Kano needs to chart a new path to development in 2023. This is because the state is sliding into the pit of poverty. Our rich pre-colonial history indicates that Kano was the richest of all Hausa states because of state involvement in the economy. Although, the colonialists destroyed the economic foundation of Kano and other colonised societies the policies of those who led the Native Authority from 1926 to 1963 contributed to maintaining Kano as the leading economic centre of Northern Nigeria. For example, they established the first modern water treatment plant in the region in 1931, the first independent power plant in Northern Nigeria of 15mw and for over 80 years, no similar one has been established in Northern Nigeria. They established the first industrial estate in the Northern Region, they inherited one primary school in 1926 and by 1963 every village had a primary school (hundreds), they established secondary schools, they inherited no hospital (but one dispensary) and by 1963 there were two general hospitals and hundreds of dispensaries in every village headed by Dagachi had one. They laid the foundation of modern Kano. Politically, they made the NPC to become the ruling party of Nigeria.
From 1966 to 1979 and 1984 to 1999, Kano still maintained its position as second to Lagos. Kano does not have control over macro-economic policies but its leaders can provide the enabling environment for economic growth. For example, the Dawanau Market, which is the largest grains market in West Africa bringing people from all parts of the continent from as far as Gabon and Congo. This was all as a result of the foresight of Alhaji Bashari Garko (may Allah bless his soul), who established the market.
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The three administrations that governed Kano from 1999 to date, could all claim that each one of them was the best thing that has happened to Kano but why has Kano degenerated to number nine in Nigeria? There is no single project that has brought any significant economic change in Kano despite several efforts by concerned individuals. If there is elite focus and determination, with state leadership as it was in the pre-colonial period, Kano would not have gone down to number nine in Nigeria with a GDP of $13.30b after Lagos ($46.03b), Rivers ($32.14b), Delta ($25.48b), Oyo ($21.64b), Imo ($20.64), Edo ($17.50b), Akwa Ibom ($15.26) and Ogun ($13.82).
The catastrophe in the next 10 years if not averted now, will be beyond our imagination. This is because of many reasons, one of which is we have over four million pupils in public basic schools (primary and JSS) and by 2033 they would have completed secondary education. Assuming only 10 per cent of them (400,000) will proceed to higher-level can the government fund their education? After completing higher education, can the economy absorb them with gainful employment? At the current state of development, it cannot. This is because, there are over 250 medical doctors and over 1000 nurses sponsored by the state government, who could not be absorbed despite the need.
We keep deceiving ourselves with so-called skills acquisition programmes that train artisans who will not get any job after acquiring the skills because the local economy cannot absorb them. Every day we hear billions allocated by the federal government for one economic programme or the other and yet our ideas are never beyond training plumbers, carpenters, mechanics etc. Our ideas, so far, are not about harnessing resources for the employment of a larger population as Gajimasu (1095-1135) did when he started the city walls.
We have to think out of the box. Kano does not need a superhuman being with the best qualifications and experience or a saint as the next governor. This is because the governors in the last 20 years possessed some of the best qualities and might have even done their best but as we can all see, the outcome has not been the best for the state. Therefore, we must think out of the box.
The two parties APC and PDP cannot provide the desired leadership because they are controlled by godfathers, not ideologically driven, but mainly concerned with sharing of state resources. The best they can offer is to negotiate for a governor who will serve the interest of a godfather or a clique. Therefore, the two parties are not the best options.
A very good person could emerge using his resources or with the help of other well-meaning patriotic people. He could win through any efforts including negotiating with even any of the two parties or another party. This is a possibility. It has happened before. An example, in the neighbouring Kaduna State, is Nasir Elrufa’i. He is one of the best in his generation but security in the state is beyond him because he depends on his personal intelligence and capacity. A better person than him in Kano will not make it the desired place unless certain fundamentals are changed.
I do not claim to have all the answers or even to be exclusively original in the ideas below. Some of them are even modifications of Aminu Kano’s ideas. There are many better ideas in the minds of more intelligent people. The ideas I am suggesting are based on my little experience as a labourer of politicians and some training outside this country. Kano is on the crossroad, therefore, these ideas could be useful.
Some people need to come together and organise a political movement not owned by any individual but people willing to sacrifice. It should kindly consider the suggestions below:
i) There is a need to initiate political organisation at the lowest level and making the members own it. No material reward but sacrifice. This is possible with mobilisation and the right messages.
ii) Before the election, the movement or party must take a comprehensive inventory of the state and design a comprehensive action plan with specific measurable targets. There should be operational guidelines for all appointees including the governor, which must be popularised for every citizen to know and challenge if breeched.
iii) No one who seeks any position should be given such a position in the movement or party from the lowest level to the highest. Some will argue this kills ambition. What is needed now is not ambition but a sustainable system owned by the people. Similarly, no one should be given any position until he fulfils certain basic conditions of competence and honesty as well as bringing references and guarantors.
iv) All public officials must publicly declare their assets and those of their family members on the assumption of office, which must be verified by forensic experts. Their salaries, expenses (including travels, entertainment etc) must be made public periodically.
v) No one who becomes a governor or attains any position should ever be allowed to act unilaterally. The governor must never be allowed:
a) To make appointments unilaterally. There must be criteria, expectations or set targets for such appointments for periodic assessments and evaluations;
b) All contracts must be transparently awarded after evaluation by experts from within and outside the bureaucracy.
c) Allocations of plots must also be transparent.
d) No governor should be allowed to have absolute control of the treasury and it should be administered by competent staff.
The governor should only be seen as the leader who guides institutions to develop and end one-man rule. If the governor is liberated from this prison of power, he will lead the state to greatness. He will lead by example and corruption will be minimised because the avenues of abuse of power have been blocked.
A governor should be seen to supervise public servants and ensure everyone performs his duties diligently. He should inspire his people with exemplary lifestyles, commitment to service and transparency.
By Ibrahim Ado-Kurawa, the Editor, Nigeria Year Book and Who is Who