BY LAWAN AHMED MATTAZZU
President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to Katsina State has come and gone, but the echoes of the visit will be with us for some time to come. This is because the visit came with some lesson for state governors across the country. The lesson is simple that we still have some leaders who are selfless and will do anything to move the society forward.
So impressed was the President by the developmental strides of Governor Ibrahim Shema that he asked other state governors and political office holders in Nigeria to borrow a leaf from him.. Consequently, the Federal Government intends to replicate the Songhai Katsina initiative in the six geo-political zones of the country; as disclosed by the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Ayo Adesina, on a Channels Television programme.
The SONGHAI Katsina initiative will also be established in three other centres in Katsina State namely: Zobe in Dutsinma, Sabke in Daura and Mairua in Funtua. The project will run for three years and cost the state government and the 34 local government councils in the state N3, 440,205,013. The sum of N576, 798,916 has been released as the first instalment to get the project off the ground. Recently, the state government signed a multi-million naira agricultural partnership agreement with the Benin Republic-based Songhai farm as part of measures to boost food production in Katsina and ultimately stimulate food security and self-sufficiency.
The Songhai initiative will provide training on modern techniques of both production and processing of cash crops.
Utilisation of waste materials
The scheme is basically an advanced farming technique which covers all areas of farming with the full utilization of waste materials from the products for further agricultural purposes. It would translate to enabling over 50,000 farming youths to earn a living and to engage themselves in agriculture related activities all year round.
The initiative will also serve as a veritable source of employment for the teeming youths and would run for four years. The agreement involves training youths on modern farming techniques for a six month period.
Such has been the spate of work in Katsina that any first time visitor to the state is left purring. President Jonathan said: “From the little I have seen from the brochure which I know will not be different by the time I get inside proper, I am really impressed. I wish other governors would emulate this kind of thing. Politics should be about service. Politics should not be about abusing each other on the pages of newspapers. If you are somewhere, try to make it better by the time you are leaving just as Governor Shema has done.”
The President’s remarks were made shortly before he saw things for himself in a visit that spanned all of two days. Jonathan commissioned the Ring Road in Katsina metropolis and the N8bn ultra-modern Government House which will stand as a Shema legacy after he has left Katsina Government House. The significance of the Ring Road lies in the fact that it decongests traffic in the metropolis. For several years now, the metropolis has been growing in a manner that traffic snarl is becoming commonplace.
The Ring Road project was conceived to take traffic through the back of the metropolis so that you can bypass the major roads and get to your destination in record time. In the case of the new Government House, besides the transformational strides of the Shema government in the area of infrastructure, welfare and empowerment programmes, it remains one of the administration’s most important projects. A single dime of the state government was not spent on the project. The new Government house project came into being out of the governor’s prudent management of government resources.
What Shema simply did was to put government funds in interests yielding accounts of banks. The governor was smart in negotiating high interests for Katsina. In any case, huge government funds were involved……so the banks had no choice but to play along. This was a win-win scenario for the state government. It did not only have its funds intact, the interests were substantial – more than N8.4billion.
The accruing interests were expended on building the new Government House. President Jonathan did mention this novelty adopted by Governor Shema in funding the new Government House and the Katsina Governor’s Lodge built in Abuja, the federal capital territory, the import of which is that it is a great lesson for other governors who mean well for their states.
And the fact of the matter is that while some governors may have been negotiating interests on government funds placed in banks, such interests may have been going into private pockets.
The President said during the visit: “It will interest you to note that the Governor’s Lodge in Abuja built at the cost of N400m and this Government House at the cost of a little above N8bn are accruals from our investments and we still have little change (balance) left”. Jonathan also visited the orthopaedic hospital, Katsina (obviously one of the best and most modern in Nigeria) built by the Shema administration and the Federal University in Dutsin-Ma which was established in 2012.
The orthopaedic hospital was built in response to the pains of the Katsina people needing specialist services in the area of bone injuries but had to seek such services in Kano, at least 100 kilometres away, in the past. Not only are the services now available in Katsina and affordable, the hospital is well staffed.
