By Mannir Dan-Ali
Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje in this interview with Trust TV speaks on several issues including why governors are reluctant to sign death warrants of condemned prisoners, and why politicians switch parties without qualm among others. Excerpts:
Having started political participation in the second republic and with your educational background and working experience in the public service, could there have been anybody better prepared than you for Kano governorship position?
There is no doubt I joined politics since the second coming of democracy in Nigeria. During the time of NPN I participated, in fact, I even contested for election though I lost. We know that Kano at that time was the home of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) of Malam Aminu Kano.
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As a lecturer at Bayero University Kano then, I thought I should participate in active politics, partisan politics. I knew I would not win but I contested.
And coming to public service, I started with the Kano State government as a teacher. Then, I moved to Abuja where I was also a civil servant. I was chairman of three local governments; Gwagwalada, Abaji and Kwali. And then eventually I became a director at the national level and somehow I came back to Kano State as Commissioner of Works Housing and Transport. I served three military administrators here in Kano.
Eventually, I joined politics again because when the ban on partisan politics was lifted I became nostalgic and I joined and I eventually became deputy governor and moving up till now this is where I am today. Commissioner for six years, deputy governor for eight years and governor for six years, now going to seven years. So I could say that I traversed both politics and public service.
Giving the intrigues in politics and even public office, how were you able to survive all that and even come to the top?
You see, I cannot call it intrigues. But rather challenges which we should always convert to opportunities. I have been mentioning that; first of all, politics is a platform for public service. Especially during democratic dispensation. So you find that they are interrelated.
Politics is an issue of public interaction and the issue of having a direction, having a blueprint, having what you want to achieve. While public service is an issue of implementation, it is an issue of actualizing what you conceived in the art of politics.
So would you say you have achieved what you set out to, as the governor of Kano State?
I think so, but people are in a better position to say that. Of course, there are challenges. I can say that we try our best in order to see that we can solve people’s problems.
You’re reputed to have done a lot in terms of development in the city, in terms of road networks, in terms of underpasses, but what about human development. Are you satisfied with the level of development in terms of education, in terms of opportunities for a greater number of people in Kano?
Well, certainly you will find it very difficult to say that one is fully satisfied because of the numerous challenges in all spheres of development, not only in education. But let me put it this way. Human development is the most important issue especially in a developing country like Nigeria. What I mean by human development, include the issue of education and the issue of health services to the people. Concerning education.
The problems of education are directly proportional to the population. The more the population, the more you have children to educate and the more challenges there are. Especially in this part of the country where community participation is very minimal. That is why we decided to come up with the policy of free and compulsory education. We have the highest number of public schools in the country. We have the highest number of children in public schools in the country and we have said education is free, from primary to secondary. We have done this in order to make education accessible to all our children.
Despite efforts to decongest correctional centres, it appears governors are reluctant to sign death warrants. Why is this so?
The issue of signing death warrants for those who are condemned to death is a judicious process that is suspicious. I can recall that when a former governor of Edo State at one time signed the warrant and somebody was killed – executed judicially – later it was discovered that he was not supposed to be executed; that the judgment was faulty. So, the governors became apprehensive of signing death warrants. But from time to time, we sign.
Of course, we think that issue should be looked into constitutionally to find out what measures can be put in place so that people are not killed only to discover later that they were not supposed to be killed; you cannot retrieve the life of a human being or the life of any creature as such. So I think that is the dilemma people are facing.
So are you saying governors are not too confident of the judicial system?
Some of them (convicts) have appealed and appeal can take so many years. Sometimes you sign the warrant and then you discover that even the appeal was not concluded. So I think it is an issue that really should be looked into constitutionally.
But why are politicians not foot-dragging when it comes to matters that suit them, for example switching parties?
You are switching to different issues now. You are talking of political parties which are institutions of recruiting participation in politics. You are talking of partisan politics. You are talking of internal democracy. You are also talking of, you know, crises within democracy in a developing country like Nigeria.
If you could recall, by the Constitution of 1999 when democracy was returned to the people of Nigeria, you could not change your political party without resigning from the post that you were elected to. But due to the problems of internal democracy, some of the political parties did not manage internal democracy well.
In a presidential system, you are voted on the platform of a political party, at the same time you are voted as an individual. Now if you are to resign because you are changing a political party then it means it is only the party that is governing your election. Therefore, if an issue of political party is only taken into consideration then you are dispossessed of all these qualities that you have simply because you have changed your political party.
So I think it is an issue of democracy, we are still fine-tuning it, we are still in the learning process and that can take us to the issue of ideology in our politics. So you will see that it is very difficult to have a clear cut line between one political party and another in terms of ideology.
So should there be ideology in matters of politics?
Yes, there should be ideology. But that is evolving; it is not an issue that the constitution or government will say develop an ideology. It is an issue that will evolve and of course, it is coming with time. Politics is becoming more complicated and people are becoming more enlightened. Even the voters are becoming more enlightened. So I believe in the long run people will decide to say; now you are in this political party, why are you in this political party? What attracted you to this political party?
But many Nigerians cannot distinguish between say the APC, your party, and the PDP, the former ruling party because they see the same politicians that have turned the parties into vehicles of election….
You are right by that statement and as I said, we are in the process of development. Later on, people will be fed-up, the electorate will be fed-up of people coming from this to this. So eventually things will start streamlining themselves like in the world democracies, such as the United State.
We are copying their presidential system of government, but as of now, people find it convenient to cross from one party to another. But I assure you it will be a big issue in the future.
You mean you are about to sack the Buni-led committee, do proper election, and then not repeat all the things that they have so far done like ward congresses and what have you?
You see, it is temporary leadership as the name suggests. It is a matter of a few months that they will remain and if our lawyers find it convenient according to the constitution of our party and according to the Constitution of Nigeria. If we find out that legally what we have done can stand the test of legality then we forge ahead.
It appears calculation for the 2023 election is what informs the delay in having a proper internal organ in the party. To what point are you, as the big stakeholders, willing to take this arrangement?
Well, as early as possible, as you can see, we have a timetable and I believe we will follow the timetable up to the end of it. In fact, the main focus of the leadership of the party now is to organize the primaries, not to go into serial party administration which many people are thinking is what they are there for. They are only here to organize the congress right from the ward to the national convention of our party.
There are reports about the endorsement of some individuals for the governorship of Kano State when your tenure ends. Do you have a position in your mind?
It is not only far but very far and what you read in the newspapers is not true. It was mischief and the people of Kano know that we have not anointed anybody as a gubernatorial candidate or state senatorial candidate or any elective position. We are more concerned about the governance up to the time INEC will come up with the timetable for elections.
So, I assure you we are all intact. All those who would like to contest for the election as far as we are concerned are all good politicians of the party, all eligible to contest for election. When the time comes, it is our responsibility to see that we discuss among ourselves, even negotiation to go into the contest, according to the rule and regulations of our party and the constitution of Nigeria.