When people say that still water runs deep, Aminu Bello Masari might just be the one they have in mind. The former Speaker of the House of Representatives (2003-2007) and gofKatsina State has the steely cool quality valuable for attack and defence.
We’ve been trying to track him down for a number of reasons but our effort became even more urgent when social media exploded with allegations that, apart from ‘misleading’ President Muhammadu Buhari to give his state a bailout package of N11billion, he had now embarked on buying goats valued at N142,000 each as the state’s version of empowering citizens.
It all sounded strange, especially given Masari’s antecedents of frugality and his remarkable encounter with former President Olusegun Obasanjo, when the latter wanted to line up the House behind his agenda for a third term.
Obasanjo reportedly invited Masari to the Villa to sound him out on the idea. After a long talk without a clear message, it was clear to Masari that he had to read Obasanjo’s lips. He told the former president that he was only the first amongst equals and that the only thing he could say was that the House would follow the constitution strictly.
Cunny man die…
But that was eight years ago. As part of the flood of waters that has passed under the bridge, Masari has since abandoned the Peoples Democratic Party. After a period in the wilderness, he joined the Congress for Progressive Change, contested the governorship in 2011 and lost. He tried again last year and won, this time, under the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
But is he the same Masari who confronted the lion, Obasanjo, in his den? In a country where a sitting state governor came with the promise of change only to build and name a government property after his daughter, nothing seems impossible.
After many weeks of trying to get Masari, we finally caught up with him at the State Government House in Abuja. The interview started slightly later than the scheduled 9pm and Masari kept his cool for the most part. But that was before we snagged him with questions about the famous Katsina goats, budget padding, his relationship with the PDP and Buhari.
It was also obvious that there is no love lost between Masari and the Senate president, Bukola Saraki. Even though both are in the same ruling APC today, Masari, one of the early refugees from the PDP,has no sympathy for Saraki who, he said, had treated his demand to reform the PDP with contempt.
“He fully deserves his current travail,” Masari said, referring to Saraki’s current trial for forgery.
But he is also facing problems in Katsina, which have given him more than his own fair share of grey hair. Apart from inheriting a sub-zero treasury, attacks on the state by cattle rustlers have complicated the state’s agricultural economy which is largely dominated by livestock farming.
“The people’s needs are very basic,” he said. “They are not asking for much – just how to get their simple meals, basic education and healthcare.”
In this interview, we tested his steely resolve. We took him to task on how he has delivered on this simple mandate in his 15 months of stewardship.