Interviews by Ndama Abubakar and Abubakar Hassan

Niger State APC Chairman, Engr. Mohammed Jibril Imam

Niger State APC Chairman, Engr. Mohammed Jibril Imam

Engr. Mohammed Jibril Imam, holder of  Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering, was lecturer at Federal Polytechnic, Bida, and retired as Deputy Director with Federal Capital Development Authority. He is a philanthropist and  grassroots politician. He is the chairman, All Progressives Congress, Niger State. In this interview with Newsline On Sunday, he spoke on the factors that aided the party’s victory in the state, the different orientations within the party, internal democracy within it, and whether the state government will probe the outgoing administration. 

Newsline on Sunday: Congratulations on your party’s victory. How do you feel?

Engr. Imam: Well, we are delighted; we thank the people of Niger State. As an APC chairman, we thank Nigerians for supporting the party to victory, and for coming out en masse to ensure that this revolution became a reality.

Newsline on Sunday: Sir, what would you say were the factors that aided your victory?

Engr. Iman: Well, one cannot actually say this is the factor, but all we can say is that the victory is attributed to God, because no matter how you plan, if God did not sanction it, it cannot work. Apart from God’s overwhelming sanction which gave us the victory, the party actually had to reposition itself to make sure that it adopted the right strategies. In winning election, there are strategies which normally we, politicians, apply. We do a SWOT analysis of the problems; we treat elections as a problem issue and, indeed, politics was treated as a problem. So, when you treat it as a problem you apply all the principles of problem-solving. We did a SWOT analysis, and we discovered that the present government (i.e. the administration of Gov. Mu’azu Babangida)  has not performed much; so we had to cash in on that. There is virtually nothing to show by this present government. So, that is one of the advantages we had. Lack of performance at the federal level also assisted, and people actually were dissatisfied with the trend of events and with the status quo. So, as human beings, we always look the other way for alternative. We thank God APC came on board, and people saw the party as alternative. And I think, with the grace of God Almighty, considering the prayers, and with what people had been going through, the suffering that the people had been going through, God decided that this change of leadership is inevitable. This is what really happened.

Newsline on Sunday: Sir,  we would like you to speak a little about what you call SWOT analysis.

Engr. Imam: Well, when you have a project, you have to subject it to SWOT. ‘S’ means ‘Strength’, ‘W’ means ‘Weakness’, ‘O’ means ‘Opportunity’ and ‘T’ is ‘Threat’. Once you do that, you have subjected it to a problem-solving technique. You do a honest analysis of the whole situation, and you see where you are supposed to key in. Our strength is the people’s desire to change, and the overwhelming support for our presidential candidate was also a good factor. The threat was the PDP, the security agencies……. So, we have to see  how we can navigate through threat.

Newsline on Sunday: Sir, how has the Buhari factor assisted in achieving this victory?

Engr. Imam: Well, the Buhari factor is a phenomenon. You have to consider the fact that he has been contesting election for a while; over a period, he has gathered people’s sympathy and he has won all those elections, but unfortunately, at that time, the powers-that-be decided who to give power to. At that time, I personally believe that the time has not come, because God’s time is the best com, and it has manifested in the 2015 elections. Those who didn’t even believe in God before now believe (that God works). Majority of our people never actually believed that God can make a change. So, I think it is a good thing that APC came on board and we are able to scale through by the grace of God.

Newsline on Sunday: Yours is a mega party consisting of different orientations. What are the challenges managing them?

Engr. Imam: Well, the challenges of managing a big party is that if you don’t follow the rules (this thing called management was not invented for fun). In the past, people failed to apply management principles; some of the party managers think that you can apply power in a random way; that once you come to power you can do whatever you like, no rules and regulations. But in my tenure, I make sure that rules and regulations are followed to the letter. We treated APC in Niger State as an administrative unit because it is a management problem, and once you have management problem, you have to use management principles -planning, co-ordination, and others; these were all lacking before. Then you will start working out the strategies; get focused, and once you do that, I am sure you will get along. I really never have problem managing the mega party because the rules of management are followed. Some people initially may not understand why you are doing that because you are trying to deviate from the status quo of what they used to know, but when you continue to educate them, they will begin to say okay, especially if it works. If you apply the management principle,  it will work, so when they see that things have started working, they now key in. And that is what gave us an overwhelming victory.

