HRH Hailu Bala Usman Reveals:

  • Lower Plateau Wasn’t Marginalised
  • How Nasarawa State Was Eventually Created
  • How Akwanga Lost Out As State Capital

 

Halilu Bala Usman: A Profile

His Royal Highness, His Excellency Alhaji (Dr) Halilu Bala Usman, the third Osu Ajiri, was born in Nasarawa Town, Nasarawa Local Government of Nasarawa State on 16th January,1945.

He started Educational career at Junior Primary School Nasarawa, then Senior Primary School Laminga from 1952 to 1959, and later moved to Clerical Training College Oturkpo (1962-1963) where he passed out with second class Certificate. By 1973, he had serially acquired a National Diploma, Advance Diploma and Higher National Diploma in Local Government Administration and Management from Ahamadu Bello University Zaria and University of Ife respectively. He was at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom where he obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Development Administration in 1981 (DDA). By then he was Administrator officer class VI (Principal Assistant Secretary GL 12). He was registered to Ministry of Information as Under Secretary G13 and acting Deputy Secretary GL 14 Ministry of establishment Jan 1982 and posted to Ministry of Education as acting Secretary for Admin GL15 up to December 1983. By 2nd December1984, he transferred his service to Nigeria Port Authority as Director Training Manpower Development.

Alhaji Halilu Bala Usman put up thirty-two years of uninterrupted Service to the nation at Local, State and Federal levels. He was appointed Scribe/Typist in 1959 and rose to the rank of Chief Scribe between 1964 and 1970 in the then Nasarawa Native Authority.

He held positions in the course of service, which include: Administrator of Mada Chiefdom in Akwanga Local Government; Secretary to Pankshim and Mangu Local Governments; Sole Administrator, Federe and Awe Local governments; Acting Deputy Secretary Establishment and Training; and Secretary for Administration Ministry of Education in the then Plateau State.

At the Federal Level, he was Director Training and Management Development, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Lagos and thereafter was on leave of absence when he was appointed as Chairman Plateau State Local Government Service Commission and Local Government Pension Board respectively from 1987-1989.

He was reabsorbed to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and acted at various times the position of Director of Personnel.

Following the disbandment of some political Parties and the formation of the two-party system (NRC and SDP) by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s administration in 1991, Alhaji Halilu Bala Usman was appointed Administrative Secretary of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for Plateau State by the Presidency.

He has several commendations for services rendered to the nation at various capacities, some of which are for devotion to duty, resolution of Mada chieftaincy tussle, best Administrator of local government, Steering the National Conference of Local Government Service Commissions in the Federation, and for valuable service to Nigeria Ports Authority. He was also commended by the National Headquarters of the People Democracy Party (PDP) for successfully organizing the National Convection in Jos which saw to the emergence of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as Presidential flag-bearer of the party in 1999. Further commendation included that by the National Headquarters of the PDP for organizing two consecutive conventions of the NEC Executives of the PDP held at Eagle Square Abuja.

Everywhere he served, he was hailed as the Peoples’ Administrator and referred to as “Administrative mechanic ” or Guru of Administration. Where others have failed, Alhaji Halilu Bala was seen as the mechanic that could tidy up the fault. Alhaji Halilu Bala Retired after 32years of service and joined politics and was elected Deputy Governor of Plateau State running with Sir Fidelis Tapgun under the Social Democratic Party, a position he occupied from October 1992 to November 1993 when the military took over.

He served as a member staring committee of the movement for the creation of Nasarawa State and pioneer chairman of Nasarawa State Foundation when Nasarawa State was created on the 1st of October 1996 by the then Military administration of General Sani Abacha with successful transition of government from military to civilian rule and the subsequent assumption of office of the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu in 1999.

Alh. Halilu Bala Usman was appointed Deputy Chairman transition Advisory Committee and latter appointed Chairman of the committee on Resettlement of displaced Bassa people in Toto local government. And following the establishment of the Ministry for Local Government and Chieftaincy affairs by H.E (DR) Abdullahi Adamu, he was called upon to set up newly created Ministry in September 2001 and served as pioneer commissioner.

In November 2005, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo GCFR, President and Commander-in-Chief of The Nigeria Armed Forces approved the Appointment of Alh. Halilu Bala Usman as the Board Chairman, National Programme of Immunization.  He was commended by the Hon. Minister of Health, Professor Eyitayor Lambo on the exemplary Leadership in National Programme on Immunization. In view of the Merger of National programme on Immunization and Primary Health Care Agency, the Board was consequently dissolved in April 2007.

