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Education Must Be a Priority in the North Now

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Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, governor of Kano State, speaks to Chimezie Enyiocha, reporter/ researcher, and Kayode Makinde, senior special project executive, on the achievements recorded by his administration in his first year in office, why he adopted Kwankwasiyya as an ideology, and how he has been handling the security challenge posed by Boko Haram. Excerpts:

Newswatch: What would you consider as your greatest achievements since you assumed office as governor of Kano State in the last one year?

Kwankwaso: The greatest achievement that one can say is this issue of confidence because people voted for us to demonstrate the confidence they have in us and this confidence is still there. It didn’t stop, it is growing stronger. In other words, we are happy that we did not disappoint our supporters, the good people of Kano State. So, I believe that is a big achievement. In the last one year, so much has been achieved and we are happy that by the grace of God, we did not disappoint our people and our people are still supporting us. Of course, we can look at our achievements in various areas. But we decided right from the beginning to take education as our number one programme on our agenda because I believe that without education, we would find it difficult to achieve desired results. So, education, to us, is critical and during our first term from 1999 – 2003 we did our best in terms of primary education.  By the grace of God, we were able to build thousands of classroom blocks in Kano; we were able to feed our primary school pupils five days a week. We were able to give them two sets of uniforms and we are still maintaining those important programmes. And in addition to that, we created the Community Re-orientation Committee, CRC, in all the 44 local governments in the state, and, of course, with the supervisory committee at the state level. The CRC has done so much. They are made up of the district heads, the chief imam is there, the local government chairman, the PDP chairman and the chairman of the next party, be it ANPP, CPC and any other party. However, it is not a party politics issue. We are helping people, we are repairing hospitals, we are putting equipment in the hospitals. It is not only for a PDP man or Kwankwasiyya man, it is for everybody and people are supporting it. So much are being achieved in the area of primary education especially. We have built a one storey building in every primary schools across the state, the Kwankwasiyya building. We have over 800 classes completed within the first one year, 400 offices, toilet facilities, furniture and so on, all of them are there. We are encouraging people, parents, so everybody is being mobilised to go to school. You must have visited the Governor’s College at Kofar Nasarawa. There are other similar secondary schools. We improved on the feeding of our school pupils and students in all our secondary schools; we are paying the teachers and all civil servants on the 25th of every month. We have sorted out all the problems of payment; it is not even an issue here. You must have heard that we have been paying them the N18, 000 minimum wage beginning from January, this year. That’s for secondary schools. So, also is the tertiary institutions and the other 20 institutes that we have established; ranging from nursing school to midwifery, to health technology, fishery institute, livestock institute, agric mechanisation institute, Informatics, horticultural institute.  We have 20 now, including the Kano Sports Institute at Karfi. And we also have the Kano Corporate Security Institute and so on. All these are on now. Some of them have started on temporary sites and we are making progress. We also have a programme on poverty alleviation for which Kano is being commended across the country and beyond, because we are supporting our women, 8,000 women. Every fortnight we are training 100 women per local government and I believe so much is being done in the area of poverty alleviation in addition to this one. Of course, you know we established the Kano State University of Technology in Wudil during our first term. Now, we are establishing North West University. North West University as the name indicates is to cater for the seven North Western states. Kano will take the lion share. We are shouldering the responsibilities 100 percent, but at a proper time, we will link up with our colleagues in the other states to see how we can work together with them. People from Kano State will have a good share of slots in the university. Now, we are building the permanent site. We have advertised for the post of the vice chancellor for anybody who wishes to work there and we are getting responses. And by September, we will start. We are already at Ado Bayero House near Gidan Murtala. We are now partitioning the tall building.  So, we are now going to use there as the temporary site for the university from September while we are working day and night for the completion of the permanent site. So, we are working very hard in the area of education and we are getting the support of people. Education is an issue in Kano State now; we are looking at it from saving people from this issue of poverty. If you are educated you can cater for yourself either in this country or elsewhere. So, it is very important. And not only that, we also believe that it is in the collective interest of this country, a situation where you have two countries in one, one very educated, one uneducated, portends danger. So, that is why we should narrow the gap, create opportunities so that we can move on together. It is very important for the security of the country for us to do that. And I want to appeal to all those concerned, especially those who have enough money to establish private institutions, especially in the North, to do it. And I want to also appeal to all of us especially those of us, in government to give education priority, and once we do that, we will continue to reap the benefits.


Newswatch: Why is it that the name Kwankwasiyya is boldly written on all the projects executed by your administration because some people feel you are personalising the projects?

