*Legal practitioner resident in Kaduna for 50 years profiles past Kaduna governors, releases ‘Report Card’

*Recalls discrimination he suffered in Kaduna, identifies what could be greatest legacy from the state

*Speaks on how El-Rufai has rescued political leadership from shame

*’If I were in his shoes, I would carry out more demolitions’

Dr. Wahab Page Igbuan

Wahab Page Igbuan, PhD, is a Kaduna-based legal practitioner. Before studying law, he practiced journalism for many years. Page, as he is popularly known, has lived in Kaduna since 1972. Page, has seen several governors, civilians/military; and Kaduna State, from its time as North-Central State, when the present Katsina State was part of it, to date. 

He spoke on governance, previous administrations, the harmful non-indigene and settler syndrome that affected him, and why other states should emulate El- Rufai’s indigeneship policy.

By this year 2022, you would have spent fifty years in Kaduna State. You have seen Kaduna State, from when it was North Central State to Kaduna State, with Katsina State being part of it, and the eventual creation of Katsina State out of the present day Kaduna State. Can you fill us up on your time from 1972 to date?

Between 1972 and now, I have lived in Kaduna State, first as North Central State, and as Kaduna State, with the present Katsina State, as part of it, until the creation of Katsina State out of it.

Being a keen observer of my environment, I have noticed the sequential changes, especially the transformation of Kaduna State, in the last six years of Nasir El-Rufai.

I came to Kaduna state, when it was North central state, with Col. Abba Kyari, who later became a Brigadier General as governor. I witnessed military rule, with its fiat.

The General Yakubu Gowon administration definitely made a lot of impact. You must remember that Kaduna was one time headquarters of the Northern region. It was a pacesetter for the other states. Some governors experimented on governance.

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I say this boldly, until the coming of El- Rufai, only some military governors made tangible impact in terms of governance. 

I can assure you that I am not the only person who sees issues the way they are today, from the perspective of development.

What has transpired in leadership between the time the present governor came in and now, in comparison with his predecessors, democratically elected leadership, is what I am referring to as something that beats one’s imagination.

So the military did well?

Yes they did well…some did well. It couldn’t possibly be absolutely all of them; some didn’t do enough.

Let’s talk specifics. Balarabe Musa, who was impeached, the last six years of El-Rufai, Ahmed Makarfi, Namadi Sambo, Patrick Yakowa, Ramalan Yero…your assessment?

To start with, Alhaji Balareba Musa didn’t have the opportunity to showcase his talent, which I believe he had. He was removed from office because of dirty politics of where you come from, where you do not come from.

His removal was largely spearheaded by the Katsina mafia. …they held sway in the then Kaduna State, and they didn’t want somebody like Balarabe Musa, who was seen as coming from a lower class.

Unfortunately the Zaria people couldn’t fight to help Balarabe Musa survive the gang-up. Then came Abba Musa Rimi…I can’t tell you any tangible development initiated by Abba Musa Rimi, it was all politics.

After Abba Rimi, came Lawal Kaita, who also followed in the footsteps of Abba Musa Rimi. I’m analyzing democratically elected governors….then came Ahmed Makarfi….unfortunately the Makarfi regime was almost brought down by civil strife …. religious and ethnic crises, but in his wisdom, he doused the tension.

Makarfi, did quite well in terms of physical development. Like now, there were questions about spread of projects. It will always be an issue. Overall, I give Makarfi, a pass mark, although he didn’t embark on critical reforms, like El- Rufai.

Then came Nmadi Sambo, who didn’t spend four years as governor, because he moved up to become vice president to Goodluck Jonathan. His deputy, Patrick Yakowa, became the governor.

From the little that we saw of Yakowa, he would have moved the mountains, because within that short time, he opened up Kaduna metropolis….Patrick Yakowa, opened the way to Hayin Danmani, which was a ghetto.

He awarded the contracts for 23 roads, across every part of the state, but unfortunately he died and his successor, Ramalan Yero, tragically abandoned several projects initiated by Yakowa.

Ramalan Yero, by my reckoning, in terms of governance was a total disaster, a complete failure. I challenge him to list his achievements. It’s a shame that Yero, a young man, squandered the opportunity, that fell on his laps.

After Ramalan Yero, came Nasir El-rufai, the incumbent governor. I want to tell you that nothing comes from nothing. Knowledge is power, it’s key. This is very obvious in the success of El-Rufai’s administration.

