By dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
My readers may recall that in my interview with Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, the former governor of Kaduna State, he was sincere enough to acknowledge that performance among governors did not end with the PRP governors of the Second Republic. If properly searched for, he said, it is possible to find "even as we speak now in 2012" some governors who are performing equally well.
I did not press him to mention any. However, from my observation, I can suggest two here in Northern Nigeria: Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State and Governor Rabi'u Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State. Not coincidentally, the two PDP governors are both scions of the old PRP. I have four yeas ago written a page on Lamido when I crowned him my best governor of 2008. But where Kwankwaso may excel is that in addition to his spectacular performance in the last one year, which I have studied in the past two weeks while in Kano, is his wholesale subscription to the talakawa doctrine of Malam Aminu Kano. His austere lifestyle and approach to governance, his financial prudence and his pro-poor oriented programs, all combine to make him in the eye of the dispassionate a faithful disciple of Malam Aminu Kano and a rare gem among Nigerian governors.
We should be large-hearted to give honour to whom honour is due, whoever it may be. For me, it is a duty, especially in these days when all hope seems to be lost. I have seen a lot in Kano and prepared materials which I will avail my readers with shortly. The materials are a must read, not withstanding their number and lengths, especially for our youths who have turned despondent. Reading them will help to rescue the youths from the disturbing grip of pessimism, narrow-mindedness and political intolerance that have become commonplace in Nigeria today.
However, as a start, I think it is suitable to open the gate with an interview that Newswatch and I held with the governor at midnight on Tuesday, 13 June 2012, in his office. The questions, except the last, were asked by Mr. Kayode of Newswatch. In the interview, the governor speaks of his achievements eepecially in the area of education and poverty alleviation, why he brands every project with the "kwankwasiyya" mark, how he lost the 2003 election, why he has not probed his predecessor (yet?), his tight grip on the finances of the state, why he does not have the office of the first lady, how he saves much to execute projects, his disapproval of security vote, the next governor he wishes Kano would have, the present security situation, the ideological contradictions in the composition of PDP, and why Kano recovered so quickly from the 21st January attacks. Happy reading.
Question: what can you say ae your achievements in the last one year?
Kwankwaso: In the last one year so much has been achieved. We are happy that we didn’t disappoint our people. You can see our achievements in various areas. For lack of time, I will, as an example, briefly dwell on some of the achievemnts we have recorded in education.
We decided to put education as our number one program on our agenda because its critical in transforming the lives of people. During our first term, in the area of primary education, by the grace of God, we were able to build thousands of classrooms in Kano, feed our primary pupils lunch five times a week, give them two sets of uniforms, etc. we are still maintaining those important programs.
In addition to that we have our Community Reorientation Committee (CRC) in all the forty-four local government areas of the state and the supervisory committee at the state level that carry out renovations of old structures and conducts the school programs I just mentioned. In each local government, the CRC is composed of our "best eleven": the district head, chief Imam, local government chairman, chairmen of PDP and the second best party in the last election, member of House of representative in the constituency, a representative each of National Union of Teachers, youths, women, businessmen and elders. You must have seen our one-storey building across the state – the Kwankwasiyya blocks of classrooms. Over 800 classes are completed in the first one year, 400 offices, 400 toilets, furtniture, etc.
By the way, the CRC also runs programs on poverty alleviation in which we support our youths and women. We have trained 44,000 women and supported each with a N10,000.00, free. The training of another 44,000 is going on at the rate of 100 per local government weekly. Youths are also trained on animal traction and given a loan of N150,000.00 to cover the cost of bulls and plough. The Lafiya Jari program is also on, where we have trainEd 1,200 unemployed of from different health institutions on the basics of commerce and give them a loan of N80,000.00 each to open small medicine shops in rural areas and neighborhoods.
In the area of secondary education, you must have visited the newly established Governor’s College. We have three other similar schools. We have improved the feeding of pupils in all our boarding schools. We are paying teachers and other civil servants by the 25th of every month, including the payment of the minimum wage of N18,000.00 that started last January.
In addition to our existing 10 tertiary institutions, we are establishing additional 28 institutes – ranging from nursing school, midwifery, health technology, fisheries institute, livestock institute, agric mechanization institute, horticultural institute, sports institute, Kano Corporate Security Institute, Kano Informatics, etc. Some of these institutes have already started on temporary sites.
