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'I had 76 jeeps before I became governor'

Posted by By ISMAIL OMIPIDAN, Maiduguri on 2005/01/27 | Views: 427 |

'I had 76 jeeps before I became governor'


It has almost become a ritual for Nigerians to make resolutions at the beginning of every year.

It has almost become a ritual for Nigerians to make resolutions at the beginning of every year.

Governor Ali Modu Sheriff of Borno State was therefore not left out in this year’s new year resolutions.

He told journalists in Maiduguri recently that his resolution is “to continue to speak to the press and put the past behind me. I stopped talking previously because of the things some of you were writing about my administration.

“When you defeat people in elections, they see you as enemy. And they will say all sorts of things about you. But as journalists, your judgement should be based on the truth and nothing but the truth.

“Every year people have resolutions. You have a new life and a new beginning. My new year resolution is to continue to speak to the press and put whatever happened in the past behind me.”
The governor, who was meeting with correspondents in Maiduguri after a very long time, spoke on several issues, including why he could not go ahead to probe Kachallah, his predecessor, the sack of Bama Council Chairman, the Borno North Senatorial District bye-election among others.

The missing N7 billion
When the transition committee, set up by Governor Sheriff submitted its report, it declared N7 billion missing. The committee among others things, recommended a panel of enquiry.
But two years into Sheriff’s administration, nothing has been done to recover the money. The governor, however, told journalists that he was in a dilemma over the issue.
“When the report was submitted, pressure started mounting on me. First, they said I should not allow the report to be made public. Later, they said I should not institute a panel of enquiry. And these pressures were coming from respected elders, both within and outside Borno State. So, I was really in a dilemma.”

The crisis with Borno woman politician
Until recently, Hajia Fati Ibrahim Bulama was a loyal lieutenant of Governor Sheriff. The relationship however went sour, when the Borno woman politician, known by the natives and political associates as ‘Kakina’ was ditched for a new entrant into the party, to contest the Borno North Senatorial District bye-election, a seat ‘Kakina’ had laboriously fought to grab.

While the woman is feeling cheated, Sheriff said the decision to replace her was done in good faith.
“You know, there was an election. The first court gave her victory. The Court of Appeal too said she was the winner of the election, but that she was under a legal incapacitation to contest an election as at the time she contested the said election. Based on that, the Court of Appeal disqualified her and ordered for a fresh election.

“We put instrument in place to pardon her. We pardoned her so that she could contest the bye-election. But then, Daggash went to court. So, someone gave us an insight that if we present Kakina, she will be disqualified. And at the end, Daggash will contest the election alone.

“At this point, we approached Kakina. Since we don’t want to lose the seat, we told her to leave the seat alone. I wanted someone who has reputation and a clean record to contest the seat. So, I went for Ambassador Baba Ahmed Jidda. I told him, ‘you know that your party (PDP) cannot win any election in this state. If you don’t mind, we have a senatorial ticket for you in the ANPP.

“Baba made consultations and came back to accept my offer. Now, while we were doing that, Kakina went to court and said Daggash should go ahead to the Senate, she is no longer interested. Somehow, they got injunction to stop the election from holding as scheduled (on December 4, 2004), that is that.
“Now on the sacking of her brothers. The tenure of caretaker chairmen is six months. It can’t be renewed. So, when the House brought it to my attention, I endorsed it. Because what it means is that the chairman has been staying illegally.

“So, even if it is a coincidence, so many things are happening around her almost at the same time. And now that she is not in good terms with us, people will tend to believe whatever she says. It will interest you to know that even the new caretaker chairman we have just sworn-in is related to her. In fact, I’m just hearing that.

“On the Auditor-General (Kakina’s senior brother) that was sacked, I’ve never seen him before. I don’t even know he is related to her. It was Goni (also a senior brother to Kakina), the former governor who drew my attention to it. But the auditor-general’s sin, according to the House was that for four years, there was no audited account for local governments. So, I really don’t have hand in all these things. The motion to remove him was brought by a member representing Marte, who wanted the man to do something for him with respect to his council, and the auditor refused. I was in Niger Republic when the whole thing happened.”

