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I’ll follow Yar’Adua’s steps to actualise Katsina people’s mandate — Gov-elect Radda

In this interview with TrustTV’s Mannir Dan-Ali, Katsina State governor-elect, Mallam Dikko Radda speaks on his government’s plans for ensuring local council autonomy, boosting agriculture…

In this interview with TrustTV’s Mannir Dan-Ali, Katsina State governor-elect, Mallam Dikko Radda speaks on his government’s plans for ensuring local council autonomy, boosting agriculture and tackling insecurity in the state.

 

I hope I got the nomenclature right because I saw in one interview you were saying you do not want to be addressed as Excellency, is that going to be the standing rule?

Of course yes, because I have made my point very clear, the way you said it, I think it is the best way for me to honour it, Mallam Dikko Radda, I think it is the best.  But being called an Excellency I think it puts something into your head and then makes you think that you are an excellent person in the society, so you will start intimidating people with that name alone. So, I think it is better when I finish my tenure, if I have done something excellently well in Katsina State, then I can be called any name but not on the job.

But even without the name, the governor is a very powerful person in the Nigerian context, in the state and even in the whole country, which is why you see governors’ even intimidating presidents.

I think it is just an abuse of office because the office is not meant to intimidate people; the office is not meant to make one arrogant, the office is meant for the development of the people, to change the wellbeing of the people, to change their status, to change their living standard, and that is the whole aim of governance.   You don’t need to become a governor and start doing something arrogantly that makes people feel somehow about you because they voted for you, they came out under the sun, and in the rain and despite everything they voted for you.

I think it is better for you to be as humble as possible because you can’t give power to yourself, it is only God that gives power. It is not money, it is not influence, it is not godfather, it is God.

So are we expecting a second round of Umaru Yar’adua because he was the humblest of governors in Katsina? There are stories of him strolling down the street from government house to buy a stick of cigarette and interacting with people.

Sometimes, I did accompany him to the roundabout to buy cigarettes when he was the governor in his first term. I think I have been a student of Umaru Musa Yar’adua for a very long time, I have learnt a lot of things and I have said it over and over, he brought me into the limelight of politics. Sometimes, if we travelled, he asked me to sleep in his own room, so I think I have learnt a lot of things. I have said it over and over, I have never seen a leader as humble as Umaru Yar’adua, the one I was close to.

So, I think it is really something that I have grown up with to be like him, to imitate what he did because I learnt that most of the things he did are good and I want to follow those good steps of Umaru Musa Yar’adua to actualise the mandate of the people of Katsina State.

You did say that it was him that brought you to limelight; you were local government chairman under his watch; how was it then?

I think it was smooth, in fact that happened when I was working in a bank at that time but despite working in the bank I have a lot of interest in politics.  Whatever happened in my ward, in my local government politically, despite the heavy work of the private sector, I used to come for meetings and all that. In fact, I even attempted to contest for House of Representatives in 1999. I thought about contesting for chairman of a local government but I think he dropped the ambition, he said I should wait, I shouldn’t. So, later on, as I was working in the bank, I was participating in the political process in my locality. I just came to Katsina to greet him one weekend and he asked me, ‘please, I observed that you have a lot of interest in politics, why can’t you just go and resign your appointment and come and let me appoint you as caretaker committee chairman of the local government’, I said fine. I went back and discussed it with my family and a lot of my friends but everybody said I shouldn’t do that, I should build my career in the banking sector because to be caretaker committee chairman, it is just a temporary appointment for six or three months, then you get out of it.  But because of the love I have for my people, I felt that there was nothing one could do to change the life of his people without being in government. So, I felt that I should take the appointment, I accepted it and after a period of one year or so, an election was conducted, I became an executive chairman of the local government and that is how it all started.

Are we expecting local governments under your watch, when you get sworn in at the end of May to be allowed to function because one of the key problems in Nigeria is that the governors have got the local governments in their pockets and they don’t want them to even breathe?

You know, it was all misperception because you get the local government in your pocket more when you allow them to do their functions.  You know, we were local government chairmen at that time, we were given free hand, the governor gave us our money but it is only that there were checks and balances.  He established a very strong inspectorate of local government and that inspectorate was being headed by one of the most trustworthy people in Katsina, Alhaji Abu Dan Mallam. At that time, before you embark on any project, after you sat with your council and came up with a project, you send it to the inspectorate for final approval and the deputy governor was then the one supervising the inspectorate. So, the deputy governor gave approval for all the projects.

