Masari: Nigeria Has Several Big Men But Few Leaders


Katsina State governor, ‎Aminu Masari has warned that Nigeria will remain perpetually underdeveloped unless good leaders are allowed to take charge, adding that with the right leadership, the available resources are enough to transform Nigeria. He spoke with select journalists in Katsina. Ibrahim Shuaibu was there and presents the excerpts:

How close are you to fulfilling your campaign promises?

We made promises during our campaign on five key areas. The last areas could not be achieved without the fourth one. We spoke about education, because education is our number one priority. Katsina was synonymous with education, and we made our name though education, we did not made that name because of oil . The first western type of school in Nigeria was established in Katsina. Prominent individuals in this country, especially from the north were either from Katsina or people who schooled in Katsina. But the position we found ourselves by 2014 was pathetic.

We were number 33 in both WAEC, and NECO performance examination index before we came on board. So without education you cannot go further anywhere. For the first time in decades, Katsina cannot compete within the nation, let alone compete globally. We have sons and daughters who made their names internationally, and they were all products of public schools. The question we asked ourselves is what went wrong? Ours is to restore the faded glory, and in doing so we need to make sure we visited all the primary schools in Katsina to have a situation report of all institutions and to establish the number of enrolment in all our primary school and in our secondary schools, to know the number of teachers, both qualified and unqualified ones, to know our deficit and work towards rehabilitating them, then employing teachers, teaching aids and teaching materials, training of teachers, bringing them up to date to teach in the 21st century.

We need to remind parents of their responsibilities. Parent must participate financially, physically in the development of their children. In the next world, the first question is how you manage the responsibilities of those trusted in your care. So it is your responsibility to train your child or children, government will only provide enabling environment, support you to do so. We have a situation where if your child leaves home for school, you don’t care to know if he has gone to school or elsewhere. That attitude is not acceptable. When we came on board, what we have was 5 percent of people passing exam with five credits in English and Mathematics.

What is the situation now?

I am happy to say that during the last exam, we introduced qualifying exams and it generated uproar. Before now, government was reckless, highly irresponsible in spending money, whereas you don’t have teachers, no teaching aids, and there are general low attendance in schools, and you have situation where classes that are supposed to contain 50 students had over a hundred. There are classes with 200 students, how do you expect magic from a teacher handling such class? We introduced qualifying exam, and introduced our benchmark, anyone that scales though will be sponsored by government to write WAEC or NECO, but if you fail, your parents have to come to the rescue.

We made it clear, where such student made a stunning performance in such exams, Government will make refund to the affected parents. that is how to provide leadership. In the fifties, parents paid school fees and as well paid examination fees, so if in 1960 parents were deeply involved in the educational development of their children, the question we should ask ourselves is that why should they be exempted now? We have a primary school here with over 4000 pupils, and the head teacher told us that in any Parent Teachers Association meeting, the best attendance is 100, mainly mothers, and over 4000 parents don’t care what happened to their wards. In this scenario, you have to change this attitude by providing the kind of leadership that will force them sit up to their responsibility.

Any result?

This has started yielding dividend going by the result of the last examination. We presented 21,000, out of which 11,000 qualified for our sponsorship to write both WAEC and NECO. Out of those we sponsored, about 3,300 obtained five credits that include both English and mathematics and above. The most interesting thing was that those that were edged out of government sponsorship due to poor performance during our qualifying exams , over 5000 passed, and we made a promised to refund , and we are paying back to the affected parents N75million. For those who sat , for NECO, we had 77 percent pass, and for WAEC, we got 70 percent pass, out of this percentages, surprisingly 48 percent came from public schools. In areas where we used to have five percent in the past. We all talk about fighting poverty, illiteracy; it is clearly evident that you cannot fight poverty without education.

and this education we are talking about is public education because 90 percent of the population attend public schools, and if you address this problem you have constructively addressed poverty. The purpose of providing basic education is that it guaranteed the beneficiaries the opportunities to be self employed. The population is here and the opportunity is here, if we continue to talk about the benefits of education, its endless, what you have been able to do with education is also endless, because in the primary education, no ward in about 361 in Katsina that we did not intervene in at least 5 schools.

