In this interview with select journalists, Katsina State governor, Aminu Bello Masari, bares his mind on security, development, electronic voting and other topical national issues. JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH was there for LEADERSHIP Weekend.
There is relative peace in the Kastsina State. Incidents of kidnapping and banditry that we’ve been hearing in the news have relatively piped down. What is the secret behind the peace in the state?
Well, as a government, we are giving all the necessary support to the security agencies, and we are collaborating with other neighbouring states in addressing the issue of banditry and other forms of cross-border criminality. We have involved all strata of society. For us, in Katsina, the issue of security is the responsibility of all of us. What we have done so far is to create security committees right from the village level.
Where we are having these problems are the Local Government Areas which are bordering the forest areas. So, we have formed security committees beginning from the hamlet level, going up to the village level and up to the district level, and trying to re-introduce a structure that was effective before.
Cattle-rustling has drastically dropped, though the cattle to rustle are all in the forests.
You have to realise that these bandits do not have a single, or unified, leadership. They are simply criminals. So, when people say “talk to them”, the question is ‘talk to who’? Because in the forests of Katsina alone, you’ll find out that there exist over a hundred camps of these bandits, let alone Zamfara or Kebbi States. A gang begins with two criminals and nobody is under anybody. They may have a working relationship when they want to go out for a massive attack but after their onslaught, they distribute whatever proceeds they’ve amassed, whether rustled cattle or ransom money from their kidnapping. They divide whatever they’ve seized, even their kidnapped victims according to their camps. So, irrespective of whoever you talk to in any given camp they are independent persons. So, really talking to them is like, if you talk to Mr A, Mr B or C is not involved. I think what we need to do is to really find more efficient and effective ways of degrading them. There is no society without criminality, but criminality should not be the order of the day. The good ones are in majority, so they have to take charge in such a way that criminal elements among us do not disturb our way of life.
One factor that instigates insecurity is lack of jobs among our youth. In other climes their leaders have given land to the federal government for establishment of farm estates, whereby the youths can be meaningfully engaged. Are you thinking of such a thing?
One of the things I mentioned earlier is the factor of population explosion, especially in this part of the country, whereby an average person has about two wives. I want you to imagine the multiplier effect. And the land, over the years, has been over-cultivated. The production has also greatly reduced.
I agree with you; some of the things we have discovered in dealing with this insecurity where bandits are recruiting from people who are stark illiterates, who lack the proper or even basic Islamic education. They claim to be Muslims but the tenets of what makes a Muslim they don’t know! They don’t even know how to worship God. They only answer the name because when they grew up they were being called with certain names. They don’t even know the history of their names. For instance, my name, Mohammed Aminu, they don’t even know the meaning of the word! As we all know, every name has a meaning; because nobody wants to be called a donkey, isn’t it? They lack both Islamic and Western education. For a very long time they were abandoned in the forest; and then there was a huge population explosion.
Some of the issues that came out of the commissioning of the Zobe Regional Water Project in Dustin-ma sparked national debate; we learnt then that the Federal Government released N5billion to Katsina State for cattle grazing reserves and some governors said…
The history of this is under the Natural Resources Fund and many states have applied for it from the Federal Government for different things. In our own case, we applied. The totality of the amount earmarked for the project is over N12 billion. Then the Federal Government said we have to contribute 50 per cent and the Federal Government will contribute the other 50 per cent. We are now talking about the 50 per cent of the Federal Government’s contribution. What have we put in place? We have spent more than that in terms of providing the necessary grounds for this project to take-off. The Governor of Benue State is asking for N100 billion. The Federal Government gave us N6.2 billion; what is the relationship between 100 billion and N6 billion?
If the Federal Government is to provide N100 billion to each State, how many billions would that cost the Federal Government and where would the money come from? I think people should be responsible in what they ask for. My State is not the only state in Nigeria. It is not the only state that has problems. If I have problems with banditry, Akwa-Ibom faces its own challenges, maybe with militancy; Lagos would have its own problems and so on. So people must be responsible. If you are asking for N100 billion, are you the only one that has problems? It doesn’t make sense. If you give me one trillion naira I can spend it all in Katsina; but am I being responsible? If I know your salary is N20 but I ask for N50, where are you going to get the N30 from? While I’m not your only child; what is N6.2 billion compared to somebody asking for N100 billion? We have a National Executive Council (NEC) Committee; let them make that request to the committee. Some of them were the ones that made the issue of ranching very difficult or impossible by politicising it.
