‘Buhari is not a regional but national leader’
CONTRARY to pre-election fears fuelled by campaigns from the opposition camp that Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) may turn out to be a regional leader rather than a national one, former Speaker of the House of Representatives who has also emerged as the elected governor of Buhari’s home state of Katsina, Aminu Bello Masari, said the President-elect’s leadership cannot and will not be restricted to a provincial one.
Masari who spoke in Katsina shortly after he was declared as the Governor-elect, disclosed that that as much as indigenes of the state identify with the retired general and are happy about his March 28 victory, they expect him to make them proud as a patriotic Nigerian leader who left his footprints in the sands of time.
He said, “We are not meeting with Buhari on the platform of political party alone. We have a long-standing relationship and now, we have a political relationship. That Buhari is from Katsina State for us, is a plus and that plus depend on how we manage it. We want Buhari to be a Nigerian leader. We don’t want Buhari to be a regional, zonal or provincial leader. We want him to be a Nigerian leader that will leave a legacy of positive contribution to this country and that is the basis on which people elected him.
“So, we will help him to maintain and improve on those qualities which the people of Nigeria see in him. We will never do anything that will tarnish his image, his reputation or his national and international standing. So, for us, Buhari is a plus that will add value to us as a people. When we go somewhere and say I am from Katsina, we want the doors to be opened, for us he is a plus.”
He however advocated for a National Assembly that will operate in tandem with the dream and aspirations of the President-elect so that the message of change can be effectively delivered to the Nigerian people by the Buhari government.
As a former national legislator who knows the intricate workings of the National Assembly and the operational relationship with the Executive arm of government, Masari said although Buhari’s All progressive Congress (APC) will enjoy a comfortable majority in the 8th session of the Assembly, much more still needs to be done by stakeholders of the country’s democracy to enhance legislative performance.
He said, “Luckily, we are going to have a comfortable majority in the National Assembly. What I have seen as a former member of the House of Representative is that because of patronage system by the governors, they have destroyed the institution. Patronage system means that for you to become a Senator, you must be in the right books of the governor. For you to be a member of the House, you start lobbying the governor to make you a candidate so that you can become a member of the National Assembly. It is not because the governor believes in you or that you yourself believe that you have something to offer other than being attracted by the package and the limelight. Definitely, at the National Assembly, if you play your card well, it is an opportunity to come into limelight.
“Really, when we deviated from why we want to go to the National Assembly, what interest do we represent? How do we subsume our local interest into national interest? If you are making an Act, it is for the entire country. If you are participating in the budget, you have to find a way of subsuming your interest into national interest. As long as the interest you represent, which is that of your community, cannot find its way into the national development agenda which is the budget, you are no longer providing representation. The reality of the situation is that we should allow the system to work. In determining the leadership and the leadership has to be focused on why we need the change.
“So, we must get leaders that understand why we need the change in Nigeria. It is not about changing faces or names. It is about changing how we conduct businesses of government at any level. How do we, as Nigerians, do things. After all, South Africa said it is returning our money after Buhari is sworn in. Why? The international community is comfortable that somebody who will manage the resources well is coming. These are the kind of people we need and it should be the vision of those coming to the National Assembly. I hope they are not only attracted by the package, but also by the work.”
On his victory at the poll, he said: “If you know me well, I am a normal person. I don’t look at things in such a way that it will carry my mind off the set direction. We have promised, we have pledged and we have prayed that God will give us the opportunity to restore the honour, dignity, prestige and integrity of the people of Katsina State and this is what we are going to work for because we see it as a challenge. I am not here to make a new name.
“As Speaker, I was the only person in the country that was given presidential treatments anywhere I go in the country. I am here because we believe that without executive power, you cannot make any meaningful contribution to development in this country at this point in time. That is why I have decided to come back home and see how I can repay the debt because I am a product of public institution. So, I cannot be there and watch the public institutions where 99 percent of our people started from, crumble. If you are having 20 percent pass from Katsina state, where will Katsina be in 20 years time? It means we will be nowhere in the scheme of things in Nigeria. There are some states in Nigeria that are far ahead of us in development such that if they stop going to school, it will take us 30 years in Katsina to catch up with them.”
On his developmental goal for the state, he said: “ If you passed through our Campaign Office, we said our project is Restoration 2015 for Katsina. What are we restoring? Traditionally, Katsina is known for investment and production of highly educated and technically sound people. So, our main area, our first target, second target and third target is education because today in Katsina, the public schools, based on last year’s performance in WAEC, could not get three percent. If you take the entire Katsina indigenes, whether they live in Lagos, Abuja or anywhere outside the state, 45,800 of them sat for WAEC and only 4,500 of them got five credits and above in a state where the first middle school in northern Nigeria was established. In Katsina where three generations, including the President-elect were products of the Katsina Native Education Authority, we had gone back in education. We were the first to open an education account in the UK for the training of our people. But today from 1999 to 2014, we have presented over 255,000 students for WAEC. What did we get out of that? Only 32,000 of them got five credits and above in 15 years, we see that this is not good enough.
“During my campaign I was able to travel to all the 34 Local Government Areas in the state. I slept in 27 and in each local government, I made sure that I did not follow the tarred road. We will find a rural road to make sure that we see the inside of the local government. What did we see? 60 percent of our primary schools have either their roof blown off or the windows are down or the doors are down or no floor. On the average, a classroom is housing about 97 children. There is a district where the District Head told me that in the whole of the district, only one child has gone into Senior Secondary School. The rest dropped out because there are no teachers, no classrooms. It is a terrible situation. There was a time we presented over 17,000 students for WAEC and all we could get was only 370 who passed. We cannot continue like this.
“So, what we are bringing on the table is the issue of education. The first item on the agenda of the APC manifesto is human resource development. How can you develop human resources without education? Fundamentally, the position of APC in education is known. In Katsina, we have about 20 percent enrolment rate and some states had 80 percent. So, their approach and mine will be different, but the goal remains the same. Here in Katsina, we will design a road that will lead us to success on the basis of the basket provided by our political party in the area of education. We will take roads that will lead us, that will lead Katsina to salvage itself, restore the honour, dignity and integrity of the people of Katsina state. We cannot do that outside education. The road that other states will take to reach the destination will be different from ours, but the objective remains the same.
“Secondly, Katsina is an agrarian state. Our economy was, until the discovery of oil, dependent on agriculture and livestock. Where are we today? We can’t feed ourselves. Forget about imported rice, imported macaroni, imported spaghetti and imported everything. If for whatever reason, the import stopped, how do we feed ourselves? People said they are surprise that Russia was able to break down even though they had everything. They could not feed themselves at a time because they ran short of food and that started to expose the weakness in the system they were operating and the country went down. We cannot sit down here and depend on rice from China, rice from India, rice from Thailand when we have water and the land.