From Maduabuchi Nmeribeh, Kano
On Monday, June 14, Kano state Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje engaged journalists in an interactive session as part of activities to mark the 2021 Democracy Day which commenced on June 12, with a mega rally at Kano Pillars Stadium, Sabon Gari, where over 150,000 politicians from various opposition parties, including members of the Kwankwassiyya Political Movement, defected into the All Progressive Congress (APC).
During the Interactive Session at Ante-Chamber, Government House, one of the major issues raised by journalists, was the presence of Almajiri in Kano streets, despite all the efforts by Governor Ganduje to integrate them into his free, compulsory basic and secondary education policy. The AUTHORITY reports that for so long, Governor Ganduje has reaffirmed his commitment to integrate all Almajirai repatriated from other states to Kano into the free, compulsory basic education policy and other socio-economic development programmes. This was even against the backdrop of the highly politicized repatriation of Almajirai children to their states of origin, particularly, in the Northern part of the country. Already, Kano state government has worked out mechanism for the full implementation of its policy on the integration of the Almajiri system as a component of Free and Compulsory Basic and Secondary Education in the state. To this end, the government expressed its readiness to accept from any state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the repatriation of any Almajiri of Kano state origin. This the Ganduje administration has been doing, as all of them who were received, were enrolled in boarding schools with fully equipped dormitories where they are being fed and catered for.
In compliance with its policy to ensuring that all school age children are properly enrolled into the basic education, the state government provided additional three new boarding Almajiri schools within the three Senatorial Districts for the admission of Almajirai of Kano state origin, including those recently repatriated from other states numbering 388 that included 96 from Gombe, Plateau 222, Nassarawa 14 and Kaduna 56.
In addition to the 12 Tsangaya Boarding Schools already in operation in the state with an enrollment of over 2, 800 Alamajiri, government is also currently looking into the possibility of remodeling of the 33 Schools for Islamic Studies and 32 Technical Schools built across the 44 Local Government Areas of the state to accommodate all the Alamijirai within as well as those returning from other states as result of the repatriation.
With all this structures and policies put in place to curb the menace of Almajiri in Kano, one wonders why Almajirai are seen still loitering Kano streets! Ganduje, however, gave answers to this puzzle as he admitted that, evacuating Almajiri from the streets of Kano has become a very big challenge, owing to the continuos influx of Almajirai into Kano from neighbouring states.
He told journalists during the Interactive Session that, “the Almajiri issue is a big problem. Here in Kano, we have children from all over the northern part of this country. We have returned children to their respective states, but sometimes they come back to Kano even before our officials return because the government of those states have not taken responsibility. The only problem we have is the Almajiri coming from other states. The Almajirai in Kano have been taken to the various schools we built for them. We have about 3000 of them, and they are all accommodated in these schools.” Ganduje, however,called on other states in the North to live up to their responsibilities and comply with the Northern Governors’ Forum decision that all Almajirai in their states should be evacuated to their respective states, while they take full responsibility of their own.
Ganduje also used the forum to speak on his next line of action after his tenure as Kano state Governor in 2023. Having spent over 43 years in active politics, Ganduje declared that he will remain active in politics, even after his tenure expires as Governor of Kano state in 2023.
Though he refused to confirm if he would be eyeing the Kano North Senatorial seat, Ganduje maintained that his eyes will still be widely opened as a potential and sagacious politician for the good of the country. “I am not tired anyway; on neither will I resign from politics or not, time will tell. You know I have been in politics since 1978. After 2023, my eyes will still be opened.” he said.
He also spoke on dozens of governorship aspirants, particularly, within his cabinet, jostling to succeed him, saying, “the party delegates will chose my successor when the time comes.”
Ganduje who regretted the arrears being owed pensioners in the state, revealed that he did not meet a dime as pensioners’ fund when he took over as the state Governor in 2015. “I hear you say the former Governor, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau left N9 billion as pensioners’ fund; but when we came in I met N4 billion of pension fund which was loaned to the housing scheme.
We are paying workers. We cannot borrow money from bank to pay pensioners. We are trying our best. The pensioners have enough houses which they can sell but even if they sell the houses, the houses will be consumed by liabilities.”
On gender politics, Ganduje said his administration has been gender sensitive, adding that in the next election, “we will make sure that application forms for women will be given free by our party. We have been trying to be gender sensitive; even in the 2019 elections and the last Local Government elections.”
Ganduje also expressed optimism that Nigeria will not disintegrate, even in the face of daunting challenges. “I am confident that Nigeria will continue to be one indivisible country. I don’t want to comment on those who are calling for the split because they are young people who did not experience the civil war. I am confident because last week the Ohanaeze Ndigbo said they are not part of Biafra agitation, they are behind one Nigeria. Afenifere, AREWA and Middle-belt groups all said they belong to one Nigeria. I call on all the regional bodies to meet and find out how we can convert our differences to uphold the unity of this country.
He also assured that the proposed light rail project will soon commence as the Federal Government is already in touch with the Chinese government to facilitate the loan from a Chinese bank. He added that apart from the light rail project, the state executive council has approved about N2.5 billion for the purchase metropolitan buses to ease transportation problem within the city.
On completion of projects before the end of his tenure, Ganduje said: “We inherited many capital projects. Some are being completed and some are still ongoing. We are not neglecting any.We are determined to complete all the projects we started, but the ones we can not complete, government is a continium…we inherited projects which we have completed. Even if we will leave any project behind, it will not be too many.”
The Governor maintained that his administration has continued to work to ensure the independence of the judiciary and the Local Government autonomy. We have no problem with judicial indepnednece. In fact, the judiciary is indepnednent here in Kano state because we make sure that all their funds are released to them. We have no problem with that. In the Local Government, we have no problem with them. We release their allocation from the Federal Government. Though sometimes, we engage in joint projects.”
Governor Ganduje also spoke passionately on the need for Kano Pillars Football club bring home victory in the ongoing tournament, insisting that his administration has resolved to give them adequate financial and moral support. He added that, “we have been on top of funding Kano Pillars. So far, they have three luxurious buses, two by individuals, one by the state government. We are improving on their logistics. We are conscious of the progress of Kano Pillars.”
However, in his general remarks before the Interactive Session, organized at the instance of the state Commissioner for Information, Malam Muhammad Garba, Ganduje noted that, “on Democracy Day, you could recall that by 1993, there was a general election between MKO Abiola and Bashir Tofa. In that election, I was a witness because I was in Abuja then. At a point, the election was annulled, because of so many abuse by the then military Government. Then followed demonstration and creation of NADECO which snowballed into crisis.
“However, President Muhammadu Buhari decided to heal wounds and bring reconciliation. He gave post-humours award to Abiola and declared June 12 as Democracy Day, I think that is fair enough. In 1999, there was a rebirth of democracy. Since then, there has been inter-play. The issue is how much dividends of democracy has been reaped so far as a result of democratic governance. It is now left to the press to ask questions on this.”
In his opening remarks, Malam Garba hinted that the Interactive Session was part of the activities lined up for the Democracy Day. “We organize this forum so that members of the Correspondents’ Chapel will have this opportunity to share ideas with His Excellency on programmes and policies of the government,” he added.