Of NSGF; Gov. Shettima Please Take Note By; Abdull-Azeez Ahmed Kadir
Dear Governor Kashim Shettima, a congratulations would have been in order for your emergence as the Chairman of Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF). But for the fact that you are succeeding Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu; my state’s former governor, considering the rot he left behind, you rather have empathy of many a northerner.
But I dare say you still deserve congratulations. If for nothing but to have survived horrendous years of the murderous insurgents. Four treacherous years of a lukewarm federal government. Four precarious years of former leaders in your state plunging the state into anarchy. Four lonely years of been left in the lurch by the same NSGF that you now leads. This is worthy congratulations despite the thousands of lives lost, property destroyed and thousands more displaced and turn to refugees in their own land.
With your re-election and the eventual emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari, we hope and pray the insurgents would be routed once and for all. With the renewed efforts of our military and collaboration with the neighboring countries, we also hope the root cause of the insurgents would finally be uprooted.
Your Excellency Sir, you have taken over the mantle of NSGF at a very auspicious time. A time when virtually everything has fallen apart in the North and the dreams of the founding fathers are fast being turned to nightmares for the younger generation. At a time when all the northern founding fathers put in place to generate employment and ensure sustainable livelihood is being shared among your predecessors and some allowed to crumble due to negligence.
For a starter, Your Excellency, your predecessor was the longest serving Chairman of the Forum. He came on board with a lot of goodwill but deserted with all the goodwill squandered. His tenure, unlike his predecessors witnessed the greatest setback in the history of the forum and the region. With the exception of Sardauna Foundation, the success of which is more to the effort of Justice Mamman Nasir, Governor Aliyu’s tenure has more negativity to show for the region than success, yet he was the chair for eight wasted years.
When the Federal Government took over institutions such as Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna Polytechnic, Radio-Television, Kaduna, New Nigerian Newspapers (NNN), Kaduna among others, hell was let loose then. Little did we know then that the government at the centre was doing the region a great favour.
It was a great favour because imagine what would have befallen these two great academic institutions today if they were left in the hands of the successors of the founding fathers, especially successors such as the recent past. President Muhammadu Buhari seemed to have them in mind and captured it better when in his inaugural address he said “… Some of their successors behaved like spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house…”
As you read this Sir, 20 number great houses belonging to the New Nigeria Development Company (NNDC) are topics of controversy as they are in the process, if not already “dashed” to the immediate past Secretaries of NSGF states with the 20th property allegedly going to your predecessor; Babangida Aliyu, all in the name of God-knows-what.
Going by the dreams of the founding fathers, NNDC today should have been a sprawling company with assets everywhere and subsidiaries all around Nigeria and beyond. NNDC should have been posited such that indigent northern youths can easily access scholarship even on a loan basis to further their education or establish small scale enterprises. But no, our common wealth there is being shared among privilege few who ordinarily should be working on expanding it.
Your Excellency, it is no news that the once “newsy” New Nigerian Newspapers (NNN), once the voice of the region, the influencer of government policies, the agenda setter of the nation has been off the news-stand for over two years and half now. It has lost over fifteen staff since the closure. Many thrown into the labour market and some still roaming, hoping for the best. The medium which late Sir Ahmadu Bello said should tell the world about us and us about the world, the medium which he prophetically said would be a training ground for journalism in Nigeria has being left to gradually whittle away by your predecessor who was all sound, fury but no action.
Today, university and polytechnic students who troop to Kaduna for their industrial training (IT) attachment with the NNN form near and far, now have no option but forgo it for a broadcast outfit or go to Abuja with tears. Thereby defeating that prophetic pronouncement of Sir Ahmadu Bello of making NNN the training ground for the younger generation.
Today in Nigeria, it is hard to have a medium like NNN with the kind of landed property of high value. It owns the sprawling ten story Nagwamatse building that once housed the Headquarters of the Bank of the North and later Unity Bank in Kaduna where today African Independent Television (AIT) and RayPower FM operates from. NNN owns many bungalows along Isa Kaita and Malali in Kaduna that house some staff who today pay stipends a la civil service system of the old. Aside undeveloped lands here and there. Properties that if commercialized are great sources of incoming for the organisation.
Aside the above, the company owns a sprawling landed property in Lagos because it remained the first Newspaper in Nigeria to print simultaneously from two places. That property is wasting away with little or no income from it. It may interest your excellency to also know that the company lost a landed property in Abuja and had to resort to legal tussle to reclaim it.
The company won the case and the then FCT Minister, Abdulkadir Bala Muhammed; a northerner promised to ensure the necessary land titles were given back to NNN. But till this minute, the company is yet to get the documents, more than three years after. Speculation is that the land may have gone the ways of the NNDC properties. So sad.
From the above, Your Excellency can see that the founding fathers established this company with plans to make it self sustaining without the likes of NNN going cap in hand soliciting for life-lines to be operational. By January 1st 2016, NNN would be 50 years old; golden anniversary just like the demise of Sir Ahmadu Bello. But your predecessor never for once visited the organisation unlike three or four of his colleagues, less, talk about plans to celebrate the golden memory of Gamji.
Your Excellency, the NSGF of 1999-2007 would not have abandon Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States in the face of what your states faced in the last four years. The Forum would have mobilised, strategised, cajoled and coerced the Federal Government to ensure the needful was done and the situation not allowed to have degenerated to what we all witnessed. Recall the Tiv-Jukun crisis that culminated in a week long peace summit in Kaduna by the Forum. For that proactive measure, only God knows what the situation would have been today.
In the recent past, all the world is made to hear abou this region is Boko Haram, almajirai, herders-farmers clash, ethno-religious uprising, VVF among other vices. Yet, on daily basis people migrate in droves to the north. It is the region with the large heart. Accommodates all and sundry. Give all the opportunity to own their sources of livelihood, own their places of abode for even those who can not do such in their indigenous lands. It is a region with great altruism.
Your Excellency, you are still the youngest governor among the nineteen of you with Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State few months older than you. You are also fortunate to have the oldest among you; Governor Abdulahi Ganduje of Kano State as Deputy. It is time to walk the talk. It is time to make the north work again. Though you may not speak with one voice, let the diversity be a source of strength and not weakness.
Fortunately, unlike in the past where the states were divided along party lines among other ideological differences, of the nineteen of you, only three; Gombe, Kogi and Taraba belong to a different party; the PDP. The sixteen of you belong to the same party; the APC and prefers to be called the progressives. It is time to bring that progressivesiness to bear on the region with the highest population and naturally endowed with resources that can make any society great. It is time to utilise our altruism to advantage.
Your Excellency, going by your intellect, you have been offered a great opportunity to write your name in gold in the annals of northern history and by extension the history of Nigeria as anything good for the north is better for Nigeria and whatever divides the north is an anathema and lethal for Nigeria.
May you succeed beyond expectations as you take note of these issues among other myriads of leadership obstacles that confront the region today and stagnate her.
Abdull-Azeez is a journalist based in Kaduna