To end armed banditry in the North West, a former governor of Sokoto State, Senator Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko has advocated for a ‘sustained military operations’ in the geopolitical zone.
In this exclusive interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, Wamakko who chairs the Senate Committee on Defence, urged governors in the affected states to stop negotiating with the bandits.
He also spoke about the hiccups in the All Progressives Congress (APC), task before Governor Mai Mala Buni’s caretaker committee and his relationship with his successor in Sokoto State, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.
Wamakko also spoke about the Almajiri Integrated School System he introduced in Sokoto and his North West University of Science. Excerpts:
As governor of Sokoto State, you introduced a special package for the Almajiris. In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the issue of the Almajiri came to front burner, how do you think the issue should be best handled?
In 2008, when I was the governor of Sokoto State, we conceived the idea to address the challenge.
It was to ensure that all the school age children roaming the streets, doing nothing irrespective of where they are from- whether Sokoto, other states and even some from neighbouring countries were educated and well catered for.
At that time, we brought over 1,000 of them together. We built special Almajiri primary schools, where they taught both western and Islamic education at the same time.
And they were also taught vocational skills. We were doing that because, when you see a child suffering on the street, it is not his fault.
So, we tried to see how best we could help them to become reasonable citizens of this country by helping them to acquire both western and Islamic education to be self-reliant and also contribute to the development of the society.
The schools were well attended and served the purpose for which they were established at that time.
The schools were doing well. Within the first two years of the schools, seven states came in to copy our model.
Equally, we did a survey of all the physically challenged persons on our streets in Sokoto; the blind, the cripple about 7,000 of them and we placed them on minimum wage; it was N6, 500 at that time.
That was to discourage them from going about the streets begging. Islam did not teach anyone to go about begging.
We were trying to change that system by offering them the proper care they need.
It really worked very well.
Every month, we paid about N47.5 million for their upkeep until the time I left office.
That been the case, I believe that every Nigerian child needs care.
What is your take on the deportation of Almajiris during the COVID-19 outbreak?
I don’t believe the deportation of Almajiris was the right thing to do.
It is a violation of their constitutional rights because every Nigerian child has the right to live anywhere he chooses to live.
I see that as wrong.
What should have been to done was for them to learn how to manage them in a decent way as Nigerians.
Let every state have a centre where they are being cared for. Let them be given the medical attention they required and let them be given the basic education they can get.
With these, they will grow up and have the hope of being good Nigerians in future.
Talking about education, what comes to my mind is your bid to establish the North West University? How far have you gone?
Well, we have gone very far.
All the required paper works by the NUC have been done. We have gotten the acknowledgement; we have met almost all the requirements.
On the structural aspects, adequate structures are being put in place.
Once we get the go ahead from the NUC, as early as next year, it will take off.
As a former deputy governor and governor, would you advocate specific roles for deputy governors in the ongoing constitutional amendments given the conflicts between governors and deputies?
Well, I must admit that the office is one of the worst offices to occupy because of the manner we play our politics.
We take our deputies as enemies, not as friends and partners in progress.
Putting specific roles in the constitution will even trigger more conflicts.
What I would advocate is maturity between governors and their deputies because when you have won election, the governor and the deputy have become one as they are elected on a joint ticket.
But as soon as the election is over and they are sworn-in, in a matter of days or months, you start hearing of conflicts and lack of understanding here and there which is very bad.
The way we approach politics in Nigeria is what makes it difficult.
Your party (APC) is now an opposition party in your home state, Sokoto, from a ruling party; how have you been managing this party?
Laughs…. Well, in Sokoto, we are in a very solid position.
We are doing very well. Although, we may have a PDP governor but that doesn’t make the state a PDP state; that, I can assure you.
Even from the results of the last election, you could see that the APC led even the state assembly and the National Assembly.
There’s nothing to worry about.
It is a matter of time.
You played critical and key role in the emergence of the incumbent governor of Sokoto, Aminu Tambuwal in 2015 but now, he is on the other side; do you have any regret supporting him?
I don’t talk about Tambuwal or whatever he has done or doing now.
I want the people of the state to talk about Tambuwal, not me.
