Before declaring his intention to contest for the position of President of Nigeria through the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), the Economic Confidential was granted an exclusive interview by the Executive Governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau on national problems and how he addresses some them in the state. He also states that his administration never borrow money from the banks for projects in the state .
What can you say about working in government?
Being in government, I knew there was need for public servants and citizens to change their attitudes to governance. I have to realize that people see government as an institution which is different from them. People don’t see themselves as part and parcel of government. They don’t see government problems as their own. This was the reason that you see most government properties get vandalized and the community doesn’t seem to care whether it is school, hospitals and others. When they see these properties being destroyed, they don’t care because they see them as government properties. So I felt my number one priority should be to address the attitude of the people. Not that the people do not know but you need to remind them by way of re-orienting them. And if you look at this, it is closely and directly related to the fundamentals of the scriptures. I had the vision to convince everybody whether a Christian or a Moslem to be godly in every respect. And now we have achieved peace in Kano, it is largely as a result of this sensitization of the people.
How would you describe the major problems in Nigeria?
I think everything is geared towards tribalism and sectionalism. We should be our brothers’ keepers and live harmoniously among ourselves. I believe some of the communal and ethnic clashes the country has witnessed are traceable to economic factors mostly between the so-called “indigenes” and “settlers”, and in some cases laced with religious connotations because the media painted them as such. The problem is that of economy; it is a mere coincidence that the `indigenes’ and the `settlers’ are either Muslims or Christians. Each state government should endeavour to engage and involve others people in their system to avoid frictions.
Have you done that in Kano as a governor?
A sizeable portion of the commercial activities in Kano as the Centre of Commerce is in the hands of traders from outside the state. In my administration, I have Nigerians from all parts of the country not only as civil servants but also as political appointees. I have Igbo, Yoruba, Igala, Niger Deltans among others in my cabinet working together as a team to develop Kano regardless of the fact that they are not from Kano state. In the past, there would be trouble in other parts of Nigeria, but reprisal attacks would be recorded in Kano. But when we came into office in 2003, we institutionalised a programme of societal re-orientation and change of attitude to end all ethnic and religious problems. This we did through opening the space for dialogue and understanding among all faiths. I advise people of all faiths to pave the way for dialogue and understanding, noting that such a measure bred mutual respect rather than mutual mistrust.
How are you able to address major developmental problems?
After serving as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water Resources, I realised that we needed a brand new waterworks far bigger than what we had. When I became the governor I implemented it by putting in place the biggest and modern water treatment station not only in Nigeria but in Africa. We added 150 million litres of water being pumped every day from just about 100 million litres we inherited which had been like that since 1932 to 2003 when I came. Another 75 million litres plant will soon be completed to have more than 300 million litres.
What efforts have you made about education, after all you were once a teacher?
I am still a teacher. The two major problems we have addressed are in getting qualified teachers as well as quality learning materials. In my first tenure, we recruited over 5,000 classroom teachers from merely 4,000 on the ground. From my experience, the problem is that most governments neglected the teachers’ aspect. They are more carried away by building more schools, expanding the schools, even the universities. They keep increasing the intake without commensurate employment and training of qualified teachers and lecturers. Teachers are the key to education the world over. We concentrated in providing instructional materials. We rehabilitated all the laboratories in our schools, built library facilities. Also, we bought our students copies of Mathematics and English texts free, because these are the key. In our universities now, if you don’t get Mathematics and English, you can’t get admission. In our tertiary institutions we also employed about 2,000 senior lecturers and we sponsored some of them for masters, some of them for PhD to raise the quality of the teaching so that when they come back, the quality of the teaching would be better.
Health is another sector that people believe require more attention. Has your administration done anything on that?
For many years the state government had placed embargo on employment in the state before I came in. I lifted the embargo and commenced mass employment of doctors and nurses to equip the hospitals. We have employed more than 5,000 workers including medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists, health technologists, and so on. We also improved our schools of nursing, midwifery and technologies. We have sent doctors for training abroad. We also decided to equip the existing general hospitals. If you go to Murtala Hospital now you will discover that right from the ground it is a totally different story. We have bought the most modern equipment like the X-ray machines and others for our hospitals. We increased the number of the female wards and maternity session. Above all, we commenced the construction of new hospitals. We establish a specialised Kidney and neurology centre as well as constructing the first ever paediatric hospital in the state and a block hostel at Aminu Kano teaching hospital for use of medical students.
How as the population affect your government?
When you have large population, you will have the problem of waste disposal because every individual generates refuse. So we had to set up a whole new agency called Refuse and Environmental Management Agency. When we came, the agency responsible for waste disposal had no more than 10-15 vehicles, but today they have nothing less than 200 vehicles. At a go we bought about 50 big vehicles for collecting refuse including tippers that load the vehicles. We have given orders for the construction of big buckets that will be placed at strategic locations where people will dump their refuse and a special vehicle will pick up the refuse. We employed 4,000 street cleaners and gave them brooms, rakes, shovels. At the end of the day, they sweep the streets and collect the refuse. That is for health.
It seems nothing is heard on Agricultural sector?
