Assessing the sixth year of Governor Aminu Bello Masari’s administration, can you say he has done a lot for the state?
First of all, the answer can clearly be seen from the outcome of the second term election, the past four years were very eventful. The governor came with a lot of promises based on the electioneering campaign: in education, agriculture, security, youth empowerment and water. Primarily I believe given the situation in the country, especially in terms of resources, he was able to achieve a lot to the appreciation of the electorate. That is why in the last election, he made history as it has never been done anywhere that the second term result is in terms of vote more than the first term poll.
If you remember, we won the 2015 election with about 900 plus votes. But the second term election, we won with over 1.3 million votes, which means the electorate appreciated what the governor did and they showed appreciation by coming out in numbers to vote for him again. I believe that settles part of your first question because the past four years though the resources were low compared to the year we came, we were able to achieve quite a lot in the areas mentioned earlier.
Many schools were newly constructed, some were renovated and teachers recruited and promoted. Some were allowed to go on study leave and hospitals were upgraded while others were renovated across the state including the seven old local governments. We have provided water and fertilisers at cheaper rates compared to what was sold before. We de-politicised the distribution and farmers irrespective of their political parties, were encouraged to access fertiliser as well as other agricultural inputs. Agricultural experts were invited to advise those that can purchase their produce, so also water and security. I remember from 2001 up to the later part of 2019, Katsina was very peaceful, coupled with dialogue with the bandits on amnesty. We had relative peace for almost two years.
Unfortunately, what was happening in neighbouring states turned out the way it is. So also youth empowerment; the government introduced so many programmes in the governor’s office under my supervision in the women and Youth Ministry. And also an agency was specifically created to encourage not only the youth but our business community to access farms. In some cases, state government takes care of the interest on loan on behalf of the business community. The bakers association, the motor and welders among others enjoyed this kind of things.
Also women were not left out. Roads were also constructed in various local governments linking the state with neighbouring states. We gave out scholarships to students in Sudan, Morocco. We honoured that arrangement and made sure they finished, all this we tried and met a lot of liability on gratuity. We paid about N12 billion in gratuities, and were able to be up to date on pension. If you are here you will know of our prompt payment of salary. So, honestly the state government has, despite the fact it largely depends on the federal allocation been able to achieve much.
The people appreciated us by re-electing us with high votes. These two years 2019 to date, we are still moving to maintain the tempo but we all know what the situation is about in the country. Many states are not even paying salaries, more or less talking about capital projects and so on. But still in Katsina, we continue to pay salary and pension and at the same time continue to run the government, certainly not as we want it. But you know that before we came, from 1999 to 2014, there was no time a barrel of oil was sold below $100, in fact it was even sold at $140.
How has the state government curbed the incessant insecurity in the state?
Let us understand clearly that the issue of security is solely the responsibility of the federal government. Going by the constitution, there are security agencies that control them. They are supposed to provide them with fighting equipment. The state government only supplements with logistics, they can‘t even take command from the state governor. Under normal circumstances, he doesn’t command them, we should understand this.
So, no matter what the state government decides to do, it cannot be achieved without the cooperation of the federal government. We are having this problem, we believe this situation could have been better handled if there is good understanding and synergy between the governments concerned, that is, the states involved: Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Kebbi, Niger and Sokoto and even Niger Republic. There must be very good understanding and working relationship with very clear focus on what to do.
Also, security agencies must work together, especially the ground and the air forces. So these conflicting policies: some will tell you kinetic and some governors will say dialogue, while some will disagree. Sometimes, measures are taken in Katsina and nothing done in other states and the bandits are the same. Eighty per cent of these bandits are coming from Zamfara. To me, this is something that can be better handled if the security agencies sit down and work together with leadership. Unfortunately, the new Chief of Army Staff is dead, but we hope whoever is coming will pick up and change.
We told the former IG it will not work, these people are bandits with no common leader, no one to dialogue with them or talk on behalf of the rest. Some are in groups of 100, and 50. How do you negotiate with a thief? You can only stop them from it and after that what else? Will they stop doing what they are used to? We tried to negotiate with them and we saw how faulty it was. So, honestly the issue is for all of us to come together including the local community, those who assist the bandits, some transact with them, provide their needs and some even go to court to bail them and provide them with information on how to kidnap.
What is your take on the call for restructuring and ban on open grazing?
