INTERVIEW WITH HON. CHRIS AZUKA(SPECIAL ADVISER ON INTER-COMMUNITY RELATIONS TO THE EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF KANO
STATE MALLAM IBRAHIM SHEKARAU.
Politics is becoming a game of unification where it is bringing people from different background, culture and tribe together under one umbrella. For the first
Time in the history of Kano State Polity, a non-indigene (an igbo man and a Christian for that matter), is a member of the cabinet of a muslim governor. Enjoy this very incisive interview by Emmanuel Gabari with the Special Adviser to His Excellency Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, the Executive Governor of Kano State .
PLS CAN YOU TELL US WHAT YOUR OFFICE ENTAILS AND WHY THE CREATION OF IT?
Well, it is a new office, in the sense that His Excellency the governor created it in 2006 (the time I was appointed). He thought it wise to create this office because of the understanding that those who are not from Kano State should also have a sense of belonging. He has been striving to see how best he can reach out to these people, accommodate and given them a sense of security. So he created this office to mobilize people so they can be part of bringing development and progress to Kano State.
YOU ARE SERVING UNDER THE SECOND TERM TENURE OF THIS ADMINISTRATION. TO WHAT EXTENT HAVE THE PEOPLE HERE BENEFITTED FROM YOUR OWN POSITION AS SA?
Well, in so many ways. For instance, the most important contribution of this office is that it has enabled every non-indigene to have a high sense of belonging and happiness in a way it has never been done before. They now have better understanding of the environment. They feel proud to be part and parcel of the government. Gone were the times when they felt excluded and deprived. They now understand that Kano also belongs to them.
WHAT IS YOUR ASSESMENT OF HIS EXCELLENCY GOV SHEKARAU IN KANO?
He is humane, detribalized and a focused leader. He likes carrying everyone along. There has been a high level of development, good governance, enlightenment and public awareness. He is a governor who is seen even beyond Kano as the leader who has vision and good corporate initiatives not just for Kano, but for Nigeria.
The Governor has been able to double the number of classrooms, the teachers and enrolment. I think that gives Kano a future, because it is through these things that Kano can define itself in future. In the past, there were periods where classrooms were painted without infrastructure, without supply of materials, without adequate remuneration for teachers. Today, it is different. Not just painting, but rebuilding, equipping and resuscitating education. Teachers are duly paid at the right time and they have various incentive. That to me is a chart, a new course for Kano State. In other areas the governor is also trying. He has been able to build so many roads in different parts of Kano state. He is also improving the health sector. Healthcare facilities in the state are functioning. There are functional hospitals having medical personnel's that are attentive, dedicated and capable. If you go to the issue of agriculture, government has been very consistent in supply of fertilizer and is also talking about engaging in mass food production. That is a focused leadership.
BEFORE YOU CAME IN AS SA, THE IGBO COMMUNITY IN KANO HAD BEEN ENGULFED IN A PROTRACTED CRISIS. WHAT WAS YOUR ROLE IN RESTORING PEACE?
Yes, when I came on board, I met the Igbo Community totally disintegrated. And I said to myself, how can I say I am representing people who are always fighting themselves every day in the media, street, having factions even up to the extent of writing petition to the government. So I decided to start with the Igbo community. This is because, apart from being an Igbo man, I know that the Igbo community represents an important segment of this society as it concerns trade, commerce and so on. I started talking to various groups and discovered that there were those then who believed that the crisis was better left as it was because they enjoyed it and it also made them relevant. But I felt it was better to work for the interest of the larger society and also for peace. I made efforts to talk to all the factions and they agreed except one that was headed by Boniface Ibekwe and he was always threatening me that something will happen to me, and that I will loose my job. I said no, it's not about the job, its about the people. If I cannot do this job well, why should I be there in the first place?
After my personal intervention, I decided to invite selected Igbo leaders from the clergies, academic, businessmen, industrialists, politicians, lawyers, etc to come for a meeting. Then we called it IGBO STAKEHOLDERS FORUM. It was celebrated on October 24, 2006. The stakeholders met and produced their report and with the help of the Caretaker Committee Chairman Prof Umeh things have stabilized for the Igbo Community now.
HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS THE SITUATION TODAY AS IT AFFECTS THE IGBO PEOPLE AND NON-INDIGENES WITH THAT OF THE PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATION, WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
Infact, comparing the two is like comparing something that does not even exist with something that you see with your eyes. As far as I know, the Igbos never understood how the other government operated and how they made their policies and programs. The previous government defined itself by pushing away every non-indigene from the service of the then government of Kano State. They told all the non-indigenes to go and that their services were no longer need. So today, no Igbo man will say that the previous administration cared for them. But this present government brought those people back, paid their gratuities, retained them and they are able to support their families. Now, that same government brought in non-indigenes into the cabinet of Kano State for the first time. So this government is defining itself by its actions. It is simple and easy. There is no comparison. This is a government that belongs to everybody, including non-indigenes.
HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN HIS EXCELLENCY WON THE SECOND TERM AGAIN?
We give thanks to God and we are grateful for the support we received from the people of Kano. The second term is a vote for change, transparency, empowerment and all that. It's also a landmark achievement for His Excellency because it is the first time in the history of Kano polity for a governor to return for the second term. The victory is not just for this administration but also for posterity as history will always remember this great feat. It is also an indication for us to work harder, so we wont disappoint the masses. I want to once again congratulate His Excellency, the governor of Kano State Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU'VE BEEN DOING TO HELP PUSH THE MESSAGE OF HIS EXCELLENCY TO THE PEOPLE OF THE COMMUNITY?
