Continued from last week
I started this article from the premise that 20,000 Kaduna civil servants may be laid off. I have seen a statement from one of the officials to the extent that they are considering 4,000 (only). My role here is to try and challenge the Kaduna State Government to take a more difficult route for the sake of the future and humanity. My write-up is, therefore, not only for Governor El Rufa’i but goes to address the way we have governed our country. I am in the vanguard of forcing our governments at every level to make the hard, painful and sacrificial investment in the people, knowing for a fact that the best investment with the best return is an investment in people. We must, therefore, find a way of ramping up productivity in line with this investment.
There is that joke about the rat that swallowed the diamond and the exterminator that was hired to catch it and retrieve the diamond. The joke goes that it was an easy job because when the exterminator got to where the rats usually converge, there was the diamond-eating rat all on its own, in a corner, spread out and feeling ghetto-fabulous. The joke goes on to say that that is how we are in Nigeria. Let some struggling guy hit some money through yahoo business or Bet9ja and the first thing he thinks is how to separate from the pack and oppress them by displaying what he has from afar. He then complains about how he is hated for his wealth.
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The planning of Nigerian cities has taken wholly from this hymn book. No difference. Once our leaders get into office, they only think about helping their friends run away from their poor backgrounds. By the way, why are we talking of urban renewal only? What about rural renewal such as to encourage our people to go back to the villages from the cities? What plans has any government in this country ever had for sustainable housing, water, electricity, education or anything in the villages since our independence? Don’t we think that matters?
Your excellency, I have only one suggestion as regards those civil servants that you want to lay off with much glee. I read your interview wherein you stated that the government is not there to pay salaries. That is true but kadan kadan. The truth is that you are right to the extent that we don’t need people sitting around in ministries and Dr Sabeh is also right that this is not the time to just terminate people and throw them into the streets. However, there is a midpoint; a way out. Can they not be repurposed? If not all of them, a sizeable number can be repurposed.
I am an advocate of providing public goods for our people as the next port of call for our economy. Public goods are very essential to the success of businesses and initiatives. You are providing some of that infrastructure with the roads you are building. But the almajirai children who came to school when you gave free food have since stopped coming. Driving through Kawo you see them all over; a permanent fixture. You need a strong social services ministry. Abroad, this is what they do. Those children must be taken off the streets and kept in schools. Rather than sack civil servants en masse, can you not use them as enforcers of this policy and counsellors to these children? If there are say 500,000 out-of-school children in Kaduna State, does that not mean you need even more teachers than the 25,000 you recently employed according to your spokesman Muyiwa Adekeye?
Is the environmental sector in Kaduna totally hunky-dory? Do you not have young people among those slated for sack or dismissal who can work as environmental officers? Are all the grasses and flowers planted since you came in well maintained and secured so that the beauty of that state may shine through? Are there other environmental issues like gully erosion, desertification and what not present in KD? Are there any civil servants that could work as extension officers for Kaduna farmers? The world seems not to be able to get enough of the ginger grown in southern Kaduna, or the sesame and soya planted in other parts of the state. This is foreign exchange. Can you repurpose some of these people to see how they can help your government drive some initiative that promotes efficiency in those sectors? I even think sometimes, it is as easy as sending government people into rural areas which have been left for dead. We used to have a MAMSER in the military days whose role was to go to these villages and explain government plans and get support, including driving patriotism. The Buhari government has performed woefully in communicating its positive plans to the people and rallying us behind them. The man came in feeling like Voltron who could single-handedly solve all of Nigeria’s problems while holding the people in disdain, only to hit the ground like a wet towel. Are you no different sir? Please, we know how mean you can be. And how determined. All we are asking is that you look at the downsides of your policies in the past and tweak a few things. Kaduna is not Abuja.
On the school fee increase for Kaduna State University, we hear it is now N500,000 for non-indigenes, up from N20,000 per annum. Whereas university education is not supposed to be free, but this leap is too high, especially at a time when people are just climbing out of the financial devastation of coronavirus. Please take it easy on the people.
You may also take a suggestion of mine; the university students have the opportunity to earn and this will assist them help their parents to pay these fees. Students should be used for some social work and even in the building of small roads/ patching of roads or even rural electrification. There are all sorts of data entry jobs they can do, documenting so many things about Kaduna – history, language, culture etc – on the internet while earning a token from you. This is an investment.
You are a man thinking ahead of most, but in the end, there is no point in achieving a reputation as an emotionally unintelligent geek while not achieving your dreams. You can achieve more than you plan for if you tweak your strategy.
Lastly, the handling of the Greenfield University kidnapping problem leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Five young, blameless students have been slaughtered in cold blood and more students are with those kidnappers. Our intelligence services have failed but we must leave no stone unturned. The kind of emergency we need on that matter has not been declared at the federal level. However, Gov. El Rufai you must mind your statements that make you come off as unfeeling and callous. I know that governing is a hard job, but we must keep learning. Everything must be done to secure the lives of the remaining students.