Mr. Jonathan Vatsa is a graduate of Estate Managemet from the famous Kaduna Polytechnic. He briefly taught at Federal Technical College, Orozo, in FCT, before taking appointment with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing as Higher Estate Officer. He voluntarily retired, after putting 10 years in the service. Mr. Vatsa is a grassroots politician of repute and an activist of inestimable standing.
He is the National Co-ordinator of the National Democratic Front and President of the Voiceless, an NGO that specialized in fighting for the cause of the less privileged in the country. An outspoken Nigerlite, he is the state PRO of the All Progressives Congress. In this interview with Newsline On Sunday, he speaks on PDP opposition, focus of APC programmes, and the huge debt left behind the PDP government in the state.
Interview by Uthman Yawa-Siraja

Jonathan Vatsa

Jonathan Vatsa

Let me start by congratulating you for the successful inauguration of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello.
Vatsa:- Thank you very much; the victory of APC is a victory for all Nigerlites and Nigerians.
Newsline on Sunday:- Before now, your party was in opposition to the PDP. Now your party, the APC, is now at the helm of the affairs as the ruling party in Niger State. How would you curtail PDP opposition?
Vatsa:- Well first of all, what do you oppose and why do you oppose? And let me tell you, you can always oppose what is wrong, but you cannot oppose what is right. And from the past, we have been opposing because we know the PDP never get so many things right. So many things went wrong. For the ruling APC today, we have opportunity in our hand to get things right. Do you know why? Because two administrations have gone before our own present administration.  The APC administration is the third administration under this democratic dispensation, from 1999 to date. Kure got it wrong. And let us be honest with you; Kure started very well. And even if you go back to the record, I might not be wrong to say Talba (i.e Gov Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu) too started very well, but they derailed. The question is, “Why do they derail? The opportunity for us in the present APC is to learn from where they got it wrong for us to build on their past and get things right for our teaming supporters and the generality of our people. It is cheaper in life to learn from other people’s mistake; it is very expensive to learn from your own mistakes. We have golden opportunity that God has given to us; two people have governed the state before us, so we have to build on their own mistakes for us to right the wrong, to do the right thing for the benefit of our people.
Newsline On Sunday: So you are now saying that your party at the helm of affairs in Niger State will not be opposed from the opposition party, the PDP?
Vatsa:- Let me tell you, PDP as ruling party in Niger State before now has done so many wrong things to the people of Niger State, and if we as the ruling party now don’t learn from their own past mistakes in the last 16 years, Nigerlites would not forgive us. The stone they threw last Friday (i.e. May 29, 2015) during the inauguration would be a tip of the iceberg. The stone they used in the stadium was a small one; our own would be bigger than the one you saw in the stadium last Friday. The stone they will use against us, if we failed to learn from the wrongs of PDP, will be heavier than the one used against Talba, because we have every opportunity to get things right. So my brother, we don’t have any reason to fail Nigerlites.
Newsline On Sunday:- Are you now saying that the past 16 years of PDP in Niger State, the party has nothing to show for it, that they cannot be seen as an opposition to your government?
Vatsa:- The outgoing ruling party, the PDP, has never been in opposition. Like I told you earlier, we have an opportunity to learn so many things from them. Why would they oppose? Of course when we start doing the wrong things, they will equally oppose us because that is why the opposition party is there. Let me assure you one thing; you seem to have forgotten my person. Do you know that I have two sides in me as a person? I was in opposition outside before, the one you talked about, but I am equally going to be an opposition within the same party.
Newsline On Sunday:- What do you mean, to be an opposition in your own party?
Vatsa:- What do I mean? You want me to see things going wrong in my party, and I should not talk? Is that what you mean? If things are going wrong I will shout. I have to shout.
Newsline On Sunday:- Even within your party?