We won't be carried away by the second term jinx, because we know we are here to serve the people and we will stay focused and do the very best we can to transform Kano State to the next level. We are aware of the challenges, expectations and aspirations of people around us, but we are determined to consolidate our mandate.
YOU DID AN ADVOCACY TOUR OF SOME STATES IN THE EAST TO SEE SOME TRADITIONAL RULERS. WHAT WAS THE OUTCOME?
The visit was mainly to promote national unity and to also let the people know some of the things this administration is doing in Kano State. The visit was to also bring about better understanding between the north and south, Muslims and Christians. It was a successful one and we got a lot of feedback from people to say they were impressed. We went to the South-east, we met first-class traditional rulers and religious leaders and encouraged them to do all they can at all times to ensure Nigerians live in peace, to respect and accommodate people from other places who come to settle or live in their areas/communities, so they can also have a sense of belonging, just like we practice in Kano State.
We met Igwe Gibson Nwosu the King of Awka, Prof Edozien the Asagba of Asaba, His Majesty Igwe PC Ezenwa the Ezeokpoko of Oba Anambra State, Archbishop AJB Obinna of Owerri Catholic Diocese, Bishop Foster Ekeleme of Methodist Bishop of Ezeakoli and other very important dignitaries. Each state we visited, we paid courtesy call to the chairman of the state council of traditional rulers, and we visited Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Ebonyi and Abia States.Eze (Dr) Cletus Ilomuanya ,The Obi I of Obinugwu,chairman South East Council of Traditional Rulers.Igwe Kenneth O.Orizu of Nnewi,Igwe Apostle Kingsley Chime of Udi-Abia,Igwe Bar Nnaji of Nike,Eze (Dr) Bernard Enweremadu of Ngwa Ukwu,Eze A.I Ikome ,the Enyi I of Aba.Eze Mbam Amadi of Nkaleki,Eze Pius Nwankwo of Akam Alo and so on.
ARE THERE PROGRAMS YOUR OFFICE HAS DONE TO ENCOURAGE YOUTHS IN KANO STATE?
Yes, we visit the motherless babies' homes very often to see them and assist in whatever ways we can. For the youths, we have been organizing programs for them. We will be having a bigger program soon where we will be inviting youths from different backgrounds, ethnicity, culture to exchange ideas and we will also be recognizing those who have done well in their chosen careers, role models in the society, businessmen and women, musicians, entertainers, media practitioners, doctors. We will be partnering with some companies to make the event a success. We also have awareness programs to cater for the youths, especially to enlighten them about diseases, to make them participate effectively in political activities and how they can contribute to the sustainability of peace in the community. Few days from now, we will be attending a program put together by the Anambra State indigenes here in Kano, titled ANAMBRA DAY CELEBRATION. They will also be using the opportunity to formally welcome me as the Special Adviser. We will be receiving a lot of dignitaries from different parts of the country. We are also committed to identifying those youth with special talents so as to help them succeed.
YOU HAVE BEEN RECEIVING LOTS OF RECOGNITION/AWARDS RECENTLY. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT IT?
God has always been my strength. Sure, the awards have encouraged me to know that people appreciate what I am doing and also serve as a reminder for me to do more and not relent in my effort of serving humanity. I have received many awards, some I can't even remember anymore. To mention just a few: I received Vocational Service Award for Exemplary Leadership Qualities(2006) from Rotary Club of Nassarawa, District 9120, Kano State. I also received a Special Award for Excellence from the Niger Delta Solidarity forum, Kano State. Also NANS Youth Ambassador Award by the National Association of Nigerian Students . Another Special Award for Excellence from the Friends Committee Kano. Recently, I received Fellowship/Distinguished Leadership Award for Excellence for the year 2007 from the Institute of Corporate Executives of Nigeria which was held in Katsina State on the 7th of February 2008. I was invited to Lagos on the 16th of March, 2008 to receive the Professional Fellowship Award from the Civilian Institute of Democratic Administration Lagos State. There are a couple of other chieftaincy titles, recognition/recommendation letters and all that, to show how people have really appreciated my contribution to the community through this office. That is why am always indebted to His Excellency, the governor of Kano State who thought it wise to create this office.
FROM YOUR SOJOURN IN POLITICS, WILL YOU AGREE/DISAGREE WITH SOME PEOPLE'S NOTION THAT POLITICS IS A DIRTY GAME?
Some people always run away from politics because they feel it's a dirty game, but there will always be politicians, there will always be leaders, there will always be politics. Our best bet is to make sure that people who are credible, responsible and selfless are being encouraged into politics. Bringing transformation, development, serving humanity is surely not a game that can be played by dirty people. It's not a dirty business. It is a big challenge for serious-minded people. It's for professionals. It's a serious business. Like the adage which says evil thrives when good people do nothing. So we want people who are good to come into politics, to change that perception. If anybody thinks it's a dirty game, he has a responsibility to come in and make a difference. Politics is a noble profession, for noble and responsible people to perform their duties.
IT'S BEEN WONDERFUL TALKING WITH YOU, SIR.
EMMANUEL GABARI REPORTING FOR www.nollywoodgists.com