Wednesday, June 5, 2013
What I saw in Katsina
Katsina has demonstrated that there are dividends in democracy
–Secretary to the State Government of Katsina.
It was my first time in Katsina. I received my nomination to attend the 9th National Delegate Conference of Forum of State Independent Electoral Commissions of Nigeria with mixed feelings. I had heard so much about Katsina State, the home of the former Head of State, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Travelling is said to be part of education but I would rather be excused from travelling to a place where unknown gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram just launched an offensive. It was reported that on Thursday, May 16, 2013, the insurgents invaded Daura divisional police station and raided four commercial banks. I was therefore apprehensive about my safety. Well, I summoned courage and left for the town. I arrived at Katsina safely in the evening of Monday, May 27 and immediately went to town looking for where to recharge my internet modem.
The FOSIECON conference I came for was declared open by Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema on May 28. I was also privileged to give a goodwill message on behalf of my organisation. In the about 10 minutes he spoke, Shema, whom I was meeting for the first time, reeled out the achievements of his administration in the last six years. Among other things, he said education is free in the state from primary to secondary school levels while scholarships are awarded to Katsina indigenes in the universities both in Nigeria and abroad. By the way, Katsina State has three universities, namely, Umaru Musa Yar’adua University owned by the state government; Federal University, Dutsinma; and Katsina University, which is a private university. Shema’s administration is said to have built 180 new secondary schools and 40 new roads. In the area of health, the state government gives free medical services to pregnant women from conception to delivery, all malaria cases, all patients on dialysis, children from 0-5 years and accident victims in the first 48 hours of their hospital admission. Katsina government also procured 34 ambulances to provide health services to people in rural communities. The governor said he is against the scrapping of state independent electoral commissions and asked for the establishment of the election offences tribunal.
At the banquet in honour of the conference delegates on May 29, the governor who was represented by his Secretary to the State Government, spoke more on the achievements of his administration. I learnt from his speech that agriculture comes next to education in the state. The Songhai farm initiative has been adopted in Katsina State with over N1bn sunk into various agricultural projects. The government has revived farm settlements. The state government subsidised agriculture and dry season farming is practised all the year round. Some of the dams such as the Jibia Federal Dam, Ruwan Sanyi, Kusa and Kusada dams have been rehabilitated to provide irrigation services to farmers. Tractors are also loaned to farmers at subsidised rate. SSG also said the state government is going into joint ventures to attract investors to the state. One of such he cited was a solar project with a German company to provide 30MW of electricity. A new Government House is under construction with interests generated from the savings on the state funds. I also learnt that soft loans are being given to youths so that they can become self-employed. The most thrilling information is that all the numerous developmental projects are being executed without the state borrowing from any local or international financial institution. This is commendable given the penchant of our government at all levels to borrow to fund infrastructural developments.
Whatever is the achievement of Shema, I think kudos must go to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, his predecessor in office from 1999 – 2007. It was said that while many governors left empty treasuries and huge debts for their successors, Yar’Adua bequeathed a healthy treasury to his successor. He was believed to be a prudent manager of financial resources and it is his footstep that Shema is diligently following.
I have said much about what I was told. What did I see myself? As the saying goes, one eyewitness is of more weight than 10 hearsays. As I traversed the state from Funtua to Bakori, Malumfashi, Kankia, Charanchi, Katsina, Doka, Mashi down to Daura, I saw some good road networks with some of the intra-city roads having pedestrian walkways, street and traffic lights as well as road signs. I saw good primary and secondary schools with modern roofing, not the dilapidated structures many other states call schools. I also saw overhead borehole tanks signifying the provision of water for various communities. I also saw houses and housing units whose designs are breath-taking and could easily be regarded as architectural masterpieces. I saw the Katsina airport which was started by Yar’Adua and completed by Shema. Above all, I saw a society at peace with itself where people of different tribes and tongues live, work and achieve their potential without fear of molestation.
I also witnessed the hospitality of Katsina people when we visited the Emir of Katsina, His Royal Highness Alhaji (Dr.) Abdulmumini Kabir Usman, CFR, on May 28 and Emir of Daura on May 29. At the palace of the Emir of Katsina, who is also the Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, we all had to pull off our shoes at the entrance. Believe you me, the shoes of one person whose owner probably forgot at the palace were brought intact to the conference hall the following day. No theft. The Emir was very amiable and preached for unity of Nigeria.
The Emir of Daura, His Royal Highness, Alhaji (Dr.) Umar Faruk Umar, similarly prayed for peace and unity of the country and charged the SIECs managers to conduct credible, free and fair local government elections. At the palaces, I saw that there were no gates at the expansive domain although traditional palace guards (Dongaris) were seen around keeping watch. We saw the horse stable of the Emir of Daura during a tour of the palace. We were also at the Kusugu Well where Bayajidda killed Sarki, the snake that prevented Daura people from drawing water from the well except on Fridays. Many of us drank the well water. I had a memorable May 29 celebration as the various cultural troupes of Katsina State entertained us at the banquet held in our honour at the Government House. One of such was the Attah Dabai Drummers who performed at Nigeria’s independence in 1960.
On the flip side, however, I am surprised that in spite of the free education policy of the state government, there is a significant number of almajiri children begging for alms on the streets at a time they ought to be in school. These out-of-school children need to be encouraged to take advantage of the free education programme. I also do hope that the schools are not mere beautiful structures without adequate teaching aids and well-trained and sufficient teachers.