But they gave you money and follow up to ensure that those approvals you got were being implemented as at when due and if you refuse to do that, Abu Dan Mallam, will gather all the people in the local government and said take your local government to account. Your chairman has been given so, so money for this project, if he doesn’t do it, he has stolen your money, so you better follow up your money. So, there were checks and balances at that time.

So, is that something you want to do yourself as the governor?   

Of course, this is exactly what I want to do. I will establish a very strong inspectorate or ministry for local government and make it functional and then allow local government’s free hand to get their money, do what they want to do but under a guide so that we ensure that money is being spent appropriately and there is value for the money given to them. You know, if you allow the system just to run like that freely without any intervention or without any inspection or monitoring, you end up seeing a lot of things that you may not want to see and the people may end up suffering because when their money is being spent uselessly or recklessly that means the people will suffer the more.

But when the local governments are functional, you will hardly see people in the office of the governor because of the small contracts they get from their local governments. Small projects are being done in the local government.  And in some instances, you will see a joint project between the state government and the local government, which will be beneficial to the people. We have gone to 361 wards in the state, we have interacted with the people and they have told us what they need.

Most of those things they need are not things the state government must do; some of them will ask you for a borehole, some will ask for roads and some of them will ask for a dispensary or a block of primary school.  When I was local government chairman, I even built a secondary school with the local government money.

But why is it that now local governments cannot even build a culvert?

I think it is something that we need to put in place. But I know it is not going to be immediately when I am sworn into office because now the local government accounts in Katsina State are being run jointly, all the money is put in one basket.  What we need to establish is to separate it because there is no point. I have said it over and over that there is no point. I am from Charanchi Local Government, if Charanchi Local Government can pay a salary of N30 million and have a reserve of N20 million, I see no reason why the people of Charanchi cannot utilise that N20 million for their development. But you will see some local governments that have overloaded their local councils with a lot of staff; they couldn’t even get anything after they have paid salaries.

While I was chief of staff in 2016, in some instances, the state government had to give about N200 million – N300 million to enable the local governments to pay their salaries.  So I think it is just unfair, if my money from Dutsinma Local Government will be taken to Dutsi to settle some of the problems of the people of Dutsi, which they created themselves.  I think what we need to do is separate everything, give local governments their money, let them pay their salaries, if they have reserves, it is up to them.

You touched on something that is unrealistic. A number of people are taking salaries from local governments; we hear that some chairmen’s (I don’t know whether it happened even in your case), children and even those who are suckling, who are in primary school are all loaded into the salary payroll.

This is true but I think something has been done. When we came into power in 2016, we screened and we were able to flush out some but I am not saying that up till now you cannot find such a thing in the state.

But what we want to do is a very serious staff audit when we come to ensure that those people that are on the payroll are really giving the services to the local governments. It is unfortunate you see somebody receiving salary in the local government but he has already gotten work at the federal level or some private sector and he will be taking double salaries for work not done. So we need to fish out those things.

Also, we need to fish out those staff in the local government who are redundant. Why can’t we see how we can train them and utilise them in our primary or secondary schools where we don’t have enough teachers?

But then, these measures won’t endear you to the local political establishments that seem to feed on all these, whether it is the concentration of powers at the level of the governor, whether it is all the hanky-panky in terms of salaries going to people who are not working for the local governments; how will you survive that?

Honestly, I don’t have anything to fear because God has done everything to me. I don’t have a godfather. I was able to become the governor-elect of Katsina State, is it me? It is not me. Is it my resources? It is not my resources. Is it my power? It is not my power, it is God that gave me power.  So, I think it is a betrayal of God to even not do the right thing for the people of Katsina State.  Some people may feel bad but they don’t give power, it is only God that gives power. If I will be able to spend four good years doing very good things for the people of Katsina State, I don’t have any issue.  If the people of Katsina State feel that they need to change me, fine, I don’t have issues with them but I will fail myself if I do not do the right thing because I have been given the mandate to deliver on for about nine million people of Katsina State.  We are not talking about APC, PDP or any political party, it is about the people of Katsina state; my promise is to do the right thing. If I do the right thing, whatever the consequences may be, to win or not to win a second term, it is not my problem.

