…Says Kwankwaso,  Ganduje fight in Kano highly irresponsible

 

From Desmond Mgboh, Kano

Hajia Aishatu Ismail, a profound intellectual was a former minister of Women Affairs and Youth Development under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

Educated at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and University of Wales, United Kingdom, Hajia Ismail served as the first director general of the National Commission for Women in 1992 and as a Special Envoy of African Unity (now African Union).

In this interview with Sunday Sun, the first female member of the Kano State Executive Council expressed her utter disappointment at the performance of Tinubu administration, as well as the administration before it led by Muhammadu Buhari.

She equally spoke on insecurity in the North, the US trip by Northern governors, the political crisis between Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Abdullahi Ganduje, as well as the performance of women in Nigeria politics, among others. Excerpts:

For a start, we will like to know your impression of the performance of the Tinubu administration in the last 11 months?

Thank you very much, my impression of Tinubu administration so far, let’s say that I am really confused. I actually really don’t know, what I should say because my impression should have been that this is a new administration and so, this should be new a direction or this is the direction that they are moving forward to or that they are moving backward. Somehow, I am a bit confused. Maybe I have news block. Honestly, I do not know where they are heading to at the moment.

Break it down for my reader. Why do you have this kind of confusion regarding their performance?

It is because of the immense pains that the people are in at the moment, you understand, it was really bad before the coming of this government. Now, I don’t know what to call it. There has to be an improvement with the coming of a new administration. But there is nothing like that. These are people who have made promises, who had said at elections that “I understand your problems, I am going to try and do something about it,” and then the government comes and without any proper investigation on any of the issues, without consultation and without really, really being on the ground, the government takes some decisions that have become horrendous in terms of their impacts on the lives of the people. That is why I say I am a bit confused. I don’t know whether they are withdrawing from those decisions that they took during the early days of the administration or they are going forward with the decisions that they took immediately the government came into power.

Are you talking of the fuel subsidy removal?

The removal of the fuel subsidy, and now, the electricity subsidy, the exchange rate of the Naira to the dollar, all these decisions that they took. They are decisions that impact so tremendously on the lives of the ordinary Nigerian. I mean every leader is first a human being and so, we have to understand that a leader must make or can make mistakes like every other person. But what makes a leader a leading leader is somebody that when he makes mistakes, he comes back and tries to rectify it.

Do you see President Tinubu as that kind of a leader that can rectify his mistakes?

No! I don’t see it in him; my impression of him, because I met him first when NADECO was on… it was in a meeting, it was not in a personal meeting. It was a forum organized by some interest groups. From his utterances, from then on, I had this idea that he understood our reality as Nigerians. Then he became the governor of Lagos State and as a governor, he was quite revolutionary. He was not sat down by the usual tradition of administration. And because of that he can boast of achievements in Lagos compared to others. So, my expectation was like, yes, Lagos is a state, and this (presidency) is an expansion. It is still the same problem. So, I thought that as soon as he comes in, he would come in with knowledge and with understanding, but…

(Cuts in ) So, it is right to say that you are disappointed with the administration?

Yes I am. I am deeply disappointed. I did not expect that he will be so backed down, so easily, so early. And don’t forget that in the last 30 years, every Nigerian, including the suya selling person and the woman selling akara on the street, we all know the problem. We are very good at analyzing our problems. If talk will be the solution to our problems, we will be the richest nation in the whole world. And right now, we would have no problem because everybody has the capacity to talk. But at the end of the day, we are expecting something from the administration beyond talking, beyond understanding the problem. Right now, the country has fallen too deep, it is either we survive or we are gone.

This government seems to have accommodated more women than its predecessors. What will be your rating of the women in this government?

We have not impacted anything, I am deeply disappointed. I was thinking that with more women in government, maybe we can change the direction of how we do things in government, but at the end of the day, I am not even aware that there have been really tremendous increase in the number of women. I know that I have seen a few, but still the decision is still in the hands of the men.

