The Kano State governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, has disclosed the main reasons behind the strained relationship between him and his former political associate, Senator Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso, linking them to disagreements on policy implementation and actions of sycophants.
He said Kwankwaso had misinterpreted the fine-tuning of the policies he bequeathed to mean an attempt to deny him credit.
The governor expressed doubt about the clash affecting the chances of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state during the next general elections in 2019.
He, however, expressed readiness to reconcile with his former principal who he said he had not been on talking terms with.
What featured most was the value of the Naira because the situation is becoming alarming. But the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) made some analysis and we were convinced that they were doing a lot to stabilize the Naira, and by implication, reduce inflation.
Another very important issue that came up was agriculture. The minister of agriculture was there, and we discussed ways of promoting some products based on comparative advantage within the six geopolitical zones. We also discussed the issue of fertilizer and many other things that would boost agriculture in the country. We appreciated that there is unprecedented development in the field of agriculture because what is being produced now in terms of wheat and rice has increased tremendously. We believe that within the next two to three years there would be no more need to import rice into the country, especially considering the harvest we have. Also, the government has changed the system of fertilizer distribution because it is the most essential in the production chain. But what the government has decided to do now is to import the raw materials instead of importing the fertilizer. The raw materials, which cost 35 per cent, are obtainable in Nigeria. Government identified some blending plants across the country, of which Kano is included. Such blending plants would be given the raw materials to produce fertilizer locally and sell at a uniform price of N5,000 to the farmers.
These were basically what we discussed. Of course, there were many other issues. The former governor of Ondo State was congratulated for completing his two terms successfully and for a very good transition because he was in power when the opposition won election in his state and he congratulated the winner. In fact, during the NEC meeting he introduced the incoming governor and promised to continue giving him advice. We actually praised him for that.
You said the CBN governor made a presentation which convinced you that the Naira would stabilize. What were the key aspects of his presentation?
The key aspect was that we need to stop importation and increase our export. This is because it is obvious that the Dollar is not there for us to import, and in Nigeria, we are used to importing almost everything. But from the look of things, Nigerians now hardly import because it is very difficult. That is the issue. We believe that with the improvement in agriculture, certainly, importation will be abandoned and we will start exporting food items to West African countries. They are now coming to buy in our markets. For instance, the Central and West African countries are always in Dawanau Market in Kano to patronize our farm produce, which goes to show that if that is formalized it would earn foreign exchange for us.
Another issue addressed at the NEC meeting was the erratic power supply in the country, which brings to mind, the Kano State Independent Power Project. What is the update about that project?
In Kano State, we inherited an independent power supply from two dams, Tiga and Challawa. By the time we took over, it was about 30 per cent. We continued with the project and it is now almost 80 per cent. The second stage of the contract was evacuation (reticulation). When you produce electricity there is the need for reticulation, so we awarded the contract for reticulation, and work is ongoing. We believe we should have electricity from the two dams that will assist us in our waterworks, and some of the industries will benefit from it. Hopefully, the project would be ready by the end of the year.
Was the issue of Paris Club debt refund discussed in your meeting? May we know how you spent your share of the fund?
What was it meant for? Of course, it was meant for salaries and pensions, as well as some infrastructural facilities. So we are on it, especially the local governments. Before this, we used to top the money before payment of salaries in the local governments. But you know my state was never in a position of not paying salaries. Now, we don’t need any topping up before paying salaries in local governments. So we are managing the fund well.
Does it mean that Kano is not one of the states being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over this fund?
They are not investigating Kano State. But I am ready if they want to come; I have no problem.
Not a few Nigerians are surprised at the strained relationship between you and your predecessor, especially bearing in mind that you were his deputy for two terms. What is the genesis of the seemingly intractable rift between you and Kwankwaso?
There are two basic issues if you are conversant with the politics. First, we can say the issue of sycophants from both sides, and secondly, the issue of policy fine- tuning. If you inherit a government, you must have also inherited a number of policies, projects and programmes. There could be some changes because of some reasons. When the economic situation changes, then some policies are bound to change, and some programmes are also bound to change. Another reason for policy change is the issue of priority and perception. So this issue of policy fine-tuning is always a big problem between a predecessor and his successor. It is a very important theory in Political Science, so that is an issue. It is not an issue that you can go out to advertise. And to the outgoing governor, it is painful that you have changed this and that.
