By Lekan Bilesanmi
ALHAJI Abdulahi Faskari is the Deputy Governor, Katsina State. He is not new to matters of state, having
been in government since 2003 when the former governor of the state and later president , the late Umaru Yar’Adua, appointed him as the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice. He was reappointed to the same ministry when Alhaji Ibrahim Shehu Shema became governor in 2007.
Two years later, he was redeployed to the Ministry of Education before being drafted as running mate to Shema in the 2011 governorship election. Faskari says he could not have had a better relationship with his principal, among other issues. Excerpts:
You headed the Education Ministry for two years. How different was it to the justice ministry you also headed?
Part of the challenges we had when I was appointed there was on the issue of recruitment of teachers and of course the governor gave approval for more than 3,000 teachers for secondary schools.
It was during my time the governor in collaboration with the local government areas built additional secondary schools, about 100, in order to reduce congestion in our secondary schools.
The foreign scholarship programme which is now popular in and out of the country had just started at that time. A number of people thought that it was not going to be sustained, perhaps because of the enormity of the resources involved.
We started with only one programme. About 111 students of Katsina origin were recruited for admission in universities in Sudan. Sudan has some kind of peculiarities with Katsina State particularly with reference to the girl- child education. A number of parents here will not allow their daughters to go for western education.
The programme started in 2008 and we had the second batch in 2009, third batch in 2010 and another batch in 2011. Because, when we got elected, the appointment of commissioners had not been confirmed at that time, I was asked to continue because the programme was time bound.
We still sent a number of students for the programme last year and currently the ministry of education is even advertising for interested candidates to submit applications.
One interesting thing about this programme is that it was initiated by the governor himself and he took it upon himself to provide all the necessary resources and support that may be needed by the students.
We have students studying medicine, pharmacy, arts and other programmes. The governor said he would not want to take any Katsina child outside the country for any programme such that, for whatever reason, the child would not be able to continue his or her education because of school fees. He now entered an agreement with all the universities concerned whereby the amount needed for the duration of the programmes is calculated from the first year to the final year and the amount is paid up front.
How was your tenure in the Justice Ministry?
In justice ministry, it is basically service delivery, you don’t normally see in tangible terms what is being done. Part of what we did had to do with the delay in dispensation of justice. And this delay mostly is caused by preparation of cases. Normally when the police are investigating a case, they will refer it to the DPP office for advice and possible prosecution.
What we did then was to liaise with the police directly and equally the judiciary to make sure that the cases referred to the ministry for advice are treated as and when due.
We had a number of awaiting trial cases which were not going on in court such that when we give advice, it would take a while before it reaches the court. What we did was to have a link between the police and the judiciary.
In fact, at a point, I had to write a personal letter to the commissioner of police who had many cases pending not treated and I told him that our hands were tied regarding the cases and until he brought the cases forward for advice, there was really nothing we could do about it.
And that if the matter should come up for hearing, we will simply tell the court we were not in position of the case. Of course the threat made the commissioner to sit up and they started sending all the cases to our office for advice.
Relationship with the governor
I think if there is a word better than cordial, I will use it because that is what it is. I don’t have any problem with my principal probably because of a number of reasons. The governor himself is a straight forward person. And once you understand his own approach to issues or things, it will be easier to go along with him.
The governor is a professional colleague. He is a lawyer of international repute. Don’t forget that I was attorney- general in the second administration of the late Musa Yar’Adua.
The governor was privileged to be the first attorney- general to the late president; he served from 1999 to 2003 and I took over from him. And I was reappointed by the governor in 2007 still as attorney- general. And he later redeployed me to education because of my background in education. So all these steps have given one enough time to understudy him on what he likes and don’t and how one can key into his vision for the state.
He is an approachable personality and he has a straight forward out look. Remember I said he is a professional colleague and the legal profession, we have our discipline and we have been lectured on how you respect your senior. He is a senior colleague. We are in perfect harmony. It could not have been better than this.
Going by your experience, how true is the assertion that deputy governors are spare tyres?
That phrase I don’t think is applicable to me because I know of my own peculiar circumstance and system. If others have problems with their principals, it should not extend to me because this can be attested to by everybody in the state that the number of work I have here is enormous.
Beyond the fact that one is the deputy governor, I also supervise the local government affairs. There are a lot of assignments delegated to me by the governor even while he is in town. If you have a good relationship with your principal, that issue of being a spare tyre would not arise. I am not a spare tyre.
As an agrarian state, to what extent is the government assisting farmers in agriculture?
There are programmes directly affecting agriculture and production in the state. The governor distributed 340 tractors to farmers at subsidised rate and payment method is five years. So in a way you can say the tractors are free.
The issues of fertilizer which of course is very crucial to agricultural production, the governor took it upon himself to provide fertilizer equally at subsidised rate, both for dry and raining season farming. There is also loan to the farmers free of interest.
There is also a scheme going in the state now in partnership with the Shanghai, also initiated by the governor. It is an integrated approach to agricultural production. The state government has entered an MOU with them.
The projects are spread as usual into the three senatorial districts. It is in advanced stage now. And in order for its smooth running, 60 youths were taken to Cotonou, Benin Republic where the Shangahi is based for training.
They are going to train the trainer and that is why we called it train the trainer. They will replicate the modern ways of farming as exemplified by the Shangahi farming technique.
Under the health service scheme, we have a number of services whereby children from birth up to five years old are given free medical care. Then the maternal from the day you conceive till you deliver, it is free. There is free dialysis services, just as accidents victims are treated free until contact with relatives. There is the ambulance service which goes to the interior of the towns and villages to take health services to the people who ordinarily would not have anything doing in town.
They are working in all the 30 local government areas. Except it is serious matter that the cases will be transferred to the general hospitals. Have you seen the Turai Children and Maternal Hospital? It was started by the late president but completed by the Shema administration.