With a number of women  being mentioned around alleged corruption in the course of their assignment, do you still think that women would be able to help us bring about a shift for the better?

Yesterday, I was listening to one preacher and he admitted that for every one woman that has stolen money in this country, there are a hundred men that have stolen money too. In this kind of situation where you are a minority or majority because of your colour or your sex or where you come from, everybody uses whatever he has to execute the war. When the woman steals, I am not condoning it, I am also disappointed in these women if they are truly guilty. My take is that once you know that you are a minority, you know that you are exposed and that everything is mirrored on you because the opposition would spend all the time finding faults and to say that you are not different from the rest. So, as women, what do I expect? I expect that  we don’t have any excuse to be found wanting because for every action a woman takes and she is being crucified, millions of  women are being crucified alongside because in this struggle, the goal is to stop the women from accessing the decision making process.

Do we need more women to come on board in the governance process?

I think that we need women to even take over the democratic process. This is because as I can see the mindset against women in politics is not changing. Everyone will come and speak as if he understands the problem, but they will end up following the same old pattern and tradition.

Can the emergence of a woman president be the long-sought solution to the problems of Nigeria at this stage?

What I would have loved to see is for women to start with the post of local government chairmen. Let’s have a lot of women as local government chairmen. Let’s have a lot of women in the state Houses of Assembly, at the National Assembly also, so that we can start addressing some of the problems affecting our people. In fact, let’s bring in courage into governance, courage to demand an answer, courage to question the actions of the leaders. That will do for a start.

Up here in the North, there is a growing feeling against the administration. The argument is that President Tinubu emerged in power largely from the uncommon support from the North. But today his appointment has not favoured the North; but is only favouring Lagos and the Yoruba. What is your take on this?

My understanding of governance is that we have derailed from what actually governance should be. In a sane society where you have these myriads of problems the most important thing for you is who is qualified to lift us out of these problems, somebody that is good enough to lead? Now, my problem is not where his appointees are coming from, but that he is appointing people that are just a waste of time in there, putting people simply because he wants to satisfy political demands rather than look at their competence. It was the same with former President Buhari.  It was the same with the previous government, may be Yar’Adua because he didn’t stay and we will never know. All of them when they come to power, what they do is to try and get people that they know best. Instead of thinking of our problems and how we are going to get out of them, we are busy thinking of who benefits this and who doesn’t benefit this; who should be given this and who shouldn’t be giving this? Rather than who is more qualified to intervene at this critical stage.

In a federal state with people of different backgrounds, it is given that you should spread the appointments. Where he is not doing that wouldn’t that be seen as a violation of the constitution?

Of course, it is a violation of our constitution. The constitution says that you have to get everybody to come on board. That is why the constitution says that each state must have a minister. That is why we have all these constituencies and so forth.  I am not defending this government or the president. But he is just doing what other presidents had done in the past. Abiding by the tradition that you come and you pick your friends and you pick your relatives, you pick people you know and then at the end of the day, when you finish your term, the only thing you have achieved is actually what you have taken to your own people, be it your ethnic group or your religious group. That is all. These people rarely think about prosperity. If you give me the president of Nigeria, you know what I would want to be remembered for? I will want to be remembered for that I found this problem and I solved it.

Do you think this government has the capacity to solve Nigeria’s problems in four years time?

