Why bandits are threatening the peace of Katsina, Zamfara states

Governor of Katsina state, Hon. Aminu Bello Masari recently launched his re-election bid, while he also raised the alarm about the spate of banditry in Katsina and the North West states. He restated his efforts at ensuring security and development in the state adding that his re-election campaigns and that of President Muhammadu Buhari remains on course. Group Politics Editor, Taiwo Adisa, presents the excerpts:

How has it been combining the re-election campaign for President Muhammadu Buhari with your own re-election campaigns around the state?
 Luckily enough for me, I can campaign for President Muhammadu Buhari in Katsina and, however small, at the national level. I was Speaker of the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2007. Within that period, I had the opportunity of meeting over 300 House of Representatives members. Of the 300 members, I visited all their constituencies before the end of our tenure and we maintained cordial and good relationship with most of them. I can safely say that I have a wider reach; in terms of people I know within the political circle and business community. In fact, as Speaker, I had the opportunity of meeting all the first class traditional rulers of this country. The Oni of Ife gave me the traditional title,  I had one from Osun, Port Harcourt, Eleme Kingdom, Abakaliki, among others. I also had the opportunity of meeting religious leaders: both Christians and Muslims, and I still maintain cordial relationship with them.

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I also had the opportunity of meeting labour leaders, as I played a role in resolving some of their issues. Some of them are still in the system. In fact, when I was campaigning to be Speaker in 2003, I went to Nigeria Labour Congress.

That’s when I first met Adams Oshiomhole, who asked why I came to NLC, when I know it does not have a vote. I told him that he does not have to be a voting member to be a stakeholder, as the NLC comes to the House for legislative concerns. I met other stakeholders, including the Nigeria Guild of Editors and Newspaper Proprietors. I went round and reached critical stakeholders and everybody I could possibly reach, because I know that you gain more by establishing relationships than by not establishing relationships.

When President Buhari was campaigning under CPC, there is no state we went to that I did not meet people that I knew and people that knew me; without my even knowing them, because they were not in the House but might have met me without my remembering them.

Therefore, when it comes to how I can assist the president, I think that the friendship I have built across the country will help. I recently met with some Senators and former colleagues in the House in Bui. Some of them were in the Constitutional Conference with me in 1994/1995 and I met and recognized them, so such connections come handy in this politicking time.

 

So what have you been telling your people to justify your Second term ambition?

Why not a second term? We came up with a restoration agenda; to restore Katsina state to its lost glory and pride: which is education. Even before the coming of Whiteman, the first Islamic Institution that was built in Gobarau is over 1,000 years old, so Katsina was only second to Timbuktu, in terms of Islamic education at that time. So, when the colonialists came, they found this level of education in Katsina and found the people very receptive of education, so that’s why there is the first post primary institution in Katsina in the northern part of the country.

If you look at the WAEC and NECO results, by 2015 when we came in, Katsina was among the last three in terms of academic performance; so we have lost it. The people of Kaduna cannot compete in federal appointments, businesses, academics, name it, while in Katsina over 40 years ago, we had a pilot, who was piloting 747, from Daura. I think he died last year. He had a traditional title before his death.

If you go to the members of the armed forces, you could see the array of Katsina people, the same in the judiciary and higher institutions, but this is declining seriously. So, the best we can do is to lay a solid foundation that will recapture, especially the area of education, because it is critical.

What we call Katsina State was Katsina Province, made up of Daura Emirate and Katsina Emirate. At that time, Daura Emirate, which was brought back from Kano and Katsina brought from Zaria, were joined to form Katsina State from Katsina province.

All our education, health, judiciary institutions, police and prisons were being run by the native authority, including the bureaucracy of the native authority. Agriculture and livestock was the revenue. So, if it was like that 40 years ago, who says it can’t it be like that today? The only place we had problems, just like in other parts of the country, probably, to a large extent, except Southwest was leadership. We have declined in the quality of leadership. It was not that particular in the South West. The educational foundation laid by Chief Obafemi Awolowo was what gave South West an edge over others. You can’t be in serious business or telecom without education. We have the largest population in the North West, but if care is not taken, it will be a liability in population.

 

What your plans for Katsina in the second term?

People have accepted what we are doing, that is why they turned up en mass for the flag off campaign in Uyo. As a leader, you have to be sincere with your people. Dishonesty partly kills leadership in this country. Leaders don’t have trust, as they tell lies. What we are trying to do is to match our words with action. The time has come for us to answer what we promised the people of Katsina State. We cannot do it in a crowd; we will go to local government by local government. In 2015, I slept in almost all the 34 local governments in Katsina. People have recorded me and they are bound to ask me questions about what I promised.

