Kano Interview Series (11)
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
Shekarau on Kwankwaso
In order to balance whatever I observed regarding the performance of Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, I tried to reach out to the opposition. Having failed to get the chairman of the largest opposition party in the state and the chief press secretary to the immediate former governor, I felt would be more open in the assessing the present administration, I went for former governor himself. I was able to get about an hour of his time. Initially he said he would not like to say much about the present government, but as we went on, as you would read, he could not resist the temptation to publicly disagree with some policies of the present administration. Though he touched a number of issues like security, Hisbah, non-continuity of policies and projects, he laid heavy emphasis on his objection to the labeling of public projects with “kwankwasiya” emblem of the present administration.
It was a pity that this interview came before that with the incumbent governor. If it hadn’t, perhaps, I would have given the defence of the incumbent on some of the charges as Shekarau was raising them. Nevertheless, the link to the full interview with Kwankwaso is provided at the bottom of this one to enable the reader to hear his own side of the story.
I asked him how his party lost the last gubernatorial elections and he was honest enough to say that apart from the malpractice that he alleged, there was also negligence on the part of his supporters and agents, including the non-manning of some polling booths, before he finally gave the whole thing a spiritual interpretation. This is how the forty minutes interview with Shekarau took place in his house in the afternoon 9 June 2012 in his house.
Me: Sir you are welcome. To start with, how is life with you after Government House?
Shekarau: Well, Alhamdulillah. It is indeed very interesting for me to experience yet another new lease of life so to say. It’s just like when I retired from service after having served for about 26 years. I was used to going to the office every day in the morning until the evenings. The same thing when I joined the full circle of the civil service as a permanent secretary. There were no weekends and so on. So when I suddenly voluntarily retired from service and ventured into political activities before I got used to the environment of politics, there was a sudden change of life. I was finding myself very idle. There were no intellectual challenges. The need to dress up early in the morning and go to work was not there. So I had to make adjustment.
Now in the same vein, after having served for eight years as the governor with all the challenges, then suddenly I finished up. For the first few days I was trying to adjust when I work up the following morning and say prayers and doing the usual early morning chose, instead of jumping into the bathroom and getting ready for work, I founding myself jumping to bed and taking additional sleep. When I woke up by 10 or 11, I was laughing at myself, how free I was at that time. There was nobody waiting for me, no new things to do in terms of challenges or thinking what next or what instructions to give and so on. So I found the first challenge to adjust from being too occupied to suddenly being totally relieved.
Two weeks after, without even creating anything, I found myself busy again. People were coming to me for courtesy calls, seeking for ideas, inviting me to make some scholarly presentations. I have made some presentations at Universities of Ife and Lagos, making me do more reading and more writing. More than that is the challenge that people believe we still have more to offer politically and socially. That is why when people visit me they find the place a little bit busy. I still receive a lot of mails from various organizations and societies, both within and outside, etc. I try to balance it with a lot of exercises which I didn’t have the time to do when I was the governor.
Another benefit is the chance I have now to read a lot of materials that I have been compiling, especially religious materials which I couldn’t do as a governor. I read many papers too. As a governor, a whole day may pass without the opportunity to read even the paper cuttings made by my director of press. I had to struggle to browse them. But now I have the time to go through the papers, digest them and listen to a lot of radio programs, both local and international. A lot of political meetings too…
Me: So life is back. (Laughter) We will go back a bit and ask how did your party lose the last elections? As an incumbent, it is assumed that you already had 60% of the votes. May be you were too transparent, you didn’t want to rig or you were occupied with your presidential campaign.
Shekarau: I think there were a number of factors. In the first place, I would like to say that I, personally, along with many of us within our party don’t believe that we really lost the election. We didn’t in terms of real votes. That is why we went up to the Supreme Court. Of course, the courts have the right to give their own judgments but from the reports we had from our representatives in polling booths and so on we believe that there were some areas of election malpractice. Secondly, we believe that a lot of the ballot papers weren’t genuine in the sense that they were not stamped and signed at the back. We got a lot of reports on that. We wanted to get the court’s approval to conduct forensic examination of each ballot paper. The problem was that our lawyers didn’t mention all those details in their initial prayers. So when they raised it in the proceedings, their prayer wasn’t granted.
Having said this, there is the other part regarding the issue of overconfidence. In some of the polling stations, our supporters felt that it would be just a walk over. There was negligence on the part of our supervisors, feeling that we were the incumbents and have ruled for eight years and so on. We had reports from some of our representatives that some polling centres were not fully manned by our agents. We discovered that it wasn’t that they didn’t want to do the job or they were disloyal, they just felt that it wasn’t necessary.
On the whole, looking at it from the spiritual point of view, I just feel that God in His own wisdom would like to still use us to send messages and teach lessons generally as it has become clear now. We have done our little bit and whether appreciated or not, there is the chance now to see it from another perspective. As we have seen now, within the first three four weeks when the new government started, people started to see the difference. As people always argue, sometimes you only appreciate good when you see evil. So, now that we had our own time, probably God in his own wisdom would like to expose the good things we were able to do but people couldn’t see them until they see the opposite. The example I would like to give is the issue of maintaining peace and order in the society.