I don’t think so! To tell you the truth, by what I have seen, I don’t think these people have the capacity to solve our problems.  Because this is 2024. You don’t take an uninformed decision. My thought was that when Tinubu first came, the first thing he would do was to address the fuel subsidy right. But we all agreed that fuel subsidy is riddled with corruption. Wouldn’t it have been better that he fought against the corruption in the fuel subsidy regime rather than removing the subsidy entirely?  There is no country on earth that does not subsidize for its people. In America, even Coca Cola is subsidized.  There are places you go even if you want to drink a whole truck, you can drink. The government subsidizes it for producers to continue to produce and be able to continue to employ. Everywhere you go, Britain , France, these countries are subsidizing one thing or the other, they are subsiding agriculture, electricity  healthcare, medicals, everything. To come and listen to some people that you know are your enemies anyway, to tell you that subsidy is a crime, instead of the other way round and to accept such an advice, you know that you are not for your own people. You have not done your home work. It is not that subsidy is bad; it is the corruption in the subsidy that is bad! And this is very simple. We have papers brought out from the NNPC, everywhere, all over social media, where people will not bring in any product, but they will collect the money or where they are supposed to bring in 10 tankers and they would not bring it, yet they would collect the money because they are connected. That should have been Tinubu’s starting point. That is why I said that the first thing he ought to have done was to investigate the subsidy. It is very easy. This is simple. You can easily remove all these people that are not allowing the subsidy to be effective, instead of removing the subsidy.

There is this frightening trend of hungry Nigerians breaking into food storage centres or attacking trucks carrying food items. How do you see the trend?  Are you afraid  of what is coming?

No, no! I know that the people’s mass action is long time coming. When leadership becomes so insensitive to the plights of their own people, these are the kind of reactions that you will have. In fact, Nigerians are some of the most patient people on earth. You keep putting them in pains and they keep managing. This is an oil producing country and you are buying fuel at extreme cost just to take your own children to school; you have to give half of your salary in a week just to take your children to school. But you manage, you pray to God for salvation. That is how we are. So, we are very, very patient. This is just some minor reactions when people really, really  get hungry. When you are hungry and you don’t have today, not to talk of tomorrow and yesterday was so bad, today is equally bad; you are sure tomorrow is going to be bad as well, tell me when you don’t have anything to lose, what will you do? When human beings are hungry, didnt you read books where hunger reaches the height where people eat their own kind? So, this reaction will be normal, but it is the reaction of the leaders that is so abnormal.

What do you mean by this?

I mean your people have reached the level, we are an oil-producing country. Now, forget the oil, Nigeria is one of the richest countries on earth. Everything that you need to have a super comfortable life for everybody, you have it here in Nigeria. Yet you have been unable to put your acts right until you reach this level, and you think you are insulated from all these because you are walled in a comfortable house that belongs to Nigerians, your family is protected. It is their reaction, it is their insensitivity that is strange. And you know, you continue the same way you are doing. While they are hungry, they are having birthday parties? Did you read of how much was spent to do the Senate President’s birthday party? Now, can you imagine how people would feel? They can’t feed their children and you are spending that kind of money for the birthday of an old man, who has not done anything for the country. The only medal for him is accessing, by crook or hook, the position he is in. That is the only medal for him.

Let us talk about the insecurity in the North. What is your take on this hydra-headed problem afflicting your people?

Okay, I will tell you. The first time, in 1999 – that was when I was part of the cabinet in Nigeria. It was the first time that we had a geological map.  I was amazed when it was put in front of me because of what Nigeria has. Everything you see, the killing of people, the banditry, all are connected to the wealth of Nigeria. Everything! Boko Haram, it is all about the uranium there. Banditry in Zamfara is about the gold there. This is a country that has a gold belt running from Northern Nigeria to South -western Nigeria. And we all know it.  So, why can’t we take care of our own fate? You want our resources; we will sell it to you because we can’t eat our resources. Can we eat uranium or copper in Tudun Wada of Kano State? Can we? No we can’t! We wouldn’t be able. But you will pay us fair price and we will sell to you. And everything is jobbled up just because of what Nigeria has. We are being muscled to a situation where, just like the oil didn’t work for Nigerians; the mineral resources too will not work for Nigerians because we will be put in a situation where at the end of the day, we have to give it out for free or it would be stolen just like the oil.

Do you think our soldiers have done well enough given the kind of budget they have had to fight this war?