Very key are the unprecedented reforms that he embarked on. ..in the educational sector, the revenue agency, To be a leader you must be informed…. he has displayed his mental prowess, a leader, who has ideas of what he wants to do and those who can help him achieve them. So a good leader must delegate.

A quantity surveyor, is in many respects, like a lawyer, who must know a little of architecture, urban planning, mechanical and electrical engineering etc, just like a lawyer is learned, because he or she knows a little of everything.

God-forbid that a man should know everything, but knowing where to source for the information, makes a huge difference.

I’m passionate about El-rufai, because he has fundamentally transformed Kaduna State. Very key is that El- Rufai, has shown the people of Kaduna State that it is possible for an elected  governor to work.

Some people, not everyone, have called El-Rufai, a dictator, a description which I don’t agree with. The question is, was he elected based on a manifesto? 

El- Rufai, is not the usual politician. I remember him during the campaigns, telling Kaduna State people that he would implement the urban renewal policy, that he would address the allocation of school land to politicians, he didn’t hide his intentions, so he has a clear mandate to implement the policies upon which he was elected.

This is my sincere assessment, others are entitled to theirs.

Very obviously El-Rufai, has won your heart, I’m sure some people will disagree with you. I agree with you that there is no evidence that he is a dictator, he’s blunt, he’s confident…these might be what people interpret as dictatorship.

Definitely, that was why in answering your question, I went straight to what I referred to as knowledge. El-Rufai, is ahead of his time…he  has seen tomorrow and it is only with knowledge that you can acquire that power.

El-Rufai, has vision. A society whose leader, doesn’t possess these qualities, is dead.

Spending 50 years in Kaduna is not a joke. So what was the attraction, that even after Abuja became a reality, you didn’t move.

By the way, if anybody told you that Waff road and Swimming pool road, could be dualized, you certainly would have disagreed. .. …but they have been daulized, with pedestrian walkways etc.

Urban renewal, is much more than roads. There are several components…property redevelopment, efficient transportation system etc. I have had the opportunity of using cars and I have gone round many states of the federation, but I haven’t seen the kind of magic that El- Rufai is performing.

There is no part of Kaduna State that I don’t know. Once a new layout is opened, I must visit it. El- Rufai, has rescued the political leadership from shame. Before now, I had given up hope on any meaningful development.

Look at Yakubu Gowon way, named after a war-time head of state, it was left in a state of disrepair, until El- Rufai came. Same with Rabah road, and Isa Kaita road. I live in Barnawa, I marvel at the transformation from the railway station to Barnawa shopping complex, down to the Mobile police base and from Television garage to PAN drive.

This is part of the reasons that I describe El-rufai as a visionary leader. I care about politics, but I am not a politician. If tomorrow someone outperforms El-rufai, I will equally praise him.

My position, which wasn’t arrived at easily, is that, in my last 50 years in Kaduna State, Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, is without doubt, miles apart from the other governors. People, should acknowledge reality.

I have friends who criticize El- Rufai, it’s their right. But I always ask them for three reasons they constantly criticize El-rufai. One constant reason, is that he lacks pity.

And I have always replied, pity about what? Pity, for impunity? The state of lawlessness, before El-Rufai came was scaring. People were building without permit, they built and were trading on every available space, without regard for other people.

How can you erect your shop on a junction, without consideration for other road users- those driving, who need to see the road, before entering?

He has arrested the total breakdown of law and order. Thankfully, we have learnt the hard way. Many people have learnt lessons, such that in future, they will be the ones warning others when they want to build without permit.

The fear, the possibility of another Nasir El- Rufai, who will correct any distortion of the master plan, will keep people in check.

… and building without permit is breaking the law?

Part of the criticism against El-Rufai is that he demolished houses left, right, center. I have asked to be shown any building that met every planning law, that was pulled down, but nobody has shown me.

Mind you, the government, for overriding public interest, can acquire a land, but it must pay adequate compensation as provided for by the Land Use Act. Some previous governors are responsible for the bastardization of Kaduna master plan.

They allocated every available corner plot to traders for shops; that was the beginning of the disaster that El- Rufai had to clean up.

Those who conceived Kaduna metropolis, from the beginning made adequate provision for its future development, with green spaces, but our so called elite have built on natural streams and green areas. So part of El-Rufai’s crime, is his refusal to help, when floods strike….