For eight years, even the man on the street will tell you that we had peace. We even started attracting more investors to Kano. Unfortunately, few weeks or months after we left office the whole thing seems to have collapsed. People are wondering what has happened? By our own assessment, a number of the measures we took and structures we put in place that have been helping to maintain the peace were bastardized by the (present) government. It is now that people are appreciating it.
Me: You mean programs like a daidaita sahu, Hisbah and so on?
Shekarau: A number of programs like the societal reorientation program which was principally directed at sensitizing the people’s attitudinal change are things that should be continued. We have done a lot of media talks, sponsoring a number of moral programs in the media, publishing a lot of materials, visiting schools, etc. Even though the Hisbah is still there structurally, the benefits are no longer on ground. One, when the new government came, it sacked two-thirds of the Hisbah guards that were trained and sensitized through a lot of workshops. It brought new ones overnight. In fact, I learnt in the media that the Hisbah clashed with members of the public on two occasions resulting even in a death. People don’t see them as they used to be. They are aware now that somehow people that are morally bankrupt are involved in some of these exercises. And you know you lack the moral right to tell somebody not to do something when you’re into it yourself. These are some of the things that our vacation of the seat is used by God to show people and vindicate us on many sectors.
Me: At this juncture, on this issue of security, Kano has witnessed Boko Haram last January. When I visited it in February, the town was in a coma. Then I returned in March and now, one can see that businesses are back and virtually every shop is open. Don’t you think your successor deserves some commendation as well as the federal government because other states that experienced similar attacks like Yobe and Borno are in a terrible security shape?
Shekarau: Well, I think I commend effort of both state governments – state and federal - and particularly the security agencies for being up and doing in terms of restoring peace. I am sure if you cross check, you will find that the one day bombing was one big thing that happened at a time and attracted attention. Naturally, that will send the people underground. But thereafter, the threats have continued. It is almost a daily affair now. There is hardly forty-eight hours passing without having a report of shootings or people wanting to bomb one place or another, or police deactivating one bomb, etc. so the scare is still there. The tension is very much around. There is the general consensus that people are not really living at ease now. There is this fear of who could be the next person. This is a responsibility of not only the state government but also the federal government.
I believe the issue of security is not all about force. You have to use a lot of other means: psychological warfare, community policing approach just the way we started with the Hisbah. We recruited the minimum of 20 guards in each of our 484 wards, locally sourced from each ward. Apart from Hisbah guards we gathered elders in each community to form what we called zauren shawara (consultation forum). His highness (the Emir of Kano) took his time and went round to every 44 local government areas and personally inaugurated the zauren sulhu (reconciliation forum).
Me: Aren’t they there now?
Shekarau: No. They have been disbanded. They were controlled by the headquarters of a daidaita sahu. Nobody is inspiring them. The committees are not there. In fact, we were about launching the palon shawara (consultation parlour for women), hoping that the new government that will come in would continue with it, had we won the election. The idea was to allow the women to form such committees at the local level. In fact, the zauren sulhu was so effective that most people preferred to refer their misunderstandings to them than resort to the police stations. Hisbah was virtually handling thousands of such cases and resolving a lot of such crisis and disagreements. These are some of the ingredients that helped to build what you call a peaceful environment.
Me: Sir, it is not a flatter that you are today the most expereienced person regarding the seat of the governor. You just left it after 8 years so you must have accumulated a lot of experience. You have seen what’s been going on in the past one year. I know that Kano is a very vast place. So, whoever is on that seat must be facing a great challenge. Can you give us your personal assessment of how the new government has fared in the past one year?
Shekarau: First of all, I will agree with you that today by the Grace of Almighty Allah, I am the only living longest serving governor of Kano. The only governor that served longer than me was Alhaji Audu Bako who has passed away and who served for 9 years. I have served for 8 years. I can as well claim that I know the art of governance of Kano more than any other person, whether civilian or military. On that note, I think I am well equipped to know how Kano is faring at any given time. I have on my own pledged not to make any assessment of the present administration. My party candidate has been the one making such assessment against the background of what he intended to do and what is happening now.
But on the whole and without sounding like blowing one’s own trumpet, I think the difference is very clear. I will not be totally wrong if I say that great majority of people aren’t happy with what is happening especially in terms of quality of leadership and in terms of participatory approach in governance, starting from the state executive council down the ladder to the ward level. What we hear today is that it is virtually a one man’s show: the governor virtually dictates everything which is more of a military style.
Secondly, the newly introduced and very myopic attitude of naming government properties after a particular political slogan is common today. Every structure put by the present government is boldly labeled “kwankwasiya”. I think this is very wrong and it isn’t appropriate. These are public properties. If you’re naming public properties after your name, it is attempting to immortalize one’s self which doesn’t conform to our moral values. I won’t say much on it because some citizens have challenged it before the court. When his commissioner was asked why they are doing this, he said it is because subsequent governments will not deny that they did the projects. I think this as primitive.
