The Gubernatorial Interview

Kano State Governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje, at a recent interaction with journalists, said he was not bothered about the ranting of the new PDP chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff because if his antecedents were anything to go by, he will still come back to work for the ruling APC. He also spoke about the efforts of the state to diversify in the face of the prevailing economic challenges and sundry other issues. Onyebuchi Ezigbo brings the excerpts:

What effort is your government making to diversify the economy in the face of the dwindling revenue from oil?

On the efforts at diversifying Kano State’s economy, I told you that in agriculture, we have taken three areas that we have comparative advantage – the production of wheat, rice and tomatoes – and in all these, we have people that are ready to partake. People are ready to purchase; the farmers are ready and we are providing an enabling environment. What we have discovered is that agriculture should not be limited to rainy season alone and therefore, we are utilising our dams.

We have over 24 dams in the state and we are using them for irrigation. Just last week, I distributed 5,000 water pumps and we distributed them to the actual farmers because I told you that it is our point of duty to visit all the irrigation clusters and in process. I measure the size of the farmers by geo-hyping and tagging the farmer, so every farmer, who is involved in the cluster we know the size of his farm, we know the amount of fertilizer he requires, amount of insecticide he is requiring.

Also, we have reinstated our fertilizer blending company. It is now working 24 hours. We have spent over N500 million. I told the Minister of Agriculture that the fertilizer we are producing is much better than any fertilizer that is being imported because the fertilizer we are producing is based on the chemical nature of the soil in Kano State.

I can assure you, that we have rice millers now and I was surprised when we visited one of the rice millers and one lady came from Lagos looking to purchase 50 trucks of rice but the company could only provide 25 and another came from Enugu looking for 30 trucks but the man said he could only give 10 trucks. He has the market and any farmer, who has produced rice or wheat, he is ready to buy. So you see how farming is becoming lucrative and very soon, we are aiming at establishing rice pyramid which will replace groundnut pyramid in Kano and I will invite you for the launching of the rice pyramid in Kano.

Hides and skin is a very important economic activity in Kano. In fact, we have the highest number of activities on hides and skin. I have met with the stakeholders and what we agreed was to establish modern abattoirs in Kano so that we kill a lot of birds with one stone. First of all, there is the issue of sanitation and secondly, there is the issue of production of quality leather because the local way which cattle were slaughtered gives low quality leather which can’t be exported.

So, we have identified a piece of land and we are looking for developing partners that will invest in it. But more importantly, we are looking for partners in order to have a modern abattoir in Kano that will produce very good leather and we will be selling meat instead of taking cow from the Northern part of the country to Lagos.

We will use the blood, the leather, bones and even the horns which are all of economic importance. Like I said, I plan to kill so many birds with one stone. We collected two types of bailouts. The infrastructure as we have a number of uncompleted structures.

In fact, we have over N200 billion to be paid as liability and we have collected only N10 billion which is given to all the states of the federation and the money is not loan as such because it is what the governors have been contributing but it is still loan but with a very low interest rate.

We didn’t collect for salaries because we have been paying salaries but we collected for gratuity and we are paying what has been accumulated in terms of gratuity and pension and what is being taken from the federation account every month is not much compared to what we generate internally.

Is there a plan to cut down on salaries?
If you look at the philosophy behind the minimum wage, it wasn’t because Nigeria had too much money that salaries of workers were increased; it was because workers were still suffering. In Kano State, we don’t intend to reduce the salaries of workers; what we do is that we use our cost to generate revenue. We use them to help us fish out what we are supposed to collect from the rich people and that in itself will be a way to sustain us and we are trying very hard and we have told them that we are not reducing their salaries.

What has your administration done about security, especially as regards protection of non-indigenes?
On the issue of security of the Igbo community, the Yoruba community and any other tribe in Kano, our aim is to carry them along and I will like to inform you that two months ago, we started an interface conference which was televised live and it consists of all nationalities, all religious groupings and we will continue to coexist. I have constituted an interface committee, where there will be meeting from time to time.

