|Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State spoke to select State House Correspondents, including TERHEMBA DAKA, on the realities of preserving security of life and property in Northwest as the nature of democratic institutions in the country.|
President Muhammadu Buhari is in his second term, after a stint as Head of State. Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was also President and his elder brother, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, was a military Vice President, Chief of General Staff. What lessons did these notable Katsina sons hand out to emergent political leaders?
I think what is most important to learn is that leadership is about service. To understand that, once you are either identified or you offer yourself, it is about service to the people. Then you as a person, when I say you as a person, it includes your family; you should be the last to partake. Character is important, because no amount of schooling can make up for flawed character.
When awarding a degree they say, ‘In character and learning.’ So, without character, whatever level of education you have means nothing. Education without character is simply like a mad man with a gun. So, the young men, including women, who are aspiring to lead or who have been identified, for whatever reason, to come and provide leadership, should know that service to humanity, to the nation comes first.
Some people may say people from Katsina who had opportunity to lead didn’t favour Katsina citizens; that’s a matter of opinion. They offered service. I didn’t say they were saints, but certainly when you go through the record and do some comparative analysis, you will say, ‘these people served the nation and their people very well.’
Of course, nowadays, if you happen to occupy those kinds of positions and you don’t own this and own that, people would look at you either as not serious, a bushman or you don’t know what you’re doing. Internal satisfaction is more important than any other thing.
If you want to be a businessman, go and be a businessman. It doesn’t matter, you can make wealth that can touch the sky, but leadership is not a means of making money. We have a proverb in Hausa that you can’t be running and scratching you buttocks; you either run or you stop and scratch your buttocks. If you combine the two, then you are not running and you are not scratching; somebody will run and pass you. One has to be compromised.
So, I think, for the young people coming up, there is hope for the country. Sixty years of the nation is not a very long period. Of course, it matters a lot in the life of a man, so he can only compare what he was able to contribute within the period he was given opportunity to serve or opportunity to be alive. Wherever we find ourselves, once alive, we have contributions to make for the development of our country.
Despite producing many leaders, security situation throws a shade on Katsina State. Instead of improving, the situation seems to be worsening. Are there efforts being made at improving the situation in the North West?
Well, today we can thank God because a lot has been achieved and a lot needs to be done to sustain the level of peace and go forward. At least, what we used to have as massive attacks have now reduced to isolated cases of one or two, and these isolated cases are not coming from the forest areas; they are within the community.
You know, when we had COVID-19, people who came from outside Nigeria were suspects. Gradually, we moved to communal transmissions. So, we are now addressing issues of banditry, which has become a communal problem. Those young men, who were hitherto the army of bandits in the forest of Katsina, the leaders have moved into the forests of Zamfara.
Those who were calling and training them are no longer there.
They have been taught the evil act of banditry, evil act of kidnapping, evil of cattle rustling. You will be surprised somebody told me they went to a household and stole goats and chickens. Suddenly, we have many people who know them. They started gradually and have become very dangerous; people were informing them about the military and police presence here and there. Some people also misinformed the security outfits.
Security outfits, like all human endeavours, face their own challenges as well, just like local traditional leaders and religious leaders. So, a lot of sensitisation needs to be done for people to understand the dangers. Apart from what we are doing with the military, police, Civil Defence and Local Councils and contributions to security outfits, we are now amending our laws to create security committees at ward levels. This is in order to bring back district councils at district headquarters. Principally, their main objective is to look at security issues.
We have established Office of Special Security Adviser, who is here, and we have also established offices in zones and three senatorial districts. We are going to equip their offices and bring experienced retired security officers to advice. In 2015, it was cattle rustling; by 2018 and 2019 it has become banditry. As we move into 2019, it became kidnapping, rape. Now, we are dealing with two types of kidnapping; kidnapping for money and kidnapping for rape.
We don’t know what will emerge tomorrow; we have to prepare ourselves. We are not averse to dialogue, but we are saying this time around, dialogue has to start between neighbours. These nine Local Councils that are in the frontline, in addition, we have three Local Councils with forest entries. We have Dandume, Matazu, Musawa and Dutsima. They don’t border the forest directly, but the forest areas also extend, linking routes that provides going in and out for the bandits.
The issue of security is too crucial to be left in the hands of either the police or the Civil Defence alone. We want citizen participation; we want community participation as it was done before in the area of security. So that’s where we are. The state government will do this bearing in mind that security itself is under the exclusive list in the 1999 constitution as amended. Whatever we are doing is to support and since our people are the victims, we will take the driver’s seat to assist law enforcement agencies.
As a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, what do you think Nigerian legislators should focus on?
Well, I think, going forward, you are not starting with the members, but you should start with the process; what we have seen during our time and in the subsequent times. We saw a situation where, especially at that time where people, especially governors, were insisting that people loyal to them or people they like go to the National Assembly.
One good thing about National Assembly is that, you may go in with a narrow-minded idea, when you face Nigeria, you see the aggregate of opinion, then it changes you to a better person. We all went there as local politicians and majority of us came out as national politicians; we now understand the country more and better. But going there simply because of the aura of the office is not good for the Nation. You need people who have the intention or the mind of giving representation in the National Assembly.