Newsline on Sunday: Sir, within your party, there are also some members with PDP orientation; in what ways are you different from PDP?

Engr. Imam: I just told you that we were able to manage our size by applying the right kind of principle.

Newsline on Sunday: Sir, what is the ideology of your party?

Engr. Imam: Well, the party’s ideology is very simple. We are out there to encourage peace, unity and to follow the rule of law. That is just it. The ideology is very simple: justice, peace, unity. That is the motor, and you can also say it is the ideology because without these ingredients you cannot focus. The problem we have is that people don’t even understand why they are in politics; that has been the problem all along. So, if you know why you are doing something, you will do it better, but if you are doing it by chance, you will say okay let me just go and do it. That is what was happening before; there were no technocrats in politics, but now we are getting technocrats and that is why you see things are taking shape. You can get result without making noise, but many people believe, in politics, if you don’t make noise they will say this one is not a progressive mind.

So we told them that you have to be focused because the objective is to win elections. Once you cannot win election, you are not a party. Now whatever strategy you are going to adopt to secure the winning you have to do it. Like in the last elections, the ruling PDP were trying to apply the old principle of rigging, while there are other factors that have been introduced that will prevent rigging, but they never want to key in into that. Instead of thinking of how to solve that problem, they were just sitting down.

Newsline on Sunday: What are those factors that prevented the rigging, the new factors?

Engr. Imam: Well, the new factor is the ‘Card Reader,’ actually it has helped because you cannot go beyond what the card reader has registered. As it is now, the cities now have more votes than the villages. The villages didn’t have as much votes as the cities, but there (i.e. in the villages) you can easily influence figures. If it is 200, you just put one at the front to become 1200, very easy and you get the result announced. After getting the result announced, you say whoever could not make it could go to court. But if you look at this election, it is the cities that produced votes, the villages, if you go to some of them have just 300 or 200 votes. If it were before, if it is 300 and the total number of registered voters is may be 4000, they will just add zero at the front and it becomes 3000. So, by the time you bring it to the city, the villages have more than the cities. But the card reader now has checkmated all sort of rigging. It has plugged the holes.

Newsline on Sunday: Sir, as a party that has been on the opposition for quite some time, you are now going to take over governance; how prepared are you in terms of positioning the party to take responsibilities?

Engr. Imam: Well, the party is already doing that. We have a good working relationship with our governor, I must tell you. You will like working with him, you will enjoy him. In fact, he is everything different from what we have now (I.e. Gov Babangida Administration). He doesn’t take decision alone. I have worked with him, and we thank God for giving us such a person as governor, I think Niger State prayers has been answered because this is a person that doesn’t take decision alone. He takes inputs from other people before he takes decision, which is quite different from what you people have now. We are working day and night; the transition committee is working seriously to see how we can take off in running the state. But I must confess there are serious problems which, we believe and even the governor believes that is not insurmountable. I don’t know if your people (I.e. Newsline reporters) had followed us round for the thank-you-visit; the reporter will be able to tell you what he has been saying. That we are ready to step on toes  if that will make the majority happy; that is to tell you the kind of leadership that we are going to serve, he is not talking about himself; he is talking about the people. He has a lot of ideas. He wants to develop the rural areas; he wants to provide water. We know there is problem, and I told you that the immediate thing we have to do is to provide water; he is already having the feel of the problem. Compare to what you have now (that is the defunct Gov Babangida Administration), who is only concerned about durbar and elephants. Instead of talking about people, he was talking about elephants. We are talking about people and people alone.

Newsline on Sunday: Sir, internal democracy within your party has assisted greatly towards your successful outing at the just-concluded general elections, how do you intend to translate that into state governance?

Engr. Imam: Yes, thank you very much because you did make one good observation. Some of us are management experts; we know what management is. Like myself,  I am a member of the Nigeria Institute of Management, apart from being an engineer. You see, in management there is no emotion; once you put emotion in management, you cannot succeed. I don’t like your face yet you are the best, so what do I do? You are going to give me result but I don’t like you, so you have to take decision. It is either, I say, ‘okay, I don’t want to put you there and the job suffers or I put you there and get result. Some of us are result-oriented by nature. By nature, if you give me a task, I cannot sleep until I do the task, so I bring my nature to bear on the system, and considering the fact that I apply all the management principles. The management principles are there except only if you don’t want to apply them; if you apply them, you will sleep fine and everybody will be happy. Like the internal democracy, it is part of management. The party has set out the rules: buy your form, there will be primaries, there will be screening; if you pass through that you don’t have a problem. But some people previously tailored the whole system towards one person.

