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Date Published: 05/11/10

NIGERIANS IN DIASPORA APPLAUD SHEKARAU’S VISION By Sule Ya’u Sule suleysule@yahoo.com 

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He went highly recommended and he did not disappoint.  The weekly edition of the South Country Post bashed in announcing his upcoming address on “A Vision for Modern Nigeria” at the JW Marriot in Union Square, San Francisco on April 6, 2010, proclaimed him a “progressive and foresighted” Nigerian Governor.  Same at the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization in America (NIDOA) 2010 World Conference held at the Renaissance Hotel, Newark Airport, New Jersey on April 10.  Billed as Special Guest of Honour and Keynote Speaker at the event which had as theme:  “Financing Infrastructure for Sustainable Development in Nigeria”, Kano State Governor, His Excellency, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, Sardaunan Kano, delivered a spell-bound paper which met the expectations of his dignified audience.  It was an audience that included Nigerian professionals living and working in the United States and several others from home.  All were concerned about the state of affairs back home.  Among critical members of Nigerian professionals abroad, there is a growing consensus that public officers like Malam imbued with integrity and having delivered the democracy dividend and earned the respect of their constituents, are the best guide into the national mood from the leadership perspective.

What his audience expected to hear, in inviting him as Keynote speaker, were his candid assessment of the exact mileage which the Nigerian democratic journey had logged and his vision for a New Nigeria.  If the question is why Malam, here are the answers.  Malam meets all the credibility benchmarks in democratic service delivery.  Here is a rising political star with acclaimed national legitimacy and international visibility.  There is growing consensus that in Malam, Nigeria has an enduring political role model with cross sectional appeal. This is a public officer who preaches what he practices and practices what he preaches.  He is a principled performer in a horizon saturated with parodies who pay for honour they never deserved.  Malam towers above Nigeria’s political landscape because of the integrity he has brought into public service.  Here is a public servant to whom service is total and the people will always come first.  Kano people adore him because he is a leader who does not steal their money and who is guided by a strong sense of religious discipline and sense of Godliness.

Elected first in 2003 by a broad coalition of opposition elements determined to end the corrupt and anti-people government of ruling PDP, Malam through that historic election, proved simultaneously, that peaceful change of power is possible in Nigeria and that it does not take rocket science to effect such a change.  All it takes is for the people to identify a credible leader around whom the change agenda can be woven and muster the will to vote out the oppressive government.  Secondly, on the strength of his sterling performance in office from 2003 to 2007, Malam earned a myth-shattering second term.  Again, this humble man has proved to Nigerians that what it takes for a popularly-elected leader to succeed in office is strict adherence to personal principles.  Prior to Malam’s emergence on Nigeria’s political scene, the question had been asked severally:  Can a good man avoid the temptations and trappings of power in a country like Nigeria? Can a professional navigate the murky, shark-infested Nigerian political waters and hold his own, never succumbing to the dark force of corruption, abuse of office, high-handedness, mediocrity or basterdization of societal values in the name of political survival?  Speaker after Speaker, at every forum Malam had addressed since he hit the political limelight early in 2003, has extolled him for his exceptional self-discipline and transparent style of governance, which accounts for the relative progress Kano State has recorded in the past seven years.

From inception, Malam set out his vision goals and has pursued the objectives steadily.  “Our vision is to make Kano a model State, leading other states of the Federation in good governance and exemplary leadership.  We are convinced that our greatest potential and strength lies in our people; they have for long demonstrated sterling qualities to make Kano State a Centre of Commerce, Industry and Learning, and a nucleus of intense political, cultural and religious activities.  We are therefore determined to further bring out the best from our people by offering honest and transparent leadership at all level.  We shall endeavour to provide all citizens with the basic necessities of life, by developing their spiritual, moral and intellectual capacities to their fullest and by creating an environment where prosperity, happiness and justice shall reign”.  The Shekarau government has set down a culture of popular participation, consensus building, open and efficient government, sensitive to the needs and aspirations of the people and hinged on the rule of law.

