Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko A Quintessential Senator

Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko A Quintessential Senator
March 05 18:39 2018 Print This Article

By Abdullahi Mohammed

The mood in Sokoto in February, 2015 was a mixture of suspense, expectancy and uncertainty. It reflected the mood in the rest of the country. As that year’s much-expected general elections inched nearer, divergent emotions were stretched out.

Eye-brows were, therefore, raised in many quarters when the police high command used this rather inauspicious moment to change the state’s police chief somewhat abruptly. The exercise was replicated in a number of other states. Coming barely a couple of weeks to what The Economist magazine described as Nigeria’s make or mar elections, the eleventh hour change of guard was generally perceived in bad light.

Many saw it as part of the rumoured attempt by the government of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to cow the opposition political parties with a view to having its way at all costs during the elections. The police and other security agencies, according to this school of thought, were being primed to help manipulate the poll in favour of the ruling Peoples Democratic Parties (PDP).

One of those who took up the gauntlet was Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko. As the Governor of Sokoto state, Wamakko was in a position to discern one or two curious things in the police redeployment exercise. He wasn’t comfortable about it. And he spoke out his mind.

The overall view was that security agencies have no constituency. As such they should patriotically work to ensure the safety of lives and property of all Nigerians irrespective of their tribe, tongue, and political affiliation.

The popular view was that it was dangerous to politicise the nation’s security agencies. The police and armed forces, having been established for the security and protection of all Nigerians, should be left of partisan politics. They should not be made to pander to the whims and caprices of those in the corridors of power.

As a member of the All Progressives Congress, ventilating such a view was regarded more or less as treasonable felony by the powers-that–be, especially as it concerned governors like Wamakko that dumped the PDP.

Why then did Wamakko not shirk from such course, despite being aware of the possible peril? Wamakko, you see, had made up his mind long ago to always speak truth to power. “As bitter as truth may be, we as a people must tell one another the truth. If we cannot be frank with each other, with whom will we be?”

For 16 years, Wamakko has served his state to the best of his ability. Should he secure the mandate of the people of his constituency to represent them at the National Assembly, it would merely be a continuation of the social contract he signed since the 1970s to be of service to his fatherland come rain come sunshine.

Many predicted that the Senatorial race would be a virtual walk-over for the Wamakko. Such was his popularity that after his two terms of gubernatorial stewardship, that it was hard to comprehend how anyone other than him would win the Sokoto North Senatorial election.

But, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate did not take anything for granted. After being involved in partisan politics for one and half decades, experience had taught him that the race wasn’t over until it was over.

He, therefore, campaigned extensively throughout his constituency. In the same vein, he campaigned vigorously for the other APC candidates running for governorship, National Assembly and State House of Assembly) in addition to the party’s presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.

Following his resounding victory in that poll, Wamakko took his oath of office as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria along with his colleagues in June 2015. His mission in the Senate, as stated during his campaign, could be surmised into three: to ensure

(I) Quality life and proactive representation for the people of his constituency.
(ii) Formulation of fair and equitable laws for the peaceful and orderly governance of the federation; and
(iii) Proper oversight of all governmental agencies with a view to ensuring that they are not only discharging their responsibilities according to expectations, but are being seen to be doing so.

Characteristically, Wamakko hit the ground running at the National Assembly. As a fresh-faced Senator, he had been expected to take many weeks, even months, to learn the rudiments of his new job. But, to the surprise of even his aides, he made his way in almost seamlessly, as if he had been a lawmaker for a long while. That should, however, not have come as a shock to those who know him well. As Deputy Governor and later Governor, he had interacted closely with both the leadership and floor members of the Sokoto State House of Assembly.

As fate would have it, the Senate’s inauguration was hallmarked by crisis, as evident by the post of the Deputy President of the Senate President which was clinched by Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party. For an APC that had just wrestled power from PDP’s iron grip, this was hard to stomach. More so as, according to the conspiracy theorists, the “coup” was masterminded by the newly elected President of the Senate, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, who was said to have traded the Deputy Senate President post in exchange for PDP’s support.