Have the budgets reached the soldiers that are fighting? The government budgets money, but do they give the right equipment for the fight? Do they buy the right equipment for them? Where are we buying the arms from? Look,  there was one incident. Double faced and double standard. When Buhari came to power he jailed Goodluck’s National Security Adviser. Why? The crime was that they took $1.2 billion from the reserves, Nigeria’s reserves to buy arms and there was no arms and there was no money. I heard it on  BBC Hausa , Buhari’s National Security Adviser came later and then too, that Buhari withdrew $1 billion to buy arms to fight Boko Haram and there was no money and there was no arms. And when you come to think of it all the shenanigans, who gives the approval for the removal of money for the reserves? Only the president can do that. Who brings out the cash to give it out to any institution that will use the money? Only the Governor of the Central Bank can do that. At the end of the day, if Buhari was serious , he should have jailed his own NSA too and all of them. But he removed the soldiers, but he gave them ambassadorial appointments.

Talking about Buhari, where do we put Buhari in history? A saint, a salvation provider, an honest man (Maigaskiya), or a disappointment?

A total disappointment. Look this is a person that rode on the back of fighting corruption and emancipation of the masses. Now, the first case of corruption, I have just mentioned it a while ago. He jailed somebody because of arms and we know that our soldiers had never been given the right equippment to do this fight . If you remember, in the 70s, there was no successful peace-keeping in the world without Nigerian soldiers. We were the best and  crushing these miscreants that are carrying arms would have been a walk-over. But this political thing, where people are stealing money meant to be used to fight and safeguard lives I think to me is the most treasonable thing I have ever heard in my life. You withdraw money and you know that you are in a war, but you steal the money. That is why when Buhari came, what did we expect? Everybody was thinking that it must have been the Buhari of the 80s. All the masses, North, South, East, West came out for Buhari because he will be coming to sweep away all those corrupt people , that he would jail them and bring the budget into proper perspective. But what did he do? His budget was padded right in front of him. He continued. The same thing that made him sack Goodluck’s NSA happened right under his nose. And instead of penalizing the culprits or doing what should be done, he rewarded them. And you know, it was only Jonathan that was able to jail two former governors for corruption charges. But Buhari pardoned them. That were the only convictions that we got and at least we could say to the world that we tried, that we convicted two governors, but he pardoned them. The corruption escalated under Buhari. Look at what is coming out from his Humanitarian ministry! This is the ministry that is supposed to be the cushion, that for me was the subsidy ministry, that for me was a consumption transfer to the people. When you reach some extreme form of poverty, government does consumption and investment transfers to the people. But look at what is coming out of it. So, the corruption thing he came to fight, nothing happened. It escalated under him.  Then coming to the masses. He rode on their back, he was going to  emancipate them, to give them their rights. Before he came yes, we had Boko Haram, then kidnapping here and there, then banditry came. Buhari is a soldier. Wouldn’t you have thought that anybody that attempted to have a show down with the government, he would deal with the person decisively. But nothing happened. It started on a small scale and then became the  biggest banditry scale in the whole world. Before Buhari came, the masses, they were poor, they were all in their rural areas, your relations, my relations, they were there. they lie under the shade when it is sunny, they farm their little crops here and there, they eat well and even save to go to Jerusalem or Mecca. Government does not touch them, they don’t touch government. Then banditry came and then the bandits would come to the village, they would ransack the village and they would take their children, take their  food, take the women and every little savings they had or have gathered, these villagers would use them to give ransom for their own people to be free. And they had to stop farming because they are on the run for their lives. That is what Buhari had done to the same masses that he came to rescue.

Will you recommend that we probe Buhari as a person instead of probing shadows around him as is the present case?

I think it is ethical for us to blame where there is a wrong and squarely face it and look at it.  I really don’t know. But why can’t we even accept that there was something wrong? Why are we white-washing everything? I can tell where Jonathan went wrong, I can tell where Obasanjo, yes Obasanjo, was my boss, where he went wrong. So, we should also say this is where Buhari went wrong. I am telling you my observation as an outsider. This is what happened to the masses. When he came, at least the masses could eat food. But by the time he left, they could not even stay in their houses. I remember his interview with the BBC. When they asked him “How are you going to tackle Boko Haram”, he just said something like this “What is Boko Haram?”  So, the expectation was that as soon he came, he would deal with them. But he failed to do that.

