2019: Buhari still best option – Ganduje

2019: Buhari still best option – Ganduje
July 18 13:03 2018

Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano state is an old hand in politics and administration as he has seen it all at state and federal levels. In this interview, the governor accused his predecessor and Senator representing Kano Central, Mr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, of frustrating several efforts by well-meaning Nigerians to reconcile the duo and find lasting peace in the Kano APC. He also spoke on his developmental strides, the boosting of the state’s IGR, completion of old, abandoned projects and why reconciliation may be difficult to achieve between him and Kwankwaso as according to him the former governor is nursing Presidential ambition in 2019 while the he is working unrepentantly for Buhari

How have you been handling security challenges in Kano state, one of the most populous states in the country?

Kano is not just one of the most populous states in the country, it is the most populous state in the country according to official figures. Kano is a cosmopolitan city, and wherever you have a cosmopolitan city, you must have developmental challenges.

What we are doing in Kano is to convert our challenges into opportunities and that is what governance should be. Of course number one issue is that of security.
Before the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari, we were having the fallout of the insurgency by Boko Haram. I could recall that at one time, eight police stations were burnt including an attack on the headquarters of the State Security Service, over 200 people were killed. Also at one time, mosques were bombed, filling stations were bombed, many motor parks and markets were bombed.

But since the coming into office of this administration, we have not seen a single insurgency of such magnitude. We want to thank the almighty God, and the President for taking the issue of security very, very seriously even though people forget easily.

Many people found it very difficult to sleep when on daily basis you get information that 100 people were killed, 200 were killed, school children slaughtered and such other bad news. This was a very big issue that almost consumed the whole country. People were trying to create religious problem between Muslims and Christians and later on graduated and didn’t spare anybody. Now people have forgotten, people are now concentrating on other aspects.

In Kano state, we were able to make effective and community security programme in addition to what the President has done. We were able to provide effective communications equipment, some logistics and frequent meetings and also established synergy with local communities so that we can get some security information. I think that assisted us in curtailing insurgency situation in the state.

Many Boko Haram commanders have been arrested in Kano, that also is as a result of efficiency of the security agencies and also, of course, the gadgets that we provided.

Another issue that has contributed to peace and stability in Kano state is the constant dialogue with all the stakeholders. Few weeks ago, we had an Interfaith Summit and we invited Christians and Muslims leaders, and other relevant stakeholders. We met for one week and came up with a communiqué. We also set up an Interfaith Committee to be meeting from time to time, and that is why we have been able to reach understanding among the religious leaders.

It is not only the summit that is important but the message from the summit that the leaders carried to the churches and the mosques, to let the people know and appreciate the importance of living together. You know there was a time some northern youth gave ultimatum to the Igbo community in the north to pack and go back to the South East, trying to take us back to the 1966 and 1967 when the war broke out. Some of us who were old enough to witness that situation know that is not something we want to welcome again. In my area, I saw where people were bombed, killed and that is not a situation we can wish for as Nigerians.

So we had to quickly summon the northern youth, some of the Igbo leaders to come to Kano state. We dialogued for two days and were able to broker peace. They came to Abuja, and that’s how the issue was dropped. We found out that issuance of the ultimatum had to do with what was happening in the south eastern part of the country at that time. I am happy we were able to resolve that issue amicably.

You have been governor for a couple years, what would you say are your developmental programmes so far?

Pertaining to developmental programmes, when we were campaigning, we did say that our government will be a government of continuity; continuity in the sense that we will complete projects that were initiated by my predecessor because as a deputy governor for eight years, I was party to it.

In fact, many of the capital projects that were abandoned by previous administrations that we were not even party to, we decided to complete them because that is what governance should be.

Also, I hope to consolidate some of the programmes and policies because of the economic realities. So, we are really working to deliver on the things we promised. I can assure you that we have started a number of capital projects both in the metropolitan and the rural areas.

The fact that you talked about continuity is impressive because it’s been the bane of development in this country. How many of the projects by your predecessors have you completed or currently working on?

Yes, we have completed some and we are working on many others. There is a N10 billion hydro-electricity Challawa and Tiga dam we are working on that was left at about 30 per cent completion. That of Tiga dam will be completed by June this year, remaining about N14 billion. And that of Challawa is on.

We have the longest bridge in the northern part of this country, which over two kilometrss in Sabon Gari. It was abandoned at about 30 per cent completion. We believe it will be completed by June and it is over N10 billion. There are other road projects within the city that are not of this magnitude.

We have scholarship arrears of over N1 billion, we have paid and still paying other liabilities. We had to pay over N2 billion retirement benefits of some staff and some other things we had to do to ensure that we complete abandoned projects.

There was one important hospital project abandoned over 10 years ago by the Shakarau’s administration. It was abandoned at about 35 per cent completion. We had to redesign the project and spent over N7 billion to complete and equip the hospital. I have spoken to the Minister of Health and he agrees that up till today, there is no hospital in Nigeria that is well-equipped with modern facilities like that one.

With that project, we are trying to reduce health tourism not only in Kano but in all parts of the country. So, you can see the level at which we are completing abandoned projects.

You are one of the leaders who called for the removal of indigene issue in the constitution. Why do you think such move is necessary?

Well, in this country we are having a lot of problems, religious, tribal, herdsmen and farmers’ clashes, etc. All these have to do with relationships and, of course, the current economic realities. But, the constitution we borrowed from the United States of America should be applied fully even though we are in a different zone and culture. In order to get very serious national integration, the parameters of national indigeneship should not be based on tribe, religion or place of birth, it should be based on where you are staying and what you do. Are you paying your taxes? Are you contributing to the overall development of where you are since you are benefiting from the services there? You are benefiting from the security that is being provided, are you contributing your own quota to the development of that environment? If you are already paying your taxes, I think you are already an indigene of that place, not just because you are the son of the soil, but because you are contributing to the economic development of the state, employing people and doing great and positive things.

