Mukhtar Ramalan Yero is a former governor of Kaduna State who served for two and a half years after then Governor Patrick Yakowa died in a helicopter crash in 2012.
Yero, who served as a Commissioner of Finance and also deputy governor before he became governor of the state, lost the 2015 governorship election to the APC candidate, Governor Nasir El-Rufai.
In this interview, he speaks about his chances if he decides to contest in 2023, how to tackle insecurity in Kaduna State, as well as his relationship with his boss and former Vice President, Architect Namadi Sambo.
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Daily Trust: What have you been up to since you left office in 2015?
Mukhtar Ramalan Yero: I was a farmer before venturing into politics so I just continued with my farming activities and a few trading here and there.
DT: You have been out of the political scene for a while, is this an indication that you have left politics?
Yero: Everything has its time; politics to me is done when the time comes and when a government is formed. Those who won the election should be allowed to concentrate on governance while you also go and concentrate on other activities. So, I don’t believe in everyday political activities; one must have something doing and when the time for politicking comes, then we can all go back and continue with our political activities.
But don’t forget that politics is about interaction and we will continue to interact with each other, but I don’t come out to speak about political parties or whether the government in power is doing the right thing or not because it is their time and they need to concentrate.
DT: Would you be throwing your hat into the governorship race in 2023?
Yero: I have the opportunity to do that and if the people of Kaduna State want me to, then I will.
DT: Why do you think you lost the election in 2015?
Yero: Everybody knows that the PDP had been in power for 16 years in Kaduna and also at the centre. People were looking for a change and wanted to test that change, to see whether what they had under the PDP was the best for them, so they were looking for something or someone or another political party that will do something for them and at that time, there was a tsunami that came in 2015, especially in the northern part of the country. Don’t forget, the current president, even though he is from Katsina State, also lives in Kaduna. In fact, we share the same fence, he is my neighbour. Everyone knew that Kaduna at that time was at the centre of the agitation for this change and so the popularity of the president made things difficult for every PDP member, especially in Kaduna and in the North West.
If you look at it, there was nowhere in the North West that we won election in 2015, so it was not that people were eager to see those of us in power off, but because people wanted to have the change and they thought that the president at that time was going to do something to help them and also that anyone attached to him will be like him.
But Alhamdulillahi, the people of Kaduna and Nigerians have tested the change and they have seen the change and we know that in 2023, it is going to be a different ball game.
DT: So, you believe that Nigerians will no longer yearn for the APC in the next election?
Yero: That is not for me to say, it is for the people to say. When you have the opportunity of speaking with different people on the streets, ask them, they will tell you. They know what PDP did for them and they know what the APC administration is doing now.
DT: In 2019, you also tried but lost at the primaries of your party (cuts in) …
Yero: It is natural when you leave office. I was not the first person, so many tried it when they left office and they couldn’t come back, like a back-to-back issue. So, it is normal that when you leave office, you face so many challenges from the people you served in government with, other people in the state, members of the party, everybody has his own complaint and don’t forget, even if you are a sitting governor or president and you are seeking re-election, it is difficult because people will complain, they will say you have done this and that and you have not done this, they will bring a lot of excuses but because you are there, you still have to find a way of managing it but once you are not in office and also looking for the opportunity to come back to the position you left, then definitely, you will face many challenges. So, it is the same thing I faced and I think we are gradually getting over it and before 2023, it will be over completely.
DT: Can you share some of these challenges you faced?
Yero: It is normal that when you are in office, you will definitely do things that would make someone to say you have wronged him or another person to say you have forgotten that he exists or you don’t relate with him. These are small issues but as human beings, we capitalize on them. People do this for you to recognize them, to say ‘I’m sorry’. In 2019, some said I came late; I didn’t indicate my interest to contest and to be fair to many people, a lot of people came to ask me whether I was going to contest and I told them it was not yet time to discuss it and when the time was right for me to indicate my interest, they said they had committed themselves somewhere else and I said there was no problem but at the end of the day, we all lost.
DT: There were speculations that you lost at the primaries in 2019 because your former boss, Arch. Namadi Sambo, did not support you?
Yero: Well to me, whether you have the support of someone or not, all these things belong to God Almighty, so I don’t believe that you must get the support of somebody. Once God says it is you, then it is going to be, no matter what. To me, I don’t believe that I must go to XYZ as a human being before I become somebody, everything belongs to God.
DT: Why do you want to return as governor, is it to correct some wrongs by the present administration?
