Shekarau's Rising Profile in Nigerian Politics


Abdullahi Maigari


Kano and Lagos States remain the most strategic states in Nigeria largely because of the economic and demographic positions. Lagos is undoubtedly economically predominant. Kano is indeed politically the most influential. The governor of the state always plays an important role in national politics. Both Senator Bola Tinubu and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau are the most influential governors because of the power of their states and personal charisma as a result of the quality of their leadership.

Kano State played a key role in the first and second term nominations of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo because it had more delegates and all of them backed him. During the 1999 convention Obasanjo was supported because the North had no choice but to relinquish power to the Southerners. The Kano political godfathers Alhaji Muhammad Abubakar and Alhaji Aminu Wali supported Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. It should be noted that Alhaji Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi was one of the founders of the PDP. He is also the leader of the progressives in Nigeria since the Second Republic when they started the meeting of the 12 Governors. Alhaji Aminu Wali on the other hand belongs to the conservative group since the NPN in the second republic. Their alliance in Kano State together with their junior partner the PDM (Padama group) of the late General Shehu Yar Adua made it easy for the PDP to win in 1999.

As elders Abubakar Rimi and Aminu Wali were contented with Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso as governor. He was a level 12 officer who resigned from the civil service and joined partisan politics and he eventually won election and became the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives of the stillborn National Assembly of the Babangida Regime. He never had any administrative experience. Immediately he became the governor it got into his head that even elders such as Alhaji Abubakar Rimi are inconsequential. He discarded Musa Gwadabe the minister in Obasanjo's government representing their Padama group the junior partner in the PDP. Kwankwaso effectively edged out all the elders and made them insignificant in the party and by 2003 the machinery was under his total control.

At the societal level Kwankwaso alienated all the major segments of the dynamic civil society namely the workers and the Ulama. Through out his tenure there was no promotion in the state civil service and no annual increment in salary. There was no job security, from the lowest level to highest level of the state Head of Civil Service. He sacked messengers and stewards by word of month in the same manner he sacked the Head of Service verbally at State Executive Council because he reinstated suspended accountants. Hence he subjected the state to unnecessary litigations instituted by victimized civil servants. For four years he battled with pensioners, he refused to pay them their entitlements including their gratuity and even aggrandized their Federal entitlements. This inhuman behavior affected over 9000 pensioners. Perhaps the worst disservice Kwankwaso did to the development of Kano State was the sacking of contract workers because many of them were science teachers. The Science Secondary Schools that were the pride of Kano were completely paralyzed since the sacking of these teachers the school results have been diminishing and it would take Kano a long time before Kano restores its lost glory.

Kwankwaso alienated the Ulama whom he regarded as nuisance sometimes he even called some of them polytheist after they had finished meeting with them. His antagonism was because they insisted that he must put the Shari'ah into practice. Some of them formed the independent Hisbah or Islamic civil vigilante group. After so much pressure he unwillingly launched the Shari'ah without any structures for its smooth realization. As a politician he directed his deputy to go on raid of hotels and brothels with some of the Ulama but behind closed doors he made agreement with some of the hoteliers and he paid them their damages after the raids that were used as side shows to assuage public agitations for Shari'ah implementation.

Kwankwaso's alienation of the vital elements of the civil society and the political class ensured his defeat. There were more unrests and in Kwankwaso's tenure than that of any previous administration in the history of Kano State. He also publicly supported daba (brigandage) even at the seat of power the Africa House, where the gangi (music that sends brigands into intoxication) was played. He was so confident that he removed all those who crossed his path and he felt he would sweep the polls because of his gigantic projects. For example he spent more money on two buildings for his pleasure; Aminu Kano House Abuja which is the official Governor's Lodge (N716million) and Government House Kano (N560million) than his entire expenditure on Agriculture for four years. That expenditure was also more than the amount he spent on capital works on secondary school education. He eventually lost the 2003 elections to Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau.

Engineer Magaji Abdullahi was the APP Governorship candidate in 1999 thereafter the party came under the control of Alhaji Ibrahim Little a client of the Abacha family and he used his connections with that family to continue financing the party. Alhaji Amadu Haruna Zago kept up the struggle against Ibrahim Little who wanted to be the party's flag bearer in 2003. Other candidates emerged before the primaries. Ibrahim Little wanted to combine his chairmanship and governorship candidature which was contrary to the party's constitution. Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau was the only other candidate who could pay N5million for the form as a result of goodwill from well wishers. Apart from Engineer Magaji Abdullahi the other candidates who could not pay were poster candidates none of them could be entrusted with any public responsibility although they continued to parade themselves as political heavyweights for public appointment. Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau became the party's gubernatorial candidate after Alhaji Ibrahim Little was disqualified. Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso never believed that Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau could defeat him at the polls. On the 19th of April 2003 Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau defeated Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso in one of the most fiercely contested elections in the country. The PDP wanted to change the results but they rescinded the idea when they realized that violence would engulf the state.

Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau had served in state civil service for twenty five years thirteen of those years at the top management level. He was a teacher in many schools across the state some of his students have now reached the highest levels in their career. He became a principal and he was the longest serving president of the All Nigeria Association of Secondary School Principals. He then became zonal director of education before assuming the coveted civil service position of Permanent Secretary in two different ministries and later at the cabinet office and the civil service commission before Kwankwaso demoted him back to the classroom. As a Permanent Secretary of the Directorate of Administration and General Services of the Cabinet Office he left a mark that is still a milestone in the organization. He was an active member of the civil society as one of the promoters of Kano Forum or Inuwar Jama'ar Kano which is the most prestigious NGO in Kano State that has made substantial contributions through intervention in education and other endeavors. Its board of trustees is made up of the cream of Kano society. For more than thirty years he was also associated with the Muslim Students Society the oldest Muslim organization in Nigeria with national spread. For all these years he had accumulated social capital that enabled him to gain support in the political arena. Throughout the campaign his integrity became the solid brand that was impeccable. He was indeed one of the few politicians that were ever voted on the basis of the strength of their character.

Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau became the Governor of Kano State with high level of goodwill and expectations. A committee was formed and it drafted a comprehensive Action Plan for the Shekarau Administration based on his vision of Human Development. In less than one hundred days the Shekarau Administration did what the Kwankwaso Administration could not accomplish in four years. It restored hope in the public service by paying the pensioners their entitlements this brought social harmony and tranquility. The administration has so far paid more than N3 billion as at August 2005. As a responsible leader Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau never supported brigandage. His administration began implementing the Youth Empowerment Program to train and engage the unemployed that were misused by politicians in the past. Two thousand of such youths are now undergoing skills acquisition training. The administration also initiated the most all-encompassing intervention program in the Almajirai sector of Islamic Education. Its strategy has now been adopted by other northern states.

Shekarau's methodology of Shari'ah implementation was systematic. He established three Shari'ah bodies; namely Shari'ah Commission, Hisbah Board and Zakat Commission. At his inauguration he told the people of Kano that his approach to Shari'ah shall be beyond the penal laws and shall be holistic by incorporating Islamic principles in governance. He embarked on one of the most determined bureaucratic reforms by incorporating project monitoring which is based on Islamic tradition. Once the great Caliph Umar bin Alkhattab was said to have asked the people, during his time as Khalifa, whether if he carefully selected and appointed the most qualified to undertake a task among the people, and then provided him with all the resources required to successfully undertake the task, he would have all answered in the affirmative, Umar disagreed with them; and quickly pointed out that in order for a leader to fulfill his obligation, he must monitor the activity so assigned to confirm whether it is being implemented accordingly. Based on this Islamic teaching Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau has given utmost priority to projects monitoring by engaging highly qualified engineers that have monitored most of the projects initiated by his administration. For several years the monitoring mechanism has been redundant. Similarly the government has initiated several training programs for all cadres of officials from the top most political appointees to the lowest level of the unskilled casual workers assigned to keep the state clean. This is the first time any administration has embarked on such extensive training programs.

At the societal level Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau restored the much cherished freedom of expression which was denied the people during the previous administration. He is one of the few if not the only governor who allows the opposition to use the state radio to criticize the government. He is also the first governor to have conducted a public opinion survey on his government using various strata of the society to make assessment; the common people, the public servants and the powerful elites were all surveyed and their views were afforded the necessary respect. Within his short stay as the governor he has restored public confidence in the state which had disappeared because of despotism of the previous administration.

It was after this ground work of ensuring social tranquility that Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau introduced the societal reorientation program tagged A Daidata Sahu which is now a household name in northern Nigeria. Since the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) of the Buhari-Idiagbon administration there has never been any Societal reorientation program as comprehensive as A Daidata Sahu. It is only through a reorientation program that the society's image could be redeemed. A successful reorientation program would lessen the burden of the government. For example if the people become responsible and properly dispose their waste epidemics would be prevented and hence less medical expenses. Responsible driving would also reduce road accidents. Descent literature and home video would reduce moral decadence and crime in the long run. All these are part of the reorientation program of the Shekarau administration that is now widely accepted in most parts of northern Nigeria.

When Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau visited Sokoto at the invitation of Governor Bafarawa and was allowed to speak in the Rimi Radio his popularity was raised. This was because many people were surprised at the number of people that were provided jobs by his administration. The Federal Government wants to sack 70000 workers while the Shekarau administration has engaged more than 20000 workers that number would move up if the numbers of the Hisbah Corps jointly employed by the state and local government councils are added. The Federal Government is battling to destroy the pension scheme while Shekarau has done more than any other person to protect and enhance the welfare of pensioners. His administration has so far paid more than N3 billion, while his predecessor spent more on his palatial residences, the two government houses in Abuja and Kano than on the pensioners. There is hardly any governor in Nigeria today that has the solid loyalty of the labor in his state than Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau his predecessor wanted to even incite the public against the workers because of his politics of brigandage.

Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau has demonstrated commitment to good governance hence whenever an issue relating to it comes up he is the first on the call list. He has been invited to various forums both at and abroad to contribute to public enlightenment on governance issues that have dented the image of Nigeria. He has been invited to Netherlands to speak on the Shari'ah where he demonstrated its compatibility with democracy. The Dutch are amongst the most liberal peoples in the world hence they were concerned with possible conflicts between Shari'ah and Western liberal ideas. He was invited to UK and US to speak on issues relating to transparency and accountability. He was welcomed in Ghana where he spoke on Islam and literacy and his vision of Africa based on Islamic pluralists principles. There has never been a Governor in Nigeria's history that has ever received such a wide ranging international exposure and acceptance. Many other governors are only known for their corrupt escapade outside Nigeria.

As an embodiment of disciplined Islamic disposition Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau has always provided the rallying point of most Muslim activists across the nation. They regard his government as their own and were always willing to contribute to its success. He has a played a key role in mobilization for consolidating the 50 years of committed Islamic charity activities of the Muslim Students Society. At the political level Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau has made his opponents to have sleepless nights. They had vigorously campaigned against him that he is a religious fundamentalist and the non-Muslim minority at Sabon Gari did not vote for him. When he became the governor he did not discriminate against them and he did more to the area than any other administration in the last two decades. After realizing that they cannot instigate the Christians against him the bankrupt opposition in Kano belonging to the PDP started blaming Shekarau for having good working relation with President Obasanjo who is a Christian. Their strategy is to instigate Kano Muslims that Shekarau whom they had earlier branded a fundamentalist is now a supporter of Christians!

This rising profile of Shekarau is not without its challenges in fact his in a risky situation. Just as Abubakar Rimi's progressive initiatives denied Nigerians his talented leadership. Shekarau would also have to watch it because as he is tracking on this path to greatness there are so many booby traps. First of all, his attempt to be a statesman from the opposition party whose Presidential candidate was in court challenging the election of the incumbent President was very difficult. Bankrupt politicians from his own party in Kano tried to exploit the situation because of his good working relationship with the President and cordiality with General Buhari being the only state governor who stood by him during the trials and on the day of the verdict he was the only governor who was there. They did as much as possible to cause acrimony between him and General Buhari. The whole conspiracy was exposed when a basket mouth and morally bankrupt ANPP woman spoke in paid radio program against Shekarau. Secondly they also prompted three irritated Ulama who resigned their part time appointments from Shari'ah bodies and then they placed in reports in the newspapers that all the Ulama were against the government when they were over sixty other Ulama that did not resign. The public quickly came to realize that these people were all working for selfish interest. In fact the morally bankrupt ANPP woman even said in the interview that she had sought favors which Shekarau declined to accede to. She was in fact the points-woman that the selfish politicians wanted to use. Her outbursts exposed their lack of patriotism and it was even later gathered that she had sought an alliance with the former governor who was indicted for corrupt enrichment.

Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau would now have to tread carefully in the muddy waters of national politics. There are more challenges in his home state than from outside. There are more hyenas at home in the savannah of Kano politics than sharks in the ocean of Nigerian politics. There are several interests in Kano which is the most politically sophisticated environment in northern Nigeria. Within his administration there are some that consider their survival and those of their friends as more paramount than the success of his great innovations in contemporary Nigerian statecraft that also has the most profound goodwill ever given to any leadership. The opposition within his party is made up of stalwarts who want to call the shots and are scheming to achieve their sinister aims. His simple, humane and incorruptible disposition has so far disarmed them. But he must be careful and properly manage the relationship or else everyone would be a loser except the decadent opposition party that has lost the base through its policy of daba (brigandage) that destroyed the children of the talakawa (common people). The party vultures are watching and waiting to take the carcass of any fight within the ANPP in the state. If the people of Kano misuse this opportunity it would take them a long time to redeem their image in national politics. It is indeed their pride that Shekarau is a rising star even at the global stage because no other Governor in Nigeria's history has ever received such an honor. They should not allow bankrupt politicians of ANPP and PDP destroy such a jewel.