By MUKHATAR MUHAMMED GWARZO
With the election of Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso as the governor of Kano state in 1999 following Nigeria’s return to civil rule, Kano state undoubtedly began its democratic journey on a sound footing. Dr. Kwankwaso commenced his work by setting up various development initiatives like the Community Re-orientation Committee (CRC)—a programme which was mandated with the provision of free maternal care, provision of instructional materials to school children, uniforms, free feeding and even payment of school fees for the very less privileged children. Apart from the fact that Kwankwaso received an award by UNICEF, the federal government even requested him to provide the blueprint on school feeding and also gave special grant to any state that introduced free feeding. The positive result was that school enrolment and quality of education greatly increased within that period. Such was Kwankwaso’s opening feat from 1999 to 2003.
From 2003, when the former Kano state governor Ibrahim Shekarau won the governorship election as a result of his being under the same political party, ANPP with respected General Muhammadu Buhari, the developments initiated by the Kwankwaso administration practically began to collapse. The main reason for the ugly tendency was that Ibrahim Shekarau assumed the mantle of leadership obviously without even the slightest plan for development. His principal aim of contesting the election was to unleash his long accumulated venom on his predecessor as indicated by the hurried way he set up a bogus witch-hunting committee to indict Kwankwaso on laughably spurious allegations. Interestingly, Kwankwaso full-heartedly congratulated Ibrahim Shekarau and prayed for his success on his electoral victory in 2003. Conversely, when Dr. Kwankwaso defeated Shekarau’s candidate during the last elections, he lacked the goodwill to congratulate Kwankwaso, instead he headed for the tribunals to protest the election results.
At the assumption of office Shekarau had demonstrated his insatiable greed and love of ill-gotten wealth when he hastily conjured up state-resource draining machinery called ‘Adaidaita sahu’ to siphon off public funds. According to Umar Faruk Jibril, a former head of Department of Mass communication and now the Commissioner of Information in the Kwankwaso administration in an interview with Daily Champion of July 16, 2011 “Adaidaita sahu was a drain pipe that was used to drain state resources for propagandist purposes. It was a communication a gimmick meant to deceive people. They do nothing other than go to the media and ask people to be saints. How can you be a saint in a devil’s den? How can you be good when you are neglected?” As an intellectual Dr. Faruk intelligently defended his position when he pointed accurately that “between 2003 and 2011, Kano has the highest number of addicts in the whole of the country…and the last government claimed to have cleansed the minds of youth”. Apparently if Adaidaita Sahu was not a half-hearted programme, it would have succeeded in providing jobs for the same youths it only aided in destroying.
The Adaidaita Sahu charade was not the only avenue setup by the Shekarau regime to drain away public resources. The real window to the heavy financial recklessness of the Shekarau administration can be found in how the local government councils were managed in the last eight years. Financial irresponsibility in the LGCs was so enormous that it prompted a probe of the councils by the Kano State House of Assembly in 2009 which set up an ad-hoc committee that went round the 44 LGCs to assess their performance for the 2008 fiscal year.
Needless to say, part of the findings of that committees report discovered that most of the LGCs do not have proper records of account of their expenditure. The processes of contracts were replete with irregularities and flagrant disrespect for due process. Cases of contract inflation, duplication and payment of at least 70 percent or even full pay to contractors before they commenced their project were virtually endless. But unfortunately even after the above findings by the ANPP dominated House of Assembly, the executive arm of government conspiratorially connived with the House members to attempt to sweep the report under the carpet.
Consequently, it was the enormity of this public insult by the last government that prompted the arrest of Shekarau’s stooge in the last governorship election Salihu Sagir Takai by the EFCC based on a petition submitted to it by the Movement for Justice in Nigeria (MOJIN) led by its national president Abdulkarim Dayyabu. Takai was quizzed by the EFCC for his role as the Commissioner for local government between 2007 and 2010. Others arrested along with Takai on the alleged misappropriation of N44 billion, were his permanent secretary Abdulmalik Yakubu and the influential ANPP chairmen of Nassarawa, Tarauni, Gwale and Municipal—Nasiru Yusuf Gawauna, Amanallah Ahmad Muhammed, Abbas Sani Abbas and Salisu Maje Gwangwazo respectively.
