“One thing you notice about Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko is his humility and simplicity. On arrival to Sokoto I informed the governor of our arrival. The next day at the Government House Wamakko asked me to go round his state and see what his administration has done before the interview. I went on tour for two days to the remotest villages in Sokoto State and back to Sokoto city to see for myself. In a simple word I will describe Governor Wamakko’s achievements in all its ramifies as ‘remarkable.’” –George Onmonya Daniel
NEWISSUES: Your Excellency my questions are mostly about Nigeria but I will start from Sokoto State sir. I was on tour to see the State University your administration built, and it is remarkable, very beautiful. How are you going ensure that they have quality education in this era where employers complain about unemployable graduates in Nigeria?
Wamakko: While George, what we do in that University is to first and foremost make everything there competitive. Everything there was advertised and was done on merit. As you can see all the people there are all there on merit; they are not just ordinary people from Sokoto but people from all over the world. The Vice Chancellor is from Kogi State, some of the lecturers are from America, from Pakistan, from India, from all over the world. And I made a pledge from day one that there is going to be no interference. It is a University that is going to be given utmost autonomy and financial support to function as a truly first class and world class university. To extend that also, we are also trying to meet most of their demands so that the product of this university becomes a hot sale in our market. Wherever they go they are going to compete with any university in the world. We will ensure they come out with a functional University degree that can be marketable in several other markets not only one simple market.
NEWISSUES: Sir, the second question is the Almajiri School. You told me earlier that it was your idea that Goodluck Jonathan took and came up with this whole idea…
Wamakko: Yes, it was our idea. I put up the Almajiri School in 2008, and three years later the Federal Minister of Education, Professor Ruquayya, from the Federal Government came asking how we were able to do it and took our model and gave it out to the Federal Government and took all our literatures, they borrowed from us. When they went to Jigawa State to commission the Almajiri School they didn’t even give us credits for borrowing our idea, which is un-academic. But what I find most worrying is that they did not wait to dig further to know how, what arrangements we have had as regarding this whole Almajiri school system. In the Almajiri school system, our plan is that we are going to get these children out there off the streets or from their parent, put them in the Almajiri Schools where they can learn both Western education and religious education at the same time, and also vocational trainings. Those who cannot further their education can go and start doing something with what they have learned through the vocational trainings. You cannot expect every child to go and get a University degree. Some will get to high school, some will get to diploma, some will get degree and some will even get higher degrees and so on and forth. Those who may not be able to go the whole length may end up having simple careers in vocational trainings where they can go on and put up some trade where they are going to be self-reliant. So you can see those who can continue with their education can go up to become anything in the country. Those who cannot go further can now be on their own, due to the vocational training, and earn a living and become productive members of their society. What the Federal Government did was that they just went on mass building of so called Almajiri Schools, after building there just handover to the state government. They do not pay their salaries, they don’t give them any incentive, and they don’t give them any kobo to maintain these schools. They just build schools, they are eager to give out contracts for the sake of giving contracts. The Federal government is not giving any kobo to all the Amajiri Schools in Nigeria. They are only giving the building. Is building enough? If the Federal Government is sincere they should also fund these schools in a very unique way so that these young Nigerians would develop to their fullest. Getting the right education, right feeding, right upbringing that would really make them compete-able with any other child in the country. But the way and manner it is now, the schools are just being built all over the country, scattered here and there and being given all negative connotation that they are Almajiri schools. To many people Almajiri means a beggar. Almajiri is not a beggar. What Almajiri means is somebody learning in an informal way. That’s what an Almajiri is. I heard Bishop Matthew Kukah making comments just recently. People like Kukah are ignorant of what the Almajiri School is all about. If Kukah knows what it is his comment might have been different. So let me repeat, Almajiri means a child getting an education through an informal way, not a formal class room. And even among famous scholars, educationists in the world level like John Holt, John Locke, they wrote extensively that they don’t even believe in building classrooms. Some of them see no reason why we spend money building class rooms because we can learn in an informal ways and it is even to them more attractive or rather more natural. Many foremost educationists don’t believe in this idea of classrooms. Some believe even if there are classrooms, in the University for instance, they should not be beyond twenty people per classroom. In Nigeria we have more than five hundred people in one classroom. Some of them hang on the windows, some on the floors, to take lectures, and they come out with a degree. How can you address five hundred students in one classroom and say you are giving them education? University education requires close range interaction between teacher and learner, that’s what is true education. What we are getting is that we are just trying to meet up with our curricular. Ok, he passed, he got LLB in Law, he has got a better education…and all that, but truly speaking by the time he comes out he didn’t get that. He will get that degree maybe after some five, ten years, but what he gets after degree is a paper, because the way and manner teaching is taking place is short of the requirement for a conducive, effective, real learning approach and this is the idea that needs to be adhered to, that needs to be used, needs to be taken into action, needs to be exhibited, for all our schools.
