By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
Not many took him seriously when he plunged himself into the highly competitive presidential election under the All Progressives Congress, APC, which threw up Gen. Muhammadu Bunari at the last count. But he made a strong point even though he did not clinch the ticket: Kwankwanso, a first-timer in the presidential race, came second with 974 votes. At once, the political feat shored up Kwankwaso’s image and perhaps, made many to begin to look at him as a serious politician, who knows his onions.
To many, the governor remains an unrepentant radical to the core but with a just cause to uplift the welfare of his people and to change the landscape of Kano, which has long been halted by infrastructural decay and age. Apparently appalled by the decay and nuisance that had set into the once beautiful commercial nerve centre of the north and fixated on the need to carve a niche for himself and the administration, which he came to consolidate after losing it temporarily for eight years, Kwankwaso did not need any lesson in good governance having learned some during his first term from 1999 to 2003.
The second coming of the governor in 2011 paved the way for him to bring to bear the vital lessons he had learnt in his first term and really turned things around for the state and its people within a short span of time. One of the major pillars of success instituted by Kwankwaso in Kano is the strict adherence to the doctrine of open government and a deliberate and sustained reduction in the cost of governance thereby freeing cash for the development of critical infrastructure, a virtue that is lacking in most states of the federation.
In essence, while opaqueness has been adopted as the style of governance in Nigeria, Kwankwaso opted for open system of administration, shaming even his colleagues who do not see any justification for opening government operations, cost of projects and bidding processes to the public. In place of hiding his operations in the dark as is the norm in the country despite the mantra of anti-corruption even at the federal level, Kwankwaso throws open his business of running the state, making it a point of duty to give a weekly account of every action taken by his government, how and why it is taken and who gets what contract and why by publishing same in national newspapers once the State Executive Council meets and approves any decision.
That novel step has singled out Kano under Kwankwaso as one of the most transparent administrations in Nigeria and given out as a role model in the nation’s recent history. By adopting an open system of administration, and committing top government functionaries to key into it, the cost of running the government came down significantly freeing up to N500 million monthly and up to N6 billion annually, which he ploughed into the construction of a major flyover in the state capital.
The governor did not end there. Kwankwaso also did away with the proverbial Security Vote, which has become a ready source of unaccountable funds for top politicians in Nigeria and their cronies since the birth of the democratic dispensation in Nigeria. Rather than hide under the platform of the vote to siphon money, Kwankwaso subjects all requests for funds to normal due process and any request that fails the test is accordingly jettisoned no matter who makes it. Similarly, he eliminated the Office of the First Lady, another waste pipe in Government Houses, which provides a congenial atmosphere for pilfering government by persons close to the corridors of power under pseudo platforms but not recognised by law.
As the governor explains, “We also saved money by not allowing the Office of the First Lady in Kano. We know that a lot of money is being spent in that office elsewhere but we in Kano believe strongly that whatever the first lady should do, is what the Ministry of Women Affairs is doing and there is therefore no need to duplicate such functions in the state. We just need a good commissioner to do the job and get a good wife and keep her at home to manage the home front well. That is what we are doing here and everybody is happy”.
Within four years that Kwankwaso has presided over the affairs of the ancient city, the result of prudent management of funds and transparent leadership has manifested in the rebuilding of Kano into a 21st Century city and launching it out as a beautiful bride to behold at a time when most of the state with higher revenue base are running to the capital market for loans in order to be able to pay their staff salaries and meet other normative obligations. But in Kano, according to the governor, one month salary for all staff is always set aside before the next month to ensure that the staff are paid before time. He makes it a routine to visit project sites and meet with contractors at least twice a week to see things for himself instead of waiting in the comfort of his office for debriefing by his aides.
Today, many monuments of historical record now adorn the city of Kano, one of them a two-kilometre flyover that crisscrosses the high density business district of Sabon Gari completed at the cost of N10 billion and another one valued at N6 billion by the administration of Kwankwaso. Within the same period, Kwankwaso has established three brand new cities known as Kwankwasiyya, Amana and Bandirawo in addition to constructing three monumental flyovers that have helped to remove the traffic snarl in the metropolis. This is in addition to the provision of 220kms of dualised and electrified roads to all the 44 LGAs of the state translating to 5kms for each of the councils at the cost of N80 billion.
To get the city running without power failure, he recently signed an agreement for 35 Megawatts Independent Power Project at Challawa and Tiga dams at the cost of N14.2 billion solely from the state coffers.
Apart from making education free and compulsory in Kano, the governor has gone ahead to sponsor indigenes of the state in strategic areas of human endeavours abroad so that they can come back to help provide services to the people of the state and Nigeria at the cost of about N10 billion. These are in addition to establishing 37 micro finance firms and 44 educational institutions in the state to enable the natives to actualise their dreams in entrepreneurial sectors of the economy.
Overall, the open government policy has also enabled Kwankwaso to settle the N77 billion his administration inherited as debt, leaving behind a paltry N20 billion. Under him, the state has proudly exited from the $200 million it inherited from the World and bank and other creditors.
It is therefore not surprising that Kwankwaso has a band of followers decked in white with a red cap to match under the banner of Kwankwansiya. While the membership is quite large, the relationship between him and his adherents is as sturdy as the one between a shepherd and his flock.