Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, CON a mathematician, teacher, lecturer, administrator, civil servant, public servant, politician and a traditional title holder, was born in the Kurmawa quarters of Kano to a police officer. He served in different capacities in Kano State Civil and Public Service: Teacher, School Principal, Lecturer, Deputy Director, Director, Permanent Secretary, and two terms Governor. He also served as a Federal Minister of Education and currently a Senator of the Federal Republic representing Kano central Senatorial District
Shekarau, an alumnus of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and the Sardauna of Kano, initiated many large-scale development projects in Kano State, too numerous to mention. History records him as the driving force behind the creation of the “Hisbah Guards”, an outfit that promotes pristine Islamic living and peaceful co-existence of inhabitants of Kano.
In this interview with the crew of the PEACE magazine, he bares his mind on many topical issues particularly the security of the nation and his relationship with Malam Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.
Sir, What do you have to say on the current spate of banditry, kidnapping and insurgency that prevail in the core north?
Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi ra’ji’un. It is most unfortunate and very disturbing. Let me comment that your Magazine has chosen the most appropriate title; the PEACE for it is medium. Today, the most relevant issue in the world is mankind’s search for peace. If any government constructs good roads, builds schools, state of the art hospitals and provides other developmental infrastructure without peace and security, they are irrelevant and meaningless. I have for a very long time concluded that there are five major aspects of the security challenges to these problems and unless we tackle them appropriately and genuinely we will never get it right.
Can you share with our readers these five aspects that are lacking?
First is the issue of recruitment of the security personnel and their numbers. The population of the country, according to statistics, is nearing 198 million; whereas the total personnel that define our security architecture is far less than two million. And these include the Nigerian Police, Army, Air force, Navy, State Security Service, Civil defence Corps, Nigeria Intelligence Agency and other quasi, Para-military outfits. This number is grossly inadequate. Akin to this is the current recruitment process which is flawed. In situations whereby we end up recruiting thugs, criminals and drug addicts into the security agencies, then the challenges will persist. The issue of training is another. Today, it will not be a surprise if one comes across a police man or uniformed armed personnel who have spent almost a decade without going to even for one week refresher course training. The routine for him has been, picking up gun, going on patrol, returning, hanging it and signing for the same gun, the following day for ten years! Yet life itself is dynamic that poses new challenges in security matters. In my days at school, we all went into examination hall with our four figure tables, but today WAEC regulation permits scientific calculators! So if a police officer has not had the benefit of retraining in ten years how does such cope?. The Government must take the proper training of all personnel very important. Thirdly, the provision of equipment; I will give you an example. In 2006, when I was in the office as the executive Governor there was this suspected Taliban movement around Kano State and neigbouring states. The brigade commander of the military Brigade got a directive to immediately deploy troops to tackle them, but he did not have up to five serviceable trucks for the mobilization. He came knocking on my door at about 2am asking for trucks, but there was nothing I could do until 8am when workers resumed. We had to mobilize some vehicles we used to carry fertilizers and farm products for the military men. Imagine if it was an invasion we would have been finished. Till today as we speak, I do not think much has changed as regards the mobilization readiness of our security agencies. Furthermore, the welfare of the personnel has to be addressed. Malam Aminu Kano used to say, if you neglect the security agencies that are armed and leave them miserable and hungry, two things are bound to happen; they either use the weapon to rob to survive or they collude and allow criminals to pass. We cannot continue to ask a hungry man carrying arms, someone that does not know what to eat the next day, to be effective. The fifth is the pension schemes of our security personnel which is really awful. For 35-40 years, most of these officers use their energy and brains for the country only to be thrown out of service, without proper pension scheme. Those years one had put in the service of the nation were the best of times because once one is already 60 and above and even if the government gives you the whole of the money on earth as pension, you would not have the strength anymore. It is embarrassing to our nation to have retired, uniformed personnel demonstrating on streets before they are paid their entitlements. I think unless we address these five major areas, we will never have peace. It will always be one step forward and ten steps backward.
Do you not think these five things are expensive for the Nation, in view of today’s economic realities?
Security is not cheap; we must be ready to pay for it. I want to boldly say that Nigeria is not that poor to maintain and sustain adequately-funded security agencies. Most of these things, from experience of management, are achievable if the funds are judiciously managed because there are insinuations that suggest diversion of funds to other uses. I always recall the late Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie, a former Inspector General of police statement to Journalists when he retired. The press men asked him what type of police force he was leaving behind, he said “well, Nigeria is getting the police it has paid for”. My mentor, Prof Babs Aliyu Fanfunwa, the late great professor of education, used to argue that it takes you one jump to fall into a ditch; but it takes you a thousand jumps to come out; by this I mean we have neglected the sector for too long so much that to come out will take us so much more efforts. I think to my mind, we are not currently doing enough.