Some of the awards received by Alhaji Halilu Bala Usman include. – Fellow, Institute of Corporate Executives of Nigeria. – Award for quality leadership by Root watch Magazine. – Award for Grassroots Development by student union of Government. Nasarawa State University, Keffi. – Award for distinguished leadership in Local Government Administration by Nigeria Society of Commerce. – Distinguished National Award in National Development (Health care Delivery) by corporate and Media Africa Communication. – Fellow, Certified Institute of Management of Nigeria.

He held the traditional title of Sarkin Padan Nasarawa, an important title that made him a member of the traditional College of selectors of Emir in Nasarawa Emirate Council.

He was selected as the Osu Ajiri of Edege Chiefdom (first class chief) on 28th July 2012. and the official installation and presentation of first-class staff of office as the third Osu Ajiri of Edege Chiefdom was held on Tuesday 27th January 2015 at Udege.

Recently, the Osu Ajiri of Edege Chiefdom spoke to Eggonnews in Lafia, the Nasarawa State Capital on a number of issues. Here’s how it went.

The movement for the creation of Nasarawa State, I guess started way before 1996. And I am sure you have been part of this struggle right from the onset. You may wish to share with us what brought about the idea of desiring to have a State out of the old Plateau State.

The desire has always been for rapid development. The past request for the creation of State was more political than what came out later on to be for development. The movement for Middle Belt and Nasarawa State, as I said, by then it was political and I wasn’t in the politics. We were civil servants by then.

But the movement for the creation of State for Nasarawa in 1995 was when the Constitutional Conference started discussing it, it became clear that the government is also interested in the creation for their political control. That is even the military, they are the only ones that can create States and Local Governments.

The movement started so that we can develop ourselves our own way. It is not that we were denied in Plateau State. I was the last Deputy Governor in Plateau State and I know even during Solomon Lar’s regime; some projects were sited in our area. But it will come faster if the Western Zone is created as a new State. That is why we started.

And I remember the first meeting took place in Jos, in late Senator Elayo’s house. But mainly it started in two groups. The first group was the SDP. The second group was the NRC. NRC was holding their own in His Excellency, Aliyu Doma’s house, also, of blessed memory.

In our own group – that is the one under Senator Elayo – mainly people that belonged to the defunct SDP. I was mandated to chair the occasion as the last Deputy Governor in that zone. And after we discussed, we agreed that we have to meet our members in the Constitutional Conference. And I told them I will prefer to have a joint movement with those under His Excellency Aliyu Doma. Moreover, he was Deputy Governor 1983 before me.

So, they said ‘we will not stop you from going to him. Whatever it is we are interested and we are mandating you to go to Abuja and relate with the members of the Constitutional Conference.’

So, I met His Excellency Aliyu Doma. Incidentally I met him meeting with his own group, preparing grounds for the write-up.

So, I told him this can’t be possible. We have to be together. He had been my boss on so many occasions and I cannot see how I can lead anything without him. And he accepted.

The following day we left Jos for Abuja where we met our five delegates in the Constitutional Conference – Umaru Suleiman, Ewuga, Abdullahi Adamu, Ahmed Abdullahi from Keffi and one other person I can’t remember now.

So, we met them and presented the issue to them. And they agreed we should have an enlarged meeting having representation, which we did later on at Akwanga.

Ten members from the former Plateau, we also met them and they agreed in principle that it was for development, so nobody would work against it. And they did support us when the memo was finally presented.

Late Alhaji Muhammadu Wada was heading the elites and we all gave up being politicians. We decided to respect him as an elder statesman. And then we had another joint meeting with the traditional leaders. By then the traditional leaders, Alhaji Ramalan Abubakar a one-time Deputy Governor was the Emir of Nasarawa, my mentor. He headed the joint meeting. And we continued in that movement, changing places from one Local Government to the other. We were unanimous. The people of Lafia, Nasarawa, Keffi, came together with Akwanga, Nassarawa Eggon and Wamba to join together for a new State.

Before I forget, you know Lafia, Keffi and Nasarawa were under Benue Province. Akwanga, Nassarawa Eggon and Wamba were part of Plateau before the creation of Benue-Plateau State. This was how the areas were.

But now, the people of Wamba, Akwanga and Nassarawa Eggon, Lafia, Keffi and Nasarawa agreed to come together to form one new State. We were unanimous on that. The name of the State – Nasarawa – we were unanimous on that.

It was the headquarters that became a problem. However, the first selection which was done by the Chairmen of the ten Local Governments – seven supported Akwanga and three for Lafia.

But the struggle continued and, in the process, there was some acrimony among ourselves. However, I remember we had to agree and say well, let us allow the Federal Government to select the headquarters if this would divide us. And it was done. They can choose but this is the majority’s view and this is from the minority. But the decision is left for the government. We want to have unity of movement for the State.

In 1996, General Abacha of blessed memory announced the creation in October. There was jubilation, there was mixed reaction. However, when we left Jos for Lafia, there was no incident like road block or anything. Even in Akwanga where we were thinking there would be resistance, they were all clapping and we passed to Lafia.