In Kano, we are doing our part to ensure that that dichotomy is removed. Because in some states where we have some problems, it is basically because of this indigeneship issue.

So, our believe is that to have national integration we should remove indigeneship issue. So, I think it is a constitutional issue which the national and state assemblies should deal with.

So, in other words, you are saying that all the people in Kano state are indigenes?

Yes. In Kano, I tell all the ethnic groups that they are indigenes of Kano state only claiming to come from somewhere else.

The Vice President said in Kogi state recently that N1.9 trillion was given to states as support. How much did Kano get? How much did you expend on workers welfare?

Of course, we have benefited from all the bailouts from the federal government because the situation we found ourselves when the oil money dropped below $30 a barrel was such that many states couldn’t even pay salaries. We got the bailout and now we are paying salaries on time.

We are not owing any salary arrears. The problem we were having initially was an internal one which has been solved. Some people were being overpaid while others were underpaid maybe due to the fact something went wrong in the system, but we have already put that in order.

The projects of the previous government you have completed and the ones you have initiated, where did the funds come from? Is it from your internally generated revenue?

When we came, we had to reform the old system. I had to request all the staff of the State Board of Internal Revenue to go back to the Office of the Head of Civil Service. We employed a consultant, advertised, and then we took the best brains, some of them not even from the state.

When we took over, we were getting less than N1 billion a month, but because of our reforms and interventions, we now get over N4 billion every month. It is not up to what we are expecting because up till now those that are supposed to be paying tax are yet to be fully captured in our revenue net.

You know some people don’t want to pay tax, so we are deploying a lot of advocacy to capture them on our revenue net. The reason people don’t want to pay taxes is that they assumed their money is being embezzled.

Yes, the increase in our IGR made it possible for us to embark on a lot of capital projects. We virtually use what we are getting from Abuja to pay salaries. So, all are capital projects in Kano state are being funded from the revenue generated from taxes and that is why we label each project thus: “This project is being funded with tax payers money.” This of course is encouraging people to pay taxes.

You said recently that the political history of Kwankwaso cannot be written without you being mentioned and yours too cannot be written without mentioning him. So how come you have refused to bow to him to get the maximum political stability and peace in the state?

Yes, we were very, very close. Even before 1999, we have been friends. I was Commissioner for Works and Transport for six years during military, and my former governor is a politician right from the military when political parties were formed.

I started politics right from 1978, and in 1979 during the NPN period, I even contested election and was even part of the executive members of the party in the state. So, politics is not something I am just starting now.

So, we contested together for governorship in 1999 and the result was controversial. Prince Tony Momoh from PDP was in Kano to supervise the primaries, the result was controversial; elders reconciled us that he should be governor and I should be the deputy governor. I insisted that there should be re-election, but elders pleaded and I agreed to be the deputy governor. Tony Momoh is still alive you can ask him.

And since I became the deputy governor I had to do it well. I had to be loyal, respectful and honest. So, I worked hard to add value to the government by supporting the governor not only by being loyal to him but working very hard to fill the gaps, promote the government and work round the clock to ensure when he is not around there is no difference. That is how we worked together.

Even when he was a minister, I was with him. I was on my own when he invited me to come and be his adviser when he was Minister of Defence. I agreed because after all, we have been together, and he felt we could work together.

When we won the elections in 2011, he graciously invited me, it was not as a result of any contest between us, but out of his own volition. I have to thank him for that because he could have invited someone else.

So, we worked together peacefully. When I was nominated and after I won the elections in 2015, before handing over, I started seeing some elements of undercuts from his body language.

He didn’t attend my swearing-in, he just handed over and left for Abuja because he claimed he had something to do. I said okay and went for the swearing-in. A night before he left, I went to him and I said during my campaign I said that my administration will be a government of continuity. I told him that I want to retain the Secretary to the State Government. The SSG did not know, I was the one that told him. I told him that I want to retain the Accountant General. The DG Media is his friend, I told him I want to retain him, and I later made him a Permanent Secretary. The Press Secretary, I told him I want to retain him, so he phoned and told him. And then the four administrative staff in the office, I asked him will you like to take some, he said he was taking only one, the remaining three are still in my office.

So, that was a symbol of continuity. Then it came to the appointment of commissioners and, of course, from his body language I had started seeing some elements of disagreements. So, I didn’t get his opinion on the appointment of the commissioners because I thought that was not even necessary because the commissioners are not as strong in government as SSG and the Accountant General. So, I thought it was something I could do. Even at that, my Commissioner for Agriculture now was also his Commissioner for Agriculture, we are still together; the Commissioner for Local Governments is a younger brother to his wife, he was chairman of local government during his time; the Commissioner for Water Resources was an adviser in his government; the Commissioner for Finance was also Commissioner for Finance in his government.

How is the state preparing for the APC convention and the 2018 elections?

Kano state has a total of 342 delegates. We have the highest number of delegates in Nigeria in APC. No state is up to 300 delegates, and I can assure you if Kwankwaso contests against Buhari in APC, he will get zero vote from Kano.

…We are planning, and we are working hard to get a minimum of five million votes for Buhari in Kano, and we would get it. We are not saying that there would be no obstacles. Of course, there would be obstacles. Politics is about obstacles. But we would get it.

Don’t you think that the crisis with your immediate predecessor will affect your chances in the 2019 elections?

On 2019 elections, that is left to God. But personally, I wouldn’t mind for him to join another party, back a candidate that will contest against me.

And if the constitution allows, I would even invite him to come and contest against me on a different platform to test his popularity. Politics is like that.