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NOISE ABOUT ZONING UNNECESSARY – AZUKA

By NBF News

Chief Chris Azuka is an Igbo man from Oba in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State. But he is one of the Special Advisers on Inter-Community Relations to Kano State governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekara'u.

Most people will find his position strange considering the existing religious intolerance between the Christian Igbo and the predominantly Moslem north, but the Peace and Conflict Management expert is part of Shekarau's government, ensuring that the religious intolerance and other ethnic issues that have been the bane of Kano as well as other northern states are reduced or totally eliminated.

In this chat with Sunday Sun, he bares his mind on sundry national issues including the challenge of ensuring peace among various ethnic nationalities in a volatile northern state like Kano.

You are the Special Assistant to Kano State governor on Inter-Community Relations. That means your main job is to advise the governor on the best way to ensure peace in the state, how has it been ensuring peaceful co-existence in Kano?

Leadership is about defining and providing directions on critical issues and it happens on an on-going basis. For instance, the issue of peace and stability in Kano was at some point a national issue because when there is crisis in Kano, it has a spill over effect, maybe in Aba, Lagos or other places.

At that point, Kano really needed somebody who has vision and ideas to come and sort out the mess and Gov Shekarau came on board, articulated his views on the issue and tackled it headlong. So, before our appointment, he has already established Societal Re-orientation Agency otherwise known in local Hausa parlance as 'Adedesehu' so that Kano people can be mobilized and re-orientated through proper enlightenment.

This is to ensure that they understand the need to live in peace with one another and respect honest aspirations of others in the area of religion, culture, tribe and so on. After that, the governor also made it clear that one of his cardinal objectives is human development because the people need to be developed. There should be proper investment on the people especially in education, direct empowerment of youth, women and others. So, human development remains one of the cardinal objectives of the government.

After that, the governor brought three non-indigenes for the first time in the history of Kano State into his cabinet as Special Advisers on Inter-Community Relations, which I am one of them. And the reason then, which still remains relevant till date was for all of us to work together and to create channels of communication so that we will be able to interpret the aspirations of our people at all time to the government.

The government doesn't need to bother any more what the Igbo community is thinking or what they feel; we interpret that to the government because we understand the language of our people, their feelings and their aspirations. Our people no longer need to worry whether government policies and programmes will affect them or not because we explain that to them. There is now an understanding among various ethnic nationalities in Kano State.

How can you assess Shekarau's government in Kano?
His government like I have said many times is the best thing that has happened to Kano State and it reverberates beyond Kano. His visionary leadership transcends beyond Kano borders because all over the country, even outside the country, people try to reckon Kano with leadership that can compete and compare with leadership all over the world because of the way he has been able to manage Kano over the past seven years.

If you want to assess the government, you will start from what I told you earlier. In the past, people run away from Kano because they think it cannot recover from that era of bickering, quarreling and rioting. Nobody thought it would be possible for us to create a new Kano State. The governor has built a new state where peace is now reigning. And you also need to understand that proper investment in human development is something our people in this part of the world fail to understand.

The governor is not just interested in painting classrooms, building roads and empty houses. He believes that the most important thing is to help people to attain certain degree of personal and collective achievements. So, he has invested more in human development. Since he became governor, he has doubled the number of schools he met in 2003. He has also doubled the number of teachers and he has invested more than any other state government in education.

When you talk about infrastructure, he is also delivering superior infrastructure. He is building roads, not just building any kind of roads because when you go to some states, they are just building roads on sand and after a year or two, the road disappears. He said no; if you want to build something, build it very solid. So, if you go to Kano, it is not just about infrastructure but durable ones. The governor has built the largest dam in West Africa, Kambra water project which is 150 million litres per day.

He is building another 75 million litres per day at Kigari. This is because he wants every citizen of Kano to have access to clean water. Aside that, he also insisted that empowerment as seen in many parts of the country should not be political issue where people make noise, bring one bicycle and one bag of rice and they spend all the money on ego. He established a directorate on youth empowerment. If you also come to Kano, you will discover that it is more organized now than ever before and these are part of the reasons people think that Nigeria's problem is buried in leadership.

By May 2011, Governor Shekarau's tenure will expire and by extension, your tenure, what is your next political move?

