By Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye

On Wednesday, February 1, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, spoke on Sunrise Daily of Channels Television. In the explosive session, he spoke on various issues of national importance.

Excerpts as captured by Daily Sun:

We know electioneering campaigning is going on at the moment but the business of governance still has to go on. Now, you are counting down?

Yes, I think 160 days to go. I count down every day.

Does that mean you’re looking forward to…?

I am, I’m looking forward to handing over the burden to someone else.


Yeah, it’s a burden, trust me. I am trying to get my life back, spend more time with my family. I have young children; they need my time. And I have a Ph.D to complete. I’ve been on a Ph. D. programme for a few years now. I need to focus on it and get it out of the way.

We outsiders thought  that, that is over because the APC presidential candidate said, well, you have to stay here and work with him. What is going to happen to that?

Yes, that’s what he wants. So we’re still talking. Of course, you know, Asiwaju is the candidate of our party, we’ll do whatever we can, not only to get him elected, but also to make him succeed. But I still believe that when Asiwaju tells me what he wants me to do in his government, I’ll be able to recommend much younger, more energetic people that can do, as well, a job as I can do even better. Because, you know, experiment in Kaduna has shown that if you empower young people, and you know, give them the political backing, they can deliver incredible results. We’ve proved that in Kaduna. So I do not think there is any job in the government that we cannot get a younger person to do. But as I said, you know, we’re still talking with Asiwaju, and Nigeria is the only country whose passport I have, and whatever I can do to make sure that country is better, I will do it. But I’m just saying I will always present options.

Let’s look a little broader about your stewardship. You must have had a certain mindset while vying for that position, the first time out, then your first and second term. But if you’re on a broader look, what kind of emotions are you dealing with now, having seen how you have performed over the years, and then how they may refer to you when you then handover?

Frankly, I don’t think about that a lot. At this point in time, what I am concerned with and trying to get my team to focus on is to tidy up and complete some of the things we’ve started and tried to correct some of our mistakes, you know, and also having seen so much in the last seven and a half years. We’ve tried to put in place frameworks and legislation that will ensure that the next governor doesn’t spend the next two years, you know, finding out what we have found out in seven years.

Yes. Luckily for us in Kaduna state, my successor, I hope from our party was someone that has been in our government from the beginning. So he’s fully informed about our policy direction, and so on. But still, there are a few things that we learned even within the last one year that we discovered, either we didn’t quite get it right. Or, we totally ignored this problem. So we’re trying to put those things in place. So it’s a very busy time for us. You know, in fact, we’ve decided in the state executive council to hold weekly meetings almost every Monday until after the election, then we start the handover process because there is so much to do.

I don’t think much about what we have achieved or what we did not and what people will think of our administration, we will leave that to posterity and history. All I know is that we did the best that we can. And we worked flat out in the last seven and a half years. And I do hope that what we’ll be able to do in many aspects of governance in the state will be sustained. But that’s all you can do, you can only do what you can do and move on. And leave it to history and your successors.

When you talk about things that you’re just finding out, you want to give an example.

One of the things we just found out was, there was a lot going on in certain key ministries that we didn’t realise. For instance, you know, we buy books, laboratory equipment, these are things that you need to buy every year. We found that, in previous years, we had bought those books on paper, but they were not delivered to the schools, the stores, people in the Ministry of Education just have an arrangement to do the paperwork to make it appear as if these books have been delivered. But they are not, as well as medical equipment. How we found this out was the Speaker of our State House of Assembly, got one of his companies to bid for this. And when he bid and won and tried to deliver…okay, the first problem he had was that he found out that the prices were higher than what he could do, because, you know, exchange rates changes. And so this, these are important stuff. And he was told no, no, no, no, no, don’t worry, these things, I never delivered. The Speaker of the House? They are never delivered, let’s just sign this, you will be paid, you will take care of us and so on.

And he came to me and said, I don’t understand this, I didn’t come to you for this contract, we got a company that we knew they did this. I mean, discovering that, after five years, is quite a shock. And this is how governance is, there are many things that are buried deep that you just don’t know, because you’re sitting at the top, and many things are happening at the bottom. I’m just giving you an example that is transactional. But there are also policy issues that, you know, we found that we have to do something about. There are things like that, that we’re trying very much to do, you know, one of the decisions we’ve taken is that our governorship candidate will now start attending executive council meetings. He will sit in all our council meetings. So that he gets to know everything that we’re discussing. He sat in the first four years, but he’s been absent in the last four years, because he’s been in the Senate. But Senate doesn’t sit on Monday. So I’ve asked him to be attending the Executive Council so that some of these things he will see himself and know.