Kwankwaso: You see those who are saying it are divided into two; we have people who don’t understand and there are others who are enemies. These are the two groups who are talking about it. We are not the first to give credit to the people who have produced or done a project by putting our name. Why are they not talking about ETF? ETF is there, ETF stopped in 1999 but the name is still there. Why are they not talking about MDG? MDG is there everywhere, people are not talking about it, and people are so worried about Kwankwasiyya. What we are doing is based on experience. During our first tenure I can’t remember one classroom that was marked to indicate that it was done by that administration. We never wrote our names anywhere. If you go to some states, you will find “Governor so so College,” so so institute. Some will take an institution either to their village or local government.  We didn’t do that and we are not even doing that now because we believe that we have come to take our people out of poverty. But at the same time we want people to acknowledge that we are moving in Kano State at supersonic speed. Some people had opportunity for eight years and they didn’t do anything other than adopting our projects to write on their calendar and so on. It was very painful. I was in the Ministry of Defence as minister when somebody brought a calendar and I saw the projects that I had suffered to build, somebody was taking money and at the same time claiming my projects as his. So, that is why immediately we came in for the second term, we said okay, now that we are going with this speed, how do we mark it and show people because people need to know. It is not secret.  If MDG is doing it now, if ETF is doing it, they will put their names on it. If we have Ahmadu Bello University, why not our own. I didn’t write Kwankwaso University, maybe somebody will do it one day, but you see this is politics. You have to blow your own trumpet. That is what I have learnt the hard way; we have now learnt our lesson. Now, that we have made our mark everybody is happy and people are talking about it. If I didn’t write Kwankwasiyya there, you wouldn’t know, you may say these people are still planning, they are still on the drawing table, the previous administration did that. I said no, go and put the name there, we are not ashamed to do it. We can only be ashamed if we realised that we are stealing. And the good thing is we cannot steal and do these projects, and you cannot do these projects and at the same time you are stealing, it can’t happen. Now I have completed over 800 classes in one year, over 400 offices, we have hundreds of millions of equipment for teachers and we are paying them. When we came, we met teachers one year on strike; today everybody is getting his or her money. We told everybody that we don’t steal; we will not allow anybody to steal. So, by the grace of God we have enough money to execute these projects. Of course, somebody may say when another governor comes he will scrap the names. Well if somebody comes he can even use the bulldozer to demolish the buildings. Everybody has his time, and you can do whatever you like during your time. If somebody has time to say okay I don’t want it, why don’t you do your own and write your name on it?


Newswatch: After you left office in 2003, your successor probed your administration to the extent that a white paper was issued banning you from seeking any public office. Today, you have succeeded the same administration and considering that fact that you met an empty treasury, why have you not probed that government?

Kwankwaso: Because of my experience. People have to be careful, that’s why people don’t take enmity too long. I never knew I will come here again.  When I was leaving office in 2003, it was even unthinkable that one day I will come back here. Maybe I came back here because of the white paper. They did everything under the sun to rubbish me, to say that I had stolen money.  But as they were doing it, I was the minister of defence; as they were doing it, I was adviser to president on Dafur and Somalia; as they were doing it I was in the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, and so on and so forth. People were laughing at them, and of course Obasanjo, then the president told them that look, you can go and do anything, but give me evidence that my minister had stolen money. We are all civilised, so give me the proof. Up till now there was no proof. As we are building all these ones and people are talking nonsense about the Kwankwasiyya thing, their children are going there. It is only those of them who have stolen enough that are sending their children abroad. Somebody will go to the radio station and abuse me, in the morning his son or daughter will go to the school I built. It doesn’t matter; we believe that these children are for all of us. I can tell you that most of these critics of Kwankwasiyya, and the PDP in Kano are very few. If you are not Kwankwasiyya, your wife is Kwankwasiyya, if it is not your wife maybe your daughter because it is an ideology and they are seeing the result. Go and see the streets in the night, that’s not how we inherited Kano in 2011. Look at our streets very clean, that’s not how we saw them. Look at the major roads leading to the town; we are now adding more lanes with drainages and walk ways with interlocks. So, I believe that it is always good to be responsible, it is always good to be reasonable and to mean well for people.


Newswatch: You met an empty treasury when you came into office last year but you have done so much in terms of infrastructural and human development. How did you manage to achieve all these things?

