Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari recently spoke to journalists in his office on the journey so far as well as the predicament of his predecessor, Ibrahim Shema, who is currently standing on corruption allegations, describing it as a huge lesson in leadership.Ibrahim Shuaibu presents the excerpts:
How much success have you recorded in containing cattle rustling in the state and the entire North West?
Well, you see, the process started way back in 2015, when we came on board. When we came in, it was at the highest point of insecurity, especially affecting nine of our local government that borders the forest areas up to Zamfara. First of all, we realised that the forest extended to Zamfara, Kebbi, Kaduna and Niger on this side, and we realised also that no one state can deal with the situation decisively except with the cooperation of other bordering states, because if we operate against the cattle rustlers in Katsina State on this side, they will just run into Kaduna, Kebbi or Niger State.
So, we the five states – that is Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Kebbi and Niger – decided initially to meet in a common approach, because all the military formations are under Kaduna State. So, we all agreed among ourselves to sit with the military, the Air force, the customs (because they have helicopters they use for air surveillance), over the roles they play to combat smuggling, including the civil defence in order to identify and point out where the cattle rustlers are in the forests. So, after that meeting, we informed the president, who also directed the service chief, including the Chief of Defence Staff and the Head of Service. We sat with them and we agreed and Kaduna operation started last year.
After that, we now decided that every state should come together and re-enforce all our security outfits. The joint security outfits were now mandated to start patrolling the trouble spots. So, after reaching a certain level, we now realised that we cannot permanently station the army and the police in the forests. The only thing was for us to negotiate. Lucky enough for us, the person that emerged as the chairman of the task force was the leader of Miyeti-Allah in Kaduna State (a Fulani man), an enlightened and educated person, who speaks the language and knows the culture.
He facilitated the meetings between us and the cattle rustlers. From the initial meetings, we learnt a lot. We learnt that over 95% of those in the forests are the criminals. They took up arms to defend themselves. Because when we came in, no Fulani man could cross the road, no Fulani woman could come to the market because they will be killed or slaughtered like chicken or animals. So, they ran into the forest, took up arms to also defend themselves. So the criminal elements among them capitalized on that. But there are some of them that have been in the forest for a very long time and they’ve never come out, though they are not criminals; they are not part of those that are raiding villages, killing and maiming.
We now came up with the confidence-building. Though it took some time, as some of them took the courage, came out up to Katsina. We agreed that there is no better way than peace, because they are living in bondage in the forest. They have no access to school, no access to hospital, no access to market, the watering pumps, the dams and bridges in the forest have broken down. As for them, it was an opportunity to come out.
If you go to those communities now, you will observe that life has returned there – people are going about their normal businesses; and normal cordial relationship has been re-established among the warring communities and the economic life of the communities has changed for the better. So, right now what we are working for is maintaining and sustaining the peace in those communities and I believe that we will be able to tackle the issue of herdsmen and farmers conflict.
Going forward, which other area of concern do you intend to tackle as a state with almost equal zeal?
I think education is one of the cornerstones of our agenda. You know, lack of education is partly responsible for what has happened between the herdsmen and the vigilante, who are protecting the community. You see, if there is sufficient and qualitative education, even if it is up to secondary school level, we wouldn’t have the escalation that we experience today. I remember there was a day former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was in Katsina, and there was an incident of herdsmen and community clash in Faskari which claimed the lives of over 200 people.
I think if we address the issue of education seriously, we would have done a lot. Apart from education, there must be access to health facilities. There should also be access to potable water. Another critical issue is agriculture. You know, the beauty of agriculture is that whatever the farmer sells goes to his pocket; whatever the livestock holder has goes to his pocket. So, if you want to empower the rural community, empower them on agriculture. That is the major difference between money from agriculture and money from oil because if say okay produce oil and sell it to ourselves, you find out that it is not possible and the oil money doesn’t go to that ordinary person, it goes to the multi-national oil companies and we end up with royalties.
So, if you want to address the problem of Nigeria, you have to start with education. The consequence of insurgency is lack of education. In the North East, we have Boko Haram because there is lack of education, which contributed to the failure of the institutions. Ninety-nine per cent of Boko Haram insurgents were neither literate in Islamic or Western education, because if they were, they will know that that type of Jihad is not normal. The same thing with the Fulani herdsmen, where you have hundreds of thousands of children in the forest, and these children don’t go to school. They are stark illiterate and they begin to behave like the cattle in the forest and in return, they unleash their anger on the population.