According to MOJIN’s petition, “the local government councils received over N220 billion in three years without putting 30 percent of the huge amount into public use”. It also noted that the “overwhelming majority of local government councils cannot give a satisfactory account of spending of grant in the 2008 fiscal year.
Furthermore, while Dr. Kwankwaso’s rural electrification covered over 300 hundred towns and villages in just four years; the Shekarau government was only able to electrify a paltry 50towns in eight years. Also, the overpriced fertilizer contract amounting to N4billion that was awarded unilaterally by Ibrahim Shekarau ended in mammoth money laundering which was detected at the London airport. The attendant obnoxious repercussion of the infamous fertilizer scam was the almost total collapse of the Kano State Agricultural Company (KASCO). KASCO, a company which operated almost 24 hours during Kwankwaso’s tenure; and which even received several fertilizer production requests from the federal government could not produce a single bag of fertilizer because all its equipments were vandalized by the Shekarau government.
Besides, the profligate former governor Ibrahim Shekarau, within only two years, gleefully embarked on a senseless spending spree of more than N70 billion in the sinful name of security votes—an amount which doubled the budget of education and health combined. He likewise spent several billions of naira for some so-called water projects that never benefited anybody. The devastating water scarcity persisted until the return of Dr. Kwankwaso who immediately restored water supply to the long suffering communities of Kano.
Shifting to environmental angle, most parts Kano state during the last unproductive regime of Ibrahim Shekarau literally turned into lavatories. The whole state stank terribly anytime there were rainfalls. Ironically, it was over the same period that Ibrahim Shekarau out of sheer callousness purchased and distributed over 1,000 sumptuous vehicles to all ANPP house of assembly members and traditional rulers not only in Kano but also from the southern part of Nigeria. He further bought degrees and traditional titles, all to the very detriment of his own people!
Absurdly, even after the veil of hypocrisy that shielded the Shekarau government’s financial scandals was blown off, the government still shamelessly attempted to use its deceptive religious tool to give the public an erroneous impression that the arrest of its agents was the machinations of political opponents. Fortunately, a great proportion of the public has already discerned the genuine disclosure of the actual embezzlement of funds that held sway in the circles of the last government.
The extent of the financial havoc wreaked by the Shekarau administration could only be understood better when we compare his wasted eight years with the constructive eight years of his military predecessor late Audu Bako. In the latter’s reign, Kano has gone through so many developmental projects that still benefit the populace.
On page 15 of its March/April, 2008 edition, the National Review magazine reported that Audu Bako deserved commendation for “his far reaching developmental policies and projects. Many legacies of the Audu Bako administration are living testimony of a leader with vision and concern for the development of his state and its people”. According to the magazine “these legacies…include the Government House, Nassarawa Hospital (now Abdullahi Wase Hospital), City Hospital (now Murtala Muhammed Hospital), the state secretariat,Tiga Dam, Bagauda Dam, high quality road networks, local government reforms, health centres in local government areas ans so on”. All these projects were realized with much less funds as that of the Shekarau administration which got close to a trillion naira in its entire life span.
Unfortunately, all that Shekarau did was to waste away those staggering funds and leave the government with virtually empty treasury and crazy amounts in both external debts of $209 million and internal liabilities of N77 billion. And in place of developmental projects, Kano state instead was saddled with an embarrassing reality as pointed by the ruinous DFID report which revealed that “only 10 and 13 percent of pupils pass English and Mathematics respectively. There are more than 100 children per classroom, four out of every 10 classrooms lack acceptable blackboards, there was no portable drinking water for pupils and secondary schools students and about 200 primary school pupils share a toilet in most public schools with an alarming 1,200 pupils sharing a toilet in schools in Nassawara Local Government alone!). These revelations pertain to only the primary and secondary schools aspects of education. Tertiary institutions in Kano state also suffered hugely from the imprudent government of Ibrahim Shekarau. We still recall with disgust, how the gross negligence of the last government led the students of the Kano state school of Technology to lose a whole session among other state institutions. The students were so enraged by the government’s insensitivity to their plight that they embarked on a protest to the government house only to be brutalized by the police on government’s order. It was the very day that Kwankwaso was sworn in, that the schools resumed sessions.
