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Kano: Hope, renewal and scholarships

By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
I SPENT last weekend in Kano. My intense love for the largest city in Northern Nigeria is well known by people very close to me.

Outside of Ilorin, Kano is the city that I know most intimately: I studied there; worked there in some of the most productive phases in my professional life in broadcasting, reporting for the BBC and Radio France International (RFI).

I have always been fascinated by the layer upon layer of historical riches embedded in Kano’s over 1000 years of existence.

As a reporter, I made a habit of peeling through that history to reveal a very rich vein which helped to enrich the various packages that I made for the BBC’s NETWOK AFRICA and AFRICAN PERSPECTVE as well as the magazine programmes of RFI, during the 1990s.

I decided to make the city a permanent place of abode, packed my stuff from Ilorin and a few weeks after, I was appointed pioneer General Manager of Kwara State Television; I had to return to Ilorin. But the love affair with Kano has endured.

I return regularly to give lectures at BUK; attempted to commence doctoral studies there; or just to catch up with friends and visit old haunts! Kano fascinates me as it has fascinated many intrepid travellers all through its rich history; I can name Ibn Al-Wazzan (known in history as Leo Africanus), who visited in the Middle Ages and attested to the agricultural riches and the remarkable court life; AbdulKareem Al-Maghili, a contemporary of Machiavelli, who wrote the famous “Obligation of Princes” for the most famous HabeEmir of Kano, Muhammadu Rumfa and closer still, the Africanist, Basil Davidson. So I am in good company in my fascination with Kano!

Scholarship awards

Well, last week, Baba Halilu Dantiye, former President of the Nigeria Guild of Editors called, on behalf of Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, to invite me to be part of the ceremony to award 501 post-graduate scholarships to Kano students. I readily agreed to be able to take in the strides being taken by the Kwankwaso administration.

I had not seen the governor for years really, but I follow his colourful, but often very controversial, political career.

A lot was taking place at the same time, and like a house on fire, the administration was re-defining governance in Kano in all directions: rejection of the infamous ‘security vote’; putting a stop to sponsorship of pilgrims to the Holy Lands; reclaiming open spaces parceled out amongst the rich; reclamation of flood plains, by demolition of houses built on them by the rich; the commencement of various training institutes, targeted at empowering the young; a new university and an ambitious urban renewal project, including the commencement of three new ‘cities’ to open up Kano and decongest the city at the same time. Governor Kwankwaso and his team of ‘iPad-wielding’ colleagues really seem to mean business and honestly, their enthusiasm was very infectious!

In all, I had almost five hours of no-holds-barred discussion with the governor as well as supplementary asides with the SSG; State Affairs Commissioner, Ameen AbdusSalam (Comrade) and Baba Halilu Dantiye. Kwankwaso was very forthcoming in his response to allegations about his ‘arrogance’ which he located within the different political tendencies that struggle for hegemony in Kano.

The administration is executing different projects and he assured me that he is not taking loans to execute the projects, just as he said he didn’t take any loans between 1999 and 2003. The government decided to plug all financial loopholes, by cutting wasteful expenditure. Kwankwaso said ‘security vote’ was simply an avenue of theft and added that states’ monthly allocation was adequate to finance development.

He defended the decision to brand every project with the “KWANKWASIYYA” slogan; he said after his electoral defeat in 2003, the succeeding administration launched a publicity offensive against him, that he did nothing during his tenure, meanwhile they were commissioning projects that he commenced. The branding was to let people remember they were projects of his tenure.

He was effusive about the 18 different institutes started in the past year, dedicated to teaching skills, ranging from an ICT-based institute through to sports, poultry, fisheries, tourism, film, livestock breeding, entrepreneurship, development journalism, farm mechanization and irrigation, to name but a few, along with the ambitious Northwest University.

I was invited to sit in, as the pioneer Vice Chancellor was appointed on Saturday night, after a brainstorming session with the technical committee which midwifed the university.

The event which took me to Kano was the mass scholarships award to 501 students to do post-graduate studies abroad, in practically every field of human endeavour.