That’s an unfair advantage, you don’t think? Because if you’re asking candidates to do that, then don’t you think that the candidate of the opposition too should be asked to sit in if this is really about continuing a legacy and ensuring that…?

I have no responsibility to the candidate of the opposition. My responsibility is to my party, and overall interests of the state. And I believe that it is in the interest of the governor.

Yeah. You know, I said, my responsibility is to my party and the overall interests of the state. And my assessment is that the overall interests of the state will be best served, if our party is reelected. This opposition participants 16 years, you know, doing unbelievable things that we’ve spent the last eight years trying to deconstruct, and even when they were campaigning, they were still threatening, they will bring back the bad teachers that we fired, they will bring back the 390 District heads that we thought placed an unnecessary burden on the finances of local government. They have not learnt anything. What, what value are they going to get sitting in the council? Our political and governance ideologies are miles apart.

If for any reason, because some people will say that oftentimes, politics is more emotional than rational. If, at the end of the day, if for some reason, you know, they elected and there’s a handover period would would you consider then having them in the council meeting?

Yeah, I mean, if another party’s elected, I will invite not only the governor elect, but also the state chairman of that party to sit in our executive council so that we have a seamless transition; the interests of the state prevails. But, you know, this is how we look at things.

That challenge that you discovered, because that happens, as you said, that happens in several other policies and several other governments in different states. What would you recommend as a solution to that?

Look, the solution to it is very early in the game of governance, you know, really be hands on. Don’t assume because many of us went to school when these things worked. Don’t assume that they work like you used to. And this is why it’s important to have younger people who are closer to how the world works now than some of us that went to school in the 60s and 70s. And think that, you know, students get textbooks, every year. You know, beginning of the year, we get textbooks, we get pencils, we get this, these things are not done anymore. So you see them on the budget line, you propose to the state assembly, it is appropriated. But the schools don’t have those things and the headmasters can’t speak because it is their bosses at the headquarters that do these funny things. So you have to be really hands on, you have to pay surprise visits to schools, for instance, I say, look, do you have books? Do you have chalk? Do you have this. Or you pay a surprised visits to hospitals and primary health centers and ask whether the equipment that you propose in last year’s budget and has been contracted and supposedly delivered is actually in the hospitals and primary health centers. You will be very surprised at what’s going on. It took us several years before we figured out because you know, my presumption always, personally, is that you are innocent, unless proven guilty, you’re good unless you show you are bad. So when you have that view about human nature, a lot can go wrong under your watch. And you’re hardly ever aware.

I’m just right now, as you’re speaking, my mind traveled to one instance where I have said, where you know, things have been provided for a hospital. And those materials are only used when they hear that the governor is coming or a senior person is coming?

Yeah! You just get into your car, don’t even tell your protocol and security people where you’re going, just get into your car and say follow me. And you drive to the place unless you do that, then you will discover many things that are in there and you can take steps to try to remedy them. Because look, the system is broken. The public service system is totally broken. And only works in isolated islands of performance. It is really worrying. And it’s one of the things that you know, tell some of us that look, maybe your time is up.

I always find it very interesting. You’re in your 60s and this is not the first time, every time you always talk about how you want young people. The Kasshim Ibrahim Fellowship, which you started, was also in light of that. So it seemed that you really put your money where your mouth is, with regards to having young people,.I’m surprised that the governorship candidate that has emerged from your party, though, at least for your state, some people will say one would have thought that maybe you would have endorsed somebody much younger in that stead…?

But he is young.

Much younger than yourself?

Much younger, like more than 10 years younger. And frankly, we try to bring up several young people, we looked at three or four people that we’re looking at, we didn’t want any of my successors to be older than early 40s, mid 40s. But at the end of the day, the person that we narrowed on and the deputy governor were the best when we polled. We polled four times; we did a survey across the state. I didn’t wake up in the morning and just picked someone. We had four different polls to test the acceptability of the various aspirants, okay. And two of them continued to be the top two. And the others, including other younger people that we groomed, just didn’t show up as well as they should. There are others that were outsiders, I would say, people that were running Federal Government agencies or that I considered outsiders because they don’t know the changing policy direction that we pursued in the last four years. So my goal was to ensure that we have a successor from amongst our original APC Kaduna team of 2014 and then we ended up with one.

