Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is the Deputy Governor of Kano State. He was also the Deputy Governor during Governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso’s first term in office between 1999 and 2003. In this interview with SA’ADATU SHUAIBU, he speaks on the importance of prudence and transparency in governance, how his administration is tackling youth unemployment and drug addiction in Kano and other issues.
By May 29, it will be one year since your administration came into office; what are the key challenges you encountered?
Since you are talking about key challenges, let me start with the basic issues, the fundamental issues in governance, especially as it pertains to third world or democratic countries like Nigeria. The first challenge is that of transparency. In governance, transparency is very important, especially in a situation whereby you have limited resources, where you have a high degree of unemployment, and in Kano, in particular, where you have a high population. Transparency here means you should do things so that everybody will understand that the issues at stake are honest issues - you do not hide anything.
Another issue is prudence in governance; it is a big challenge, especially to modern politicians in Nigeria today. We have to save the government fund as if it is our own fund. We have to be prudent; otherwise, within a very short period of time, you find out that your expenditure becomes bogus.
Another issue is that of due process. You have to follow due process so that you can follow the rules and regulations. And also, you should understand that you should separate your personal interest from public interest, your personal expenditure from public expenditure. What I mean by that is, if you are not careful, you will end up spending a lot of public funds.
We found that the former administration spent almost N1.5 billion on it called ‘government-sponsored pilgrimage’. That is, paying for people to go to Hajj which, of course, is not according to the tenets of Islam. So if you are going to be transparent, prudent, and go according to due process, you will save yourself from such expenditure. If I decide to go to Umrah (the lesser Hajj) now as a person, I will not go with public funds. If I decide take my wife or my children, or if I decide to go to undertake a personal trip, I will not use public funds.
What defines your administration? What makes it different from previous administrations such as that of Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau or Alhaji Abubakar Rimi?
Well, with Alhaji Abubakar Rimi’s administration, to make a comparison would be difficult because of the time lag: the population has increased; priorities have changed, and society has advanced. During the time of Abubakar Rimi, rural electrification was a big achievement - and that was very good, but now when we talk about rural electrification, your mind is already on PHCN.
But comparison between the administration of Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau and our own, is a very good question. I would like to focus on the issue of prudence, control, and tightening the pockets of government so that you save money for development, the issue of changing the ratio between capital and recurrent expenditure.
When we came, we found out that the recurrent expenditure was about 80 percent because of what he called human development, which was rubbish. Now, we have converted capital to 67 percent while recurrent is 33 percent. We ensured that we would do something concrete for the people.
To leave a legacy is more important than foreign trips, more important than becoming a victim of conformity. What I mean by a victim of conformity is, to be dishing out money freely without any guidelines simply for people to hail you and say you are humane or your administration is good. We don’t do that. We give you what you are due; we don’t just give you money like that.
So, the basic difference between our government and his own is transparency and prudence. We don’t allow people to steal. People, when they steal, we sack them. But, according to him (former governor), when you steal, he will say ‘Allah ya isa’ (God punish him). Of course, ‘Allah ya isa’ but we have to pay for it. . In four years, he spent almost N8 billion under security vote.
Now, we have scrapped the security vote. The governor does not use any security vote. Anything pertaining to security, he will take it to the Council. The Council ensures that he does not spend anything in the name of security vote. Whatever he spends must have a reason, a purpose; he does not have anything to hide. That is a basic difference between our administration and his own.
What challenges are your administration facing regarding social issues, such as drug addiction?
Drug addiction is a very serious problem all over the country, particularly in Kano. The main challenge of drug addiction is that our youths have now graduated from taking synthetic drugs, manufactured drugs to locally made concoctions because some even take sewage and smoke sewage and they get drunk.
So, it is not an issue of money because you can get dirty water anywhere. If you need money to buy drugs, if they are expensive, you cannot buy it. But now they are so many local materials that are free of charge and the youth can get intoxicated. So, we are working hand-in-hand with the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in order to control that. It is a big challenge and we are working very hard towards curbing that.
How is your administration tackling youth unemployment?
Recently, the Central Bank gave our governor an award because of youth unemployment/poverty alleviation programmes. As I have told you, we have developed a database of local government unemployment. Now, we have taken stock of 500 youth students who got 2:1 (second-class upper) or a first-class in their degree examinations.
We are going to send them abroad to study their Masters and PhDs and come back to work in our institutions of higher learning. We are employing 1,000 youths into the civil service and we have just finished conducting the interviews. Letters will be given to the youths who are unemployed.
We also try to find admissions for our youths to reduce unemployment; we send them back to school. We go all over the country, institutions of higher learning, wherever we find vacancies for Kano State, we send the youths so as to decongest the concentration of youth in Kano who have nothing to do. So, this issue of youth unemployment is our priority.
