By Henry Umoru
Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema of Katsina State is a lawyer, former deputy national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and a member of the party’s National Executive Committee, NEC. In this interview, he bares his mind on his developmental agenda in Katsina, completion of projects started by his predecessor, late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, 2015 Presidential bid of President Goodluck Jonathan, the crisis in PDP and the way forward. Excerpts:
ON the crisis in PDP, which led to the defection of five governors to the APC
We have our own challenges, that is not to say other parties don’t have challenges. Ours is obvious because of our size. And in politics, size matters.
It is always easy to talk about differences in political parties or even in any organisation, but what people fail to realise is that PDP has succeeded in ruling Nigeria since 1999.
There are so many forces. First of all, in capturing power and retaining power, it has succeeded in the first transition from one civil rule to another and yet another and to another. Since independence, PDP is the first party to do this.
PDP belongs to Nigerians. That is what people don’t understand. That is why everybody talks about PDP, even non-party members who belong to another party talk about PDP because it is a fully Nigerian party, unlike other parties where you can say that Mr. A owns this party or Mr B owns that party. That is why even the opposition talks about PDP.
Challenges in PDP
As for the challenges we have with some members of our party, I am sure you are aware of the spirited efforts made by the President to lift the party, to turn the tide of those who wanted to leave the party.
In any family, there is bound to be a quarrel, but to solve it and to resolve it maturely is the way of PDP. Look at the complaints that were lodged against our immediate past chairman, Dr. Bamanga Tukur.
At the end of the day, PDP may be the only party in Nigeria that a chairman can simply resign and another one will step in without a fight.
I don’t know any other party in Nigeria that does this except PDP because we truly have the interest of this nation in our minds. Hope is not lost on the question of reconciliation. We can still reconcile, we can reach out and reconcile.
Politics is a voluntary business, I am sure most of the governors who left have reasons they don’t want to belong to PDP but as they are leaving,others will be moving in, that is politics.
In fact, there are those who left PDP that are rushing back. But we will make efforts, we are not closing our doors to our members who have left.
I am sure our new chairman, Adamu Mu’azu is equal to the task. He governed Bauchi State for eight years on the platform of PDP and I have no doubt in my mind that he will reach out and make deliberate efforts to see that our party grows from strength to strength.
On opposition to President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid especially from the North
The issue of running for office in 2015, we have spoken about it severally. Whenever it is time for election, the temperature goes up.
The President has not declared whether he will run or not but there have been speculations on whether or not he will run.
It is only in Nigeria that people start running around for election right after swearing in.
So what worries me is, are we really thinking of rendering service to our people or rendering service to ourselves as politicians? If we are thinking of service, you should allow yourself to serve. I think the time is right for issues of politics, but I can tell you that 70 per cent of the time, people are rushing in to talk about who contests, who replaces who, who will do this, unfortunately that is Nigeria for you.
Maybe, it is because our democracy is just coming up. We cannot be in so much of a hurry that we will say we have caught up with 250 years old democracy.
The President will come out and make a statement at the right time. If somebody is interested in running for office, he can go to any length, that is the truth.
On how he manages to execute numerous projects with meagre resources
When I came into office, my revenue was about N2.3 billion to N3 billion per month but now, it hovers between N4.7 billion to N5 billion per month and of course with the increased cost of labour due to the minimum wage and cost of running the government, we have very little left but we manage it.
I think you can say if corruption is curtailed to the minimum level, there is possibility that resources can be used more effectively.
We are not just talking about the level of available resources alone, we are talking about resource utilization, effective utilization of meager resources.
That is why we have constructed over 48 new roads in the state. We completed every project started by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and these projects are no mean projects. It included a university, the foundation of which was laid on 27 March, 2007 and we finished that university within 18 months of my becoming the governor.
In addition, there was a 165-bed child-maternal care hospital. It was started by late Umaru Yar’Adua. We finished that in about 12 months. Our women and children are getting medicare for free in that hospital.