So you do consider that age is a big factor in leadership.  And maybe Nigerians  have been making this hue and cry over the age of the presidential candidate of your party for nothing. How does that work for you? I mean, in terms of looking at the age of the presidential candidate, visa viz your own, you know, advocacy, that, for leadership, especially looking at the amount of work that needs to be done, somebody younger should be there?

Yeah.  Look, instinctively, I would prefer to see younger people at levels of leadership. Okay. And we’ve tried to do that in Kaduna, we brought in young people, and they have performed wonderfully, a few have disappointed us, that is normal. We brought in late women, they have done very well. A few have disappointed, it’s normal. Now, at the national level, I would have preferred a younger person, but the reality of Nigeria is that that younger person must also have varied experience that will enable him hold the country together. It is a complex society, it requires experience, it requires a track record of performance, that maybe a 50 year old, cannot have, cannot convince either the political class or even the general public that he has.

So, I consider the septuagenarians that are running for office now, as transitional leaders, okay. My hope is that whoever is the next president of Nigeria, and I can say when Asiwaju wins, because I’m confident APC will win, you will see a large collection of young people in the administration, because I think Asiwaju sees his role as that of a transitional leader, you know, fix some of the problems that we have, but build a new leadership class. That is the only way because it is very difficult for a 40 year old, or 50 year old to convince Nigerians or even those of us in the political system, that he has the experience to manage this country. It’s  a complex country, and some of the people running frankly, are a joke, as far as I’m concerned. Every job looks easy, from a distance. But I’ve had the privilege of working with at least three presidents very closely. And I have seen the demands of that office. And what it is, and people just don’t know, even being governor is tough. But people don’t know, they think it’s easy. People can always sit down and criticise, oh, he should have done this, done that. Get them to do that. Then the ngbati, ngbati starts.

It’s very concerning what you raised, the example the public service system that you talked about earlier. It only points to the validity of the Corruption Perception Index that we chatted about when this programme started, someone will wonder if that is the problem. At the end of the day, everyone calls the name of the president. However, there are people like you with experience, who are not making the jobs of the governors or the president to show the way it should show. So the Corruption Perception Index only gets worse as a result of that. And you said that the system is broken. What then do we need to do because we can’t just fold our arms, can we?

No, we can’t I agree with you completely. Look. A country makes progress, if it has visionary and strong political leaders. But that alone will not lead to progress unless you also have a functional public service. Okay. So it doesn’t matter how good the President is if the public service is broken. The president cannot succeed. The same with that Governor. So, you know, I think one of the major priorities for any administration is to look at the structure of the public service and undertake a huge surgical operation on it, to make it lean, mean, effective and competent. Right now, the federal bureaucracy is over bloated.

There are over 800 ministries, departments and agencies, the Oransaye report that recommended the merger of institutions has not been implemented. In fact, since then, more have been added, there is no political will to face this issue. We spend 60,70 percent of our budget  on recurrent expenditure, most of which is consumed by the bureaucracy; either the salaries and overheads of running the government and their pensions. That is no, that is not the way to develop, we must, you know, slim down the government, and ensure that the best and brightest go into public service. The public service should not be a dumping ground for those sons and daughters of those that are connected, sons and daughters of the elite. Because right now, going into the public service is no longer based on competitive examinations and so on, where you pick the best and brightest; now you pick the worst and the connected. So then that has to change. The public service needs to be looked at and surgically – the size, the quality everything, training programmes, the age, position. When you’re of a certain age, and you have not gotten to a certain level, you should be exited, the military already does that; we should do something like that in the public service. What I am saying is that, in addition to getting a good president, we must create for ourselves a sound public service. We don’t have one now and it is part of the reason why corruption is so blatant and widespread.

For Kaduna state, and from that discovery you made, what then needs to be done, because you’ve discovered it, just as you said in just one instance. And there are several others like that. Is there a machinery being put in place in Kaduna to discover such occurrences and mitigate them; perhaps some kind of undercover work among the ministries, departments and agencies in the state so that the next government can have something to work with and be able to give better governance to the people?

