Former Special Assistant to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and now member of the Kaduna State Transition Committee, Malam Uba Sani, has expressed concern over the level of indebtedness of the State, as the hand-over date between the incumbent Governor Ramallan Yero and Governor-elect, Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, draws nearer. Malam Uba spoke to MONICA MONDAY in Abuja.
Nigerians would want to know how Kaduna state Governor-elect, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, decided to enter the race in the first instance. What can you say about this?
Well, the truth is that Malam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai did not just jump into the contest for governorship. First, he has concerns about the slow pace of development in the state. Secondly, many of his friends and associates, including myself, believe that Kaduna is a state in need of serious rescue. The level of backwardness is glaring to everybody. It is obvious that the state is suffering from infrastructure decay; education standards are declining; health sector is gradually collapsing; there are bad roads all over the place, among other things. Happily, Malam El-Rufai is conversant with the heavy development challenges facing the state and is capable of taking the right steps for change for the better.
Fortunately, the people of the state, especially the masses of our people, are tired of the stagnation and they are hopeful that, given his track records, he would definitely deliver. His career as FCT minister and even before then, are well-known. He is competent, disciplined and well-organised. So, we believe that given the size of the challenge, it would take a man like him to take the state to the next level.
As a key member of the Transition Committee, what would you say are the challenges?
You see, we came across a lot of details in the course of our committee work and I can tell you that what we discovered was really alarming. In fact, the mess is unprintable. You get to see alarming levels of mismanagement of resources and corruption across sectors. In short, the evidence of mis-governance is enough to give any right-thinking person a cause to worry. If you take the sectors of education, health, infrastructure in the state, nothing tangible has happened. As I am talking to you now, the state is indebted to the tune of over One hundred billion naira. You see, Kaduna state has no reason to be so indebted. Lagos state, which has an internal revenue base of about N28 billion per month, also has the highest level of indebtedness in the country; but the difference is clear. I mean if you visit Lagos, you will see that the loans the state took were judiciously used. You can see clearly where the money has been channelled; you can see infrastructure and a whole lot of other indices of development. Of course, Lagos has what it takes to pay back these loans and settle its indebtedness because it generates so much.
But in Kaduna state, as I am talking to you, we can hardly generate up to a billion naira monthly. Let me be very honest with you, this indebtedness, that Kaduna State was pushed into, is the height of irresponsibility of governance. It is sad that Kaduna is today the most backward state in Northern Nigeria. You are talking about the capital of the Old North-Central state, out of which other states were carved out. Yet, even the states carved out of it are better developed. It is unfortunate that successive governments have been more concerned about looting the treasury to the point of ensuring Kaduna remains backward.
Is the committee also looking at the problems of unemployment and the state’s dwindling internally-generated revenue?
You see, we are aware of the level of unemployment in the state. Don’t forget that governorship campaign of Malam El-Rufai did not start without a comprehensive manifesto. The campaign train emphasised the readiness of the El-Rufai-led government to effectively handle the challenges of the education sector, health, agriculture and joblessness. Agriculture alone is enough to provide windows of opportunity for millions of the unemployed. These are some of the areas that Malam El-Rufai has pointed out during his electioneering. For instance, in the area of education, there is a clear lack of qualified teachers and this is scary. The same goes for our hospitals. You will find that there are not enough health facilities, or the number of doctors and nurses is grossly inadequate. We are fully aware of the size of decay in these sectors and Malam El-Rufai has emphasised time and again, during our campaigns, that these issues would be squarely addressed. I need not keep on repeating what his track records are, or why the people of Kaduna state are solidly behind him.
The masses of our people taxed themselves N1,000 each, in support of campaign funding and this is a demonstration of their faith in the abilities of Malam El-Rufai to bring about a change in their battered lives. Petty traders, market women and so on, were all in the forefront of our campaigns and its funding. We find the contributions of the masses more inspiring than even those who gave us millions of naira. They gave the little they have and gave their votes in addition. These are people who are victims of mis-governance, whose children dropped out of schools due to financial difficulties and they believe that Malam El-Rufai in the seat of power means a final relief for their prolonged suffering. They have hope in him as a leader.
What about the challenge of collapsed industries?
Again, Malam El-Rufai and the campaign team planned big for the collapsed industries. And this is one of his familiar terrains. Remember his pedigree and ability to understand the complications that brought down these companies. If you could remember, even the President-elect, General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), declared during governorship campaigns that his support for Malam El-Rufai’s candidature was based on his proven records of the ability to deliver. Buhari described Malam El-Rufai as both “sincere and competent” and had determination to operate without fear or favour. I must also say that the revival of these industries requires the intervention of the federal government. Given Malam el-Rufai’s level of exposure to best practices in a globalised world, it should not be difficult.
What specific challenges did you face in the course of the committee’s work?
Well, challenges are normal in a situation like the one in Kaduna state. We may not have similar challenges with other states, but there are challenges. What is important now is the fact that our committee has people who are experienced politicians, seasoned administrators and managers of men and resources. These are people who are skillful in the art of governance and are specialists in turning around the fortunes of the state. They are knowledgeable and have excelled in divergent areas. We are unexpectedly facing frustrations, but everyone in that committee is grounded on issues. It is not for nothing that Malam El-Rufai chose the right people for this assignment and God willing, we will give it our best shot.