KANO SUMMIT: OF CORRUPTION AND NORTH'S UNDERDEVELOPMENT
The recently concluded Kano summit on the collapsing socio- economic, political and educational standard of northern Nigeria exposed a kind of upsetting scenario in which the solution lies only in the return of presidential power to the north so as to facilitate effective political mechanism aimed at liberating the region. ABUBAKAR SALIHI writes.
The summit was organized by the Northern Development Focus Initiative (NDFI), an umbrella saddling itself with a task of creating awareness about the dire need of the north and informing the central government that enough and enough of poverty, hunger, starvation, restiveness, poor infrastructure, general underdevelopment and unemployment. Too many to ask, but it has been quite long in the queue.
Former EFCC boss, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, who was among the resource persons at the summit, has reiterated the crave for political merger among opposition parties, most especially between his party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) of Muhammad Buhari. He views the merger as a prerequisite to usurp political power from the ruling party, PDP, come 2015 and above all, regaining the regional lost glory.
His paper titled 'Corruption and National Development,' served as an encyclopedia of corrupt practices in the region and the nation at large by political office holders. He positioned some public officials as the worst corrupt officers to the extent of outright looting of public treasury. Money is being stolen from the source, that it does not even make its way to the treasuries of the many governments in the country.
This perhaps informed the decision of the summit to recommend death penalty or life imprisonment for indicted corrupt officials in both the public and private sectors. It may be perceived as too much a punishment to anybody who served his country, state or local government. In fact, recommending capital punishment on corrupt officers was severally echoed by many that it was long overdue. It was an idea well-conceived in various summits and conferences of recent discussing political developments in the country that corruption should always be handled hardheartedly. Kano summit was no different.
Most emotive and poignant issue that was raised in the paper was the fact that the revenue Nigeria received for the whole of last year (2012) from the sale of crude oil is more than the yearly aid, the entire sub Saharan Africa received. This has raised the question of where is the money or anything to show for it? It was even noted in the paper that the British Prime Minister, David Cameron has posed this similar question at the World Economic Forum to African leaders and Nigeria in particular that there are too much money but no development work.
A country where insecurity is the order of the day, poverty wears many faces and unemployment has risen on an unbelievable scale and the northern region was in a near collapse, but public office holders were yet to recognize the fact to reverse the trend.
I think one may be right to predict doom for that country. How would you expect Garden of Eden to remain in the decay and still expect a level playing ground? These were some of the reactions at the summit if not much more.
It is however significant to mention that the past leaders of the northern region were able to maintain law and order and ensure efficient security of life and property. They built the Ahmadu Bello University, the largest in sub Saharan Africa; they built Ahmadu Bello stadium one of the largest and best in Africa at that time. They built NNDC, the largest conglomerate in black Africa; they built many textile factories and built good primary and secondary schools.
This work was made possible with the little resources and at the time when there was no better political structure or adequate human resource, but it was accomplished by the same people whose names are always evoked in similar gatherings. The question of when would the legacy of the Sardauna's and his lieutenants be re-enacted?
What is even more dumbfounding mentioned at the summit was the role of local government councils in misappropriating grants for development work in communities and villages. It was captured in Ribadu's paper that 414 local government areas and the 19 northern states received a total of N8.3 trillion from the federation account between 1999 and 2010. Unfortunately, this is the same region where the ratio of underdevelopment and unemployment rate grows higher.
In a highlight of the ill-fated development scene in the local government areas of the north since the resumption of democratic rule expresses adversity. Larger percentage of local communities in the north are without potable water, electricity, hospitals, agricultural assistance, feeder roads to transport their agricultural produce to markets and in accessing neighboring villages.
Notwithstanding, nobody knows what these local governments generated as internal revenue. The managements hardly meet in council except when there are subventions to be shared.
Malam Ribadu also positioned state governors in the same picture with the local government administrators in terms of non provision of dividends of democracy in the last 14 years. Some governors did well as he asserted.
I cannot but mention the fact that the present Kano State governor, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, was extolled at the summit for doing what the summit felt was right. That's to say Governor Kwankwaso had refused to award single hajj seat to anybody as a measure of bringing to a close the misappropriation of state resources.
In his closing remarks at the three day summit, the chief host of the summit, Governor Kwankwaso, asked all and sundry to appreciate the work of northern heroes past who had done marvelously well to the emancipation of the region. He joined all other good leaders in the world in calling all good hands to be on deck for a better north and the nation.
'Northern governors are not the worst governors ever in the country. It will do justice to some state governors if their good works will be acknowledged, instead of condemning all,' Kwankwaso said at the summit.
The assumption of governor kwankwaso was to convince the summit about the change he believed he has brought into the polity. He had wanted most especially, the opinion leaders to observe the current development in various states so as to score each governor based on his good work. And, any governor who performs poorly will be scored zero. I am sure this is what he meant by doing justice to leaders.
In spite of this, the role of members of various state assemblies in bringing the region to its knees and their corrupt practices has been critically debated. Theirs was even worse. They were accused of putting in nuisance on the helm of affairs of the public. They are supposed to appropriate money for executive, do oversight functions and to check the excesses of the government.
The summit concurred that if the legislators are doing their work assiduously, those appointed commissioners and ministers wouldn't have been there. Their oversight function was said to have reduced to visits to ministries and agencies to get packages. Worst of all was that they don't even attend sittings of the parliament to defend the interest of the people they represent. They are known to be part of those being awarded contracts, besides their constituency allowance that is not subject to any checks.
Hardly did you notice anybody at the summit who doesn't believe that the system that the country is operating contradicts and cannot bring development. It manifested in many minds that it's the system that paves way for the political players to dance to the tune and let off. The summit opened a debate that could take a while to get filled off.
Worst of all killing the system that left the region and the nation where it is was the last hope of the common man, the judiciary. It is sad to say that the judiciary in Nigeria has in recent times, become the main legitimizing institution for any corrupt practice.
When one rigs an election, it is the judiciary that gives validity to that election, when the politicians are not in agreement, a judge will give a helping hand to the one with more power and money. When office holders steal money and are charged to court, the judiciary cleanses that illegally acquired wealth and makes what is unlawful lawful.
Religious leaders and traditional title holders in the north were not left out in also playing significant roles in the downfall of the region. They are supposed to be successors of the divine prophetic messages and custodians of beautiful cultures and traditions. Unfortunately, they are now part and parcel of the on-going corruption.
Finally let us all be spectators of the affairs of the northern region and the nation in general. May the summit be the beginning of the end, not the end of the beginning of the north's ache for liberation.