You were claiming not to have any godfather and many people will think or imagine that the outgoing governor is your godfather so to say. You were his chief of staff and probably, it was his nod and wink that made you emerge as the candidate of the ruling party and eventually got elected; are you disowning him?

No, I am not. He has been a very good political mentor and we have been political friends for a very long time over almost 20years. I have stayed with him despite all odds. I have been with him despite all the challenges, I have remained with him. I lost my position because of him.

Which of the positions?

While I was the chairman of the local government, I lost it, I couldn’t get the re-election, I couldn’t get the opportunity to be re-elected as chairman of the local government because I followed him.  That was during his earlier attempt to be governor of Katsina State.  Yes, that was in 2007. So I think the issue is not about everybody that has the clear view of what has happened at the primary election. Within the governor’s political group, there were four of us who contested for governorship; all of us were political friends of the governor.

There was his SSG, there was his commissioner, there was the MD of the Federal Mortgage Bank at that time, and he was also one of the strongholds in the Masari political family. Sadiq Yar’adua was his chief of staff, while he was the speaker and he became a senator under CPC and the deputy governor is his friend, he has been the deputy governor for all these years and I was also among them.

So the governor made it clear to all of us; he called for a meeting and told us that he didn’t have a candidate, anybody that emerged within his group, he would be happy with that and so be it. That was how it went and I was able to get the ticket.  So on that note, nobody will say that it was the governor who said they should vote for me. In fact, even for the insinuations that are going on within the town, I wasn’t the person that the governor was supporting at that time.  The governor made his point very clear that he didn’t have a candidate among us but he would love somebody from his political family to emerge and that was what happened. So that is why I am not saying…

You are not beholden to any particular person.

I am not beholden to any particular person, yes.

So how then will your government be? Are you going to build on what Governor Masari has done or are you going to have a clear departure as you are hinting?

You know generally, a government is a continuation. You can’t totally say that what this government is doing entirely is wrong, especially a government you were part of.  But the issue is, I think even in democracy, the main reason you change government after two terms, when you get re-elected, they change you after eight years, no matter how good you are, is they want to bring fresh ideas and fresh people so that they may think outside the box on some other things that the other government may not have touched.

So how are you going to think outside the box in terms of insecurity because it is one key issue that is affecting lots of Katsina citizens.

I have outlined my strategic policies and one of the main points I said I will do is I will establish a state security outfit.

That is your own Amotekun?

Yes, I will create my own Amotekun, whatever name we are going to give it in Katsina State. You know it is so amazing, sometimes when there is an announcement for recruitment for military or police in Katsina State, you will see thousands of youths, they are all coming from those localities and villages, they want to be in the army, they want to be in the police, these are people who have it in their minds that they want to serve their nation.

But unfortunately, maybe they are recruiting only 100, so those thousands will go back not because they are not qualified, not because they are not fit and able but because they couldn’t get a space, they are looking for only 100.  So, I will look among those categories of people who are living in these localities, especially the frontline local governments because we are thinking of using the locals.  If you are within the community it makes you stronger, more courageous to face the challenges than people who are coming from outside, they will have it in their heart to deal with the situation.  And they also know the criminally minded people within the community. Yes of course, that is why first, we want to use the local intelligence by using traditional rulers, opinion leaders within the communities, we will use the locals to combine them with the military and the police to attack the situation.

We will also use technology in tackling the insecurity within the community. In fact, as I speak to you today, we have developed an App that will help us to streamline and to help deal with the situation by helping those people that we are recruiting to deal with the situation.  And I think also, we will use kinetic and non-kinetic approaches. The non-kinetic approach is we will look at those things that make those people to be criminal in this aspect.

You know, some of them lack schools and basic amenities in their localities, hospitals and schools and these people are doing these things because of the oppressions they have suffered over years. Those Fulani people have suffered oppressions from the police, from the traditional institutions, from the courts and you know when we address that and also try to provide education to them, both Islamic and Western,  because it is what builds morals into someone.

Once someone is illiterate, you know he doesn’t think very well, they think just like the animals because they are living in a wild world.  But the problem is not restricted to Katsina because even after the employment of vigilantes or security people at the state level. What do you do with Zamfara, what do you do with Kaduna, what do you do with all the other neighbouring states that may not necessarily be doing exactly what you want to do?

I think we are a bit lucky in this aspect because all of the governors in the North West are new, all of us; Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kaduna, we are all new, even Niger has a new governor.  So, I think these new governors may come with fresh ideas. I have begun to think about how we can even start discussing before our inauguration on how we can build a regional integration between the states so that we can integrate and look at our problem holistically.

