Mallam Salihu Isa Nataro, a governorship aspirant in Kebbi State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC), says the north under the auspices of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), has begun sensitising its leaders on the imperatives of a Southern Presidency. Nataro, who is also a member of Osinbajo for President 2023, told LEO SOBECHI that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as candidate and winner will allow for seamless transition.
• Our public service needs reforms to cut down duplications, oversize
With apprehension trailing the build-up to the 2023 general election, what do you think is the best way to move the country forward in unity?
There is need to change the narrative. This constant fear mongering that this country will collapse, disintegrate or depend on foreign assistance to survive is unacceptable.
My take is that Nigerians should support a person that will raise the bar on socio-economic development irrespective of political party affiliation, religious or tribal differences. This way we can shame these awful predictions from foreign powers.
Nigerians know what is good, fair and equitable. They know those who can turn the country around for good of everyone. We need to leave power in the hands of the people through credible, transparent and free elections.
Talking about equity, you are one of the prominent northerners propelling Vice President Osinbajo to become President in 2023, what about the likes of Tinubu, Rochas Okorocha, Rotimi Amaechi, David Umahi, Orji Kalu and others?
This country is beyond a single individual and therefore you need to think of the new World Economic Order. A lot of things are happening in the world and we must look for someone with fresh ideas from any region or party to help move the country forward.
For us, Vice President Osinbajo is bubbling with great ideas. And he has shown great loyalty to a great leader, President Muhammadu Buhari. Osinbajo helped in smoothening the governance after PDP. He is tested and proven reliable. It is true that the likes of Okorocha and Tinubu mean good for this country, just as people like Peter Obi or Kalu, a friend to the North and Amaechi are also capable of offering good leadership.
However, we believe that Osinbajo is best suited to complete and consolidate certain development strategies already embarked upon by the Buhari administration. That is it.
This country needs to develop itself in such a way to avoid some foreign powers having their way to fulfill their prediction of possible disintegration. That is why we have started mobilising our fellow northerners on the need for good and equitable leadership.
I can tell you that the leadership of Arewa Consultative Forum, such as Audu Ogbe and brilliant Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, have begun to enlighten the northerners on the advantage of supporting anybody from the South.
The consciousness is growing already that this country needs a southerner after President Buhari, and to respect party zoning idea. Be it Southwest or Southeast, it does not matter as long as the person emerges from South and is understandable, honest in dealing with affairs of the nation.
To make the matter very simple, those of us that are supporting Vice President Osinbajo to succeed Buhari are already lining up a good vice presidential candidate to support him.
We have to wait for other APC aspirants to come out so that we could assess them side by side to see how far they measure against Osinbajo’s current contributions to our country.
Are you dangling a vice presidential candidate as a bargaining chip with the Southern candidate?
We mean well for this country. It is not for personal interests, but in the larger interest of the party and the north. This is politics and we need each other. No one group can win the Presidency. So, we are a collective and we are ready to join forces with the Presidential candidate to form a formidable force.
You are aspiring for the governorship of Kebbi State, what inspired your interest and how will your support for Osinbajo affect your own election, knowing that Governor Atiku Bagudu has a preferred candidate in the person of the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami?
I should think the incumbent governor, Senator Abubakar Bagudu, must admire my ideas and style of politics in Kebbi State. I focus on issues of interest to the masses and that has always been the big issue for me.
I was in the forefront recently, commending the governor’s decision to send out some Kebbi children on scholarship for foreign studies. Then coming to the other strong man in Kebbi politics, Senator Adamu Aliero, I also recall praising his rice farm scheme. You see, my politics is without bitterness and giving each person his due.
So, for the 2023 governorship in Kebbi State, I will ride on the support of all these stakeholders to fly the APC flag. I am like a unifier among the political bigwigs. That is why I believe that after reconciliation of the governor and his predecessor, I will emerge as the compromise candidate to reduce tension and build cohesion in our state.
In the case of the Justice Minister, Malami SAN, I don’t think he has what it takes to defeat a philanthropist and the son of philanthropic family in Kebbi State. Without sounding immodest, Malami knows he cannot defeat me in a credible contest in Kebbi. He may have all the money, but I can boast of the people. Trust me.
