Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Musings on Shema’s governance style

A politician in government has a choice between doing what is right and doing what is popular
– Ibrahim Shehu Shema, outgoing Governor of Katsina State, May 9, 2015.
I thoroughly enjoyed the live interview held last Saturday on Channels Television by Ms Modele Sarafa Yusuf and three others with the outgoing Governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shehu Shema. It was a commemorative interview to honour the governor who won the maiden The Sun Outstanding Performance Exit Award. The award was instituted by The Sun publishing company to promote commitment to quality governance. It is exclusively for a governor who is finishing two terms in office, and has been widely adjudged to have made sterling impacts on the lives of his people across various sectors.
Katsina State, for those who did not know, was carved out of Kaduna State in 1987 and can be safely regarded as a power state given the political heavyweights who hail from the state. The state is home to the President elect, Muhammadu Buhari, who was a former Head of State from December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985. It was also the birthplace of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. Other eminent persons from the state include Ibrahim Coomassie, Inspector-General of Police, 1993-1999; Muhammed Bello, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria; Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, politician, major general and Chief of Staff, Defence Headquarters 1976-1979; Isa Kaita, first Northern Nigeria minister of education; Hassan Usman Katsina, Military governor of the Northern Region 1966-1967; and Umaru Faruk Abdullahi, a former President of the Court of Appeal
Others include Aminu Bello Masari, a former Speaker, House of Representatives, 2003 to 2007 and now governor-elect of Katsina State; Abdullahi Dikko Inde, Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service; Mamman Nasir, the first Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Northern Nigeria; and Muhammadu Dikko Yusufu, Inspector-General of Police from 1975 to 1979.
Katsina State has been very lucky with good leaders particularly in the last 16 years since the advent of the Fourth Republic. The late Umaru Yar’Adua led the state from 1999 to 2007 and was credited with a lot of infrastructural development as well as prudence in the management of the state’s resources. His performance perhaps made former President Olusegun Obasanjo to pick him as the party’s presidential candidate in 2007. Well, while Yar’Adua paved the way for Ibrahim Shema as governor, the incumbent consolidated and surpassed the achievements of his predecessor.
There are a number of things other Nigerian politicians can learn from this governor. However, I must say that this piece is not being written solely from hearsay or what the governor said during his May 9 interview on Channels TV. I am an eyewitness and had previously written of my experience during a visit to the state between May 27 – 29, 2013 in my article of June 4, 2013.
According to Shema, he completed all the developmental projects initiated by his predecessor, Yar’Adua. These include the state university and airport projects among others. This is uncommon in our clime where incoming administrations are more inclined to abandon projects of their predecessors no matter how much had been spent on them and however desirable they are for the betterment of their society. This is because they do not want to live in the shadows of their predecessors. They tend to forget that government is a continuum.
Also worthy of emulation is the prudent management of resources of Katsina State under Shema. Though not an oil producing state, the governor believes in the principle of living within his means. For eight years, he did not borrow to run his government. No bank loans, no bond, no multilateral or bilateral loans nor foreign or local debts. Not even the sizeable reduction in the federal allocation to the state as a result of dwindling oil revenue has warranted any borrowing from Shema to augment the financial shortfall. Yet, the governor pays salaries and pensions of Katsina workers between 22 and 24 of every month. Is this not a Nigerian wonder? Many of his colleagues have heavily indebted their states by collecting huge loans and bonds from the capital market even to pay salaries! Many states, including oil rich ones, are owing workers’ salaries; some as high as up to six months. My home state of Osun is one of such, likewise Plateau, Benue, Abia, Imo, Rivers and others.
Shema said his annual budget is skewed in favour of capital expenditure. It is the ratio of 70:30. That is 70 per cent capital spending and 30 per cent recurrent outlay. He also said he never awarded contracts he did not have the funds to execute. So, he pays 40 per cent mobilisation fees to the government contractors and puts the balance in fixed deposits with the banks to yield interests. It was from the money accruing from such bank savings that he built an ultra-modern Government House in Katsina State.
According to media reports, the state government declared free education from primary through secondary schools and gave scholarships to Katsina State students in tertiary institutions. Over 700 of such students were sponsored by the state to study courses in the areas of need of the state in overseas universities. Courses for which such full foreign scholarships were given include medicine, pharmacy, engineering, and nursing. These heavy investments in education did not stop the state government from providing other infrastructures. Katsina government also procured 34 ambulances to provide health services to people in rural communities.
Agriculture comes next to education in the state. The Songhai farm initiative was adopted with over N1bn sunk into various agricultural projects. The government revived farm settlements and also subsidised agriculture and dry season farming is practised all the year round. Some of the dams like 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. I also learnt that soft loans are being given to youths so that they can become self-employed. This is aside from the vocational training skills given to those who want to learn technical skills.
The challenge before the governor-elect of the state, Aminu Masari. who will be taking over on May 29 is how not only to sustain and consolidate the achievements of Shema in office but to surpass it. I do hope politics of vendetta will not be played where the incoming governor will jettison the laudable programmes of the outgoing governor. I do hope other state governors will learn from the sterling performance of Shema and deliver good governance in their states as well.
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