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ALL EYES ON SHEMA'S KATSINA

By NBF News

Now Buhari has formed a new political party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and is bracing for what is likely to be his last shot at the Presidency. How he fares in Katsina, his home state, would to a large extent determine how he would fare in other parts of the country. With the latest twist supplied by former Speaker Aminu Bello Masari joining Buhari's CPC, it would be very interesting indeed to see how Katsina people, with all their education and political sophistication sort themselves out in 2011.

The second reason why Katsina should be of interest to us all, at least for this week is that last Thursday, the state government organized a summit on behalf of the Northern Governors Forum to discuss the very critical issues of desertification and environment. To underscore the national obsession with the contentious issue of zoning and power rotation, this very vital and timely summit was actually converted by both the media and the general public as a meeting of the northern governors to take a decision on zoning.

 This erroneous or deliberate distortion shows how disconnected we have become from the reality of our situation. Rather than focus on this summit, for whatever it is worth, attention instead was diverted to the issue of zoning, at the expense of what is potentially the most serious problem for the North and the country at large.  As of the time of writing this piece, it is not clear what conclusions the summiteers have reached on the issue of desertification in particular. Hopefully, the Katsina State Government, which had the foresight to organize this summit, will take the next necessary steps of ensuring that the recommendations and conclusions of the summit are vigorously pursued. With desert encroaching into the country from its northern borders at the rate of more than two kilometers annually, desertification and environmental issues in the North are among the most critical problems that should pre-occupy the minds of our leaders.  

The third reason, which is less obvious but no less significant about Katsina is that in so many ways, the state presents a model of both the best and the worse practices imaginable. It is a state for instance with possibly the highest population of great achievers in the North. But it is also one of the most difficult states to govern effectively. At the moment, the stage is being set for one of the most intriguing political drama in 2011. Apart from the Buhari factor, Katsina is home to the obnoxious cabal that recently held the nation to ransom while ruthlessly exploiting the ailment of the late president Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. This cabal, comprising mainly of former Agriculture Minister, Abba Sayyadi Rumah and former Economic Adviser to the late president, Tanimu Yakubu, are reported to have turned their whole attention -and considerable resources—to entrenching themselves into the local politics in 2011.

At the centre of it all, there is the very interesting persona and style of leadership of the incumbent governor of the state, Barrister Ibrahim Shehu Shema. This is what in essence makes Katsina state such an enigma to outsiders. While the duo of Tanimu Yakubu and Rumah were busy bungling a great opportunity to serve the country and uplift the political and economic status of the North, Shema in a very quiet, unassuming manner has been busy positioning the state as one of the best examples of what is possible with the tightest of resources.

Recent media reports, particularly in the THISDAY and The Sun newspapers, have highlighted some of the most surprising accomplishments of the Katsina governor in just three years.  In an interview with The Sun on Wednesday July 21, the governor said the state is not indebted to any bank or individual; and yet anybody that has visited Katsina recently cannot but marvel at what has been achieved in recent years. The state is virtually glowing with new road networks and housing estates; the state university, named after the late president has taken off and is about to graduate its first set of students; an abandoned Federal Government-owned dam in Jibia has been rejuvenated by the state government and is now offering livelihood for thousands of farmers; education and healthcare for women and children are free; but what is probably most impressive is the genuine efforts to contain the time bomb that is youth unemployment prevalent across the country.

Katsina has a youth development scheme that is arguably second to none in the country. In building the youth skill acquisition village, a deliberate effort appeared to have been made to give the students a feeling of importance; it is a posh environment, which also doubles as the NYSC orientation camp two or three times in the year. The youths are not only taught skills, but they are fed and given a monthly allowance of about N2000. All these the state government has been able to do with a monthly federal allocation grant of N2.7bn and N200m internally generated revenue. And no debt, no paid-for-awards and no noise. This is what every state in the North is capable of achieving.

Although a lot of people may have genuine issues with the politics of Gombe State governor Danjuma Goje, the man has also demonstrated what is possible with what is generally referred to as meager resources. In seven years, Goje has been able to polish the state capital, partner with the Federal Government to complete a giant water treatment plant, build a beautiful university and a very useful airport. In Kebbi state, another self-effacing governor, Saidu Dakingari is reported to be making similar progress. The North is definitely not a basket case, but a region endowed with everything but the right caliber of leadership.

I think it is time the respective elites in the various states in the North take a very sober look at the deteriorating economic situation in the region and make deliberate effort to be part of a solution rather than the problem. The examples of Katsina cited above presents one of the best models that any state in the North can adopt to improve the quality of the lives of its people. The very fact that Shema has been able to record such remarkable progress without undue violence, debt or noise should be a challenge to other states that are heavily indebted and not much to show by way of real development.  The discredited Yar'adua cabal in Katsina and elsewhere that are positioning themselves to be spoilers should be mindful of the fact that people, even in the North, are no longer as idiotic as they used to be; if they wish to participate in the politics of their state, they should produce what they have done for the people with the opportunities they have had.

