Thank God for the archives! Going through the two exclusive interviews I had with the Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar revealed alot. First as an Honorable Member representing Anka/Talata Mafara Federal Constituency of Zamfara state in the Federal House of Representatives who was then the Governorship Candidate of ANPP in Zamfara State in early 2011 and second time was in 2012 after his first year in office.
Yari and I got connected through a mutual friend who saw him as one of the northern progressives he was trying to promote to governance in different states of the north. We had those two encounters and promised to keep in touch especially in our last interview (I did this one together with my then Editor Ike Abonyi) where he raised concerns about the illegal gold mining in Zamfara and dangers of lead poison. He promised to invite us to do a detailed report about the environmental hazards caused by this illegal mining and the need for RESTRUCTURING (oh yes Yari was rooting for restructuring then) so that states like Zamfara can better manage its resources.
Unfortunately, this partnership could not be sustained as he got embroiled in real politik after joining the APC merger and I was extremely busy covering the Boko Haram menace and other security issues…
Back to Yari, here are some interesting quotes from those two interviews/reports on Buhari, Gold, Oil and restructuring. These are words of marble.
I could recall Yari boasting then that Zamfara alone (from its fertile land and gold reserves) could feed the entire North West and wondered why Federal Governme should not restructure to allow states manage it’s own resources. I was however, surprised down the line when he seem to have joined anti-restructuring sing-song just like some APC heavyweights who joined us then in anti-subsidy protests with all manner of unprintable names against Jonathan in 2012 suddenly turned 360° to become champion of subsidy removal. I could recall how they mocked Jonathan when in early 2015 he reduced fuel price from N97 to N87,APC said that is too small only to take over and skyrocketed the price to N145 (without palliatives unlike GEJ who at least recognised there should be one even though the implementation was questionable but at least he was more forthright) with more IMF backed threats to do more damage.
On Restructuring and Zamfara Gold:
The ANPP Governor said it is high time Federal Government relinquished control of resources from the centre and allow individual states to explore, develop and harness its resources for development.
He noted that federal laws have limited component states of the federation from exploring and exploiting their mineral resources and instead depend on monthly handouts from Abuja, boasting that if encouraged his state alone can feed the north.
“So what we are saying is that the size of the Federal Government is too much for the government at the centre alone to control. That is why each and every person is looking for the Presidency because of the inherent powers. President is in charge of oil, president is in charge of agriculture, president is in charge of health, president is in charge of sports, and president is in charge of youth. This president, what king of brain does he have? These things need to be shared”, he advised.
“We are handicapped…handcuffed because of this law that brought us into one basket of the economy. That is why. My own state can feed part of this country. Keep oil apart, we have abundant resources; we have the best iron ore confirmed by the Australian authorities. We have the best gold in the world, confirmed by the Australian authorities. We have the best copper, confirmed by the Australian authorities. So what are we talking? All these are resources that we can tap to compliment what we are getting from the Federal Government”, he noted.
On oil dependence:
Yari lambasted the Federal and state governments, and planners of the Nigerian economy for not thinking outside the oil revenue, which he warned is not sustainable.
“All this oil; Oil this, oil that! Oil! Oil! Oil! How much is oil contributing to Nigerian economy? Making us lazy, not to farm, not to tap abundant resources but to get cheaper money, for a governor to come and take two, three or four billion naira and divide it into two, and if he is God fearing, he may share it with his colleagues all without hardwork.
“If it has been tax payers’ money, can your governor be doing what he is doing? No but he can do that with oil revenue because it is the money he does not know where it came from. So he is thinking it does not belong to the public, if there is something else, he is the boss”.
Still on Restructuring:
Yari also distanced himself from the call for the review of revenue sharing formula, saying that such agitation is irrelevant in the present socio-political and economic arrangement.
He advised those clamouring for revenue sharing formula, especially the northern governors’ forum to perish the idea, asking; “Why should there even be formula in the first place. Why?”.
“So to me I am not asking for any formula changing or what have you. What I am asking is what I believe would promote and develop this country, which is let each and every state go and have its own independent economy controlled by the states. We must work harder; we are not made to be lazy.
“Anybody that comes to the position, let him crack brain, let him use his intelligence, let him use his position whether as a governor or what have you; manage the state and get the state something doing. Not to rely on say “okay president today we want this revenue formula to be 30, 40 per cent or so”.
“There are some countries that have oil, but they don’t blush a damn with oil money. They are selling oil, but up till now they have not been touching oil money. They try to be creative; they create technology that they will use to get oil in the deep sea”, he reminded.
The former Honourable Member of the House explained why the call for the review of fiscal appropriation of not popular with him is because the current level of resources is not enough for the entire country.
“So it is not that am not in the same page looking for a formula (with Northern Governors Forum) but why we should look for it. There are so many things that are important to look for, since we all know that we have little resources for both the federal and state governments.
“There are so many questions I used to ask when I was in the House and I also repeated the same while I was in the Economic Council. Why are we stilltalking about this benchmark when we know that since we have been tapping the oil we have not achieved anything with it”?
“What did the oil help us to do that we cannot have another alternative to the economy input that can replace oil tomorrow. All these questions needed to be answered because we are struggling, struggling about oil money, 13 percent, 15 percent, offshore, onshore, ah!”
On Buhari, the then Yari said in 2011:
“Buhari is not a politician at all, he is not and there is no how that Buhari will suit democracy because he is not a democrat, not at all. That is the problem ANPP was having with Buhari because when he say he wants this guy, no matter how bad he is or what he is doing and you dare not come and tell him that the person is not the right candidate. He will not even look at you. Even no matter how clean your mind is and you want to advice Buhari on how best things are to be done; he will not listen to you. If you want to fight with Buhari, then tell him that democracy should be in place. For instance, you know what happened in Yobe state, you know what happened in Kaduna state, and you know what happened in Katsina state up till 2007; all the people that processed to become governors there and won their primaries had their results turned upside down by Buhari, and that is what is happening in CPC today.
So nationally, I believe that even Buhari succeeded in War Against Indiscipline but I don’t think that is his own initiative. There should be people that could have done that job, it is not him. He knows that apparently well, tell him Yari said so, he knows me. The way he succeeded in executing the War Against Indiscipline, I don’t think it is his own handwork. Buhari contributed in ruining the ANPP and leaving the ANPP and that will affect him, and that will be direct. For Buhari to leave ANPP, will affect him and affect his life.”
Iroegbu is a freelance Journalist