Searching For A Credible Candidate In PDP – By Bello Sharada
As 2019 is around the corner, PDP, the main opposition party has already zoned its presidential ticket to North and the search for that material has started in earnest. In this write up, culled mainly from #Shekarau Deserved by Bello Muhammad Sharada, criteria for a credible candidates were examined based on their antecedents on governance, team playing, democratic credentials, innovations, management acumen, vision, inclusiveness, character and entrepreneurship.
Icon of Good Governance
When His Excellency Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau was sworn as Governor of Kano on 29 May 2003 he outlined the philosophy and the priorities of his government in his inaugural address and he said inter alia:
“ Our Vision is to make Kano a model state, leading other states of the federation in good governance and exemplary leadership.”
Good governance is an ideal which is difficult to achieve but leaders who have good intention make efforts by practically imbibing the requirements. Shekarau has made several efforts of achieving the ideals of good governance.
True to his words Shekarau’s administration has approached governance holistically involving all the elements of eight major characteristics of good governance: participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus oriented, equity and inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency and accountability.
Shekarau introduced Direct Discussion Forum/ Town Hall Meetings through which he interact with electorates from the urban and rural areas to listen to their complaints, suggestions and inputs. Such fora were conducted at local government headquarters and people were freely allowed to express themselves, criticize some policies and choose projects based on their priorities.
Also in line with its commitment to participatory approach to governance Shekarau again introduced Constituency Projects, this program was copied by federal government of Olusegun Obasanjo because of its impact and relevance. These projects originate from the constituents through their elected members in the state House of Assembly. Many infrastructural, communal and social needs of the electorate were attended to through these interventions.
“Transparency means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. It also means the information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. It also means that enough information is provided and that is provided in easily understandable forms and media”
Shekarau consistently aspires to adhere to the principles and ideals of transparency by making information available to the people through the media. He regularly submits himself to the people in various local state and private Radio phone-in programs and even in federal radio outside Kano. He is always free and available with press and severally held media interactive sessions either to clarify issues, explain policies or to make definite statements.
For more than a decade the appropriation law of Kano state was never published for the public to assess the level of implementation. Now Kano state Budget or Appropriation Law was always available to the public. Throughout period of 1999 -2003, budget was a secret document. it was never published for the public to scrutinize, but since Shekarau’s inception for seven years it is always available for any member of the public to purchase. For transparency to be achieved the most important law of the state which is appropriation law (BUDGET) must be published for the public, because the government should be judged according to the level of implementation of that law.
Under his leadership in its first year a Budget and Project Monitoring Bureau was established, because of his firm belief in good governance. It should be noted that, it was only and until during the second term of Obasanjo when Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was appointed, the federal government started budget monitoring. To further strengthen the mechanism, in the subsequent years Shekarau elevated the bureau by appointing its head as commissioner and a cabinet member. He stated the idea behind and importance the government attaches to the bureau, when presenting his 2004 Foundation Budget before State House of assembly that;
“ To ensure that all government initiatives are being executed according to plan, we consider it necessary to evaluate and monitor, on continuing basis, not only our physical projects but also our programs.”
In addition to this, Shekarau made it mandatory for the Kano state ministry of finance to on 30th or 31st of every month state the government balance of accounts for the consumption of the members of the public. Professor I.O. Taiwo, one of the UNDP resource persons at the UNDP Fiscal Policy Capacity Building Initiative state Workshop on April 22-23 2008, held at Kaduna, acknowledged that Kano state government under the leadership of Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau implemented Governanance Reforms and that it
“ made concerted effort to eliminate fraud; and there was evidence that the Public accounts Committee of the State House of Assembly scrutinized audited accounts. There wwas also some evidence of feedback mechanism for assessing user satisfaction of public services”
Shekarau’s dispositions to transparency and accountability endeared him to former president Olusegun Obasanjo and appointed him to lead a powerful multi layer public section team to Argentina to study the South American country’s debt management initiatives. This is a good testimonial and statement on Shekarau’s solid reputation which was built on probity and moral uprightness. In fact, Obasanjo has moved an inch higher by dispatching his special adviser on Ethics and Good Governance, who was later a cabinet minister, Barrister Kanu Agabi SAN to pronounced Shekarau as Nigeria’s most transparent and people oriented governor in the present dispensation.
His administration in Kano has restored human dignity and confidence by allowing people to express themselves without molestations. Shekarau has demonstrated high degree of tolerance to the opposition by giving unrestricted access of freedom of expression and people are even free to criticize government in its own media which is practically impossible in the past when even the private and individuals are molested and sometimes even blackmailed for criticizing government. When states allow freedom of speech and a free and independent media, governments perform better and waste and corruption can be reduced.
Apart from restoring dignity and confidence, this unrestricted freedom of expression has brought to an end to political brigandage that was hitherto encouraged and it eliminated brigands. It also raises the profile of Kano and enhanced its image as Shekarau has become a distinguished guest to many gatherings related to good governance in Europe, North America, Africa and other parts of Nigeria.
Despite Kano’s eminence among older states in the federation, the glory was fast fading from the once revered public service. It was Shekarau’s responsiveness, efficiency and effectiveness in governance that reengineered the aptitude and attitude in public service. The service before was demoralized and downbeat. He revitalized it, inspire the workforce and introduce incentives in tune with international best practices. He laid a solid institutional frame work for sustainable accountability, transparency and due process in all matters concerning public finances. His government even set up a Directorate of Public and Anti-corruption charged to investigate complaints of poor service delivery, official wrongdoing and perceived injustice.
As Kano state governor Shekarau administration has committed to governance reforms; that assures corruption is minimized, views of minorities were taken into account and the voice of most vulnerable in society are heard in the decision making and its responsive to the present and future needs of society. it has worked with development partners toward achieving this ideal. It resuscitates several civil service rules and instruments that were hitherto moribund. That way morale was boosted and restored in the service and the administration remained consistent in fulfilling its obligations. He displayed iconic exemplary leadership and good governance, the impact which was felt in all parts of the state.
Based on the determination of Shekarau to pursue a reform program and abide by elements of good governance, an erudite Professor and champion of democracy Wole Soyinka in 2009 visited Kano to identify with him as a person who finds honour in respecting the mandate given to him by Kano people and therefore, he deserves to be highly commended. Soyinka pointed out that as a person who has been so passionate to democracy.
“we symbolically and morally lend solidarity to people like Governor Shekarau for his wonderful performances among other things that is why I am in Kano.”