He looks unassuming, and pass as an ordinary party man. But, Yusuf Gagdi, the Deputy Speaker Plateau State House of Assembly and also the Chairman, Conference of State Legislature of Nigeria, has a passion for his constituents as a dogged fighter for justice. In this interview with Raymond GUKAS in Jos the Plateau State capital, the PDP lawmaker representing Kantana state constituency, Kanam LGA of the state spoke on a wide range of issues including his relationship with the speaker, grazing reserve among other issues : excepts.
You recently emerged the Chairman, Conference of State Legislature of Nigeria, what informed your choice at the polls? It is a miraculous thing because I did not go to Obudu to become chairman of the conference. This has further added to my challenges and responsibilities. After the conference in Obudu I did not come back to Jos, I have to start working immediately. I have to draw a line so that the official responsibility that is vested on me as the chairman of the conference involving 36 States House of Assembly will not affect my representation to the people that voted for me so as not negate my primary responsibility as the deputy speaker of Plateau State House of Assembly. You are a member of opposition party that is PDP in the House and also the deputy speaker. What is your relationship with the Speaker and other members of APC in the House? The relationship is cordial in the sense that in the House of Assembly it is not political ideology that matter, we are representing the people and also an independent section of government. We understand that from day one we were elected and inaugurated, we are no longer representing our political parties but our constituencies and the entire state irrespective of whether they voted for you or not. With this understanding we try to keep our political differences aside and the interest of the state on the front, which is how we are able to manage ourselves as true presiding Officers of the Plateau State House of Assembly from inauguration to date. We keep on preaching to members that our priority as members of 8th Assembly is to ensure that we don’t talk politics but we discuss the interest of Plateau irrespective of whether it affect APC or PDP. What has been the change in terms of legislation, from the 7th Assembly? The 8th Assembly is unique and quite different from the previous ones. If you look at the past record of activities of the Plateau state House of Assembly, there’s no Assembly that has the priority of the state first like the 8th Assembly in terms of peace. When came on board, we noticed dissension that existed among the people of Plateau State. When motion was moved regarding attacks and counter attacks in some parts of the state we paid adequate attention to it and faced it head on unlike in the past where legislators hardly put a strong committee in terms of peace process. We put up a strong committee headed by myself and we went round Plateau State. We did our best by visiting all the crisis ridden communities to ensure that people live in peace with one another. By visiting these people you are giving them confidence that they have government that care for them. We noticed that there was mistrust among the people, we tried to educate them to ensure that they understand the situation and have confidence in the law enforcement agencies. Another thing was the communities at logger head don’t sit at round table but we were able to bring them together, that led to mutual understanding and trust and this led us to the peace we are enjoying today. And the committee put up some good recommendations which go long way to address the pathetic situation. The State is presently enmeshed in controversy over grazing reserve, what is your take on this? This is a matter that any
legislature will not want to talk about. Well, House of Assembly operates based on the cry of the people, you operate based on the yearning or the petition sent to you by your people. You operate within the need of the people you are representing. We have not receive brief from the government regarding grazing reserve but a lot of people have been casting aspersions against members of the House in respect of grazing reserve but we have not receive brief from any quota on grazing area and grazing reserve. Until I am officially communicated as a member of Plateau State House of Assembly that this is a policy of government and required Legislation, you don’t expect me as a member to start talking on grazing area or grazing reserve. Why does the House keep elongating the tenure of Management Committees in the 17 local government areas of the state? My position on this is very clear; I have severally condemned the management Committee at the local government level. In my last
motion on the floor of the House, I condemned the wrong in the 17 local government areas. They all came into power through the doctrine of necessity of Plateau State House of Assembly because Plateau has PLASIEC law that did not tolerate vacuum in the administration of local government and Plateau State House of Assembly also has law that gave power to the government to take action if there is case of embezzlement regarding administration of local government. I am the deputy speaker there was never a time that local government chairmen wrote the House about the projects they want to execute. It is expected that law guiding the day to day activities of local government should be put in place by the Assembly. In the past nine months I have never see a request intimating the House of what they want to do. I assumed they are not doing anything and if they are doing some things they are doing it illegally because it does not have the blessing of the House. The governor informed us that he released VAT to the local government, if they have access to VAT, what are they supposed to do with the money. They are to initiate programme that would have direct bearing on the life of common man. I have not seen a single hospital in the 17 local government that you can see paracetamol purchased by the chairmen. To be fair few of them are doing well. What informed your passion for education? I am somebody that have carried firewood to pay my School fees. Before I wrote my school certificate examination for the third time in Government Secondary School Dengi, my father had to sell his farm land to pay for my SSCE. When looked into my constituency I discovered that there are many with similar experience. However in keeping with my covenant with the people, I personally paid for the SSCE examination of all students in my constituency in 2015. Another thing is the psychology of the people that elected us into power, people think as a legislator you must execute a project which is not the case, and they want you to pay their children school fees, pay dowry for them among others.