Ambassador Hassan Jika Ardo was the former Chairman of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and pioneer Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Taraba State before he was appointed as Nigerian Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago with concurrent accreditation to Guyana, Commonwealth of Dominica, Suriname, Barbados, and Grenada. In this interview he speaks on a wide range of issues about Taraba and Nigeria:
I am a 57-year-old Muslim and Fulani man from Sardauna LG known as Mambilla Plateau northern Nigeria born in the defunct northern region, later Northeast, Gongola State, now Taraba state.
I am from a village called Hainare, which shares a boundary with the Republic of Cameroon.
My father Alhaji Ardo Hassan was turbaned the Ardo in the late 1930s.
He died in 2014 at the age of 102; while his twin brother Alhaji Ardo Seini died at the age of 101 in 2013.
I started my primary education at Hainare in the early ’70s as an adult and proceeded to Vocational Training Centre Gembu in 1979 before the election of President Shehu Shagari.
After the election, I left Nigeria to the Republic of Cameroon where I spend some time.
Thereafter, I returned to participate in the 1983 election. Immediately after the election, I got admission to Government Teachers College, Gembu.
After my Grade ll, I was employed as a teacher and resigned to further my studies at the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi and got my National Diploma in Accountancy.
I also obtained a Higher National Diploma in Accounting and Finance from Kaduna Polytechnic.
I am a Certified Public Accountant in Nigeria; member of the Institute of Chartered Managers of Nigeria; and member of the Institute of Strategic African Managers, among others.
After the creation of Taraba state, I worked with the Ministry of Information, Youth, Sports and Culture; the office of the Accountant General; the office of Secretary to the State Government; and later, the office of the Head of Civil Service; and then back to the Accountant General’s office.
I voluntarily retired from service in 2013 and went back to active politics.
I was nominated as member of the CPC renewal Committee, and later, acting Chairman of CPC in Taraba State.
I was elected interim chairman under legacy parties.
In May 2014, I was elected state chairman APC Taraba state, the position I held until June 2017 when Mr. President graciously appointed me as Nigerian Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago with concurrent accreditation to Guyana, Commonwealth of Dominica, Suriname, Barbados, and Grenada.
What impact has the outbreak of Coronavirus had on your work?
Nigeria opened its embassy there far back in 1973, and we have long-standing bilateral relations with most of the Caribbean countries.
They have large populations of people of African descent we have so many things in common with them.
Trinidad and Tobago, unlike Nigeria, is really facing serious challenges as a result of the pandemic.
It’s a small country compared to Nigeria, and it has a higher number of infected people.
It has closed all its borders and some people have started complaining of shortages of food, mask, and other sanitary items.
However, the Island is well-developed with about 4000 Nigerians many working as professors, doctors, engineers, and nurses in both government and private organizations.
The country has organised safety measures to mitigate the impact of lockdown on its citizens.
Nigeria is the first and the only African country with an embassy in the Caribbean since 1973 until recently – five years ago – that South Africa opened its mission
What are the challenges you have faced and what successes have been recorded on the bilateral front?
The only challenge we have is the inability of the two countries to sign some agreements that have been pending for too long, but we are making frantic moves for both BASA and joint commission to be signed.
In this regard, on my arrival in November 2017, I tried to revisit all pending issues because for four years, there was no ambassador in the mission to follow up.
It’s just like starting a fresh arrangement.
Within the span of two years, we were able to follow up some cases involving Nigerian nationals, and they are released from detention and more are coming.
Nigeria is the first and the only African country with an embassy in the Caribbean since 1973 until recently – five years ago – that South Africa opened its mission.
So, the Nigerian embassy is viewed as an African embassy in the Caribbean.
Half of the Islands are blacks, from Africa.
As a result of the connection with Nigeria, Presidents Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan visited Trinidad to participate in the emancipation.
As it is today the two major oil companies in Trinidad and Tobago the PETROTRiN and SHELL are all headed by Nigerians.
I also hosted the Course 26 geostrategic study tours that were in Trinidad, made up of very senior officers in both military and police officers.
The study centered on Gas flaring and ways to protect the pipeline.
Note also that, their Supreme Court justices were in Nigeria between 2003 and 2005 to tap from our judiciary on how to computerize their judicial system which is appreciated to date.
Once Nigeria and Trinidad sign the joint commission and the bilateral air service agreement, from Port-of-Spain you can get a direct flight to Nigeria within seven hours and many West African countries would also benefit from it.
We can equally make Nigeria as transit point which will bring in visitors and open our market to the world.
If we are able to achieve that, the trouble people are facing on transit VISA to London, the US, Germany, and the cost of the flight would be totally eliminated.
You were the pioneer chairman of the APC in Taraba, you fought gallantly but your party was defeated by the PDP. What happened?
By all standards we won the elections in 2015 and 2019.
Even the PDP chairman, if he is faithful to his God, would confirm that APC won all the elections, but they rigged the election.
That is why Nemesis is catching up with them up till today.
The only thing is that we in the APC believe in the rule of law.
Once we have a pronouncement from the competent court either right or wrong, we obey that is why we are where we are today.
For someone to say that we were defeated in Taraba 2015 and 2019 is the highest level of injustice.
Many attribute your party’s failures in Taraba to internal squabbles?
Well, people may have different opinions.
