Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Gutter Politics of Kano: An Encounter with Adviser to the Governor
June 3, 2006
The soft night breeze zapped the humid atmosphere of the heatwave (tormenting the people of Kano) with its attendant coldness. The overhanging branches of the trees nodded with delight but hissed angrily, perhaps because of its ephemerality. I noticed all the fanfare through the single-layer-tint translucent glass doors of the internet café I was sitting. The telltale scent of rain-soaked sand told me that it rained few kilometres away. I longed for the fresh air fanning the people free-of-charge. Besides, I was tired. I yawned, stretched and settled the attendant (I did not finish replying mails though). The time was now 11:05pm.
I was about to flag down achaba when I heard a familiar voice called my name. It was adviser to the Kano State Governor on (withheld) matters/affairs. I reluctantly came back given that I know him to be pugnacious – the conversation may take long; and it did. He was conversing with 3 other friends seated on the plastic chairs. There was no light outside. The monitor of his Toshiba laptop lit only his well-embroidered kaftan and his face. “Have a seat, Jaafar,” he flicked his Sony Ericsson (P910i) stylus, pointing to a vacant chair. I sat and shook hand with all of them with a slight respectful droop (they are far older than I am) “But I need to go home,” I protested, glancing at my wrist watch.
“Don’t worry, I will take you home,” he said pointing at his chubby new car a yard away. “He criticises our government,” he added. “You must tell me why you criticize our government, it’s too unfair, and I am worried. Mallam too is not happy with you.” The other two people laughed, chipped in occasionally, and later left.
Given that I will test the chilling grace of that new car (bought for rich man with poor man’s money, including my humble self) and be barred from parting with my few bucks at police check point, as Nigerians will say, I maintained. He asked me to tell him my reasons and see how telling my arguments are. I told him that I don’t have any grudge against their government nor his principal, and I held no conviction, I told him. It’s not to ridicule him (Shekarau) but to tell him the truth and expose the loopholes of his government for him to have them plugged. But as it seems, three years now, the government has nothing to show for, no good roads, no quality education, no portable drinking water, affordable healthcare is inaccessible. Three years of nothingness! Three years of deceit! Three years of duplicity! Three years of crass nepotism! Three years of political largesse! Three years of thuggery (legalised expertly to give it Shariah flavour)! Petrodollar, petrodollar, yet more petrodollar ($1.3 billion of them), but it is just like water off a duck’s back!
After I argued myself out, he then asked me to question him, at least to get some light. I had no qualms, so I obliged. I fielded many questions to (or rather, we chatted frankly) him audaciously, but he “parried” them vaguely. Excerpts:
JJ: you’ve been with this government for about 3 years, to be more accurate, since inception, how can you rate, or what are your major achievements?
Adviser: Well, we achieved a lot, I can tell you, our achievements are pervasive; we touched everywhere. You just have to be specific; otherwise we can’t finish till tomorrow.
JJ: Okay, yallabai, tell me major achievements like provision of portable water, healthcare, roads, education, agriculture, proposed independent power plant, mass transportation, etc. But let us begin with mass transportation, because as we can see, the governor recently launched another 1000 units of tricycles apart from the previous 500 units, and at what rate does each stands.
Adviser: Very good. You can see that Mallam has just launched 1000 units of adai dai tai sahu tricycles for mass transportation programme in line with Shariah principles. It’s really something to show for, but you said we have nothing to show in three years… I was angry reading your articles in the Daily Trust and Leadership, and even most unhappy when I read your piece in ThisDay defending the ban placed on Hisbah by the federal authorities. However, this is not the subject of discussion, we were discussing tricycle issue. To be frank, we bought each one at N630, 000.00 (I can get fine HALA with this amount!) not 500, 000.00 you once wrote. They are very good, sturdy and classy. Things are now expensive. Inflation rate goes up every second. Just today, I paid more than N300, 000 for children’s school fees. I paid N225, 000 for three of them last year. Similarly, my mother was discharged recently from a private hospital; I paid almost twice the price I paid last year for the same ailment. You can see the disparities. N630, 000 for that fine yellow tricycle is good a price.
JJ: But Sir, that of Federal Government (Keke NAPEP) is not as expensive as this, even though new models, each stands at N400, 000.00. I see your price very outrageous. There must be something fishy in the deal. Certainly, those tricycles are old models they cannot be compared with more rugged and durable Keke NAPEP.
Adviser: Jaafar, just forget it! No matter how outrageous many people are now employed. The tricycle riders have something to do. It is human development, period.
JJ: How much is the kick-back you collected? A source (reliable that is) told me that your government pocketed more than N150 million as kick-back. I need not to tell you who told me so, because you know him (my source).
Adviser: Have you ever seen any contract without kick-back? After all, what is just a mere N150 million? Its chicken feed. We collected billions of petrodollar from Federal Government, we have it. As they say, if you’ve got it, flaunt it! We had Peugeots 306 before, but Mallam says they are too small for his aides. He bought these big ones for us (pointing his car).
JJ: But you can purchase more than 10 scanning machines to be put in the maternity ward and drugs in the emergency ward of Murtala Muhammed Specialists Hospital with that amount. As a matter of fact, these are things the hospital lacks at this moment. These are some of the exigencies not collecting kick-back and flaunting public money (N200 million) to sponsor party delegates to Saudi Arabia or spending N70 million to rig Nassarawa bye-election or spending N50 million to rehabilitate his (Mallam Shekarau) new bride’s apartment.