We have earlier established Kano State University of Technology during our first term. Now we are establishing the Northwest University, which is a conventional university instead of KSUT that is limited to technology based courses. As the name implies the new university will cater for the six northwestern states. Of course, Kano is shouldering 100% of the responsibility now but at the appropriate time we will link up with our colleagues in other states in the zone to see how we can work together on the project. We are building its permanent site already and have advertised for staff positions including those of its principal officers.it will take off this September. Having noticed that we will have delays due to the civil works, we will use the Ado Bayero House as our temporary site while we are working day and night on the permanent site.
Our investment in education is based on the belief that it helps break the vicious circle of poverty. If you are educated, you can cater for yourself, either in this country or elsewhere. Additionally, we believe it is in the best interest of this country. You cannot have two countries in one: one very educated, the other very illiterate. Then there would be danger. We felt we should narrow the gap, create opportunities so that we can move together. This is very important for the security of our country. At this juncture, I would like to appeal to all those concerned, especially those that are rich enough to establish private institutions especially in the North. I also appeal to those of us in government to give education a priority.
Question: Why do your projects bear Kwankwasiyya mark? Some people think you are personalizing them.
Kwankwaso: When people make such remarks, they are either not aware of our intention or they are our opponents in the first place. We are not the first to brand any project. Why are they not talking of ETF? In addition, PTF stopped in 1999 but its signs are still there. Why are they not talking of MDG whose signs are everywhere. Our action is based on experience. During my first term, I can’t remember one classroom that was marked to indicate that it was done by my administration. Some governors are naming institutions after themselves or locating them in their villages or local governments. We didn’t do that before; we are not doing it even now.
You see some people had the opportunity to perform for eight years. They didn’t do anything other than pick our projects and use them in their calendars. It was very painful. I was in the Ministry of Defence when I saw a calendar carrying projects that I suffered in various ways to execute during my first tenure. That is why when we came back, we said, “Okay. Now we are moving with supersonic speed in the execution of our projects. How do we mark them to enable people know? If MDG and ETF are doing it now, if you have Ahmadu Bello University – and remember I haven’t named the new university Rabiu Kwankwaso University – why not us?
This is politics. You have blow your trumpet. I have learnt that the hard way. We have inherited a project of 1000 classrooms from the former administration that it started since 2008. Yet, only a third of the money was paid. So two-thirds are abandoned. I have asked them to bring the estimates. We will complete them, now that we have made our marks. If I didn’t write Kwankwasiyya on mine, you would have thought that we are still on the drawing table, that our predecessors constructed the buildings.
We are not ashamed to mark the building we constructed. We would only be ashamed were we stealing projects. Now in one year alone, we have built 800 primary school classrooms, 400 offices for teachers, the same number of pit latrines, etc. We have bought equipment worth hundreds of millions of naira for our tertiary institutions. Teachers in these institutes were not even paid salaries because some people were stealing the money. We will not allow anybody to steal. If anyone steals and we catch him, we will punish him. So we will have enough money to execute our projects. We have 28 institutions of various kinds taking off as I said initially. But we will mark them as we build them such that people would know. It is no secret.
Someone would say, “Well, if someone comes, he will scrub it.” Well, if someone comes he can even use a bulldozer to demolish the building. But if he has the time to say he doesn’t like it, why wouldn’t he build his own and write his name? If he is handamiyya – people who steal public money – he should write it. We have seen some buses marked, “donated by so and so.” We did not stop them. If we execute a project, we will mark it such that at least for the next three years people will know that we executed them.
Question: After you left office in 2003, your predecessor probed you and issued a white paper that sought to ban you from holding public office. Why haven’t you chosen to probe your predecessor in return?
Kwankwaso: It is because of our experience. When I was leaving this office in 2003, it was unimaginable that I would return here. The chances were slim. May be, I came back because of the white paper. As they were doing it, I continued moving. I became the Minister of Defence, the adviser to the President, then to NNDC. Obsanjo told them, “You can go and probe. But bring a proof to me that my minister has stolen money. There wasn’t any.” Anybody can ask your enemies to write anything about you and receive it over a cup of tea.
