Malam Ibrahim Wakkala was a former Deputy Governor who served under Governor Abdulazeez Yari for eight years. He was part of the group of eight (G8) who mobilized against the anointed candidate of the former governor Yari and also participated in the litigation that saw to the transfer of the 2019 election victory to the ruling people democratic party. Currently he is among the top arrow heads of the present PDP government in Zamfara and one of the beneficiaries of the political alliance entered in to with Matawalle after the Supreme Court verdict. In this Interview with Managing Editor of Thunder Blowers Online News Medium he shared his views on matters related to politics in Zamfara, his alliance with the PDP government under Matawalle, his relation with Zamfara former Governor Yarima and many other issues trending in the state.
One Year after you have been out of the government as former deputy governor, what is your assessment of life out of power?
Honestly there is no much difference between when I was in power and now. My life has not changed and even if there is any change is simply I now have the time to be meeting people and interact with them freely.
Remember there was a time when I was in power then as Commissioner for eight years under Yarima and after I was out of the government and also comes back to the corridor of power in 2011 as Deputy Governor and now I am out. This is simply the lessons of life but like I said we are always building experience.
But for me power or no power, I have one belief, life is important only when you believe in empowering people and relating with them by giving them a full sense of belonging and continue to protect their dignity. So my life out of the corridor of powers only strengthen me to continue to build the philosophy of building and empowering people.
This government you entered in to an alliance with is one year old, what’s your assessment of its performance?
For me the government has done perfectly well and believe me based on the mutual agreement I had with him the governor has not derail for now. One most important thing which is done by this government is managing the insecurity to the level that people can now sleeps with their eyes closed. The Governor has met a security situation that has almost brought the whole economic activities of the state to a stand upper. Before the coming of this government almost every day life is being loss due to the negligence of the leadership in the state. But Alhamdulillah things are getting per better.
Apart from improving security, the governor is doing well in terms of road construction, developing education and health care system. You are a living witness to the effort he has put in place when the Covid-19 pandemic started he had invested heavily and today Zamfara state is Covid-19 free. This is different from the number of hospitals he is constructing and renovating.
Again, during this Ramadan we are all witnesses to the effort he has put in place to putting smile to the face of the people. He had increased the feeding centers, provided clothing materials to the needy and less privileged ones and also assisted the state civil servants with food stuffs to cushion the effect of the lockdown and prepare for the Sallalh festivities. This does not mean there is no room for improvement but again he has done perfectly well.
But people wonders why you will continue to work with the PDP government at the state level besides, you claimed to be a card carrying member of the APC?
Remember membership of a political party is not a religious covenant that one must adhere to strictly. I am a card carrying member of the APC and I am still in APC but I believed the decision I have taken to support Matawalle even before the conduct of the general election is done out of some factual reasons.
Number one, I know deep to my consent that, my party the APC has no candidates at the 2019 general election because we have not conducted valid primaries and I know no matter what one will tell me about the chances of the APC returining in 2019 in Zamfara is simply a fiction of magnetic imagination so why would I waste my time. I told all my supporters to as a matter of seriousness vote for Matawalle and indeed all the PDP aspirants because I know he will have a valid chance after all the court crises. So we voted for Matawalle and all the PDP aspirants during the 2019 general elections and I have no regret for that decision.
Secondly before I take that decision, I sat down with Matawalle and agreed with him in principle that look I will support your candidature but on conditions that you will continue to support the religion, work for the people, lift them from poverty, create job for them and also provide security and lasting peace for them and told me he will do same so why can’t I support him?.
Again don’t forget, I and Matawalle have been friends for long. We have served under one government of Yarima both of us as Commissioners and under one political party APP/ANPP. And also there had been sometimes when both of us struggle to form the government but in different political parties and that did not affect our relationship. Indeed that is politics for you.
So my alliance with the PDP government in Zamfara state is purely based on mutual understanding of doing the right thing for the people and changing the lives of Zamfara people for the better and one should not wonder because politics is about people.
you thinking cross-carpeting to PDP?
Like I always tells people I am in to politics not because of my personal interest but because I have passion to developing my religion and my people. I have entered in to alliance with Bello Matawalle because of the personal consensus we have entered with him one, to sustain and improve all activities and programmes that aimed at promoting the religion and also fight poverty and unemployment. So far he has been doing that, and if he continue to sustain what he is doing why can’t I continue in the same party with him.
