By Bashir Ibrahim Hassan
The 2019 elections have come and gone. Democracy has been further tested — or is it stretched, for the democratic evolution’s elasticity of the country reached a breaking point. All the actors in the political processes have been interrogated and the majority of them found blameworthy in the near miscarriage of our political march to the ideal society. If you discounted the role of God in saving the country, I am surprised how we escaped being pushed off the brink.
But here we are in the aftermath of the election turmoil. Elected executives—President and Governors—took their oath of office on May 29thand we are about to witness the formal inauguration of the 9thNational Assembly (NASS) on the 11th June. That the upper chamber of the NASS is increasingly becoming the retirement home for ex-Governors is a topic for another day, but nonetheless there is the need to x-ray the potential that such ex-Governors have to impact on the quality of legislation, leveraging on their past experiences, to invigorate the Senate and make it worth the billions of tax payers’ money that goes into oiling its machinery.
The x-raying is essential so that, in the business of accountability which democratic dispensation is all about, we can at the right moment hold such ex-Governors accountable. One such ex-Governor coming to the Senate for the first time is Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, a two-term Governor of the most populous state in Nigeria—Kano—from 2003-2011.
However, before I dwell on this career teacher-turned politician, I would like to draw some lessons from the just concluded elections and the roles its key actors played in contributing to the positive and negative outcomes of the elected positions, depending on which side of the divide you are. Positive or negative outcome aside, the actions and or reactions of these key actors have no doubt thrown up surprises that kept many mouths agape.
How the mighty have fallen on the battlefield! Many barely made it back home alive. Political foxes have ended up entangled in the traps of their hunting machinations. The hunters became the hunted. Greedy party leaders have smiled all the ways to the banks leaving their stalwarts licking the wounds of their woeful defeats. No wonder the calls for the heads of such gluttonous party apparatchiks are getting louder by the day. The current of greed is too shallow to drown the rock of electorate’s protest votes.
One key lesson party leaders will take away from the last general elections, if they are intelligent, is that they can’t always get away with betrayal of the people’s trust.
Perhaps the biggest casualty of the last general election is the President of the 8th Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki. The Senate President fell down in the battle to retain his seat in the Nigerian Senate chamber. The Speaker of the House of Representative, Mr. Dogara, narrowly escaped the political arrows of the opposition. On its part the ruling APC party leadership, aided by incumbent Governors, sacrificed the party interests on the altar of selfish considerations. The result was the imbroglio that charactised the party’s primary elections in Zamfara and, Rivers states, for example. In the former, the win that PDP could not garner from the ballot boxes was delivered to it in the court room of the Supreme Court.
That verdict of the Supreme Court will be a subject of debate for many months to come and, as the debates deepen, they will further expose the many weaknesses of our electoral system and the laws governing it.
Again, the PDP’s failure to unseat the incumbent APC Governor in Kano State, despite all their control of the youths voting bloc, is traceable to the national party leaders’ selfish meddling in the PDP’s state machinery.
Precisely, it was down to the imposition of the Kwankwasiya returnees on the party loyalists that kept the party’s flag flying in the state while Kwankwaso forayed into the APC camp, which he found too hot for comport in the end. In the din of political machinations Kwankwaso ended up losing his Senate seat to his political arch-rival, Shekarau. He also lost the bid to capture the Africa House seat of power for his anointed candidate. Classically the hunter became the hunted.
The biggest winner in this self-destroying entanglement of the PDP apparatchik was Malam Ibrahim Shekarau. When the national leadership of the PDP imposed Kwankwasiyya retunees on the party leadership, Shekarau simply and peacefully left the PDP to APC. He was rewarded with the ticket to contest the Kano Central Senatorial seat, which he went on to win with massive landslide victory.
There is some kind of mystical inter-twining of the destinies of these two political heavy weights in Kano—one rising to prominence from the ashes of the other. In 2003, Shekarau, then a political neophyte, rose to prominence when he contested the governorship race and won against the incumbent Kwankwaso, at a time when the popularity of the incumbent was at its lowest ebb. Today, Shekarau has again won the senatorial seat as Kwankwaso stands by helplessly.
Three undeniable traits defines Shekarau—humility, his peace-loving nature and visionary outlook. Surely, these are valuable asset to take to the Senate.
In stark contrast to what obtains nowadays in Kano State, the good governance he engendered while in power is nostalgically remembered. His was a government that left LG funds in the hands of the statutory authorities, allowing them to run the administrations independently as they deemed fit under the supervision of the ministry of Local Government. His was a government that prioritized staff welfare, revived staff development through trainings and courses long forgotten by the state civil service scheme. His zeal for staff welfare extended to the senior citizens of the state.
His unprecedented settlement of over 20 year’s arrears of pension gratuities, prior to his ascension to power, is still a constant reference in the state today. In his days, pensioners get paid before any group of civil servants. The overhead costs of running the MDAs were never in short supply. In short, in the transparent and accountable manner he ran the government made one ace journalist and publisher to rhetorically ask “Why is Shekarau doing this to Governors?” in back page article of his newspaper. In effect, he was making his contemporaries look inferior.
His approach to governance easily showed him as someone who values human capital development. His visionary antecedences were captured in many facets of state craftsmanship he displayed during his days. These are too numerous to mention in this write up. But one that stands the test of time and continues to be relevant was the Hisba. This is a socio-religious body brought about as a tool of implementing the Sharia Law in the state has won the hearts of many in the state—Muslims and Christians alike. Its role in the implementation of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms reduced the number of people reporting to the police or taking their cases to courts was remarkable.
The visionary body has over the years built a cordial working relationship with other federal institutions, such as NAPTIP and NDLEA apart from the police that has been keeping Kano free from child traffickers, drug peddlers and other petty criminals.
His peace-loving disposition is best appreciated in the manner he handled the security situation of the state in the 8 years of his administration. Prior to his coming to power Kano was notorious for its ethnic-cum-religious crises. But throughout his eight year administration Kano was at peace. Not a single crisis was recorded during his first and second tenures, thanks to his dexterity in managing the complex, cosmopolitan and multi-cultural society that Kano is and will continue to be. How he was able to neutralize the dangerous, rascals and recalcitrant youths called ‘Yan Daba’ in Kano and kept the Boko Haram insurgents at bay remain to be fathomed.
Shekarau going to Senate will enable him continue playing these positive roles at the national level. His first shot into national limelight was his attempt to contest the Presidential race in 2011 under the ANPP. Few months into Goodluck Jonathan’s Presidency, he was appointed as Minister of Education. Most of the landmark achievements of the Jonathan’s regime in educational sector were achieved while he was in the office.
Shekarau will bring to the 9th Senate his vast experience in the art of good governance, conflict management and resolution, team building and accountability.
On the other hand, he will be closely watched by those who sent him there from the 17 LGAs that formed the Kano Central Senatorial district. They will expect more from him in terms of contribution to meaningful debates that will unite the country against its many fault lines.
They will expect him to prominently partake in the checking of the excesses of the executive and ensure that socio-economic developments across the nation are evenly distributed. They will, above all, expect him not to play to the gallery of untoward activities occasionally found in the National Assembly that boarder on political misadventure, economic sabotage or moral bankruptcy.
The 9th Senate will find in Shekarau a valuable asset.
Hassan contributed this piece from Abuja.