My plans are in the hands of God. The most important thing for me is to do the job I have now and ensure that I leave with my head held high at the end of my governor's tenure. Leadership is not about people moving round and looking for offices to fill their pockets; it is about creative and intelligent vision and ideas. Therefore, I want to say that the days when people attempt to impose themselves on the people must be over.

The people are watching. They know what you can do, your level of intellectual endowment, your level of articulation, your capacity to deliver and so on. They know the kind of person that will help them do the job. So, people certainly will look for you and say, we think you can do this for us.

Talking about your NGO, what impact has it created on the minds of Nigerians as far as political enlightenment is concerned?

I said some times ago that the future of this country is in the hands of the people and not in the hands of few individuals who have monopolized leadership and who do not know what leadership is all about. Therefore, this is a call.

The NGO simply calls on all Nigerians to rise, defend and preserve the country as viable democratic polity because if we are able to build in Nigerians a knowledgeable followership base that is fully aware of its rights and duties, then these Nigerians will be able to make good decision that will enable them have a country of their dream.

The issue of zoning in Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) is one thing that is almost tearing the country apart at present, what is your view?

I want to say that in a country like Nigeria in the 21st century, we must be able to understand what governance is all about. It goes beyond presenting yearly budgets, making appointment into the cabinet, sacking some ministers, traveling around the world, making noise and all that. That is not governance. Currently, many people still see governance as such, awarding contracts without proper articulation and proposal, without proper operationalisation so that people will have returns.

Why we agitate that we are suffering everyday because people think their kinsman is not the president. But it is not true. We are suffering because we have not been able to produce quality leadership that has the confidence, the intelligence, the creativity and the vision to bring results. Talking about zoning, I ask people eight years of Obasanjo's administration, did it make the Yoruba people better than other Nigerians? Are they richer and more prosperous than others? They are not. So, what can the Yoruba people talk about now?

Nearly four years of Yar'Adua's government, did he make anybody in Katsina State alone better, not to talk of the entire north?

Are you a member of any political party?
I am not a member of any political party but you know I serve an All Nigeria Peoples' Party (ANPP) governor in Kano State. But I borrow a word from John F. Kennedy who said that in the face of malpractice, it is evil to be neutral in the sense of moral crisis. We have a moral crisis in the country. We have leaders who have refused to respect honest aspirations of the people of this country.

They have not been able to respect the aspirations for free and fair elections, they have rigged, they have not respected the aspirations for progress, prosperity, accountability, responsibility, performances in office and people are yearning for these aspirations everyday but these leaders don't care. This is the moral crisis imposed on us by our leaders.

South Eastern States are at present described as den of kidnappers, what do you think is responsible for the evil development and what is the solution?

It is a breakdown of family moral values. You know that the family is the nucleus of the society. Immediately you start seeing this kind of things in the family, the society cannot hold because the people in society come from the families. So, there is now a breakdown of family values, it happens everywhere. And many governments have continued to ignore this.

There has not been proper investment in education, human resources, and infrastructure. Recently, I proposed south East educational and cultural conference, which I sent directly to the South East Council of Traditional Rulers because I realized their power to mobilize the people. Regrettably, nothing happened. Kidnapping cannot stop because it is a product of society in which we live in today, where few individuals monopolize government resources to themselves.

So, kidnapping is evil and condemnable but the first step is not even to say we will kill all the kidnappers because we have capital punishment for armed robbers but it has not stopped them. I think government should be able to articulate programmes and policies that will enable them respond to this menace through employment opportunities and through appropriate investment in education and re-orientation to ensure that people realize again the role of families in society.

Government should also invest in infrastructure. How much has the government invested in education? These are the issues because children grow up taking touts as role models, touts who frequent corridors of power, who rig elections and stay on the state resources and loot it with impunity, hatred and bitterness as if it belongs to them. This kidnapping is a reminder for society to wake up because we must build equitable, free and fair society in which all our interests are accommodated.

The interest of the poor man walking on the street must be accommodated in every programme of government because it belongs to all of us. The issue of kidnapping should be tackled in many forms. Security wise, there has to be real intelligence. There has to be serious efforts to build the youths, to make them proud stakeholders in the states, to distribute resources evenly, to give hope to people and bring prosperity to homes.

This is because some of these problems are attributable to broken homes, failure of parents to send their children to school and train them properly. It is a wake up call because it requires much more than shouting or proposal for punishment.