In 2003, I didn’t contest election with them. I contested with Buhari because presidential and gubernatorial elections were held same day for the first and only time in the history of this country. Sentiments were built based on ethnicity and religion such that the political atmosphere was so hazy that people weren’t reasoning well. People were told that if you vote for a religious man, you would all go to heaven. As time went, people saw that these people were drinking SWAN water, building estates when they didn’t have even a plot before, and so on. Their eyes were therefore shined.
I am happy to say that we were able to manage success in 1999 and failure in 2003. When we lost elections in 2003 for whatever reason, I went to the house (of the new governor), in his sitting room, the first and only time in the history of Nigeria and said, “Congratulations! We will support you because this is Kano. If you fail, Kano fails.”
I believed then and now that if performance were the only requirement for winning a second term, I would have won then even if it were among few governors in Nigeria. I knew that in addition to performance, there are many other things. The good thing is if you build schools, as we do now, people will benefit; if you bring in water, people will use it; if you build roads, people will use them. You can criticize that we are writing names on the buildings but your children will go and use the buildings while those who have stolen your money are sending their children overseas.
You see, Kwankwasiyya is an ideology and you can see the result. Go and see how our streets are clean and lit in the night. This is not how we inherited them in 2011. Look at the four major roads that lead into Kano. Additional lanes are added to them, with shoulders, drainages and walkways. Even on the old roads, we are putting interlocking blocks for pedestrians. We are working, day and night.
So I believe it is always good to be responsible, reasonable and mean well to people. That is why I am not in a hurry to probe anybody. Give them the benefit of the doubt. But I know if you build around you so many deep wells and you continue to move around them recklessly, one day you are likely to fall into one. People will reap what they sow. That is my position.
Question: Despite meeting an empty treasury last year, you were able to execute so many projects. Yet, you have not borrowed a kobo from any bank, local or international. What is the secret behind this success?
Kwankwaso: It is the policy of our government, even during the first term, not to borrow a kobo. And when we were leaving, we left behind N4 billion cash in our treasury despite all what we did. So the same thing when we came back, we inherited a debt of over N77billion and over US$200million. But we haven’t paid, and we are not in a hurry to pay. We just said, “Draw a line. I don’t want to open any can of worms. Let me prove to the people that yes, Kwankwaso is back. I don’t want to hear N77billion or $200million. Let's move." And we are moving.
What we did was to introduce checks and balances. I was a civil servant here for seventeen years. As a result, most of the civil servants – especially the senior ones – were my colleagues in school and in the service. Mind you I am also a pensioner though I forewent my pension since I retired in 1991 as a principal engineer. So we know the level of wastages that exists and saved so much from the angle of the civil service. We inherited 43,000 civil servants. Along the line, based on our measures, we removed over 8,000 ghost workers. These were people who were practically getting money for nothing. We met a law that said we should pay civil servants certain percentage of their salary for fasting and purchase of rams, etc. We paid for the first sallah. But by the time the second came, we realized from the files that there were so many problems. Now we would have paid 8,000 ghost workers 50% of their salary. We are now trying to sort out things and pay the civil servants. Our target is the ghost worker, not the real workers that are messengers, permanent secretaries or directors.
On the part of the politicians – myself downwards: advisers, commissioners, SSG, Chief of Staff, everybody, we said, “Look. Let us not start dipping our fingers into government money. It is neither good for us, nor is it for the society. There are people outside there who have also supported us but who are battling with what they would eat daily. Many of them may sleep on empty stomach.” You see, if I take 10 million, for example, it may appear small to me but it can do a lot in terms of education, health, water supply, or even in maintaining street and traffic lights. We started from there.
Between 2003 and 2011, so many things in the cost of running government have been inflated, like overheads and so on. So we said, "let's return to where we were in 2003. That is the one we know. Let us revert to that in terms of recurrent expenditure." I said that if they have any complaint, they should refer to me.
My commissioners and advisers wanted vehicles. I asked the SSG to estimate the cost. It was over N2billion. I said, “No. Use the old vehicles we inherited.” At the Ministry of Defence, I used the only two vehicles that I inherited from TY Danjuma. On many occasions, the 607 would fail on the road. There is nothing wrong with that.