Yes, we have a whistleblower law that we enacted in Kaduna State. We even have a witness protection programme, just to facilitate this, and there are many other things that we discovered early enough and corrected because of the whistleblower law that enables people to submit anonymous petitions of wrongdoing anywhere in the government. You know, according to public service rules operational in Nigeria, an anonymous petition should not be entertained. This is crazy. We in Kaduna, we passed a law that says whether a petition is signed by a person or anonymous, we will investigate it. And because of that, we found many cases of wrongdoing that we’ve corrected, that we have disciplined people, we have dismissed many people, we are  prosecuting many people.

We also passed an anti corruption law in the state and created an anti corruption office in the Office of the Attorney General; we didn’t create another agency like EFCC, we don’t need it. We just think a unit in the Attorney General’s Office can look at cases like that and they have done extremely well in tracking cases of corruption and dealing with them. This is where I believe that if you now do a Corruption Perception Index that is sub-national in nature, alright, go state by state and measure the corruption perception; you will find that in Kaduna, the corruption perception is much lower than most states because of certain measures; we have made examples of people in the public service. We have sacked those that have been found to be fiddling with public funds. We are prosecuting them, we’ve not convicted anybody because the judicial system is just pathetic, is too slow. And it is in my view, often on the side of the crooks rather than on the side of the government or the innocent.

One of the biggest mistakes I think this country made was creating this National Industrial Court, which sees its duty  as taking sides with the employee against the employer. It is not always the employer that is wrong, but the National Industrial court always; 99 percent of the time rules against the employer and in favour of criminals, which the judicial system also is slow to punish.

There are people that we served from a Kaduna State Water Corporation in 2016 because they embezzle counterpart funding of a multilateral development project. We got a judgment from National Industrial Court last week that one of the thieves should be reinstated, because he was not given a written query. He got a verbal query, they did not advise to the fact that the man, you know, embezzled billions of Naira. That’s not their concern. Their concern was he didn’t get a written query, he got a verbal query, according to public service rule blah, blah, blah, blah. So, that problem is systemic. And unless we stand as a country and say that this has to change, you know, I’m sorry, Nigeria will just be struggling forever and ever will be a country of potential permanently.

Let’s say yet again, you know, zeroing in on Kaduna, either it’s burning weary or you know, other parts of Kaduna, we get reports from our correspondent of, you know, insecurity every now and then kidnappings and attacks and all of that. I know you have said time again, that there is little that a governor can do on the structures that we currently have, that security always stops at the buck of the President’s table. But then again, Nigerians say the governor is the chief security officer of the state. So to what extent would you take responsibility for some of these reports that we get from Kaduna state?

Look, I am the governor of the state and people elected me to ensure that the lives and properties are safe and secure. So to that extent, I take responsibility, and I do the best I can. But I must repeat for the avoidance of any doubt that I don’t control the police. I don’t control the armed forces. I don’t control the security agencies. What we do as state governors is provide the logistics and the support and supplement what they get from the Federal Government. For instance, when I came into office in 2015, we found that the last time the police command in Kaduna, got overhead was September of the previous year, September of 2014. They were not paid any overhead. So we’ve had to be running the police. You go to a DPO, he doesn’t have paper to even write complaints. So, we’ve had to provide money from the state resources to cover that. Does the Federal Government budget for that? Yes, it does. Does the money get to the divisions and the commands? They don’t? Is it my problem? Is it my responsibility? No. But as governor, I have to make sure that this police station runs.

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We build police stations, we provide the tools for them, we provided over 200 vehicles to security agencies twice in 2015 when we came into office, and then in 2018, again, and we are planning to do so again before we leave office because these vehicles are used and they don’t last us as long as they should. So, we provide the logistics, we have a network of informants, we pay them money to give us information. We provide the information to the action agencies. But if I say that there is a bandit here and I am sure there is a bandit camp here, and the military doesn’t go in, or the Air Force doesn’t bomb the camp, or the police doesn’t go in. What can I do? I can’t come out and say, you know, the Federal Government is not doing what it should do. But really, this is the problem. We are chief security officers in name but we have no control over the quasi forces or giving them orders to do what they have to do. They have to get clearance from Abuja. That’s why the buck stops at the President’s desk. And when the President now gave them a deadline and say, you know, get rid of these people, we saw massive improvement in the last three, four months. There has been incredible improvement everywhere in the state. Birnin Gwari, Chukun, have almost been cleared of banditry. We still have cases once in a while, but not what it used to be. Cachia, Kachurugi, Giwa are the three local governments now that we are having issues, but the military, the police, the Air Force are there and to be fair to them in the last three, four months, they have been doing an excellent job. But that was only because the President said you have to end this before the end of December. The President didn’t say that two years ago. It would perhaps be a different story completely. So yes, you know, we feel bad, we feel responsible, but our hands are tied to a certain extent.

