Kashim Imam Ibrahim is a frontrunner in the gubernatorial race of Borno State. The entrepreneur and chieftain of the ruling APC speaks in this interview about his vision and mission for the state. RUTH CHOJI met him
Alphabeta consulting LLP has been accused of money laundering and tax evasion. As the chairman of the board, what is your take on this?
We do revenue collection for Lagos state among so many other states and we have been in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent times. But it’s with pride that I say that, when Aphabeta came on stream, the Internally Generating Revenue (IGR) of Lagos was N600m per month. It is due to our singular effort that the IGR increased to something in the region of N35bn presently. The IGR for Lagos last year averaged N30bn every month and the total at the end of the year was about N360bn. This year, it’s been averaging N33bn, N34bn and N35bn. Nobody has given us credit for that. It’s just been negative press and a lot it is not factual, especially the debate about 10% commission, but that is another story for another day.
Coming back to politics, most people were surprised when you indicated interest to contest the Governorship of Borno State after two previous attempts. What informed that decision?
I didn’t just literally walk into politics by accident. For me, it wasn’t by choice, I was born into it, I studied it and I inherited it. I see it in the context of giving back to the society, so I have devoted the past 31 years of my life to politics and that is part of the entire period I have been on earth. I didn’t just dabble into it by accident. This time around, I didn’t think I will contest, I thought I had gone beyond it. If you recall, my bid recently was for the national secretary of the APC. So, I had envisaged to run at the national level. I thought I would be more useful to the party and Mr. President at the National level. I didn’t envisage going back to contest the governorship, but as they say, ‘man proposes, God disposes’. We are here.
The politics and intrigues that surrounded the national convention is long gone and I have put it behind me, I have moved on. I have also listened to our elders and our people who said I should come home to rescue the state. I have headed their call and I am offering myself and hopefully, I pray that this is the time I should be doing this. I believe I can actually make a difference, I am convinced that I can impact positively on the lives of our people. The period that I have spent in politics is a long one and I have come to appreciate the challenges that come with governance. I can claim to have garnered some experience that can be brought to bear positively on the lives of our people. I have had this very unique advantage of truly being a Nigerian at the risk of sounding very immodest. There are very few Nigerians that have the unique opportunity of simultaneously being a northerner and at the same time, a southern.
Whenever I travel and people ask me ‘where are you from’? My response always is, I am a Nigerian because I have built bridges in every part of the country. I find it difficult to say that I am a northerner by ascription to the extent that I was born a northerner, but I am more at home in the south. I am a southerner by achievement and this is because of the relationship that I have built over the years with people from the south; the brotherhood that I have made over the years is so tight and so I have seen Nigeria for what it is. I can claim to have garnered a lot of experience that I can bring to bear on our people.
Borno is one of the states that have been ravaged by the activities of insurgeny. What is the current state of affair there now?
The people of Borno in particular and the North-eastern part of the country in general are eternally grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari. If you recall, from the inception of this administration, he committed himself to a very limited programme which includes security. The second one is the fight against corruption, and the third is the economy, in that order. In the areas of security and achieving peace, he has done exceedingly well to our people in the North-east that I can say without any fear or contradiction that, he does need to come to Borno and to the North-east to campaign for a second term, he will be re-elected without showing up.
A lot of people from the southern part of the country can’t come to terms with the near fanatical support that Buhari enjoys in the North-east and to some extent in the North-west. For you to appreciate why, you just need to look at my state three years back.
There are 27 local governments Borno State and about 20 of them were off limit to everybody. All the inhabitants from those 20 local governments were forced to relocate or run away from their homes, villages and towns, to Maiduguri and even to neighboring states like Gombe, Bauchi and as far as Kano and Kaduna.
Today, about 80% level of peace has been restored to Borno, largely due to the effect of Mr. President and our security forces. Yes, you still get pockets of attacks here and there, but these are isolated cases.
In the past, the insurgency held on to territories, they ran a near parallel administration. They took over whole local government. But today, some element of normalcy has returned to Borno. Majority of the people who ran away from their homes have returned home. That is why I said our people are eternally grateful to Mr. President and our security forces for restoring peace to our communities particularly in the areas of rebuilding schools that were ravaged, rebuilding homes, hospitals and other infrastructure. People that have run away from their homes have returned to their communities. This is the current situation on ground in Borno.
