The Chief of Staff to Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema of Katsina State, Hon. Majigiri Salisu, in this interview, speaks on the transformational strides of his principal.
Let us begin with your political background.
I was a councillor, and then local government chairman for three times before I went to the House of Representatives representing my constituency of Mashi-Dutsima between 2007 and 2011. After that, I became the chief of staff to the governor.
How were you able to switch from a lawmaker to your present position effectively?
It was easy for me to cope because initially when I ventured into politics, I started off as a councillor when I represented my ward. I was then elected chairman of my local government from 1999 to 2007. However in between this, I was appointed the caretaker committee chairman of the defunct local government area, it was carved out of Mashi Local Government. That responsibility was an executive one, so, I know how the executive works. These two experiences as a lawmaker and chairman of local government assist me in my new assignment.
How are you using your office to assist the governor to improve governance in the state?
I have been trying, since my appointment, to see that I put in my own contribution in this administration. The governor is a simple man, a straight forward personality to work with. He is an honest, transparent and committed leader. He decentralised the job such that it is so easy for me to operate and coordinate all the activities around him, and this is successful because the governor runs an open government.
His telephone line is open to the general public. He has not changed his line since he acquired it. Not many governors can hold on to one line. He has maintained the same line for the past 12 years. It is this same line I reach him as well. The moment you call him, he picks it irrespective of who you are, and, in case he could not pick, send him an SMS and you will promptly get an answer.
There is no government that is as transparent as the what we have in Katsina at the moment. So with such a transparent leader, it makes my job really easy to do, because all the loads are not on me, all he does is direct me to do or that, via telephone and SMS. My working with him has really enriched me, not only as a person but also as a politician.
I don’t reside in the city, that is Katsina. I come to office on daily basis from my village where my house is. Since I ventured into politics in the last 22 years, I have never resided outside my village and I think that is one of the things that make one to be a grassroots politician. Just like the governor, he does not stay in at the state capital on weekends, he spends his weekends in his village; this makes you closer to your people.
In terms of projects, how do you compare this administration to the former ones?
There is basis for comparism. No doubt, the former President Umaru Yar’Adua did so much in Katsina for the eight years he was here as governor before the country asked him to serve at the highest level of government. Some people are saying the governor has surpassed the administration of the late president. But I disagree.
My governor is building on the legacies of the Yar’Adua era. Be that as it may, what this administration has done in terms of developments is more than what you can begin to compare. If you look at the projects since the creation of the state about 25 years ago, up till 2007 when the Shema administration took over, the total projects executed are not up to what the Shema administration has done in the last seven years. These are projects that are verifiable. I am not talking from the abstract, it is visible and physical for everyone to see.
In terms of infrastructural development, you cannot compare any of the previous administrations with this government. Check out the free education policy of the government, from primary to tertiary, education is totally free, 100% free. It is a legacy that this administration is going to bequeath to this state. This policy started in 2007 and still running till we speak. When you talk of roads; for example, my place is Mashi local government, since independence, our people have always struggled to have motorable roads until this administration came in. If you didn’t have Land Rover, you will never access my local government area, but, now, everywhere is tarred, it is not different from what you have at the state capital.
In 2013, the governor awarded the contract for another road construction in my locality which has started from Dankama to Kansenki up to Maidua. This road transverses three local government areas, it is about seven kilometres from the Niger border. So it is an important road. The lenght is about 42 kilometres. And if you look at the roads in terms of the number of kilometres the governor has constructed , it is about 20,000 which means it can take you to Lagos.
There was a time the opposition was complaining bitterly about this administration that the government has made it so easy to apprehend thieves because every where is tarred and lit up. The opposition attested to the fact that this government has really brought improvement to the state, and even beyond their expectations. Even then, the government welcomes criticisms, constructive criticisms that can and would move the state forward. Check the new Government House which is 100% completed from the proceeds of the state investment, the orthopedic hospital, a 250-bed bed facility, with the kind of equipment there, is the best in this country.
Kankia Stadium is another testimony that once you have a decent and focused leadership, the state will naturally progress. There is the ICT and business institute which is mainly for development of ICT in the state, the arts and skill village is there. May be I should add that any paint on the wall of any government establishment in the state is produced by the apprentices in the village. All the street light poles in the state is constructed by the village and sold out and the government bought from them on pure commercial basis. There is the housing project, we have more than 2,000 housing units and still counting.
Many people think the Shema administration may be the last to be produced by the PDP in Katsina State because of the threat posed by the emergence of the APC? What is your perspective?
That can’t be true: you can as well ask yourself, what happened in 2011? They said similar thing. They said so in 2003. This is not the first time we are hearing this kind of announcement, and, funny enough, it is the same people that has been saying this. In 2003 when there was ANPP, they used a lot of things to campaign and said by the end of the election, PDP government would be over, we won.
In 2007, they made the same statement but we won the election. In 2011, they said all sorts of things, but by God’s grace, we won again. Thus the governor is doing his second term. I am assuring you, by God’s grace, by the efforts the governor has made in the state, in terms of projects, youth empowerment, PDP has come to stay and will win the coming election.
Crisis in the PDP, what difference will the change of the National Chairman make?
From the look of things, we are seeing the end of the crisis. Its normal to have crisis in any society because, on the long run, it makes the society even better; the only reason ours appears apparent is because we are in power. I must commend my party leadership over the way the new administration of Adamu Muazu emerged.
Already his efforts are yielding results. There is reconciliation going on which, of course, leading to our members returning and even stalwarts of the opposition defecting to our party. Shekarau in Kano, Bafarawa in Sokoto are now in the PDP and many more are coming.