Muhammad Hassan, is the Senator representing Yobe South Senatorial District, he is the only PDP senator in Yobe state. The people said, he was voted despite APC’s popularity and Buhari’s wind of change owing to a long time relationship he built with the people and his self help projects he has been undertaking since he was Commissioner of Finance during the late Mamman Ali’s administration. Coming home to Potiskum has again demonstrated that he remains one politician that commands respect after the 8th senate one year since inauguration. In this Interview with members of the Yobe State Correspondents Chapel, he speaks on his journey with the people in the last one year and other issues. Our Correspondent, Yahaya WAKILI was there for National Trail. Excerpts:
Following the sacking of hundreds of houses in three towns of Fune Local Government Area by flood which rendered thousands of people homeless last year, you swiftly came to the rescue even ahead of the government of Yobe state. May we know if that was deliberate being the only top political office holder in opposition in the state? Secondly, what massage are you putting across to the ruling APC? It was a very sad event that happened in the town of Ngelzarman and other towns, this was as a result of flood disaster which affected many houses and there were many houses that collapsed, it was really sad and as a Senator representing this Senatorial district, it is incumbent on me to see what I could do to cushion their sufferings, that is the affected victims. In Ngelzarman town, 60 per cent of the houses have been submerged by water. I immediately reach out to give succor. Of course, I went ahead of the government to do so, and believe me, my moves quickened government reaction to also send in relief. If my action did send massage to them, I am glad I did, but I did not act to play politics with misfortune. I see the need and I acted. The people are happy and I am happy that I did not delay. That is what is expected of leaders who are given responsibilities. Well meaning individuals including my humble self showed interest in being part of the blessing to help our people, who were hit by the flood; For me, it is a duty like I said as the Senator, representing Yobe South Senatorial District. I am happy that, my appeal to well-meaning individuals and agencies to come to the aid of these people yielded a fruitful result. For me, the first thing we did when the report reached us was to use the media to let the world know the extent of the damage; I came to sympathise with the people and present my support. If you conversant with the area or if you go round you will discover that there are no drainages, that’s why this problem keeps reoccurring and since then I have been calling on the relevant authorities to do the right thing, I call on the relevant government agencies to look at this and I can tell you it’s not just Ngelzarma but many towns in Yobe state, the town planning is very poor, we do not have drainage systems. How would you rate your performance in the Senate in the last one year since your election? Well, Alhamdulillahi. Let me say that, if you could recall we were inaugurated as the 8th senate on the 9th June of 2015. Today, we are few weeks after or ahead of one year since we became representative of our people. That is by the way, Now, if you recall too, I am a member of the committee on appropriation which is a very important committee that is responsible for the appropriation of the budget for the country. As a member of the committee, I have play key role in ensuring that the budget is pass into law and I have also used the opportunity to see that, get some very important programme and projects to my constituency. If to say the least, I think I have done what my people expected me to do or what they are expecting to see me doing as their representative in the senate. Talking about your position and your performance with regard to your constituency; how would you put that as your rating? Well, every politician will like to blow his trumpet. Of course, that is what is expected but I want you to know that, for whatever I have achieve for my constituency now or in the last one year, it is only a step towards achieving many things to come. I would say that, in the mean time, it is a fact today that, I have been working hard to see that my constituency gets the best of me. I do not my people to regret all effort they put to ensure that I emerge victorious during the election that we won against the ruling party in this state, which you all know the story. For me, this is a trust, and as the Daily Trust would say, ‘it is a burden’. I am carrying that burden on behalf of the people of my constituency in the whole of Yobe south. I am making effort to deliver on my promises and I can tell you that I am enjoying the support and prayers of my people. To say but a few, I have been making effort to give the people of my constituency a befitting healthcare centre. This I will say is what inform the construction of a 60 beds hospital in Potiskum. This project I am happy you too are witness to it. We are at the stage of completion, I think what we are doing now is just the finishing work. I think that is just one of the few things and and the hospital will be ready for commissioning. Secondly, I have over 40 members of my constituency who are benefitting from monthly stipend as salary. I am also working closely with some agencies to see how I can get the youth to be engaged in skills acquisitions programmes. I am hoping that, very soon some youths from my constituency will start to benefit from the programme, which is to commence very soon. I have been following on that, and I hope we will be able to get that into the budget. Again, we have gone very far on the issues of scholarship, in fact, I have just announced to them, that I am going to offer scholarship for all our students studying at various higher institutions across the country. I believe in terms of achievements, in the mean time, these are some of the few things we were able to bring home in our own little way. Sir, we learnt that you embark on the hospital project following dilapidation of equipments in our hospital in Yobe state, which government did not give much attention to. Tell us if we are right or what actually informed the hospital project?