The first Military Administrator was Wing Commander Ibrahim also of blessed memory. He started and for the first month or two, there was some resistance of attending his meetings.

So, some of us met in Alhaji Yakubu’s house. I can still remember Yakubu Mohammed who is now the Ubandoma or so, a retired Permanent Secretary. We met in his house and we said we could not leave this thing to go on like that. We said we had to support the government. We had already prayed that the headquarters could be cited anywhere.

So, we agreed there should be a forum to give the new administration support. That saw the creation of Nasarawa State Foundation. Incidentally I was made the pioneer chairman to steer it.

That is how we started. We were mobilising our leaders to come together because some of the traditional leaders were not even attending some of the functions in Lafia. We had to go round to plead with them. We held a meeting and we all agreed that we should bury our differences about the headquarters, come together for the progress of this State.

Was it just the citing of the headquarters that stopped those people from attending?

No, there were other issues. Who to be the Chairman of the Council of Chiefs was a problem as well. I told you the Emir of Nasarawa chaired the joint meeting throughout the movement time. But the government approved the Emir of Lafia to be the Chairman of the Traditional Council of Chiefs.

So, some of the chiefs from down there were not attending meetings here. And even some of our elites were not.

But after the formation of this foundation, we were able to bring all of them together for the unity and the progress of the State. And that was how it continued.

The second Military Administrator was Colonel Bala Mande. He tried in his own way. Before he came, there was a launching of the Nasarawa State Foundation Fund because there was no take-off grant given to this State. So, we mobilised and then organised a fundraising.

Initially it was 150 Million Naira and it was a big money with pledges and cash and what have you. However, I cannot remember exactly but we were able to realise some amount and about three projects were done with the money.

One at the Dr Dalhatu Araf (Specialist Hospital). If you go there you will see it. The children and women ward are there. If you go to Akwanga at the OLA Hospital there is another ward created there. And then at the Western zone, at the Nasarawa State University Keffi also, at the Faculty of Law, I think.

Up to now, there is some money in the account of the Nasarawa State Foundation. I handed over when we were struggling for governorship. I remember I was even accused that I siphoned Four Million Naira, when they saw me with a Jeep. This Jeep is one Nissan Trooper. True to God, I bought is Four Hundred and Thirty-Six Thousand Naira. But some people wrote petition that the chairman of the foundation took away Four Million Naira. I laughed over it. I said how? For an account that the signatory to the account was not even determined, because what we agreed before the launching was that there would be a Board of Trustees who will be above my council. I was running the executive council of the foundation whereas the Board of Trustees, which was going to be higher, would determine who would be the signatory to the account. That had not been done. How would I come to withdraw money?

When he appointed a committee – that is Commander Abdullahi of blessed memory – I just laughed over it. I went round the three banks that received all the donations, I told you, cash and…, they shared among themselves. I asked them please, give me the statement of account, the money you collected, the money you cleared and how much had been spent that far. They all submitted it in their statement. No Kobo was spent.

So, how did I come to get Four Million Naira from the account? It is just jealousy because I was vying for governorship. Because I was the last Deputy Governor so I became a threat.

However, when I gave him, I said please before your panel of inquiry, inquire by yourself. Call the managers without me present, which he did. After three days or so, he sent for me and said we should call a meeting of all the members and his own cabinet.

They all came and he apologised to me publicly, that the petition was a fictitious one since the statement of account justified the fact that no Kobo was withdrawn from the account. So, he apologised and dissolved then panel.

Then the first civilian government came. When the election came, I also participated but in the long run I withdrew. Dr. Abdullahi Adamu became the first civilian Governor in 1999 and after one year or so, I was appointed a pioneer Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs under Abdullahi Adamu.

So, I served under him in his first term and second term as well. It was in the second term that I was given appointment as Chairman, National Programme on Immunization. So, I had to relinquish commissionership and continue.

Then the second civilian Governor was Aliyu Akwe Doma of blessed memory. He was in the other party but came back to join the PDP and became the second Governor. And then later on the third Governor was Umaru Tanko Almakura. Then the fourth one now is Engineer A A Sule.

So, both the military and civilian Governors, I think they have done very well. We have benefitted. But you cannot satisfy everybody in life. Personally, my judgment is that we have no regret on having our State because even Plateau used to also commend our performance.

Before 1995, during the 2nd Republic, when there was that movement. In fact, there were two movements; so to say. One, agitating for the creation of Middle Belt State and the other one for Nasarawa State.

That is why I told you it was political. One was championed by the NPP, one was championed by the NPN. I was a civil servant so I didn’t participate at all.

As a civil servant, how did you see the movement then as to why they failed?