Also, to show that those who are staying with us in Kano, especially those living in Sabongari, I made it a point of deliberate policy to provide some facilities in Sabongari. Right now, we are constructing a new road there and very soon we will start constructing another in ‘Igbo road’. I was there and the celebration was very high. In fact, I no longer call them non-indigenes; I call them indigenes of Kano State with primordial claims from where they came from. That is their new designation. They are not foreigners; they are also indigenes of Kano State.

What effort is your government putting in place to ensure that Kano State returns to its original position in terms of standards in education?

Falling standard of education is an issue all over the nation. Quality is always challenging quantity and in Kano State, we are doing very well. We have involved inspectorate group which is in charge of quality control to ensure that standard is maintained but you know, maintaining standard takes a lot of time before it is noticed. So, I can’t precisely tell you that in terms of statistics that the standard has gone from this level to this level. It is something that will take a lot of time; something that will take a lot of input – the quality of the teachers also matters. The instructional materials matter. There are so many variables we have to put in place and we are doing that.

How is the state faring in terms of IGR?
We had a lot of oil money during the last administration and at that time, we didn’t emphasise on internally generated revenue but they say necessity is the mother of invention. Now that we are in a necessity, we are now inventing and I can tell you that before, we could hardly get N1 billion as internally generated revenue, but I assure you now that we have over N2 billion because some of the initiatives are just being put in place by technical advisers. Some are to collect money from landed properties, some from rented properties, some from vehicles and some from registration of business premises.

We have taken all the sectors and put technical advisers and they are working hard to see how we will increase the internally generated revenue in Kano. On the issue of local governments’ autonomy, we always meet with them and whatever we have for them are given to them. But one thing is that some of them can’t even pay salaries, so we have to augment what they are doing. So, it isn’t only the autonomy that matters but autonomy and augmentation.

I think now in Nigeria, it is called modern autonomy because if you are relying only on autonomy some of the local governments will shut down and it is something you have to work together to generate revenue and you give them what is their entitlement according to the constitution and also, if they are in trouble, you bail them out.

What is the state of the Almajiri schools now? Have they added value to the development of education in the state?
The last federal government introduced it but the plan is not well articulated. In fact, I could say it was a wrong policy. For example, in my village, we have these schools with only 50 students and in Kano we have over three million Almajiris. Creation of an Almajiri School is abnormal. Who will like to be tagged Almajiri? Is it that after completing your studies your certificate will be tagged Almajiri and later in life you will be called a graduate of Almajiri School?

What we are doing is integration. The Almajiris are being integrated into the normal school system and from our investigation most of the Almajiris in Kano came from other parts of the Northern states and from Chad and Niger. So we have concluded that the Almajiri Schools should be integrated into the normal school and any Mallam, who is coming with over 200 hundred children from another state should allow the children to be integrated in the school or he should take his children back to his state.

I think that is a more sustainable idea rather than building schools. How many schools can you build? It is difficult! So, it is better you integrate it. I wrote a letter to Mr. President and I told him the statistics of the Almajiris and I told him the method we have taken but that will require a lot of money because you need more infrastructure, more teachers, more materials for teaching and so on but that is a starting point.

What’s the relationship between you and your predecessor like?
Definitely, there is a good relation between the former governor and me. We met 30 years ago and it wasn’t only in governance that we met; we met outside in others spheres. I was his deputy for 14 years. There are two things that are really important. First, you know the roles of sycophants from his side and my side that will like to benefit if we have problems but we have been talking. Second, no two individuals are the same.

Even identical twins have differences in their emotions, psychology and the way they interrelate with others.
This is a natural thing. The style may not be the same but the objective may be the same and to some, a change of style may be a challenge, not agreeing with the former system but that is not so. If you put these two things in mind, sometimes, you find things happening here and there but I assure you we are together; we are still building what we had before.