Still on Kaduna, we’ve had cause to interact with you, particularly during KAD invest. And we can refer to some of the investments that your administration has attracted to the state. Orlam rise is one of them, and your partnerships with Google. To that effect, there are reports that you have been able to increase the internally generated revenue of Kaduna State to the region of about N50 billion, or more than that. And there are reports quoting the worth of your investment to the tune of N2.8 billion. But you started off on a note of reflection, if we tie that to Kaduna’s debt profile as you exit office, which is to the tune of $580 billion or so to speak, how much have you recorded to Kaduna as debt profile?

Yeah, well, look, the investments that we have attracted in the last seven years actually total about $4.3 billion; it is much more than $2.8. And the results are clear. You know, focus is bringing investors, create jobs, private sector jobs, good paying jobs for our young people. And I think in that area, we have achieved our objectives and put the state on the right path in spite of all the challenges of insecurity. Now, when we came into office, Kaduna was the second most indebted state in the country.  In our time, we increased that by another between $350 and $500 million. We had to borrow because we took office when the country and the world were going through challenges of recession. And the only way we can develop the infrastructure that we need to support our investments, the only way we can improve our schools and health system so that people will be educated and healthy and be productive members of society is to borrow but we borrowed long term from the World Bank; we borrowed at very low rates of interest. And we invested in the infrastructure needed to attract these investors. That’s why they keep coming in spite of the headlines and the concerns about security.

And anyone that visits Kaduna, the capital of the state or visit Zaria or Kafanchan, the three metropolitan centers of the state where more than 60 percent of the population live will see the results of our investment. And we believe that we have the state on the right path to attract more investors. There is now an ongoing real estate boom in Kaduna. There are people that are relocating from Abuja to Kaduna to live there and work in Abuja by taking the train every morning. So you know, we believe that we put the state on the right path; we didn’t borrow to consume, we didn’t borrow to pay salaries, we didn’t borrow to run the government. We use our internally generated revenue, our VAT revenues from the Federation account and these loans to develop the state and the development is very clear. You can see it in every sector from development  to infrastructure. And I think we are putting the state on sound footing for the future.

Recently, you said we spent N300 billion per annum to subsidize electricity, which we hardly get. We are subsidizing 50 percent of electricity supply. We have exchange rates of N400 to $1. But if you want to buy dollar across the road, in Kaduna, it costs N700 Naira. Some people would buy at N400 and sell at N700 costing us about 4 trillion Naira per annum. So how do we cut this down?

And fuel subsidy cost us about N6 trillion.

Exactly. So, but all of this happens just as you said under the APC Government. What is it that made this happen and why then should Nigerians trust the APC government for another four years?

Well, look, what you are seeing happening, whether it is fuel subsidy, electricity subsidy or foreign exchange subsidy, these subsidies have been with us from time immemorial. The PDP government also had that problem. Okay. It’s just that we don’t talk about what they have done. So it’s a problem. And the problem is not the APC government. I think the problem is Nigerians who are not willing to face the truth. You know, what is the truth about fuel? We have queues now; people are paying between N300 Naira per liter, in actual fact, up to N500 per liter in parts of the country. And they have to queue for hours to get it. Why because of this unsustainable and broken down subsidy regime that we have chosen to maintain for the past 50 years, it has not worked. It is not an APC problem. It is a Nigerian problem, because today President Buhari says remove subsidy, the NLC will be out on the street protesting we’ve heard that under Obasanjo’s administration, we’ve heard that three or four times anytime the price was slightly increased. So, it’s a Nigerian problem and we need a national conversation to tell each other the truth.