The issue here is, rigging of elections must stop and three agencies are involved; INEC, the security, and the judiciary.
We also need to educate our traditional institutions to overcome the fear of dethronement by the incumbent government.
Let everyone vote his conscience.
Even the PDP chairman, if he is faithful to his God, would confirm that APC won all the elections, but they rigged the election
APC is still divided in Taraba even after the Supreme Court ruling, but you have kept mute. Can you help reconcile the party?
I am not sure APC is still divided and if it’s so, I strongly suggest that the chairman of the party and other stakeholders should sit down and look at the issues objectively to carry everybody along as all of them are important.
I can equally give my contribution to foster unity in the party.
We all contributed to bringing the party up; we shouldn’t allow our effort to go in vain.
Anytime I have the opportunity to visit home I assure you I would do the needful within my power.
A lot has been said on the Mambilla Hydro project. At a point, the Minister Power, who hails from Taraba, said that nothing tangible was being done. What do you think is responsible for the snail speed of work?
The simple truth about the Mambilla Hydro project for the past four decades is down to corruption and lack of political will by successive governments.
When we got the political will from President Buhari, some of those who lied to us in the past do not want the project to be executed by Buhari and APC government.
They also want to get a pound of flesh from the contract sum. Thank God the President realised their intention. For now, there is a headway even though it is still hazy because they are not relenting.
How would you assess the performance of Governor Darius Ishaku in the last four years?
Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku is the worst governor in the history of Nigeria.
Nothing seems to be working. He himself can attest to that.
He conceptualised the greenhouse as his first project, invested N2bn and has so far realised less N1m in four years.
Posterity would judge every one of us.
All that he knows is to mortgage the state to buy assets; and to collect loans that he cannot justify.
It’s really sad for our state.
It’s surprising for you to make such accusations, because APC has its own members in the state assembly who should help to hold the governor to account.
Taraba state House of Assembly has 24 members out of that only five are APC, which shows that they have little or no impact on how decisions in the House are made.
Another factor is that almost all of them are new in the system.
The internal workings of the House require some experience and number.
To that extent, we cannot blame them for being quiet all the time.
Yet, we expect every member to stand with the electorate, and not to be the rubber stamp of the governor.
The governor was away for almost 80 days, but Taraba elders and other stakeholders including the lawmakers, all kept mute…
The Governor was away for 87 days, and he refused to hand over power to his deputy; no one said anything.
I want to use this medium to call on our stakeholders from every nook and cranny of our dear state in respective of tribe religion political affiliation or region to be awake.
I plead with all of them to stand up and speak out on the side of justice and fairness.
We must all come together and salvage our state, please.
If today, the governor seeks for your helping hand will you render?
If the governor seeks help with sincerity and is in the interest of the masses, not his personal interest or political interest, why not?
The essence of governance is to provide the needed basic amenities for its people with trust.
Do you want to contest for governorship in 2023?
I am a politician now serving as an ambassador faraway in the Caribbean.
My eyes and ears are all on the assignment given to me by Mr. President.
I do not have divided loyalty. We are in 2020 no one owns his life.
My prayer is this: May the Almighty Allah guide and protect us from the unforeseen.
What we need is good leadership in our state and that is all.
The simple truth about the Mambilla Hydro project for the past four decades is down to corruption and lack of political will by successive governments
What is your suggestion for ending the farmer-herder clash, and also, banditry?
The herder-farmer crisis, in a nutshell, is as a result of injustice and politically motivated actions by some individuals in government, coupled with corruption.
Many of the people affected were denied their only means of livelihood and are uneducated.
Over the years no one paid attention to them even when they cried for help.
What do you expect in the long run if they have to survive?
I personally condemn things that we see and hear, but we should also differentiate facts and fiction.
We experienced the worst human catastrophe when I lost 47 of my blood relations in the Mambilla Plateau in 2017, with a total death toll of about 1000 people including women and children houses cattle, in a span of one week.
For the mere fact that we are Fulani no one is saying anything.
Why? As I speak to you no single individual was arrested.
Some of them were even rewarded with political positions for a job well done.
Some of the reports too were twisted to the contrary in many instances.
All these injustices account for some of the problems we are facing today.
Was your appointment a compensation of sorts? How would you assess the Buhari administration?
I don’t believe that my appointment by Mr. President as an ambassador was compensation.
Rather, it is a fulfillment from Allah who destines our life on anything.
Many were supporters of President Buhari but could not be appointed to any position till today.
Therefore, it’s just a privilege to serve under him by the will of Allah.
Mr. President inherited challenges he least expected because in this country the more you look the less you see.
He is doing his best and still need prayers support to accomplish his next level agenda.
The only area I feel the need for improvement is for him to close his eyes and take hard decisions on some group of people and organisations.
With that, his success is guaranteed, Insha Allah!
Do you think APC will survive 2023?
The APC is a formidable party; it is just that few gray areas need to be addressed and 2023 is a matter of time. The healing process would not take long, I assure you.
Do you subscribe to the call for the removal of Oshiomhole as Chairman?
I suggest that the President the governors of APC, National assembly members State party chairmen and some critical stakeholders should to come together and discuss holistic issues affecting the leadership of the party as soon as possible.
The more they delay, the more other people would take advantage, which may not be healthy for the party.