Hon. Godfrey Gaiya, former Sports Committee chairman, House of Representatives and newly-appointed special adviser, Political Matters to House of Representatives Speaker, Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas, is a geologist turned politician.
Speaking to Sunday Sun, Hon. Gaiya, decried the inhuman treatment meted to his people in Southern Kaduna by the immediate past governor of the state, Nasir el-Rufai, saying that his people were lucky to escape the eight years traumatic experience under el-Rufai.
He also spoke on the factors that cost his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) the presidential ticket, how history will document former President Muhammadu Buhari and where President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has impressed him.
What is your impression about the religious comment by your immediate past governor, el-Rufai, on Muslims perpetually ruling Kaduna and Nigeria?
That man is not a human being and thank God for the word former now attached to him. He came with devilish agenda. It is God that rescued us from the eight years of hell we went through, particularly in Southern Kaduna. He had no pity, he was merciless, and he had no fairness. He came with hate agenda against our people. That we are still alive after his eight years is because God is God. We are happy and lucky that he did not wipe out Southern Kaduna from the face of the earth as he desired and planned. His wish was that we disappear, but we are still waxing stronger. In fact, to the glory of God what he denied us in the last eight years is on our table now. We have the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) from Southern Kaduna. The man he most vilified. If he had had his way, we would have been annihilated totally. But God is God that he now belongs to history, he is gone and he is going down as a very wicked man who deserves no pity. Only God will judge him.
We thank God that the Southern Kaduna people are still alive and kicking today. God is faithful, God is good and He will continue to answer our prayers. That man doesn’t know God. He is devil’s incarnate. I have no fear and I am ready to be buried alive, but it won’t stop me from saying the truth. We have seen the worst things under that man. He gave us hell and we received it for eight years.
But will Christians ever rule Kaduna State again?
It is possible if we Christians put our house in order. To be frank with you, el-Rufai wants to prove a point that Christians don’t have the number to win elections and rule. In doing so, he deliberately set out to impoverish the people of the zone. Nigeria politics is all about money. How qualified is a man to aspire if he cannot feed in his house, but wants to use N1 billion to campaign?
So, their agenda was to impoverish and turn them into beggars to take crumbs falling from his table and become subservient. Like I said that era is gone and I can assure you that we will bounce back. In the next 10 years, a Christian will rule Kaduna State. From statistics, the number of Christians in Kaduna, assuming we are to vote according to religious lines, has a very fair number in the North, but we don’t use them. We also have a very fair number of people residing in Kaduna that are Christians, but we have not factored them into our calculations.
We did not because our pockets are dry. We have been impoverished over the years. You need money to get that done. And between now and 10 years, God can raise somebody to do it.
What happened to PDP that it failed to win the presidential election contrary to the confidence you expressed before the election?
Wike cost us the election, Peter Obi and Labour Party cost PDP the presidential election. I predicted that it will be difficult for PDP if we fail to resolve the crisis with Wike. Don’t forget that both Wike and Peter Obi were part and parcel of the PDP. When they had issues with the PDP, I knew that we were finished. My initial optimism was that Wike will reconcile with Atiku and by extension, the G-5 will follow. I also hoped that there will be an agreement between us and Labour Party and then PDP will win. If we add LP votes from the areas that are dominantly PDP to what Atiku got, we would have dusted Tinubu. But there was no reconciliation and unfortunately, the divided house could not stand. We failed not because PDP is not popular, we failed because our constituent members, those that should make PDP tick, for some other reasons, failed to go with Atiku. Simply put, we approached the election as a divided and scattered house.
In your own assessment, will you say, so far so good that Tinubu has started well?
Politics is about interest. What pains one will give another joy. We feed our families with the take homes from our jobs. Politics is about dividends, about development and about carrying people along. I am from Southern Kaduna, and the last eight years were very bad for us. We have no reason to hate any person that gives us little palliatives and made us feel loved. Look at Tinubu’s appointments, the CDS is from my community, from my constituency, so, why should I complain when at the end, we are taking something home. We did not get even a councillor in the last eight years.
