*Narrates how President aborted meeting with G7 at the last minute *’Fighting insecurity goes beyond deploying police, soldiers, SSS’
By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
Governor Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State is a lucky politician. After winning the first term in 1999, he lost out in 2003 but returned to his seat in 2011 to continue from where he stopped. His imprints are all over Kano and he does not seem to be in a hurry to give up his fight to reposition the state, even after crossing from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressive Congress, APC. After one hour interaction with Sunday Vanguard at the expansive Government House, Kano, Kwankwaso gives an insight into his kind of politics, his developmental strides and defended his defection to the APC. Excerpts:
How would you describe your foray into politics so far? I would say that I am one of the very luck politicians in this country because I left the civil service in 1991 and joined politics in 1992 during which I was elected into the House of Representatives. I was also elected the Deputy Speaker of the House, a post that gave me the opportunity to make contacts with people not only from my state and zone but across Nigeria. The members of the House of Representatives were 593 and we had very wonderful experience working with people-young men and women from across the length and breadth of Nigeria- to move the country forward. That laid a good foundation for my political future. It was an aborted 3rd Republic but, luckily, I was selected to come back as an elected delegate to the Constitutional Conference of 1994-1995. There, again, I was able to meet so many people from across Nigeria and we learned a lot about the country. We met with experienced politicians like the late Shehu Musa YarÁdua, Chief Tony Anenih, Abubakar Olusola Saraki, Gemade and many others, who were at the conference. That galvanised our resolve to work for this nation. I am also lucky that I had the opportunity in 1999 to come to the Government House, Kano as governor and I left the office in 2003. Subsequent appointment as Minister of Defence and Adviser to the President on Darfur and Somalia also helped a lot and I have learnt a lot. So also was my appointment into the NDDC as the member representing the North-west. It also gave me opportunity to have a direct contact with the people of the South. All these gave me a lot of experience especially from 2003 to 2011. I believe those eight years was to give me the opportunity to reflect on what we did correctly during our administration and what we did wrongly. And we came up with projects and programmes which I believe that, if given another opportunity, I would be able to translate into reality for the benefit of mankind. God was so kind to me that I was able to win the election in 2011 at a time nobody believed we could. We won even when Abuja did not believe we could. From day one, we had our agenda and I feel very contented to work with the people of Kano State. People have seen our impact in the last two and a half years. We lost a lot of people and property when there was a serious attack here in Kano in January 2012. But even under that circumstance, the state government refused to stop work. We kept on working and working throughout the year and we are happy that the job has been successfully progressing and the people are happy. We have good people, most Nigerians are good people, and they want peace and development. They want quality life and once they see a good leader, who can deliver, they want to support him. You don’t need to bribe them; they will certainly come out to support you. I am happy that I am in my second term and I am writing my history through the projects we are implementing for the welfare of our people and Nigerians in Kano. We are happy that we have not given room to our enemies to write our history or distort it. We are happy and contented and delighted that people are happy with what we are doing and that gives us the assurance to do more.
So, after two years in the saddle, would you say you have achieved your set target? No, so far so good, our target is 2015. It is only then that we would be able to complete all the goals we set out to accomplish. We have the issue of the management of resources and have put in place a robust mechanism to ensure that public funds are not mismanaged at any time. This government has decided that we must not go into the issue of security vote. Many leaders in Nigeria hide under security vote to take as much money as possible without accounting for it.. This administration therefore decided not to go into that. This administration also decided to be as transparent as possible to the extent that whatsoever resolution we take in the State Executive Council every week is published in all the newspapers in Nigeria for our friends and enemies to see and to raise queries, if they have any. If there is any project we have awarded that is not in place, you draw our attention to it and we take note and adjust. If you say that the road we awarded is not there, we go there to find out why and take action promptly to save public funds.
Does it therefore mean that the Kano State governor does not use security vote? No, what we are kicking against is taking government money without accounting for it. That is what Kano State government is guarding against. What we are saying is that if the security agencies have any operation that requires funding, they should put it on paper and state clearly how the money they are asking for would be used and accounted for. So, if I give the Brigade Commander N1 million, I should be able to account for it. There should be enough justification for spending such amount and the evidence should clearly show that somebody spent the amount and he is able to give account at the end of the operation. Part of the money we give to the security agencies must always come back to the SEC for me to see that it has been spent so that nobody goes away with our money. But what people mean by security vote is for the governor to request for hundreds of millions of Naira per day and nobody will come and ask what he does with the money. That is what people mean by security vote.
