‘Those alleging underage voting in Kano are blackmailers’
Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State has declared interest in a second term in 2019. He insists there was no underage voting during the recently held local council election in which the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), recorded a landslide victory. He also spoke on other issues including his support for a second term for President Muhammadu Buhari. ADAMU ABUH reports.
On the use of underage voters in Kano during the council poll
The answer to this should come from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). For the sake of clarity, that local government election in Kano was the most successful local government election ever held in Kano State not because we won all the seats, after all previous administrations also won all the seats. When you have a local government election where nobody was killed, nobody was hurt, no building was burnt and there was a large turnout of voters, we are bound to say that it was a successful election. I have been around in Kano for a long time and can say, in some cases, local government election was not held at all because of insecurity and some local government secretariats were burnt. I am still reconstructing some of such secretariats burnt during previous administrations.
Nobody was hurt, nobody was arrested and nothing happened. We had a smooth local government election because of the level of public enlightenment we carried out.Regarding the clip you are talking about, let me say that it was totally hypothetical. How can you see a queue of all children with no single adult? That was hypothetical because it was arranged in an artificial election arena that was created. We did not use any card reader for the election and the children were holding card reader. So, you can see that it was a photo trick. There was no underage voting in Kano. Yes, INEC set up a committee and they came to Kano. The chairman of our electoral commission showed them our records and proved to them that the clip was taken some years back. We used our ICT experts to find out the first time that clip went into the Internet. We discovered that the clip first went into the Internet in 2015 because you can always verify that. So, I want to assure you that there was no underage voting in Kano. It was a kind of blackmail and anybody who is in doubt about the credibility of the election should go to court.
On his second term aspiration and support for a second term for President Muhammadu Buhari
I am happy that it is not Mr. President that is saying he wants to continue. It is people that are saying he should continue. But Mr. President has not made up his mind yet. But when he came to Kano, I told him that anytime he decides not to contest, we would go to court. The Kano state government will take him to court anytime he decides not to contest. So, we are waiting for him. In this country, we saw some Presidents who spent billions on third term. So, what is the issue of second term when people spent billions to go for third term? So, that should not be an issue. In Kano, people are saying 4+4, urging me to contest again and I feel that in other to continue with the good development that we started, and the fact that development takes some time which explains why the constitution provides for second term to allow you consolidate what you started, I am convinced that I should go for a second term. Eventually, it will be up to the people to decide whether I am qualified or not.
On why he was opposed to tenure elongation for Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and other executive members of the APC
Yes, there is controversy on this, but we have been able to put the controversy to rest. But let me tell you the issues involved. Those who are advocating for tenure elongation are advocating on the premise that when we hold congresses and conventions, there will be a lot of problems, which may linger into election period. Well, that is a perception and it could be that way and it could be that some people wanted to remain in power. However, I don’t belong to that school of thought. The constitution of our party has made provision for four-year term and we have to hold congresses and convention and the Nigerian constitution has also provided for that. So, we have no reason whatsoever not to hold convention. If you say there will be some problem, you should realize that problems are part of the ingredients of politics. There is no way you can practice democracy in a developing country and run away from problems. There must be problems, divergent views and disagreements. There never will be a time when you have one hundred percent normal period. So, even if there is problem, it is part of democracy. We have been able to move forward, for those who felt we should be able to continue like that, we said no, and Mr, President finally hit the nail on the head that he is not in favour of any elongation because it is undemocratic and may lead us to litigations which may not be good for the party and we are happy that we were able to convince the few governors that were for elongation and they are convinced and now, a time table for congresses at all levels will be out.
On Kano’s resolve to provide grazing reserves for herdsmen?
This is a national security problem. In Kano, we are blessed with some dams and grazing areas. You must know that the middle belt is more blessed with grazing areas and that is why the problem is concentrated in the middle belt because the climate is different. The climate is more friendly there than in the extreme north. We have started providing some facilities and have identified five grazing areas and we are discouraging our herdsmen from going outside the state. We want to use the Falgore forest especially now that the security situation has improved. We have designed how to construct some dams. We had to start with feasibility study and that is what we are doing. There are some rivers and dams in the forest, which we have to harness to provide some facilities for herdsmen. That is why we are inviting them to come. When we launched our free vaccination, we vaccinated over one million for free. We also sponsored the children of herdsmen to go and be trained in artificial insemination. The first qualification for that training was that you have to be the child of a herdsman because we didn’t want a situation where we train you and you abandon the trade. We sent 70 of them to Turkey for training and right now, they are practicing artificial insemination. We constructed two modern artificial insemination centre where modern animal husbandry is being practiced. It is a programme we have taken seriously and it is a programme that will be a blessing to Kano State if they can come to Kano and we are able to provide them with some facilities that will sustain them. We know that our environment is not the best for herdsmen. But if the Israelis can convert the desert to one of the best irrigation in the world, we can do the same in Kano. It is not that we have the best environment for herdsmen.
On the proposed Kano Economic City?
Today, this is a reality. That project was initiated some 12 years ago by the Ibrahim Shekarau’s administration. But because it was not properly handled, it broke down. There was litigations and counter litigations. During the previous administration, we were not able to solve the problem. When I came in, I decided that I must solve the problem. So I engaged those development partners and had to prove to them that they cannot undertake that project and so, we negotiated and revoked that agreement peaceful and advertise for new investors. We got Brains and Hammers, they came in and we provided them with land with certificate of occupancy, we paid the remaining compensation that was not paid.