Only a  few days ago, some Northern governors flew abroad to discuss how to advance the fight against insecurity in the region. How do you see the trip?

(Laughs) I am laughing. That is what I am telling you. The government has become a joke, a sort of festival of jokes. You have a problem and you chose to travel to the United States of America?  Are we fighting with the United States of America? Will the United States of America come and do your fight for you? Do you know how much this trip had cost, especially for those governors who had come out to say that we don’t have money to pay salaries? We can’t do anything about the water problem and we can’t do anything about the electricity? Do you know how much they had taken from their state resources to go to the United States? They would certainly have gone to stay in the best hotels; they would have taken so much of the estacode to be there. The total cost of their expenditure there may be able to pay all the local government staffers their salaries just so that they could go on a jamboree? In any case, what is wrong with the National Conference Centre in Abuja or even the hotels here in Kano. Why cant they have the meeting here? Or even where they hold their meetings in Kaduna for the governors meeting? All the experts in the world can be invited to come and drop in Nigeria and talk to them if they want experts. Why do they need to take themselves to the US? Look at the same Kaduna governor that is crying that he has no money, that his state is completely in debt yet he took off for the jamboree! I mean does this make sense to you? It is because that there is total lack of accountability to the people. There is no correlation between the people and those that govern them and worst of all, they don’t feel that they owe it to the people. In fact, as far as I am concerned, this US trip is not only laughable, but a treasonable to the people because you are also eroding any vestige of respect for your own country.

You are from Kano and you cannot pretend not to know that Kano is under pressure ftom the political war between Kwankwaso and Ganduje with Governor Abba as the implementing/programme officer. How do you see this conflict 

I think it is very, very irresponsible on the both sides. It is against the interest of Kano and also it is against the interest of the people of Kano. And I think that they have not been fair and right to the people of Kano. I will explain. When the people give you their mandate, by that we elevate you, we give you status, give you access to comfort, to respect, to everything, to name. Now, whatever might have happened, no matter how angry you are, you cannot turn and become harmful to the people just because of your emotion. You are not allowed that. That is how leadership is all over the world – universally. The interest of the people supercedes your anger, your emotions, whatever, including your discomfort. No matter what is their problem, it is personal thing as far as I am concerned. They are not fighting on ethical things about Kano; they are not fighting because someone is harming Kano or one is not harming Kano; they are not fighting on behalf of the people , they are fighting on behalf of their ego. It is a personal fight and because of that they have stunted the growth of Kano, they have misled the people; they have divided the people into camps, which sometimes lead to bloodshed. Children of the poor people are dying because of their ego. I think it is irresponsible! And somebody needs to tell them this. It does not matter what Kwankwaso has done to Ganduje and it does not matter what Ganduje has done to Kwankwaso. The fact of the matter is that when we have to fight personally, let’s do it personally.  Don’t affect the state. It has now been translated into a political fight of two elephants so all the grasses, which is Kano will be destroyed.

Is there a way out of this?

Of course, all they need to do is to realize their positions, the positions they enjoy today, they didn’t get it because they were the best people in the state. It is not because they know more than anybody. It is not because they came from a better background more than anybody; it is not because they are best educated. No! It is a blessing from the Almighty. He elevated them. And because of that they have to sheath their sword and make Kano a united state. Not this divided thing, bring the people together to move forward. The problem of Kano is beyond whether Kwankwaso is angry or not. We have the highest number of drug addictions in the country. That is enough to make your mind go haywire. But they  are not facing that? We have more children on streets than any state in Nigeria? Why are they not facing that? You go to local governments, there is absolutely nothing in these local governments. Nothing is happening there.  They are not facing that. Everywhere you go in this town that is supposed to be so prosperous because we are an ancient trade route, anywhere you go electricity in the night is for only 20, 30 minutes. They are not facing that. They are supposed to gather their supporters into mass action so that we alleviate our problems, not to draw us into their personal fight.


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