Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim (APC, Yobe East)
Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim (APC, Yobe East), fondly referred to as ‘father of Yobe politics’, was governor for 10 years, senator for 12, and now preparing to retire from active politics, having conceded to outgoing Governor Ibrahim Gaidam, who will be in the Senate in the 9th Assembly. In this interview, he speaks on his political journey, views, and more. Excerpts:
Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim: There is no qualification for being a governor. it’s just the question of circumstances that people are in the state, and the kind of politics you are playing. The fact is that somebody must lead, and whoever people decide at any given time, to give the mantle of leadership, becomes the governor. Also, when it is time for him to go, he goes, and somebody takes over. It’s a cycle, really.
Ibrahim: There has always been improvement in the way things are done in any human society. When Yobe was created, the kind of politics that we played was definitely not the same with what is happening now, because the personalities have changed, the priorities have changed, the methods have changed, and the continuity continues, progress is being made, and as progress is being made in certain areas, other areas crop up, then you make effort along those areas as well. That is how it goes.
DT: There is this saying that the Senate is a place where ex-governors go to ‘rest’. What’s your take on that notion?
Ibrahim: It’s a question of function. The Senate and House of Representatives are law-making organs of government. They make the laws for the country, review the laws, change the laws and continue with the new laws. You can’t run a country without laws, so I wouldn’t say it’s a place to rest, as they say. The Senate makes and reviews laws all the time, for better government, and better governance.
When a senator wants to rest, like I want to now, he retires. I voluntarily left the seat of the senate for Yobe East when Governor Gaidam showed interest in the job. I was there three times, for the period of twelve years. I voluntarily left, now my younger brother is going to go and continue with other people who are elected or re-elected from other parts of the country.
DT: Being a governor and a senator for many years, which of the two have you found more challenging?
Ibrahim: Both were challenging at the times I held them. I did the governorship for ten years, and left when my term was over. Then I went to the Senate for a period of twelve years, so there is no question of comparing the challenges of the two seats. They have different functions, different requirements, different needs and they all solve different purposes. I have tried both, and Alhamdulillah, I have come out clean, unscarred, and happy about what I achieved, and other people would continue from where I stopped.
DT: Looking at your political qualifications, one would begin to wonder what you would do after retirement…
Ibrahim: Well, first and foremost, I want to have some rest, after which I will continue to give advice to various levels of government, from the presidency down to councillorship in leadership terms. Thereafter, I have a big farm here in Damaturu that needs attention, so I want to go into agriculture and develop the farm further. I have over a million trees of gum Arabic, I have some cattle, goats, sheep and I also have land for cultivation of cash and food crops. I would cultivate the farm for the benefit of myself, my family, the state and indeed the nation. So, there is always something to do after politics.
DT: What advice do you have for upcoming politicians?
Ibrahim: Of course, there is plenty to advise them on. They must always think about Nigeria first, about their states, and about the positions they have asked to be voted for, and if they are given the chance, they should do their best and leave the rest, let other people also continue in any given situation. There is a lot to advise young politicians on, depending on the circumstances, the need, time, and situation.
DT: Retiring from active politics is a decision that must have been hard to make. How did you do it?
Ibrahim: I don’t think it’s difficult to take the decision of going in or out of politics. There is always an entrance, and there is always an exit. It all depends on the circumstances one finds himself in. When I came into politics, I never knew I would. I was leaving government as Chief Quantity Surveyor, trying to set up a private firm to practice my profession. Suddenly, they came and say I should come in and play a different role, a political role. That was in Maiduguri, before Yobe was created. I came into politics at that material time, and since then, I have been in it, I haven’t left. I haven’t left to practice my profession, but I did practice quantity survey before I came into this new position. So, nothing in life is easy. But nothing is also too difficult to make a decision on.
DT: What is it about politics itself that you have found to be interesting?
Ibrahim: I’d say it’s a situation where you came in promising to do A, B, and C, and God gave you the opportunity and the chance to do so, and people would show appreciation for your execution of that same A, B, and C. That is what I have found most interesting, and that’s happened on several different occasions.
I’ve never gone into nasty or regrettable situations in my political life. But I always found challenges. And when I did, I held them as challenges, and tried to do my best to sort them out.