Why they failed was because it was done on the party level. As I told you, we started almost like that. The movement for Nasarawa State this time, one was headed by me because of our people from the SDP. They called us progressives. And the other one was under the people from NRC, which was headed by Aliyu Doma. And we had to come together to struggle for this. And that was how we succeeded.

So, the other one didn’t succeed because it was done on political lines.

And you know, civilian administrations hardly succeed in the creation of States and even Local Governments. All these creations and what have you have been done on military order. If they want to do it, they can do. But civilians, like during Abdullahi Adamu’s regime, he wanted to create more Local Governments. And he followed all the procedures and it remained only the consequential order by the National Assembly, that it failed. Otherwise, he created 16 Local Governments from the 13 we had. And other States – about six States – also created. But because of the political differences and what have you, it didn’t see the light of the day.

So that is why the last one would have failed if we continued on party line.

I still want to ask this question even though you are trying to shy from it. At some point in time, when we were under Plateau State, there was this cry about people from the so-called Lower Plateau, that they were being marginalised, being denied, hence the move for the creation of Nasarawa State. Was that not a good reason for the movement?

Well, Western Zone which was regarded as Lower Plateau, in fact, we were not courageous enough to contest for the governorship. Throughout the First and Second republics, our people didn’t contest for the governorship. They would end up just struggling for deputy governorship. Likewise, even when I joined the Third Republic.

Initially I was working in Lagos at the Nigeria Ports Authority when they invited me to come for governorship. I told them I wasn’t ready and financially I didn’t have. And seeing Decree 28, which gave more powers to the Deputy Governor than Governor under the transition period of Babangida, that prompted me to even tell them I preferred to be Deputy Governor. They didn’t know the reason. But my reason was because of Decree 28.

Nevertheless, when I came, I retired from the service to come and contest with Sir Fidelis Tapgun. Eventually seven people came out for the contest from the Lower Plateau. Nobody came from the other side. Seven people contested with me for the deputy governorship. You can see I always told you, our people always struggled to be Deputy Governor even though the first Deputy Governor was Danladi Yakubu of blessed memory and then Aliyu Doma, all from Lower Plateau. So, nobody denied them but nobody contested. It is not that they were marginalised but they knew that even when they struggled, they may not succeed.

But in my own case, I was working on Decree 28, which gave the Deputy Governor more power than the Governor. Because the Governor was a military man and they had to accept what their boss will say.

But when I served as the Deputy Governor, because one of the issues was that people were seeing that our people are usually marginalised. That they were not allowed to perform. But to God who made me, nobody denied me. In fact, I was more active. I was engaged more than the Governor. The Governor presided over major issues. And in addition, he gave me the supervision and control of Local Government Councils, which means I was dealing directly with the people for our about 22 months in office. I was never redundant.

I don’t know whether I have answered you.

Maybe you can recall when you were in government as Deputy Governor, how much development came to the Lower Plateau? How many appointments were being made that the people from the Lower Plateau also benefitted? To perhaps counter what people were saying that development was not being taken to the Lower Plateau, appointments were not given to people from Lower Plateau. You were in government, and at that level will be able to say if truly it was so.

Honestly speaking, throughout our period, I cannot vividly have the data now. But I don’t think we were discriminated at all. We were not discriminated. As I said, the reason for our movement was to bring faster development. Even under Solomon Lar’s regime, our people benefitted from appointments and also some projects.

Some years back now, when they were considering projects executed with foreign loans, Western Zone benefitted more than there. That is why when they were refunding the excess of the loan, Nasarawa benefitted more than Plateau. You can see.

So, it is just a question of our location to say lower Plateau that is why people associated that. Not that there was any deliberate policy. But because we were being called Lower Plateau, people can insinuate that we were marginalised or we didn’t benefit.

On the 1st of October this year 2020, we marked the 24th anniversary of the creation of Nasarawa State. Looking back, considering the fact that you were there when the struggle went on, you had your dreams, you had your expectations, you had your focus and goals for wanting the creation of Nasarawa State. And by the grace of God, you are still alive to see all these 24 years. How will you assess the journey so far having gotten the State? Do you think it was worth all the trouble that people like you made sacrifices for the creation of the State? Can you now sit back to say thank God for the creation of Nasarawa State?

Honestly speaking, most of our leaders have already gone. They have passed to the great beyond. May Almighty Allah reward them with Aljana Firdausi. They sacrificed and I was one of them. I am alive and I witnessed all.

As I enumerated to you both the military that set the foundation of the State and the civilian Governors starting from Senator Abdullahi Adamu, one can see one, the State university. When they graduated the first set. I was a living witness. All the indigenes of Nasarawa State, about 350 or so were given automatic employment. Which hitherto, if they were to go to other universities, maybe they wouldn’t have benefitted from such a policy. And the university is still there, and it is a very good landmark. Education is the foundation of everything. So, even that university alone plus other institutions. We have College of Education Akwanga which we inherited from Plateau. It has developed and produced teachers, still in education. And College of Agric was merged with the university. Polytechnic also was created.