The youths, the traditional institution including the Emirs and Senator Aliero would always prefer me. Even the man Governor Bagudu is backing secretly cannot defeat me. I know the risking I’m taking by supporting Prof. Osinbajo for 2023 Presidency, but I will definitely help myself in my gubernatorial ambition.
I remember the former American Secretary of State, Mr. Henry Kissinger’s postulations in his book on International Relations theory. Kissinger said public opinion includes the ability to influence the attitudes and behaviours of people.
In my opinion, Kebbi State is blessed with a lot of unharnessed and untapped resources by both past and current administrations in the state. I want to tap these resources for the benefit of all. I am closer to the people than these big names.
Do you know that the reason we have unemployed youths roaming the streets is because of the absence of capacity building and, I daresay, nonexistence of sound policies that can transform the state?
One basic step to addressing this is by reforming the education sector by introducing and incorporating vocational training centres. Then, boosting agriculture with mechanized farming and addressing the neglect of primary health care delivery system.
There is sadly a wanton duplication of functions in Kebbi State public service as well as siphoning of the public till. Protecting the treasury and improving the business environment are areas of interest for me. I know and the people know that I have the capacity to turn things around and that inspired me to seek the mandate of the Kebbi people to serve them as governor.
I want to reconstruct all these neglected sectors so as to achieve a good business atmosphere that would enable my state to be less dependent on federal government financial allocations. With my vast international exposure and connections, I am confident to attract financial inflows through trade and partnerships.
You said something about neglect of public sector in Kebbi, is that not an indirect attack on the current administration?
I hope you will not forget that I am an advocate of public sector reforms. Both the state and federal governments are very much aware of duplications of functions, especially the oversized civil service. There are in fact, too many ministries, para-statals and agencies with bloated expenditure.
You must strengthen the system to make the public sector more effective and efficient. For me, the Federal Government should reconsider its decision to place further taxes on certain commodities and rather undertake drastic reduction of public expenditure.
I believe the best way to move the country forward is to look for ways to reduce public expenditure. This can be done by introducing monetisation and enforcing the use local content Act. The Federal Government should also review the Pension Act to make it mandatory for all public servants, excluding the Army, Police and officials of State Security services, to serve for at least 20 years to be eligible for pension.
Civil servants from level 15 could be converted to contract staff. Another approach is for the government to stop all the ministries from constructing new office blocks. With advancement in technology, you do not need much personnel in any office, especially for establishments such as Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS), Customs and Excise, National Drug Law enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
I think a lot of parastatals under the Education Ministry like Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and Universal Education Board (UBEB) are all unnecessary and irrelevant in the new world order.
Various governments in the country have not leveraged on the ease of doing business to empower the public sector, but that is about the best way to stimulate development in any modern society. For instance, much could be saved by reducing the stress public companies go through when paying official dues to organizations like corporate affairs, FIRS, ITF, NSITF and pension.
Government needs to allow a single organisation like FIRS to collect and distribute to others. Another way to move public sector forward is for government to recognise good investment proposals from private companies. This way, industries would have government as share holder and share the monetary benefits on equal basis thereby boosting employment generation.
Barely sixteen months to the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s final term, how would you assess his administration?
I happened to have worked with Buhari and other political associates in Kaduna State for a long period of time and that proved to me and everyone who wishes to hear, that Buhari is a great leader.
Honesty is there, he is also trustworthy and with massive grassroots support. Today, if Buhari contests another election, Wallahi, he will still win one hundred percent. What I am saying is that if Buhari asks people in the North to go right or left, they are ready to obey him without question.
I can say that President Buhari saved this country from civil disorder or catastrophe created by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government. It was obvious that that government had no steady policy directions.
But, today we have seen infrastructure development, long term investment, capacity building among youths. However, our wish is that President Buhari should willingly and honorably hand over power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and take a deserved rest. He said age is telling on him as such I will welcome such a decision not only because that President Buhari has tried his best, but also because Osinbajo as a professional will take governance a notch higher.
Let me give you an example. Prof. Osinbajo will waste no time to recall the Electoral Act amendment bill and sign it. I am also confident that the Vice President if becomes the acting President would conduct one of the best and cheaper election in the country. Osinbajo cannot object to the Direct primary option. As a statesman and democrat, Osinbajo can even support the Southeast to produce the President in the nearest future.