If I criticise him that means I am criticising myself but that doesn’t mean if I fine-tune things, the other man was wrong. If I consolidate that doesn’t mean the other man was wrong. The economy has changed, the price of oil has dropped and do you think business as usual can continue? When circumstances change, definitely there must be a change in the management of public affairs.

The last administration allegedly accumulated a lot of debts in the state. Can you let us into these debts and how you have been coping with it?
When we were in government together, we had a lot of money and we started a lot of mega projects that couldn’t be completed. We had a lot of debts but having debt is not a crime because whatever we expended is in public interest and it is my responsibility to complete all the abandoned projects. In fact, I have given instruction to that effect. There are some projects abandoned during the administration before Kwankwoso and I came in.
Two mega hospitals were abandoned for over 10 years and now we have started to complete those projects. Many rural roads were abandoned for almost 10 years now. I have taken time to complete them. I don’t believe project should be abandoned, especially infrastructure because when the project was proposed, it was undertaken in public interest and it is a waste if we don’t do that.

What is your government doing about the fight against corruption?
I established the Public Corruption Complaints and Anti-corruption Committee. I directed that apart from his office, all local government areas – the 44 of them – must work with him on public complaints and anti-corruption and the supervision of the main office in the state. Most local government areas have opened their offices and in a short time, all the offices will be opened all over the state. Also, we have complaint boxes. This is the extent we have gone in terms of fighting corruption.

What are you doing to help them curb the high intake of drugs in the state? There was a disturbing report recently that Kano has the highest number of youth drug addicts in the country?
Drug addiction is related to illegal sales of drugs. Kano State is a commercial state and it is more than a commercial centre in the North. It is also an international commercial centre in West Africa today and you see the drug trafficking business flourishes there. We have the taskforce checking the influx of illegal drugs almost every week and the Commissioner of Police is working very hard. Many arrests have been made and in the last administration under my former governor, he was the one, who established this taskforce and we have been supporting the task force and they have been working very hard.
For those youths who are drug addicts, we have established a reformative school, where we have medical doctors, welfare officers, psychologist and we take these addicts to the place after detoxification. We teach them some skills and on graduation, we empower them. In being a mega city this has continued to be a major burden.

What about mainstreaming gender in your administration?
The issue of gender in developing country like Nigeria, from my experience doesn’t mean that the number of women that you give appointment determines the improvement and quality of life of women but it is the strategy that you adopt that improves their lives. We have appointed a woman anyway, but I will tell you that it is not the target. If you appoint a woman commissioner, do you think that woman commissioner will work for only women? If you appoint a woman as a Permanent Secretary will she only be Permanent Secretary for women?
In order to improve the quality of lives of women under the new administration, the Commissioner for Women Affairs has organised a conference for women. We invited the market women, we invited the women lawyers, we invited women doctors, women industrialists and we invited women from different sectors of the economy.
They brain-stormed on how we can improve the living standards of women in Kano State and I think that is more important than the flowery approach of appointing women in office and telling them I have appointed one of you and the question is, so what? Because our quality of life hasn’t improved but holistically, we are also conscious that they should be represented in governance so that they can give hope to the women as well and we are doing that.

How do you take the threat by the newly appointed National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Modu Sheriff to wrest power from APC in 2019?
I don’t like to engage in crossfire but I will like to tell you that it is the normal utterances of those who will want to impress his followers but I believe it is an empty threat. Looking at the history of the chairman himself, he is given to cross-carpeting. He is always changing from one party to another. Even when he was in ANPP for eight years, he was working for PDP and the APC started with him and then he went back with PDP and in the long run, he will work for us. That is what I believe. We are happy because we believe in the long run, he will work for us. Find out his history and you will believe me.

In view of the security problems facing the country, what is your take on the calls for the establishment of multi-level police system otherwise called the state police?
In the situation we find ourselves, I think there is no better time for state police than now because the security at the moment involves a lot of intelligence gathering. It involves people, who are familiar with the society, with the traditions and with the culture. They are in a better position to assist in terms of surveillance, in terms of collecting information, in terms of being effective. So, I feel that state police is something that should be considered.