‘Sokoto will enjoy fairness, justice under me’
Senator Abdallah Wali is the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) governorship candidate in Sokoto State in the forthcoming elections. A seasoned public servant, Wali joined politics in 1998 and has since been playing active roles in the development of his state and the country. In this interview, he speaks on his chances at the poll and his plans for the state.
My foray into politics
I WAS about to go for my PhD in the United Kingdom in 1988 when my people invited me at the last minute to run for the House of Representatives seat during the General Sani Abacha transition programme. That was my first direct foray into politics. I took up the offer, went for the election and won it under the DPN. The election held on a Saturday, the result was out on Sunday and by Monday, I was in England to start my PhD programme. I was in the UK up till the time Abacha died waiting for the time the National Assembly would be inaugurated. General Abdulsalam Abubakar cancelled the transition and started another one. So, I was faced with the challenge of whether to come back home to continue with the politics or to continue with the studies. I decided to come back. This time, I was nominated by my people to run for the Senate under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). I won the seat and became the only Senator produced by the PDP in the state in 1999.
I went to the senate and the North-West was allocated the position of Senate Leader, which I contested for and won. I was the Senate Leader up till the time the then Senate President, Evans Enwerem was forced out of office. I later became the chairman of Senate Committee on Economic Affairs until 2003. In 2003, I was also pushed by my people to contest for the governorship of Sokoto State. I contested the primaries and won so I contested against the incumbent governor at that time, Attahiru Bafarawa who was going for a second term. I lost the election.
Later, the then President Olusegun Obasanjo appointed me as the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of the Federal University of Technology, Yola. He also later appointed me as his first Minister of National Planning, a position I held until he left government. When President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua came into office, he appointed me as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco. I was there until his death. After the 2011 elections, President Goodluck Jonathan asked me and 14 other Ambassadors to remain in our posts for another term. Last October, the party said that anybody interested in running for any elective post should resign. So, I resigned on October 17 to participate in the governorship primaries of the party. We had the primaries and it was successful and the party has given me the mandate to fly its flag in the state for the governorship election. So, here we are looking forward to successful elections and a successful government.
Tambuwal’s popularity, power of incumbency and Sokoto politics
Well, in Sokoto politics, we don’t consider the popularity of Abuja or national popularity. We are concerned about reaching out to the people. I have the advantage of having run for the governorship in 2003. That time, I visited nearly all the 244 wards in this state. And if you go back to history, you will discover that in 2003, it was governor Bafarawa and myself that were leading the two strong political parties in the state. Then, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the governor were under us depending on where they were. So, we don’t see them as serious challenges.
That aside, the election in Sokoto State today is less about the speaker running; it is more about the performance of the incumbent governor. If the Speaker had come into the race as an independent person, not running under the shadows of the governor, it would have been the credibility of the Speaker that would be the focus of the electorate. But he is running under the tutelage of the incumbent governor. So, we don’t really see him as the candidate; we see the governor as the candidate. And interestingly, the governor is running for the Senate. So, it makes it easier for the public to see the Speaker’s candidature as an extension of the governor’s dynasty so to say. Moreover, the deputy governorship candidate who is running with the Speaker is also one of the closest allies of the governor.
So, to us, we are in a fight with the governor. And you don’t need much effort to unseat the governor today in any election. If you move round the state, you will discover that the PDP is the leading party because of the confidence the people have that in our kind of administration, they will enjoy fairness and justice.
My family relationship with Tambuwal and the election
You know that politics is not a family matter. It is a representation of the wishes of the people. Personally, I have gone through many elections but I have never been driven by my self-interest in running for a position. Most people who see the various elective positions I have gone through would think that it is my personal ambition that is driving me. But most of them are circumstantial; they are more related to destiny.
In 2003 when I was running for governorship, our 1999 governorship candidate fell sick even before the election and could not recover after 10 years before his death, may the Lord have mercy on his soul. Then, I was the only senator of the PDP in the state and people were looking up to me for a kind of leadership. So, my contesting for the position first came as an idea; before I knew what was happening it was a phenomenon. Whether I wanted to contest or not was no longer in my hands. After that election, in 2007 and 2011 I did not have any intention to run. I accepted an ambassadorial job and was in far away Morocco for six and a half years. It is not a kind of decision you take if you want to run for election. But here I am today back into the country and running because my people want me to.
So, I think that if people in my party want me to take a shot and lead them, I cannot allow my personal views or my family ties to impact on the wishes of my people. We have tried to inform all the relations that these are things that people have to live with. Interestingly, our party and President Goodluck Jonathan encourage politics without bitterness. So, if there is no bitterness it becomes an issue of ideas.
Transformation of Sokoto State
Our state is terribly down. The recent report of the National Bureau of Statistics is saying that for two consecutive years, we have the highest poverty level in Nigeria. Do we have an environment that should warrant that? No! We have over 90 per cent of our land arable. We have one of the biggest irrigation dams in the country. We have lots of strong agile youths in this state. So, why should we be classified as the state with highest poverty level in Nigeria? In education, the official statistics is that we are the worst in educational standards. Why should that be? Our state was formed on the basis of knowledge. Usman Dan Fodio, who started the sultanate dynasty with foundational headquarters here, started his preaching on the principles of knowledge. To say that instead of we leading in the search of knowledge we are the least developed in educational indices is unacceptable. So, we believe that we have something to offer and that we will transform this state.
How I will tackle the problems of the state
We have conducted studies into many sectors of the state’s economy. In the area of agriculture, Sokoto State has one of the biggest irrigation dams in the country but the bulk of our farming is during the rainy season and it is four months. After that, our people are unemployed for the remaining eight months in the year. So, we are looking at a possibility of expanding the irrigation channels to various communities in the state and getting our farmers to do dry season farming so that in the whole year they will be occupied.
In education, we have found that primary education in the state is in a terrible state because the teachers are not encouraged. Many of them don’t report to work and those that do don’t engage in serious teaching. One of their grievances is that the Federal Government has approved a scheme for primary school teachers and the state government has refused to implement it. We will implement the scheme and we will get them to be in their classes and teach our children. We will also work to improve teaching and learning at the secondary school level to ensure that our students get the minimum entry requirements for admission into tertiary institutions.
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