How can we subsidize petrol  by N6 trillion in a year when our national education budget, I mean, federal plus, all the states is not up to N2 trillion, when our national health budget, federal plus all the states, I’m talking about recurrent and capital now, it’s not up to N2 trillion. Which country spends three times subsidizing petrol? Three times what it spends on infrastructure more than three times what it spends on education or health. It’s a choice we have to make as a people; it’s not about APC or anything. And the fact that this fuel subsidy is not sustainable is the reason why all the presidential candidates, none of them has said I will not remove oil subsidy. So what are we waiting for? Already, the price is N300 to N500. It is a national conversation, not a partisan one. And we have to tell ourselves the truth.

Some of those Nigerians, the key ones are in your party. Do you remember that time they were up in arms saying don’t remove subsidy?

Yes. And some of the Nigerians that were in previous government, were also there and supporting it. So what I’m saying is that it is a national conversation. It’s not a partisan one. And I think we’re getting there. Because we’re in campaign season. Atiku Abubakar has said, I will remove fuel  subsidy. Peter Obi has said I would move for a subsidy. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has said I’ll remove fuel subsidy.

But would they when they get there?

They will, they have to, the country will be bankrupt if they don’t. Already the states are distressed. Because this N6 trillion that you’re subsidizing, half of the money is supposed to go to state governments and  local government. This is why most states are already building up salary areas, most states are struggling, those of us that have higher IGR are surviving. But many states that have very low IGR hardly pay salaries now. And the arrears are building up. So the next government must remove it. Otherwise, the country will simply collapse. It will be Sri Lanka.

Many politicians say you’re too frank for their liking. Because when you say you discovered that eel in the state, and you wanted to correct it, and then it turns out, wait a minute. Is the speaker supposed to be setting up a company to be bidding for contracts in the state?


Does the law allow that?

Look, the members of the legislature, are allowed to have their own businesses.

We are talking about  somebody who’s in government who is a speaker. It does  not amount to conflict of interest?

Yeah. He’s not in the executive. He doesn’t see when we take decisions to award contracts or anything. In fact, I told you, he didn’t even tell me or told anyone that he was bidding for the job. He asked a company in which he is a shareholder to bid for it. And of course, when they had this problem, they came to him.

Okay. All right now, your party? I mean, yes. You want the party to win the elections? Yes. But I know you must have heard several times what people say about the price of fuel when the President came  and all that….

I’m not surprised.

And then he also did say he was going to generate 10,000 megawatts of distributable power in the next three years. During the first term in office, several other indices like that and nd these have not materialised. So Nigerians don’t see why they should stick with the APC.

Well, I’ll tell you why they should stick with the APC. And I’m not going to say the devil you know, better than the devil you don’t know because we’re not devils. Okay. They should stick with the APC because they should look at what we have been able to achieve in the last eight years in very difficult circumstances. There has never been any national government in Nigeria’s history that has faced the challenges that the Buhari administration has faced. Okay. When we came into office, the price of oil collapsed to $26 a barrel. Okay, that was when we thought and we, you know, I’m one of those that led the governors, we convinced the President, this is an opportunity to deregulate the subsidy thing. Just allow the market because the price was so low, that it was almost what we’re selling. Okay. So that was when it was moved up to that price. And the whole idea was that the government would hands off as the price moves up slightly. You increase the pump price slightly, but who sabotaged it? The NNPC made an announcement and linked it to the President as if it was the president that fixed the price.

But the President is the minister of Petroleum

He’s the minister. But look, the minister of Agric doesn’t fix the price of garri or rice, which is more important to our lives than fuel.

But the bucks stops at the President’s table.

No, no. The buck may stop at the President’s table, but he doesn’t decide the price of the biscuit you eat. There are some things that the government does, there’s something that you allow the market to do. What we wanted to convince the president in 2016, when you had that increase in price was for the government to hands off the subsidy so that we’ll get out of it for the first time. All right, but it was sabotaged again, we went and complained. But you know, no action was taken.

Secondly, the country went into recession because of that. COVID came in; COVID-19 locked down one and a half to two years, nothing got done. And immediately after we got out of COVID, the Russia Ukraine war, disrupted supply chains, raised the cost of shipping, raised the cost of food. This is happening all over the world; it is not unique to Nigeria. This administration faced many challenges that I want to say the previous administrations did not. In the 16 years of PDP rule, oil price averaged $70 to $80 a barrel, there was a time it went up to $140 a barrel.