Aliyu Doma’s administration also started very well. He concentrated on roads and agriculture. And with his mechanisation of agriculture, the Badakoshi programME he created, Fadama I and II. He tried and may God reward him with Aljana Firdausi.

And Alhaji Umaru Tanko Almakura, whom I participated along with others in championing his coming in. He DID a lot in education. The Ta’al primary schools; he did well, cutting across the State. You can see the development in the State headquarters. He did more than any of the past Governors. He tried. People are saying he concentrated in Lafia. Well, he changed the headquarters’ status, unlike what it used to be before. He has done well.

He is now a senator like Abdullahi Adamu. They are all now Senators in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Engineer Sule has just come. And within one year, he has also made his mark. Personally, our road that was abandoned even during the colonial days because we had mining projects there. Right from after independence, the mining was going on in our area. Places were exploited but no commensurable development there.

All of them have tried. We have no regrets whatsoever as far as I am concerned. We have no regrets for having the State. Our leaders that have gone, I am sure what they did was very well and people are benefitting. And the younger ones coming will definitely benefit. And we pray that God will bless what our leaders did.

So, as I said, the Governor has given the contract for that road and it is the highest; 3.6 billion. He even extended it to our neighbours Agwada about 8km from Udege. So, we are really grateful. If this will continue, the sky will be his limit.

When the movement for the governorship came up, when the people from the northern side, Akwanga zone came together, they were a movement for the support of Akwanga. When they came to me, I told them I belong to their side because I was sole administrator in Akwanga for three and half years. And therefore, the first Governor was from our side. Abdullahi Adamu did two tenures. The second one Aliyu Akwe Doma of blessed memory did one term and then Ta’al came up and he did two terms. And the creation of the State was a collective desire of all the people as I mentioned to you. Wamba, Akwanga, Nassarawa Eggon and Lafia, Keffi, Nasarawa. So, if the Western zone were able to enjoy the seat for two terms, the southern got three terms which should have been two terms, it should have been reverted to Akwanga zone. So I told them if the whole people of Afo – in Afo once you become Madaki, automatically you stand to be the next chief. That is our tradition. And Akwanga zone became Deputy Governor more than six times. If it is in Afo land, nobody will deny them. So, I supported them and our prayers God has answered. One of the people from Akwanga is now the Governor. So, we pray Akwanga will enjoy the two terms and then struggle continues.

Before I leave the issue of Nasarawa State – because I want to take this opportunity to also interview on your own area. You were the Chairman of the Nasarawa State Foundation. And you did say you handed over the accounts of the foundation. Would you want to tell us how much you handed over?

I told you the projects that were done with the money. Not me. I didn’t spend a kobo out of the money. The projects were done after I left.

After I left, Governor Abdullahi Adamu appointed late Kasimu Idrissu, the former SSG. It was one hundred and twenty-something million out of the 150 million we launched.

It was the money they used in the projects I mentioned to you. Right now, I know they have almost 40 million I understand, in the account.

Part of it, they purchased shares and you know what happened to shares now. They purchased shares with about 25 million Naira. It was shares of… The money now cannot be bequeathed because of the fall of the shares.

But the account is there. When Kasimu Idrissu left, Alhaji Shuaibu Kore, a retired Permanent Secretary took over. So, he is the one that is the dormant chairman of the foundation because it is not functioning. But the amount is there. I remember he sent me a copy of the financial condition which he is struggling to recover from the State government. That is the position.

 

1st of October 1960, would you want to tell us where you were then?

Very good question. I was a junior civil servant. I started work 1959. I finished primary school and went into the labour market as a typist. In April 1959 I started work in Nasarawa Local Government. It was then Nasarawa Native Authority. And if you talk about Native Authority, you can start to talk from there. From Native Authority they later changed it to Local Government Administration. And by the 1976 reforms, they changed it throughout the country to be Local Government.

So, that’s where I started work as a typist. After two years I was sent to clerical school Otukpo. So, I didn’t go to secondary school. I only went to clerical school where they train clerks and accountants. By then, before you people came and enjoyed it as Government College. It was clerical school. We were supposed to serve there for five years but they later changed it to three years. And when we were on the first year, the Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello of blessed memory visited us and he was convinced from what he had seen for just 10 minutes typing we did to welcome him. After he removed the paper that we typed, in fact my own paper was one of those he removed. When he read it, he jumped to the middle and back and he saw that it was the same content. No mistake. We were typing with music by then. And when we came to the end it would say ‘carriage return’ then we would stand up and do this (demonstrating) as if we were making parade. We will nod our head like this, sit down, start again with the music. So, by the end of the day, the passage is telling you that clerks are ready to be posted. They are ready to work in any office be it divisional office, provincial office or premier’s office.

