By Agaju Madugba
Less than four weeks after his inauguration on May 29, Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufa’i, may have begun the implementation of aspects of the promised “change” which he believes will restore what he has consistently described as the lost glory of Kaduna.
Indeed, the All Progressives Congress (APC) journey to the Kaduna Government House was laced with the party’s change slogan which El-Rufa’i had vowed to execute. Some three weeks on and a couple of reforms already introduced in governance, the opposition is screaming foul, accusing the Governor of adopting and promoting extremist measures in the admnistration of the state. During his inauguration, El-Rufa’i had declared that, “I say to you today, my fellow citizens of Kaduna State, that the time has come for us to face up to our responsibilities as citizens.
We must take many difficult decisions. We have no choice but to postpone immediate gratification and sacrifice the fleeting comforts of today for a better future for our children. This is what change means.” Perhaps as a demonstration of his commitment to the programme, El-Rufa’i also announced his decision to donate half of his salary and allowances to oil the change initiative.
For El-Rufa’i, any efforts at “repairing” Kaduna must begin with the mopping up of funds from various sources which will include blocking all areas of leakages to enable more money accrue to government for the implementation of programmes that will have direct impact on the people.
Having sacrificed part of his legitimate income along with that of the Deputy Governor, El-Rufa’i had proceeded to the House of Assembly, literally cap in hand, begging the lawmakers to also make contribution to the donor basket, by approving a cut in their salaries and allowances. “We appeal to all political office holders to embrace this example and attitude of sacrifice,” the Governor told the lawmakers even as he explained that, “the stark fact is that Kaduna state spends 80 per cent of its total revenues on its public servants and political office holders.”
It is not known yet whether the lawmakers are ready to thread the same path as the Governor, but for a state where majority of the people swim in poverty and diseases, according to El-Rufa’i, with a ranking as the second highest in HIV prevalence in the country and only 36 per cent of pregnant women having the benefit of being attended to by skilled birth attendants, there may indeed be a certain level of justification for El-Rufa’i’s craving for more funds.
Still in the health sector alone, El-Rufa’i told participants at a health summit in Kaduna last Tuesday that, “current coverage of measles vaccination is 56 per cent, a dismal immunisation coverage for 12-23 months-old children and latest available data suggest that only a paltry two per cent of under-five years old children with malaria are treated with ACTs.”
There may be extraneous factors outside funding, for the poor report card especially on the compliance level for the nationwide immunisation programme as some parents in the north still forbid their wards from receiving immunisation against the known child killer diseases. But reports indicate that the general status of healthcare delivery for Kaduna state is miles away from being healthy. “Our goal is to deliver for Kaduna State citizens, better health and longer life expectancy,” El-Rufa’i insists, explaining why a cut in his salary and allowances alone may not generate the desired amount of money to handle the issues.
The development may not therefore be unconnected with his decision to also prune the number of ministries as one of the cost-saving measures. In one deft move, El-Rufa’i slashed the number of commissioners to 13, from 24 even as he scrapped the Ministry of Information. Perhaps, for political patronage considerations under previous administrations, each of the 23 local governments in the state had at least a commissioner.
But according to government’s explanation, reduction in the number of ministries, “is intended to cut costs, spur efficiency and improve service delivery. El-Rufai has repeatedly stated that the Kaduna State government must direct more of its resources to delivering public services, and that such a move requires a reduction in the proportion consumed by government. The realignment of mandate has also resulted in the emergence of two new departments. The erstwhile Ministry of Lands, Survey and Country Planning is being moved to the Governor’s office as a department. Similarly, the former Ministry of Rural and Community Development becomes a department in the Deputy Governor’s office.”
However, the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) describes some of the actions of government so far as amazing. “With barely three weeks in the saddle, steps being taken by the APC government have become a source of worry for the generality of Kaduna State people as they pose a threat to the legacies of socio-political and economic stability bequeathed by the PDP,” the state PDP Publicity Secretary, Ibrahim Mansur, told Vanguard.
Although the PDP’s position is certainly debatable what may turn out to be even more controversial is El-Rufa’i’s latest decision to equally ban the allocation of fertilizers to traditional rulers and to prominent politicians across the state.
Describing the previous process of distribution of fertilizers to farmers as corruption-ridden, El-Rufa’i directed that henceforth, fertilizers should be sold directly to interested farmers from designated sales points.
But in spite of El-Rufa’i’s confessed intentions for embarking on some of these reforms, the PDP contends that the APC government in Kaduna lacks focus. According to Mansur, “the other day, the APC government unwittingly conveyed their unpreparedness to Kaduna people before the state lawmakers by raising unwarranted alarm that almost 80 per cent of the state’s total income is spent on wages of public servants and political appointees, leaving a paltry 20 per cent for payment of contractors and provision of social services for the people. The PDP views the ruling party’s lamentations before members of Kaduna State House of Assembly and other related tendencies as the highest degree of unpreparedness. It is an unwitting confession that APC has always lied against the PDP which recorded landmark achievements in the state in the face of greater challenges. The party’s lamentations are equally a subterfuge to evade providing a ‘paradise on earth’ which they had promised Kaduna people during their campaigns.
“Kaduna people are sufficiently informed about the antecedents of the top echelon of APC government in the state – a cesspool of political opportunist who have found themselves in power on the platform of opportunism. The PDP is vindicated because since two weeks in the saddle, the APC has continued to take steps that point in the same extreme direction. Time shall continue to expose their unmitigated arrogance in victory, naivety and incompetence.”
Whatever the rhetoric may be, as the Arewa Consultative Forum observed on Tuesday in Kaduna, “the change Nigerians voted for in the 2015 general elections is not only change in government but also change in the way and manner the elected leaders provide adequate security and welfare for the people.”
Although Kaduna may have had its fair dose of the Boko Haram insurgent activities, the area still has other forms of insecurity to contend with. For several years, the authorities are yet to break the jinx concerning the deadly attacks on communities in the southern part of Kaduna state and the equally bloody sporadic raids on other communities at the Birnin Gwari axis.