Buhari and el-Rufai conspired to kill Southern Kaduna. We have somebody now who knows we are existing. In less than one month, we have gotten what we did not see for eight years. We now have the CDS, we have the DG NYSC who is also from my place and myself talking now, is a Special Adviser on Political Matters to the Speaker House of Representatives. We never had that. So, I will say so far, so good, we also hoped that Tinubu will be nationalistic in outlook and approach. We pray that he should treat every segment of this country with fairness, and with humane mind. He should not be like Buhari or el-Rufai of my state that failed in their agenda to relate with certain persons on account of religion. Even though Tinubu is one of them, he is good to us with what he has done so far. I have hope that Nigeria under Tinubu will be better than Nigeria under Buhari.
What about subsidy removal inflicting severe pain on Nigerians?
Removal of subsidy is a good one. The scam on subsidy is too dire to overlook. We have been living in denial and pretence for the betterment of very few people. You will not worry about the removal if you are not a member of the cabal. I am very sure that the law of demand and supply will soon set in to push down the price. In the past 40 years, people have been eating where they never sowed; people have been reaping where they never invested to the detriment of many Nigerians. Let us suffer once to get it right. We keep pretending while the few cabals kept making billions on a daily basis. There are people raking in billions per second from subsidies. When they removed the subsidy the daily demand of Nigeria dropped from six million to less than three million. It means there was bogus claim of three million to four million going into people’s pockets, multiplied by the number of litres. So, if it has to go let it go because even if Tinubu factored in subsidy or not, going by Buhari’s arrangement, the subsidy ends by July 1. Tinubu announced it on the day of his inauguration and that was the best time to do so. If he had waited to enter Aso Rock Villa, he would not have had the mouth to announce it. That place must be demonic and needs cleansing.
If you sit face to face with Buhari, what will you tell him?
I will bluntly tell him that he failed, I will tell him Buhari you have failed. He deceived Nigerians into believing that he is all righteous, but behind his so-called righteousness, was hellish corruption. We have seen and we will still see the number of people that became multi-billionaires under Buhari. If you don’t fight corruption, or turn the other side when you see evil, allowing the evil to continue, when you are supposed to be in charge and call them to order, you have failed. So, Buhari failed Nigeria in many areas. We are the highest indebted nation in Africa under eight years of Buhari’s administration. We could have made overnight the kind of money we are borrowing if he was able to check the manner of corruption in NNPC, Central Bank, Inland Revenue, and Customs. We could have been able to save that kind of money because what is two trillion, three trillion to Nigeria on a daily basis. But he never plucked the loopholes in Customs because his friend Hameed Ali was there. He never blocked the loopholes in the Central Bank because he was using Emefiele as his stooge. He never stopped the looting at the NNPC because his Northeast brother was the MD. He removed everyone that was going to be anybody and that will say the truth the way it is. He brought people, cronies that were not qualified and who had agenda to loot and kill Nigeria. Buhari failed woefully and should hide his face in shame.
Did the intrigues that trailed the emergence of the 10th National Assembly leadership come to you as a surprise?
Not at all, it did not. Ideally, you expect interests to play out and expect people to have a say because this is a democracy. In the end, people will have their way. Going by my little experience since 2007, elections to pick principal officers has not always been easy. It has always been full of intrigues. From Patricia Ete who was impeached after six months to Bankole to Tambuwa, I have always been a principal actor. So, I know that none was ever easy and none will ever be easy because to preside over 360 members and 109 senators is not easy. It is always a tug of war to determine who emerges. So, I expected that it was going to be tough because so many things will come into play. I am satisfied that the outcome, in a way, justifies the thinking of those that are in power. We must run away from the fact that even though the Assembly is independent, we must also accept that they must relate with the executive for the good governance of Nigeria. If there is a very sharp division between the executive and the legislature, it will retard our progress.
What really worked in favour of the Speaker?