As a good legislator, the best you can do is to know how to subsume your constituency into a national interest. What happened, especially when the Late President Umaru Yaradua fell sick and the processes, I think, that was when the National Assembly really was shaken. But I do believe we live in a dynamic society that keeps changing. So, really I cannot say our time was better, because our time suited that time and this time fitted the current legislators so they had to. The times are different and the nation is moving in a speed that you cannot say what worked in 2003 to 2007 when we were there, can still work today. Some of it may and some may not. So really, I think we need people who have the right qualification to be there. You know what I mean by qualification is not paper qualification; I mean qualification to represent and provide good representation.
Are you satisfied with the nature and strength of democratic institutions in the country, particularly relations among the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary?
You see, institutions that can be very strong are those that can withstand any shock. For example, imagine if you have a very strong and willful president, like in some countries of the world, in Nigeria with weak institutions, it is the strength of the institution that will control the president. So, it is not just about the National Assembly or the Executive or the Judiciary and or other institutions that make governance work.
The Executive, as far as the National Assembly is concerned, had a bad time and that helped it to become a good institution. Because we had former President Obasanjo, and all what that happened between the National Assembly and Executive. President Obasanjo, coming from the background of the military to become a civilian president, under a democratic system, it was also challenging for him. And the National Assembly being new had no previous experience.
This was what we had; the drag me, I drag you. President Obasanjo helped to build the institution of the National Assembly to be on its feet. Because most of the internal institutions of the National Assembly were working, you saw how they worked; at least the bureaucracy in the National Assembly worked and flushed out some civil servants, who had retired but didn’t want to leave. They wanted to manipulate the system. You could see the strength of even the internal mechanism within the National Assembly that pushed the bureaucracy out in conformity with the law.
So, if you want the National Assembly, the Executive and the Judiciary and other institutions that will force this institution to work, the law must be in place. If we are talking about independence, well yes, National Assembly within a very short period has come of age, because of the emergence of leadership, independent of any influence. Leadership that took decisions that made the assembly look good. Everybody thought the Nigerian constitution could be changed overnight, it didn’t happen, and that happened, because the National Assembly was on its feet.
As it played pivotal roles in Nigeria’s progression in the last 60 years, what factors explain Katsina’s prominence in Nigeria’s history?
Actually, if you go through the history of Katsina, even in Islamic Education, Katsina was first among the then states. There was no province to embrace education through the Islamic Education. So, Katsina was a centre of learning. If you go round, you will see evidences that predate over five hundred years of existence.
Then, in character, Katsina people have character and traits that give them places of leadership; they are courageous. If I tell you the story of Kunan Bakin Wakei, you will understand better. You know, before the coming of Islam, there used to be one of the kings, not an Emir, he was a king, an absolute ruler.
One of his sons had the habit of not riding on horses, but riding on human beings. Right here inside the city, if you go they will show you where the dying pits are; where it happened probably over a thousand years ago. So, the man said whenever it comes to his turn for the son of the king to ride on his back, or on his neck, that would be the end of it. And it happened.
When it was his turn to carry the king’s son, he went to the dying pit and jumped into the dying pit with the king’s son and both of them died; that was the end of the story. That was the end of riding on human beings; just to show you how courageous and principled Katsina people are.
Then, in the area of education, we have two saints: Dan Masani and Dan Marana. The story we were told, whether it was true or not, but to show the level of education as at that time, when they were arguing about sighting the moon, Katsina excels in terms of education, courage and character.
Probably that is why God has always blessed Katsina State people, especially when it comes to leadership either at national or regional level. No state has had the opportunity of producing presidents four times in this country except Katsina.
With majority Muslim population, Katsina rates high on religious and ethnic tolerance. What accounts for the peaceful co-habitation?
Well, we know we have over 90 per cent Muslims. They may belong to different denominations, but the few of us categorised in two; one, indigenous Christians, that are natives to Katsina and those who are either here on business or work and chosen to make here their home. They have an umbrella, but we as a government decided to go beyond the umbrella union to identify the indigenous Christians in Katsina State and their leadership, because if you’re not indigenous to Katsina, you could lay claim to another place.
When you go to Lagos, you claim Lagos. Some people are indigenes of Katsina; they have nowhere else. So, we must first recognise them and give them a sense of belonging. I thank God I played key role in establishing the office in 1999, because the first person to occupy the Office of Special Adviser to the Governor on Christian pilgrims came from my Federal Constituency, Malumfashi.
But when we came, we upgraded the office, because Christian Affairs is not only about pilgrimage; pilgrimage is an annual event. So, we upgraded the office. We also brought another lady to give the women wing a sense of belonging. So, in everything we do, they have their say and they have their share. If we go under their umbrella, we invite leaders of denominations and associations. The leader of the state Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is my very good friend.
In the village where I grew up, there were people then, who didn’t have any religion. Most of them have become Christians now.
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