If I want you to be a candidate, I will try to see how I can tamper with the rules, and once you tamper with the rules, there will be a problem. That is why PDP has gone (lost); you can’t rule for 16 years and a party just comes and uproots you if you are doing the right thing. If there is infrastructure, there are roads, there is electricity; how can APC come and dislodge you? APC cannot dislodge you. The internal democracy is what we applied during our primaries which I think you people witnessed. We insisted that there should be no imposition. Like myself I don’t know any of the candidates, and that is how to go about it because the objective is to win elections.

I can assure that our House of Representative delegates were more than the PDP gubernatorial primary delegates; their own is just one thousand. How can you choose governor of a state with just one thousand delegates, while our own House of Assembly delegates are more than two thousand. Just the House of Assembly, not to talk of the governor; our own governorship was six thousand delegates. It took us about 24 hours to do all the voting and counting, including accreditation. So, ours is six thousand and theirs is one thousand, you can win election like that. If you look at the PDP guidelines, they just tailor it to a particular direction, and this is why PDP has crashed over the years. All the party founders have been thrown away.

Newsline on Sunday: Sir, you are about to inherit a government with pending labour-related issues as it affects review of wages, reversal of the Contributory Pension Scheme and refund of deductions, as well as reversal of National Housing Scheme. What is your take on this?

Engr. Imam: Well, you say labour-related cases, that one I don’t want to comment on it because it has to do with the people. When we get there, the problem will come into the fore, and I am sure we are going to solve it. If you remember, I wrote an article, and if you have seen it, it is on this pension scam that the Niger State government wanted to take (i.e. meddle with) even the contributions of the people. You know, they wanted to divert it and I have to write a full page advert on behalf of the people, so that is the direction we are going. If we are writing against a system, we can only improve the system when we come in. I send a signal that we already understand the problem,  and I assure you that Niger State will not have any cause or any problem. We are on red alert.

The other time we went to Kagara,  there was no light, the transformer went off, and it was supposed to cost only seven million. The governor-elect (then) was wondering if there is no government. You can imagine if we are in power, the Emir (of Kagara) will just call us, and we will go and fix the transformer for them. Just seven million; if you don’t have seven million naira in the state to fix a problem, then there is a problem. So, that is the kind of leadership we are going to use, it is going to be people-oriented. We will not do anything that will be anti-people.

Newsline on Sunday: Unemployment is another problem in the state. Sir, how do you intend to address the issue?

Engr. Imam: The unemployment problem is everywhere. Through public works, it is all over. The other time we were having a discussion with the (then) governor-elect, and he has some novel ideas. We are thinking of making local government independent; that is, allocating either all or some portion of their resources to them. And then the governor’s perception or view is that if you are going to award contract; you must give it to those people in that area. If you are going to buy cement you must buy it from that area. So, the governor already has ideas; it is not that somebody is telling him, he is telling me that that is his own perception.

For instance, if you have money, and you want to give out contract in Gurara, you must look for Gurara people to give them that contract. We have people, and with public works you don’t have to go and bring labourers from another place. Now, you will see people digging culverts in your community and nobody from your community is among them. Somebody will go and bring all his labourers from another town or  bring the people from his village to come and work in another state. All those things are going to stop. Even when we went to Kontagora , he said so. They will give you your resources but make sure that if you are buying something you must buy it in the area.

The last government, for example; when they want to build the M.I Wushishi housing estate, I was talking to one of those people selling woods at the sawmill. I said, ‘your business will be boosting now’; that is about eight years ago, and he said, ‘no they are not buying from us. The wood is not even bought from Minna.’ The wood is not bought here, and you want them to pay tax. You will go and bring cement from Lagos, or you go and pay Dangote direct to bring cement. Our governor says, ‘no;’ if you are going to use cement, buy it from that locality. And we have already told the people that you must ensure that they buy it from your locality. That will allow money to circulate.  You will see people selling pure water, if they are digging culverts. Contractors must buy cement from here, and if it is interlock, they buy locally instead of bringing it from somewhere. So, our governor has that ideology of populace tendencies.