It is only in Nigeria that we keep doing one thing for 100 and 200 years. We have to be realistic. You can even do better if you stay in a place and adopt the modern system where you find a cow gives you 25 litres of milk, while the old system needs more cows to give you that. A state I visited in the US, that is North Carolina, I was made to understand that there were more pigs than human beings in that state, but I didn’t see a single pig throughout my stay. The only time I saw, was a very big truck loaded with pigs in cages and when we visited another farm. These things cause hardship, accidents on highways and invade peoples‘ farms. It also causes crises that lead to clashes. This issue should have been dealt with long ago, but unfortunately in Nigeria, we tend to politicise everything. Once something comes from Mr A, Mr B will look at it from the political aspect that he doesn’t like me and this issue has been since Nigeria came into being, so why can‘t we change it?
The federal government talked about RUGA and the people misinterpreted it, and the best thing is the federal government project, but people thought they wanted to destroy their communities. We should evaluate a situation before making comments; it is good to say your opinion but let it be informed.
On the issue of restructuring, it depends on where we are looking for restructuring. To me, I want to have a full federation system. What we are getting and most of the responsibility of the federal government is shouldered by the state. Take for instance the security situation. State governments are spending and the federal government is not spending on a particular state. And for now, the federal government is in Abuja and determines how much the state government should be paying its staff. I think it is wrong. So, these are some of the things I believe we need to look at so that when we say we are operating a federal system, the state government should be autonomous, because whatever you do the federal government does not add a dime to your allocation. When there is any project, the states are made to finance it, and we say we are operating a federal system. So, honestly I have no objection to this because it will make people stand out and ensure that they work to get the most out of our mineral resources, the only thing we are harnessing to the benefit of the state.
In this state, if you know the kind of things we have underground in terms of gold, but because of the system, the federal government has control over the resources. So, you find most of those who explore and take these things away are not in the jurisdiction of the state government, and they get peanuts. So, let us look at this and see what is right that we can do that is reliable and realistic.
The administration of Governor Masari has two years to go, what should people expect in the remaining years?
My expectation is that APC will continue to win based on our works and I have no doubt that APC will continue in Katsina and even at the federal level. I want Katsina to have a change of focus in terms of what we have just discussed, ways of harnessing its resources for the benefit of the people. If the same situation continues, you cannot do anything, so we want a situation where the people and the state government will use the resources for the good of the state. We need to increase revenue, as bright ideas and commitment to the development of the state are not possible without revenue and resources.
There is a need to sensitise and mobilise to see the necessity for the state to generate internal revenue, not to over-tax as there are a lot of other ways.
Secondly, we will have projects targeted to provide for human development, youth, agriculture, and infrastructure and to provide an enabling environment for the people to sustain and maintain their way of life. We should encourage our community to invest in areas that people will benefit from, because the government alone cannot provide all the water, school and infrastructure. So, we need to encourage our people to invest their money and make profit through other areas.
There must be a radical departure from the system we are operating. We have to tell ourselves the truth, we need a very good plan for our future generation. We have large number of children whose future we do not have a plan for. In fact, all these criminalities are as a result of these issues. Some of these bandits are young people simply because they felt the society, parents and neighbours have abandoned them, as such they have no sympathy. It is important we have that understanding, it may not be easy but as a leader you have to ensure that you do that. You may be unpopular when you do it, but it is a foundation for the future, and bad leaders will leave behind bad legacies. All we have now is as a result of previous bad leaders.
What is your message to the people of Katsina State?
We appreciate their patience and understanding. They should continue to have an understanding of the situation. This is their government which they voted for massively, and that is why we listen to them at all times even though we cannot provide for their needs because of the situation. If you look at what is happening from 1999 till date, there was no government that directly and positively impacted on the lives of the ordinary man especially the rural people, even in terms of infrastructure. So, let our people understand that the government is willing to attend to their needs; let them continue to pray for peace and harmony and pray for an improved economic situation in the state and the globe.
Invite for a public hearing and hear from the people and see if we are achieving what we need to achieve. Look at these things devoid of tribal and other sentiments. And even in terms of production, we should be able to do what is expected since we have the land, weather and all we need so that Nigeria as a country can grow and not as Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and Fulani. Let‘s see how we can benefit together just like America. They are all Americans. Nigeria should be like that, so that even the younger ones can rule just like in America and other European countries.
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