At 33-year old, Aliyu Sabiu Ibrahim is the Speaker of Katsina State House of Assembly and one of the youngest speakers of legislative houses in Nigeria. In this interview with Youths Digest, the lawmaker spoke on several issues including his involvement in politics, youths and women empowerment and the recent controversial goats for rural women in Katsina State.
YD: Can we have a peep into your background?
My name is Aliyu Sabiu Ibrahim. I was born in Muduru village, Mani Local Government Area of Katsina State on January 5, 1983. I had my primary education at Muduru Model Primary School from 1988 to 1994 and then proceeded to the Usman Dangogo College of Arabic and Islamic studies, popularly called Arabic Teacher’s College. I learnt English and Arabic Languages and interestingly I memorized the whole Quran in SS1. I participated in the Quranic Competition representing Katsina and Nigeria.
YD: What are the institutions you have attended?
I attended Hassan Usman Polytechnic where I obtained a Diploma in Sharia from 2003 to 2006. I got an admission into a Malaysian University, Al-Madinah International University where I studied Computer and Information Technology for my first degree. I took up a part-time job in the office of the Dean of Admission and Registration where I served as a Personal Assistant. The university saw potential in me so they gave me the opportunity to work. I graduated with upper credit.
We learnt you taught in primary school before your sojourn to Malaysia…
Yes. It was after my polytechnic education that I became a class room teacher under the Primary Education Board and I taught for three years from 2006 to 2009 in my local government. It may interest you to note that I have developed interest in imparting knowledge that I initiated an Islamic school in my village called Ta’afizul Qur’an L’arabiya in 2002 and now has over 300 students.
YD: How did you venture into politics?
I actually started my masters in the same university when I came to Nigeria on holiday not knowing I will be dragged into politics. Elders and members of my constituency advised me to join politics but I was reluctant. But when the pressure became too much, I finally succumb. I contested under the best party, All Progressives Congress APC alongside five others in the primaries and I won. Then I contested with other opposition parties, especially PDP, APGA and others in my local government. My local government is one of the oldest in Katsina state since Katsina was under the old Kaduna. I won with the will of Almighty Allah with over 12,000 votes over that of the candidate of the then ruling party.
YD: How did you eventually become the speaker of the Assembly in the midst of other elderly legislators?
In fact, to be sincere, for various reason and the fact that I was relatively young, I refused to contest for the post of speakership. Surprising, some of my distinguished colleagues asked me to contest for the position. I was also reluctant but after due consultations with elders and friends, especially the youths, I humbly accepted the nomination and contested with five honourable members. Some of them willingly stood down for me. On the day of the election for the speaker, I contested with one person and won with 28 of 36 votes on the 9th of June 2015.
YD: Some might suspect you were influenced or selected by the power-that-be like in other states where governors select their speakers?
Well it could happen in other states. In my own case I was elected by my distinguished colleagues even some previous administrations in the state, governors selected people for the post. My governor was a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, so he never interferes; he always wants people to learn by example so they can lead by examples.
YD: As a young leader how do you relate with your colleagues?
We are all cooperating peacefully. In my first speech as a speaker I asked for their cooperation, telling them I cannot do it alone. We need to work as a team to develop our state. Being a speaker doesn’t mean I can do it alone. People call me “Dan-Auta”, meaning Last Born in the assembly. I do seek advice from returning members in the house because I know I am not perfect. Our legislative house is the most vibrant in Nigeria. I challenge other states. We never pass bills without consultations. We engage so many people, we call for public hearing before passing bills so Katsina people understand the law we are passing.
YD: What are your plans for youth in the state?
The Nigerian youths are always looking up to some of us that could be tagged the youthful politician and office holders. I am glad to represent the youth and must exhibit sterling leadership qualities exemplifying youths’ embodiment. APC mixes elders with youths. I will continue to ensure youth empowerment programme succeed in the state and also encourage their active participation in politics by making sure leadership are accountable. The legislature will also ensure any law that will protect their right is strengthened.
YD: Katsina state just bought goats for women empowerment and some have ridiculed the government for this. What is your take?
Some people misunderstood the idea behind the purchase of the goats for women empowerment. The goats were bought to encourage husbandry rather than just giving them money for any business. With focus on diversification of the economy to agriculture, even on low scale can boost their purchasing power. The beneficiaries were giving male and female goats for reproduction and mass production. You should know that rural women will take care of the goat they will never go and sell it, and it will be useful to them.
Is that the idea behind the rumoured goat purchase?
That is the idea, but some people outside might not understand our peculiarity; we bought those goats to cater for these type of women and keep them busy. The last administration helped literate women in Katsina Central so we want people to know they voted for change; I grew up in the village where I used to buy sheep while I was in secondary school; I would then give to my brothers and cousins who would rear them for me and when anyone delivers, they take one, next year I take one and that was how we used to do it. I repeat, all women must benefit from democracy, our allocations and revenue are meant for all Katsina citizens not certain groups, not for the governor or legislators.
Before giving out the goats, the state empowered so many youths, we obtained about N2billion loan from the central bank. We gave out N20, 000 and N10,000 to youths.
When you do something new you face challenges, since people have not been doing that before, our government is on the table not under the table so we face a lot of challenges.
YD: Can you tell us about the state’s 2016 budget?
The Katsina state budget comprises five sectors. Education, Health, Water Resources, Agriculture and Youth empowerment/Human Development. We did a diligent defense exercise that was meticulously scrutinized and every item was considered for its merit and appropriateness. In fact some institutions commended our efforts in that regard.
YD: You talked about doing your masters before coming for holiday then politics, do you plan to further your education?
I love reading, if I have the opportunity to continue I will. I am presently pursuing my masters at Ahmadu Bello University under the Faculty of Social Sciences, International Relations to be specific. I am currently working on my thesis.
YD: What is your advice to your fellow Nigerian youths?
They should always do the right things. They should avoid drugs they should go to school; education has many benefits. They should join politics to move the nation forward not buy and display flashy cars, mansions and move around with motley of girlfriends. During my campaign I never met anybody older than 45 unless you were in the party. I never consulted people older than 45. I was with the youths, my major constituency. My advice once again, work hard and complain less.
YD: Can you talk about your passion for agriculture?
It is the area I really love. I own a very big farmland about 20 hectares for maize, 14 hectares for rice. I am happy to remain a farmer because you get many things. As a youth, if you are thinking only about what to eat or wear then you are in trouble that’s why I said youths should work hard and complain less. If I tell you about my experience in school abroad, you will be surprised. I led prayers and the rich people dashed me money. I have rich friends but I don’t care because I believe one day it is going to get better.
YD: I learn you have many Arab friends. How do you intend to bring their influence to bear on the Nigerian economy?
Yes there are many Arab and Arab-speaking foreigners in my university in Malaysia. The VC loves me. He took me as a son and he is from a royal family. I also have good relationship with the son of the King of Saudi Arabia. They love me because I understand their language. We communicate very well. I hope I will be able to persuade some of them to invest in Katsina if not in Nigeria.
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