By AbdulMumini Shehu Sani
Any keen follower of happenings in Katsina State in the last three years would be asking by now: ‘what exactly went wrong?’ talking of the appalling scandals, the plundered finances, the total lack of direction in governance, the heavy debts, the raw greed, the unprecedented corruption, the worsening poverty and unemployment levels, the widespread public despair and loss of confidence in government, and the downright cluelessness and incompetence.
Worse, this brand of incompetence is beyond redemption, as it is bred by a gross deficiency in education. For three years and counting, our destiny has been held hostage by a government that is led with incompetence surrounded by smarter educated politicians and hawks that are taking advantage to skew government policy and money to their greedy advantage.
Some say the present state leadership has only come to power to boost personal whims and of course to restore what was lost of the eight years spent out of political office (Restoration Agenda). Now this seat of power has provided him with ample state resources to travel around the world and see the places he had missed for those eight years. If their assumption is true, this self-actualization mission is already taking a heavy toll on the welfare, wellbeing and security of at least 7 million people. It is now public knowledge that at present, Katsina State is being governed by a committee of three governors: an insatiable ‘business’ mogul, a notoriously corrupt politician, and an absentee executive governor that is everything except being in charge. Nothing under the sun can change this status quo except a change in leadership; and God bears witness that no good news can come out of Katsina State as long as this committee is in charge.
What Katsina State has witnessed in the last three years is an ungodly effort by a government to fill so many greedy pockets with taxpayers’ money. Now in just three years, the greedy pockets cannot give good account of a larger part of the over N500 billion that include N47 billion in debts for a state that has never taken a kobo in debts in all its history until the current government. Where others borrow to invest in strategic infrastructure and the real economy, this regime borrows because its benefactors want the goodies to keep flowing. Never before have a set of hungry politicians been unleashed on Katsina State than in this clime. Now the state’s treasury is free for all, but for a price:
At present, none of the 25 General Hospitals in Katsina State can afford a syringe or an ordinary painkiller like Paracetamol, or run the generator for 12 hours, or purchase insecticide treated nets for patients, or boast of simple pipe borne water. For instance, the most important General Hospital in the state, General Hospital Katsina, has been neglected without pipe borne water. Now patients purchase water from water vendors that wheel it around the hospital particularly in the mornings. Every resident of Katsina dreads having to take a relative or loved-one to the mosquito-infested General Hospital that has not been fumigated since the inception of this regime in the state.
Every patient or caregiver that spends two or more days at General Hospital Katsina is sure of a malaria infection afterwards. Doing justice to this piece is taking a visit to any of the General Hospitals in the state especially at nights where during the heat season patients are compelled by the blackout to wheel their beds outside the ward — to pass the night as dinner for mosquitoes. This may be beyond the control of the corrupt General Manager of the Hospital Services Management Board appointed by the Government but of the Governor himself who would rather allocate hundreds of millions for the maintenance of flowers at the Government House than give a damn about the ordinary resident of Katsina, Daura, Funtua or Kankia who may be dying for lack of money to purchase a syringe to take an injection.
Even worse are the primary health centres in areas that are considered far from the public’s view where the health department receives less than N300,000 to maintain all the PHCs in a LGA for a month. Despite the billions of Naira allotted in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 budgets, neither the rehabilitation of the general hospitals nor the Ajiwa Water Supply Scheme have been completed. In fact, the renovation of these and all other ongoing projects in the state have been halted till further notice for reasons best known to the administration.
This cycle of godlessness is replicated in all other sectors of the state and its economy, like the education sector where billions have so far been released for the so-called renovation of schools, particularly schools that are within the traveller’s view. But in actual fact, the schools are merely re-painted; and after one or two rainy seasons, the paint is washed away and, with it, the N90 million ‘spent’ on the painting. Elsewhere in a so-called renovated school in Daura, most of the chairs, desks, doors and windows have now broken down and the ceilings fallen off.
This poor quality of work is a sad narrative that permeates all sectors in Katsina State since June 2015; like the roads sector, with the embarrassing example of the Sheme-Daudawa-Dandume road which was started by the past administration, but some peculiar sections of the road completed by this administration in 2016 are no longer motorable, with deep pot-holes that get wider with every rainy season. A worst case scenario is the rehabilitation of the Marabar Kankara-Tsiga-Yar Kasuwa Road where the renovation tar was washed away in less than six months. Out of sympathy for road users, communities along the high ways have now resorted to sand-filling the pot-holes which is as durable as renovations by the State Roads Maintenance Agency.
Current regime in the state rode to power on the promise of positive change in governance; but to the electorate’s shock, the only visible hallmark of change in Katsina from 2016 to date are the exotic mansions and companies erected by party and state government officials with funds suspiciously looted and on stolen land, even in choice locations in Kaduna, Kano and Abuja. A notorious policy that facilitated this is the illegal allocation of lands and government property in the state to family, friends and cronies of the government.
A disturbing instance was the displacement of petty business owners along IBB Way that paid taxes to government for decades and the re-allocation of the strands of land to the Katsina State APC Chairman and a Special Adviser to the Governor, both of whom have ran into unexplained wealth since this government came to power in 2015. However, their names have appeared multiple times on incriminating documents for crimes bothering on theft, money laundering and criminal breach of public trust. By the time a team of lawyers conclude work on a series of case files, their wealth will have to be explained before a court of law, and those they launder money for unmasked.
The crop of greedy politicians at every echelon of this administration are defined by their gluttonous impulse for primitive accumulation such that most high ranking political appointees in this administration can be tried and imprisoned for theft, criminal conspiracy and breach of public trust. The most dangerous implication of this variety of bad governance is that money meant for public welfare is never accounted for, except in the opulent and indulgent lifestyle of public officials at the expense of public welfare and security.
On the other side of the divide are hundreds of thousands of political thugs, hooligans and other restless youths whose number is increasing by the day as a result of the non-payment of Senior School Certificate Examination fees for students who cannot afford it. Such policies have ultimately bred a mass of angry and unemployed youths who have lost hope in education and found meaning in political thuggery, hooliganism, armed robbery and kidnapping. In the Jibia, Batsari, Safana and Danmusa axis alone, at least 120 people are estimated to be in the custody of kidnappers. With an army of youths that have completely lost confidence in government, even politicians have become wary of campaigning in some towns like Malumfashi and Funtua where every political rally turns violent. An incident in 2016 saw a Governor and a Senator being evacuated by armed security men from the venue of a political rally after the youths turned violent.
The current administration found itself in power in 2015 by no credibility of it, but by the whirl wind of President Muhammadu Buhari as in various other places by virtue of his good name and the goodwill he enjoyed from the mass of the people. President Buhari personally appealed to the people of Katsina State to support the current leadership of the state in both 2011 and 2015, and it was alright to give someone a chance, especially someone that promised accountability, good governance and positive change. But when the President’s trust and our mandate are betrayed so recklessly, and an allocation of over N500billion cannot be justified with even a project worth N2 billion in over three years, and the treasury being gang-raped while taxpayers are deprived of even the most basic social services, then President Buhari should dissociate himself from this ignoble journey and help his over 7 million kinsmen to clean the mess by reclaiming our state from this committee of three governors that has placed the state on the path of ruin.
AbdulMumini Shehu Sani writes from Katsina