Our intention is that by 2018, all our boarding secondary schools , girls in particular would have been comprehensive with everything, because if we leave behind a legacy in education, we would have achieved our mission on why we are here. We also believe that if you want to empower ordinary people or the middle class, you have to address people where they spend their earning. They spend their money on their children to attend private schools, if the public schools are improved, they will make great saving. With a responsible leadership our problem is solved.

How sir?

We have the highest population in term of poverty, illiteracy, and all the vices put together if you come to north-west. I think it is only north-east that is ahead of us on Boko Haram, and Islamic scholars going to the north east in search of knowledge were also part of the leadership and some of them are from here. We believe if we are able to get it right in the north west it will have positive impact in the whole of the country. The central key which we must all focus in this country is leadership. When we get it right , everything will fall in place.

How comes Katsina APC is factionalized under your watch?

People around here understand their motives knowing full well that in this part of the country it will be suicidal for anybody or group to attack the person or personality of Mr. President, but coming through the back door thinking that doing so will destabilize the party in his home state. In other states, the governors are leaders of the party, but in Katsina, I am not the leader of the party, because the president is here, but automatically what I am doing is holding forth for him.

So to discredit the president is to discredit the party. If these people are genuine and they mean well, if they had complaint since we have a leader, they should lay their complaint before him. The president is accessible to them, and people working with the president are also accessible to them, they would have channelled their complaints and their grievances either against me or the party or the government of Katsina state to the president, unfortunately, they chose to go the market place.

How were you able to cope in the face of dwindling finances?

It is not that the country is poor, it has never been poor and it is not even poor today but the country has shortage of people we called leaders at various levels, but big men are all over the places. We have big men in this country, and especially in this part of the world, we have big men, but few leaders. I do believe that the direction Mr President wants to take this country is the one that would produce leaders, not rulers. At this point of our journey to nationhood, we need leaders, not rulers, and I am sure with the right leadership; the little resources we have will be enough to take us to the promised land.

When people cry of no money, yes, we believe that if their is enough, it will be better, but when the country had the money, when the price of crude oil was $140 dollars per barrel. From 1999 to 2015, if you average the price of crude oil, you can put it at $100 dollar per barrel, what has been the achievement? You know that it was not about money, we had money but there was nothing to show for it. So the problems boil down to leadership. When China, and Indian started, it was rough, but let’s ask ourselves, where are these on the scale of development? You will agree with with me that our problem is not about oil money. When we fought the civil war, there was no oil, and Nigeria did not borrow to execute the war. The central issues is about leadership. Poor leadership is our major problems.

You mean leadership is our major problem?

Yes, if you have good leadership, the leaders will be able to maximise the little resources at their disposal for the benefit of the citizens, and in my honest opinion our major problem is leadership. If you solve the problem of leadership, you would have achieved great things for this country. When it is rosy, and juicy everybody becomes an expert and hero of somewhat description, but when it is difficult that is when real leaders emerge.

Look at Saudi Arabia today, the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia did not had formal education, but he provided the leadership and established the country on a sound footing, he could not even sign his name. So also the leader of United Arab Emirate, he was a man from the desert who united seven emirates to have a powerful UAE. He did not go to Harvard neither was he at Oxford.

He did not attend any formal school, but he provided leadership to his country, and even if you take a blind man to Abu Dahbi today, or other emirates you will know that there was a leader here who put in a foundation for his country. The man died hundred of years ago but he will continue to be remembered. In a nutshell, it is not how long you live but how well you live. if we work towards producing the right leadership, we have the potentials, and the human resources to move our country to a greater height not only for the benefits of Nigerian alone but for the benefit of the black race as a whole because there is no country that is heavily populated with black people like Nigeria.

It is not that the country is poor, it has never been poor and it is not even poor today but the country has shortage of people we called leaders at various levels, but big men are all over the places.