Your administration is currently embarking on a project whereby the youths are being empowering by selling drugs (the Lafiya Jari programme); can you tell us more about that project?
The genesis of that is that we realised that in Kano State, on Sunday, you don’t find drugs to buy because those who sell them don’t work on Sundays. And in the case of any problem, geopolitical problem, you find that some services would be lacking, like the issue of selling drugs. Two, we found that Kano State has the highest number of adulterated drugs and most of the people who are selling the drugs are non-natives.
Three, we discovered that we have a number of the youths who went through training in health technology, who graduated from the school of nursing, school of midwifery, without jobs. Therefore, we decided that since this is an area they can come in they should. When we were in government last time, we took 500 and then 600. This time, we took 500, four times now.
First of all, we train them in entrepreneurship because they already have the basic knowledge of drugs - they are trained either as a nurse, a midwife, or in the school of health technology. But in order to do business, you need skills in entrepreneurship. So, we give them training for four weeks in entrepreneurship. We give them N50,000 to go and hire a shop. We give them N100,000 to buy drugs and the drugs are from the government.
So, we make sure we give them geniune drugs to sell; and they cut across the local governments. So far, since we started, we have graduated over 2,000 youths and we have given them empowerment. In terms of selling drugs in Kano now, there is competition between indigenes and non-natives. In fact, some of the big companies is even synergising with these youths: they bring the drugs to the youths and collect the money after they sell the drugs.
By giving these drugs to the youths outside of a pharmacy, isn’t there a concern that they might take advantage and misuse these drugs?
When you say outside of a pharmacy, you had better note that there are different categories and status of drugs outlets. Some are pharmacies, some are not pharmacies and they are legal. What is required is there must be somebody who has a certificate in health - that is the basic requirement, and they are qualified for that. And you know that these young men who are in this programme of ‘Lafiya Jari’, they are also politicians.
They assisted us in winning the election. They are proud of the scheme, the programme and the ideology. They are proud the PDP ideology in Kano State. They must sell the drugs that come from government and if anyone is found wanting, we dispossess him from that.
What are your ambitions for the future? Do you see yourself contesting the position of governor in 2015?
It would depend on the situation; the circumstances would warrant it. I am not overly ambitious.
There have been many debates concerning whether President Goodluck Jonathan would run for president again in 2015; as a member of the PDP, do you think he should run for president?
That controversy has a legal issue and a political issue. The legal issue is whether Jonathan is able to contest again. I think the courts of law will be able to give that interpretation. If according to the law, he cannot contest the election, then the question of my opinion is not important. If the law says he cannot contest, then he cannot contest.
If the law says he can contest then he is free like any Nigerian to contest and Nigerians within the PDP will determine whether he will succeed or not. So, I think the issue of 2015 should be left till the time, because I think many variables can come in between now and 2015; variables of development, legality and geopolitics can come in and all these things can determine whether I will be in favour Jonathan to contest or not. So, let us wait until that time and see how variables will interact with one another, and come up with a political solution.
Kano State is reputed for having a buoyant agricultural sector which in recent years has declined; what is the state government doing to generate internal revenue?
Firstly, we have revolutionised our land management system. We are working very hard to introduce our own GIS (Geographic Information System) just like that of Abuja. Secondly, because people see that we are transparent, many people have come to pay their taxes. We are developing a database to capture all the tax bases that we are supposed to tax.
Now, we are introducing the motor park along the major entrance into Kano metropolitan. We have given the contract for the motor park to be built so that all of these big carriage vehicles would have to stop there and we would tax them depending on the weight what they are carrying. We constructing one around Dawanau for over N10 billion, and another one around Zaria road costing about N7 billion. All these when completed will increase our revenue generation.
Also, we are building three new cities. We are not building them not free of charge; we are giving the plots according to the services that we will provide. We have one called Kwankwasiyya City which is near Dantata and Sawoe base, and another one we call Amana City around Gurjiya, along Zaria road and then we have Bandurawo City on your way to Dambatta.
So in all these cities we are also going to produce infrastructural facilities: tarred road, drainages, street lights. All those who are interested in development are already showing interest; people and organizations are coming, paying millions of naira, acquiring 50 plots, some 1,000 plots. We are not even using public money to do that; we are using people’s money who are purchasing the forms because they know that it is a viable programme. So that is also increasing our revenue base.
But what is important is for people to have confidence that if they pay their taxes, we are going to use their money in a transparent manner, and I think we are succeeding. We know we have some challenges because of some political considerations, and also because of the abject poverty, but our own ideology is to tax the rich so that we will improve the quality of the poor.
So, sometimes we are lenient on the poor but, on the rich, I’m sure if you listen to some controversies, most of the rich people, we are always at loggerheads with them because at any slight opportunity, we see that they try to evade taxes, we clamp on them to be sure they do not evade their taxes.