A Letter to Tanko Yakasai
I am not sure you will recognize me, neither am I sure you will recall my last meeting with you about 1 1/2 years ago. I was passing by your house, when I saw you just coming back home from, I guess, one of your numerous outings. I stopped to greet you and tried to refresh your memory on who I am and my long standing relationship with your children Abba and Ibrahim. I was not sure you recalled all I was saying, but I believe as a mark of courtesy you answered in the affirmative. I then took time to explain to you some of my observations on your recently published autobiography titled “The story of a humble life”.
In the book, you highlighted the treatment meted to late Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Audu Bako (first Governor of Kano state), by some self serving Kano elites and how he eventually died a dejected and rejected person whose achievements were neither appreciated nor celebrated. I then reminded you of the courtesy extended to the late Governor Audu Bako by the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, under the leadership of late Mallam Aminu Kano through an invitation to attend the swearing-in of the first civilian governor (Alhaji Abubakar Rimi) on October 1, 1979. Late Audu Bako was visibly elated by the level of reception accorded him by the people of Kano state at that event. I can still remember that on the same day or the day after, NTA Kano had an interview with him, where he expressed reservations on the cancellation of some value-added projects by his various successors in office. Anyway, this is a story for another day.
My reason for writing you this letter, Sir, is because I no longer have the courage and audacity to confront you and apologize for the failure of my generation. We have failed to live up to the confidence and trust you so much reposed in us.
If you may recall, it all started in the early 1970s when your children and I were in the same local education authority primary school. Then, there were no Nursery schools or special schools for the rich. I could remember vividly that you were not the only commissioner with children in that school. Some of the children of the late commissioner for finance Alhaji Umaru Gumel were also in that school. So also were a significant number of Lebanese children as well as the children and grand children of late Islamic scholar Sheik Said ibn Hayatu Ben Usmanu Dan Fodio. By every standard, our school was one of the best moulding ground any parent could hope to have for his children or wards. Our morning assembly was usually in English language conducted by our revered Head Master Alhaji Sunusi Koguna, and ably supported by his deputy Mallam Yuguda (I guess he was from Adamawa state). Such was the quality and pace of development that Kano of Audu Bako was being touted as the next Beirut, known for its beauty and leisure.
As children we used to go to your house with our friend (your son) to use your telephone when you were not at home. Only a few of us were acquainted with telephone then. Your son, the son of Alhaji Iro Kurami (manajan cafenol) of Rimi Quarters and myself.
One day as we were about to embark on our notorious act, you unexpectedly returned home to catch us in the act. We were so afraid and shaken and tried to pretend as though nothing was happening. I suspected you knew what we were trying to do in view of the mark of guilt all over our faces, but surprisingly, you did not scold any one of us. Instead, you were so friendly calling us Yara manyan gobe (leaders of tomorrow). You then engaged us in light discussion on our studies and other matters. When we told you how fascinated we were at the construction site of Gidan Murtala and the equipment assembled by Taylor Woodrow in the construction of Hadejia Road (now Murtala Mohammed Road), you then burst into laughter and said we shouldn’t worry, as our generation was destined to build something better. You assured us that in our time, there will be so much advancement in technology to enable us transform the whole country. We were so happy with the assurance and the confidence you had and from then, I kept dreaming of the day when my generation will take over the leadership of Kano and the country in general. I dreamt of my generation transforming and moving the country to greater heights, imbibing the best practices in the arts of statecraft.
When the government you were serving (the government of late Audu Baku) was overthrown in the July 1975 coup d'etat there was widespread jubilation in Kano. As young, innocent children we equally joined the bandwagon, listening to all sorts of stories about the amount of wealth you and your colleagues were purported to have acquired. There was a welter of allegations on how you and your colleagues plundered the treasury of the state. Many of us were taken in by the appearance of the newly posted military governor, a certain colonel Sani Bello of Kontagora origin. He was young, handsome, vibrant and eloquent in contrast to the dour Audu Bako. He selected a fairly good team, which included, Alhaji Ibrahim El-Yakub, Dr Aminu Dorayi, Dr Ibrahim Ayagi etc.
The coup ended an eventful era; Nine years of Governance in which three was shrouded in civil war. Your government also left behind so may completed and uncompleted projects. Notably your government left behind a development plan and foundation for the evolution of a modern state, which you had hoped future generations will build upon.