So I repeat that Almajiri is a child seeking education in an informal way. Not a beggar. An Almajiri is not an extremist like Bishop Matthew Kukah said recently in one of his statements that I read in some papers that Almajiri School is where they breed extremists, no. The Almajiri Schools are not where they breed extremists. Let me correct the error committed by Bishop Kukah who is my very good friend, who is the Bishop of Sokoto, who I know very well. It is good we get the right information and knowledge before we go and speak on issues. The teachers there in those schools are not extremists. They are normal school teachers from schools here employ to go and help these innocent Nigerians, who for reasons not for their own making, their parents are poor; their parents cannot afford to take them to formal schools…some of them don’t even know their parents, because of one reason or the other. So…so, I want to disagree with the politicians that believe that Almajiri means a beggar or the Almajiri schools are there to breed extremists, like some people have said in their own opinion. It is a place where out of compassion, out of conviction, out of responsibility to duty, we decide to give them what every other child needs because they deserve to be treated like other children in Nigeria. And that’s what we are doing.
NEWISSUES: Your Excellency, last time I was here I went around Sokoto and I saw what you have done. Honestly it is remarkable. I have seen so much here…
Wamakko: Thank you George…thank you George
NEWISSUES: This is one of the best I have seen in this country. I was in Kano in February and I saw what Kwankwaso too is doing. You people are some of the best governors in this country, honestly. But I was in Silame sir. I saw the healthcare facilities, they are everywhere. Most of them…all of them in Silame are not properly managed. The ones we saw I am sure have not been swept for over six months. They are un-kept and dirty, the mattresses, the equipment, are all there in dust, in fact there is no security there. The one we went to at Danjawu, no security, there were brand new equipment, even a brand new generator set, but nobody was there…
Wamakko: What is happening George, is that these primary healthcare centers, type B, are just being completed and equipped. They are not yet commissioned. They are just about being commissioned. They are still being equipped. We even bought ambulances for each of the primary health centers, 244 of them in the state. In Sokoto State we have General Hospitals in each of our local government. We also have two to three tertiary referring centers at the state level. We also have one primary healthcare center in each of ward in the entire state. We have 244 wards and in each ward we have primary health care with medical capacity, Tybe B. some of them are being …you can see we are just building the staff houses, others are being fenced…, that why you think maybe they are abandoned. They are not abandoned. We just approved a task force to ensure that whatever remains, all of them are completed, equipped and properly manned. I just gave an approval for the state to recruit one thousand seven hundred health personnel to be sent to all these clinics to make them functional.
But in human endeavor, maybe…such is expected here and there. Even if there are all commissioned you will find out that some places are being well kept more than others. But I will definitely find out what you have seen and make sure everything is taken care of.
NEWISSUES: Sir, I was in your local government, Wamakko and saw the Orthopedic Hospital, quite impressive. They are even working now even though it has not been commissioned yet…
NEWISSUES: I came to talk to you about national issues because this is going to be published online and people are going to see it all over the world. A lot has changed since last year when I came here. Last year that I came here you were the governor of Sokoto State, but now you are more than the governor of Sokoto State…
(Laughter all over)
Wamakko: (Laughing) I am the Governor of Sokoto State.
NEWISSUES: You are the Governor of Sokoto State, the leader of the APC, and you have left the PDP for the APC, a lot of people are asking why you people left the PDP, five of you, and they are saying it is for personal interest and ego. What is the reasons sir?
Wamakko: You know the reasons are so simple and clear George. Before our defection we met, seven of us, having seen that the nation is adrift, which is due to bad governance, excessive corruption, abuse of rule of law and human rights, which we think must be put in check or it will lead this country into anarchy. So we first of all we began by going round to speak to our elders after seeing the president for more than five different occasions on this matter, all of us. We saw nothing being done, so we resort to going round to talking to other people to come and talk to the president on these matters. We went to most of the former presidents, even some elders, people like TY Danjuma…all of them; we went round the entire country to speak to them to intervene, to speak to the president as this country is not going towards the right direction. We are stakeholders in this country. We cannot just watch…when we see things are going wrong in this country we shouldn’t just sit and keep quiet because we are in the same political party. Nigeria is bigger than any political party and it is also bigger than any individual. So we went to all these elders to express our feeling, we also went to the PDP leadership and I told them that this is our opinion and we want something done. When we found out that there was really no intention to do anything to change the trend, the only option was to leave for an alternative place where we can meet with like minds with the views of saving this country. And that was what informed our joining the APC, which you and I believe and know that Nigeria have accepted, and the alternative to bad governance, as the hope of the emerging Nigeria, and the dream party for future Nigerians.
NEWISSUES: Your Excellency recently there has been reports of trouble in the APC, I am not sure exactly. Bola Tinubu and Ali Modu Sheriff quarrelling in the NEC meeting, then there is the issue of Femi Fani-Kayode warning the party not to feature a Muslim-Muslim candidate for the 2015 presidential election and Nasir El-Rufai saying it doesn’t matter as long as both candidates are credible. Is there crisis in the APC?