To be specific, what have we done in education; before we started, we commissioned a committee that visited all the primary and secondary schools in the state, checking the population of students and the qualification of teachers, to know who are teachers and who are not. We generated a report sponsored by DFID and other donor agencies under the University of Abuja. Luckily enough, one of the research fellows was Professor Salihu from Katsina State. He availed me the complete copy of their assessment. Our state was one of the states they visited and took samples of the quality of teachers. Over 60 per cent of the teachers they tested could not pass the test of the class they were teaching. Primary four teachers could not answer the questions meant for primary four pupils. I tried it myself. I visited a primary school and met a teacher teaching Hausa.

He asked the students about Seven Hausa states and Seven Banza states. They could not answer and he too could not provide the answer. We looked at the infrastructure levels in the schools and they were discouraging. All the walls had broken down and what was left of the foundation was breaking, because the DPC was not done properly. When you don’t do DPC and then do flooring, it means rainfall will break it.

When I was campaigning, I went to a village in a local government. Luckily enough, one of the walls of the school was standing as it was built in 2013, but it collapsed in 2014. We did all these surveys and we have the record.

In order to admit 50 students per class, we decided to have additional 13, 000 classes in Katsina State across primary and secondary schools, apart from those that were rehabilitated. As for shortage of teachers, we are looking for over 16, 000 teachers in all subjects for primary and secondary schools. These figures are in an ideal situation, which may be difficult to get at the best of times, because, even if you have the resources, you may lack the manpower, because teachers need to be trained. Not everybody is a teacher. You may have the qualifications, but may lack the principles. We are looking at 58, 000 chairs and tables to replace the shortages, especially the staff. We have many schools in the state without a single desk or chair. We have to measure how far we have gone. I know we have provided more than 38, 000 seats. We have rehabilitated over 1,024 schools and built over 726 additional classes for the primary school alone. We deliberately selected Girls Secondary schools in Katsina and renovated 8 new classes, built new dormitories, built kitchens and toilets for them, because they are schools where the girls were defecating outside, because all the toilets had collapsed.

We replaced all the teachers who retired. We did a survey in the local government system and removed over 723 graduates and transferred them to the Ministry of Education. We employed 1, 950 teachers and we are now replacing on quarterly basis. Even now, we are replacing about 58 retired teachers. Despite the fact that we had recruited over 1, 000 teachers for primary education, but we were not still getting the figures. We decided to start borrowing from what the Federal Government was doing in the N-Power program. We started to pay any NCE or Diploma holder in education N20, 000 per month. We replace any retired teacher with any N-Power graduate who has teaching qualification. When the graduates complained, we decided to recruit between 2, 000 to 3, 000 of them who have qualifications in education, especially Education English, Education Islamic Studies, Education Hausa, among others and we paid them N25, 000. We used them as a reserve for replacing retired teachers. We are now partnering with an NGO being run by Dr. Rabe. They have an agreement with a college in the UK for the training of teachers and they are going to offer three months free training for you to become a professional teacher. We believe that, if you get teachers, students, textbooks, you can even teach under heat. We have bought all instruction books for teachers in all subjects. We spent over N700m in purchasing all these instruction materials. Anybody asking what we have done in education, each local government we are going for a multimedia presentation, we will have a list of all the projects we have done.

 

 Why did your party choose to launch the campaign in Uyo, Akwa-Ibom state?

It is strategic. If you want to test your popularity, go to where you think you are not popular. People from the South-South came from different places to fill the biggest stadium in the country; in a state where we don’t control the government. Those who say that Buhari rented crowd does not know him, because he is a man who has not printed a single poster for himself, let alone rent a crowd. Any poster you see of Buhari was provided by somebody, because he normally delivers on any policy. He is still writing cheques by himself. We learnt something from our past leaders. Malam Aminu Kano never had a box of clothes, but until his death, he got the best of everything he wanted. We don’t need anything else in life, except a place to sleep, hospital for the sick and food on the table. Anyone saying that Buhari is pretending should uncover his pretense and tell us where the money is, because others have been to where the money is and their lifestyle also portrays them as stealing money.

 

But some of your party leaders are angry and working against the APC, how do you handle that?

I am not worried about those working against the APC, because my little understanding of human beings is normal. In most cases, people will say that we have a bad leader, no matter how good he may be. If you go to the Oba’s or Emir’s palace, you will meet the good, the bad and the ugly people and each one has his use at a particular time. When we were campaigning, we said that the change we are advocating is not about names or faces, but the way we conduct government business and that will impact positively on interpersonal relationship. Some of the crowd came because they believe they have a vehicle to reach a particular position, while others came because they are committed and believe there is need to change, but some came because one Alhaji, Dr, Mr. is there and they want to be there too; even if they don’t know the import of what they are there to do.