But to be frank with you we are in constant talk with him and believe me if things continue the way they are, he may either drag me to the PDP or I will influenced him to cross carpet to the ruling APC. But like I said we are in to discussion and we shall reach a common ground soonest.
There is an ongoing reconciliation effort between members of your political alliance G8 and faction of the former governor Abdulazeez Yari, are you also ready to take the path of reconciliation with Yari
As a Muslim, I believed in reconciliation and I believed that, in politics there is no permanent friend and no permanent enemy. I will be ready to reconcile with anybody not only former Governor Yari once that person is ready to come down to the level of being an ordinary person and he is ready to treat people with dignity.
Like I told you I am in to political alliance with Matawalle because he always respect people and treat them with dignity. He listen to people and believe every soul God has created has a role to play in every forms of engagement. So path to reconciliation with Abdulazeez and anybody is simple be humble, respect people and behave like every ordinary person once that can be found in you then what is my problem with anyone.
Are you in touch with Senator Yarima?
Since after the 2019 general elections we have not met and sit down to discuss politics. So I am not that in touch with him like we used to be before. But I think the last time he came to visit the Governor we met and greeted.
What is your Relationship with him and which party did he belong to now?
I have told you we have not being talking politics with Yarima since after the 2019 elections but as for second leg of the question regarding which party did he belongs to I think you better refer that question to Yarima he will be in better position to answer it for you.
You have once led a reconciliation committee with the bandits during your time as deputy governor what do you think makes your reconciliation effort different from the ongoing peace accord by the Matawalle government?
To the best of my knowledge, we have handled that assignment with high sense of patriotism. When the former governor formed our committee we have reached out to all the bandit camps and we open negotiation with them based on the terms and conditions provided for by the government.
Interestingly however, our mediation has yielded positive result because as at that time, majority of the bandits agreed and surrendered their weapons and we have collected concernments of guns and ammunition. The leaders of the bandits camp even assisted us in reaching out to those who failed to honor our peace mediation and as at that time relative peace was restored because within six months since when we begins our mediation, banditry attacks have reduced to the barest minimum. We initiated the integration of these bandits in to the larger society and I know as at that time government agreed to even sent some of the leaders of these bandits to pilgrimage and we thought all has been reconcile.
Unfortunately for us, as at the time some of these bandits were coming back from the pilgrimage, the state government has a second plan and out rightly ordered for the arrest of some of these bandits at the airport and when I inquire why the sudden decision I was not given clear explanation and as deputy governor I tried to even reach out to the security heads that was parts of us when the reconciliation was ongoing and he asked me to trade carefully that another interest has manifested.
This is how the whole problem resurface, relations of Buharin Daji the gang leaders then were arrested by the security agencies and he also mobilized and abducted people including police men and after intense lobby he get the victims released and contrary to the mutual agreement reached the government failed to released his own people and that triggered a new social unrest. As a deputy governor as at that time there is nothing I can do because I am only assign to handle a responsibility by my governor so I became helpless and this is how the whole issue comes back to square one.
There have been trending issues with some of the policies of the present administration, example the construction of the cargo airport, new government house, twin three star hotels, and local government lodges, majority of the state citizens believed these projects are not the priority for now, do you buy in to same argument?
Actually there are varied opinions on some of the social and economic policies of the current government and whenever, the governor comes up with an issue we used to advise him on what appropriately is to be done. I personally advised him against some certain decisions especially as they relate to the cargo airport and other big capital projects he intends to do but you know we are too many and the fa
ct that, you have conceived an idea and advise the leader another argument which is stronger than your own may emerged and override your own.
Our fear as at that time, we discouraged him for going on that project is the scarcity of resources looking at the way the government was handed over to him, but as a governor he knows the capacity of his government more than we do and I believed since he has continued with the project he can do it.
But for me personally I am also of the majority opinions that, this is not the right time for these types of capital projects but he told me that, the projects are to be executed based on Private-Public Partnership and I said to him it is okay.
But to be fair to him, he always listen to advice of the people I personally believed 80% of what I advised him on issues related to the human development he implemented them. Typical example is the Ramadan feeding and provision of subsidized rice to the state civil servants.
Some people have rated the performance of the government of Bello Matawalle very low especially they used to argue that, it has made too many promises not mincing the economic realities visa-vie scarcity of resources, what is your take on that?