It doesn’t speak well of me talking about Tambuwal. He is my younger brother.
He is such a young man and he can make mistakes.
Not too long ago, an APC governor suggested that there should be power shift to the South West in 2023; what is your take on that sir?
I believe in mature and mutual respect amongst the different regions in this country.
I believe that every region in this country has the right to govern this country.
So, whatever will bring peace and harmony to this country is what I go for.
I don’t believe in anybody taking the advantage of another for whatever reason.
This country belongs to all of us as Nigerians.
We are operating one constitution and most of our political manifestos in one way or the other talk about power rotation.
Zoning is about bringing peace, tranquility and progress.
I don’t see anything wrong in it because, as a people, we have to learn how to respect one another regardless of our differences in terms of faith or tribes.
I will support power shift to ensure harmony, peace and progress and mutual understanding amongst all the regions and sections of this country.
That’s how to go about it.
Many are predicting that comes 2023 after Buhari leaves power, the APC will collapse on the ground that he is the only rope binding the broom, the symbol of your party. What is your take on that?
Laughs… Well, people have rights to hold their opinions; yes, I believe that we have challenges as a party like every other political parties but I’m confident that with the measures now being taken, and the efforts being put in place, these challenges, the party will wade through Insha Allah (God willing).
What are the things you think the Governor Buni-led Caretaker Committee should do to bring unity within the APC, ahead of 2023?
The major thing they should do is to dissect the situation critically.
They shouldn’t be in a rush.
They should study the entire scenario maturely and carefully.
They should understand what the assignment is and how they should go about it.
It is not something they can rush.
Take time to see what the problems are and try also to prioritize them in terms of solving them.
They have to, as committee consult widely to aggregate all the opinions.
After that, they have to sit down to critically analyse the views collated and see how they can go about the task.
The team was well selected and they are capable.
I’m confident and I also pray for them to succeed.
You are the Chairman, Senate Committee on Defence; the North West region has been facing rising challenges of insecurity in recent times. What do think should be done to tackle this?
Well, I have said it over and over again that this security matters, as a matter of opinion, should be addressed in a sustained manner.
It should not be a piecemeal approach.
We must stay on the offensive and not defensive.
I think we should have a sustained operation to fight these insurgents in North West, North East or wherever they are.
The air troops should be on air, dislodging them from wherever they are and the ground troops is also there to clear them.
But, I don’t believe in a piecemeal approach.
My hope and prayer is for a sustained operation in the North East and North West.
How do you see the negotiations some governors earlier had with the bandits; do you see that as the way to go?
No, no I don’t believe that talking to the bandits will solve the problems.
I don’t believe in that. It will encourage more people to go into it because they will now see it as a business.
They should not be spared.
They should find way of dealing with them.
They are criminals who have been committing atrocities and crimes against their country.
They should be dealt with, according to the language of the law.
From the executive, you moved to the legislative arm of government; what is your experience like, comparing the executive with the legislative arm?
They are entirely different world, even though; they are both working together, complementing each other.
Everything that comes from the legislature, it is the executive that has to implement.
Ours is to make and fine-tune laws for the good and benefits of the country and it is for the executive to implement.
We are also to oversight what they are doing in various MDAs and other activities of government.
But the two arms are equally very important.
I enjoyed being in the executive arm and now in the legislative arm.
I’m trying to appraise the experience having been in the executive arm for some years and now in the legislative arm.
How does your daily schedules look like?
Well, I have my normal prayer time, breakfast, lunch, dinner time and I have my official time for the National Assembly, plenary, committee works, oversights and so on.
I also have time for friends and relations.
I also use part of my free time to do farming.
I am into agriculture; livestock and poultry farming as well as general agriculture, and I love that.
How would you compare your schedule now as Senator to when you were governor?
As governor, it was busier.
Being a governor is a very big challenge.
It is a very heavy and crowded assignment.
Every ministry has to report to you.
Traditional institutions, associations and all of that report to you.
You are supposed to be at the centre of everything.
Different people come around to get your yes or no and in the entire state, they look up to you as their leader.
It is such an enormous office.