There are at least three reasons why Katsina should be of interest to everybody especially as the push towards 2011 gathers momentum.  Reason number one is that Katsina state is the home of General Muhammadu Buhari; who in turn happens to be the most significant and strongest opposition leader in the country. Although Buhari had contested the presidency twice, in 2003 and 2007, his party the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) had never won the state; or, to put it more scientifically and within the context of prevailing political practices in the country, his party had never been able to take control of the state.

Now Buhari has formed a new political party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and is bracing for what is likely to be his last shot at the Presidency. How he fares in Katsina, his home state, would to a large extent determine how he would fare in other parts of the country. With the latest twist supplied by former Speaker Aminu Bello Masari joining Buhari's CPC, it would be very interesting indeed to see how Katsina people, with all their education and political sophistication sort themselves out in 2011.

The second reason why Katsina should be of interest to us all, at least for this week is that last Thursday, the state government organized a summit on behalf of the Northern Governors Forum to discuss the very critical issues of desertification and environment. To underscore the national obsession with the contentious issue of zoning and power rotation, this very vital and timely summit was actually converted by both the media and the general public as a meeting of the northern governors to take a decision on zoning.

 This erroneous or deliberate distortion shows how disconnected we have become from the reality of our situation. Rather than focus on this summit, for whatever it is worth, attention instead was diverted to the issue of zoning, at the expense of what is potentially the most serious problem for the North and the country at large.  As of the time of writing this piece, it is not clear what conclusions the summiteers have reached on the issue of desertification in particular. Hopefully, the Katsina State Government, which had the foresight to organize this summit, will take the next necessary steps of ensuring that the recommendations and conclusions of the summit are vigorously pursued. With desert encroaching into the country from its northern borders at the rate of more than two kilometers annually, desertification and environmental issues in the North are among the most critical problems that should pre-occupy the minds of our leaders.  

The third reason, which is less obvious but no less significant about Katsina is that in so many ways, the state presents a model of both the best and the worse practices imaginable. It is a state for instance with possibly the highest population of great achievers in the North. But it is also one of the most difficult states to govern effectively. At the moment, the stage is being set for one of the most intriguing political drama in 2011. Apart from the Buhari factor, Katsina is home to the obnoxious cabal that recently held the nation to ransom while ruthlessly exploiting the ailment of the late president Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. This cabal, comprising mainly of former Agriculture Minister, Abba Sayyadi Rumah and former Economic Adviser to the late president, Tanimu Yakubu, are reported to have turned their whole attention -and considerable resources—to entrenching themselves into the local politics in 2011.

At the centre of it all, there is the very interesting persona and style of leadership of the incumbent governor of the state, Barrister Ibrahim Shehu Shema. This is what in essence makes Katsina state such an enigma to outsiders. While the duo of Tanimu Yakubu and Rumah were busy bungling a great opportunity to serve the country and uplift the political and economic status of the North, Shema in a very quiet, unassuming manner has been busy positioning the state as one of the best examples of what is possible with the tightest of resources.

Recent media reports, particularly in the THISDAY and The Sun newspapers, have highlighted some of the most surprising accomplishments of the Katsina governor in just three years.  In an interview with The Sun on Wednesday July 21, the governor said the state is not indebted to any bank or individual; and yet anybody that has visited Katsina recently cannot but marvel at what has been achieved in recent years. The state is virtually glowing with new road networks and housing estates; the state university, named after the late president has taken off and is about to graduate its first set of students; an abandoned Federal Government-owned dam in Jibia has been rejuvenated by the state government and is now offering livelihood for thousands of farmers; education and healthcare for women and children are free; but what is probably most impressive is the genuine efforts to contain the time bomb that is youth unemployment prevalent across the country.

Katsina has a youth development scheme that is arguably second to none in the country. In building the youth skill acquisition village, a deliberate effort appeared to have been made to give the students a feeling of importance; it is a posh environment, which also doubles as the NYSC orientation camp two or three times in the year. The youths are not only taught skills, but they are fed and given a monthly allowance of about N2000. All these the state government has been able to do with a monthly federal allocation grant of N2.7bn and N200m internally generated revenue. And no debt, no paid-for-awards and no noise. This is what every state in the North is capable of achieving.

Although a lot of people may have genuine issues with the politics of Gombe State governor Danjuma Goje, the man has also demonstrated what is possible with what is generally referred to as meager resources. In seven years, Goje has been able to polish the state capital, partner with the Federal Government to complete a giant water treatment plant, build a beautiful university and a very useful airport. In Kebbi state, another self-effacing governor, Saidu Dakingari is reported to be making similar progress. The North is definitely not a basket case, but a region endowed with everything but the right caliber of leadership.

I think it is time the respective elites in the various states in the North take a very sober look at the deteriorating economic situation in the region and make deliberate effort to be part of a solution rather than the problem. The examples of Katsina cited above presents one of the best models that any state in the North can adopt to improve the quality of the lives of its people. The very fact that Shema has been able to record such remarkable progress without undue violence, debt or noise should be a challenge to other states that are heavily indebted and not much to show by way of real development.  The discredited Yar'adua cabal in Katsina and elsewhere that are positioning themselves to be spoilers should be mindful of the fact that people, even in the North, are no longer as idiotic as they used to be; if they wish to participate in the politics of their state, they should produce what they have done for the people with the opportunities they have had.