If I were in El- Rufai’s shoes, I certainly would have carried out more demolitions than he has done .I will without hesitation, bring down any structure, once it’s not built in compliance with the provisions of the law. Can our elite, who own properties in London, improve them without first obtaining the necessary approval? Definitely not!

That’s the way to go?

That’s the way to go. We Nigerians are unnecessarily sentimental. In the belief that people are hungry, we try to justify every breach of the law.

Before El-rufai took the decision to redevelop the markets, the markets were a complete eyesore; you couldn’t access the market, because hawkers had occupied every space, shopping was a nightmare.

Thankfully, the hawkers have been cleared, the traders forced to clear the walk ways. In place of the impenetrable shanties, we now have modern markets, that are clean and orderly. We want Kaduna State, to be a modern city, a tourism destination, occasioned by a clean environment.

You have mentioned many of the issues that were confronting the state.

The lack of education is the worst sickness that can afflict any society. A society where classes are not respected, is in trouble.

Law and order, very important in societies that desire development…. 

Yes. In China if you violate the law you will go to jail, if you violate the law, you will be sanctioned. The law is swift, no long trial.

China, is the world’s most populous country, but it doesn’t have our problems, because there is law and order. We need to enforce laws.

Are there still more to do or it’s end of the road?

In spite of the elite gang-up and resistance, El Rufai has largely succeeded in turning around the state. He reformed the public service, not just by retiring dead woods, but by reviewing the civil service law.

We also have the teachers’ competency test, which was administered before the 2019 elections. Other governors saw the problem, but refused to deal with it, because they didn’t want to lose reelection. But El- Rufai, didn’t care, if that would have cost him his second term. El- Rufai, is a leader. He has certainly instilled some discipline in people.

My prayer is that El-rufai will be succeeded by someone who can maintain the tempo, because we don’t want the level of sanity that he has restored to be reversed.

It’s for the people to reject those who have nothing to offer, to elect credible candidates, while the governor should back a worthy successor.

El-Rufai, hasn’t disappointed me and several other reasonable people that I know. No political gimmicks, he has kept his promises.

Definitely, people will no longer just wake up and build without thinking of the possibility of an El-rufai, that will enforce the law….

Precisely. The adherence to law is a plus for El-Rufai. It simply means that Nigerians can be made to do the right thing, that the leadership must show the way. He has made it abundantly clear that impunity will not be tolerated.

It’s a choice… you can build without permit, build on a school land, because you have money…you are a big man, be rest assured that by the next day, that structure will come down.

It costs very little to do the right thing from the beginning but it takes a whole lot to correct or to make amends to something that is wrong.

At the beginning, you talked about some of El- Rufai’s policies and an assessment of previous governors. You made a profound statement that Yero was a disaster….isn’t that assessment harsh?

Yero was. What’s there to show for his stewardship? Absolutely Nothing!

Maybe he wanted to win his 2015 re-election?

The moment you take the oat of office, that’s the beginning of your tenure. Assuming death comes, would he have been waiting for re-election?

Yero was simply unprepared. Again, you can’t compare him with El- Rufai, who came well prepared to govern.

You have lived here for over 50 years. What’s your take on El- Rufai’s citizenship policy?

Yes, I have lived here for 50 years. From 1972 up to Yero’s government, I wasn’t recognized as an indigene of Kaduna State. I enjoyed no rights as a Kaduna State indigene, despite paying my taxes and contributing to its development.

But El-rufai, has changed that. El- Rufai, has said it loud and clear….Wahab Page, I recognize you as a citizen of Kaduna State. 

In the Constitution, you will find, for the national question, in Section 25, the different types of citizenship; citizenship by birth, citizenship by registration, citizenship by naturalization, these are contained in the constitution.

I am specifically referring to Nationality, citizenship of a particular country. We can also talk about indigene and non-indigene. To be an indigene, presupposes that you trace your lineage back to your father, your grandfather, your great grandfather; the basis upon which states were created, the reason we also have errors in the creation of states.

I am a victim of discrimination. I hope he will be able to stand his foot and implement the policy. It’s the right way to go. In 1976 I applied to Kaduna Polytechnic to study business administration, then I lost my father.

