By Aliyu Isa
There is a silent revolution in Katsina State, which will, sooner or later take the whole country by surprise. From all indications, the state governor, Ibrahim Shehu Shema, is intoxicated with ideas of youth empowerment, a situation that is rapidly changing the state for good. More than 40,000 youths across the 34 local government areas in the state are beneficiaries of a zero interest loan scheme. This is aimed at supporting their trades within a period of three months.
Under the poverty alleviation initiative of the governor, about 200 youths from each local council area will benefit from this gesture for a period of three months. And he has promised that it would be sustained until most youths and women in the rural areas are fully empowered.
Similarly, 5,471 families have benefitted so far from the state government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme at the cost of N520 million. This is aimed at providing cash support to poor households for their children’s education. Through this programme, Governor Shema wants to ensure that every child in the state has access to education. 70 ALLO model schools were built across the 34 local government areas of the state to support almajiri education. Presently, the ALLO schools have a total student population of 17,091. Feeding, working materials and clothing were provided free to pupils and their teachers. Also, over 2, 000 tricycles (Keke NAPEP) were purchased and distributed to 60 youths in each local government in the state. The scheme has, no doubt, impacted positively on economic activities in all the council areas of the state. One of the visible gains of this initiative is the relative peace in the state. While beneficiaries are full of joy and praise for the administration of Shema, those that are yet to benefit are also waiting patiently for their turn.
The Katsina Youth Craft Village was also established to train youths in various skills that will make them self-reliant. This training institute has the capacity to train over 2, 000 youths annually. So far, activities at the village have attracted a positive attention within and outside the country, including the commonwealth secretariat. In addition to this, at least 5,000 youths were offered opportunities to acquire various skills at the 10 basic apprentice training centres in some of the local councils in the state. Furthermore, about four years ago, the Governor Shema administration sponsored a sizeable number of youths to study high tech welding for oil pipelines at the Nigeria Naval Engineering Training College, Sapele in Delta State. It is of great interest to note that these youths have completed their training and secured employment in various oil-related industries in and outside the country.
The Islamiya school system is not left out. About 400 graduates of this system have so far benefitted from the state government’s education scholarship abroad. These beneficiaries, who are now reading Medicine, Nursing, Arabic Computing, Arabic Calligraphy and other related courses in Sudan, now serve as role models to others. During the duration of their courses, the state government will pay their school fees, transportation, accommodation and monthly allowances. It is very unusual for a state government in this country to use multi-facetted approach to tackle the menace of youth unemployment. But the Katsina State government has done it successfully. Governor Shema truly deserves commendation from all the stakeholders in Nigeria’s developmental drive.
It is quite clear that what is obtainable in most states in the country is noise without action. This is not the trend in Katsina State, which has the slogan, “Others make noise, we act.’’ In every ramification, Governor Shema is an icon of performance, yet he doesn’t sing his own praises. He is a quiet achiever. A visit to Katsina state will, no doubt, change the mind of this governor’s critics. He has really performed creditably.
In the last seven years, there has been free education in all the state-owned primary and secondary schools. This includes the payment of WAEC, NECO, NABTEB fees for indigenes and non-indigenes in such schools. Fees are also highly subsidised in state-owned tertiary institutions, including the state university.
Those who closely observe political activities in Nigeria will agree that Governor Shema’s brand of politics is premised on high sense of responsibility. He has also distinguished himself in prudent management of resources. More so as a disciplined administrator and politician, he has never used abusive words or foul language against his critics and opponents, even in the face of unwarranted provocation.
As a testimony to the governor’s probity and accountability, former chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, without mincing words, recommended Katsina State as a model. Ayoola, who was in the state for a town hall meeting, later took tour of projects executed by the state and local governments, after which he said he was “extremely sure there is hope for Nigeria in the fight against corruption and the institutionalisation of good governance.”
In recognition of his selfless service to the people, Governor Shema was again recognised as a guest of the Nigeria-US Bi-national Commission, during which he discussed extensively, his experience in an effort to ensure good governance in an unbalanced federal system. The commission invited only two out of the 36 governors in the country, namely, Shema and Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State. It is widely believed that Fashola is doing wonderfully well in Lagos State.
During the recent visit of President Goodluck Jonathan to Katsina State, he could not hide his feelings when he saw the numerous projects executed by Governor Shema despite the scarce resources available to the state. President Jonathan summarised his remark by saying that if other governors in Nigeria had emulated Shema, Nigeria would have become a positive reference point.
One can, therefore, comfortably say that Nigeria needs true leaders like Governor Shema. As the 2015 general elections draw near, the electorate must be wise with their votes.
Aliyu Isa wrote from IBB Way, Katsina