What strategy have you put in place to checkmate insecurity in Kano? The strategy is simple. Many people, especially leaders, seem to think that soldiers, SSS, police and the rest are the answer to insecurity. Here is just one aspect. The others are food security, health security, education security and the totality of these is what we call social security. That is why we are putting our hands into all these areas. Today, Kano State government is able to graduate a total of 832 young men and women from three institutes we built. All of them have been empowered-some of them received over N130, 000 package free of charge, some N100, 000 to go and start business. These people were trained free of charge in boarding schools and given kits free to go and work for themselves and their families. We do all these in addition to the 24 institutes we have built, among them the Kano State University. All these things give people hope. We have 100 pilots and 54 post- graduate students, who are part of the 501 people we are sponsoring in 11 countries around the world. By the grace of God, we are going to sponsor another set of 502 in post- graduate studies. In fact, we now have no fewer than 1,500 Kano State indigenes studying abroad. By next (this) week, we are sending out 400 students to some private universities in Nigeria to study. Our problem in the state is the issue of lack of understanding on the side of leadership. Education is not all about getting government paid job. It is about making the people to discover themselves and being about to make choices that will lead to self-reliance. I am happy to say that the people of Kano State now realise that there is hope and this hope is across the state. Either your son or daughter is one of the beneficiaries or you are directly involved. All these things put together make the people happy. That, in turn, reduces crime rate across the state.
Which of these projects is dearest to your heart? We have a lot of projects on the ground and we are happy about them. We have what it takes to do more. As a starting point, I am going to sign into law, a bill banning begging in Kano and we are working with relevant groups to ensure that people do the right thing at the right time. What is giving me most happiness is the 24 institutes we established and the Kano University of Science and Technology and the North-west University. By the beginning of this session, we can have close to 3,000 students in university. Many have said the universities are perhaps the best in the country. We want to set the pace for others to learn from in all that we do in this state and make Kano State a better place for the people. We are improving our roads, flyovers and bridges. The target is to make people feel the impact of government wherever they may be in Kano State. By so doing, we will remove miscreants and other undesirable elements from the city and make life more comfortable for residents. It was in a bid to solve some of the ills of society that we banned commercial cyclists and introduced other measures to bring about sanity in the state.
Also we have Kano Roads Maintenance Agency, KARMA, to ensure that our roads are put in good shape all year round. We created Kano Roads Transport Agency, KAROTA, which is made up of young men and women well respected by the people because they don’t take bribe but stick strictly to the rules of their work. People are respecting road laws now as a result of the managers. We have made the point clear to all that there is only one law in Kano.
That is why we are fighting drug barons in Kano. Every week, we are confiscating tonnes of illicit drugs. At the last count, we destroyed over N600 million and before then we destroyed over N3 billion worth of illicit drugs. We keep on working and we have teams that are going round with a clear instruction from us that no corner in Kano should serve as a black spot. And in doing that assignment, there is no-go area in the state. The beneficiaries are unhappy but the vast majority is happy. Everyone is a victim of fake drugs, expired drugs and so on. We are now in the middle of fighting illicit drugs. Some people would think I am a politician who will need money from them. I don’t need money from drug barons because they are the enemies of the people.
Almost all your school buildings have the inscription “Kwankwasiya”. What does that mean? We did a lot during my first tenure. We had all sorts of projects and programmes. We didn’t inscribe anything on them when we were in office between 1999 and 2003. But for the eight years that we were out of government, we realised that there was a better way of doing it. When I left government my opponents tried to rubbish everything that I did. They tried to rewrite history based on enmity. So, when I came back, I tried to change certain things and when I started building the schools, I quickly put the inscriptions to show that the projects are mine. It is politics and you have to blow your own trumpet. We want everyone to know that I did the projects. Initially, many were angry why the inscriptions were put there but now they have seen reasons with us. We are very humble people not to name things after my name but we have to do things that will bring benefits to the people. We are putting these marks to protect the projects from being unduly ascribed to other people. Kwankwasiya comes from my name and my village name but it is now an ideology in Kano. It is not Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso. It is the ideology itself. And what is wrong if you do something and put your name on it? In any case, we are just putting our stamp for people coming to Kano to see. And I will encourage my successor to put his stamp on whatever he does. What is important is to provide facilities for people to use. It is all politics.
You were one of the governors who defected to the APC. One is tempted to ask, what was the problem between you, the PDP leadership and the Presidency that could not be resolved after many attempts at reconciliation? The issue is that we are people with huge integrity and committed followership. I am one of those who are lucky to have built a large and powerful followership in the last 30 years. We have what one can even call a movement in this state and beyond. We have always been consistent and often identified with a particular ideology. I am one of those who participated in the formation of PDP even in Abuja. Here in Kano, I was one of the very few called Receivers. We have worked very hard for the PDP from 1998 up till last (penultimate) Tuesday. We have also benefitted from the party. There is no question about it because I have been governor twice, I have been a minister, I have been an adviser to the President and a member of the NDDC Board. So, I have benefitted from the system. But, on the other hand, there is a huge misunderstanding on the part of the government and the party in Abuja. And over the years, we tried to make them to understand but, unfortunately, they were not getting the point. As a politician, I am in this game believing that I can one day win election and one day lose election. That is why when I won election as governor in 1999, I was very happy. When I lost election in 2003, I was also very happy because of the experience they teach me. I have contested election 12 times in my life and only lost once in 2003. And without losing election, I can assure you that a politician should not answer the name because he is not complete. To be a complete politician, you have to test what it means to lose election and what it means by winning because sometimes it is easier to manage success than failure. When we lost election in Kano, it was easy for us to manage because of our experience.