We actually came up with a programme of mass food production. We identified two or three key areas. One, to improve on the quantity of our food production, we must improve on the key element which is fertilizer. We commenced bulk purchase of fertilizer and greatly subsidized it in order for the farmers to have access to it. From 2003 to date, regardless of the continuous rise in the price of fertilizers, we have been selling for generous subsidy of N I ,000 per bag compared to market price. Before we came in, the total grain production in Kano was a little more than one million metric tons. By 2006/2007, we have put in four million metric tons. We are satisfied that we are making an increase. We collaborated with the Agricultural Research Institute of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, to help conduct more research and advanced seedlings which will give the farmers improved seedlings which will give them better yield and higher produce. This has contributed to higher production.
What of the problem of unemployment in the state?
There are many ways of tackling unemployment. In 2004 we introduced a youth empowerment scheme where we train 2000 youths annually on various skills. After their graduation we offer some grants to enable them start off in businesses they have learnt including bakery, carpentry, mechanic, tailoring among others. We initiated ICT programme by starting our fastest ICT Park. If you visit our gigantic building, it was a building meant to be the headquarters of an investment company some 30 years ago. But unfortunately, after they started erecting it, it was abandoned. All these years, no government gave attention to it in order to put anything there. We completed, renovated and converted it to our ICT Park. Many outstanding ICT outfits have subscribed to open offices here. Because of what we have done, the Federal Government has decided to locate the first ever ICT laboratory in Kano.
How much does your administration borrow to undertake some of those projects?
We don’t borrow. It’s all from the two sources: the Federal Account and the internally generated revenue (IGR). We decided to address the issue of internally generated revenue. We employed the services of consultants which improve our revenue drive. We don’t just execute projects. We do thorough planning before embarking on them to get value money. We also fight anti-corruption element that could be loophole to our vision so that our money will not go down the drain. That is why we don’t get stuck halfway in any project. Once we start, it moves on smoothly till we finish the execution.
Are you saying you don’t have abandoned projects?
We have never had any abandoned project to date due to planning and judicious management of resources and we don’t engage mushroom contractors. In fact our water project was commended by the United Nations that we must be excellent bargainers to get the best water industry contractors, internationally recognized one.
What have been the major problems in projects execution?
With due respect to all states in Nigeria, we have the resources, it doesn’t have to be sufficient, it will never be sufficient; but the abuses along the line take away over 50 percent of our resources. I am bold to say this that in the Federal, State and Local governments, there are lots of fraud and abuses, connivance with contractors. That is why we are having all these cases of people in government embezzling and amassing wealth, building houses, buying hotels, where did they get all these money from? A project of N 100miliion, they will shoot it up to N500million only to use the contractor to sap all these money and hide all these money somewhere overseas. The extra N400million would "have done four times more the job being done. The secret behind our little money doing so much is good planning and judicious management.
How far have your administrations gone in the area of Private-Public-Partnership?
While we decided to address the issue of commercial activities in the state, a new ultra-modern market is being constructed through the Public- Private-Partnership arrangement. We advertised, solicited for investors and bankers to do the financing, while we provided the land and some of the infrastructure. The Kanawa Market is a project of over N 15 billion. Coupled with this, we decided to introduce urban renewal roads. One of the purposes of redoing these roads is not only to beautify Kano State but to increase easy flow of traffic because time is money. If you allow the traffic, a journey of 15 minutes Second tenure will take two hours and you have wasted a lot of money. We decided to widen the roads so that people will move faster especially those doing business. It will improve health risks as in the case of a patient going for treatment, the patient may die on the road if there is traffic. After improving our environment, it will attract more people to come buy and sell in Kano because of the quicker movement. We are trying to introduce it to a smaller or medium level scale.
Could the business strive in the face of erratic power supply?
In PPP we provide lands and investors provide resources and expertise. We are working towards PPP too for the Independent Power Supply (lPP). We are working on a programme with the Chinese investor. We have paid our own bit for the provision of identifying the land where the power station will be located, we have given that free of charge. We have paid the seed money to take care of some expenses like logistics which is about N3.5billion which is just about 15 percent of the total cost. The investor will be the one to bring in the investment. Thereafter we will be talking about the generating and distributing of the power. This is another serious hurdle because you have to go through the various federal agencies which are not under our control. We are also discussing with other investors. Some are proposing to use our dams. Some are proposing to build wind mills to generate power. Some are proposing to use our refuse to convert them into energy. We are not closing up on all these. We may not do all of these between now and 2011. But I am sure 90 percent of it would have been done before the subsequent government will tidy up the remaining aspect.
Have you benefitted from the MDG fund?
We have done a number of projects through counterpart funding with MDG office in the Presidency. They decide the priority areas. They are into water supply and sanitation, particularly institutions. We have done a number of toilet constructions in many schools and rehabilitation of homes through the MDGs. They have just approved another grant to address the sanitation and water problem. We have already notified the Federal Government of our own commitment to place our own N1 billion to top it with their own N1 billion. Any moment from now, we are starting a project of about N2billion through the MDGs project of the Federal Government. We top the list of the states that are able to meet up the conditions laid down by the MDGs office meeting the conditions to make the releases.
Why are you aspiring to be President of the country?
My intention to run for the presidential race in 2011 on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) is not a matter of desperation. My ambition is not a do-or-die affair, but was inspired by the desire to serve humanity, against the concept of the PDP which stock in trade is to snatch power. I have decided to accept the challenge to participate in the democratic process of serving Nigerian citizens at the level of Presidency. My participation in serving humanity is beyond political party’s affiliation and boundaries, and is beyond mere winning of elections.