look at how somebody would just sit in his office as head of service to fire lecturers because they joined a strike. How do you relate this kind of situation with what Kaduna was under the PDP? The university was established by the PDP administration to provide opportunities for our children to get admission, subsidise school fees, provide employment for our people and create areas of research and development.

So, what has the APC done when compared to what we did? I want to advise Malam el-Rufai to retract from where we are now for peace to reign because I saw the letter written by the national president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to the president, drawing his attention to the breach of agreement between the state governor and the association. The strike that took place was a warning, if their conditions are not met, they will go national. I don’t subscribe to this kind of strike because it can bring down a government.  Already, people are in abject poverty, coupled with insecurity. In fact, the last time I visited my farm was a year and half ago; the bandits have people around watching and communicating, and when they take you, it is N50 million. And I am sure my price will be higher.

We are not finding things easy in this country, but Kaduna is worse because there is no household that is not affected by the policies of the APC in terms of retrenchment, kidnapping and banditry or lack of water to drink. The health care they promised to provide for free, and education, are not free, the traditional institutions were the first to be dealt with, then civil servants, and now, they are fighting students. We don’t know who is next, we don’t want to talk of landlords and plot owners, whose plots were forcefully revoked.

DT: How do you think these problems could be tackled, especially when you link the issue of mass sack to low internally generated revenue and poor federal allocations?

Ashiru: We will have to start all over again. You touched on a sensible area of revenue generation. The policies in place are areas where leakages were provided for people generating the revenue to find their safe haven. People are leaving Kaduna. Small medium businesses constitute 50 per cent of gross domestic products in any country, but where are they now? The people you found along Waff Road are no more there. Go to the central market and see what is happening. He has revoked all the allocations and given to people who are not even indigenous.

Kaduna has lost more than 70 per cent of its small-scale businesses, forcing the people to move to Kano, Katsina and other areas where they feel they have an enabling environment to operate. I will not subscribe to the fact that revenues are lost, they forced them out. All these would be addressed if we are given the opportunity.

DT: What is your position on the state government’s stand on payment of ransom and negotiating with bandits?

Ashiru: It is unfortunate. The person that said we should not negotiate was the same person that negotiated during the Southern Kaduna crisis. He was on television. And he knows he doesn’t have the power to control the security agencies.

Some comments are not meant for the public, particularly issues that have to do with security. Unfortunately, he went out to say that he was ready to face them fire for fire. Who is now losing? Any governor that cannot protect the lives and property of his people have no business being in that seat because that is the essence of government. So, for me, negotiation is an option.

DT: Some people say the PDP has been silenced by the present administration in Kaduna. Do you think the party is strong enough to tackle the APC come 2023?

Ashiru: In politics, we believe in strategy. People are used to aggressive and fanatical ways of dealing with the opposition, but I don’t think we should encourage that. I don’t see any reason why I should go out abusing El-Rufai or his government because I am in the opposition. What difference will it make? He doesn’t even listen. If you disrupt their political programmes, what benefits would that be to you as a person, or the society? I remember an incident when we went to the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) secretariat and they sent thugs to disperse us. We can’t do that because it is not a mature way of dealing with the opposition. For me, educating people on the way and manner government is run will be more impactful to the citizenry. El-Rufai led so many protests in Kaduna when the PDP was in government, but he is now accusing the party of joining the three-day warning strike by the NLC in Kaduna.

DT: Why do you think you should govern Kaduna State?

Ashiru: I was in government for decades and I know the contributions I gave to those that were there. I feel that if given the opportunity, I would do better because of my experiences.