*‘What we have achieved speaks for us’
* ‘Jonathan should tell Nigerians what he has done so far’
For a man who spent 25 years as a teacher and 13 years as a school principal, “do you know how many assemblies I have had to address in those years? So, I cannot be scared of having a debate unlike some people.” Those were the words of Ibrahim Shekarau, Kano State Governor, who is aspiring to become the nation’s president in next month’s elections.
“As a president who has served for four years – you cannot separate President Yar’Adua’s tenure from that of President Goodluck Jonathan – what I expect him to tell Nigerians is what he has been able to do to justify getting their votes for election. What has President Jonathan or his party done for Nigerians in 12 years? Or let’s leave Obasanjo’s eight years, what has President Jonathan achieved in four years? Or, let’s even leave Yar’Adua’s three years, let Jonathan tell Nigerians what he has achieved in one year,” Shekarau said. “I, Shekarau, can tell people what I have done in Kano and what I will do for Nigerians,” he declared.
In terms of achievements in Kano State, Shekarau boasts of employing no fewer than 20,000 teachers since he became governor is 2003. Of particular interest is the second biggest water treatment plant that he has built in Kano State with a capacity of 145 million gallons of water per day – second only to another one in South Africa. It is the cost of building that plant that is more interesting. For a little less that N6 billion, the water treatment plant was built. Shekarau’s administration berated some Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, state governments which had attempted to build treatment plants with far less capacity at more than three times the cost of what “we have built in Kano State.”
Shekarau insists he is the candidate to beat.
On the possibility of a run-off and the options that would be open to him, the ANPP presidential candidate said:
“A run-off is between the people in the first and second position; so the question is for all the other political parties. If party ‘A’ and ‘B’ will do run-off, it’s up to the remaining parties to support either of the two. It will be a time of alliances and understanding and cooperation and in this you cannot predict until the circumstance of run-off emerges.
“And, let me tell you, do not be surprised that if there will be a run-off with PDP, some parties that are today abusing PDP will line up behind PDP and support it. Don’t be surprised that the people who are today calling themselves progressives, when the run-off time comes, you won’t find them being progressives.”
You will find his thoughts interesting and frank.
By Jide Ajani, Editor, Northern Operations
Contesting for the office of the President and Commander-in-Chief of Nigeria is increasingly becoming a very huge venture with huge financial implications. What would be your view about the place of money in politics, especially at the presidential election level, against your own background?
If, as a non-wealthy person in 2003, I could contest the governorship election in Kano State, to the point that I dislodged the sitting governor of a ruling party at the centre of government, then you should understand that the issue is not and should never be about how much money.
These talks about money and campaigns and elections in Nigeria are, unfortunately, being overblown and it is because of the way most of the campaigners and contestants conduct themselves. I agree, you need money for logistics and some other things, but it is not in the way people make them appear. You need to move around, yes, but not the type of figure some people are throwing about.
In 2003, I moved around and my associates and well-wishers were producing posters, donating money for fuel, volunteering their own personal things for us for the campaigns. In 2003, about 90 per cent of resources I used were put down by people on their own to support us.
Again, I will tell you, somebody looked at my face and that if I do not boast of anything close to about N100 million – at least, that was his own conservative assessment – I would be crazy to want to contest the governorship of Kano State. At that time I could not boast of N100,000 not to talk of N100 million and I say this and God is my witness – I could not boast of N100,000 at that time. But I won the election. I beat the incumbent governor with a gap of hundreds of thousands of votes.
Some people screamed rigging or underhanded tactics.
Don’t tell me about rigging because I couldn’t have rigged as I did not have the machinery to rig. The security agencies were not mine. INEC was not mine. Virtually everything was stacked against us except the voters who were on our side and who were determined and ensured that we won that election.
You must be lucky.
Yes, and, if you go into the history of the service that I have rendered, there are many people who feel that they owed me a favour. You can imagine me being a school principal for 13 years in five different premier institutions in the place. In 2003, all the posters that I used were printed by my former students who felt that I had served them and that this was the pay-back time.
This is happening again now. There was a time that I kept dozens of passport-sized photographs because people would just come into our house and request for photographs that they wanted to print posters for us.
We’ll just see the posters on the streets and the same thing is happening now.
Look, when I was out on rally in 2007, as a sitting governor in Kano, the people were the ones throwing money at me unlike what you have in some other instances where the reverse is the case when the office seeker is the one giving people money; in my own case, people were the ones throwing money at me to support my campaign because they know me.
There was a young man who had no money to give, he was so excited and he removed his shirt and threw it at me.
In 2003, I was so poor such that I could not tour all the 44 local government areas in Kano State and yet I was able to win the governorship election in Kano. The people brought the message home. A lot of these are going on. The way we are thinking of this money issue is somehow. Money is applicable and desirable. When I was contesting in 2003, some people will come and say ‘the sitting governor has reserved N2bn, N3bn to prosecute the election and you are sitting here in a rented house…’ I think now, it is in the same spirit and we are doing the little that we are able to do.
But, as a sitting governor, would you not be accused of using state resources?
We are so transparent in the state that the records are there for the opposition to go and check. If I didn’t do it before, I do not see any reason why I should do it now. When the money comes in is the voting day proper because as a political party, when we send our people to voting centres as agents to monitor what is going on, to stay there for almost 24 hours, monitoring votes as they are counted, as a party we would allocate something for that purpose as allowances for agents. Such funds would have to be made available. There are basic things that we need money for but not the overblown figures people talk about.
Those who claimed to be northern elders did not call some other politicians from the North while they were pursuing their agenda. What does that say about their role?
Those who call themselves northern elders, up till today, none of them has approached me as I speak to you. No group of people has come out to say ‘yes, we have constituted ourselves into a body of elders and we represent the North’ and they approached me, none. The ones who even paraded themselves as such are limited to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. That was their show and not representative of the North as a whole. If they were representing the North as they claimed, why didn’t they invite some of us who were not in PDP. I think we are misusing the phrase. There is no such thing as a group for us in the North. They didn’t invite us from the beginning to the end of their process, it was a PDP affair. That is mere wishful-thinking for those who were trying to do it. People can wish for there to be a consensus candidate from the North, but the question to ask is: what are people doing to achieve that.
There is a growing concern that party supporters are becoming more violent in their conduct.
We thank God……
Read Shekarau’s response and the full interview in tomorrow’s edition of Sunday Vanguard.