I don’t want to go into details so that I don’t open up a new chapter for quarrel. But in a nutshell, this is the reason – fine-tuning in policy matters. It will look as if you were changing the policies because you didn’t want what the other man has done to be seen as a success. But it is not so. I promised that our government would be one of continuity, a government of consolidation. It is a government of fine-tuning and new initiation. During my campaign, this was what we were saying. What I mean by government of continuity is that the projects started by the previous government, which I was a party to, will continue. The government of consolidation means that some projects and programmes at very low levels would need consolidation; hence there is the need for fine-tuning because of economic situation. There could also be some aberrations in the policy and there is the need for fine-tuning. A new initiation means that I will introduce new issues. And this became a problem to sycophants who said I was not following the Kwankwasiyya ideology. We were the proponents of the ideology. I read Political Science, so you cannot tell me about ideology. Basically, these are the two reasons.
Can you mention the projects that caused this rift?
He sponsored 100 pilots but where are the aircraft? It is just like somebody reading Law without going to Law School. So they finished, but he couldn’t pay for their type-rating, instead he employed them as teachers. Before he left, they were arguing that I should pay for the type-rating. And even if we paid; where are the jobs? The industry is saturated. That is one. Secondly, he sponsored thousands of students abroad, which was quite okay, but what was the value of Naira at that time and what is it now? We now have to pay over $1million to one institution. The total cost is over $3billion. And you know that when we came in, money went down. What was coming from Abuja is down and many states cannot pay salaries. But still I said I would continue. Not only that, when you are sponsoring further studies you have to consider the manpower gap and needs of your state. You don’t just go and spend money on someone who will come and queue into the manpower needs of the state. What is the need of paying somebody to go and read International Relations, Geography, Computer Science, Chemistry or Biology, which are obtainable in Nigerian universities? In fact, some of the universities were not even running the courses until they collected our money. And they were instigating the students because we couldn’t pay immediately due to lack of money. Some states recalled the students because they could not pay, but even though we have the highest number of students abroad, up till now no student has come back because of the inability to pay. Of course we are paying, but we are spacing it. Is that not fine-tuning?
Don’t you think people will be surprised that you are now picking holes in policies you helped design?
I said I was fine-tuning public policies. When you fine-tune public policies, the proponent of the policy will think you are creating your world.
There have been several unfruitful efforts to reconcile both of you. Only recently, one of the coordinators of the Kwankwasiyya movement in Kaduna said the reconciliation would only be possible if you apologized to Kwankwaso. What is your take on this?
That statement was made by a sycophant. He is less informed to say that the former governor picked me and made me his deputy. He is ignorant of my relationship with him. The former governor did not pick me on the street. I joined politics before he did. In fact, we contested together in 1999. The election was rigged but we were reconciled. We insisted that the election must be redone, but others said even if it was redone and I won, he too might disagree. So it was an agreement that he should be the governor while I would be the deputy. It’s not something I begged for, and I told him so. That was how he became the governor and I became his deputy. And since I know the constitution of Nigeria, I know the position of a governor and that of deputy. The deputy governor is a spare tyre and has no responsibility unless the governor assigns some to him. I believe in that because if you ascribe a responsibility to a deputy governor he can use it to fight his boss. So I accepted and followed him, respected him and did everything without us having a single quarrel throughout the four years. I knew he was the chief executive and I knew I should not undo him. Because of that when we finished we continued together; we have been together for over 20 years now. So that person from Kaduna was ignorant because before the former governor assisted me politically I also assisted him. I was commissioner for works and housing for six years while he was a politician floating from one place to another.
Have you tried to reach out to him on a personal note?
Yes; even the party tried to reconcile us, but he did not oblige.
Are you on talking terms?
Not at all! But there are still efforts, and I believe that in the long run, we will reconcile.
With this crack, and considering the fact that 2019 is not too far away, don’t you think this will squander your party’s chances in Kano?
I doubt it.
At the national level, it is being speculated that some political bigwigs would come up with a platform to challenge the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), just like what helped you to wrest power from former President Jonathan. Don’t you think the game could change in 2019?
Well, it was a different circumstance. When the issue of merger came, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was 16 years old. This government is barely two years old, by the end of the tenure it will be four years. I doubt if the psychology of the politicians is rife for such a merger to succeed. The PDP suffered from old age in a developing country like this. But the APC is still with full strength. Most of the problems, especially those of the economy, were created by the former administration. If Buhari didn’t come on board, I don’t know where the people from the North would have been by now because of the issue of Boko Haram. Curtailing Boko Haram was not in sight; the military was corrupt, the police was corrupt and there was no political will by the president to tackle such problems. The international community had lost confidence in our honesty and political will to curtail Boko Haram. By the time Buhari came in, most local governments in Yobe and Borno were in the hands of Boko Haram.
People are talking of the economy and forgetting what Buhari has done in the area of security. During his campaign, Buhari promised to tackle the problem of insecurity, corruption and the economy because they are intertwined. Has he not tackled the problem of insecurity? Is he not doing same for corruption and the economy? Is agriculture not gradually taking its rightful position even though it needs time to do that? We don’t have the money for foreign exchange. Is it his fault that the price of fuel has come down? Is it his fault that the production is low because of the Avengers? So all these things put together, we are ready to face any mega party that comes on board. We have our facts and figures about the APC government.
