Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim (APC, Yobe East) is the chairman, Senate
Committee on Housing. He has an enviable record of ruling the state as
governor for 10 years. In this interview, Ibrahim expresses optimism
about the upcoming primaries of his party, the All Progressives
How well has the seventh senate performed?
The seventh senate is an improvement on the sixth, and a lot of people
believe the sixth senate is an improvement on the fifth senate. So,
things are getting better. As we continue with democracy, more and
more people are getting to know democracy and also get democratized.
Things are getting better generally all over the place. So, the
seventh senate is definitely superior to the rest for obvious reasons.
It’s not by anybody’s design or fault, it’s just that we are getting
better because we are getting more experienced.
More and more senators, few as they may, who came back improved on the
quality of lawmaking in the country to give better governance.
Senators, House of Representatives members and state houses of
assembly members are there to make good laws for the good governance
of Nigeria. There have been some tremendous improvements over the
decades, even though there have been situational tendencies every now
and then. The military, however, has allowed democracy to continue
unimpeded, but be that as it may, things are getting better and I
believe the quality of lawmaking now is by far higher than earlier
laws made because many of the laws, which were made earlier, have now
been amended. You see all sorts of amendments that show how
unsatisfactory Nigerians were on many of the laws that were made
earlier. They are being improved upon by continuous amendments. In
addition to lawmaking, there is the function of oversight after
budgets are approved. Sometimes, you have two budgets: the annual
budget and the supplementary budget within the year. The Senate and
House of Representatives committees are expected to oversee the ways
and manner projects which have been approved by the two chambers are
being implemented to the satisfaction of Nigerians. There is also
agreements that have been signed by the government. That is another
important function of the Senate. The other bills passed to Mr
President for his signature in order to become law is also very
important. Oversighting is very important and other miscellaneous
activities of the National Assembly.
Don’t you think the senate has failed in its oversight functions
especially with regards to budget implementation, which has never gone
That the budget has not been implemented more than 50% before is not a
problem of oversight. It has nothing to do with oversight. If a
particular ministry gets allocation of N5b and it fails to spend that
money within a year, it has nothing to do with oversight. Oversight
functions starts after the projects have started and as it’s
continuing, you go and inspect to see if it’s okay. You go there to
find out if the price is alright and even if there are changes in
price, that they must be based on the law. This doesn’t make a budget
fail; it’s the inability, incapacity, incompetence of the executive.
It is the responsibility of executive to do all the things they said
they are going to do with the amount of money they submitted for
approval. Ours was basically to approve with some few changes in most
cases in budgetary allocations. So, the failure is on the part of the
You belong to the group former governors who found their ways into the
senate. How do you react to the criticisms that trail decisions such
as yours? Is this healthy for our democracy?
Why, is it not healthy for democracy? After all, these ex-governors
are Nigerians to the best of my knowledge. All of them were born in
Nigeria, went to school in Nigeria and worked in so many places before
becoming governors, and by the time they became governors, they are
still politicians who are not yet tired and they want to continue to
serve their country. So, they moved from local champion to the
national level to contribute their quota immensly to the development
of the nation rather than their own states. So, in what way is it not
healthy? When we have ex- governors, ex-ministers, ex-deputy governors
and others, who have served in so many ways, the more of them coming
to the senate, the richer the senate becomes. Because of their
experiences and the fact that they come from different localities, it
gives them the wisdom.
We are a huge country with different tribes, sections, states, so, the
sum total of those who come is how rich the democratic dispensation
and democratic development will go on. In fact, it’s a big advantage.
There is nothing unhealthy about it. And from my experiences, these
governors and ministers are very experienced people. They don’t have
this childish behaviour, upheaval or crisis associated with lawmakers
generally. They are very mature people and have served at a higher
capacity before coming to the National Assembly. Those, who are
running the executive from Mr. President down, are usually people from
their own calibre and former colleagues, so you discover that the
quality is being gradually improved. The more governors we have in the
National Assembly, the better so that they will be able to control, or
through voting, minimize the effect of younger people, who are very
exuberant, agitative. Through them, better laws are made for the good
governance of the country.
Your party, the APC seems to be experiencing internal rift concerning
the party’s presidential primaries. While some are calling for direct
voting, others are calling for the modified voting system where ward
delegates will vote. What is your take on this?
Well, that is what we have in the constitution, and at the end of the
day, the party will agree on one of the two systems. I believe that
whether it is the direct voting or the modified voting system, it is
good for democracy. Whichever one we take will not do harm to the
party. Only that one will be more expensive and the other one a little
easier to control than the other, but I think that at the end of the
day, collectively, the APC will decide on one of the two systems and
it will still be alright.
We practised both earlier in Nigeria. I remember in the days of the
SDP, we had the indirect system from which we choose chief Abiola to
become our presidential candidate. He later went on and won the
election. It was not the primaries that became the problem, it was the
fight by the conservative forces of Nigeria that denied Chief Abiola
the presidency of Nigeria; it has nothing to do with the system that
brought him on or the primaries that brought him into the political
arena. So, whatever we agree upon, some of us are not involved. Like
me, I’m not involved in the idea of which one we should go for or
which one is better; it’s a small number of people who have so far
debated this and I’m sure they will expand it to bring in more and
more people and at the end of the day. Whatever they agree upon will
be good for the APC.
What are the chances of APC in the 2015 general elections?
Our chances are very bright. The only thing is that we should be very
careful of what happened in 1993. We should not allow this
conservative forces to, as a matter of life and death, make one of
them the president, even if they are not the best choice of Nigerians.
You see, to the conservative people, governance is a matter of life
and death. They can do anything including bringing in the military
through a coup and taking over from them.They can do anything; spend
any amount of money to make sure that they hold power because they
know how sweet it is to hold on. They know how holding power has
empowered them with their families over a long period. So, we have to
be very careful, particularly, in this our primaries. Obviously, we
have more than one presidential candidate. We will go through it
democratically and introduce internal democracy for the most
acceptable person be the presidential candidate. Let us make sure that
nothing goes very wrong and at the end of the day, I believe insha
Allah, we will win the presidency and for the first time in Nigeria’s
history, we are going to have a progressive federal government in
Nigeria. All governments in Nigeria whether military or civilian, so
far, have been governments that have been controlled by conservative
forces whether in uniform or agbada, it didn’t make any difference.
So, let us for the first time experience, have the feeling that we are
being ruled by progressive forces and see what they can do to develop
the country. Politics and governance is all about development. We want
the best to take over power and the best to govern us so that we will
get the best results possible for our resources.
(Culled from LEADERSHIP)
Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim (APC, Yobe East) is the chairman, Senate