Malam Saidu Musa Abdul is the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for Bida/ Gbako/Katcha Federal Constituency of Niger State in next year’s election. In this interview, he speaks on his foray into politics, plans for people of the constituency and his chances, among other issues. Excerpts:
Why do you want to represent the people of Bida/Gbako/Katcha federal constituency in the House of Representatives?
In the last 12 years of my professional life, I’ve had the privilege of working in three critical sectors namely; banking, oil and gas as well as construction. The exploits have offered me the opportunity of traversing different parts of the country. This places me at a vantage position to critically assess and comparatively analyze development as it affects different parts of the country. In the North where I come from, our people have been living in serious deprivation because of years of neglect.
The illiteracy level among our people is alarming. Out of the over 13 million children said to be out of school in Nigeria, a large chunk is in Northern Nigeria. The number may seem unimaginable and possibly be seen as mere statistics. But honestly, it is the reality of the present day life. It leaves one with a feeling of disenchantment. These children are easily sighted on the streets of major cities in Northern Nigeria, begging. It should prick our conscience that something is wrong somewhere. Even more worrisome is the fact that like a bandwagon, my people have embraced the trend.
This is alien to Nupe culture. Getting our children educated should be seen as a matter of necessity and national emergency. But no one is seeing the apathetic attitude towards education and the neglect of these children as a disaster waiting to happen. The girl-child has also become a tool for slavery in our land. Access to basic health care still seems a mirage to our people because health care centres are grossly inadequate and the available ones are also under-equipped.
Drug abuse is at all time high among our youths. Until recently, agriculture, which is the mainstay of our people, was not accorded its deserved attention. The government is laying a solid foundation but a lot more needs to be done particularly as it relates to maximizing the agricultural value chain. Niger, as a major agrarian state, deserves special attention in terms of construction of feeder roads to ease movement of farm inputs and produce to and from the farm and irrigation channels in order to enhance all-season farming.
All these are anomalies which we have accepted as norms in this clime. Essentially therefore, I intend to bring my professional experience to bear in tackling some of the above highlighted socio-economic challenges currently confronting my people, especially the down trodden. I plan to use constructive engagements and proper stakeholder management to achieve results. My ambition is borne out of the desire to add value and to transform our federal constituency (Bida/Gbako/Katcha) into a model for other constituencies.
The general belief out there is that businessmen hardly make good politicians. It is has been argued that business and politics do not mix. Why did you make the switch?
I have been a professional in most of my adult life. And equally true is that professionals make better politicians. I believe the major ingredient for success in any endeavour is for one to have an objective and a drive to actualise it. This I know businessmen have in abundance. I have highlighted some of the challenges and the solutions are also not far-fetched. The hallmark of professionalism is knowledge and I believe my professional background, particularly the years spent in the banking industry has equipped me with the requisite knowledge to confront some of the above highlighted challenges. When you think of education, security, health care, empowerment and infrastructure as a subset of governance, we will appreciate that politics is not a vocation to be left in the hands of rookies. We need professionals to redefine the political space, to change the narrative of representation and leadership. This is even more necessary in this clime where what we experienced in the 16 years of PDP was plenty motion without movement.
How would you assess your chances, given the fact that you are considered a greenhorn?
Well, you may be right to take the view, that this is the first time I will be vying for an elective position, but the fact is that I have been very active in the political space since 2003. In fact, my venturing into partisan politics may seem accidental. But it’s surely destined. The only language I have cherished for the most part of my adult life is the language of service. I have been in the race to serve my people in various forms for over a decade now and I make bold to say that this race will be based on a number of factors like good track record, reach, experience, humility, and grassroots support. A lot are in the race today just to take advantage of the people.
Some even contested election years back, lost and vamoosed into thin air because the focus was never the people and they are now here again. I am sure our people are not that lethargic not to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. At the risk of sounding proud, I think one has shown some commitment in terms of taking responsibility not just for oneself but more importantly for our people in the last 12 years of my professional life. The drive is not so much about ambition but a passion to serve.
You defeated six other aspirants to clinch the APC ticket, a development that is generating a lot of ripples particularly amongst supporters of the defeated. Has there been any form of reconciliation? Will the APC be going into the election as a united front?
We are already on the same page. Of course, the fallout of the primaries was not too pleasant but fortunately, we (all the aspirants) resolved right before the primaries to work with one another no matter who the outcome favours. We all knew it was a contest and that only one of us would emerge. Interestingly, virtually all of us had formed acquaintances even before we conceived the idea to aspire for political office. Some of us have been together for decades. We grew up to see our parents relating as one big and united family. So, it was easy to come together after the exercise. Our goal now is to work together for the success of the party at all levels. We believe in our party and our loyalty to the party is not defined by the actualization of our individual aspirations. Together, we shall redefine political representation in our clime.
As someone who lives outside your constituency, what is your understanding of the challenges that confront your people? What are the specific programmes that have been lined up to bring succour to the poor?
I lived most part of my early life in Nupe land and even after leaving as a result of the quest for higher education and professional voyage, I have never been removed from the activities around the federal constituency, particularly, my home town (Bida). We know the challenges confronting our people and we have tailor-made solutions as encapsulated in our manifesto. We shall halt Almajirci and child trafficking in Nupe land through collaboration with government agencies, the traditional institution and religious bodies.
We shall also enhance school enrolment leaning on the Universal Basic Education Act and through collaboration with international development partners. We shall also enhance access to basic health care through collaboration with government agencies, international development partners and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Youths and women empowerment will also be pursued through exposure to skills acquisition, trainings and provision of seed capital, etcetera. Besides, leaving outside the constituency is knowledge and exposure in itself. Because of where we have been and what we see in those places, I will not settle for building of motor parks being flaunted as an achievement.
Let’s talk sustainable development for goodness sake. People had the opportunity for 16 years to seamlessly harness our agricultural potentials and its value chain but decided to enrich themselves through fictitious projects and the same people are now craving to stage a comeback? Thank God, the APC-led government is making good its promise to diversify the economic base of the country and agriculture is one of the key sectors being accorded the needed attention. The potentials of agriculture alone in our federal constituency are enough to engage our teeming youth and empower our women. If elected member of the House of Representatives, I would meaningfully and in a sustainable manner utilise my far reaching contacts and connections to better the lot of my people.