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Kano and the Ja’afar Isa challenge

Indeed, the people of Kaduna State where Lawal Ja’afar Isa, then a Colonel in the Nigerian Army, served as a former military administrator between December…

Indeed, the people of Kaduna State where Lawal Ja’afar Isa, then a Colonel in the Nigerian Army, served as a former military administrator between December 1993 and August 1996, will not forget the no-nonsense, development-oriented officer. He came to the state as an “unknown soldier” but was determined to prove his mettle and he did. Though a military administrator, Lawal Ja’afar Isa was very mindful of public opinion and their welfare in whatever decisions he took.

And Kaduna State, with its then religious/ethnic tensions needed a leader who will pull the state together and make all stakeholders work for the peace that was badly sought after. Luckily for the state, Lawal Ja’afar Isa came on board. Before long, the state came alive again; people had  the freedom to visit any part of the state they wished without any fear.

In his first speech as military administrator, Lawal Ja’afar Isa addressed the state through a radio and television broadcast on December 29, 1993, where he said, “It becomes imperative for all citizens of the state to commence building bridges across social barriers, submit ourselves with humility to God and to accept that we are destined to live together despite differences.”

To further lessen tension, Lawal Ja’afar Isa in another radio and television broadcast on October 24, 1995, announced the creation of four chiefdoms in the southern part of Kaduna to address the people’s yearning for self determination. Hence, Ninzam, Bajju, Atyap and Gwong chiefdoms were created for the ethnic nationalities. He went further to set up a technical committee to ascertain the acceptability of the names and headquarters of the new chiefdoms to their benefitting communities, delineate the boundaries between them and recommend new districts to be created out of the new chiefdoms. This development was greeted with an euphoria that knew no bounds.

He established the much celebrated Kada Payless Stores where the people of the state get to buy things at a highly discounted rate. He was on the verge of replicating the stores in the entire local governments of big cities of the state before the end of his sojourn.

Another instance where the sound leadership qualities of Lawal Ja’afar Isa became clear to all and sundry both within and outside Kaduna state was the way he handled the then fuel scarcity that nearly paralysed activities in the state.

Lawal Ja’afar Isa introduced an effective fuel distribution system that he personally supervised, which addressed the situation within a very short time. In fact, then, it was very common to see the military administrator riding on a motorcycle, visiting filling stations and other places to monitor developments. That way, he was able to get firsthand information on the situation on ground. Now, if this is not leadership, what is? All of a sudden, the black markets that held the state hostage were banished. And he instantly became a celebrity of sorts among the people who saw him as a messiah.

In the area of accountability and probity, Lawal Jaafar Isa also made his mark. Very early in the life of his administration, some officers of the state revenue board allegedly misappropriated about N40 million naira belonging to the state.  And he withstood pressure from powerful quarters to ensure their prosecution.

Lawal Ja’afar Isa stands out from the crowd due to his outstanding performance in office. In fact, he shares a lot in common with former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, who had the interest of the nation, especially the downtrodden and the less privileged at heart.

Sometimes in 1994, the leadership qualities of Lawal Ja’afar Isa caught the attention of a public affairs commentator who wrote in the Nigerian Tribune of December 16, 1994 (Page 14) that, “He (Lawal Ja’afar Isa) is one Nigerian who should be groomed and encouraged to lead this our beloved country, Nigeria. Col Isa’s approach to life is that everybody is born equal and whatever you make out of yourself determines your achievements in life. Any of God’s creation, he believes, came into this country not as an Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa, but firstly as a Nigerian and should be seen as such.”

Considering the way we have been governed by two previous parties – the PDP and the ANPP – I am personally appealing to my fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters in Kano state to vote for the person who has their welfare at heart, someone with the fear of God, to work for us and lay a solid foundation for our young ones and generations to come.

Hajia Garba writes from Kano

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