Not unexpectedly, a storm engulfed the ruling party on the one hand and the Senate as well as the House of Representatives on the other, with the two main opposing camps exchanging accusations and counteraccusations. With such a rather curious leadership squabble overshadowing the opening session of the 8th National Assembly, Wamakko and other APC lawmakers and chieftains alike found themselves saddled with the task of resolving the knotty issue.

And it so happened that the federal legislators, rather than settle down for the task at hand, embarked on a hasty recess. This afforded Wamakko and his ilk an opportunity to traverse the land, soothing frayed nerves from both sides of the warring camps. Meetings upon meetings were held in Abuja and other places.

The Senator had not rested throughout that chaotic period. He worked hand-in-hand with some fellow Senators and APC leaders, effort was made to reach a compromise between the Ahmed Bola Tinubus and the Sarakis. But, the longer Wamakko and others tried, the more it dawned on them that with both camps sticking to their guns, it would take quite some time to mend fences and reach some sort of compromise.

When a measure of normalcy eventually returned to the upper chamber of the National Assembly, Wamakko stood out as one of those who made robust contributions to on-the–floor debates, especially pertaining to matters of urgent national concern.

As the chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic and Secondary Education, Wamakko swung into action. Given that as he had accorded special attention to the education sector when he was governor, being saddled with the task of overseeing this area was more or less like charging a fish to demonstrate its swimming prowess in a lake.

As the weeks and months rolled by and Wamakko and his fellow senators interacted with various stakeholders and agencies in the course of performing their oversight functions, the challenges confronting the sector across Nigeria manifested in bold relief. The usual suspects: poor funding, insufficient number of teachers, poor remuneration and/or backlog of unpaid salaries, dilapidated structures, lack of teaching aids, and so forth, reared their ugly heads in virtually all the public primary and secondary schools.

At the administrative/management level, issues such as poor policy implementation, maladministration, and inability to come to grips with the challenges of the ever-changing demands of the education sector vis-à-vis Nigeria’s burgeoning population and the information and computer Technology (ICT) era, stared at them from every angle. Policies that were initiated some decades ago but have now either outlived their usefulness or are desperately in need of fine-tuning in line with current reality, have been left as they are for ages, impervious to the people’s yearnings and aspirations.

A case in point: the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB). Established over five decades ago to checkmate the loopholes in admissions into higher institutions, JAMB has largely lived up to its mandate. Over the years, however, challenges such as a situation whereby millions of admission seekers would perform the examination ritual only for just a handful to be selected due principally to the universities’ limited carrying capacity, have been begging for urgent surgical operation.

To make the matter worse, many successful admission seekers often find themselves stuck in the frustrating situation of being unable to fulfill the financial obligations attached to their admission simply because they cannot pay all the fees charged by the higher institutions. And with JAMB result being valid for only a year, the applicants must register all over again and write the examination all over again with little or no hope of success.

To Wamakko and his colleagues, this merry-go-round sort of situation is decidedly unacceptable. More so as the complaints emanating from parents, applicants, guardians, and other stakeholders were getting louder by the day. Something had to be done urgently. A solution had to be found to this quandary, particularly at a time like this when recession was taking a toll on all and sundry.

After extensive deliberations and consultation with many experts and stakeholders alike, the Wamakko–led committee came to the conclusion that the way out was to let JAMB results be valid for three years instead of only one year as it was the case. This would ensure that any successful admission seeker who is unable to fulfil his or her financial obligation immediately would have another opportunity to do so. Aside from reducing pressure on students and parents, it would also minimize pressure on JAMB itself.

This innovative proposal which Wamakko and his colleagues vigorously canvassed and which was overwhelmingly approved by all the senators at plenary, would involve amendment of the Act which established JAMB. As a ranking senator later put it, JAMB has unwittingly become like a fishing-trawler which, in the process of snapping fish from the ocean, also entrap a legion of other spices which are then disposed of as waste.

Despite the many merits of the proposal and the near universal support of all concerned, the Senate eventually suspended the move. This, it announced at the tail end of October 2016, was to allow for adequate consultation with experts.

A tour of the Wamakko’s constituency in Sokoto state shows that he is not only universally revered as a statesman, but also as a man with a heart of gold. On joining politics long ago, he had declared that his mission was to do on an industrial scale what he had been doing for his people on a small scale for a good part of his life.