Some of the projects either completed, ongoing or on the drawing board at the time of your government’s unceremonious exit, included:
1. The Gidan Murtala complex
2. Kadawa irrigation centre
3.Challawa water works
4. Audu Bako Zoo
5.Civil Service Training center (now school of management studies)
6. Magwan water restaurant and swimming pools
7. Daula Hotel
8. Rock Castle hotel
9. Tiga Dam
10. Kano state secretariat
11.High court complex
12. Ultra modern Hadejia Road (now Murtala Mohammed road)
13. Zungeru Road (now Ibrahim Taiwo Road)
14. Kano state television (now NTA kano)
15. Kano modern Abbatoir
16. Kano Livestock development agency/ cold meat store
17. Golden Arrow Bus service
18. Kano cooperative& consumer shop
19. Master plan for Kano school of Nursing
20. Master plan for new Kasuwar kurmi
21. Master plan for ultra modern stadium
22. Kundila Housing Estate
23. Gowon House (now Africa House)
24. Many boarding secondary schools all over the state.
25. Colourful Metropolitan Band
26. Fire Service Headquarters complex
27. Kano modern Dairy
This is in addition to very efficient and effective infrastructure and service agencies like Kano Housing Corporation, Urban Development Board, Kano Tourism Boad, Water Resources and Engineering Construction Agency etc, which were staffed by seasoned and dedicated professionals. Your government also upgraded the City General Hospital(now Murtala Mohammed Hospital) which was managed competently by the late Rabiu Dansitta. It was a hospital that could compete with any private hospital anywhere in Africa.
One year into Sani Bello's government, we began to see a slide. Many projects were cancelled for no justifiable reasons. Witch-hunting of officials of the preceding government became the order of the day. However inspite of this, there still remained a semblance of sanity in governance. We still got our free uniforms, books, mosquito nets, feeding etc in our boarding secondary schools. We also had quite a number of experienced Nigerian and expatriate teachers. The Government also established what was general adjudged the best science secondary schools in Nigeria. When Sani Bello was removed in controversial circumstances, he was replaced by Group Captain Ishaya Shekari, an unassuming gentleman of Kaduna origin. His administration lasted just enough to usher in the first democratically elected government in Kano.
On the 1st of October 1979, as you are well aware, a relatively unknown Abubakar Rimi was installed as the first civilian governor of the state, having won the governorship election on the banner of the popular Peoples Redemption Party led by late Mallam Aminu Kano..
The coming of Rimi was the begining of another era. Rimi, a flamboyant politician, eloquent, and sufficiently educated and exposed in modern ways. He assembled an all-graduate cabinet consisting of bureaucrats, technocrats, intellectuals and politicians. His government had a think-tank responsible for translating his party’s programmes into policies to be implemented by civil servants. He thus established the ministry of rural and community development under a very intelligent personality called Dr Mahmud Usman. In the four years he spent as governor of Kano state, his administration established the Bichi General hospital, opened quite a number of Rural feeder roads, completed the Zoo Road Housing estate, established Triumph group of Newspapers (publishing, Daily Triumph, Alfijir and Albishir) under the able leadership of Haruna Rasheed Adamu in place of the only print information, "Kano state of Nigeria today" established during the administration of late Audu Bako. The PRP government also established a State Television (CTV 67), Kano City Center, Kano state House of Assembly complex, Kano Agricultural Development Projects, Kano Agricultural Supply Company. The administration also resuscitated the annual Agricultural Show, which first came into force during Audu Bako’s regime. The Rimi administration also awarded the contract for the expansion of Magwan Hotel and Kano Investment house, built a new motor park in Kofar Ruwa to replace the Tashar Kuka in Fagge, awarded the contract for Kano ultra modern market. Other projects and initiatives credited to the administration included the Women education centres and an Adult Education Agency which won an award, the new layout in Hausawa quarters and Gyadi-gyadi court road etc. Throughout Rimi's four years, there was never a dull moment. It was really a source of inspiration to my generation which was waiting in the wings to assume leadership and build upon these developments as predicted by you, Sir.
After Rimi came late Alhaji Sabo Bakin Zuwo, another colourful and interesting politician who was however handicapped by inadequate western education. He was a believer in rewarding political loyalty and within the three months he spent in office as governor, he was able to convert the Palace Cinema in Jakara to a Maternity Hospital. It was a commendable political decision, in view of the high maternal mortality rate in the densely populated city.
The 1983 Military putsch brought in another Kano indigene, Air Commodore Hamza Abdullahi unto the mantle of leadership. As part of their new government policy, he embarked on re-building institutions and infrastructure. He was very successful in that area. In this regard his administration was able to push through construction of the Mandawari Sabon Titi, despite the stiff resistance by residents of the area. He attempted to restore the Kano metropolitan master-plan and reorganize the Kano Urban Development Board.
