Katsina State as Metaphor



It is the home state of the President and Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces. But it appears to be neither safe, nor capable of guaranteeing the safety of its chiefs and their subjects. It is one of the most raided, most vandalised and most traumatised by bandits and sundry miscreants. Local economies have collapsed, in the face of the relentless, unchallenged and barefaced onslaught of opportunistic criminality. It is the state where a traditional ruler who is related to persons holding the highest offices in the land was kidnapped and held hostage for months, until he was finally let go after a ransom was paid. It has been a long tale of very depressing references, amidst claims that much of the current problems should be blamed on the immediate past governor.

Then, just two weeks ago, a group known as The Indigenous People of Katsina called on the federal government to “urgently declare a state of emergency in the state, following the high level of insecurity in Katsina State.”

Interestingly, the group in question is said to be based in Abuja. Baffling, isn’t it; that Katsina Youth Vanguard should float an “indigenous” platform in Abuja, complain about wanton killing of innocent people in the state and aver that the state government could no longer guarantee the safety of the people; and of the environment? Perhaps they use correspondents and liaison officers to maintain their indigeneship, while operating from their base in Abuja. This is all so untidy and clearly indicative of a socio-political quagmire that is replicated in nearly every state of the federation. It is not about region, zone, or political party affiliation. It never has been anyway. Look wherever you may, the story is the same.

Public office holders are heavily weighted in entitlements and privileges, but barely have anything to show in terms of service to the people. Have you heard anyone talk about cutting down the confounding entitlements of our lawmakers, to save money because of the COVID pandemic? Has the dispute with doctors and others been resolved? What are the real issues in the FG/ASUU controversy? How much is involved in the ongoing trade disputes that the federal government cannot afford, if only it will prioritise appropriately? Whose life has been impacted for the better because of the hundreds of billions of naira miraculously distributed to the allegedly poor? What has improved in medical services, after four full months of a global emergency? Which hospitals have improved? Why are medical personnel yet to be properly provided for at a time like this? Has power supply, internal security, public transportation, or anything whatsoever, improved commendably?

And our state governments have been preparing and “implementing” budgets since 1999. Pray, what do we have on the table? Who says that the PDP has any exceptionally elevated moral right to criticise the current government that is running its tried and tested template for leadership irresponsibility? Well, we must admit that the current government is a little tad more robust in the display of incompetence. Its inability to operate smoothly and successfully deceive us into believing that it is doing a lot, is one area in which it has clearly underperformed when compared with the PDP. Thus, the APC’s public bungling puts its to shame for reasons other than the presumed superior capacity of the PDP. But we are digressing.

Let us recall that the Government of Katsina State reached a ceasefire agreement with bandits some time ago. What are the dividends of that agreement, if any? I think nothing. It should have been obvious from the start that nothing would be achieved, anyway. This very point was made on this page on November 20, 2019, under the title: “Masari’s Appeal to bandits.” The question asked in the above article, which can also now be addressed to Mr. President and many others is: “Can national security be guaranteed by an agreement with bandits, marauders and sundry predatory forces operating outside the bounds of rationality and preying upon the state?” The point made then, which is also still valid is: “It is good governance, an enlightened citizenry and strong institutions of state that could create the right mix of variables to ensure sustainable national security. Wherever these variables are missing, the state is forced to invest more in the instruments of coercion than in real developmental projects. It is in such situations that public office holders are forced to measure their success as leaders by looking at their respective expenditure headings, rather than actual improvement in the things that matter. Once ad-hoc, jaundiced and puerile engagements are celebrated as feats of uncommon achievement, leadership is in grave and conspicuous decline.”

The last quote above captures our national circumstance today. The appeal, late last year, by Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State to bandits in his state, to keep to the terms of their peace deal, was at once a puerile, empty and roundly incomprehensible approach to statecraft. It all sounds like the equally embarrassing and repetitive “directives” of the president to the armed forces and security agencies, instructing them to end the insurgency in the land. It is like the repeated reports of how Mr. President is “saddened” by the killings and wanton brigandage everywhere. As I asked in the aforementioned article: “Should a state governor negotiate with bandits and make such negotiation public? Should pictures taken during such negotiations be proudly displayed, to show that the government is “working”? Is law and order, or belief in the supremacy of the state, likely to be strengthened by a public display of armed criminals wielding banned assault rifles and cheerfully posing in a photograph with the supposed chief security officer of a state? How will the bandits who have agreed to suspend operations sustain themselves, other than by scaled down banditry or state ransom? And is this a sustainable template for survival and development?

As things stand today, Katsina State has become a metaphor for the helplessness, unclear trajectory and reprehensible in competence of the Nigerian State. Like the federal government, the state is rumoured to be doing a lot. Like the federal government, the state government has made several appeals to the people and also called on the armed forces and security agencies to “fish out the miscreants” and end the nonsense going on everywhere. The challenge, however, is how to move from speech making to concrete action. Again, as I said on this page “…Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Dr. Michael Opara, as leaders of the erstwhile three regions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria… came in with a sense of purpose that was largely focused on the people and the living environment. They had a certain sense of personal dignity, which is perhaps painfully lacking in most of our leaders of today; …. They also had the right indices for measuring the purpose and impact of public expenditure on the people. That is why, even with a fraction of the humongous funds now at the disposal of our current leaders, the older generation of leaders managed far bigger administrative units and achieved much more than what we are seeing today.” I shall conclude by reaffirming the submissions in the following five paragraphs, as noted in the aforementioned article.

“Further still on the inanity of leadership in many states today, once you take away some gestural engagements, a few outing here and there, as well as the photo opportunities associated with them, most of our leaders are on a perpetual, publicly funded trip of debauchery, self-inflation and aggrandisement. That is why state responsibilities are seen as favours whenever, as is not often the case, official duties are carried out at all. It is no longer a question of which political party is in power, or whether a road was tarred or not. It is now a question of our collective humanity: the fact that debauchery has become the norm. It is the fact that the growing insecurity and sectionalism is more due to undeveloped human capital, elite ignorance and consumption, and the abiding practice of living of phony money. Is it not phony wealth for all the banks in a country to be posting huge profits in billions of Naira while they have no record of investment in the sectors that promote growth, job creation, industry, agriculture, etc.? The problem, or at least part of it, lies in the dominance of a progressively less enlightened elite that has lost every capacity to distinguish between “evidence, or at least records, of government expenditure” and “proof of the impact of government policies, programmes and activities on the welfare of citizens.”

This is what you get when limited, and sometime jaundiced regime programmes and propaganda take the place of national development plans. Celebration of unearned income is the new goal of almost every aspiring public office holder, or politician today. Fraud now walks the land as a national philosophy of leadership, relevance and survival; while the nation is under the sway of people who without ideas talk about development. Ceremonies and conspicuous consumption are being mistaken for prosperity here, just as many more people now mistake the mere possession of money for happiness, peace of mind, long life, wisdom, a happy home, well brought up children, or even personal dignity.

Wealth unaccompanied by knowledge is the best template for self-destruction. Desire for leadership unaccompanied by the right ideas and plans leads to missed opportunities and degeneration. We cannot say what our national values are today, because we cannot point to the positive developmental focus of our national political leadership across all the existing political parties. We are simply expanding avenues for plunder. Thus, the Nigerian State stands diminished today; and the people with it. But one thing is clear: our problems are more fundamental than democracy and elections.