And even if we push for more support from the centre, if we pull ourselves together as governors from the North West to face the president or to face any other security outfit, I think our bargain will be stronger than when you go individually, especially now that the North West gave the highest votes to the president.

But how will it be different because the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari is from Katsina with Governor Masari in Katsina and all these things happening in Katsina and all other North West states and they haven’t been tackled. How will it be different when the president is even from the other end of the country?

I think it is not about the president, where the president comes from, it is about….

Because it is the federal prerogative?

It is about the relationship between the governors within the region. I was part of the people that came with the governor when we started that meeting in the North West. I was Chief of Staff to the governor so wherever he goes, we go together.  The problem is that there was a lack of cooperation between the governors of the region at that time. So, we are praying and hoping that because we are all new, we are fresh, we have a lot of fresh ideas, maybe if we started cooperating right from the onset, we may be able to tackle that problem.

But once there is no good cooperation and synergy among the state governors in the region, there is no magic you will use, even if the president is from your own house, to tackle the insecurity because everybody wants to do it; you know governance is about the people. It is not about the people of Katsina to say that during my administration I was able to stop insecurity, no, and it is about collective responsibility for all of us.

But there is this big problem of the whole economy, that is people are benefiting from the current state of affairs, from the informants, to the security people who are also growing fat on the continuing insecurity, to even the traditional rulers, some of whom in some states have to be removed; so is it not much more complicated than you are making it out to be?

You know when you look at the traditional institution, there are no rules, there is no law and order because when someone, no matter how highly placed you are, if you are found guilty of anything, we can deal with you. What is the problem with that? So everybody should sit up.

The insecurity, the way in which the people who are supposed to stop it are already part of it, they are benefiting.

Of course, when you look at the aspect of the economy, you know what we need to do and that is why I said that when I come in, I will establish a small and medium enterprises agency directly working under my office.

Because of your experience?

So that we can create more job opportunities for our teeming youths, when they are busy, they will not have time to give information to anybody, when they have the means of living, they don’t have time to do all those sorts of things because redundancy is part of it.

And when you look at the other aspect you mentioned, some security people are involved because there is money involved in it. But when you use the locals, combined with the conventional security, it will reduce that aspect to the minimum because what I intend to do is that whatever I am giving, it goes directly to the people that are going to benefit from it.

You’ve touched on employment, the biggest area that absolves our people in terms of employment is agriculture and Katsina is an agrarian state; what will you do differently apart from maybe subsidising, doing all the usual things which have n’t taken us far.

I think what I need to do and I have made it very clear, I will go back to the extension staff in dealing with the agricultural aspect.

Agricultural extension?

Yes. You know, in Katsina, we had about three extension schools at that time. We had one in Dandume, one in Kafinsoli, one in Tambu, Daura Emirate.  If you are able to bring them back and establish the extension services; you know extension services are a link between research institutions and the farmers and back to the government, from government to the research institutions to the farmer. When you have extension staff, they will be able to push out. How can we take this problem to the research institution? What are the improvements the research institutions can do to seeds?  How do you do best farm practices, especially now that we have issues with land tenure. The land is becoming smaller but what you need to do is best practices. When you have best practices, you will be able to produce more in a small piece of land because largely, our farmers are subsistence farmers, who operate at a very small scale.

But our government and most of the governments prioritise supply of fertilisers as the only means of tackling this problem of agriculture in our society.

But you have two folds; one fold is subsistence farmers, which are about 85% or 90% of the total population of farmers in the state and then you have 10% who are the large scale farmers. We will also have their own blueprint on how to help them to produce more.  Again, we have a lot of forests in Katsina State and we have a lot of graduates in Katsina State; you can create that farm business scheme that you will be able to cultivate a piece of land, give it to a person, provide all what it takes, he may need to do the activities so that they can be on their own.

And when they become very strong in that, you graduate them and recruit other people, from there people will diversify into a lot of other sectors.  And the issue we want to encourage is the complete value chain of production because our people will just produce and sell and mostly, they produce and sell at a loss because if you had added value to what you produced, it could have gone a long way in helping you to earn more.

Thirdly, we need to also have a whole year round farming because redundancy is as a result of just spending three months in the farm and you have about eight months doing nothing.

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