Newsline on Sunday: Are you going to have a PPP-driven development?

Engr. Imam: Well, I cannot say ‘no’ and I cannot say ‘yes’; those things are policy statements, and you can only articulate it when we get there. You articulate it and see; if it is feasible, you continue, if it is not feasible you discard it. What I can assure you is that Niger State, under the leadership of Abu Sani, is not going to indulge in wastages of resources. Indeed, he is an economist and knows what economy means.

Newsline on Sunday: There are outcries from the general public as regards financial recklessness of the outgoing PDP government to the point of grounding the state economy. How do you prepare to face such financial quagmire?

Engr. Imam: There are so many ways of approaching the problem, but you cannot comment unless you verify. You have to know even how much the recklessness is involved. There are established procedures of getting things done. If for example you said you awarded a contract worth ‘X’ amount of money. If you collected the money and the records show definitely that you collected the money, you have to refund the money, if there was no performance. There are no two ways about it, as no government will come and watch that. Like these 10km roads they said they are doing in some places; they were not done, and the money was released. No sane government will just allow it to go like that; so the contractors have to be called. Not necessarily the governor, but the contractor will be called and asked what happened? Explain; if you can go back to site, they can ask him to go back to site. It is the right of first refusal, go back to site and complete the job or you refund. So, it is not a big deal, people are saying set-up this, no. Things will take shape by themselves.

Newsline on Sunday: Sir, in the process of trying to discover what went wrong; will there be a probe panel?

Engr. Imam: No; I can’t say whether there will be a probe or not, but I just told you that there are multi-faceted ways of solving a problem. Solving problem cannot be a rule, applying one rule to all the states. Some states will say they want to probe, but I have never seen a state that says it wants to probe. They want to investigate, and I think that is the way it should be. Because rhe word ‘probe’ connotes something negative or something big. No; we want to investigate what went wrong. For example, if you are handing over a project to me, like the water problem now, we will want to investigate what really went wrong? How much has been spent so far, so that we have to learn from that. Is it the money that is the problem, or is it the policy that is wrong there. So, you cannot say we should assemble somebody to be calling people.

In tackling the problem of water, when we come to power, the water board has to give us the brief. The GM has to give us a brief on how far they have gone, why is it that there is no water in Minna? What are the problems? What are the short time solutions? What are the solutions you people have applied that have failed? So, those are the kind of things we are applying management principles; we are not going to go witch-hunt. What we want is result; people want water, how we get the water is not their business. When we say we are probing and after probing there is still no water, what have we done?

Newsliine on Sunday: Sir, corruption has become a cankerworm that has eaten deep into the society, what safety valves will you put in place to address this problem?

Engr. Imam: Well, if you say corruption has become cankerworm, it is a sing song in Nigeria. Just like I said, you cannot generalize; there are some states that if you go you will be surprised (at the achievements of the government). If you go to Jigawa, it is not an APC state, but if you go there you will know that they have tried. So, you don’t generalize. Lack of performance is as a result of corruption; that is the way I want to put it. If you are not able to perform, it means you are corrupt, because we have the resources and you didn’t perform. So, lack of performance is related to corruption. That is the way I look at it. They are related, sort of. Sustained performance means reduced corruption because they gave you money and you are able to do at least 70 percent of what the people want. So, it is a relative term.

Newsline on Sunday: You have a transition committee, what is the relationship between your committee and the one set up by the government?

Engr. Imam: Well, they are interfacing and they are co-operating. Niger State belongs to all of us, or are you expecting that we are going to be fighting there? Transition is just to give me what you say you have because I am taking over from you. And you are briefing me on what you said you have done; give me the document, and once I have the power I will now have the prerogative to find whether what you wrote in the document is correct. So, if am coming to chat with you about documents people are expecting, we are not supposed to be boxing each other.

Newsline on Sunday: But there is a bit of problem even at the federal level, in respect of co-operation between the transition committees.

Engr. Imam: Well, it is because they didn’t understand themselves at the initial stage. Luckily in the state, we have had two interactions, so the transition is going to take place on 29 May. But Niger State is expecting much more than what they have had all these years and that is what they are going to get. I can assure you that.