Francis Sardauna writes about last week’s visit by President Muhammadu Buhari to Katsina state and events that unfolded during the two-day official visit
President Muhammadu Buhari last week embarked on a two-day official visit to his home state of Katsina where he inaugurated some selected legacy projects executed by the state government, including a 400-tons per day capacity producing Darma Rice Mill, constructed by Alhaji Dahiru Bara’u Mangal, a Katsina-based business mogul.
The President who flew-in from Daura, his hometown, began his official duty in the state by inaugurating the Kofar Kaura Underpass, Katsina Water Supply Booster Station, Revenue House, Kofar Kwaya Underpass, remodelled Katsina General Hospital and Metrological Institute of Science and Technology (MIST), Katsina (Federal).
He inspected the state’s first flyover at the Government Reserved Area, which is at 90 per cent completion stage.
Shortly after he inaugurated the projects for the first day, Governor Aminu Bello Masari and other top government officials led the president inside the Banquet hall of the Government House for a luncheon.
Addressing dignitaries at the luncheon, President Buhari berated the Nigerian elites, describing them as self-centered. He accused them of not thinking about the welfare of the people.
The president bemoaned what he referred to as the self-centered attitude of many Nigerians, advising that things would be much better for governments in the country if they thought more about the people.
He regretted the amount of money that was wasted by previous governments recalling how a barrel of crude oil sold consistently for $100, yet not deployed towards building infrastructure.
Buhari said: “Our elites did not put their heads together in the years past in order to move the country forward. They were very selfish. I insist that they should think of the country more than themselves. By doing so, they can join forces for the good of the country.”
The President affirmed that security and economy are the core essence of government, saying citizens do not care how they are realised “but I can’t complain because I asked for it. I have done my best, and I hope history will be kind to me.”
He, however, commended Governor Masari for his administration’s infrastructure drive amid scarce resources, describing the effort as worthy of emulation by other governors.
Speaking earlier, Masari said despite the problems induced by COVID-19 and other economic challenges, his administration was able to expend about N358 billion on key services such as salaries, pension, health and tertiary institutions.
The governor said: “The state government has been consistent in the payment of salaries, pension, overhead costs to Ministries, Departments and Agencies as well as other social services.
“These include medical assistance to patients and educational assistance to students in universities and other tertiary institutions within and outside the country. Others are assistance to mosques, Islamiyya Schools and other religious organisations across the 34 local government areas”.
He explained that the expenditure incurred in one key area of responsibility indicates that the present administration has from 2015 to 2022 expended N195 billion in the payment of salaries and allowances to civil servants and political office-holders.
Masari stressed that N34 billion was also expended in the payment of pension and gratuity to retired workers, N36 billion in the payment of overhead and running costs to ministries, departments and agencies of the state government.
He added that N82 billion was equally spent to cater for other recurrent expenditures such as training of workers, official trips, repairs and rehabilitation of vehicles and buildings as well as about N14 billion on social services.
According to Masari, “Verifiable record indicates that by 2022 ending, the state government had expended the sum of N357,927,829,790.87 for the purposes as mentioned above”.
The governor reiterated that the rehabilitation and upgrade of general hospitals in Katsina, Funtua and Daura gulped over N2.5 billion.
“So far, about N1.37bn was injected into the Contributory Healthcare Services with capitation disbursement to accredited primary healthcare facilities in the sum of N1,219,648,640.00 and fees for services which were paid to secondary healthcare facilities in the sum of N152,947,332.66”.
He thanked President Buhari and the federal government for the various interventions given to Katsina State, such as the bailout fund, which he said, assisted the state government in the prompt clearing of outstanding entitlements to its employees.
The president concluded the two-day inauguration of projects with the Musawa General Hospital, Government Day Secondary School, Musawa, Gora-Makauraci-Malamawa road, rehabilitated and asphalted Sandamu-Baure-Babban-Mutum road as well as the Gurjiya-Sandamu-Karkarku road.
However, Buhari’s official outing was greeted by skirmishes because some residents of the state, suspected to be political thugs, booed the nation’s number one citizen in his home state.
The commotion began at the Kofar Kaura underpass when some apparently aggrieved political thugs started throwing stones at the crowd shortly after the inauguration of the project by the president.
The irate youths set up bonfires along Yahaya Madaki way, few metres away from the newly inaugurated underpass project, chanting songs such as: “We don’t need you”, “We no go do”, “We are not supporting APC”, but were dispersed by security personnel who fired teargas at them.
They also smashed the inauguration plate which is the plaque that carries the inscription of the date on which a project is commissioned, while throwing stones at police operatives and other security personnel who were trying to disperse them.
Some of the residents also booed President Buhari along the famous IBB way within the Katsina metropolitan area when the convoy of the president was heading to the newly constructed Revenue House for inauguration.
Arguably denouncing the ruling All Progressives Congress-led government over what they described as hardship, hunger and the plight they are facing over the change of new naira notes, the protesters chanted ‘ba ma yi! ba ma yi!’ which is the Hausa phrase for ‘we are not interested’.
But the state police command claimed there was no protest in the state during Buhari’s visit saying the president was neither booed nor stoned, adding that the viral video clips alleging that he was booed were doctored.
In a statement, the command’s Public Relations Officer, SP Gambo Isah, described media reports that Buhari was booed in the state as “fallacious and mischievous”, and urged members of the general public to disregard the publications and the video clips as false, doctored and misleading.
The statement read: “The attention of the Katsina State Police Command has been drawn, to fallacious and mischievous publication and doctored videos alleging that the President was booed and /or stoned in the state. It is pertinent to set the records straight and for the avoidance of doubt, to state that after commissioning of Kofar Kaura underpass, Kofar Kaura Water works, and Revenue House.
“But while at Darma Rice Mill, the Command received information that some Kauraye social miscreants from the notorious Sabuwar Unguwa, were fighting at Kofar Kaura area and took advantage of the crowd to steal phones and other valuables from innocent persons.
“It was also gathered that some mischievous persons had used small children in causing apprehension in the area by throwing stones at the police patrol teams deployed to arrest the miscreants in the area. The Command has succeeded in arresting eight suspected persons in connection with the offence and are assisting the police in their investigation”.
However, Masari’s Chief of staff, Alhaji Bature Masari, told some journalists at the Government House in Katsina that the protest was in response to the high-handedness of the security agencies against the crowd that went to welcome the president.
According to him, “It was a problem between the crowd and the security agents that prevented them from reaching the spot where the commissioning took place and that was even after Mr president had left for another location”.
Judging from the protest that gripped Buhari’s visit to the state, political observers argued that the APC is on the verge of total liquidation, noting that the alliance that birthed the party is collapsing by the day in the state.
Other pundits, however, opined that the protesters whom they said were hired by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), would not truncate the overwhelming popularity and acceptance of President Buhari and the APC by citizens of the state and other millions of Nigerians.
Likewise, Governor Masari’s unprecedented performance through people-oriented projects and the growing influence of the APC governorship candidate, Dr. Umar Dikko Radda, as shown in all the wards and local governments so far visited by his campaign train, is already predicting victory for the ruling party in the state.
Strategically, in all the wards visited, Radda engaged the electorate on issue-based campaigns, but the opposition PDP, which has just ended its campaign from Daura zone seemed to have realised that its strategic campaign of moving from one big town to another in the local government areas is weak.