In sharp contrast with politicians who forget their pledges almost immediately they are voted into office, the self- evident facts in Sokoto North and beyond show how refreshingly different Wamakko is from the crowd. Not only has he been providing the dividends of democracy for the people of the eight local government areas that made up of the Senatorial Constituency, he has been doing so consistently and on an impressive scale.

Since assumption of duty at the upper legislative chamber, Wamakko, has sponsored many bills and motions such as Bill to amend the Pension Reforms Act 2014, Bill to amend the Compulsory, Free, Universal Basic Education Act of 2004 and the Bill to Establish Federal Polytechnic Silame.

Nicknamed Senator Without Boarder because of his good work and generosity to people regardless of ethnic, religious or regional affiliations, Wamakko has done so much to his constituents thus:

As a professional teacher, Wamakko has a passion for educational development and the zeal to assist others to develop themselves educationally. That is why he has sponsored and continue to sponsor thousands of students not only from his constituency, but Sokoto state, in general. And these students are from the less-privileged families.

Local Scholarship
Wamakko sponsors students in institutions like Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto State University and Dialogue Computer Institute, Kaduna. The students are studying various courses ranging from administration, science management, information technology and public health.

Fifty students would be enrolled into two tertiary institutions in Ilorin, Kwara state, this year – 30 students are going to Al-Hikima University while 20 are going to Crown-Hill University.
It is instructive to note that each of the students studying in Nigeria under the Distinguished Senator’s Scholarship Programme receives ₦30,000 per month as upkeep allowance, in addition to accommodation and tuition fees.

Foreign Scholarship
Wamakko also provides scholarship to Sokoto state indigenes outside the country. Presently, there are 40 students at the Maryam Abacha American University, Maradi, Niger Republic; 25 undergraduates and post graduates students in medical sciences and engineering at the University of Lahore, Pakistan. The undergraduate students receive 300US per month while the postgraduate students receive 500US per month as upkeep allowance in addition to their tuition fees and accommodation.

There are 25 students currently studying in ISFOP University Benin, Benin Republic. They receive ₦40,000 per month as upkeep allowance in addition to their accommodation and tuition fee. There are also several others in U.K, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Turkey and Egypt.

Senator Wamakko does not just pay their school fees, but also visits the students from time to time to see how they are faring in their academic pursuit.

ICT/ Information Technology
Under his Constituency Youth Empowerment Programmes, Wamakko has constructed a 450-sitting capacity Ultra-modern ICT Centre fully equipped with computers and state-of-the-art internet facilities. The facility which is in Sokoto will be handed over to the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to address problems of inadequate JAMB Computer Based Test (CBT) centres for students writing JAMB in the constituency, in particular, and Sokoto state, in general.

Pro-Bono Legal Services
Under his Free Legal Services, a full-fledged Constituency Legal Office headed by Barrister Bashir Jodi, is providing free legal services to indigenes that have genuine court cases and could not afford the cost of hiring lawyers for litigation. So far, the office has provided pro-bono service to lot of people in the constituency.

Also, Wamakko has secured the freedom of inmates in batches at Sokoto Central Prison after paying their fines. This made it possible for some of the beneficiaries to be with their families during festive period. Represented by Bashir Jodi at one of the events where the inmates were released, Wamakko admonished them to steer clear of all nefarious acts that would bring them back to jail. The beneficiaries, in separate comments, praised Wamakko for the gesture and promised to shun crimes and other wayward behaviours.

Donation of Office Building to NSCDC
As part of the his contributions to the fight against crimes and criminality in the state, Wamakko has also donated an office building to the Sokoto state command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

The modern building was constructed and donated to the security agency.

The facility was handed over to the command on behalf of the Senator by Professor Musa Maitafsir, a former Religious Affairs Commissioner in the state.

The governor of Sokoto state, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal who was represented at the occasion by his Special Adviser on Security Matters, retired AIG Tambari Yabo, commended Wamakko for the gesture, and urged others to emulate him.

While taking over the building, the NSCDC commandant in state, Babangida Dutsinma, thanked Wamakko for the gesture, and pledged to make good use of the office.