When therefore Malam told his NIDOA audience in New Jersey that the success of his administration has been a philosophical commitment “guided by the universal principles of Shari’a which enjoin good governance in the running of the affairs of the state”, he was essentially outlining the basic different between the Kano model of moral leadership and contending models.  What underlines the social contract between the Nigerian masses and their leaders?  For Malam, it is a two-way process.  “Government involves the people in deciding projects, listens and accommodates divergent views, and a transparent leadership would attract respect from the citizenry and encourage them to make contributions and sacrifices”.

Providing further insight into why the Kano leadership model has been such a spectacular success, Malam said, “Participation could be either direct of through legitimate institutions or representatives.  Hence we introduced the Constituency Project, under which 1000 projects were executed based on requests by communities through their representatives in the State House of Assembly.  It should be noted that these projects are not part of conventional projects executed by the Executive branch of government”.  Presently, other states in the federation are implementing the Kano Constituency Project model, as a bottom-up approach to participatory governance.

Harping on the theme of the day, “Financing Infrastructure for Sustainable Development in Nigeria”, Malam argued that democracy was an empty epithet without development.  Credible elections, free press, independent judiciary and other conditions of democratic governance, laudable and desirable on their merit, are empty slogan if unaccompanied by democratic dividends.  “It is meaningless to be ruled by civilians who transfer power through elections in the name of democracy but without development”.  In his submission, development empowers the people to participate meaningfully in the democratic process.  “When citizens are properly empowered they will ask questions and they make the right choice”.  While acknowledging obvious challenges in infrastructures in Nigeria, Malam warned that “We cannot hide under the pretext of structural inadequacies as an excuse for our underdevelopment when most of the world is moving toward regional economic integration.

Making a strong case for societal re-orientation, Malam told the gathering how his administration made A Daidaita Sahu, a cardinal policy of his administration, with the result that Kano is now peaceful, with no social unrests as it was the case in the past when it was a tinderbox for retaliation of communal clashes in other parts of the country.  He challenges NIDOA and other civil society organizations to support programmes geared toward attitudinal change introduced by government in Nigeria as this will, in the long run, bring about value re-orientation and restoration of self-respect for one another in the Nigerian society.

Two topics which engaged the interest of the audience during Malam’s speech were the issues of political inclusion and peaceful transfer of power.  Giving example with Kano, Malam argued that both were not only possible and desirable, but were actually a panacea for political instability and underdevelopment.  He gave illustrations with Kano and Lagos States where the people insisted on free and fair elections by voting for the opposition.  Both states, he observed, have recorded more progress in physical and social infrastructures. “It is only in these two states that you find people regarded as non-indigenes holding key positions.  For example, for the first time in the history of predominantly Muslim Kano State, an Igbo Christian is a member of the State Government as Special Adviser to the Governor on Inter Community Relations.  If we are able to practice politics of inclusion as in Kano and Lagos states, Nigeria will be a better place.

According to Malam, “this has been possible because the leadership in the two states was truly elected by the people in sharp contrast with other states where social tensions persist because of leaders who came to power through the backdoor”.  Ominously, the ruling party has now vowed to take over Kano and Lagos States by all means in 2011, since they are opposite models.

In summary, Malam argued for the robust participation of Nigerian professionals abroad in the domestic democratic and development process.  He warned that democracy must have development content.  He strongly condemned policy inconsistency, corruption and absence of free and credible elections, especially at the centre.  He challenged Nigerians to see the wisdom in voting for the opposition and experience rapid transformation.  Citing the examples of Senegal and Ghana, Malam concluded that it is only when power has truly been transferred from one political tendency to another that meaningful development can take place.  Kano people did that in 2003 and are reaping manifold democracy dividends since then.  Nigeria has a date with destiny in 2011 in transferring power from PDP to another political tendency, say the ANPP. 

SULE YA’U SULE is the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Public Relations to the Kano State Governor.

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