In the first party primaries since we took over government , the party, in its wisdom, wanted to change the narrative whereby some governors will impose candidates on the people to succeed him. This is what the Change mantra is all about: carrying people along. If you get the majority believing in a particular thing, then you move in that direction. There is a soft landing space for those who don’t believe, because everybody is useful . Late Malam Aminu Kano said that one shouldn’t pray for all his children to be good, but to have a stubborn or rascal child who can return insult and not turn the other way out of respect when the father is abused or insulted. Anybody who wants to insult you tomorrow will remember you have a rascal among your sons and then respect himself. That is the way life and government is. You may think that some people are not useful here, but they will be useful there.

 

 There is this belief that President Buhari didn’t deliver on the 2015 promises?

Like we said, Buhari cannot solve all Nigeria’s problems, but if he can lay a solid foundation, anybody who comes will not take us back to those bad days. We are fighting corruption, but corruption is also fighting back in a more vicious way by using some of the media outfit and legal loopholes to exploit and escape. When Buhari was fighting corruption as a military head of state, it was up to you to prove your innocence. Once you are strongly suspected, it is left for you to prove your innocence. But today, it is the other way round, as it is the government proving beyond reasonable doubt that one is corrupt. We may be delaying , but it is the best in the long run, especially in this system of arresting corruption and corrupt officials on whatever offense. It is always better to go slowly, because, at the end of the day, you will do what is right; rather than be in a hurry for the innocent to suffer.

If you cannot prove anything in court, it is a mere waste of time, but it is up to society to reject those kind of people. In my life, I knew one honest woman who exposed the corruption of her son. Her son was the classmate of the son of my elder brother, so I managed to secure a job for him as a cashier. However, we were not living in the same place for me to assess his lifestyle. He started romancing with men above his class, but who were using him to steal money. When I went to the village, his mother came to me to complain that he recently bought a car, when his salary could not afford that. I used my connection to remove him from the cash office to a department he will retire and not being dismissed. Not up to 6 months, all the people he was romancing with were arrested. So the late woman was the only person I saw that rejected corruption, even to the extent of reporting her son. So, if people in society can distance themselves from this kind of people, it will also help and proving cases will not be difficult. Those sitting in small places in the seat of power are not the dangerous ones, but the hypocrites are the more dangerous ones. Even our prophet lived with them. Once you are in power, all sorts of people will come to you and you must share with them according to the system. But if the head is good, it reduces the level of corruption, but anyone that is caught is on his own.

 

 Insecurity is taking over your state and the North West, any solution in sight?

As a state, I am also a victim, because we have spent billions since we came into government. In nine local governments and the forest in Zamfara. If you can remember, this killing in Zamfara started even before 2010. The forest leads to Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso down to Senegal across the River Niger, so it is not an ordinary forest you see. It is 100 kilometres if you are crossing from Zamfara before you reach any reasonable distance and another way to Central African Republic. After the fall of Boko Haram, this people became more energized with arms and ammunitions coming through because of the Fall of Libya. The crisis in Mali and Niger Republic helped the Boko Haram. The people in the forest are stark illiterates: both in Islamic and Western Education, so their behaviours are exactly like that of the animal they are rearing. Before you know it, a small matter has become something else. We tried to isolate all the herdsmen living in Katsina and we succeeded up to 80 per cent . We had an amnesty program and they returned over 347 arms, including AK47, revolvers and some dane guns, and we are collecting gradually in pieces of two and three. We were able to restore normalcy as people could not farm when we came in. We have not restored total normalcy because it is a wide area covering nine local government areas and over 200kms, so they can easily infiltrate. If they come under attack, they come in. We have the Nigeria Air Force stationed here. But if you kill one person, another one will come out, because they don’t know the value of life, because of lack of education.

There are many allegations going round , especially the involvement of local traditional institutions in villages and towns. They were stealing from non-Fulani in their farms and they are now stealing among themselves. What is worrisome is the spate of kidnapping. They are no longer stealing cows, because if you steal cow and take it to the market, it may be recovered. But if you kidnap somebody you ask for ransom. It is a serious situation, because the area is vast. When you push them out, they spill over to Kaduna or Niger with a vast forest. In Zamfara and part of Katsina, they are many settlements in the forest and they can easily attack the settlement, steal their food, rape their women and kill them. I recently visited IDPs, who were sacked from their villages. If the story they told us is true, then what is happening in the forest is no longer the issue of cattle rustling. The killing resembles Boko Haram killing in a way, though we have not confirmed what we heard, because it is only Boko Haram that kills for nothing. One person told us that seven of his friends were decapitated and their stomach opened, but we have not confirmed that, though he seemed learned from his language. There is a correlation, otherwise where are they getting their arms and ammunitions? It is a circle. Those supplying Boko Haram with arms have found another market. If you see the way the military and police are retaliating in the forest and the people keep on moving, you wonder if the population in the forest are not being under reported.

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