Beyond Colourful Campaign Posters: The Leadership Kano Needs and the Leadership it Deserves

27 December 2009

By Muhammad Sagagi

Kano must be in a hurry to develop, to have its prosperity restored. KN envisions to re-emerge as a vibrant, prosperous and self-reliant economy, operating in a just, secure and disciplined environment. It shall be the largest economy and the hub of investment & commercial activity in the Western Sudan. Its development shall be anchored on its resources and the resourcefulness of its people. Its business men will re-embrace modern industrial pursuits and revive that spirit of adventurous entrepreneurship which made medieval KN great. They will re- trace the trans-Sahara trade route and re-establish their presence. Kano will once again attract investors, merchants and scholars from all corners of the globe. Kano shall rise again with its people happier, healthier and wealthier.

Yes, Kano can realise beyond its dreams. Kano needs a leader who shares its vision, who has the capacity to articulate an acceptable notion of development and form a proactive, people-centred government, with strong and efficient institutions. It requires strong commitment, initiatives, and a discernable shift from the mistakes of the past, to lift Kano from the abyss to the top of the ‘sugar candy’ mountain.

Kano desires no less. Over the years Kano has suffered de-industrialization and long-term social and economic decline. KN has transformed into a rudderless and apathetic society and economy. Several years of neglect and inadequate protection have robbed agriculture of its capacity to support a modern, fast growing economy. Sustained industrial production which holds the key to growth, wealth creation and employment generation is similarly constrained by an inhospitable investment climate. Faced with the challenges of ‘economic reform’, the business community appears indifferent to modern industrial pursuits.

The poverty profile of the State has worsened over the years. KN is the 15th poorest state in the Federation with a Poverty Index of 61.9%., above the national average of 54%. This implies that nearly 7.5 million people in the state live below the poverty line. More than 80% of Kano people are dependent either on subsistence agriculture or the urban informal sector for a livelihood. Access to public services- water supply, education and health- is severely constrained. The grim statistics say it all: water vending is perhaps the fastest growing industry in the state as only 12.8% of households have access to improved sources of water piped into their dwelling (2.8%) or their yard (1.5%) or from a nearby tap (8.5%). Adult literacy rates are 34% for male and 15% for female; only approximately 50% of children of primary school age attend primary school, with a net primary school completion rate of 15%; and less than 30% of children of secondary school age are attending secondary school or higher education. Health indicators are more pathetic: 70% of infant deaths are caused by pre-natal infectious and parasitic illnesses which are preventable; only 35% of women receive ante natal care one or more time during pregnancy; and KN along with six other Northern states are responsible for 70% of maternal mortality in the country: for every 100,000 women, over 7,000 die during child birth-compared to the national average of 800/100,000.

Decay in economic and social infrastructure is significant; the environment is filthy and polluted: public sanitation facilities are unavailable and the Kano metro area alone is saddled with a daily dose of more than 3,000 metric tons of refuse. The city is characterized by over-crowding, traffic congestion and is in a perpetual state of confusion and disorderliness-exacerbated by the presence of between 1 and 1.5 million motor cycles in the state-killing passersby, maiming their passengers and emitting tons of carbon monoxide thereby subjecting the public to slow death. There is no ‘optimal’ land use policy: we seem to build everywhere-inches away from the road or railways, on water lines, under high and low tension power transmission lines, in schools, hospitals, in green areas and even cemeteries. No space is spared.

There are increasing incidences of street begging, by the young and the old, girl-child hawking, stealing and robbery, political banditry, drug-using and trafficking, prostitution, child labour and many other social vices, all significantly related to the high level of unemployment and poverty.

KN does not deserve any of these. KN possesses all it takes to engineer a takeoff to a higher level of development: a huge population which would provide enormous market opportunities and serve as a potential reservoir of skills, a large agricultural sector which could provide tremendous opportunities for primary processing and for local resource based industrialization, and tons of untapped mineral- resource deposits. Its business men have a long history of contact with strategic markets in West, Central and Northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Europe and the Far East. A railway terminus has existed since 1914, and there is an international airport.

In terms of population Kano is 7% of Nigeria, 13% of the North. It is more than 50% of the South East and about half of North Central Nigeria. Kano is bigger than each of a dozen successful nation states: Israel, Switzerland, Libya, Singapore, UAE etc. Kano has an estimated 1’754’200 ha of fertile agricultural land, approximately 75’000 ha of forest vegetation and grazing land, 128, 000 irrigable land and several dams, including the 7-km long TIGA Dam with a capacity to supply enough water to irrigate 72’000 ha of land in the Kano river basin.

That is the ‘Kano Paradox’: potentially great but with features of a failed state. Availability of resources matters little without a committed, forthright and visionary leadership, with the necessary zeal to effectively harness and efficiently utilize such resources. Leadership must unravel this paradox and endeavour to end it. KN needs a leader who understands the complexities of the development process and who, therefore, is willing to articulate & implement a transformation agenda with specific policies and programmes to address these challenges of underdevelopment.

Those who aspire to govern us must begin to unveil their priorities-which must be in tandem with those of the general citizenry. They must come up with practical short, medium and long-term strategies to deal with a plethora of local and national issues from the mundane to the most complex: achaba, Almajirci and street begging, rural-urban disparities, basic health and education, girl-child hawking, drug addiction amongst the youths, corruption, accountability and transparency in budget formulation and implementation, taxation and external borrowing, Shari’a, Hisbah and societal re-orientation, state creation etc. Those who seek to represent us in Abuja must show some familiarity with, and speak up on, the impending constitution review, federalism, the agitation for resource control and revenue allocation, deregulation and liberalization of the economy, Vision 2020, rotational presidency, electoral reforms etc. Each of these has an important weight on the future of the state. Those nauseating inscriptions- ‘MUNA FATA’, ‘FATAN ALHAIRI’ etc- on their colourful campaign posters just won’t do!

We all must remember that fundamentally, our numerous successes in the past were leadership driven. Our visionary leaders did not just ‘wish’ us well, they worked assiduously to provide for our well being. They built power plants and water works and constructed industrial estates. They built gigantic dams and irrigation canals using local human and material resources; thanks to the vision of one Chief Executive and his cabinet, a little corner in Kano is today one of the leading producers of rice in the country. They established and ran what could qualify as the best examples of government agencies and parastatals: effective and efficient in the provision of world class services. The Water Resources &Engineering Construction Agency (WREACA) and REB not only successfully carried out local construction works, including the construction of TIGA and BAGAUDA dams but also exported their works to other states of the Federation. The Kano State Agency for Mass Education received recognition from the Federal Government and the UNESCO. KN was known for its innovative efforts in education-having pioneered the establishment of primary schools board, the ‘in service’ training centre and the exclusively- science colleges. Kano can rebound if KANAWA make the right choices.

Muhammad Sagagi: Economic Forum-Nigeria.



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