Kwankwaso: It is in my policy and the policy of our government, especially in our first term: if you want to borrow you must have a need for it. When we were leaving office in 2003, we left a cash of over N4 billion in our account despite all what we did. When we came back, we inherited a debt of over N77 billion and over 200 million dollars. But we didn’t pay and we are not in a hurry to pay, we just say draw a line. In fact, 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 N77 billion, I don’t want to hear of 200 million dollars, what I want to hear is let’s move forward. While we are moving, we brought in checks and balances.  I was a top civil servant in Kano for 17 years and most of the top civil servants we were either in primary school, secondary school or university together. So, we know the level of wastages that exist in the civil service. And what we told them was that we were not going to sack anybody because I love civil servants, I love pensioners. I was a pensioner in 1991, when I was the deputy speaker in the House of Representatives. Today we are giving the pensioners something that is reasonable and that is why I joined politics to improve people’s lives. So, we saved so much money from the angle of the civil service. I am sure you know that we inherited 43,000 civil servants. Along the line, we removed over 8,000 that are ghost workers. So, we came to the case of political office holders, starting from me. I told them that look, let us not start dipping our hands into government coffers, it is not good for us, and it is not good for the society. There are people outside there, those who have supported us, who were battling to get what they will eat everyday. We disciplined ourselves. Then I said let us go back to our system in 2003, I know where we stopped. So, everything that we left in terms of recurrent expenditure, I said let’s go back there. My commissioners wanted vehicles, I asked the Secretary to the Government, how much each of them will cost and he said over N2 million. I said no, those old vehicles we inherited that are stopping on the road, buy them. That was the programme we had at the federal level when I was minister of defence. At that time, I inherited two vehicles from T.Y Danjuma and those were the vehicles I used till I left the Ministry of Defence. Most importantly, we sent the right signals that you should do the right thing to survive. So from N77 billion debt, despite what we have been doing, by December last year, when we were opening our account by January this year, we had over N20.5 billion cash, and I still believe that we have similar figure now. Commissioners are allowed to bring in whatever they have in their budget, but they have to defend it in terms of value for money and everything.

And no commissioner had brought anything and we say we don’t have money. He can only go back because he didn’t follow due process, go back because it is too expensive. We have done a lot in the last one year, but one thing that is very critical and important is the confidence people have in us. Internally generated revenue has improved. We were getting N500 to N600 million. So, I said that everybody must pay tax, if you have enough to give even if you are not paying Zakkat which God decreed, you have to pay tax. And by December, we were getting over N1.2billion as revenue. My target is that by the end of this year, I should have enough to pay salaries and allowances. We have this security challenge now, but we are still building, we are still going up. By December, I want to see a situation whereby I don’t have to borrow money or receive money from Abuja to pay salaries.


Newswatch: Could it be the reason why you are not collecting security vote like other governors?

Kwankwaso: Security vote as I told so many people is a way of siphoning government resources. We have seen records here that in one day the former administration withdrew up to N127 million in one day. The way we are handling it here, if I want to give you N10 from my pocket, I don’t need to write for it, it’s my own money. But if as a governor, I want to give you 10,000, quite okay, but I will sign it. And I think that is very important. And if I want to give Police money, they will write for it. We only give Police allowances and food. And what I give the security agencies is what you will see in the record. So, the issue of security vote as far as I am concerned, government should avoid it because it is not necessary.  And of course, mischief makers can take advantage of it. The white paper that you are talking about they had three issues; one of the issues they raised in the white paper against me was the N97 million that I used during the gubernatorial and presidential elections same day. And what did I do with the N97 million? I had security committees in the local governments; I gave them N2 million each. And they put a commission of enquiry and invited all those who were committee chairmen, where is the N2 million governor gave them? Nobody said I didn’t’ give them; nobody said he brought any money to me. Of course, everybody gave his own explanation.


Newswatch: Kano State has been experiencing its share of security challenges as a result of the Boko Haram attacks. How has it affected economic activities and governance so far?

Kwankwaso:  I always tell people that right from the inception of this world, leadership was and is still facing its own challenges. There is no leadership in the world that is not facing one version of challenge or the other. If you go to the South-West, they have their own challenges, if you go to South-East, they have their own challenges, you go to South-South, they have their own, you come to the North we have our own. When we were coming in, we didn’t know the sort of security challenges we were going to face. Just like in 2001/2002 when Sharia came, we didn’t know the sort of security challenges we are going to face; in 2003 we found out that Hausas were being killed in the South- West and others. We had security challenges during our first term. We didn’t campaign to bring Sharia to Kano, I didn’t even think about it.  But when it came, it was a serious issue to an extent that it cost me my seat at that time because the sentiments were too much that Obasanjo was our candidate while Buhari was their candidate. They blocked the road to the voting venue and asked which one are you going to vote church or mosque? The security challenge is almost all over the North, but we are working very hard to stop it. We have always appealed to all those aggrieved persons including politicians to embrace peace. When it happened on the 20th of January, this year, we called everybody across parties. It is not the issue of parties, so many people in PDP, so many people in ANPP and other political parties, people who had no business in politics they were all there. The Emir was there, the district heads and we sat down at Africa House and discussed. We have always appealed to everybody to come up and discuss issues, let’s put issues on the table and see how we can resolve them. Otherwise, we will continue to have problems.


