Pharmacist Abdulkareeem Muhammad Jamiu Asuku is not your typical politician. He strikes a different pose and postulation that redefines understanding of modern day politics. He is young, dynamic, amiable, surreal, humble and committed to the development of the entire State just like his principal, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State. He is the Chief of Staff to the Governor.
In this exclusive interview, he told TheInsideStory crew about his understanding of politics and what the people of the state should expect from the current administration in its second term. It was an indepth, relax and tranquil moment with the youth friendly Chief of Staff.
My name is Pharmacist Abdulkareem Muhammadu Jamiu, I am the Chief of staff to the Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello. I am of course, a Pharmacist by profession. I trained in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where I graduated from in 2008. I was a Federal Civil Servant until January 2016. I worked with the Health Department of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria as the Head of the Pharmacy Unit. I was appointed as the Director General in Charge of Protocol to the Governor in 2016. I had my youth service in Garki Hospital, Abuja and did my Intern in Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital. I attended the famous Abdul – Azeez Attah Memorial College in Okene and also LGEA primary school Ogobero. I am Origin of Okene in Okene Local Government Area of Kogi State, specifically, from Barki Ward. I am happily married with kids.
Understanding of the Let’s Do More mantra
It is a continuum of the New Direction Blueprint of Governor Yahaya Bello from inception. The New direction was coined out from the fact that the administration planned its policy framework from the needs of the people of the state. On inception, the administration had a robust and holistic interaction with the local communities across the state where the citizens told the government about what they wanted. It is the true definition of government of the people, by the people and for the people. The government of Alhaji Yahaya Bello therefore decided to come up with its set objectives cutting across all sectors of governance including security, infrastructure, agriculture, civil service reform, health interventions, education, and others. Having achieved so much in the first tenure, the administration decided to coin its set objectives from what it had achieved in the past; hence you have the Lets Do More mantra. It simply refers to building on already achieved impact on the citizens in the first four years. Thank God the people of the state bought into it and gave us the opportunity to consolidate.
The Place of Kogi youth in this second term of Gov Bello administration
On a very good day, it is not just the focus of the second term, it has always been the focus of the Governor as a youth to give people in his demographic the opportunity to serve in his government. Youth empowerment has been part and parcel of the government. The youth occupied various positions in the first term including commissioners, Special Advisers, SSAs and the like across the state because of the Governors belief that they have the ability to change things. There is no way we can have such number of youth in public offices in the past because of the way things were. They were majorly used as tools to cause disharmony, wreck havoc among citizens during the elections perpetrate electoral violence, but the paradigm has shifted and they are now being used to formulate policies and programmes for the good of the state and it is also serving as a model for other states in the federation. The youth actually have the requisite ability and capacity to transform any society that gives them the opportunity. For instance, some people raise eyebrows when they see someone of my age and stature occupying this position and wonder how it was possible because it is a sharp contrast from what obtained in the past. But I always say wisdom is not measured by age. Occupying such position and reaching any height for that matter has to do with readiness, commitment and experience necessary to utilise the opportunity chance has presented one with. I am very sure when the second cabinet is formally set up, the youth will still feature prominently because the Governor has seen what they are capable of if given the opportunity. I am sure they will still feature prominently in this second term. We are not saying the elderly ones have nothing to offer, they are equally important to us because we believe their experience matter. They have the experience to contribute immensely to whatever plans we have. You know what they say; What an elder sees sitting down, the young one cannot see even while on top of the tree. We need them to advice and guide us where necessary and that is why we have the ‘Elders Advisory Council.’ Thank God our elders have been there to propel us forward.
Transiting from DG Protocol to office of the Chief of Staff
There is no much differences if you ask me. My previous office is actually an appendage of the current position. Here, I’m saddled with the responsibility of everything that help the Governor to carry out the responsibility governance in the state. That is why some people address the office with various codifications such as ‘the Engine room,’ ‘the goalkeeper’ and the like. The truth of the matter is this; we are here to stabilise the administration by receiving from the governor and then dispense to the public and from the public to the Governor. That is basically it. Of course it comes with more responsibilities and challenges. It is not easy to be the host of guests and receive communications from members of the public that want to see His Excellency and with that comes the responsibility of having to have input on some key decisions that affect governance. His Excellency has taught us to operate an open door policy by making ourselves available to the citizens so as to be able serve people more. Remember, now is about Let’s Do More. It is however no limited to this office. It cut across all offices in the state. All of us are trying to do more for our people in our various capacities. The challenges exist and affect all of us but we are equal to the task.
