The councillor representing Bajoga East Ward under the Funakaye Local Government Area of Gombe State, Yusuf Yahaya, defends his recent appointment of 18 aides in this interview with CHIMA AZUBUIKE of the Punch.
Please introduce yourself.
I am Honourable Yusuf Yahaya, also known as Agali. I am the councillor representing Bajoga East Ward under the Funakaye Local Government Area of Gombe State. I am also the Chairman of Councillors’ Forum, Gombe State. I’m married to two wives with nine children – five males and four females.
How old are you?
I am 40 years old.
You are also an undergraduate. What course are you studying?
I am actually in my final year, 500 Level, in the Department of Sociology, University of Maiduguri.
It appears that it took you long to get university admission.
Yes, I didn’t get admission early. I only gained admission between 2006 and 2007 and then I experienced another delay due to lecturers’ strike and the coronavirus pandemic.
When did you join politics?
I joined politics in 1999. At the time, a lot of persons considered me too young and irrelevant but the core politicians reckoned with me.
What motivated you to join politics?
It was my desire to contribute to the development of my people. I was not satisfied with our level of representation but as you know, I couldn’t just get up and fly; I needed to start from somewhere by supporting, assisting and mobilising people for the collective good.
You were in the Peoples Democratic Party before leaving to join the All Progressives Congress. What informed your movement?
I was appointed as a Special Adviser to the Gombe State Governor between 2011 and 2015 during the first term of former governor Ibrahim Dankwambo. In 2015, when he came in for second term, I was reappointed. But as an adviser to the governor there were so many things I considered wrong and when I advised the governor he would not agree to change. That was why I changed my party from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.
Is there any difference between the PDP and the APC?
I joined the APC on August 2, 2018 and there are major differences. When the party promises, the candidate delivers. In matters like education, electricity, health, water supply, and security, they have done tremendously well within the state and at the Federal Government level.
As a councillor, can you name some of your achievements in office?
When I became a councillor in 2020, the first thing I did was to sponsor about 40 students for both western and Islamic education. I’m expected to cater for them; pay their school fees, provide them with school uniform, reading materials, etc. I started that in December 2020 and I also did that in 2021 by providing them with many school items, including Quran for those in Islamic studies. The classes for western education range from Primary Three to Six, Junior Secondary One to Senior Secondary Three. You can go and confirm what I am saying.
In appreciation of my effort, I was awarded the Best Councillor in Funakaye Local Government Area of Gombe State. I’m also hearing on the grapevine that efforts are already being made to present me with another award as the Best Councillor in the whole of Gombe State. This shows the level of support I have got. I usually buy food items, such as rice, maize, sugar, flour, spaghetti and noodles and distribute to my people to cushion the effect of the economy on them. Many times, my people bring medical bills to me either at the local government office or in my house to help them settle.
You were recently in the news for appointing 18 aides. Don’t you think that’s too many for a councillor?
I did that to make my work easier, aside from the fact that it was a way of creating jobs for my people. The appointments were geared towards spreading my reach to my constituents knowing full well that I can’t always be there.
In fact, the number is small and I plan that it will increase as I move forward in my political aspiration. I joined politics not to make money but to reach out to the greater majority, and make positive contributions by serving my people.
How much do you pay your aides?
I have not taken the final decision but I have a rough estimate of what each of them will earn. For instance, my (two) Personal Assistants should receive N5,000 each; the (15) Special Assistants and (one) Principal Private Secretary should earn between N8,000 and N10,000 each. With effect from February they will start receiving their salaries.
How do you hope to fund such expenses?
Sincerely speaking, our salary is good compared to some of our colleagues in the neighbouring states like Adamawa, Yola, and Bauchi. Our salary is up to N200,000. If you add our allowances, it will be up to a quarter of a million, that is N250,000. I look forward to using about N101,000 for the payment of salaries.
Recall that I’m also a businessman, so there is nothing to worry about, I will pay them. However, the Councillors Ministry for Local Government is expected to take care of our office to give us personal salary, unfortunately they have yet to implement it. So, we are appealing to them to do the needful. Whatever we are doing now is just temporary. I don’t know if I will contest for the House of Assembly in the future.
What kind of business are you involved in?
I’m a GSM seller. Selling phones has always been my normal business even before I became a politician. When I ventured into politics in 1999 there was no phone. It was early 2000 that (former President Olusegun) Obasanjo introduced mobile phones. So, prior to that time, I was involved in several other businesses, like selling cold water, soft drinks, kunu and sugarcane from childhood. I also sold fish, chicken and textiles.
Aside appointment of 18 aides, sponsorship of 40 students, what else have you done?
I have undertaken road rehabilitation. There are some roads that I spent N170,000 to repair. I did that because for more than 13 years whenever rain fell no motorcycle could gain access into the ward not to talk of vehicles. The people were always stranded but that is not the case now, there is free flow of traffic during rainfall and in other seasons.