Why Baba Jidda, when there are other persons in the ANPP to contest the bye-election?
“I agree with you that many people will not like it if you do such a thing without consultations. But before we fielded Baba for the election, I invited the 10 council chairmen in the area to discuss the issue.
“Initially, we gave it Abu Kyari (former House of Representatives member and now Commissioner for Water Resources), he said he cannot face Maina Tar (AD candidate) because he (Tar) has been council chairman four times in the area, before new councils were created in that area.
“Then, I invited Barrister Mohammed Monguno (Education Commissioner in the state). He said ‘oga, I like my present job, if you will leave me.’

“And I believe they are also running away because the present crop of senators are not enjoying the privileges we enjoyed, when we were there.
“As a senator then, you are entitled to 11 staff. As a leader then, I had 20 staff. But today, as a senator you’re entitled to only one staff. So, there is really no way you can assist your supporters, by employing a few of them.

“So, I told them that, if they don’t mind, I have a solution, and they all agreed. Politics is about people and interests. If we didn’t want her (Kakina) right from the beginning, we wouldn’t have pardoned her.
“In politics, you cannot satisfy everyone. If you satisfy 70 per cent, I think you have done well.”

The sacking of Bama council chairman
“When the chairman was suspended, the issue of unaudited account came up. If audited accounts were in place, he would not have done what he did. The chairman singlehandedly changed the council’s account from Bama and brought it to Maiduguri, without anyone knowing.

“When he was doing that, he did not carry his councilors along. Four times, they brought his complaints to me. As if that was not enough, he went and invited the trouble of a member of the House, representing Bama. So, that was how the House moved against him.

“I agreed to his suspension to allow tempers cool. Within the suspension period, he may be reconciled with his people. But honestly speaking, it is outrageous for a council chairman to spend N35 million within a month, and without explanation.

The purported plan to sack the Biun council chairman
“I am not interested in his removal. Otherwise, I would have suspended him long ago. Before the elections in March 2004, many people complained about his candidature. They said he insults people a lot.

“When he won elections, instead of him to carry his people along, he went back to the same insult. He is even insulting me, the governor too.
“Eleven times, his councilors, including his son, came and said I should suspend him, but I said no! Go and follow the due process. But you will agree with me that a situation where your own son, appends his signature for the removal of you the father, is not a healthy development. It shows something is wrong somewhere.

“As I talk to you today, I’ve asked the deputy governor to go and pacify the councilors. This is the crisis we are in. but I know we will come out of it stronger.”
Why he has not relocated permanently to Government House
“The Government House, as it is, needs a lot of repairs. And the money that would be required to renovate it will be enough to build three new ones. So, since I have my own personal house, I don’t need it. At least I come to the office to perform my duties everyday, at even odd hours.”

Overseas trips
“Even though government is everybody’s business, people should see what you’re doing, not until you make noise about it. There are people doing better than you, but who are not making any noise about it.
“Since I became governor, I have slept in London once. And it was because of my children. Before I became governor, I spend my vacations in London with my family.
“There was this period my family travelled there, after spending three weeks, I called them. And my son said ‘daddy, don’t you love us again?’ That statement touched me. That was why I had to spend the night with them.

“Before I embarked on any foreign trip, I ensure that it will benefit the state three times than sitting at home.
“But the opposition will not want you to succeed, so that you don’t come and run for a second term. I am not an international traveller, as people want you to believe.
“Before I became governor, I had 76 jeeps. I declared them in my assets declaration. I have better cars before coming to government. But you know, the opposition are terrible. They are always saying terrible things about me.”

Last line
“We will construct additional 1000 housing units. But unlike the 747 housing estate, this one will be constructed in different locations. We have planned for it. Two people have taken us to court, saying that we have encroached on their lands. As soon as we are done with the court case, work will commence.
“We will work on roads in Biu, we will dualise the roads and open up the roads in Bama and Monguno. As you might have noticed, we are already working on drainages and roads within the metropolis.”

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Comments (3)

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Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

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Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.