Katsina: Reaping Where It Did Not Sow

Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state of Katsina is reaping bountifully where it did not sow. It is now the hottest place to site federal projects in the country. The president’s ministers and security chiefs are falling over themselves in an obvious eye-service attempt to curry favour with him by locating projects in Daura, the president’s hometown or elsewhere in the state. Anyway, what better way to the heart of a man whose DNA is totally clannish, ethnoreligious and nepotistic than to massage his ego by siting federal projects of dubious viability in his state, which he approves speedily without asking any question? And again, this automatically translates into getting into his good books, unlocks possibilities for the cooperating ministers, and accords them immunity from wrongdoing for those who breach the Federal Character Principle enshrined in the constitution.

Katsina State is not one of the most buoyant states in the federation. Far from it. It is one of the poorest and one of the most backward places in this geographical expression called Nigeria by all standards of societal progress – human capital development, misery index, poverty ratio, social infrastructure, health care, education and crucially, vision. It is a place where government prioritises the building of mosques over investment in the education of children, where government prefers to use public money to sponsor public servants on religious pilgrimage to Mecca, rather than provide healthcare for its people. Provision of social amenities and economic development for the people are the least considerations of the governor.

The state’s out-of-school children population has reached epidemic proportions, thus providing a ready pool of recruits into banditry and other terror outfits sprouting daily and competing for attention to outdo each other in human savagery, bestiality and senseless carnage. The average person on the streets of Katsina is poor, very poor. Where Almajiri (I call them the forgotten cluster of abandoned young children) roam the streets without a future.

According to figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the state’s full year Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for the year 2019 stood at N8.4 billion, representing 0.64 per cent of the total IGR of N1.33 trillion (full year 2019) of all states in the country. With its miserable IGR, what is the state’s contribution to the Federation Account? Close to zero. But the state collects, on a good day, an average of N4 billion monthly from the Federation Account. What this means is that Katsina is almost entirely dependent on revenue from the centre like many other states, mostly in the Northern part of the country to run its affairs. Clearly, revenues derived from other federating units, particularly oil-producing states, are being used to fund the governance of the state.

You see, despite Katsina State not contributing meaningfully to the collective resource pool at the centre, it is reaping bountifully from the federal government, far more than states that form the bulwark of resources for the federal government, merely because Buhari with a legendary reputation for bigotry, arrogant and flagrant abuse of power hails from the state. The state has become one of the biggest beneficiaries of federal projects. At the last count, over eight gigantic strategic projects had been sited there and more are on the pipeline, I dare say.

A cursory glance at the headlines of newspaper reports reveals a disturbing pattern that tells the story of Buhari’s grab-all-I-can mentality: Buhari approves N2 billion for FUDMA’s Medical School; Katsina, Buhari inaugurate Air force Hospital in Daura; N18 billion University of Transportation inaugurated in Daura; Federal Polytechnic Daura to take off January 2020 – Education Minister; Katsina Refinery Ready in 2021; Buhari’s Home Town, Daura to have Battalion Barracks After Air force Built Reference Hospital in his Village; FG to construct Transmission Station in Daura to Improve Power Supply in North West; Buhari Approves Rail Line from Kano to Daura, his Hometown, etc.

As I read all these, a lot of questions some of which I could not answer immediately flashed through my mind. Why is everything going to Katsina or Daura, the president’s hometown? What is the strategic importance of Daura to suddenly merit all the attention as the choice destination for these major projects? What is the population of Daura or its strategic commercial economic value to be deserving of all these projects? What resources are in Daura that generate major revenue to the Federation Account? What manner of people are making these decisions to site all these projects in Katsina and particularly in Daura? Was there due diligence to ascertain their viability? What will be the return on investment and why are Nigerians not paying much attention to what is going on? At the rate at which federal projects are being sited in Daura, Nigerians may wake up one day to the news that Buhari has moved the seat of power to his village!

The foregoing shows that the president’s natural instinct and tribal affinities are too strong to be ameliorated by modernity and economic necessities. He refuses to see the big picture of strength in diversity or the place of merit as a strong driver for growth and development. To him, symbolism of location is more important than commercial viability or anything else. Professor Wole Soyinka, who made a tragic volte-face and threw his weight and credibility behind Buhari’s election, was spot on when he earlier described him as “one man the nation cannot call to order”.