But even in the places where we ought to have been benefiting, we did not benefit. So for instance, the Russia Ukraine War saw prices going up. Yes, Nigeria is an exporter of crude oil, we should have benefited. But because as a result of our ineptitude in protecting our pipelines in the South south of the country, you know, Nigeria was not able to benefit from that?

That is part of the problem. But the main problem why we did not benefit is because of fuel subsidy. The subsidy takes ever revenue that we earned from the sale of crude oil. And that’s the main reason, vandalism reduced our oil production by a percentage. So we’re not even meeting our OPEC quota. I agree with you. But if we had just sold the 1.3, 1.4 million barrels per day and got the money into the treasury, instead of spending it on subsidy, Nigeria would have been better off. And as I said, this subsidy issue requires a national conversation and national consensus. It is not a partisan thing. It has been going on for years. We tried to solve it under the Buhari administration; we were sabotaged. And now we are where we are.

But the Buhari administration could have had that conversation. But it has refused to have that conversation. And people will ask, you know, why should we trust the leadership of your party?

We have? To be quite honest, we’ve had the conversation at the level of the National Economic Council chaired by the Vice President, we all agreed it should go. It was Buhari himself, you took a decision that this subsidy will hurt the poor and I wouldn’t do it if is okay. So it is not about not having a national conversation. Everyone agreed but the President took that decision. And that is why our presidential candidate in the same party can say I will remove it. Okay, so it is not a party position. It is the personal decision of the president. And he’s the president.

Your party’s decision about restructuring. What happened to the report?

We submitted the report and the President agreed with it; some bills have been drafted and sent to the National Assembly. But it has not gotten the traction; again, this is another thing that all the presidential candidates have agreed that it should be adopted and implemented.

Did the President agree with it?

I honestly don’t know. You know, for the past three, four years, I have stopped trying to understand how the Federal Government works. Okay. I just focused on trying to make my state work, because that’s my primary responsibility. There are some things that we sit and agree with the President, and he says this will get done, it doesn’t get done. And those that refuse to get it done, don’t get punished.

So the big question, when you say that, because right now, people are wondering, what is happening with your party’s presidential campaign Council, it doesn’t appear that everybody is on the same page, singing from the same hymn sheet?

The President is not on the ballot. If the President has his tenure up to 29th. May, he may not want to remove subsidy. But our party, if you look at our manifesto, we never promised that we’re going to keep petroleum subsidy. We never did. Our party never promised that we’ll just redesign the currency. It’s not in our manifesto. You need to separate the personnel decisions of some people in the villa, from the Manifesto of the party, it’s important to understand that.

 Is there a division between those around the president and those within your party right now? You know, who, who, which is affecting your party’s presidential campaign Council?

I believe there is. I believe that there are elements in the villa that want us to lose the elections, because they didn’t get their way, they had their candidate. The candidate didn’t win the primaries, and I think they are still trying to get us to lose the elections. And they are hiding behind the President’s desire to do what he thinks is right. I’ll give two examples. This petroleum subsidy, okay, which is costing the country trillions of Naira was something that we all agreed will be removed. In fact, I had a discussion with the President and showed him why it had to go because how can you have a capital budget of N200 billion for federal roads, and then spend N2 trillion on subsidy. This was a conversation I had with the President in 2021. When the subsidies started rising, he was convinced.

The second example I will give is this currency redesign. You have to understand the President; people blaming the governor of the Central Bank for currency redesign no, you have to go back and look at the President’s first outing as president. He did this. Buhari/Idiagbon regime  changed our currency and did it in secrecy with a view to catching those that are stashing away illicit funds. It’s a very good intention, very clean intention, the President’s heart is white. Okay, but try doing it at this time, within the time allotted just doesn’t make any political economic sense. And for such a programme to work, okay, we have to be involved as governors as sub nationals. Because look in my state, there are two local governments without banks; in Borno State, out of 27 local governments, only two have banks. In Yobe, out of 70 local governments, only two have banks. And I remember, Borno is four times the size of the five South Esat states. So how do you expect everyone to change his currency within the time limit?

Given the example that you’ve given, what then are the chances of your candidate in the presidential elections?

Look, the people of Nigeria should understand that these are not the policies of the APC. They are not the policies of our candidate. They are the policies of fifth columnists that want to bring us down. They want to bring this country down. Because look here, we, the governors met a few days ago and sent a delegation to the governor of the Central Bank on this matter. We’ve never been really involved in this.