The change of baton from Hamza Abdullahi to Colonel Ahmed Daku in the aftermath of the 1986 Military coup began yet another era of continuous slide and economic depression in Kano. Throughout the period that the regime lasted, governors were replaced with frequent regularity not allowing for time for meaningful development to take place. Thus in Kano we had Military officers of different hue and shapes and coming to plunder our resources. This fostered an unhealthy culture of bootlicking and, sycophancy which became the surviving trick in government until the handover to civilians in 1991.
In 1991, as you may recall, sir, a certain Kabiru Gaya became the Governor of our state following from political intrigue and mistrust within the popular party, the Social Democratic Party. Though Kabiru was not the popular choice, as he was from the less-popular National Republican Party, he was nevertheless accepted in good faith in view of his background as a professional architect, and also due to his relative youth. Kabiru Gaya’s ascendancy in some way marked the beginning of my generation coming to power at long last. But alas contrary to our expectations, Kabiru turned out to be one of the worst tragedies to have happened in the history of governance in Kano. Kabiru came in ill-prepared, without clear program of what he intended to achieve. The civil service couldn't understand nor implement his policies. The cabinet was a collection of green and upstart politicians. At the end, it was a wasted three years without any semblance of achievement beside the construction of the zoo road by Zaria road roundabout, his failed attempt to establish a campus of the Kano state university at Bagauda lake hotel and a poorly executed IBB way in Kano city. It is also to Kabiru’s discredit that he reallocated the portions of Abubakar Rimi's City center to political cronies to build corner shops. He also distorted the natural beauty of Zaria Road by Gyadi-gyadi through allocating all the land along that axis for same corner shop purposes.
After Kabiru's misadventure, was the return of another set of military woodpeckers. The story was no different, except for Col. Wase who completed Nassarawa hospital extension as well as his courageous attempt to rid Kano of the notorious gang of Yan Kano-Jeddah, known for their orchestration of crime in Saudi Arabia.
Our hope was raised by the coming of another civilian regime in 1999.
Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso was elected as the new governor of Kano state under a popular banner backed by Kano's political juggernauts.
Kwankwaso came across as a very promising member of my generation. A former engineer with Water resources and Engineering Construction Agency, he was also a former deputy speaker in the Federal house of representatives. He had his political tutelage under Senator Hamisu Musa, a second republic senator under the People's Redemption party (PRP). Hamisu was also very close to late Sabo BakinZuwo, which earned him a return to the senate in 1983 against a more popular candidate Barrister Yakubu Na-Allah, who was then a legal adviser to PRP. Na-Allah had a legitimate aspiration to be at the National Assembly like his contemporaries, Dr Junaidu Mohammed, Sidi Hameed Ali, Mustapha Balarabe and Sule Lamido (before he decamped to NPP along with his political Godfather, mentor and benefactor, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi). Senator Hamisu was also the choice of PRP for ministerial appointment in Shagari's government of National unity in 1983, against Shagari's prefered candidate Dr Junaidu Mohammed. Apolologies for digression.
Kwankwaso started very well with zeal and determination. He had a relatively good team, which was better than that of Kabiru but no where near that of Rimi. He embarked on massive renovation of schools and opened up many link roads within the metropolis. He revived the State University project and completed the Investment house. He also embarked on ambitious water provision scheme for the metropolitan and the rural areas, cleared Kano streets of heaps of refuse and controlled street trading etc. He really had a burning desire to succeed.
However, midway into Kwankwaso's regime, he began to get distracted and sought to concentrate his energies more on how to establish himself as the sole political leader in the state. This brought him into conflict with elders of his party, civil servants, traditional institutions etc. He became more interested with the quantity of his projects instead of quality. Most of the projects he started were poorly executed. For instance the second housing estate (Danladi Nasidi Housing Estate) he built was more like pig-farm with filth and looking squalor in stark contrast to the Kundila Housing Estate of your administration. Under Kwankwaso the old habit of order of political sycophancy in government reared its ugly head. He took the culture of carve-out to an unprecedented level when he shared more than 2 2/3 of the land at our only surviving standard park, the Yakubu Gowon Square(now Malam Kato square) for corner shop purposes. So also did he allocate part of the cemetary along airport road for the same purpose. The water, light, security, employment, health facilities and qualitative education he promised us were no where to be seen. A very promising government ended up as the most vilified and hated in the history of Kano.
With the fall of Kwankwaso in 2003, came the government of Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau under the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP. As you may recall, the coming of Shekarau was as a result of so many factors, prominent of which was the near unanimous determination of Kano people to get rid of Kwankwaso who was seen as an unrepentant follower of the hated President Obasanjo, the conspiracy of the political elites/ Ulamas and above all, the Buhari factor.