As he was highly nepotistic and sectional in 1984 when he first burst into national consciousness in a coup to become military head of state, so he remained in 1994 during his tenure as the chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) and remained unchanged in 2015 as president and continues to be till date. Essentially, the foundations of his bigotry and ethno-religious prejudices were well laid in his past. His northernisation agenda didn’t begin today. Only that with more time in power, it has become an obsession.

I have always held the view that everything is wrong with a leader whose first thought when there is a federal job vacancy, is how to fill such a position with his relatives or persons of his ethnic stock. It is an irony that Buhari rode to power on the mantra of Change in 2015 when he himself never changed his ways. It is doubly tragic that those who warned us in history books about the dangers Buhari represented to the growth of a modern Nigeria, unfortunately, turned round to repudiate all those warnings, and actively campaigned for him and even became his greatest enablers. They sang on the rooftops that he had gone through a “plausible transformation”. They defended him even when he slowly began to manifest his contempt for the rule of law. It just defies understanding.

From the outset of his second coming, Buhari’s modus operandi which is a subset of his northernisation agenda was to site as many projects as possible in his village before his tenure expires, whether they are viable or not. And he has aggressively pursued this policy of governance in total disregard and disrespect for the constitution that he swore to uphold. He has shown scant regard for the rule of law which he believes must subordinate to his corrosive whims and impulses. His ministers and military top brass sure know what to do to please the master. It is the ways of Africa and the black race, and particularly so with Buhari who has shown remarkable contempt and total disdain for the grundnorm – the ultimate, foundational principle which breathes life and validity into all norms.

Owing to Buhari’s lopsided appointments to fill vacant federal positions and siting of federal projects, some leaders of the Southern region recently filed a suit at the Federal High Court to challenge the president’s marginalisation in appointments made by his administration since 2015. According to them, the present composition of the government of the federation, and most of its agencies, especially as regards the composition of the security and quasi-security agencies, do not reflect the federal character principle. They added that there is a predominance of persons from a few states and sectional groups in positions of authority, which was threatening national unity and integration.

Some of the issues brought before the court for determination included whether it was not “reckless and adverse to the interest of Nigeria” for the president to obtain loans from the Islamic Development Bank, African Development Bank, the World Bank, China, Japan and Germany, amounting to $22.7 billion for infrastructural development, only to allocate the bulk of the funds to the North. The plaintiffs also want the court to declare that the loans purportedly for infrastructural development, wherein less than one per cent of the amount is to be allocated to the South-east for specific infrastructural development, violates Section 16 (1) (a) (b) and S16 (2) (a) (b) (c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Other demands of the plaintiffs included: “A declaration that the various appointments into positions in government, especially into strategic government agencies such as NNPC, NIA and other strategic infrastructural and regulatory institutions are ethnically discriminatory and lopsided and these violate the express provisions of the constitution as contained in Sections 14, 171 (1), 171 (5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and therefore unconstitutional, illegal and ultra vires.

“A declaration that the country’s security architecture is insubstantial, non-compliance, non-conformity and violation of Sections 217 (3), 218(2), 219 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and is therefore unconstitutional and ultra vires.”

The bulk of the so-called infrastructure projects to be sited from the $22.7 billion loan are allocated to the North. But the loan repayment will surely come from resources located in the South. The questions everyone should ask Buhari and his pathetic defenders are: Has the South become a conquered territory? What kind of monkey dey work baboon dey chop country is this? The president has reduced Nigeria to Animal Farm. This is nothing short of theft. Maybe this is why Buhari and his enablers are so reluctant to support the restructuring of this country.

Since 2015, his policies have been framed around his declared direction of 97% and 5% division of the country. Even though he did acknowledge that the constitution prohibits him from discriminating against any section of the country, it is exactly how he has governed in the last five years. So the mad rush to site many federal projects in Katsina or more specifically, Daura, Buhari’s hometown should be seen for what it truly is: An enthusiastic abuse of power by a sectional and feudalist resource grabber enabled by pathetic cheerleaders and willing accomplices from other parts of the country who are desperate to be in his good books in order to keep their jobs.

From Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of transportation to Ibe Kachikwu, the former minister of state, petroleum resources, posterity will never forgive them for those projects that they took to Daura against sound economic advice. For those happy about their privileged positions in this government, and have no qualms talking down on all others for drawing attention to the systematic Northernisation policy, let me remind them that the fruit of the poisonous tree is poison. This era will live in infamy for the foreseeable future. Nigerians have been trapped in a terrible nightmare of disastrous leadership. There is no way to sugarcoat it. We will tell our children and the generations to come what Buhari and his accomplices did to this country.

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