Professor Muhammad Lawal Bashar is one of those aspiring for the governorship ticket of the APC in Sokoto State. A former executive chairman, State Primary Education Board (SUBEB) the Professor of economics stunned many when he resigned his appointment as special adviser to the governor on economic matters on the same day he was sworn in. In this interview, he explains his experience and political ambition. Excerpts:
You have been in the academia all your life, why did you decide to delve into the murky waters of politics?
It was not my decision, I was never in active politics until when I came out of the present government of his Excellency Dr. Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko who graciously offered me the very challenging job of executive chairman, Universal Basic Education Board and later offered me another job by appointing me special adviser to Sokoto State Government on economic matters.
It was when I came out of this government, the people of Sokoto state had seen the role I played when I was in government, all the defunct legacy parties, the ANPP, DPP, ACN, APGA came and solicited for my patronage to come and join their respective parties and stand for election 2015, that was the genesis, the beginning of my active political career. When I decided to join politics I registered with the CPC.
CPC seemed to be a more credible party that had membership of reputed individuals like General Muhammadu Buhari that was the main factor that made me to take the decision of joining the CPC rather than the rest of the defunct legacy parties.
You described your position as executive chairman of SUBEB as very challenging, why?
It was so challenging because the work environment was very difficult. The basic education sub-sector is fraught with people who cheat the system, who live on bribery, embezzlement, looting of public funds, who live on stealing the basic income of teachers and imposing on them untold hardships in every aspect of economic life, that’s why I said it was challenging.
The governor invited me to come and fix the system genuinely, he had a good intention but it was impossible for him to keep me there because of the vested interest of those political cronies who prey on the system.
While I was busy fixing the system as required by my boss, Dr.Wamakko, things were not going easy for those who prey on the system and I was able to block hundreds of millions of naira of stolen funds. It was not easy for them and they could not digest it, so they resorted to all sorts of character campaigns against me and it went on and on unabated ,that did not disturb me, I went ahead with my job, I did my best to fix the primary education ,I traveled throughout all the local government areas ,I fixed everything that I could in terms of personnel, in terms of remuneration, infrastructure , teaching and learning, teacher recruitment and teacher training and everything you can think of. I was busy checking the system and solving the problems of that system, it became unbearable, the bottom-line was the issue of teachers payment- bank payment of their salaries, part of the things that we discovered was hundreds of billions of naira was being stolen from teachers’ salaries and when I revealed this to His Excellency ,the governor, I told him ‘it is absolutely necessary if you want to fix this system then you have to allow me send teachers’ salaries direct to their accounts through bank payment’. He was gracious to allow me to that. He gave me an express approval to send teachers’ salaries to the bank that did not go well for those who steal those hundreds of millions of naira on monthly basis.
This campaign went on from all diverse people, people of different political standings, traditional rulers and money lenders and so many crooks who are exploiting our education system but I did my best, those I could take, I took them to the bank, I had a lot of encounters even with the State House of Assembly, from so many fronts, political elites and cronies are militating against the efforts of the government of Aliyu Magatakarda to fix the system.
When it became obvious for them that it was final, I was going to fix that system, they threatened the government that they are leaving the entire political arena and that was what finally brought my removal from the office of the executive chairman of SUBEB.
As I told you earlier, the governor so graciously gave me an alternative office of the special adviser but the day I was sworn –in, that was the day I resigned.
Why did you resign at that point?
I had to leave the government because of the change in the assignment that was given to me.
The reason was simple, the job he gave me as executive chairman of the education board, I took it because of my extreme passion for the development of education. I made all the sacrifices human beings can think of in order to fix that system, I have a passion for it but the job of adviser is a political job and at that point in time, I was not an active politician, so I was not interested. I said to the government that I was grateful, two honours were given to me, one as chairman of the education board and my appointment as special adviser to the government on economic matters.
These are big favours and honours anybody can think of, however since I was not interested in the political appointment as at that point in time, if I had taken that job of special adviser, I would not be able to perform, so I resigned.
After the formation of APC, people saw you as being pro-Bafarawa and thought you will decamp with him to PDP but you remained in APC with Wamakko.
Former Governor Bafarawa was my political friend when the legacy parties were merged. If you could recall, the merger that created APC was a collection of legacy parties namely, DPP,ACN,ANPP,CPC and APGA. When we were in CPC,I had no political relationship with former Governor Bafarawa. It was the merger that brought us together and if you could recall, between the time when the merger was effected and the time when governor Magatakarda came to APC, there was a time lag and it was during that time lag that my political relationship with Governor Wamakko was frozen and since former Governor Bafarawa was an active player, in fact, the major player in the merger and creation of APC ,as at that point in time ,I had to work with him, we were on the same political platform then suddenly Governor Wamakko and his people came on and met us, it did not go down well with some people including former Governor Bafarawa and they left the party.
I stayed because for me, it is not the individual that matters, it is the institution, so anybody can come and go, I will always be where my conscience tells me that this is the right place, not where an individual will teleguide me and you could imagine where Allah SWT Has put me today, I don’t think there is any human being on this earth that would teleguide my conscience, so I left Bafarawa and his people and stuck to the APC.
Why did you decide to aspire for governorship?
Governorship is an executive position, it is a position where you can make positive changes in the lives of your people, unlike other political offices, if you are the governor you are with the people, you are there at the grassroots, you can transform their lives to the better, that’s why I agreed to aspire to become the governor of Sokoto.
But what do you intend to acheive?
My main aim to become the governor of this state is to link up the people of Sokoto State with their financial resources and also to develop their mineral resources for them so that they can move out of poverty. I know how to do it, I can link them up with their financial resources, they don’t have to beg for chicken feeds, there would not be area boys on the streets, you won’t find them because I would create financial and economic opportunities that they would automatically disappear.
It’s sad we have experienced many years of backwardness and retardation ,how do we reverse it, we reverse it with people who have strong commitment for the development of this state, genuine commitment, not the kind of people who would come and lie, I don’t have to tell the people of Sokoto that I would make tap of ‘fura’ for them or skyscrapers , or highways , bridges and housing estates, all these are important but the most important thing is the human institution , how do we build our society? How do we build our economy ? How do we transform our people? How do we socially re-orient people towards common good, this is a task that only people with strong commitment education and experience like my humble self could ensure.
How would you describe your chances?
The difference between me and others is that I solely rely on Allah and no one else and I am confident Allah would take me to that position insha Allah.
How do think you can compete favourably with aspirants who have been in politics years before you?
It is left to the people to decide who they want to elect .If they want to perpetuate these people who make life hell for them, it’s their choice but you can see clear manifestations in the polity that people need change and they need people like me who have been tested.
As we move closer to 2015, how do you see the political terrain?
I want to recall what Senator Ahmed Yariman Bakura once said to me. He said ,professor ,taking power is just like taking human life, so those in power would struggle, would use all possible means and weapons at their disposal to perpetuate their leadership but the will of the people is stronger than any weapon, people of Nigeria said it is enough of bloodshed ,of looting our treasury ,of impoverishing us, putting us under constant fear; now we want our freedom, security, economic prosperity, development, so we will kick out this PDP-led government and replace it with APC to ensure peace security, economic development and equity.