Vatsa:- Yes, I will shout even within my party. If things are not going the way it is supposed to go, I will shout. Even within my party, we have to get thing done right. That is what I am telling you now. I am an opposition within the system because you are expecting so many things from us. For instance, people of Minna want water; they want to see water. People in our rural areas predominantly are farmers, they need fertilizers, they need tractors. These and other promises we made during our campaigns to these people. Let me tell you, any policy we are going to embark upon under our leadership, if is not people-oriented, please forget it. You have to go for a project that is people-oriented; you don’t go for white elephant projects because that is the area where the past administration failed. We should go away from such kinds of project. When the resource is not there, you want to get the tallest building in the world, in Minna. Do you have the resources? Can you accommodate such project? My brother, we should be able to tell ourselves the truth. You want to affect the lives of ordinary Nigerlites; back home in the rural areas, predominantly they are farmers, what they need from you are fertilizers, what they want to get are tractors, farm implements. Give them these things, and you have touched their lives. By the time we start the real business of government, in Minna the problem of water will be forgotten in Niger State. But what do you do to give Nigerlites a relief in the next seven to eight months? So we should be thinking of that; you should go for what affects the ordinary man, that man waiting for you shouting for change. In some places we went, during our electioneering campaign, people were still waiting for us late in the middle of the night. You see, this change is beyond an ordinary man; it is from God. People are tired; they need change. And the change is not on lip service; they want the real change. They want good hospitals, good roads, good schools, you understand? My only fear is that we should be able to tell ourselves the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And if we have the fear of God, we should be able to say it the way it is, not because it is my brother, my nephew, cousin, or uncle. Governance is not all about my brother or my family. Can this man deliver; is he the right person? Will he give us results? Because this government has to be result-oriented. We have to give people what they want. And if democracy is known as government of the people, then what ever you are doing, you put the people first. People are at the centre surrounding the whole issues; what matters, in the business of democracy is the people. It is not about individuals, and you don’t look at it as an investment. You don’t come to invest, No! it is a service to the people. At the end of our tenure, as All Progressive Congress (APC) government in Niger State, at the end of our first tenure, when we will be going back for the second term, you don’t expect us to stand pasting posters or erecting billboards to campaign. No! The project we have in place will be able to speak for us.
Newsline on Sunday: You came to power at the time the resources of the contry is at its lowest point; in fact, with so many debts here and there. How is this government going to impact on the people?
Vatsa: Thank you very much for this fundamental question. You see Nigeria, as a country, has over-depended on oil. Our leaders refused to think and diversify the economy. All is about oil, oil, oil. And why you see people crying today is because the oil market has crumbled. The Americans are not buying Nigerian oil again. So definitely now, we have to think inward. In Niger State, we are lucky. Do you know why? If today we really want to make it, if we want to come out of these problems, we should embrace agriculture. We bring in investors. There are countries in this world that don’t have oil, but they depend on agriculture. We have arable lands; the lands are there. Let me tell you, the zone where I came from, that is zone A, we have the land, we have the water; you can carry out agriculture throughout the season, even in zones B and C: the land is there. In fact, geographically, God has favored Niger State, except we chose to be lazy, except we chose to fail the people. But if we go into agriculture, the sky is going be our limit. At sometimes, I do ask myself that what about some nations in the world that don’t have oil, and they are still surviving. Israel is surviving on agriculture. There are so many other countries that are surviving on agriculture. We can also survive and make money in agriculture. And is it not unfortunate that we an empty treasury, with burden of debts. And those are the kind of things we are saying we should go away from, such kind of projects that are not meaningful to the people, that would not add value to the life of the ordinary man, in your village and my village. We should think of what will change to get out of this burden. We inherited a burden of debts. I want to use this medium to call on Nigerlites to have patience with us, because when you board a plane, when it is taking off, there is going to be a lot of fear before it now stabilizes and starts moving. That is the situation we now find ourselves. We are taking off in a very rough financial footing. But by the grace of God, we will stabilize; by the time we start moving, everybody will be smiling, I mean everybody will smile.

 

 

TAURARUWA