How much will it take to rebuilt the state in terms of funds?
Only last week, I told the media that the first action we will take as a government is to take stock of our loses. The president was quoted in one of his foreign trips to have said that 20,000 lives have been lost to insurgency but the actual figures are running to hundreds of thousands of lives lost. There is no accurate censor or data on it. There is also no accurate number of data on schools, hospitals, homes and number of people whose livelihood was shattered.
When elected into office, we will hold a conference on Borno so that people will know the implication of rebuilding the state. We will also come up with the cost of rebuilding our roads, markets, hospitals and the rest.
Fortunately, we have been blessed in terms of human resources in all endeavor. Once it is done, we will do a local fund raising and I will personally contribute about a billion naira of my personal money to the reconstruction of Borno. We will also organize a national fund raising of which I hope to invite all my friends that are captains of industries, bankers and the rest. Thereafter, we will also organize an international donor conference that will bring international donors like Syria did where they raised up to US$13bn. But we can’t embark on that without a blue print. We are preparing a blueprint that will guide us in our plans to reconstruct Borno state.
Also going forward, my key policy areas in the post-insurgency period will be very few. We will first go back to the cause of the problems. One is lack of education. Two is unemployment. For education, I remember that when we were kids, growing up in Lagos, school enrollment was a 100% for every child. No matter how poor the parents were, every school age child was enrolled in school, but that is not the same situation in the north.
Recently, the mother of my friend and brother, Rauf Aregbesola died and during the burial, we were discussing with some governors of the South-west, we were talking about education and my friend, the governor of Ogun state said, the state has six hundred and thirty secondary schools and twenty one universities. Rauf said they have more than seven hundred secondary schools.
In the entire North-east, comprising of Borno and Yobe, Gombe and Taraba, Adamawa and Bauchi, we don’t have up to six hundred secondary schools. We have just ten universities and we are in a federation. This is the first challenge we will face headlong.
Under my leadership, education will be free from primary to secondary school level. Not only that, we will pass the necessary legislation to enforce sanctions on those who refuse to send their children to school. So, education will be free and compulsory. If parents want to send their kids to school, they are welcome but if they don’t, we will compel them.
I had earlier alluded to the areas of unemployment. IGR of Lagos which I am involved with the collection generates N30bn every month. As at December last year, their IGR was in the region of N360bn. From January this year, IGR has been rising to N33bn and N34bn in Lagos. I had cause recently to engage the Chief of Staff to Mr. President recently on this issue and he called his office to request for figures of the 19 Northern states tax collection and the total of last year was N189bn. That is about 50% of what Lagos generates in a year and we are in a federation.
In the context of Nigerian economy, Lagos is like California in the US. If California was a nation, its economy will run among the top eight largest in the world, meaning there are only seven countries that their economy is as big as that of California. We have the same challenge here in the country. So, we will take practical steps to ensure that every citizen of Borno is involved in one economic activity or the other. We will go out of our way to promote agriculture. The state government under Kashim Shetima has invested heavily on procuring tractors and other agricultural equipment.
Going forward, we will deploy our efforts towards restoring the groundnut pyramid, maize pyramid and the rest. We will also focus on the production of wheat and rice within and around the Lake Chad basin.
Lastly, we will embark on massive reconstruction of places that have been ravaged by insurgency and if you recall, post-world war 11, there was a similar effort in the US and a similar effort in Europe. When we rebuilt our roads and markets, we will generate hugh economic activities and traders will smile to the bank, laborers will all become busy. These are the major critical areas I hope to focus on, as the president is focusing on three.
How do you hope to defeat the remaining contestants that are also eyeing the gubernatorial seat?
I have been in the field of politics for 30 years. In King’s College, Lagos, we say that there are only two colleges in Nigeria. Kings College and others. So, there are only two candidates running for governorship in Borno state, Kashim Ibrahim Imam and the rest. But interestingly, only recently, I went from the home of one aspirant to the other. I went to those who were in Borno while I was there, even the commissioner of justice who is contesting said I wasn’t fair to him, that, I am his elder brother, that I shouldn’t have come to his house. Now that I am in Abuja, I intend to visit those that are in town. We are all one family and I think we all want what is best for Borno. At the end of the day, we will sort ourselves out.
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