(Laugh) Well, I think you are not far from the truth. However, that edifice is a 60 beds hospital, and I have said it many times that initiative came as a result of the accident I had sometimes ago. I never knew the state of our medical facilities until when I had that accident. It is sad to tell you that, we have the worst hospitals in Yobe state. If you travelled around the local government you will know what I am talking about. I do not want to be seemed to be playing politics on this but that is the true situation of our hospitals. Something must be done about it, not just by politicians but by all of us who are citizens
of this great state. It would interest you to note that, even before my election and I make bold to say it in the open, I made very clear that I am going to do something in that direction to see how I can add value in my capacity as Yobe state citizen. Of course, you know we do not have any hospital facilities in this senatorial district in particular. In fact, we have nothing, if anyone falls ill; you either go to Azare in Bauchi or Gombe neighbouring states. That is a minus to our government over the years. However, we cannot wait for them with all sort of promises unfulfilled. I therefore, embarked on this project from my pocket to
add value to our area and the constituency to which I belong. This is something personal but again it is very important to our people and from the reports I have been receiving, the people are happy. We have been hearing about the establishment of the North East Development Commission. What is the idea behind this Commission and how are our people particularly in Yobe state benefit from it? Yes, let me quickly say employment opportunity for our people. That is our first concern for the people of Yobe if this commission comes to live. I believe it is one of the best things that will happen to this region. The bill is currently at the third reading and of course we have some few issues on the floor of the senate where our colleagues from the various states wanted the Headquarter to be sighted in their respective state. In fact I even supported or I try to push to get it to come to Yobestate. So, I am one of those also pushing for it to come to my state. I believe I am not being selfish in this regard; I have my justification for getting it to come to Potiskum, the Headquarters’ of my constituency. The reasons are obvious, if you look at Potiskum in terms of population and its strategic location. Also, when you consider Yobe state by any ranking, it is the least develop state amongst the six states that made up the northeast region. I do not think it is development when projects like this are being concentrated in a particular state, Yobe state has been neglected in terms of having the federal presence compare to other state in the entire country and not just the northeast. I believe therefore, that this is an opportunity to have this commission established here in Yobe state. Like I said, you do not continue to concentrate in those states that already have some many federal government establishments. They have reached some great level of development, as such, how do you get state like Yobe to grow when such projects are not located here? We are young and we need to grow. I believe the only way we can grow is to have enough federal presence, and we are pushing, we are hoping and we are lobbying to have the commission come to us.
Another argument we are trying to put across, which we hope would give us the advantage is the set back we have following destruction of many establishments in the state as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency. Again, I tried to convince my colleagues to see that Potiskum gets the favour to have the headquarters of the commission because it is the worst hit during the dark days of insurgency in the state. If you could recall, we have the largest cattle market in Potiskum which was attacked by the Boko Haram and over 200 people were killed. We have the Government Science Secondary School Potiskum, which was attacked and we lost over 70 kids who were attending their weekly assembly at the school. I can go on and on, and as we speak to date, we have no single federal government delegation coming to this constituency despite everything that happened. It is like Potiskum is the forgotten prisoner that needs the cry of both local and national voices to be set free. So, I think when you have such an institution sited in Potiskum then the people of Potiskum will begin to fill that they belong to this country. Finally Sir, what is your appealed to the people of Yobe state and particularly to your electorates in Yobe south senatorial district? Well, my appeal to the people of Yobe is continue to be patient as everyone now understands the economic challenges in this country. I am calling on them to continue to pray for God to intervene in our situation. It is very unfortunate that, the price of crude oil has gone down. Of course, you know that 80 to 85% of our national revenue comes from oil and the price of crude oil has crashed. Food production in the country has also gone down owing to many factors as one can recall the price of tomatoes in the market, which has gone upto N42,000 a basket. The crises in the Niger Dalta have so much affected almost every business and companies are retrenching their staff, banks are also reducing off their staff to make up with few and what have you. This is painful but with prayers we will once again bounce back as a country. So, that has generally affected our national income, and because the national income has drop, the end effect is what is being experienced down the lines. You can see even some states cannot pay salaries that is to tell you how bad the situation is, again if you look at the statistic release by the National Bureau of statistic you could see that the economic crisis is heading towards recession, we are heading towards recession which is very bad. But I think above all patience, prayer is key here; we will continue to plead with our people to be patient. The budget has a lot of provisions that are deliberately targeted towards the low income citizens. So, I plead for patience and I hope that, the effort, which the Federal Government is putting in place, will answer to some of the needs. One of such effort is to see how they can reduce the level of restiveness in the Niger Delta and to see how other international agencies will continue support the country. These are the few things I can say and will keep saying that to our people- Be patient and continue to pray.