In fact, I always quarrel with my officials when they attempt to do that. I remember when samples of children exercise books were brought to me carrying my photographs, I objected to it. On a common sense, I was governing a state composed of citizens of divergent views. If I would use government funds to print exercise books with my photographs and my name boldly printed on them and they are distributed, there could be some parents who don’t share your own political viewpoint.
Me: You mean they may think that you are indoctrinating their children…
Shekarau: Not only that they may think that I am imposing myself on them. These are public funds. Why should I attach my person to it?
Me: Sir, Don’t you think they are just sending a message saying that we did this? Don’t you think that in the political milieu if you don’t blow your trumpet no one would blow it for you – as the first Sardauna once said, and you are the second, mind you?
Shekarau: With due respect to the first Sardauna, I don’t think what he said applied to a person. What he wanted to say is that government should speak out; it should make people know what it is doing. That is transparency and accountability. On the other side, if one thinks morally and spiritually, good should be done for its sake: Serve people as a responsibility and allow God to immortalize your name. No matter what little good you do, God has a way of immortalizing it. For example now, it is no longer a secret that any time we go to town, you see the sea of people that come along appreciating us without having written anything Shekarau anywhere. It is the service that was imprinted in their hearts. When they see us they remember it. Even in the case of the Sardauna, it was many years after he passed away that many structures were named after him.
Me: There are two questions here but I will put them in one form. Given the wealth of experience you have on that seat, don’t you think it is a good idea to gang up with the present governor, I mean to open a line of communication with him so that you will be in talking terms, advising and discussing issues? Don’t you think it will go a long way to help him in the administration of the state, now that the court case is over and it will take the next three years before we face another election?
Shekarau: I agree that it would have been a very beautiful situation. It would have led to continuity in programs. But I think the burden is more on the person now sitting. A leader is the one that has the responsibility to create the atmosphere for other people to advise him. You just don’t walk into a leader and say I have come to advise you. You have to see the opening, very much welcome and the right atmosphere is created before you can advance.
If I will give you an example and it is not a secret that the government has abandoned virtually every on-project it inherited from us. Many media people have challenged him and the governor continued to say that he cannot go into any project without cross-checking its finances to ensure that there isn’t any fraud.
Me: But I think now they have recalled the contractors. I met contractors on some of the sites…like the hostel you were building at KSUT. The contractors have been recalled, some have been paid their outstanding certificates and they have resumed already.
Shekarau: I am very glad to hear this. But look at very big projects like our two giant hospitals – the general hospital in Giginyu and the pediatric hospital which will be the best of the its kind in Nigeria, all of them have reached 70, 80% level of completion. There are few abandoned road projects that were ongoing, like the one outside here. There is a major road that runs across the city, starting from Kabuga and ending at the junction of Ibrahim Taiwo Road. It is a long distance road of about N3billion. There is the road from behind Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital that cuts across Karkasara. And there are a few other projects that I cannot recall right away. But in the whole I think if the government has seen government projects as people’s project, it should continue with them. I don’t mean to say that governments that came in should blindly jump into the projects they inherited; I don’t blame them. They should properly cross-check because they are taking over from the opposition government to ensure that proper billing was made, that there isn’t any fraud, and that all the procedures were right. Once that is done, the project should be completed.
In a nutshell, if anybody would invite me to advice on how Kano would move forward and I refuse, I think I would be ungodly. I have the moral responsibility to offer my advice and suggestions to the best of my ability and with all sense of responsibility. But you can’t do that unless you’re given the opportunity under the appropriate environment.
For example, just a couple of weeks ago, I was sharing notes in terms of security with a retired military officer and he asked whether the government at the national level ever cared to discuss with me on what needs to be done to improve the security in Kano. His argument was: Here is a person that has governed a state for 8 years – and he wasn’t referring only to me – and the most populous state like Kano. According to him, forget any opinion that anybody would have, at least by now the government – even at the level of the Presidency – asking me what did you do to get it right, to live in peace and what should be done now. I told him nobody has contacted me so far. He said it is unfortunate. So unless you’re given the opportunity to advise, you are helpless. I can’t walk now to the Presidency and say I have come to advise.
Me: Lastly, what advise do you have for the people of Kano and to the present administration?
Shekarau: My advice for the people of Kano is that they should continue to be patient, law abiding and supportive of any government in place. Once elections are over and a government is in place, support any project put forward by the government. My advice is when any government comes up with a project in the interest of the public; we should put aside political differences and support it. On the other hand, I will advise the government not to over-politicize government activities and projects because that will be the reason that people will have in believing that it is their own project, that it is not about your political party. This is why I am a bit unhappy with the naming of projects after a political party. No matter how bitter you feel about a government, that government will have to live its period. Your abusing the government and quarreling with it doesn’t help matters. You must be patient enough to wait for the elections to come. When they come, use your vote to dislodge who you don’t want to see. This is my advice.
Me: Thank you very much sir.
For the full text of the interview with Governor Kwankwaso, please go to http://fridaydiscourse.blogspot.com/2012/06/interview-4-kwankwaso.html
9 June 2012