So, he was convinced. He saw it and spoke to the principal, a white man, Mr. Turner. He told him “Look, we want to implement nothernization policy. And our divisional offices, provincial offices were manned by Igbos. We can’t tolerate that. Therefore, this crop of graduants should be deployed to Kaduna for posting to divisional offices, provincial offices and premier’s office. So that the Igbos manning our offices will move to their State.” That was the nothernization policy and we were the beneficiaries of that.

Therefore, when the Independence Day came, I was already working. And I saw it all. All the 60 years you are talking about, I saw it all. I started in the Local Government, I moved to the State Government. From the State Government, I moved to the Nigeria Ports Authority. Throughout these 60 years, I worked the first 15 years in the Local Government, 12 years in the State and then 10 or 11 years in Nigeria Ports Authority.

And even when I was there, I was being assigned. First, I was recalled to come and chair Local Government Service Commission because they saw my experience. As I told you, I didn’t go to secondary school. From clerical school Otukpo, I moved to Training Institute in Zaria. After one or two programmes, I was enrolled for the diploma programme. In 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970 I went and got diploma without secondary school education. It was on-the-job training.

And therefore, after the diploma in 1970, I was then sent for another in-service at the University of Ife where I did my advance diploma for six months and thereafter I was qualified to go for the first Higher National Diploma in Local Government Administration which is my field.

So that Local Government is a training ground for civil servants. They can start from the ground and go up. Look at what I did. So, we were the first HND holders at the University of Ife in 1973.

From there again I went to University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. All these were in-service. I was getting my salary. That is why I said it is a training ground for the civil servant. It is equally a training ground for leadership because it was there people are groomed. If you become a councillor, you are dealing directly with the people you are representing. The chairman is always with his people unlike now that the chairman hardly stays in his office.

Local Government is a training ground. I trained myself as I told you. When I was at the Nigeria Ports Authority in 1987, Plateau State Government – you can see when some people are saying lower Plateau people were marginalized. After working in the State, I moved to Lagos. And in 1987, without getting contact with me, they just announced I was appointed Chairman Local Government Service Commission in Plateau State.

Then I had to apply for leave of absence. I served in 1987, 1988 and 1989. I should have gone to 1990 but I had problem with the State Government in the sense that as the chairman of the commission, we held conference of Local Government Service Commission in the federation which I had the privilege to chair after becoming chairman for just six months. If not because of my experience, I wouldn’t have coped. But that meeting brought me to the light of everybody. I served as member of the steering committee to grow the conditions of service for Local Government staff. We had a national guideline for the conditions of service which qualified anybody from the Local Government to go on transfer to the State, to go on transfer to the Federal. Because I was already at the Federal, I made sure that this was acceptable. Because before then, they underrated Local Government staff. They thought it was a dumping ground for non-graduates. But from 1988, graduates at all cadre could apply and go to Local Government which I served in the committee. And in Plateau State, in 1988 we advertised for all graduate positions and for the first time, graduates were employed in the Local Government. That was under me.

So, in the third year in 1989, the problem I had was that State Government was still posting staff from the State to work in the Local Government. Because their assumption was that graduates are not in the Local Government and therefore graduates in the State civil service are posted to be secretaries of the Local Government. So, I quarrelled that because I said we had already employed graduates in 1988 and 1989; two years. They should be posted as secretaries of the Local Government. 23 Local Governments by then and they appointed 20 from the State and only three. I protested. My commission protested.

When they didn’t accept, I decided to request for my transfer back to the Ports Authority. They called me and I went.

And when I was in the Ports in 1990, Babangida’s administration again formed two political parties after dissolving all existing political parties; NRC a little to the left and SDP a little to the right. I didn’t know but my name just appeared to come and form one of the parties, to form SDP and in Plateau. I was posted back to Plateau. So, I came and I formed the party in Plateau.

And then what prompted the people of Plateau to also know more about me was that at the last elections of the party officials of the SDP, I introduced a new method; network programme. I read network at the University of Birmingham. In a network programme, you can plan 10 activities. You can start 10 activities at the same time and end them at the same time.

You may ask me how is that possible? Let me tell you practically. When we did the election for the party officials at the ward level and the Local Government and then we came to the State. NRC were doing their own and I was for SDP. So, I organised my administrative secretaries from the 23 Local Governments. I told them I want to introduce network programme where you can have 10 or more activities start at the same time and finish at the same time. There were 28 positions. I said we were going to distribute 28 ballot papers for the positions which we did. I said: Go and fill up for any of the positions. After you finish, we line up 28 boxes, go and cast your votes. And we did that within a short time. After finishing, we said if you want to wait and see how the results will be, you are free. Otherwise, allow us to do the sorting out and then you come later on. Or since we have 28 agents, let them watch. So, we left. By 4:30 I had already finished the election of 28 party positions for SDP and we declared the results.