“I am happy for the people of Katsina State for the kind of projects we are seeing here”, said the President. “I have always been part of Katsina since 2009 when I was a running mate to our late President, Umaru Yar’Adua, and I was here again in 2011 for electioneering campaign ahead of the general elections.
I feel a special connection to this state and I can attest that so much has been done”. There cannot be a better testimony to the democracy dividends delivered by Governor Shema in Katsina State than the one that came from Jonathan.
Shema, first elected as governor in 2007 after a stint as the state Commissioner for Justice, and re-elected in 2011, showed rare passion to change the face of Katsina right from his first day in office.
His emergence was due to the confidence and trust the late President and his predecessor in office, Umaru Yar’Adua, reposed in him. He set about justifying that confidence with the spate of infrastructural development and human empowerment projects he embarked upon as soon as he assumed the mantle of leadership.
The governor immediately designed a long term plan on road construction across the state; opening up almost all parts of Katsina to urban markets and bordering towns and communities.
The Ring Road connects Kaita Road, Jibia Road, Batsari Road, Dutsema Road, Kano Road, Mani Road and Daura Road. In Katsina, the challenge lies not in choosing a good road, but in selecting the nearest road to a destination in the face of many alternatives. Since 2007, the state government has constructed more than 2,000 kilometres of roads across the state.
Shema also channeled his energy into the agricultural sector which has seen the state government assisting farmers with funds and inputs as well as executing huge irrigation projects that increased farm produce by more than 100 per cent. Katsina State stands as a beacon of hope for Nigeria’s food sufficiency drive.
The state is one of the leading producers of maize, sorghum, millet, rice, cotton, groundnut, sesame, soya beans and cowpeas in the country. Katsina is also a hub of livestock farming with an estimated 1.0 million cattle, 3.0 million goats and 2.0 million sheep. There are donkeys and horses reared for draft power, sports and leisure with exotic poultry raised commercially for meat and egg.
Over 80 percent of Katsina State citizens are engaged in different forms of agriculture. Given the state’s comparative advantage in the sector, the state government spent over N15bn since 2008 on the procurement of 143,000 metric tons of assorted fertilizer for sale to farmers at a subsidized rate. Under the Grains Buffer Stock Program, a total of 15,200 metric tons of assorted grains was purchased at the cost of N1, 119,887,790 to enhance the storage of the grains and improve their shelf life. The grains silo and other conventional storage structures in the state have also been rehabilitated.
The state government has also invested heavily in the Goat and Sheep Improvement Program, supplementary feed project and the development of community pastures for otherwise vagrant cattle herdsmen. Since the inception of the Shema administration, education from primary to tertiary level has been free.
All the students studying different courses abroad, about 600 of them, are on scholarship and the state government pays upfront so that, throughout the duration of their courses, the students will have no problems whatsoever. Girl – child education in the state has been relegated for so long. The Shema administration is doing everything humanly possible to reverse the trend.
Girl – child in Katsina is being pursued aggressively in such a manner that you have at least one girls’ school in each local government area of the state. And to encourage parents to enlist the girl – child in school in a society where the odds are against her out of the belief that she should neither be seen nor heard, the state government pays them (parents) monthly allowance per girl – child in school.
In schools across the state, old structures are giving way to new ones in a bold infrastructural development move. The totality of what has happened in the Katsina education sector since Shema took over some seven years ago is that pupils/students enrolment has gone up by more than 200 per cent. On housing, the Shema administration is doing no less. 2,000 housing projects are on the ground and the state government is ready to do more.
The icing on the cake of the empowerment programmes of the state government is the Katsina Craft Village where youths out of school learn all sorts of trade to make them self-employed and on the long run employers of labour. So good are the products of the empowerment program that Governor Shema testified that mechanics among them are the ones who repair his official vehicles.
The ones into metal works are also engaged in the production of street light poles while those into paint making are patronised by the state government as there is a standing rule that all paint used to paint government buildings should be procured from them. When Shema does leave office, he wants to do so amidst a groundswell of goodwill and adulation from the people he was elected to serve. And if the President’s testimony, warmth of the people of Katsina State and the opinions sampled from the streets are anything to go by, the urbane and handsome governor may well have his wish.
Katsina State is no doubt having its day in the sun