‘Constituency projects complement basic infrastructure in rural communities’
• Nigeria can profit from US, China trade war, says Senator Na’Allah
Senate chairman on Airforce and former Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, in this interview with AHMADU BABA IDRIS, explains the rationale for constituency projects and appeals for unity in fighting insecurity
What informed your emphasis on unity in your address at the Ohola Festival in Zuru Emirate 2019?
If you observe before making that comment I said I was representing over 18 military generals, both serving and retired. So, if a community like Zuru could produce 18 generals that tells you Zuru is like no other part of this country with that kind of officers. What it means is that we have paid our dues in the development of this country and what remains for us is to be united and take advantage of our past and future contribution for the benefit of our people.
Fighting and going our different ways won’t help us. For example, not everybody knows that General Tanko Ayuba is a Baduke, General Magoro is a Bafake, General Bamayi a Dankakari person, and General Ango is half Dankakare and half Kerawa. So we are coming from different backgrounds even though not many Nigerians know that we have this level of diversity in Zuru.
What is more important is, if we come together we can recover what we have lost in the previous years and then build upon that to shape our future. I used to tell people I don’t know fear and cowardice. So with the level of contribution we have made, you realise that Zuru people have been short-changed; we can honestly say that this nation has not been fair to us.
So, I was saying this is the time for us to take advantage of that knowledge that the country has not been fair to us, for us to come together and demand what we believe to be rightfully ours. That was why I laid emphasis on unity.
Constituency projects have been described as conduits of corruption, but of recent there were reports of your efforts at equipping health institutions. What prompted all that?
The history of Zuru will always amaze whoever hears it. In the olden days, we were thrown away from Magajiya. Magajiya traditionally has been one of the hospitals that existed, especially relating to post-natal and pre-natal health services. Along the line, it was abandoned and it became very difficult for our people to the extent that if you have disease like kidney issues you have to either go to Kano, Sokoto, or Kebbi to get dialysis. Now someone in such condition definitely needs help. So, I was like, we need our own; we don’t need to travel to Birnin Kebbi or Sokoto.
So, I decided to provide dialysis machine for the General Hospital in Zuru, which will serve Danko, Sakaba and Fakai, Zuru being at the centre. And because I am representing Yauri, equity demands that whatever I do for Zuru, I am supposed to it for Yauri also. I decided to supply one dialysis machine, the most modern one in Yauri.
The aim therefore was to boost healthcare delivery in this part of the state. We decided to answer the need for standard delivery kits and equipment, which we have provided for both Yauri and Zuru. We also decided that within the limited resources that I can lay my hands on, I would renovate at least part of the hospitals.
What was next was the ability to move patients from one place to another and I felt that those hospitals needed ambulances, which we will provide for them. We have provided for Kayan, Diri-Daji, Nachi, Garin-Baka, Shanga and also provided one for riverine areas in Yauri, which I’m sure you have seen. We provided about seven brand new ambulances to enable the healthcare personnel to access the patients requiring one attention or another. Unfortunately, even the health personnel cannot operate some of the machines we have.
We are now making arrangements to see how we can send them for courses to enable them to operate those machines. So I want to set up a committee and see what we can do. We are also constructing an isolated pre-natal centre at Kayan, where we have about six wards and I have resolved to equip it very soon and take some delivery equipment to those areas.
There are some remote areas where we have difficulties in bringing out patients, places like Mogoro and Nachi; so I decided to put up a health centre in those key places so as to have a network of healthcare delivery system that can sustain our people without them having to show their faces in Birnin Kebbi, Sokoto or elsewhere.
I decided to tell you a bit of what we have been doing because sometime people say what they don’t know. I can say that if not for constituency projects most of our people, especially those living in the remote areas, cannot receive healthcare and other amenities.
No matter what they accuse lawmakers of I believe constituency projects help to complement Federal Government’s efforts in the provision of critical infrastructure and social amenities in rural communities. I have told you the story of my constituency; you can imagine what my people go through. We don’t have to wait for the government; that is why we are called representatives of the people.
What is the fate of the bill for the establishment of a Federal University of Technology that you sponsored?
That bill is waiting to be signed into law by the president, because the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed it. I have made the case to the president that it is a promise that remains unkept. The Federal Government on its own said it was going to build six federal universities of agriculture in each of the six geo-political zones to boost agricultural activities. They built one in Umudike to serve the Southeast, one in Abeokuta to serve Southwest, one in Benue/Makurdi to serve Northc-Central, but they decided not to do our own. Of course, as a representative I should find out why that cannot happen.
Now, the advantage we have is that sometime around 1971, ABU (Ahmadu Bello University) Zaria, the Faculty of Agriculture, identified the agriculture potentialities of Zuru. In collaboration with the then Sokoto State Government, they decided on an extension service in Zuru and in addition to the extension service, an institution that will get students to get involve in large scale farming.
So that led to the establishment of College of Agriculture, Zuru, which we are operating. If we have a structure of that nature and we have justification for establishing a similar structure way back in 1971, now that Federal Government is telling everyone that it wants to rely on agriculture, it’s only fair that the government should now establish that university in Zuru.
I didn’t put it in Zuru, because I’m representing Zuru, but because there is historical perspective and justification for doing so. In addition to that, there is a company that operates worldwide promoting production of commodities, but they do it through institution, because the money is a loan that cannot be given to individuals.
It is an international matter, but if there is an institution like a university, the money could be given to the university, which in turn decides on the kind of work to be done. As they disburse the money, the university teaches the people how to farm particular produce, most specifically soya beans.
Research has shown that Zuru has the capability to supply more than half the needs of United States of America as far as soya beans is concerned. Now there is trade war between America and China. America, which supplies soya beans to China, says she wants to stop. We don’t care about what we import; we can take advantage of the situation. If we have soya beans around here people can make money and they can turn that money into so many ventures that produce well for the people.
President Buhari said he would sign it; I believe he is going to do so, because I met him personally and explained to him why it is necessary to have the institution in Zuru. Also, I have some level of assurance from him that it will be signed and we will get takeoff grant. If we achieve that, it is going to be a huge success for the Federal Government. The land is there to utilize.
So, if we have institutional backing and Federal Government’s backing, we will possess the capacity to bring foreign exchange earning to this country; that is huge and more than the investment of putting university in place. So it’s a win-win situation; the Federal Government wins from having a university, wins from taking some of the graduates off the streets, who make money for themselves and bring in foreign exchange to the country. This is the way to go.
It’s not just about food; it’s about your ability to produce something for which you have comparative advantage. I believe anybody who knows Zuru will agree that we have comparative advantage in farming, most especially in the production of soya beans and other products. That is what we are aiming at.
What would be your focus in the 9th Senate?
The fundamental requirement of a responsible society is to educate its people. Education is power; education is key. On your way to Kebbi State through Maga, you would have seen that I demolished the entire primary school. In its place I’m building new classroom blocks and very conducive atmosphere with fans and sanitary conveniences. Some of the offices I equipped for primary school teachers, not even the local government chairman has those kinds of furniture. I did that to make the atmosphere conducive for them, to put their minds into producing qualitative education. Education is fundamental and that is why I will tell you that my focus next time is to provide atmosphere conducive for learning.
I will rebuild and equip primary schools, provide water for them and wherever I can get help I will bring it and put it there. I will continue to promote healthcare delivery. If you have noticed, in almost all the 71 wards I represent, I have succeeded in putting solar powered boreholes; I decided that in addition to that some major towns like Ngaski, Fakai and Grazar, I’m going to give them reticulation. Reticulation is a big issue, because in Fakai and Ngaski you can tap from the overhead tank and direct to your house and shower.