Yero: I have a different political party with the present leadership of the state and my political party also wants to come back to power. Since I have the opportunity to contest, like any other person who wants to contest in our party, I am free to contest. I know that I was there before and now I’m out, I know what is happening, I have learnt my lessons, I am more matured, experienced and exposed, I also know the needs of the people much better. I also know the best way to go about handling things in terms of security and welfare because these are the two issues that the constitution says the leader must do. So, if I decide to contest, right from my political party, I will be the best candidate because I have the experience. And if I were to contest with candidates of other parties, people know I am more experienced than any other person except if you’ve served as a governor like me. But we are still at the party level and we are still trying to see how our political party can reconcile some of the differences we have to become stronger so that we can face the challenge of the APC administration.
DT: Does that mean you’re not satisfied with some of the policies of the present administration?
Yero: There is no government that you will say you are 100 percent satisfied with what they are doing. There are areas that they are doing well and there are areas that they are not doing well, it is normal in government.
DT: Having indicated interest to contest in 2023, how would you tackle the insecurity ravaging parts of Kaduna State?
Yero: Let me correct you, I said if the people of Kaduna State want me to contest, I will contest by the grace of God. Forget about the internal party democracy and wrangling, if you don’t have the support of the voter, you are just wasting your time. What is the point if you waste your time in that party, the little resources you have and at the end of the day you emerge as the candidate for the party and then the people reject you? So, you have to contact people and discuss with them, and if the situation is good to contest, then I will, definitely.
On the issue of security, no matter what I’m going to say, since I am not there, I don’t have all the information. The person on the seat has the information and he knows what is there because every security challenge we have in Kaduna has its own dimension and at every point in time, every governor that has served in Kaduna has had different challenges and different solutions. But for me, the only way to continue to manage the issues of insecurity is to look at the root cause of the challenge.
If it is a boundary issue that has created it, let’s solve it, if it is the farmers/herders, that one has been there for years, since the day people started farming and herding, there has been clashes because the animals will enter the farms but at that time, there was tolerance, mutual understanding and respect but now there is so much suspicion among us, small thing that should be resolved in seconds, we will start fighting and it will last for 10 years. If it is banditry, why are we having banditry now, what are the causes, you have to go there and tackle that issue but if you think that the military or police or weapons will solve the problem, I don’t think we are doing the right thing.
The best thing is to go back to the drawing board, sit and look at the whole issue, there are many people within the communities that can help in resolving these issues so we need to communicate, we need to consult and the government needs to be much closer to its young people so that they will know what is happening.
DT: Does that mean you believe mediation is the way to go?
Yero: Even in war, at the end of it all, you will come back to the table, negotiate and then try to see how you can reconcile your difference. So why do we have to wait, why don’t we do it right from the beginning.
DT: What about the amnesty offer that is being advocated?
Yero: Amnesty can be a solution and at the same time it may not be the solution. You need to do social analysis of the problem and then, if it is amnesty that will solve it, why not. If amnesty will not solve the problem, then you take the option that will solve the problem. Don’t forget that if you are in government, your number one responsibility is to secure property and lives and then the minds of people so they don’t go mad.
On the issue of welfare, despite all the roads and schools, if the people are not living in peace, what is the essence of the school and road? But at the same time, education is part of the solution to insecurity. Once people are educated, they hardly get involved in insecurity but now that people are educated and jobless, then it is a problem. So, there are so many things that the government needs to look at, part of the welfare will solve the problem of security and security will solve the problem of welfare.
DT: Still on security, there is a notion that Shi’ites under the PDP administration became like a government and even flouted some of your orders, why did you not take action during your time as governor?
Yero: The issue of the Shi’ites didn’t start during the PDP administration, they were equally strong during the military regimes but because of the democratic nature of Nigeria, being a secular country, everybody has the right to practice his or her religion and as a governor, when somebody says he wants to do a possession or rally and the police permits him and he does it peacefully, then what is your problem? Which directive did I give that the Shi’ites flouted? Everybody in Nigeria has the right to practice his or her religion, PDP only tried to be a democratic party by seeing that the right of everybody is protected and to see that people are treated with respect.
DT: Having served as a deputy governor, how true is it that deputy governors are used as spare tires and did you experience such?