You see that is a wrong calculation, the government is just one year old and like I told you, the government has started with challenges, the court case, the insecurity inherited and now the Covid-19 Pandemic but I am sure things would be done rightly it is just a matter of being patient.
As for the too many promises as people used to argue, every serious minded person who found himself as a Governor must succumb to needs of his people and I am sure Governor Matawalle will deliver for his people. We need to be patient and also continue to advise the government on the right policies and right decisions to be taken.
You once chaired a committee on Ramadan feeding and there has been one step forward and one step backward in terms of actual figures expended on the 2020 Ramadan feeding programme, as chairman of the committee, how much is actually expended?
Actually I chaired the committee but the whole exercise was done in consultation with the heads of all agencies involved. I could remember one midnight the governor called me and sought for my advice on how to go about the Ramadan feeding being him the first timer. I advised him to apply the old formula and also integrate the state civil servants considering the impacts of the lockdown.
After our long conversation, the following morning, I heard an announcement that, I should chair the committee and we met hurriedly and come up with what is to be done and gave him some options. He decided to expand the whole exercise to all the 147 wards and at the end of the arithmetics, the centers were expanded to over 800. As Chairman of the committee, I only supervised the agencies in charge eg. Ministry for Religious Affairs, Directorate of Labour Matters and I told the governor to release the funds to all the agencies including the rice procured for the state civil servants directly to them.
On Ramadan feeding I think the State Commissioner for Religious Affairs is in better position to explain how much is expended for the Ramadan feeding. As for the expenses made for the rice procured and distributed for the state civil servants, the directorate of Labour Matters is in better position to explain what government has actually expended.
Are you contesting in the forthcoming 2023 general elections? If yes which post? And under which political party?.
To God almighty that spares my life to date, I don’t have the ambition of contesting for any political position in the forthcoming election and I am not yet decisive. I am in to politics like I told you to serve the people and protect my religion and if these principles are better executed under the present administration then what is the essence of me contesting?.
If matawalle should continue on this path by strengthening religion, protect the lives of the people fight poverty and reduce unemployment then why most I contest for any position. My own is to continue to support him and ginger him to do more and like I said once my people are happy then I am fulfilled. So unless if the governor has derailed from our agreement I don’t see any reason why I shall contest but I will continue to support him.
The state government acted against the recommendations o the continuation of the state University despite the reasons adduced by your transition committee, how do you feel?.
Like I told you the governor has been acting on many of my advice and if he rejected one out of many he has accepted then what is the problem?. On this issue of State Universty Talatar-Mafara, we advised the governor to suspend it as at that time because of the level of scandals we met as at the time we were compiling our transition report. We met a scenario where a contractor was paid money for the supply of beds and mattresses even where the hostel has not being erected. We have also met a scenario where a contractor was paid money 100% f
or the supply of furniture even where the class rooms were not constructed so this is the sad story.
And again we met a scenario where admission of students was done and registration fees were paid to a University account where there is no management staff including Vice Chancellor, Registrar and Burser, so who is running the University we don’t know?.
So we advised the government that, what we met is unacceptable and that, the government need to verify what actually trended before allowing the University to continue. We have never said the University should not continue as wrongly insinuated but we have asked the government to investigate what happens and regularize appointments before allowing the University to continue.
Again on the other news that we asked the government to suspend the University because it is located at Talatar-Mafara, I think that, idea is wrong and at committee level we have no reason to challenged the location of that University at Talatar Mafara because the governor has his own reason for taking that decision and after all Mafara is also parts of Zamfara state.
Are you satisfied with the effort of the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs in trying to support the people of Zamfara?.
To be candid with you I am not. Hajiya Sadiya Umar needs to do more to change the lives of Zamfara people. She is lucky she has been deployed to a new ministry where she will have an opportunity to recruit more Zamfara people and also has the opportunity to provide relief and assistance to the poor and vulnerable people from her state.
When I was appointed as Commissioner for Religious Affairs during Yarima as Governor, I was able to recruit more than two hundred people within few months and also employed more than one thousand people and that is how we have done to assist many families. The minister needs to do more, this is an opportunity to serve and assist her people and anytime we are able to meet I will still ask her to do more for her people.
Concerning the federal opportunities also, the minister and indeed members of the national assembly from our state need to wake up and protect what belongs to our people. During my time as deputy governor, I know we used to follow up federal appointments and that effort has secured more and countless job opportunities for our people and I believe that effort needs to be sustained.