Human development has taken central stage in Kano; 100 students are going abroad to study medicine; 1000 will study Chinese; 1,500 will learn French; 100 new pilots are to be trained in Ilorin and the UK; while another batch of 502 will travel abroad in January, in the second phase of the scholarships programme.

The criterion is strict: students must have graduated with a First Class or a Second Class Upper and the rule will not be bent for anyone! On Sunday, I visited sites of the Northwest University; the ‘new cities’ as well as some of the road expansion projects.

Exponential  growth

Kano has grown exponentially, has become very dysfunctional and is literally bursting at the seams. Most of the major roads need to be rehabilitated fast; the administration plans an ambitious programme of flyovers within the city just as it is building pedestrian walkways on the edges of roads. Governor Kwankwaso really has his work cut out for him.

But the beauty of it is that there is a lot of work being done and a commensurate level of effusiveness to match. I left Kano on Monday morning, having seen the face of determination; it will be interesting to see how things pan out in Kano in the next few years.

I left unconvinced though, about the defence made for the branding of public projects with the “KWANKWASIYYA” slogan, but there is no gainsaying the fact that Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is making a genuine statement for development today in Kano.

Olusegun Obasanjo: Delusions of an old despot

THOSE close to Olusegun Obasanjo, must become increasingly worried about the man. He was recently reported to have said that his sudden resignation from PDP’s BOT chair, was “to attract business opportunities to Africa in general and Nigeria in particular, in view of happenings in Europe and America (HEAR! HEAR!!)” There cannot be a better illustration of delusion. As Nigeria’s president for eight years, he spent months travelling around the world, allegedly in search of foreign investment, but he failed; he left a legacy of a dubious privatization that offloaded our national assets to cronies. He lost every ounce of respectability with his Third Term Agenda and became just another variant of the African dictator by the time we kicked the clown into irrelevance. Now he dares to tell a lie about attracting business opportunities to Africa!

As if that was not shocking enough, last Tuesday, he told an audience at a lecture in Lagos, that the reason he could not deliver his promises in the electricity sector, during his eight-year tenure, was that he did not have enough time to implement the projects. May we recall that in 2008, the House of Representatives had carried out a probe of the electricity sector and the contracts awarded, during the Obasanjo administration.

Expenditure  on power

The old despot refused to honour an invitation to testify before the probe panel; he would later send a letter which accused the panel of rudeness, for daring to invite him to testify in the first place!

The Elumelu Committee came out to tell Nigerians that Obasanjo spent $16 billion in the sector and in the end, it delivered more darkness to the country! As THE NATION newspaper of Thursday, August 30, 2012, jocularly but poignant noted in its Hardball column, maybe we should not have defeated the Third Term Agenda!

We should have given Obasanjo a lot more time, especially the twelve years he would have been entitled to, if the constitutional emendation had succeeded.

Just fancy having the old despot on our hands for those extra twelve years and the Eldorado that he would have made of Nigeria: every national asset would have been sold to cronies; his shares in ‘blind trust’ would have hit the skies in Transcorp; the Nnamdi ‘Andy’ Ubas of this world would have continued to rule the roost and the old dictator who was described by the ex-convict, Bode George as ‘founder’of modern Nigeria would certainly have really found his métier as our leader for life!

But in truth, Obasanjo is way past his shelf life; he has politically expired and has become an irritating clown in the Nigerian political circus! The effort he is making today is a pitiful attempt at a revision of recent history, with the assumption that Nigerians suffer historical amnesia; but he is not likely to succeed.

Nigerians are aware of his culpability in all that has happened to us since 1999; these include the authoritarian pall he cast upon the democratic process; the stifling of inner party democracy; systematic rigging of elections; the pervasive corruption; the recruitment of controversial characters into political leadership; a dubious privatization which offloaded national assets to cronies; the imposition of a terminally sick invalid and a clueless running mate and the consequent deepening of the division of the country, and so on!

Obasanjo is a distraction we can do without as we attempt to grapple with problems he deliberately sowed into our national existence. Those close to the old despot need to manage him more robustly so he doesn’t do more damage to himself and them too, by extension!


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