Yero: The answer is in the Nigerian constitution. Is there anywhere in the constitution that says the deputy governor has responsibilities? So, if the deputy governor is at the mercy of the governor to tell him what to do, is he not a spare tire (Laugh)? So, it depends because some governors give their deputies responsibilities, some even give them ministries to oversee. In some states, you will find that the deputy governor is also a commissioner but the practice in Kaduna is that the deputy governor doesn’t have a ministry to manage during the PDP administration. So, that means if the governor is busy and feels that you should represent him at a programme or maybe he has a lot of paperwork to do and he decides to give you some to help. Therefore, you are totally at the mercy of the governor and if the governor decides he will not see you for the next six months, the system will continue working. The Nigerian constitution doesn’t favour deputy governors, you are only there if the governor needs and sends for you.
DT: Is this why governors also find it difficult to support their deputies at the end of their tenure?
Yero: Every deputy governor that you see at the time of forming the government was either nominated by the governor or the party sat down and nominated him and brought them together. In most cases, it is the sole right of the governor to pick his deputy and at the time he picks his deputy, he cherishes him but by the time they enter government and things start moving, you will find everybody’s eyes are on the deputy governor. The commissioners, advisers, the party leaders will try to do away with the deputy governor to have direct access to the governor and so, they start creating problems. Coming to your question of why governors do not support their deputies, naturally by the time the governor and the deputy remain in office for eight or four years, the commissioners and friends of the governor also want to contest, so they make sure there is a rift between the governor and his deputy.
DT: Did you personally face this kind of challenge?
Yero: Yes, I did.
DT: You were said to have been relegated to the extent that some of the government officials did not give you proper recognition as deputy governor…
Yero: (Cuts in) Don’t forget, before I became the deputy governor, I was the Commissioner for Finance. As commissioner of finance, you are the engine room of the system and so everybody related with you and then when I became the deputy governor, many people also ran away. They didn’t want to be too close to you because of the things I mentioned earlier. So, it is normal and I faced the same issue. But when I became the governor, I promised my deputy that it was going to be different. My deputy was older and I made sure that I gave him all the opportunities. If I had not been the commissioner of finance before becoming the deputy governor, I would not have understood the whole issue. While Yakowa was deputy governor, a lot of us didn’t relate with him but I related with him, I attended his functions personally and told his protocol to inform me of his functions so I could accompany him.
DT: Did you ever contemplate resigning as deputy governor?
Yero: Some said I was going to resign but I said it was God that gave me the position so I would never disappoint my creator. There was never a day I said I was going to resign. I said no matter what, I would remain where I was, I would be patient and I think it worked.
DT: Is it true that you were offered the APC ticket in 2015 but turned it down because of your loyalty to your boss, then Vice President Namadi Sambo, also if offered now, would you move to the APC?
Yero: I heard so many rumours, even the APC, during their campaigns, mentioned my name. But for me, I’m a person who sticks to what I believe in. To answer your question, let me give you a little background. It’s the PDP that brought me to the limelight. I was commissioner for three years under PDP, a deputy governor for two and a half years and a governor for two and a half years. The man behind my success as a human being is Architect Namadi Sambo. When he became the governor, I became the commissioner and when he became the Vice President, Yakowa became the governor and I became deputy governor. When Yakowa died, naturally based on the constitution, I became the governor and that man was still in PDP and was still contesting under the platform of PDP as the vice president. Because I saw the tsunami that was coming, that PDP would likely lose the election, for me to remain and continue to be governor and abandoned this man by moving to the APC, is something I said I would never do. If we were going to lose the election, we’ll all lose the election and if we are going to win, we’ll win together. So, I refused to leave PDP. One, for the sake of God who gave me the opportunity within eight years to be in three different positions. Secondly, God said that your wealth is with you, and whatever you are going to get is through a human being and that is the destiny that God has put between me and Architect Namadi Sambo. So, I refused to abandon him, that I will never do, that I refused to do and I have no regrets.
Now, whether I will move out of the PDP depends on the situation. PDP as an opposition party has its challenges. Up till now, it has not come to terms that it is now an opposition party and instead of doing opposition to the party in power, we are only doing opposition within ourselves. So, if we continue in that manner, PDP may not make it but if you are not in PDP, definitely you will be in APC and if you are not in APC, then definitely, you will be in PDP because they are the only political parties with national outlook.
So, the question is, if I were to leave the PDP which political party will I go to? Is the APC a better option, if it is, then we’ll look at it but if it is not, then it’s even better to remain where you are. For now, I’m in PDP trying to see how we can restructure our party and reconcile ourselves to capture power in our respective states and the center. If we can, then we will continue within PDP but if we are unable to do it, then one will have to think if he wants to continue with politics or leave.