The essence of Pharmacist Asuku Youth Empowerment Foundation
It is not something I enjoy talking about. But I sincerely and heartily appreciate His Excellency, the Governor of Kogi State, Alhaji Yahaya Bello very much for providing us with platforms to reach out to the less privileged members of the public. The truth of the matter is we have been doing this a long time – even before this administration. We started by looking at our immediate community and discovered there are certain things that were lacking due to high rate of illiteracy. Then the dearth of quality healthcare provision for that segment of the society which we realised was because of lack of economic opportunities. Occupying public office was therefore not about ourselves only, we see it as an opportunity to reach out to more people and so, we decided to make our empowerment programme bigger across the state. We thought the best thing we can do in the immediate term is to see how to improve in the area of our educational and health interventions. That is why the Pharmacist Asuku Youth and Women empowerment Programme scaled up its activities cutting across the three senatorial districts of the state. We are reaching out to more people; taking care of their medical needs, sending them on expensive medical procedures in many parts of the country and the state. We actually started from small groups, individual school fees payment and the like. But then we noticed some hitches where some people would either collect twice, some would not be in school but frame it up and collect the fees being paid so we decided if that was the case, let’s have a platform to handle it properly. That was what gave birth to the foundation. What we were doing in health initially was attending to just anybody that had medical issues with my experience as a health person. And also being someone that knows what it feels like not to have the fund to attend to your needs, I feel there is need to help out. We also discovered that a lot of people at the grassroots face several challenges in life so we engaged several health facilities to help take care of some of these problems while we foot the bills on our own terms. Whoever comes around with challenges and without finances the healthcare professionals attend to them on our bill and we are paying monthly. We are doing same with FMC Lokoja, the State Specialist Hospital, Lokoja and the National Eye Centre in Kaduna. We also have another local Healthcare Centre that combines the orthodox and the traditional based in Kaduna that handles special cases like cancers and the rest. All these are in a bid to dispense dividends of democracy to our people. Before you know it, we will surely quit this stage whether we like it or not. So that when we are no longer in office, just like our predecessors, posterity should be able to judge us kindly, not harshly. His Excellency encourages all of us to do what we can to reach out to the people. Personally, I decided that we are doing health and then education to do more for the populace. In a nutshell, it is in an effort to make it a robust package, we came up with the platform, Pharmacist Abdulkareem Asuku Youth Empowerment Foundation.
What is your basic life ideology?
My basic life ideology is that as men, we are created solely to worship God and by worshiping God, you need to try as much as possible to serve as a helper to other people if you have the opportunity. In my Holy Book, God described all believers as custodian of the wealth he has created to be able to reach out to those in need. In actual fact therefore, we cant even truly lay claim to the positions we occupy in our various offices. We are holding the positions in trust for the masses. My basic ideology is that God has a reason for not creating our fingers equal. He has a reason for making it that only one hand cannot wash effectively clean that you need to rub each other and our finger not being equal is just to teach us a lesson that indeed He has created us not equal but that we need each other to survive. If that is it, then we must reach out at all times. Everything that has a beginning also has an end. Nothing lasts forever. The reason why God made some of us black, others white; tall, short, fat, slim and what have you is to show the inequality of existence and how to level to one another irrespective our positions. The bottom line is we all need each other to exist effectively; and if that is the point, then we have to make ourselves available for each other because no one knows tomorrow. The person you feel is needy in the society today can become the person to assist you tomorrow, and so, we have reason to look down on anyone. We have to keep it simple with each other with humbleness, transparency and always smile together.
What should the people of the state expect generally in this second tenure of governor Yahaya Bello?
They should expect a government of unity. We realise very much that there must be periodic election before leaders emerge and there are vehicles to conduct elections one of which is the political parties. But what happens after elections? We have leaders emerge and such leaders are expected to serve the entire people of the state. For instance, His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Bello and his Deputy, His Excellency Chief Edward Onoja who are not the governor and deputy for the APC members alone but all citizens of Kogi State. So, irrespective of party affiliation, so long you are a citizen of this state, they are our leaders and we must respect them as such. Governor Bellos major aspiration is to bring about the unification of the entire people of Kogi State as a legacy. It is for that reason we started to reach out across board immediately after the election, even before the inauguration, to all stakeholders in the Kogi Project. We went round irrespective of political party, tribe or religious difference. We were able to reach out to all the former governors state alive, including His Excellency, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, His Excellency, Governor Idris Ichalla Wadada, all the deputy governors alive such as His Excellency, Patrick Adaba, His Excellency, Chief Philip Salawu, and the former acting Governor of the state, His Excellency Chief Clarence Olafemi. The intention is for us to join hands and develop our state. We all know that if Kogi state survives and gets better as it is already doing under Governor Yahaya Bello, we will all be better for it as Kogites. We must unite because it is only through that that we can collectively make progress. The level of insecurity in Kogi state will also go lower than it currently is under the administration because where there is unity, there will be no reason to cause chaos. Unity is a major goal in this second term because if we must be able to do more for our people, all hands have to be on deck.
Message to the state
My message to the good people of Kogi state is to continue to show deep tolerance and appreciation to the government of Alhaji Yahaya Bello. They should be law abiding and watch out at all times to be their neighbours’ watchdog such that we will not give room for anybody to perpetrate evil. I also urge them to continue to pray for the administration to succeed. We must also to imbibe the spirit of forgiveness such that even those who erred against us can continue to be our friends. Thank you!
Credit: Nigeria post