You see, really unless we treat this country like a single human body. Take for instance, your own body because when one part is sick, the neck cannot say: ‘that it is not my problem, it is the finger or the right hand that is sick’. If you don’t address the issue it will affect the leg. For me, today, if for instance, you have a problem in Edo, I wouldn’t mind putting all the necessary resources to address it so that it doesn’t move to Kogi and from Kogi it doesn’t come to Niger and from Niger it doesn’t come to Zamfara or Katsina. So, the challenge is when there is a problem in one part of the country the other part should not say that is their “wahala’’, forgetting that another one is coming; but by the time it comes to you it has matured and become more deadly and more dangerous. Did we start COVID-19? Did it not come to Nigeria? The reality is that unless we, as Nigerians, start to look at ourselves as a single body and work towards preserving that body, we will face more difficulties. If the head is aching, let’s work together and make sure that it stops so that it doesn’t affect other organs of the body.
People who have listened to you speak at various fora could say you seem to be so much interested in what President Buhari is doing despite the fact that he is being criticised across the country. In some instances, you have quoted some sections to support his leadership?
You see leadership is not a bed of roses. What kills leadership in most societies, and in particular our own, is that leaders want unnecessarily hailing; applause. But if you are providing good leadership, you have to step on toes because your vision should be such that after you have left the place what you did will be a legacy. I cannot please everybody and even God, I said it. The only time one may be satisfied is when one is in the grave because one can’t do anything about it.
What I am telling Mr President is that he shouldn’t be discouraged by the criticism, whether from media or anywhere, some people are criticising him from all corners but he shouldn’t be discouraged, so that at the end of the day, he will leave office a fulfilled and happy person and that is when people will start judging your performance. You see, there is a Hausa proverb that says: ‘May God not bring a day of people’s praises’; because that will be the day when you are no longer in that office, or even in this world.’ Whatever the President does some people would never be happy, but what is more important is that one has to make sure that whatever we are doing it is in the interest of the majority
What is your view on the Electoral Amendment Act, especially when it comes to the electronic transmission of election results?
First of all, going through history, there was never a time that the Electoral Act was passed without some people disagreeing with some portions of it, so for some to support it and for some to be against it is normal. What is more important is that we have to look at the level of our infrastructure. Can the level of our infrastructure be able to cope with electronic transmission? We need safeguards. For me, my opinion is that even if you get electronic transmission you have to confirm it manually, because our young people that are computer savvy, I am wary of them. Some people can easily hack it. Whatever somebody does, there is someone somewhere who is more intelligent and can beat the system, if he intends to. You can see how Information Technology professionals are constantly battling hackers. Some hackers relentlessly attempt to break into systems. Even Internet Service Providers are always changing their codes on a daily basis to safeguard their systems.
For us in Nigeria, some people regard elections a do-or-die affair. For them, you can go to any extent to either hack or sabotage the transmission. So whatever you’re going to do you have to look at your level of infrastructural development because something is being done in America or Europe, you have to ask yourself: ‘Am I in a position to do what they are doing? Do I have the infrastructure to do what they’re doing and what is the nature of our elections?’ These countries have conquered issues of hunger; but have we? What was promised in 1960 after independence is still what we are battling with. In those countries, nobody is talking about three square meals, nobody is talking about access roads etc. They are talking about issues at a much higher level than us. We had the opportunity to develop our own infrastructure, power, roads and institutions. But did we? So, my take on that is simple; we have to do what our level of infrastructure can support.
If INEC says it has the capacity to do it, fine. What about verification? Because, you wouldn’t be sitting in your village with an authentic result and somebody somewhere is busy announcing a totally different result. Yes, transmission of election results, but what about verification?