Newswatch: You are one of the few governors that didn’t create the office of the first lady. We want to know the reason behind your decision. Secondly, your deputy and majority of members of your cabinet are the same people you worked with during your first tenure. What is the secret of this cordial relationship?

Kwankwaso: Well, on the issue of the First Lady, I don’t think that it is in the constitution that governors or the president must have the Office of the First Lady. So, it is not something that we should be worried about, we should be worried about more serious issues. All I know is that I have a wife and my wife is, first of all, to Rabiu Kwankwaso and if you like, to the governor of Kano State. Why do we have ministry of women affairs? Why do we have ministry of agriculture and ministry of health and so on? They have their own responsibilities. You see everybody has got his own way of doing things, it is not for me to say that what others are doing is wrong, but I don’t believe that others will think that my own is wrong. My wife doesn’t go to any ministry; I don’t allow my commissioners to meet my wife for anything. In any case, if my wife has got a governor why would she worry a commissioner? If you want anything in government, tell me. She will also benefit as a Kano person. But creating an office like that is to me endangering the life of the woman. This business has challenges itself. There are some inbuilt risks, you need to be trained, and you need to be prepared for it. If you have people who have not been trained in the system like our wives, they may go and create one problem or the other for themselves. And sometimes, if the enemy cannot fell a tree, he still thinks of the branch or the leave. And that is why we should not give such opportunity. On the issue of deputy governor, he is somebody I know very well and somebody I have worked with for long. You see leaders should have big heart and my deputy has got a big heart and I think that I have got a big heart to accommodate our weaknesses to move together. You can throw away something and buy another one tomorrow; it is not the same with human beings. We have only one Dr. Ganduje in Kano State and in Nigeria and probably in the whole world today. If I made a mistake of making deputy governor, that mistake would have been in 1999, at that time I had the liberty to say no. We were there for four years and we went into elections in 2003 and we lost. He was also my SA when I was minister of defence. We had to keep on moving together and these are the secrets that kept us strong. Friendship is something that the two parties have to agree, it’s a sort of thing that you choose in life. You don’t choose your father; you don’t choose your mother, not even your child. But there are certain things that you must choose, one of them is friend. And it has to be mutual. Apart from the deputy governor, there are others like commissioners and it is very understandable. We have to build people not one, not two, so that if one decides to say bye bye, okay no problem, because you have others. And that’s why we keep on maintaining the team.  The only thing is that I am training them, everybody I go out to see what they are doing because they have to understand the rigour, not only that I want somebody to come here if I leave this office, I also want somebody who is competent, somebody who is capable. And it will be a big disservice to this state if I support anybody who will come and start un-doing what we have seen in eight years. We want people who will agree with our philosophy.


Newswatch: Businesses have now picked up in Kano compared to what it was early this year when many businesses were closed down due to insecurity. How did you manage the situation?

Kwankwaso: Kano is the centre of commerce and people in Kano really love peace because they know it very well that without peace there will be no business. And that was why when the attack on January 20, happened, of course people were shocked. But as that happened, immediately we put on 24 hour curfew, we later reduced it to 12 hours, and now six hours. And we are also considering ensuring that there is no curfew at all.  I am sure when you came you must have seen many check points, now as the situation is improving; we kept on reducing the number of check points. 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. The issue of security is very important to government because it is the number one priority to government and all governments across the world to provide security for its citizens. And I am happy to say that while people are working to ensure that there is security in Kano, at the same time we are calling everybody to come and work together with us in the interest of the state and the interest of the country. Kano has been the home of everybody in this country even beyond. And they all need peace. And in addition to whatever effort anybody is putting, Kano is not only the centre of commerce but also the centre of knowledge. And you know that if there is serious insecurity, people will leave, but once there is security I am sure people will be even happy to come back, other people who have not been to such places will like to go there. So ours is a collective responsibility, we are working with everybody to make sure there is peace in Kano State.


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