Now we can go on and on. So we not only saved so much money there but we also sent the right signal. Despite what we were executing in terms of projects, from N77billion debt in May when we took over, by January this year when we were opening our books we had over N20.5billion cash. I still believe that up till now we have a similar figure. Commissioners now have to defend their budget by proving value for money. No commissioner was ever declined any request because we don’t have money. We return him only because he hasn’t followed due process or because it is too expensive at that rate. We told them that this government is a serious one. There is no room for anybody – from the highest level to the lowest one – to break the law. You have to abide by it. If you break it, we will put the maximum weight of the law on you. That is why so much is happening in all areas, so much so that nobody, including my humble self, can tell you how much we have done in the past one year.
What is critical is that we have confidence of the people. One thing good is that the people of Kano are law-abiding people. They want to see you lead by example. You don’t, as their leader, say one thing and do the other: You swear by Allah but everybody knows you are telling lies. If you do that, people won’t take you seriously. If you tell them don’t do something, they will go and do it.
On internally generated revenue, the state was generating only between N300million and N500 million when we came in. We believe that everybody must pay tax. If you have enough, even if you’re not paying zakat, you have to pay tax. By December, we were getting over up to N1.2billion. My target, despite the security challenges, is to have enough money to pay salaries and allowances. We are making progress. I wouldn’t need to get money from Abuja to pay salaries. If we cannot pay civil servants and ourselves, then there is something wrong with us. People have to pay. That is why I asked the commissioner of land to assess my ground rent. It now enables me the moral locus to ask others to pay theirs. No matter how big you consider yourself, you are small if you cannot pay your tax. Nobody is perfect. But as far as we can, we want to do the right thing.
Question: Could it be why you jettisoned your security vote?
Kwankwaso: Now, the same thing applies to security vote. I told people that governments are using it to siphon away resources. We have seen records here that, apart from N70million, N80million and so on – in one day N127million was withdrawn as security vote. That was the highest. Since a governor cannot give an approval of more than N10 million, the money was removed in twelve installments of N10million each, plus N7million. (Here, Kwankwaso adjusted his red cap and gave a sardonic smile.) In four years, billions were thus withdrawn in the name of security vote.
So the way we are handling it here is to account for everything. If you come as a big man and I want to dash you N10.00 from my pocket, I give it to you. If I would give you N10,000.00 from public money, I will give it but it will be on record. So if you like it that way, take it; and if you don’t, leave it. That is important. If I want to give money to the police or army – and we give them very little despite the security situation – we write it. We even arrange for their feeding and allowances in addition to what they get from the federal government. Now, what I give the contractors for the feeding is there on record, for example. In addition to that, we follow up. I go there sometimes to count the bread and the cans of fish they are given, just to make the contractor understand that he is not left alone.
I believe that governors, as much as possible, should avoid the issue of security vote. You know mischief-makers used it against me in the white paper. I used N97million as security vote for the 2003 elections. The record is there. I gave N2million to the security committee of each local government. The panel summoned each of the chairmen of those committees and none of them disputed that I gave him the money. They explained how they used it and nobody said he gave me even N2.00.
Question: Has the present security situation affected governance in your state with effect from January this year?
Kwankwaso: Every leadership, throughout history, has faced its own version of challenges. There is none that is not facing one form of security threat or another. We can put it on scale and measure it. Southeast has its own challenges; so does the south-south or southwest. Come to the north, you find the same thing. Of course, you when you weigh them you can say this one is heavier, the other lighter. If you’re in the area where people are kidnapped and your father is kidnapped, you wont believe that Jos is less secured than your place. So it is an issue of how it affects you.
Coming to the issue of how it affects us, you see we didn’t know the security challenges that will face us when we came in last year, just as we didn’t know the ones we would face when we were elected in 1999. From then to 2003, you find Hausas were killed in Lagos. The issue of shariah also came up. I didn’t campaign for it. I didn’t even thought about it in 1999. But it became a serious issue and it cost me even my seat at that time because the sentiments were too much: Obasanjo was our candidate, Buhari was their candidate, so went the sentiments. They blocked roads to polling booths and demanded which of the two voters were going to vote for – mosque or church? If you do the same in Port Harcourt, the persovoter which one he is going to vote for. It’s the same thing in Kano. So we didn’t lose election in 2003 for lack of performance or somebody was more popular than us. No. It was mere sentiments.