What do you reckon as solution to the leadership crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress in the North West?
You see, I think you watch this wildlife documentary. You know, when Lion or Tigers are chasing a prey, everybody will see it; when the prey is down or is being killed, then, in terms of eating the meat, there will be serious quarrel among them and even those who are not participants like the Hyenas and the wild dogs that are not participants in the killing will come. So, the bigger ones among them, will always carry the meat and run away. If it is Leopard, it will take part of his own and climb the tree. But if that meat is not available, you will not see any of them fighting. They fight is because there is something to fight for, and that is why they are fighting.
And again, there are two things that you have to accept. One, the fact that there are some problems that are historical and two, I think there is a jinx in Kano, which we are hoping the current leadership will break in the future, because they were together since 1999 and I don’t think Kwankwaso or Ganduje can build any political alliance that will last to the time they have lasted. 1999 to 2015 is not a joke, and I seriously doubt if they can build such political alliance that can last for over 16 years with anybody. So, their political lives and careers are inter-twined.
So, we thought with this political marriage and deep understanding between Kwankwaso and Ganduje, the political jinx in Kano would have been broken, because Malam Aminu Kano fell out with the late Abubakar Rimi, from then on, that of Sabo Barkinzuwo didn’t last more than three months. During the NRC and SDP, Kabiru Gaya parted ways with his people like Abba Dabo, his former SSG. The crack was visible. Kwankwaso came in 1999 and parted ways with Musa Gwadebe and others. So, when Shekarau came, with all what General Muhammadu Buhari did for him, they fell apart in ANPP.
Kwankwaso in PDP and he fell out with the PDP again and joined the new PDP, later APC. So, we thought that at least this time, having been together for a long time, the jinx would have been broken. But we are working behind the scene to see how we can bring the two of them together so that they can stop what they are doing to themselves because the energy the government is spending, the energy Kwankwaso is spending, that energy could have been used for the development of Kano better than what is happening presently.
The same goes for Kaduna. Kaduna you know is an amalgamation of various political groups that formed APC and these are the groups that are not really united. The groups are not united and the groups are the ones that produced the current governor (Nasir El-Rufai), which foundation has been the CPC and those in more of the opposition and new entrants from the new PDP, and those of the ACN and those of the ANPP. I think the inter-play in the political circle in Kaduna is more between these groups. So, really, you can see there is a slight difference between that of Kano and Kaduna.
Looking at travails of your predecessor who has been facing charges by the EFCC for misappropriation of state funds, what have you done to bring back sanity and transparency in the finance of the state?
You see, what is happening to the former governor (Ibrahim Shehu Shema) today is a lesson to us all that are in office today. The same people who were clearing ways and road for him to pass are the same people who are blocking his way to freedom. I think this is a real lesson for our leaders. It is a lesson to leadership. It is not something that one should laugh at. But certainly, we as Nigerians, we have to draw a line – there is a certain level that we cannot descend. We should listen to the voice of wisdom, especially those outside the government, because those working directly with you or under you may not have the courage to tell you the truth.
They will hardly look you in the face and tell you the truth. For me, I like the truth no matter how bitter it is. Truth itself doesn’t hide, but the way it is said because there is a way which my messenger can come and advise me, and there are ways which if he comes and talk to me, I will consider it. So, it is the ways and means of how you tell the truth that matters. I always say this: it is not truth that is the problem but how it is said. As leaders, we should try to answer that word leader, because a leader means one that is in the front and others are following – whether in character or conduct or behavior or attitude – that is a leader. The problem we have today is that there are so many rulers, not leaders. Rulers are all over the place, but leaders are difficult to find.
What is happening to the former governor (Ibrahim Shehu Shema) today is a lesson to us all that are in office today. The same people who were clearing ways and road for him to pass are the same people who are blocking his way to freedom. I think this is a real lesson for our leaders. It is a lesson to leadership. It is not something that one should laugh at. But certainly, we as Nigerians, we have to draw a line – there is a certain level that we cannot descend