But NRC that opted for separate election for the same 28 positions, they didn’t finish until the following day.

So, I was commended by the Military Administrator. By then in Plateau, it was Colonel Kama.

You can see how I utilized the body of knowledge I got from Birmingham. And that was why sometimes I advocated that all these elections – the presidential, Senate, House of Reps, Governorship, House of Assembly, all can be done at the same time and the result allowed to be declared. That is instead of waiting each week to do the Presidential and Senate and the second one will be for Governorship and the others. It is a waste of time. When I advocated, I was invited by the INEC.

You can see how I saw all these things. And that is why the people of Plateau State, after seeing what I did, and the fact that I was Chairman Local Government Service Commission, there was no Local Government that didn’t know me. So, I was invited to be the Governor. I ended up being deputy. I am grateful to God.

I told you I served as a Commissioner under Abdullahi Adamu for Local Government. They knew Local Government is my specialized area so I was made Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy. You can see the edifice I left there. Have you ever visited the Ministry for Local Government? That is the office I initiated and built.

When I came down, after contesting with seven people, I became the candidate of the SDP, his running mate.

Two weeks ago, I almost shed tears. Somebody is writing my biography. He wrote to my Governor Fidelis to comment about me. When he brought the reply from Fidelis Tapgun, I shed tears. The reason is that he said we are in the same service when I left for Lagos the Ports Authority. We were on the same… but when he came out to contest for Governor, my name was mentioned and he knew me quite okay. And when the contest came up, some people contested along with me to be the Deputy Governor. But I eventually became the undisputed choice of the people of Plateau State among the seven. Despite the fact that a lot of them have a lot of money more than myself. I don’t keep money. He said Alhaji Bala Usman became the undisputed choice of the good people of Plateau State. So he was not the one that selected me. You understand? It was the choice of the good people of Plateau State. Why? I was wondering. But I have already narrated to you some of my activities in the State. So I said it was the people of Plateau State that elected me. I said we thank God. We did well with him and we departed with no acrimony at all.

Then when I was commissioner, there was a vacancy for the Chairman National Programme on Immunization. Incidentally, I was the one who announced the death of the chief, the chief of Daddere. He died in the Bellview Air disaster. As a Commissioner for Local Government, I went to his home town to announce, not knowing that I will succeed him, not as a chief but as Chairman National Programme. When we went to condole the President, Abdullahi (Adamu) gave my name to replace him. I didn’t know.

Then I became Chairman National Programme on Immunization throughout the whole Nigeria on polio.

In the northern part of the country, especially in Kano, Jigawa and the rest, they rejected immunization from polio. They said Christians wanted to reduce their population. So later on, we learnt that Egypt had cleared polio for a long time. Why? We said let’s travel there and see. I led a delegation to Egypt. People were thinking Egypt is 100 percent Muslim. It is not. It is about 70 percent. 20 are Christians and about 10 are none. We went there with three paramount chiefs; Gombe, Jigawa and one doctor from Kwara. Then we had three pastors and some officials. We went there for two weeks. We studied how they cleared polio and it was the success story that now, polio has been kicked out. I want to show you when I was invited by the Primary Health Care in Abuja to participate in the success story.

So that’s why I am telling you I have seen all in these 60 years.

 

You were answering the question I asked about that 1st October 1960. By then you were already working. On that particular day, I guess you were in Nasarawa that day.

It was a huge celebration. In our own group, I don’t know whether you know Iyakwari. That was the first time he got posted to Nasarawa. He read Agric. He was posted as agric officer. That day he was the one that organised the party which was held in his house. Most of us also gathered. Even last October I phoned him. NBS came to interview me so I phoned him to remind me, what was the music we danced to on that day? I wanted him to remind me because he is younger. I can remember two; we danced ‘One Pound No Balance’ and then ‘Joromi’.

It was full entertainment that day. That is, besides the parade by schools and what have you. We ate a lot that day. Everybody was happy.

Nigeria has grown. I have seen it and I have seen development. The only problem is political, when people are talking about spirit of the country. It is just like our State, if not now that one of your men from Akwanga is on the throne, you will feel more rejected and dejected than when we were in Plateau, when they were calling us lower Plateau and we couldn’t contest. Nobody should deny anybody from contesting.