However, now, the dust has settled and things are clear. (Smile) By 2011, the young men and women we bred during our first tenure were 18. They were in charge of the polling booths. The women we empowered with a free capital of N5,000.00 – thousands of them – came out. The tertiary institutions and secondary schools we established or supported all came out and voted for us. We had no state government, no local governments, no contracts, and no money; yet, people voted for us and defended the votes. Some people wouldn’t imagine that it was this evil called Kwankwaso that was returning – the most hated Kwankwaso. All the promises of 2003 about Shariah were gone. Kano people, you know, are very smart, very fast.(Smiles) They can surprise you anytime. You can only deceive briefly. But the moment you start moving, they would say, “Ah. God don catch you.” That is why we have this challenge to prove ourselves.
The challenge of security is not peculiar to Kano. It is all over the country and the North in particular. We are working very hard. That is why whenever I have an opportunity like this, I appeal to all people, including all politicians, to join hands. When the attacks happened on 20th January we gathered people across parties, including the ANPP, businessmen, the Emir, the Chief Imam, everybody. We sat down and discussed what could be done. We have been meeting and we will continue to meet in the interest of the state, appealing to everybody to come forward and put the issues , if any, on the table. And if anybody wants us to facilitate anything – the federal government, anyone – we will be very happy to do so to make sure that there is fairness and justice. And unless there is justice from both sides, we will continue to have problems. The problem of security doesn’t help anybody.
Question: Due to time factor, I will put two questions in one. One, you are the only governor in this country that doesn’t have the office of the first lady. Two, when we look at the people in your cabinet, they are almost the same ones around during your first tenure, particularly your deputy. What is the secret behind this practice?
Kwankwaso: I am sure the position of first lady isn’t in the constitution. So, first things first. First of all, my wife is my wife – the wife to Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso; then, secondly, if you like, she is the wife to the Governor of Kano State.
You see everybody has his own way of doing things. I am not saying that what others are doing is wrong, but I don’t believe that others should think that my own is wrong. My wife doesn’t go to any ministry. I don’t allow commissioners to go to my wife. In any case, if my wife has the governor at her disposal anytime, why would she need a commissioner? "If you want anything in government, tell me," I told her. But she knows - and everybody knows - that I cannot steal anything in government and bring it to her. If there is anything genuine that everybody is entitled to, then she can also go for it.
To me creating an office of the first lady endangers the wife by exposing her to all sorts of risks – the inherent problems associated with politics, with leadership, etc. If you put all your eggs in one basket, you end up in one problem or the other. Also, if you have people who have not gone through the system – like our wives – they may create one problem or the other for themselves. Sometimes, if you cannot fell the tree, you go for the branches because they are very easy to cut and fell. That is why you should not give your enemies that opportunity. We have people who cannot come to terms with marking buildings with kwankwasiyya, what would they do if they catch my wife stealing public money?
On the issue of the deputy governor, I will say that he is someone I knew very well. We have worked together for long. The issue is you can throw away an object and buy another one. However, it it isn’t the same with human beings. We have only one Dr. Ganduje in Kano, in Nigeria and probably in the whole world. That is very important. If I have made the mistake of picking him as a deputy governor, that mistake was done in 1999. At that time I had the liberty to pick another person. But not now.
He became the deputy governor and we were there for four years. We went into election and lost. He was my SA in the ministry of defence. We had to keep on moving together. And these are the secrets that kept us strong. Friendship is based on mutual agreement between two people. A friend is the sort of thing that you choose willingly, unlike your father, mother or child. The deputy governor is committed to this friendship nd so are other people with whom we are working together.
The longest time I would remain here is three years. Now given the treacherous nature of politics, one has to train many people – not one, not two, not three – such that if anyone decides to defect, there would be others to continue with the struggle. That is why we continue to build up the team.
In fact, the way PDP was constituted doesn’t help matters. In 1998/99 we were just interested in the military leaving. So three groups – MDF and the two groups from PRP – formed the new party. There is no way we can go together. The ideologies are different.