No government in the history of Kano yet enjoyed the type of goodwill Shekarau's had upon its inception. Shekarau was a former permanent secretary in the state civil service and was demoted by Kwankwaso for unclear reasons. He was not known to have any kind of political affiliation and not many people took his candidature serious. The lack of quality candidates within the ANPP compelled Air Marshall Muhtari Mohammed and co, to insist on presenting Shekarau against a more popular candidate within the party, Ibrahim Al-Amin Little. Shekarau was portrayed as an honest and trustworthy person at least on face value, by those close to him.
Shekarau constituted a team not better than Kwankwaso's. Like the triumph of the Pentecostals in South America after the collapse of communism, the Ulamas were also adequately represented in government to the delight of the Masses, who had lost confidence in the political elites. He started with his policies of Social reorientation and human development. Thousands of unskilled and semi-skilled able bodied men and women were employed to work in his new Hisbah organisation (charged with the responsibility of enforcing sharia laws) and also as street cleaners under the Ministry of environment. He commenced the rehabilitation of roundabouts within the major roads. He also awarded a controversial contract for massive importation of fertilizer to assist farmers.
By the middle of his first term, nothing significant has changed. The old order was gradually returning. Some of the Ulamas were more interested in being sponsored to Hajj every year; others resigned their appointments in protest for reasons unconnected with the welfare of the people. Job provision was mistaken for job creation. Unemployment amongst skilled workers was on the rise due to lack of an enabling industrial environment. However, salaries and pension for civil servants were paid as and at when due. Training for the public servants to enhance their competence and capabilities was not on the agenda of the government. Mallam Shekarau who started by reclaiming some of the recreational parks we have in the metropolitan area, also indulged in the ugly culture of land carve-out. Plots of land along Ahmadu Bello Road by Suleiman crescent were allocated to political cronies for corner shop purpose. Even primary schools like Tarauni primary school were not spared the corner shop culture. A city known for its commerce could not boast of a modern market but was littered with corner shops courtesy of Shekarau’s administration. The mass transit promised by the government remains a dream.
Urban planning became a non priority to the government. Going by prediction of experts. Badawa may overrun Nassarawa quarters in next 10 years; Kurna baban layi may extend to Gwammaja; Unguwa Uku may displace Hotoro GRA.
By the end of Shekarau's first term, public primary schools were virtually breeding grounds for future illiterates. Teachers who are expected to teach English could not themselves speak English while the mathematic teachers could only count salary etc. Staff rooms in our schools were turned to avenues for selling wares by the female and male teachers whilst the pupils were left at the mercy of God. Discipline was virtually thrown to the dogs.
Sir, Kano has virtually lost its glory, courtesy of my generation. We have not been able to manage let alone, sustain the legacies of your generation. The combined years of Kabiru Gaya, Kwankwanso and the near five years of Shekarau could not bring the desired progress towards building a modern and viable state. As Dr Sagagi eloquently and succinctly put in his brilliant article; ‘’Non-oil producing states and growing socioeconomic crisis (Daily Trust 25th July 2007), there is growing poverty as a result of misapplication of resources. There is near-absence of effective internal revenue mechanism in place. The government relies solely on federal allocation at the mercy of oil producing states of the Niger Delta. we have refused to model our state like the modern Islamic states of Malaysia and the gulf Arab States like United Arab Emirates.
At this stage of our development we are still grappling with the basics i.e provision of water and light, without which the creation and sustenance of small scale business is virtually impossible.
In Kano today, my generation has failed in the following endeavours;
1. Resuscitation of Sharada, Bompai or Challawa Industrial Estates
2. Provision of qualitative education for the future of our children. (almost all government officials have their children in private schools)
3. Kano at present despite is renowned status as centre of commerce, cannot boast of 5-star hotel where visiting investors can find accommodation.
5. We could not fulfill our promises to the farmers in modernizing agriculture
6. Doctors and Nurses are in short supply in all our comprehensive health centres
7. Modernization of our civil service
8. Lack of a functioning mass-transit system in place.( citizens are left at the mercy of yan Achaba)
9. Lack of tourist sites and attractions to attract tourists
10. Our once vibrant and busy International Airport is virtually a shell of its old self.
Against the background of these serial failures, my generation can only be described as the failed generation. We have not only failed spectacularly we have by this been relegated to a position of disadvantage. We have thus lost focus and vision having failed to prepare for necessary and inevitable changes, (apologies to Dr Sagagi)
Sir, you can see why I may not have the strength to confront you. The failure of my generation is so glaring. As Saadu Zungur said in his famous poem titled; “Arewa Jumhuriyya ko Mulukiyya; Kun bar mana gadon duniya, muka lalata muka wargaza, yau gashi ana mana dariya”( meaning you left behind a heritage which we abused making us a laughing stock).
I thank you very much for sparing your time to read my letter. May Allah reward you and your contemporaries for the wonderful work you did for Kano.