Like when we brought in Almakura, if I tell you, from the bottom of my heart, those who brought him, I was one of them, Ewuga was one of them, Musa Ilu. I will show you one picture before you go although Ewuga was not in it. Ewuga, the contribution he made for Tanko, Tanko brought only seven thousand for each polling booth. He said he was not in government, he could not spend. My estimate to him, I chaired a committee that brought him 50,000. He couldn’t afford. He brought only 7,000 per polling station. Whereas the government under Aliyu Doma brought 200,000 per polling station. And Ewuga balanced on the 7,000 he brought 13,000 making it 20,000 for each polling unit with Akwanga zone. And that was what brought Tanko. Ewuga, although he joined us just before the election when Aliyu Doma then supported Akwashiki against Ewuga. So when Ewuga saw that he was going to fail the primary he withdrew and rushed to us in Abuja. I was the Chairman, he said he wants to join CPC. Sabo… and so many of them rejected Ewuga from joining the CPC. I said no, he is going to be an asset to us. And that was how he became an asset to us. And nobody will tell you this; Ewuga supported Tanko and the other things that follow is history.

Last week I was on phone with him and he said ‘Sir, the way you even thought of me, I am happy.’ We started talking and said let’s forget about that issue. That is what I am talking about.

I was talking about the regions. The East are struggling to make sure by all means they become President, if not they will go back to their movement for Biafra. Biafra was an old issue. It was a dead issue because even when Nigeria fought Biafra, at the end of the day Gowon said ‘no victor, no vanquished’. And then there was a program of three R’s – reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction. That’s how the East was reconstructed. Reconciliation; they accepted. But up to now, they are not happy because they have not achieved what they want. What they want is to have a President from the East. Not only President, the Eastern side has only five States whereas the other five zones have six or even more States. For North-Central, beside the six we still have the Federal Capital Abuja whereas the East has only five States. The West has six or seven. The North, look at us with 19 States. So that’s why when they are talking of restructuring, the West they had the opportunity to be President. Obasanjo was a military Head of State. Babangida brought his formula, because they denied Abiola of our time, the people’s President. If they allowed him a lot of things would have happened but he himself made a mistake. Immediately after the election he connived with his past group the NPN to form cabinet without Kingibe’s knowledge, his deputy. That is why the military connived with even those that elected him and annulled the election. We were inside and we knew this. Babangida connived and said Obasanjo should be given opportunity.

At the Jos stadium, I was in charge of the venue that saw Obasanjo at the presidential. Because I conducted that of Abiola at the same venue. Solomon Lar knew that I participated so he co-opted me into the national executive of the PDP. We conducted the election that brought Obasanjo.

Obasanjo served. He served two terms and even wants the third term. But… will say ‘my people will not accept that’. So they were compensated. A Yoruba became President. Even though it was not their choice, that is their problem now.

Now Tinubu is making gain. Look at… in Edo State. They lost elections because of personal interests. And Tinubu that is also struggling. That is the problem Nigeria is facing now.

And the North, despite the fact that we had leadership from the North; Shagari, Yar’adua, now Buhari, look at how people contributed their money in voting Buhari yet he has his own policy of making sure that everything is clean. It is impossible. God who created us knew that we are difficult human beings. Nobody will work the way he wants. All this corruption and what have you, took away his sense and people are doing what they want. That is the problem.

 

60 years down the line, don’t you entertain some fears giving what is happening in the country? Don’t you entertain fears over the future of Nigeria?

There is a move now going on. It is a dangerous move. They said leaders at all levels failed the country. There is danger. As I read this today’s paper. There are moves, neither APC nor PDP.

We will only continue to pray. Because if you are talking of restructuring, how do you start? Where do you restructure? Because restructuring has so many means. But the end of it is what I have just analyzed. Everybody wants to be carried along. The North have been leaders, have they satisfied the yearnings of the North?

It is very disturbing when I read this paper today.

 

Is it possible to rescue Nigeria considering the dangers you said are clearly on ground?

Insecurity first. Government without security is no government. You can’t move from one place to another. If you are lucky to reach, that’s all. Otherwise, on the road people are… The Deputy Governor’s convoy was attacked just after Nassarawa Eggon. Three policemen were killed. Up till now, were they able to detect what happened? In the President’s hometown, his cousin was kidnapped for three months before they were able to relieve him. People cannot easily travel now especially in my own place. I was attacked three times. Six people attacked me. I can show you the car here. Only God saved me. So sometimes I go out from this house and sleep outside.

It is very alarming. There was a meeting of the elders. They said both the government at the Federal, State and Local Government are not performing to the expectations of everyone especially with the problem of insecurity. You can’t sleep in your house, you can’t travel, you can’t do this.

So, it is only prayers. But some people will say which prayers? Whom are you going to lead?

There was one Christian leader who blasted Buhari that he doesn’t know the direction he is facing. And somebody replied him.

There is dissatisfaction. Even with the development, people will say which development without security? Security is the major problem.

I met the IGP at Endehu and I reminded him that.

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