By Sani Adamu
Then Gov. Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State declared his intention to seek re-election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2011; some people were skeptical about his chances of winning the election.
The cynics, however, recall that their pessimism at that time was not because of Shema’s unpopularity or lack of requisite qualifications for the contest. They note that their cynicism then was because it appeared somewhat difficult for the PDP to tackle the now-defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in Katsina State, believed to be the stronghold of the party led by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
Seven years down the line, perceptive observers have been acknowledging the remarkable achievements of the Shema-administration in the state. Available records indicate that Katsina State, which was carved out from the old Kaduna State in 1987, has undergone a remarkable transformation, as the state now has good road networks, modern schools and hospitals, as well as steady water supply in its urban and rural centres. The administration’s determination to improve the state’s infrastructure via the construction of 35km six-lane ring road in Katsina, the state capital, is also seen by many observers as quite pragmatic.
Corroborating such viewpoint, Shema explained that the ring road project specifically aimed at laying a solid foundation for the economic advancement of the state. The governor disclosed this, while speaking at the opening session of the All Nigerian Editors Conference (ANEC) which recently took place in Katsina.
He said that his administration had also reconstructed other existing roads into dual carriage roads, as part of its efforts to execute its urban renewal agenda. Shema also said that the state government had built more schools and hospitals, while executing several water projects and setting up the Katsina Craft Village for the training of unemployed youths in vocational skills.
Besides, the Governor said that his administration had also constructed a new Government House complex at the cost of N8 billion sourced from the profit of investments made by the state.
To bring healthcare closer to the people at the grassroots, the state government has constructed 361 clinics in the last seven years, with Shema saying that the clinics were being utilized to address primary health issues like immunization and other basic health challenges facing residents of the rural areas, in particular.
In addition, Shema said that the state government had introduced an ambulance service in all local government areas to attend to the immediate health needs of the rural dwellers, adding that people suffering from malaria and kidney problems now received free treatment in government health facilities.
He said that the state government had also constructed a 250-bed orthopedic hospital to cater for accident victims and spinal cord patients in the state.
Available records further show that the Shema-administration is assiduously working toward the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly those relating to the reduction of child and maternal mortality by 2015, with the Governor noting that his government had initiated several intervention programmes to provide quality primary health care services for the people.
He said that some of the programmes involved the construction of the Turai Yar’Adua Maternity and Children Hospital; the quarterly allocation of N100 million for the purchase of drugs to feed the state’s Free Drugs Revolving Scheme, as well as the continuous training of the medical personnel.
The governor said that more than 34 girls-only primary schools had been constructed, as part of measures to enhance girl-child education in the state, while 100 Almajiri schools were built to reduce street begging and improve education in the state. According to him, each of the Almajiri schools has a population of over 100 pupils.
“Education at primary and secondary levels is also free in the state. The state government is also paying WAEC and NECO examination fees for all students in the state,’’ he said.
On the development of the solid minerals sector, Shema said that the state House of Assembly had enacted a law to facilitate potential investments in the sector, stressing that the administration had also procured 120 vehicles to boost intra-state and inter-state transportation in Katsina State.
In recognition of the significance of education, the governor said that his administration had made education at the primary and secondary school levels free. This, he added, was in addition to the N800 million which the government released for the payment of WAEC/NECO examination fees in 2014. Besides, Shema said that more than 700 students had been sponsored to study medicine, pharmacy, radiology, engineering and related courses abroad.
He, however, said that his administration was planning to establish nine teachers’ colleges, as part of efforts to raise the standard of education in the state, explaining that three teachers’ colleges would be established in each of the three senatorial zones of the state.
While conveying the state government’s commitment to the teachers’ training, welfare and promotion, saying that this would boost the teachers’ morale and encourage them to give quality service delivery, Shema also said that his administration had constructed 260 secondary schools and 100 primary schools in the last seven years.
In a bid to also encourage sporting activities in the state, the state government has also constructed an Olympic-size stadium, the Governor stated, adding that all the projects were executed without borrowing funds from internal or external sources.
In order to promote industrial harmony, the Governor said that the state’s civil servants had always received their salary on or before the 25th day of every month in the last seven years, pledging that his administration would continue to initiate projects and policies that would enhance the living standards of the citizens and move the state forward. He, however, urged the people to continue to support the government in its efforts to ensure the state’s development in a pragmatic way.
“Democracy is meaningless without good governance and every Nigerian should benefit from the social services made available anywhere,’’ he said.
It is somewhat pertinent to note that the shinning feats of the Shema-administration attracted an avalanche of eulogies and commendations from the visiting editors during a dinner which the government organised in their honour.
Specifically, Mr Femi Adesina, the President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, who spoke on behalf of the editors at the dinner, commended the state government for executing a lot of development projects within the last seven years.
He noted that the editors, who had gone round the state, were very much impressed with what they saw, particularly with regard to road constructions, youth empowerment, agriculture and education, among others.
Adesina, nonetheless, urged the governor to sustain the tempo, saying that the projects executed by the state government would go a long way in improving the living conditions of the people.
He recalled that when the conference was slated to hold in Katsina, there were fears and apprehensions in certain quarters because of the insurgency in the North, which had taken a dramatic turn with the involvement of teenage girls as suicide bombers.
“But from what we have seen and witnessed, Katsina remains an oasis of peace in spite of insurgency in some parts of the northern region of the country.
“I can also say that democracy is really working in Katsina,’’ Adesina added.
Nevertheless, observers urge the state government to involve the private sector in its development projects, so as to guarantee the sustainability of the projects, even beyond the tenure of the Shema-administration.
All the same, the general consensus of opinion is that if the current tempo of Katsina State’s development is sustained, the state’s transformation and growth will be unparalleled.