They are investing about N65 billion on the Kano Economic City and I can assure you that work is going on right now. We have provided the land in the eastern part of Kano metropolis and they have the construction. We are having an economic agreement with Lagos, We shall sit down and see how investors from Lagos and foreign investors can come in. Now, work has already started.
On whether there are white elephant projects in Kano
I will not like to describe any project as white elephant project. Of course, because of the change in economic situation in the country, there are some projects that cannot be completed as earlier perceived. But we are working very hard on that. There is the housing project on the fringes of Kano. Those houses are very costly and there is a lot of liabilities on them. Even if we sell all of the houses, the money will only be enough to pay the contractors that have not been paid. We are battling to solve the problem. But I can say that it has added to the infrastructural development of the city. But because of the economic situation we are in right now, I can tell you that it is a project we are pushing forward with tears. What we have decided to do in other to come out of the woods is that because the houses cannot be purchased even at the production cost, is to bargain with the contractors to buy the houses and we will now see who will balance who. I will not call it white elephant project, but a project that requires fine tuning before you are able to get out of the wood. The Hydro electricity project is an economic project which we inherited and we believe that it will improve the economic activities of the city and the state because it will produce electricity which is good for our industries and so, we consider it a very important project for the socio-economic development of our state.
Security situation in Kano
Yes, when we came in, it was the hay days of Boko Haram and so; we had to work round the clock with security agents. I think what is important is the coordination among the security agencies. That helped a lot in improving the security situation. There was a good coordination among the security agencies and a good coordination with the communities and that brought out a lot of information from the communities. I am sure you heard that a lot of Boko Haram commanders were arrested in Kano because Kano was a good hiding place for them, as a mega city where you can easily blend among others. With modern security gadgets, the security agents are able to fish them out. We are working hand in hand with the communities. Also, we have addressed the problem of cattle rustling and we discovered that the Fulani themselves were part of the problem because they were also snatching cattle from the brothers. We sat down with them and I was able to provide them with some empowerment. Since we entered into that agreement, we have not had any issue of cattle rustling in Kano. We appointed a committee that worked round the clock to ensure that all the cattle that were stolen are returned. We have the Falgore forest, which is as big as the Sambissa Forest. I told the President that I wanted the military to use the place for training and he agreed and I also met with the Chief of Army staff and he agreed and right now, the military are using the place for training.
The state government will contribute to the development of some facilities in the forest to make it a permanent training ground. The issue of kidnapping has also reduced. We also are working with the security agents to enact a law setting up a neigbourhood security, which will include all the stakeholders in other to maintain peace and stability in such areas. We have bought a number of vehicles for the security agents and hold constant security meeting to access the security situation in the state. We will continue to pray because sometimes, it is the issue of accident, which you cannot avoid.
The anti-graft war in Kano
We have taken a cue from what Mr. President said during his campaign and since we came in the security situation and economy in Kano has improved. We have taken the issue of corruption seriously and established an anti corruption commission. We employed what we called a junior Magu who is fearless. He is an activist who does not fear anybody and because of his activities, I lost a Commissioner, some Permanent Secretaries have to leave and even my Accountant General left and he is facing some charges. I gave the commission a free hand. We are constructing anti corruption offices in all the 44 local government areas and we have sent five of our officers to the Economic Commission and Financial Crime (EFCC) for training. We are sending some others to ICPC for training. Our law is on ground and the Commission is independent and effective. Their operation covers both the civil service and private sector; nobody is spared. So, I am happy to say that Kano has been rated as having the best anti corruption outfit. I agree with you that corruption is fighting back at the national level and even at the state level. We have people hiding under the guise of politics, attacking the government because we want them to return what they have taken from the government. Of course everyone knows how it is at the national level: that corruption is fighting back. But we have to be persistent in the fight. What is important is to refine the system so that those who want to loot government fund will find it difficult to do that. The issue is that our institutions are very weak. We must have a very strong institution so that a junior officer can tell you, sir, this is not in accordance with the rules and regulations and you accept what the junior officer is telling you and abide by it. So, unless our institutions are strong , the anti corruption fight will be difficult. I believe that Mr. President is doing a lot in the area of fighting corruption.
Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in Kano state
In view of the economic situation we found ourselves, we found it necessary to improve our internally generated revenue. That was not possible until we made the organization independent. When we came in, we told all the staff from the office of the Head of Service to return to their office so that we operate our revenue generating agency in the most acceptable standard. So, we advertised and recruited the best hands to run the agency and currently, our revenue is increasing because we are able to put in qualified people. But up till now, less than 15 percent of those who are supposed to be paying taxes in Kano are doing so. So, we have not gone far. It is a gradual process especially under this democracy. Sometimes, you have to reduce your speed. But what is important is, there is hope. What we inherited was between N500 million to N700 million per month. Now, we are generating up to N3 billion monthly. It is big leap and we will continue the sensitization because we have to do a lot of public enlightenment. People don’t want to pay tax especially in developing country where people think that their money is being mismanaged. What we do now is to tag the projects we are executing as taxpayers money and people are happy to see that, and the attitude is changing.