From day one, most of us were sure that the office of the Speaker will go to the Northwest for balancing and carrying everybody along, following the input of the geo-political zone during the election that produced the incumbent president. We knew too, for the sake of balancing, that the Northwest has no reason to look for Senate President. We knew all along that by the number three man, in this arrangement, the Senate President must be a Christian. In Nigeria, religion, whether we like it or not, has a very important role in our politics. We must be sensitive to it. Nigeria is not ripe for the first to sixth political positions to be reserved for one faith or religion. And even if merit warrants that, we must look at other areas that bind us together. We knew from day one that for fairness, equity and balance, the number three position must go to South-south or Southeast. We knew that having taken care of the Northeast, the Speaker must go to the Northwest or North-central. We are also comfortable that Northwest delivered votes to whoever has become the President our compensation should be the number four position. It wouldn’t have been too big for Northwest. From day one, and for the factors I enumerated, Speakership must definitely go to the Northwest.
How much assurance is it that your boss will not be a rubber stamp Speaker?
No, he is not going to be a rubber stamp Speaker. Fortunately, he was my neighbour when he came in the 7th Assembly. He saw me as his elder brother since we are from the same Kaduna State. He would always inform me whenever he was leaving for the chambers. He is such a humble man. He is on the quiet side, but very intelligent. Speaker Abbas has a PhD, he is a lecturer who developed and created two pioneer departments of accountancy at the Kaduna State University and Polytechnic. Such a person cannot be taken for granted. Additionally, he is a fourth-timer having been there in the 7th, 8th, 9th, and now 10th Assembly. What other experience do you want than those experiences, education, and background? But, sometimes, we take very humble and quiet people for granted. They believe that in the parliament, you should be loud, brash and talk. Sometimes it is not all the talk that does the work. However, the Abbas I know is a silent achiever who has represented his constituency four consecutive times and nobody has done it before him. For him to weather the storm repeatedly for the fourth time means that he has done so much for the people, for them to have confidence and trust in his person. So, I believe, as the Speaker, he will bring in a few things I know him for, humility, sound mind and fairness.
Why should a PDP member like you campaign for him and what really gave him the victory against other contestants?
Unfortunately, my party, the PDP, didn’t make up the number needed to become the Speaker. I would have campaigned for my party. So, our best bet was to look for an APC person who is PDP friendly, competent, and we saw that in Abbas. As for contestants like Betara, who is also a friend, I will be frank to say that it takes much more than Betara to become Speaker. Money is good, but a sound mind is better. We have been with Betara since the 7th Assembly and at no day, and time did he ever make a contribution on the floor of the House. He has been a lucky man in heading ‘Category A’ committees, the ones they call juicy committees, from Army to Defence to Appropriation. So, he has gotten it all, but that will not buy competence and capacity. Compared to Abbas, Betara does not stand any chance. As for Wase, he has his own issues. Wase saw that the return rate was very low, with 200 new members out of 360, and wanted to capitalise on the fact that they don’t know him. Unfortunately, the returning members knew who he was. As I talk with you I was his SA, but I didn’t work with him, I didn’t go with him because I know him. To be a leader you must have temperament and leadership qualities. You must have a sense of balance. You will not be seen to take a predetermined position. You must not be a fanatic, which he always applies. Unfortunately out of the five that I mentioned, he failed in four. So, for the returning members, for those who know him, nobody would have ever voted for him. Each time he presides, you wonder if he is taking sides. As Deputy Speaker, the next step is to become the Speaker, but that it’s not how it works. It is not the number of times you return that qualifies you to be a Speaker, it is beyond that. You have to be who you are, capacity and leadership qualities are required to manage a very complex place like the House of Representatives, comprising 360 members from 36 states, with their own idiosyncrasies and understanding. He does not have the temperament.
What should the Speaker do to avoid banana peels?
I don’t envy him because he had 354 votes out of 360 members. Whoever voted for him wants a favour. How you can accommodate the favours they did to him is a big challenge. And that is where the banana peels can come from. But I am sure that he should be able to navigate the peels. Chairmanship of committees and other favours constitute a greater part of the banana peels. But what is obvious is that every member must not chair the committee given the limited available numbers. The same thing happened in the 6th and 7th Assembly. What we can do is to have committee chairmen and subcommittee chairmen in the same committee. We will look at, for example, Committee Chairman on education and subcommittee chairman on tertiary education, Unity schools, TETFund under one big committee called education. The Speaker can accommodate 10 subcommittee chairmen with separate roles to play, but report to the chairman. So, if he does that he will water down every other agitation.