Because I was working for the New Nigerian newspaper, his death was published by the newspaper. When I went to follow up on the admission, the confidential secretary didn’t waste time, telling me, I didn’t belong, that I was from the then Bendel State.

Of course, I can’t deny that that’s the root of my parents, but my root was now Kaduna State. I was denied the admission on the basis of this backward policy, because in their opinion, I wasn’t an indigene, despite paying my tax and being a law abiding citizen. My daughter suffered same fate.

She was admitted to Queen Amina College. But once they designated it as special school, those they considered to be non-indigenes, were kicked out. Imagine the impact of these experiences on her and me…it’s not the right way to build a nation.

Nigeria needs to address this. It’s easier for you to become an American citizen, than to be accepted in a state in Nigeria that you were born in and lived in…yet we keep talking about building a country…it’s part of the reason we are not getting it right.

So if El-Rufai, puts his foot down and enforces the policy, that if you live and work in Kaduna, you are a bonafide citizen of Kaduna State, with every right like those whose ancestors are traceable to Kaduna State, that will be his greatest legacy, and the best thing that has ever happened to this country.

However, we have a duty, and obligation to respect our hosts. Study their culture respect them and live peacefully with them. That is why some Northerners who go to the south, run into trouble with their hosts.

This is the reason for the clashes and why they prefer staying on their own. They should live with their hosts, like Southerners do in the North….integration. His citizenship policy is commendable.

He has abolished the indigene/settler dichotomy….in favour of citizenship…. 

Yes. And from the profile of his appointees, I see no discrimination whatsoever and that’s how it should be. Performance…contribution….it’s the society that loses, if because of such vexatious policies, people are shut out.

El-Rufai, by attracting people from Delta, Adamawa, Plateau, Ogun, Kogi, Anambra etc, has tremendously benefited from different perspectives. And the evidence is there. 

You are a success story; from a diploma holder in journalism, to a doctor of law, you deserve commendation.

Thank you.

So you equally support the continuous assessment programmme for teachers?

I have read and heard people complain about the sack of teachers and the introduction of continuous assessment policy, which many of them are resisting.

Goodluck to those protesting against the policy, I will support the government to disengage any teacher who refuses to write the test. You can’t dictate to your employer, the terms of engagement. Education is a continuous process, until death.

You don’t stop learning. El- Rufai, wants the very best for Kaduna state citizens and education is the foundation. You cannot give what you don’t have.

So any teacher, who is not willing to comply with simple directives, harmless directives, beneficial directives should resign or be kicked out. Same with, the public servants, they must keep improving themselves.

You had a diploma, but today you are a PhD holder in law. According to the government, many public servants refused to improve themselves. …

Many people are laid back, not futuristic. I acknowledge that not everybody has the same degree of enthusiasm to succeed. But we need the very best if Nigeria is to develop.

As a lawyer, the NUT has asked teachers not sit for the competency test. The government says it was made very clear that every five years they will be subjected to tests. So what do you want to say to NUT?

The NUT is a trade union, NUT is not law, Kaduna state government has the prerogative to say this is the law that will govern the employment of teachers. That as our teacher, you will undergo periodic assessments and evaluation. At this point, you can reject the job.

One would have thought the NUT, would have been embarrassed by the last competency test and work with government as partners…

The NUT should hide its face in shame. If the NUT directs government employees i.e teachers to go on strike, because they have been asked to take a competency test, all such teachers who subscribe to NUT directives should be sacked.

Will you support Nasiru Ahmed El-rufai, being named the Father of new Kaduna State. Considering that you have spent fifty years and Kaduna has been capital for about hundred years?

With El-rufai‘s courageous leadership he certainly deserves the title. He has forever changed Kaduna State. It’s simply unbelievable.

Are you worried about the increasing lawlessness in Kaduna State? El-rufai has delivered roads, but driving one way, beating traffic lights. What more will you want him to do in terms of policy and projects?

The state of lawlessness in Kaduna town is frightening. El-rufai, should introduce mobile courts, along the new roads to check the madness.

I can’t understand why people are not willing to obey simple traffic regulations. We need the mobile courts, to enforce the ban on street trading and dangerous driving.

If you meet El-rufai, what will you tell him?

If I meet El-rufai, I will thank him for restoring hope in government and governance. For his selfless service to humanity.

El-Rufai, has displayed uncommon courage. He delegates power, but is definitely in control of his administration.

Vanguard News

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