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The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Basic Education, Zakari Mohammed, in this interview with JOHN AMEH, speaks on leadership issues in the House and his personal lifestyle outside the chamber
Tell us a little about your background.
I celebrated my 46th birthday on July 7. I obtained a Diploma in Civil Law from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in 1991. I could not proceed to read law at degree level at ABU because I lost my father that same year. I had to look for work. Also, the policy of the radio station, where I worked, did not encourage sponsorship of any member of staff to study law, being a broadcast outfit. I later read Sociology and also obtained a diploma in Journalism. I did my master’s degree thereafter, specialising in Criminology.
I heeded the call of my people to join politics in 2001 and I contested election into the Kwara State House of Assembly in 2003. That did not materialise. I worked for the emergence of Dr. Bukola Saraki then as the governor of Kwara State. In 2003, I was appointed as his Special Assistant on Sports Matters. He later made me the Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development; and later, the Commissioner for Energy before I resigned to contest a seat in the 7th House of Representatives. I am married and I have a lovely daughter.
Are you saying you came to the National Assembly out of a burning desire to serve your people and not because you were anybody’s ‘boy’?
I don’t think it was like that. I just think it was because of the fact that in Kwara State, for eight years that he served as governor, the Senate President (Bukola Saraki) groomed young minds like myself, Bolaji Abdullahi, Razak Atunwa, and a couple of others. We came into government and we made our marks. Responsibility was given to us and we didn’t do badly; I didn’t do badly in the area of my responsibility. To my credit and of course to the credit of Dr. Bukola Saraki as the governor, we conceived the first football academy in the state. In the Ministry of Energy, we translated the government’s vision of providing electricity to rural dwellers into reality, with over 1,000 communities connected to the national grid.
Is it correct to say Saraki, the Senate President, is your godfather?
Yes, to tell you the truth, he is my big brother. I won’t lie about that. Coming into politics, God did it but God used someone like him to shop for young men who can impact positively on society. He is my leader, elder brother and a leader in whom I am well pleased.
We engage in arguments a lot and he concedes to superior arguments, which is the good thing about him. When he gives you a responsibility, he gives you free rein to do it. He will expect you to bear the consequences when they come. So, politically, it’s not wrong to have a leader and a mentor.
Your mentor has been under fire since the inauguration of the 8th Senate over allegations of false declaration of assets. Are you still proud of him?
Because I have worked very closely with him in the last 14 years, I know his person. I know that in this clime, people don’t want you to have courage. In the build-up to the 2011 election in Kwara State, especially on the matter of who would succeed him, he was very plain and fair about it. He believed that one senatorial zone had a governor before him, four years, eight years, plus his 12 years. So, he said it should go to another senatorial zone. The North had it 1992/93, though it was short; the South had it in 1983 for about three months; and he believed that the South should have it. That is leadership. Even though he knew that his biological sister (Senator Gbemi Saraki) was entitled to contest, he did not support her. He just believed that things should be done fairly. How many people have that type of courage? The issue of disobeying his late father was even a misinterpretation.
So, for me, people who have courage in this clime and are honest definitely cannot get away without being treated the way he has bee
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