The recent award bestowed on Kano state Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as the “Best governor in poverty alleviation and empowerment” is a testimony to the strenuous efforts at developing the state through job creation, women and youth empowerment, agricultural re-invigoration, educational development and economic restoration. In an exclusive interview Kwankwaso granted to with Peoples Daily’s Editors, the governor shares his plans for the transformation of Kano’s economy. Excerpts:
How did you manage the challenges of re-election in 2011?
In 2011, we contested and won the election; all that we saw in 2011 was a result of what we did in 1999- 2003 and the people decided that our four- year-tenure was far better than the eight years of the other party and came out en mass and supported us. I am happy to say that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won the election in Kano state.
Since taking office in May, 201, I have had time to see the mistakes that we made the last time and to see what mistakes the immediate past government made in the last eight years and so we went out fully prepared to govern the state. We knew what to do and we kept on moving; we are determined, we believe we have taken so much from past experiences and now it is the time for us to check the drift.
You’re noted for your financial prudence, with your critics even calling you tight-fisted. How are you able to generate enough income to fund the projects you have embarked upon in view of their huge capital-intensive nature?
We inherited debts of over N77 billion and several hundreds of millions of dollars, but I am happy that when we took over, we decided to draw a line; we said look, we are not in a hurry to look at this debt because once we open the can we don’t know the types of worms that will come out. Instead, we decided to leave it there but there are several other things like the over 4billion hotel bills owed to Tahir Hotels and two other hotels; we are not in a hurry to face these, that is why we decided to move forward; that is why between 29th May, 2011 and the end of the year, we were able to do all the programmes we now have on the ground. By God’s grace, the opening balance of this year’s budget is N20.5 cash and that shows that despite the fact that there are so many competing demands, we can raise some money. Yes, there are many problems but the biggest, in my opinion, is dishonesty, not only of the leaders but everybody, even journalists, farmers, businessmen, clergymen, everybody. We need to address the issue; this problem of corruption cuts across all strata, not only the bank MD or his deputy but also messengers and even customers. Unless we decide to be honest with ourselves, we will continue to run into problems; of course, those who have the opportunity to handle the resources of government and other organisations are people that have got a better example, but if you want to test the lower ones, go and keep your money just there and go and wash your hands and come back, you will be disappointed and shocked because by the time you go back you will hardly hear anyone asking who had left his money there. We have decided as a government that we should be honest, we should be upright, we should work hard to make sure that we move our state forward and that was why we decided on our own that we should get someone who has already shown the light on the direction in which we want to move and that is why we had a mentor, a leader called Aminu Kano.
What are the major achievements recorded in terms of capital development programmes?
The achievements are there for everybody to see. We noted that Kano, being the most populous state in the country, is so congested, with so many people concentrated on a small area of land. You know, philosophers say that cities, when they are too congested, are like a human zoo. That was why we had to open up new areas and the last time I remember building cities or new places with infrastructure was a very long time ago and that is why we thought that there is that need for us to create these cities; we have Kwankwasiya city as well as other cities. We have gone very far in the provision of infrastructure; we are going to provide all the amenities of any model city, ranging from a five-star hotel to a conference centre to the Governor’s Lodge; the roads are being dualized, with drainage, water, communication and everything we can think of. At Kwankwasiya city most of the plots were allocated and most of the people have filled it; we are paying over 4milllion naira per plot and we have designed the building type, we want people to build; we want each house to be at least one-storey building and we provided contractors over some couple of weeks ago; we have many other facilities that we can talk of and the state government has decided to sell all the government properties to those occupying the houses which were built many decades ago.
