ZAINAB MOHAMMED, the Administrator of Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship, a mentoring programme of Kaduna State Government, explained its philosophy and operations in the interview below
What inspired the Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship (KIF) and what does the programme set to achieve?
His Excellency, Governor Nasir El-Rufai has always been very passionate about mentorship. He always says, wherever you find yourself, the first day on the job, you should start looking for a successor. Having spent some time in the public service, he has seen the dearth of competency in that sector. Most of the time, 99% of the people go to school prepared for life in private sector. We see it, especially in Nigeria, as a more viable tool to accomplish our dreams and pursue our career and make money. So, people don’t really go to school to get ready for life in the public sector. Meanwhile, the public sector is the one that delivers the most goods and services to the populace. So, there is a disparity, where you now have the rest of the people who do not go in to private sector or succeed, now apply to work in the public sector. So, the problem of competence and skills arises. And we have a lot of the older generation, who are not up to par with technology and new thinking. In every generation, things change and you must be able to adapt to the change.
Governor El-Rufai wants to attract the youngest, the brightest of Nigerians to spend one year in government, not from the cynical point of view of just abusing the government. They will have the opportunity of working with heads of Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, to see the challenges and opportunities. This may just change their minds about the public sector. So, this is what inspired the programme.
What are the criteria or benchmarks for selecting the Fellows, apart from being in the youth age brackets?
First of all, you must be a Nigerian, because we are looking at solving a Nigerian problem; maybe in the future, we can expand to receive global citizens across the world but for now, you have to be a Nigerian. You also have to be in the age bracket of 25-35, because this demographic is the largest in Nigeria. Also, you should not be very set in your ways, you should be able to think outside the box. We need people who are not very sentimental. They should have the energy and the capacity and they should also be people that adapt to technology and the current situation. They must have completed their NYSC, having graduated from a recognized institution.
We will give them an opportunity when applying, to put their thoughts into words, apart from their essay, where we give you a topic, just to be able to judge their reasoning and thought pattern. Because it is good for a leader to be able to sell his or her vision. But we also have the ‘personal statement’, where we want to see what your vision is, what your drive and passion is, especially for making change; what have you done in society? Have you affected the life of someone in school? Some people give extra-curricular classes, just for free, because they want to brush up the next generation. Some people are very passionate about women and the girl-child; some are passionate about different things, but what have they done towards pursuing that passion. In your personal statement, you will be able to tell us.
Can you share ways in which this internship has impacted on the Fellows generally, can you highlight some success stories and testimonies?
The biggest success story for me is that, of the 16 people of the pioneer cohort, we have 15 of them in the public service. So, this Fellowship was set to attract young people into the public service and after one year, they saw the need to remain in the service. We have just one person who is actively in private sector now, working with a top consultancy firm. I think that is a major success story for us that in the first year, we have achieved to a large extent, what we set out to achieve.
Secondly, Fellows have shown less cynicism towards government. When they come, they appreciate the daily issues that officials grapple with. They feel to a large extent, the enormity of the problems and they know that it takes consistent perpetuating of a particular policy to be able to address it. I think, to a large extent, they have been able to appreciate that. They have greater affinity towards government as against when they first came.
Thirdly, our best graduating Fellow from the pioneer set, Jamimah Jatau, is now at the Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government as an Edward Mason’s Fellow studying for her Masters’ in Public Administration. She is not just studying any course, it’s Public Administration. We know that when she comes out, she will have the opportunity to make greater impact and we hope that Nigeria at large will benefit from this.
Are there plans for past fellows to form an alumni in other to continue networking with each other, and propagating the ideals of the programme?
Yes, you know one of the components of the Fellowship is fellowship itself. We have four components; the work placement, the education component, the community service, and then the Fellowship, which is the fact that we have gotten 16 people from across the country. Diverse people in ethnicity, religion and gender came and lived and worked together for one year. So, the essence of that is to form life-long friendships. We hope that as we increase the numbers, we get a strong alumni. We already have an alumni of sorts, because the pioneer fellows are still in touch with each other. We still have events where they come and the plan is that every induction, when we are receiving a new set of cohorts, they will join the governor to receive them. The new members can learn from their experiences, failure and challenges. So, we encourage that open communication between them and we try to incorporate them into our activities. So yes, we are looking forward to having this set of 16 join the other set of 16 and they will welcome our third cohort in August.
Will the Kashim Ibrahim Fellowship continue after Governor Nasir El-Rufai leaves office in 2023?
Yes, the first plan was the institutionalization of the KIF by having a law, a legal frame work that establishes it. So, beyond just having a programme, there is a law and we hope that will help successive governments to continue the programme. Beyond that, we also have slots for the Fellows and in the organogram of the MDAs, because we believe they will be with us for a long time. Heads of MDAs have asked for them. I think five of our pioneer fellows are working with the Kaduna State Government because they work with the Commissioners.
How are the people of Kaduna State benefiting from the community service component of the Fellowship?
We have deliberately put two weeks of community service into every calendar year, to allow Fellows who have received so much from the Kaduna State Government, the opportunity to give back to the society. And this is the only component of the Fellowship where Fellows run themselves. Normally, they have the secretariat that manages their affairs and all other components. But here, Fellows go around the metropolis to identify the area of need, gaps and they come up with the ideas for a project. They raise the money for it themselves and then execute it. The first set had an SDG outreach in one of the schools in Rigasa, they built a fence around the school, sank a borehole in the school; planted trees, set up SDGs club. They also had Hepatitis B awareness campaign where they went round testing and from that testing, about 60 people tested positive. It was quite a life saver.
This present cohort had an employability workshop, where they brought young people in school and out of school together with employers of labour. They taught them how to get into workspace and how to prepare for it. But beyond that, they built a block of two classrooms in LEA Dan-Hono within 48 days. The people expressed joy when we went to the school. That is a legacy project that will always be there, with ‘KIF 2.0’ written on it. So, I think Kaduna State benefits from these community services. But for Covid-19, they would have planted trees to complement the Urban Renewal Project. They also went to the orphanages to give out some books, food and medical supplies.
Are there slots that are set aside for Kaduna state indigenes?
For the first two cohorts, we had half the number from Kaduna state, because we had 16 and eight of them were from Kaduna state. But to make the program rich, because there is benefit in having cocktail of people, ideas in one place, we sought to open it to the entire country. Because the problems we are trying to resolve is not just a Kaduna problem but a county-wide problem. So we thought of having other people to come and work with our people here in Kaduna state, and also foster that unity in diversity which is a major issue. Nigeria is divided along fault lines of ethnicity and religion. We just thought that this program can be a model, we are the same, we grapple with the same challenges.
The law has stipulated that at least one third of the Fellows should come from Kaduna State. In the cohort that is coming in, in August (the 3rd cohort), we have six people from Kaduna State and 10 from other parts of the country. As we increase, which we intend to do, next year to 24, we intend to raise the numbers also to at least one third of the present numbers.