Adviser: What are you talking about? The paucity of all the amount you’ve mentioned is not worthy of my comment. The issue of drugs is something that should be tackled when elections draw nearer. You see, poor man tends to be forgetful. Let me give you an example; if I give you all you needed at one go, you may simply forget my kind gesture. But If I give you bit by bit you will keep having me in mind for succour. The logic is, and fortunately that how politics is, to give medicine during electioneering campaign, prolong projects till elections draw nearer, by so doing, we shall win poor man’s vote. But let me tell you one truth, it’s because I confide in you that I will tell you: all of us there [in government] are not doing it for the masses but for our vested interests – our wives, children and relatives. You can see that our priority is not common man. I am just telling you mind, and that is how we are, ANPP, PDP, AD, ACD, nay all of us present-day politicians, and indeed, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau inclusive. But Jaafar, that logic of yours seemed quite apolitical and outdated. Gone are Mallam Aminu Kano days.
JJ: No matter how outdated my logic may seem to be, I stand firmly by it. So let us get back to the main issues. As it now appears, primary school enrolment has dropped by about 30%, what are the causes of such abysmal drop, and what are your other achievements in this regard?
Adviser: Well, we are going to reverse the abolished primary school feeding programme as we recanted from our stand on polio vaccines. We now realise that its good policy.
JJ: Better late than never. So what removes that contaminant you once found in the vaccine? Is it Obasanjo, UN, Shekarau, Dr Dere Awosika, the former Executive Secretary of the NPI or just miraculously the contaminants depleted?
Adviser: That one has passed. Bygones are bygones.
JJ: So what are the other achievements in education?
Adviser: Good. We have other achievements like awarding scholarships for overseas studies and recruitment of new teachers in our schools.
JJ: But it’s being awarded to your children and your cronies’, all living lavishly. None is awarded to common man’s son. Just recently, I took a peep into awardees’ list; the surnames bore the same theme: the bourgois children! I even saw the name of the governor’s Director of (withheld) affairs. I also heard that Mallam Shekarau approved N3 million (pocket money) to Alhaji (withheld) son who works with PHCN despite the fact that Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) sponsored him! What can you say about all these malpractices, mis-governance and nepotism at it’s crudest?
Adviser: All these are normal. They are our children. Jaafar you ask what you are not suppose to ask. Let me ask you one question: do you like me better than yourself?
JJ: Okay since that seemed a no go area. What are the other achievements?
Adviser: Education from primary to tertiary levels is of good quality. In fact, one of the best in the Nigeria.
JJ: Okay since education is now of “good quality,” why don’t you save the N300, 000 you just paid today for your children and transfer them to government school? I am sure none of you had his child in government school.
Adviser: Hmmn, I can tell you… emmm… my children are… (stammers) they are brilliant (he deviated from the question).
JJ: Never mind, Sir, It’s now obvious that some states are launching some road projects to mark democracy day, aside those yellow tricycles, what is the achievement of Kano State government in this regard?
Adviser: You know we rehabilitated the 10 existing roundabouts at a token rate of N290 million. Lamido Cresent, Kawaji-Dakata and Nassarawa Hospital roads. We also patched many roads like Daula road. These are our major achievements in this regard (none of this covers up to 5kms. three years of nothingness!).
JJ: But you have some abandoned projects like FCE road that is not up to a kilometre. You started the project for almost 3 years ago; can you tell me the cause of this snail’s speed?
Adviser: You always understand politics naively, I answered similar question before.
JJ: I am sorry; you know a person who is not in government won’t know anything, we are all dumb. What was the reason?
Adviser: Till election draws nearer. Got the gist?
JJ: What about healthcare?
Adviser: We built hostel for students on clinical training and some petty rehabilitations. The hospitals are up to standard.
JJ: If the hospitals are up to standard and offer good services, why did you take your mother to private hospital and why did the governor fly his child and five other relatives abroad to treat what can be treated here in Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, AKTH?
Adviser: (Clearing throat) Emmn… you see without hospitals many people can die (another deviation). It’s only me and you, all should be off record don’t tell anybody. When Ala maimaita mana (tazarce) politicking begins, then we supply the drugs.
JJ: Mallam Shekarau once promised to return Groundnut Pyramid of Kano but as it appears, he is reneging on his promise; do you have any achievement in agriculture?
Adviser: We were about to buy N4 billion fertilizer to be distributed to farmers when governor’s friend fled with some of the money, about N400 million not yet recovered. Its bad debt, and there is bad debt in business. We wrapped-around EFCC on his neck initially, but Mallam pardoned him. That’s why Mallam doesn’t talk about Kwankwaso.
JJ: How much was the kickback? Please tell me fisabilillahi…
Adviser: Your source knows.
JJ: He says N300 million, how certain?
Adviser: How many working days are there in a week? (Grins) Got it? We had better cut this conversation here, it’s now 1:30am, we continue when we meet again. (We entered into the car and drove silently to my house)
I would have gone out for subh prayer but for this boring but frank and live chat. It really touched me!
Jaafar lives in Kano.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.