Wamakko: George, I am just hearing this story from you. As far as I know there is no crisis in the APC. There may be disagreements here and there. In human interaction it is just natural and you cannot avoid disagreements between human beings one day when they meet, especially when they are coming from different places and have different orientation. There are minor disagreements, but whether there is disagreement or not, whatever the disagreement may be, is not beyond the potentials of the party. The party leadership has hierarchy and can be able to solve whatever problem that may arise even now or in the future. While…em…that’s about that. What we are trying to emphasis is that let us get credible leaders, leaders that have respect for the rule of law, leadership that has vision and mission for this country, leadership that has the interest of Nigerians at heart, leadership that can really take us to the promise land, leadership that Nigerians will be proud of and go all over the world and tell people that we are Nigerians. Not leadership where Nigerians will be travelling with other country’s passport because they don’t want to be seen as Nigerians if they travel abroad. This is very sad. So let me assure you that in the APC, the belief and commitment is that we want to make Nigeria work, because the country is not working now. The way it works is anti-clockwise, which in Hausa we call ‘tafiyar magajiyar baya’ and it means one step forward and two backwards. Let me share…just for example…, some few years ago in politics, Nigerians have forgotten about ethnicity, religious differences, but now Goodluck and his team have brought back the politics of tribalism, that is diving Nigeria. This is a step backwards. I think what we should aspire is to get somebody who we can really call a leader. A leader who takes the whole country as his own constituency, not a leader who is playing divide and rule; not a leader who is entrenching division, diversion and conferences just too hide his failure. All this you are seeing is just a way of hiding his failure. What do we need a conference for now, somebody who has just less than ten to eleven months to election? What are we going to achieve? Obasanjo had conference, Babangida had conference, Abacha had conference…where are all these reports of these conferences? Just bring them and dust them and lets pick what is relevant there and take it to the national assembly to rectify them into laws if we are really sincere or if we are really serious, instead we should be focusing on issues of governance, insecurity, poverty, unemployment, corruption, and mass killings across the country…these are the important issues that any responsible leader should focus on. Not just this symbolic show on AIT and other TV Channels.
NEWISSUES: Your Excellency, recently you went for a meeting in the US…
Wamakko: And the UK, both.
NEWISSUES: Ok, you and other governors from the North, my governor was not among, Benue. Anyway you went there to discuss the security problems in Northern Nigeria, especially the North East. What have you resolved are the problems of insecurity in the North?
Wamakko: We came to a conclusion that there are two schools of thoughts on the issues of insecurity in the North, but before I mentioned them, the fundamental issue we discussed was the misconception of insecurity problems in the country as it is being talked about by the government of the day. I said in various forums when we had OPC menace in the South West few years back, it was the problem of the entire country, it was Nigeria’s problem. Nobody said it is Yoruba problem or Lagos problems or Edo problem. When we had these revolts in the Niger Delta region, mass killing and all that, it was a problem of Nigeria. When we have all these massive maniac kidnapping in the South-South, it was and is still the problem for Nigeria. When we have this problem in the North East, it became a problem for Northern region. Is Northern region not Nigeria? It is a Nigerian problem. Nigeria is one body, when the ear is sick the whole body is sick. One finger is sick the whole body is sick. We should take it in its proper perspective before we can address the issue properly. That’s one. Like I said earlier, we fundamentally agreed that there are two opinions about insecurity in this country. One, either the government is incompetent or incapable of dealing with the situation, or two, it is deliberately allowing it to continue for some political purposes. These are the two schools of thoughts that were advanced, and that we believe in.
NEWISSUES: Your Excellency, the issue of Boko Haram, if you are the president what would you do differently from what Goodluck is doing right now?
Wamakko: From day one what I would do differently is to go for dialogue. I will try to reach out and call all stakeholders and have a meeting with them. Close door meetings, open door meetings, sample opinions, what are the causes of these problems, how can we overcome them, who are they? Who among us created them? When President Yar’adua granted amnesty to the militants in the Niger Delta people thought he was crazy, but he wasn’t crazy. He was doing fine. Where are the militants now? They have disappeared. So…you cannot win violence but violence. Russia went into Afghanistan for over seven, eight years, violence, violence, violence, they left. America came in, eight to ten years, violence, violence, violence, they left. You cannot win peace by violence; it is peace that can bring peace. If you are taking a bath in the river and a mad man came up and took your clothes and wear them and you come out and start running after him naked, who will people say is the mad man?
NEWISSUES: The naked man sir (Laughing).
Wamakko: I think it is enough.
NEWISSUES: It is enough, sir. Do you trust Attahiru Jega’s INEC to conduct a free and fair election considering the lapses in the Anambra State election last year?
Wammako: While George, the issue of election in Nigeria or anywhere else is not the issue of INEC alone. It is the issue of all stakeholders being honest and doing the rightful thing in the entire game. In my opinion I believe INEC can conduct a free and fair election when all stakeholders are really cooperating and playing their own path of the game in accordance with the rule of it. But with the kind of sick ambition and interference of the government of the day, I don’t know. INEC may try their best, but I am afraid here or there they might be some failures here and there. But definitely if you give them free hands, INEC can conduct free and fair election. But I repeat free and fair election is the duty of all of us. Political parties, candidates, supporters, the government, security agencies…everybody; honestly and sincerely we can conduct free and fair election.