Is Shekarau’s “Human Development” Project the Panacea?


Jaafar Jaafar



Whenever “human development” is being debated, the logical way to base the arguments on, or the best platform to anchor the discussion on, is the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP’s paradigm. UNDP’s primary interest lies in how a state serves its people. According to UNDP report, the five aspects to sustainable human development – all affecting the lives of the poor and vulnerable – are: empowerment, co-operation, equity, sustainability and security. Our expectations were that Shekarau administration would execute its human development project along this conventional line.
In his maiden speech that sounded more of a sermon on the 29th of May 2003, the Governor of Kano State, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, rhapsodized about the virtues of human development and promised rather emphatically that “human development will be the priority” of his government. Expectedly, the cleverly crafted speech leaves the people at fever pitch. Methinks the “human development” project will be centered on the social welfare of the common man, and be more responsive to the poor than the venal elite. But alas, that was however not to be.
Someone says paying salary and giving some fringe benefits when the occasion so demands is the “human development”. I bluntly disagreed with his pedestrian notion. But before you take me guillotine lets try some illustrative example to make my points clear. Under Shekarau’s “human development,” a civil servant with a take-home pay of say N10,000, gets less than  N3,000 “ram bonus” (or is it foetus bonus) a year. But the painful paradox, however, is that the same civil servant spends about N3,000 monthly to buy water and a couple of thousands for healthcare (forget quality education which he can’t afford). What I am saying here is that if government would have the wisdom to withdraw “ram bonus” and provide water, affordable healthcare and quality education, wouldn’t that civil servant be better off? After all, eliminating poverty is OBLIGATION not privilege let alone paying salary.
In her speech at lecture to commemorate the 10th year anniversary of the Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission, Professor Jadesola Akande says that poor people “are afflicted with hunger, malnutrition, ill-health, unsanitary housing and living conditions and often without much education, they do not have the resources to overcome these afflictions. Nor does the society provide the means for them to overcome these afflictions.”
Did Shekarau’s human development “overcome these afflictions” as this former university administrator challenged those in authority? For about four years of being carefully tutored to understand Shekarau’s “human development” project, this writer still feels none the wiser. Actually Shekarau administration has a way of defining its vague and hazy policies in copious guises. This “project,” I am afraid, is all Greek to me.
Sometimes I wonder if the project means embezzling public funds to pay for umrah or hajj ‘chairs’ gratis to politicians, elite clerics and aristocrats who have been there several times over. It is known to all Muslims that it is obligatory for them to observe pilgrimage, with affordability proviso, once in their lifetime as contained in the Articles of Faith. Islam did not say government must or should sponsor hajj! Islam, in its infinite simplicity and wisdom, enjoins the believers to persistently provide care for orphans and parents because such gesture “attracts the reward Allah giveth to a pilgrim,” Sheik Ibrahim Khalil recently said. If a person can not afford, it is not binding on him/her. Now, you might ask, why can’t the State lawmakers make law for the abolishment of this jamboree? They can’t, I am told. Each member of the State House of Assembly gets two slots every year. District Heads of all the 44 local governments of the state get slots; the religious teachers get countless slots. The height of this playing ducks and drakes with public funds is that top government officials get you-and-your-family package (in this freeloading entourage, mainly you can see underage and pregnant women). To consolidate the gains of the “human development” project, this year alone, about three thousand pilgrims were at public expense! Have you fixed the roads that directly affect our well-being? Or, have you provided the affordable healthcare that is the elixir of our existence, the quality education that is needed for our development, the potable water that is good to our health? Not a scintilla of one is in significant proportion in Kano State today.
Who says provision of these is not part of shariah? Has the government rolled back malaria, typhoid, cholera or other curable maladies affecting our society? Can’t this huge amount of money bring about a considerable change to our life if spent correctly? Can’t this huge amount relieve thousands from distress? How many people do we have in our neighborhoods that tearfully watch their wives to die in labour pain because they can not afford emergency Caesarean section? Can’t this huge amount of money being spent on the elite (who are rich enough to foot our bill) improve the lives of the have-nots? But what has the government achieved in education to make the masses understand that this is wholly a case of misgovernance but not religious obligation? Nil, I dare say.
A survey conducted last year by a medical team from Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, AKTH, shows that 3,974 deaths occur in every 100,000 births in Kano State. The figures, the survey noted, surpassed the earlier 1,500 deaths produced by a survey in 1972. The Kano State coordinator of the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Programme, Dr Hadiza Galadanci, concluded that Eclampsia, the newly discovered leading cause of maternal mortality is preventable with adequate medical attention.
Only recently, a medical doctor versed in public health commentary, Dr Aminu Magashi, lamented about the state of the healthcare delivery in Kano State. In a paper delivered at Press Centre, Kano, Magashi says: “Development which is about improving people’s life could be measured by assessing Maternal Mortality Ratio, Under Five Mortality Rate and life expectancy at birth.” He added that he had “traversed all the 44 LGAs of Kano and have first hand information about the sorry state of those (primary health) centers” His conclusion is a damning indictment of the present administration. Said he rather sincerely: “the Primary Health Centers are almost in total collapse. …They are decorated with expired drugs, dilapidated structures, corrugated roofs…” All I am saying here is that sponsoring hajj is not the priority of the common man. Health is the PARAMOUNT. The prodigal government can do whatever its whimsical instinct deems ‘right’ when these mortal problems are solved! Or, when common man’s children are not consigned to selling fuel by the roadside or conscripted into political thuggery, but given good education, at least the like of which they use public funds to give their children. UNDP report says that the expansion of capabilities and opportunities means more than income – it also means equity, such as an educational system to which everybody should have access! Where, one would argue, lies the logic of any “human development” or shariah that does not promote equity?  Why would this much-celebrated “human development” initiative trample on the fundamental welfarist nature of shariah as canvassed in the Glorious Qur’an and Sunnah but rather promote such wastage?

Where lies the wisdom of any development project that can not construct a single kilometer of a new road (not rehabilitation) in almost four years of its existence? Shekarau administration, confirmed the deputy governor of Kano State, Engr Magaji Abdullahi on Freedom Radio, did not construct a single new road! Why, despite this much-celebrated “human development” project, Kano still tops the poverty index of the country?


Jaafar resides at No. 319 Warshu Hospital Road Kawaji, Kano.