Turning to the health sector, the tragic story was much worse. The same DFIDreport showed that maternal mortality in Kano was almost twice the national average of 545 with 1025 deaths per 100,000. This unacceptable rise in maternal mortality could be directly attributed to the suspension of Kwankwaso’s free ante-natal services by the Shekarau administration. In addition, the official termination of the immunization programme on polio by the Shekarau government for a year led to the deaths of many innocent children. For this particular official highhandedness, Shekarau should be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, because according to an authoritative source “over 200 children died during that period”. You only need to visit state hospitals to ascertain the level of unacceptable rot and decay that pervade such hospitals. There were no medical facilities of any sorts and the few in existence had become so worn-out, decrepit and outdated that they were almost equal to useless. It was mainly this kind of negligence of public health facilities that lent credence to reports about a particular hospital in Cairo, the capital of Egypt where almost 90 percent of the patients were said to be from Kano state alone! There is little need to say that the amount of money spent by those patients in a foreign country in search basic health services may be sufficient enough to build a decent hospital with all the necessary facilities and personnel.
We can similarly recall that all the three wives of Ibrahim Shekarau gave birth to their children abroad at an over-inflated public expenditure. The wives also launched bogus appeal funds for some obscure projects and finally carted away with the funds generated without handing over up to this moment.
Moreover, apart from all these, the confusion of roles between religion and party politics which was created by the Shekarau administration also affected political development in Kano quite negatively. Ironically, the lifestyles of most government officials of the last government were quite at variance with the sainthood they feigned. An insider of the last administration who simply identified himself as Abba told me that Shekarau “almost lost control of the government to the extent that everyone did what they wanted without being called to order thereby creating fertile environment for the crazy financial recklessness witnessed in his administration”. Abba further blamed what he described as Shekarau’s narcissism for the misfortunes suffered by his party at the polls. According to Malam Abba, “the former governor was someone who always nurtured his own immediate interests at heart against everything else”.
There are many questions that can establish the truth of this claim: if it was not true, why did Shekarau build an obscenely palatable mansion for himself and ignored his deputy Engineer Abdullahi Tijjani Gwarzo? Why did he build that palace for himself while he was still in power in contravention of the law which only authorized building houses for former governors and their deputies? And why did he use humungous state resources to obtain a rare chieftaincy title in a state where more than two-thirds of the population could not afford three meals a day? And again, why did he fail to sustain a simple cordial relationship with all the two deputies he had in his eight-year rule? All these questions show how Ibrahim Shekarau’s self-importance went into his head to the very disservice of his party and the state by extension. There can be no development in an atmosphere of selfishness.
Finally, the aforesaid has brought into light the conspicuous insensitivity of the Shekarau government to the pressing requirements of the Kano people. Writing in his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Walter Rodney affirmed that “the only positive development in colonialism was when it ended”. It is obvious that Shekarau’s government was analogous to a vicious colonialism that has just ended. The people of Kano have now been fully emancipated from the fatally slavish lifestyle in which the last government wickedly subjected them to. Therefore we assure our good people that Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso represents hope and a decent future for our beloved Kano state. If he could bring several meaningful developments to the state with less than 80 billion naira during his first tenure, then we can also trust him to bring multiple-folds of developments to the state with more resources at his disposal. We once again congratulate the people of Kano on their new found and unfettered social, cultural, educational and economic freedom.
MUKHTAR MUHAMMED GWARZO
NO. KOFAR FADA GWARZO LG KANO STATE