As a result of the dwindling economy and recession, many states are looking inward to see how to boost revenue. What is Kano doing in this direction?
That is another problem with the former administration. When I came in I discovered that the revenue we were getting was merely pay as you earn from civil servants. Also, when contracts were given, there was a percentage for tax and VAT. Those were the two main components of revenue when I came in. I said it was not going to be business as usual because the money coming from Abuja was not enough. So I had to reform the Board of Internal Revenue. I inherited the chairman of the board, and therefore, had to remove him. That too, was part of the policy fine-tuning I earlier told you. And they sponsored many people on radio and television stations to abuse me for removing him. But that was not important. I reformed that system and made it independent. I followed due process to employ those who are managing the board, and now, we have greatly improved.
What are the figures now, compared to what you inherited?
Well, he was getting less than N1 billion because most of it was from pay as you earn; the minimum was N600 million to N700 million. The records are there. Now we get between N2billion and N3 billion. The board has employed 700 graduates. By next week, I am going to inaugurate them. The board is independent; we don’t pay their salaries, we give them 5 per cent of whatever they collect to work. International organizations donate some materials. Last week, the Department for International Development (DFID) donated seven vehicles. The international organizations are studying our systems and following what we are doing and coming to our aid. So you can see that we have succeeded. We send our people to Lagos to understudy what they are doing. Both Lagos and Kano are mega cities with similar parameters and challenges. We also send them to Edo State for the same purpose and many other states we feel are more organized than we are in order to get the best. And we came out with our own outfit. We believe that with this we will not rely solely on what we get from Abuja.
Why is it that your government’s rice production programme in Kura is not as popular as the one in Kebbi?
We are not popular on newspapers, but everybody knows that the production in Kano is higher than that of Kebbi. We have more infrastructural facilities and utilization. Our government has assisted farmers in terms of improved seeds, as well as embarked on mechanization in terms of discussing with those who are buying the products. So my publicity has to go on infrastructure because of the concentration of urban people. In the rural areas, agriculture and infrastructural facilities are the issues. But in terms of quantity, certainly, our production is higher than that of Kebbi.
There were mixed reactions when you released some arrested cattle rustlers recently. Why did you release them?
We granted them amnesty, which is normal. You see, by birth I am a Fulani man, so we speak the same language. I discovered that majority of the cattle rustlers are Fulani. And because they have not been to school and the economic situation has changed, lifestyle has also changed. Herding is now more of a tradition than economic prosperity. So you find out that the young men can no longer cling to herding to earn a living; hence they resorted to cattle rustling, narcotics and other social vices. We discussed with them and some of them confessed that they were involved. We said we were ready to pardon them if they would be born again. They brought all their guns, knives and we embraced them and gave some empowerment to them. So far, we have not discovered anybody going back to cattle rustling. When the Boko Haram sect was defeated, some of their members also took to cattle rustling. Now, cattle rustling has been defeated, at least in Kano, and they have joined kidnappers. We are also tackling kidnapping and it is gradually going down. That is why we pardoned them, and it has helped the security situation in the state.
Some states are proposing death sentence for kidnapping, is Kano also considering same?
We have passed a law on kidnapping. It is death sentence for those who killed and life imprisonment for those who did not kill.
You organized an education summit recently. What are the highlights of the event?
As you know, education is a very important sector. And it is very wide and difficult to get hold on to. We discovered that we had the highest number of school children in the country. Because our people are not used to establishing private schools, most of our pupils are in public schools. We have over 3 million school children and we have over 3 million almajirai. But the almajirai are not from Kano alone. Being a commercial nerve centre in the North, we get almajirai from other states and even some neighbouring countries. That kind of population can be an asset or liability, and the dichotomy lies on education. That is why we decided to start with basic education even though we are also attending to other levels of education. Basic education is the foundation and that is why we are concentrating on it.
In order to showcase what we have achieved within the last two years, we decided to hold week-long exhibition programmes, inspection of projects and town hall meetings with relevant stakeholders in education. We also graduated 2,000 qualified teachers. We are currently training another 25,000 and hope to graduate them in a year or two. We have established management committees in over 6,000 primary schools that would take care of the day-to-day running of the schools. Also, to encourage community participation, which is very low, we are establishing education promotion committees across the 44 local government areas of the state. Most importantly, people are now owning the system; they are now concerned about education.
You said you were the proponent of the Kwankwasiyya movement, who is the proponent of Gandujiyya?
First, I am not encouraging people to uphold the concept of Gandujiyya, but you know people have to say something. I don’t want my name to be immortalized on the basis of such sentiment, so it is just what people are proposing, but it is not what I am encouraging.