Late President Yar’Adua started the expansion of Katsina airport and I came in and completed it in a matter of six months. There are other projects like roads, water, street lights, and school buildings.
There is no single project started by late President Yar’Adua that was not completed by this administration in 18 months. While we were completing his projects, we were planning our own.
The moment we completed the circle of projects left for us, we launched ourselves into our programmes. We built over 200 secondary schools, 2000 housing units, and 34 girl-child secondary schools have been built in collaboration with local governments.
We have been paying our salaries on the 22nd to 23 rd of each month since I became governor without fail. We have only two incidences we couldn’t pay on the 22nd or 23 rd of the month. That was January and December last year because we were doing biometric date capture for our staff to implement the minimum wage. But we still paid before the 30th of the month.
For the past six years, no child going to public school in Katsina state pays school fees. Primary and secondary education is free.
We introduced special foreign scholarship fund scheme for students. I have sent over 700 students to foreign nations to study in critical areas of need of the state- pharmacy, medicine, computer engineering, environmental engineering, marine engineering, physiotherapy, dentistry and geology.
These are areas we chose specifically because of the needs of the state. Every student we send to read, maybe a five year course we pay up front to the university the entire course fee for the five years; we pay stipends, we pay accommodation, we pay book allowances so that the student does not have to bother himself about school fees or feeding.
The process of picking the students is transparent. There is no local government in Katsina State today that does not have a medical doctor, a pharmacist, marine engineer, environmental engineer, physiotherapist, and radiologist. At least five have been trained from every local government area.
Also, we have embarked on massive construction projects, I’m sure you must have seen them- about eight local government headquarters have been dualized with street lights; the capital (Katsina) has ring road around it; some internal roads have been constructed and are still being constructed. We are putting an ICT Institute in place because information technology is the way of the world today. We are partnering with an institute in Singapore, we have signed an MOU with them, and they are going to help us run the school.
We have actually finished 250-bed orthopedic hospital and hostel, we have signed an MOU with a centre in Egypt to run the hospital for us and they are installing equipment in the hospital right now.
We have built about 80 primary health centres in collaboration with the MDG in most of the local governments. We have 361 clinics in 361 Wards; we have built 30 major primary centres in some local governments.
Medicare is free for malaria patients, for people with dialysis, for children from date of birth to age five mediacare is free and we introduced the rural-urban ambulance scheme because there are some hard-to-reach rural areas some medical personnel would be willing to go so we made it easy for them.
We provided ambulance and we equip it with medicines and medical staff and they go from village to village providing free medicare to people. They even handle delivery of babies. Whatever is beyond their capacity to handle the ambulance will be used to convey the patient to the nearest hospital.
Agriculture is our number two priority. We expanded and developed 27 irrigation schemes. We provide seeds, fertilizers, mechanized inputs, 340 tractors were purchased and sold to the farmers, with each local government getting 10 tractors. We slashed the cost of the tractors by half. Livestock development we have not left behind. The list is endless.
What advise do you have for the major gladiators in Rivers State crisis?
Crisis in Rivers is something the leadership in Rivers should be able to address. I am not from Rivers, so I am not in a position to effectively comment truly and deeply on Rivers because Rivers state has it’s peculiarities and these peculiarities are best resolved by our leaders there in the best interest of Rivers’ people and in the best interest of Nigerians.
After you leave office as governor, what next?
Planning ahead, you forget the saying that man proposes, God disposes. You can plan whatever you want and I can plan whatever I want to plan, but my fate is in the hands of God almighty. I have said severally at every fora, international and local that my plan is to continue to serve this nation in whatever capacity I found myself. I am grateful to my God. When you enter into politics and if you don’t have a second address, that is when you run into trouble but I have a profession, I have a second address.
If God chooses me to participate in politics in Nigeria in any other level, I will be grateful. If God chooses me to go back to my practice, honestly I will go back to serve my people and serve my nation and contribute to the development of my profession, that is my position.