Initially, they were well maintained but now, the government has no money to maintain civil servants’ generators and such facilities. I told the civil servants there is no discount rate and if you want to buy, you buy and that these houses were owned by the people of Kano state; we are just holding them in trust for them. We have got consultants who have almost finished their job. When we are finished with this one we’ll go to another city and build houses for those civil servants and any citizen of Kano state who is interested. As a government, we know that even if you are not from Kano state you cannot take the house to your village and definitely, now it will be better, and along the line if you are maintaining it you are improving the economy. If this arrangement succeeds, by the grace of God, many people will own their houses and this in addition to the houses being built by the Kano State Housing Corporation and other organisations in addition to private developers. If you go to Kano now, you will see a lot of development that is going on; we have all the main roads leading into Kano - Hadejia road, Zaria road, BUK road; now, we want to put in additional roads, lanes, beautify the roads and install traffic lights and we intend to put measures on the roads to control the movement of people coming in and going out of the state. We are also making provision for the agriculturalists; we are providing trailer lanes/parks. We have provided enough contractors who are working on this. We have all the infrastructure and facilities for people to go in and patronise those places; so much is happening in the area of infrastructure and we are working very soon, may be this month or next to award contracts for the construction of a fly-over and that will cover the silver roundabout, Kofar Nasarawa roundabout, Radio Kano roundabout, and Obasanjo roundabout, all of them in this quarter. We have the money; we have the budget, now it is just the details we are finalising; we have contractors working on the soil text. So in terms of infrastructure we are really working hard. We have done so much in the last one year or so and we are moving forward; we want to ensure that, by the grace of God, when we are leaving by 2015, Kano will be a better place than it is.
Have you been able to make any meaningful impact in terms of the provision of water in the state?
On water supply, we have recorded a significant improvement. There is a great linkage between water and electricity because we use electricity to power our pumps. We have imported pipes which we are laying over a distance of 52 kilometres to have a dam and we have also purchased a pipe which is 1,000 millimetres and we will lay it from Challawa waterworks to Goron-Dutse to replace the one there which has been there for almost a century. I have directed that a lot of water pipes be added to the present ones we have to bring more water into the city and, therefore, we want more extensions to other areas of the state which don’t have water so that at the end of the day, we will have potable and sufficient water in the state.
Between 1999 and 2003 you have developed new leaders from your state. How have you been able to get this winning strategy?
In Nigeria, there is not much sense of history; if this gentleman who is your deputy is treacherous to you and he leaves your paper to go to the next paper, you know who he is but in this country somebody will be treacherous at point A; Mr. Z will take him to think he is a good man; there is no good one among treacherous people; if one is treacherous, he is treacherous; if you put him under your arm, just wait for your turn and you will see it when it come. What is more important is I cannot remember any one particular person who succeeded in treachery. It may look like you are succeeding when you are going up, up but that is the unlucky one and eventually the whole thing will collapse because the higher you go, the greater the bang when you fall and that is the position. You see, I don’t too much worry about what critics are saying and anytime when you tune into the radio watch the television and nobody is criticizing me something is wrong.
Recently someone criticized me in the Blueprint for allowing Chinese and Indians to go to Kantin-Kwari market. Now, as a governor, who am I to stop Chinese and Indians from coming to Nigeria? Now, we are sending many people to China for their masters degree; if you want to sell textile materials, go ahead, we cannot just sit here and say now they are taking over 50 -60 of our market. This is why we are sending our people there; we want them to learn their language, to be exposed and think like graduates.
What do you have to say to your critics?
I learn a lot from criticism. The first time they went to Radio Kano and abused us, they wanted me to stop them but I said no, let them go ahead and do it. You see, it is just like if in this your building, if they say the paint is not good, what do you do? You change it, but if they say it is supposed to be on the other side of the road, they are wasting their time and you just have to ignore them. If they look at you and say it should be so and give you the basic reasons which are positive enough and you are convinced by them, then you can adapt. But when their complaint is baseless and unrealistic, you just ignore them and do your best. We enjoy criticism, more so we have other parties.
In 1999, everybody came together because we wanted to kick out the military but when we came in, we came with a different ideology and as we move ahead we still have to fight. I believe that you cannot leave any legacy by giving sharing out to people. That is where ideologies come in; if you go to America, and a Democrat is speaking or a Republican is speaking you can tell who is saying what, because it is deep inside. When you go to Britain it is the same. When one party is speaking they need not tell the opposite party what they mean and what they should say in return. Those who believe in us believe in our ideology and that is why we have other parties; and then you will find out at the end of the day, they will go to where they belong, because if you take me to their party it is like taking me to prison because whatever they say is good is what I don’t believe in and whatever they say is bad I don’t believe it and that is what we call democracy. This is where we are and as the people continue to criticise, at the end of the day, by the grace of God, the truth will prevail.