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CONSENSUS CHOICE, BIG FRAUD

By NBF News
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For many in Kano State and most parts of the North, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau cuts the picture of a pious and humble governor. This view is largely informed by his firm belief in working according to the injunction of Allah. Observers are of the view that his people-oriented style of leadership must have accounted for his re-election for the second term, thus breaking the one-term jinx in the state since its creation.

Recently, Shekarau, who is a presidential aspirant on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), was a guest at the Nigeria Union of Journalists' Peoples Forum in Abuja. He said that he is seeking the office of president in order to restore confidence and trust in governance.

The governor said that people have lost faith in government and its officials because they have failed to live up to their promise of service and good governance.

Some people say that Nigeria's problem is leadership, adding that this is responsible for the country's underdevelopment. What do you think?

God has endowed this nation with great potentials, but leadership has been the problem. Leadership must be godly, honest, sincere and sound in order to govern. Long before I came into politics, I believed that one major problem leaders encounter is the loss of confidence by the people. This is the result of the inability to hold on to what we say, mean what you say and say what you mean at all times. This is only possible when you are godly and you cannot be godly without going to the root of your faith. This is what informs part of what I believe is guiding my conscience, and my actions as a leader. We must always remember where we are coming from and where we are going. We must remember that we are not only accountable to the people, but also to the Almighty God. As Muslims and Christians, we believe that there in going to be judgment. This should be our guiding principle.

What impact do you hope to make if voted as president?

If someone wants to give you a gown, look at the gown he is wearing to know the type of gown he wants to give you. The impact to make at the national level will begin from our antecedents. Though I hate to assess myself, but we have to look at what we did in Kano. It's not part of my character any way. My conscience is very clear that we have come a long way in changing the lives of the people in Kano.

One of the things I believe is challenging to all of us in Nigeria is that we have not had a government that we have trusted. We have not trusted them. There is no consistency in their policies and programmes. You see when Obasanjo finished his eight years and Yar'Adua came, I had the feeling that this is the same government. The personalities changed, but the principles, the policies, the party continued.

One of the major things I personally wished to see, if given the opportunity, is to restore this confidence, the trust from the Nigerian public, for people to believe that they own the government. This is what brings discipline; it is part of what will bring peace and security. In a nutshell, the impact that I hope to make is in the area of power. First and foremost, I will give you electricity. I will give you roads. Everything I want to do centres on the economy, but if the confidence and trust are not there, you are not going to attract other nations of the world; they will not trust you and we cannot exist in isolation. We need the moral and economic support of other nations to survive. This is why the government of the day is embarking on what they call rebranding. This is an acceptance of the fact that there's something wrong. We need to rebrand the country. We need to tell the world that we are now a new world, even though it is an old bottle.

There have been abuses of the people's trust, just like in the alleged consensus candidate for the North by the Northern Political Leaders Forum led by Mallam Adamu Ciroma. He is not a representative of the North, because the process through which he was thrown up is the biggest political fraud ever in the history of Nigeria.

I am not bothered about consensus candidate, as that does not reflect the wishes of the entire North. The issue of consensus candidate of the North is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated in this country, as they do not have the support of the entire North.

As far as I am concerned, it is an affair of the People's Democratic Party (PDP). It is the decision of nine men, who came together and choose Atiku Abubakar, with all due respect. So, as far as we are concerned it is the consensus of just nine men. So, we are not bothered about it. We want to change the wine and the bottle and not retain the old wine in a new bottle. Nigerians are tired of PDP. So, it is the consensus of the PDP. I was not consulted; they limited their search to the PDP; so it is a PDP centred consensus. I pray for them; let us see how they get out of it.

What would influence your choice of successor?
Talking about the choice of my successor, I understand it to mean my preference, not a compulsion. The party elders and stakeholders have been asking me who I think could continue what we have achieved. I refused to say anything; but when the pressure became unbearable, I told them my preference. However, I said that it is not a compulsion on them. The party delegates would have the final say. It is like in a village where people ask you who you think will make a better husband for your daughter; so it is a recommendation.

When I came into office, for a second term in 2003, my focus was on human development, which has greatly transformed Kano State from a volatile state to the relative peace it is now enjoying. This is a concept I have held for a very long time because I believe when you are talking of governance, you are talking of human beings for whom government is put in place for. I recall that this is what we call democratic humanism, a democracy that has its focus on human beings. The main trust of this human development is to ensure that people are given the opportunity to appreciate what is to be done for them, to appreciate what is given to them, and to identify with the government of the day.

What was the blueprint of your administration?
My government came up with a blueprint of seven critical areas, which include social orientation, mass production, water supply, education, health, youth and women empowerment and pension reforms. These seven programmes of action have empowered the people of the state to live meaningful lives, such that fomenting of crisis has become a distant second place in their list of priority. Our administration has been able to break the 70-year acute water problem in the state through the deployment of modern and effective technology in water generation. Kano State currently boasts of the largest water works in the whole of West Africa by bringing over 150 million litres of water daily to homes in Kano metropolis.

From our study, we discovered that from 1932 to 2003, all the governments of the state were able to provide the state with only 200 million litres of water in 70 years. We decided to take a drastic step and commissioned a study on how to improve water supply to our people and came up with the biggest water project in the whole of West Africa by pumping no less than 150 million litres of water per day. We, however, strive to improve the situation by commissioning another water works in 2007, with a capacity for 75 million litres. This is about 80 per cent completed and we hope that by the grace of God subsequent administrations will continue where we stop and in the next five to 10 years, Kano metropolis and other adjoining areas will have no problem of potable water supply.

Other areas, where we have recorded a measure of success are increase in the number of secondary schools to over 500, from less than 300; recruitment of 7,000 quality teachers; tripling the number of school enrolment; provision of free instructional materials; increased food production through availability of farm inputs; modernization of irrigation system and encouragement of farmers cooperative. Also, we reformed health system that is poised to deliver state-of-the-art pediatric hospital to the country; accelerated pension payment, with resultant effect of clearing the backlog of over 35 years ago.

Kano State government has been in a battle, so to say, with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. What's the situation now?

It's about the test that claimed the lives of hundreds of children in Kano. What we did was to take up the challenge and we dragged Pfizer to court, even when the Federal Government failed to do that. Our negotiations with the company landed us with an out of court settlement of $75 million. Out of this amount, $10 million was for the settlement of legal fees, $30 million is for compensation to the state as a community, while $5 million will be used to establish a very good diagnostic centre and the remaining $35 million will be used for the compensation of the victims. We set up a foundation made up of eminent Nigerians to manage the funds. They will identify the victims and compensate them. Not a kobo of this money has come to the state coffers.

Your political party, the ANPP, is in a precarious state. What could have been responsible for this?

ANPP is not a sinking party, as some are insinuating. It is growing and stable. ANPP is up and doing. It is going to be the best alternative in this country, not minding the fraudulent size of the PDP. If many parties had the resources to challenge the results of the elections in 2007, with due respect, most of my colleagues will not be sitting there today as governors. I will restore the confidence of Nigerians in government, as they have lost all hope. We will replicate what we did in Kano at the national level.