Politics is really about interest, politics is about respect. We are field commanders on the ground in this party and I want to say that if you are the commander among the group you are working for, you should be respected and you should be listened to. And you see, the general feeling in Abuja is that ‘even without states, even without zones and even without regions, we are still fine’. They have forgotten that it is individuals that form the party. And we tried to make them to understand but they failed to understand. If somebody does not like you in Abuja, it is like you are finished, you are gone. And that is not the issue and these people have taken us for granted for too long. I have my family; I have my supporters and should be respected. Even my opponents and enemies here in Kano respect me because they know the meaning of Kwankwaso. My opponents in the other parties respect me because they know what I stand for in the state. But, unfortunately, we are not respected in our own party. Can you believe that I have never been asked to nominate anybody for any position in Nigeria? And because of this huge misunderstanding, they see me in Abuja as one person from Kano but what they don’t know is that we have disciplined supporters. Nobody in our group here will go to the Villa or the party secretariat asking for appointment or anything because they respect the leader-Kwankwaso. But our enemies, I will call them rebels, will go to Abuja and talk against one man, Kwankwaso, who is their target. So, our main concern is, here is a party which does not respect individuals and groups or zones and, even if you win election, they don’t respect you and your supporters. We tried to make them understand that politics is not a matter of ‘I like you or I don’t like you’. That is why I see the ongoing National Conference as a waste of time and resources. It will not produce any result. Nigerians have already given us their mandate to deliver so we should not be turning round to ask them what we should do tomorrow. How can I now ask Kano people what I should do for them after getting their mandate to deliver good governance and projects? Does it make any sense? We have passed that level and if I don’t have the capacity to deliver on behalf of the people, I should quietly resign and go away. I am not here to play pranks. Of course, I consult with the people and discuss with them but, at the end of the day, I take decisions on their behalf. I know their problem- they need jobs, they need food, they need good roads, schools, hospitals and other social services- and not talks that produce no result at the end of the day.
If it was during the military when they called a constitutional conference to transit from military dictatorship to constitutional government, one can understand and fully endorse and even participate in it. That is the one that Abacha organised and we took part in it. It was unwieldy but, with our experience, we were able to fashion a lot of changes for the country that brought about the present Constitution we are using. And the people are happy. I learnt that one of the governors said we will be stoned if we crossed over to APC. Let me tell you, in my political history, I have never seen a decision that is popular with my people than the one I have taken. We are in APC to strengthen democracy. I want to be respected while I win election or when I am appointed into an office. At the same time, I want to be respected when I am out of office. That is why I resigned from NDDC when I realised they were doing the wrong thing.
But are you sure you can get the kind of respect you are talking about from the APC? They will and have to respect us because they have realised that they cannot do it all alone. They want to win election and they need us to be able to do so. Right from the time they started talking with us, they have shown respect. They realised they need us. We also realised that these are the people we want. They can form a formidable party to win election and challenge anti-people forces.
But are you not afraid the Presidency can use its might and move against you and the other four governors? The agencies of government are made up of human beings who are Nigerians.
They know what this country is passing through. If we move the way we are going now, and, unless things change, everybody would know that the country is broke. I don’t care what is done. I am not afraid to speak the truth. Politicians must be on their toes and nobody should sit down and claim that all is well. The issue we are in now is that of those going into APC and those not going. But let me tell you that in a short while you will see a mass of Nigerians flocking into the APC. I am not afraid. I don’t see any decision I have taken in recent years that I so strongly believed in like this APC. And I believe that it is a step in the right direction that will help this country. The only disadvantage I see in the whole thing is that a few people are benefitting from the system and they are so few. The Nigerian government should be a government for everybody and not a handful of selected individuals. Well, if the President calls me for a meeting, I would go as a member of APC and not as a PDP member. Even last (penultimate) Sunday, the President invited us and we were all in Abuja to honour his invitation but he refused to see us. We have never seen anything like that. He was in Abuja but refused to see the seven governors. Even if he was on a hospital bed, he could have called us to see him there and sympathise with him. But we were just a few metres away from the President in the Villa but he refused to see us. That is why we believe that certain persons are underestimating and not understanding the real situation on the ground but I think they will begin to learn their lessons from now on.
The rumour in town is that you in particular crossed over to the APC in order to actualise your presidential ambition, which the PDP cannot give you. Could this be the reason for your defection?
They are saying the same thing about all the seven governors. But let it be put on record that all the governors have the capacity and cognate experience to rule this country. I have never gone into any party with any mindset on any particular position. So I am not going to APC to be president or anything but to build the party and to ensure that it wins election in Kano and Nigeria. We are connected to many other states and we want to win elections. I am connected to every local government in this country. My impact will be felt anywhere because many of the people have worked closely with me in different capacities. You see, people underrated our capacity and our support base and that happened because if you surround yourself with my enemies, they will never allow you to see my good sides. And when we come out to play the politics of Kano, they will disappear; you will not see them.