Healthcare Service
Wamakko believes that health is wealth and a healthy society is a wealthy society. To this end, he initiated a free medical outreach as part of his commitments to alleviate the suffering of the people of his constituency and the generality of the people of the state. The exercise covered all the eight local governments – Wamakko, Gudu, Kware, Tangaza, Binji, Silame, Sokoto North and Sokoto South.

The exercise was flagged off at the palace of the District Head of Balle, SarkinYamman Balle, in Balle town, headquarters of Gudu local government of the state in August 2017. The exercise was conducted at the palace of the Marafan Tangaza on August 2; at the palace of Sarkin Yakin Binji on August 3; at the palace of Sarkin Kabin Silame onAugust 4; and at the palace of Sarkin Yamman Kware on August 5.

Also, the free medical outreach was held on August 6 at the palace of Baraden Wamakko; at the palace of District Head of Tudun Wada, Alhaji Jibo Dallatu on August 7; and at the palace of the Chiroman Sokoto on August 8.

The first phase of the outreach offered free treatment to 3200 persons suffering from various eye diseases while 4178 persons benefited from the second phase of the programme. It is instructive to note that the first phase of the programme was meant for people from the eight local governments that made up of the Distinguished Senator’s Constituency while the second phase covered the entire state. state people.

The free medical exercise covered areas such as refractive errors, use of eye glasses, infections like conjunctivitis and ileitis. About 70 per cent of the beneficiaries of the programme had trachoma, glaucoma, corn ear ulcer and allergic conjunctivitis, among others. The remaining 30 per cent of the patients, who had refractive errors , were referred to the Usman Danfodio University Teaching Hospital in Sokoto.

The free medical outreach was conducted by Dr. Ubani Chinemeze and Dr. Paul Chukwudi, optometrists working for Dr. (Mrs) Awawu Obasi Eye Foundation.

Some of the beneficiaries, an 80-year-old Alhaji Muhammad Namadina, a 40-year-old Hajiya Asma’u Abubakar and Alhaji Isa Abdullahi commended Wamakko for gesture.

Wamakko also embarked on massive provision of community health centres to make life meaningful and worth living for the people of the state.

Employment and Empowerment
In the area of employment, Wamakko has provided employment to many of his constituents at federal agencies such as Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), office of the Accountant General of the Federation, National Board for Arabic and Islamic Studies, Nigerian Police, the military, etc.

There are also about 300 indigenes working as environmental sanitation personnel to keep Sokoto state clean. They were employed under his Constituency Employment Programmes, and are earning between N9000 and N30,000 monthly per month depending on their qualifications and cadre.

He has also facilitated the screening and aptitude test for applicants of the Computer Graduate Recruitment Exercise by Infotrak Research and Consulting Firm. The applicants expressed optimism that they would be successful in the exercise.

The Distinguished Senator has also helped multitude of orphans, widows and disabled persons in terms of skill-acquisition programmes and provision of equipment such as sewing machines, barbing tools, motorcycles, grinding machines, and so on.

To boost agriculture in his constituency, in particular and Sokoto state, in general, over 2000 tubewells and irrigation machine for dry season farming were provided for farmers in each of the eight local governments that made up of the constituency. This is in addition to the provisions of improved seedlings to farmers in the constituency for preceding years and this year’s farming season.

Bearing in mind that majority of the people of Wamakko, Gundu, Sokoto North, Tangazo, Sokoto South, Kware, Silame, and Binji are subsistent farmers who depend on farming for their livelihood, Wamakko has been going the extra mile to help empower them in a variety of ways. These include the distribution of thousands of bags of assorted fertilisers to
farmers to improve their agricultural productivity as well as providing many with water-pumping machines for irrigation purpose.

And as if to underscore his passion for a venture that is an integral part of people’s life, Wamakko’s expansive farm located in the heart of his constituency speaks for itself. A fully integrated, mechanized farm, this enterprise provides tens of thousands of direct jobs for his constituents, even as countless others depend on its produce for commerce.

As he said when some agriculture experts visited his Sokoto-based farm, the nation’s economic fortune would improve significantly if well-to-do Nigerians started investing in the agric sector. According to him, Nigeria can generate immense measure of foreign exchange from farming yearly if the right targets were set for export by government through mechanized farming.