Our ideology is now coming out. We are speaking about the poor, women, children and the sick. Many people don’t want to hear that. They are speaking of the interest of the big man. How much did you give him? What is his benefit? Which benefit? Let him go and sleep well. He has so much to eat, so much to enjoy. That is not to say he doesn’t benefit from our services. When you build road in the city, the poor doesn’t have the road. It belongs to the big man. That is why we put interlocking blocks on the side walkway so that the poor that sells garden egg or motar (turmi) can also walk or sit on a hard clean surface. The large part of the road is for the rich. If you are providing security, it is mainly for them. They have twenty taps in their houses; use twenty gallons to flush their toilet, while the poor would just use his small kettle to clean himself.
So our concern is that the poor should have the minimum requirements for life. It is based on our ideology, that of Aminu Kano. He wears this red cap, white cloth and black shoes. That is the colour of the PRP. Ours is red, white and black; if you like, you can use green in the shoe to represent the colour of the PDP.
That is the PDP by coincidence. But some in the party don’t believe in this. We are not fighting them but we can’t work together. In 1998/99, we were sharing positions amongst the three groups. When I became governor, many people didn’t want to recognize that life is dynamic. They kept on fighting, calling me “this boy.” I said, “Thank you very much. Yeah! This boy, the governor of Kano.” I am afraid that many of them will develop high blood pressure because they are not reconciling their thought with the decree of God.
And you see, people have to understand the dynamics of life; otherwise, they will get frustrated. If God has decreed that you will be xyz, you have to be and I have to prepare my mind to accept it. The least person I expected to come and inherit my seat was the one who came. God had decreed so. I was here. He was a permanent secretary. Now I see my deputy governor, commissioners and advisers. One of them may inherit this seat. I don’t know. The only thing is that I am training them. Everyday, I go out with my cane, if you like, and ask why is this so, why is that so? I just want anybody that would come here to be a competent person. It will be the biggest disservice to this state if I would see somebody come here who would once more allow what we have seen in the past eight years. We want strong and powerful people, those who agree with our philosophy.
Now we go out coloured to show everybody who we are. We are not ashamed of our identity. We are consistent in what we say and believe. That is why people believe whatever we promise to do. During the campaign, we study our facts before we mount the podium. When we said we will give women N10,000.00 support, some people were doubting it, wondering from where we would get the money. But already, within one year we have given it to 44,000 women and we will continue doing so until the last day we are leaving government.
What we want to do in Kano is to help people at the grassroots to start small businesses as we have seen in the emerging economies of China, India, Brazil, etc. That is how they started, not with mega things. If our resources are prudently managed, there is enough to help the poor in different sectors, ranging from health, to agriculture, education, everything. By the time December comes, we would be generating over N3billion. Aliko Dangote, as a demonstration of the confidence that people have in the prudence of this government, gave us N600 million to partially finance our poverty alleviation programs. Again, as we start the second batch now, he is giving us another N600million. So we are happy that people in different levels of society have confidence in us. Of course we have enemies. These are the ones talking about kwankwasiyya. And they are the very ones that motivated us to put the mark. And the more they shout, the more we put it.
Question: I have gone round and seen that Kano has bounced back within a short time. All shops are once more open unlike when I visited it three weeks after the 20th January attacks. People who left the city have returned. One can say that Borno and Yobe aren’t that lucky. They are practically paralysed to date. What is the secret behind this quick recovery?
Kwankwaso: Kano is a centre of commerce. People of Kano really love peace because they know that without peace there will be no business. When the attack of the 20th happened, people were shocked... We placed a 24 hour curfew. Later we reduced it to 18 hours, then 12 hours, and now 6 hours. We are considering ensuring that there is no curfew in Kano. When you came then you might have seen many checkpoints. As the situation is improving, we kept on reducing the number of checkpoints. Now we have few of them and each one is there for a reason. And very soon we will make sure that they are removed from our streets...
Security is the paramount responsibility of any government. And while people are working very hard to ensure that there is security in Kano, at the same time I am calling on everybody to come together and work with us in the interest of the state. This not withstanding, let me say at this juncture that Kano is the centre of knowledge also. We have people who are praying across the state 24 hours a day. In fact, that was why on 29 May instead of celebrating we went to the mosque to pray to Almighty Allah for peace not only in Kano but also throughout the country. The same thing took place in all local governments and wards in the state that day. And you know God is great. We are beginning to see peace coming back in Kano.
16 June 2012