Can we have an overview of your administration while in Government?
I established my Government programmes on the tripod of societal re-orientation. It was basically set up to change the attitude of the people through education, our history and disabuse their minds from the issue of social injustice. Long before I became the governor, I had the feeling there were two major social points which I needed to address to excel and these were: developing human capacities and addressing social injustice. Aminu Kano, our renowned politician, used to argue that any government that can protect the lives and properties of people, grant them qualitative education, be just in its dealings with the masses can go to sleep, because the citizens will fend for themselves on all other things needed to live a meaningful life. Through this we achieved peace and progress in all sectors of governance unlike now that Kano is the hub of drugs transactions and abuse. Today, all that we achieved through the social re-engineering of Kano inhabitants, the person who took over from me in the name of political difference whittled them down. In all due respect, successive governments do little in terms of social justice and that is making Kano to be going back to her volatile status before my administration.
When you were in government Kano enjoyed peaceful moments, what was the magic?
Well, we planned, worked and created a structure for it. We ran an all inclusive government by involving everybody including Christian clerics and Imams. We introduced the Hisbah corps in Kano, through the legislature which some mischievous people and southern media branded the ‘sharia police’. With Hisbah, we created what globally today is referred to as community policing. It was to assist and co-operate with all the security agencies in the state to prevent crimes and apprehend criminals where necessary. The way we recruited the personnel made it ‘community policing’. The breakdown reflects inputs from leaders in the immediate constituents of the volunteers, who can vouch for their competence and honesty. Kano has 484 wards and we recruited, 20 personnel per ward that was almost 10,000 and we got another thousand for the command headquarters. The group voluntarily ensured law and order, implemented the ban on sales of drugs, alcohol and zero tolerance to violence. In addition, we had what we called peace council in every ward and local government and made it mandatory for them to meet every month and give monthly report to the centre. Thus through Hisbah and the peace committee, we were able to address all vices and nipped them in the bud. Also, at the state level we had the shurah council of 50 ‘wise men’ that comprised the Ulama, Christian clerics, business community, politicians, elites, youth, women and many others. The Emir of Kano and I were the joint co-chairmen. The council met every month, with free mandate to handle all matter that can impede peace. There was no no-go area for them including freedom to question my government. Similarly, during holidays when the schools were closed, we camped hundreds selected youth for 3-4 weeks, to drill and inculcate into them the purpose of life. They need to understand that this world is not only about living to earn money, feed well and spend money, but that God has a divining purpose. Through the camping, we added moral values to their being and channel their minds away from crimes regardless of their backgrounds. For instance, we taught them the importance of honesty especially in vocations like tailoring, shoe-making and mechanics. We were guided by our beliefs, which made us not only accountable to the people, but believed we shall be accountable to Allah. With that in mind, we exhibited the best conducts, the best of judgments in running the affairs of the state under my watch. I personally attended a number of Christian assemblies in Sabon Gari to teach the need for peaceful co existence. All these helped us to maintain peace.
Why is it difficult for these to be replicated in Some Northern states that are not in peace? I think the main thing; with all due respect, it depends on who are the chief executives of these states. Their intention might not be for purposes of serving and some do not even know why they are there and until we get leaders who are conscious of God at all times, we might not get the desired peace. I prefer to use consciousness of God than fear of God. Fear is not the correct explanation, it is far beyond that, consciousness of God is what is required of you to rule justly and work for the peace of the state.
Are there personal grudges against Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso?
I do not have any personal misgiving with him. It only appeared so in the minds of people because, people would think whenever he comes into a party I am, I move out. Kwankwaso, has no hand in such matter and I never for once blamed him for it. Let me clarify the picture. When we formed All Peoples Congress, APC, he was in People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and that was the buildup towards 2015 elections. I was among the three that led the formation of APC, after seven months of hard work, Chief Tom Ikimi and the late deputy governor of Bauchi state and my humble self. APC is a collection of different interest groups, with Chief Bisi Akande as the head of a caretaker committee to carry the party flag further. By some coincidence, PDP had internal crisis and we pushed to benefit from the crisis. We got about seven governors of the PDP which included my brother Engr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who were willing to join APC. Unfortunately out of enthusiasm to win them over, the party gave too much, including party structures, leaderships of the party in their states and right to take at least 60% of memberships of the party executives in the state, local government and the ward levels. This position of the party was to us unconstitutional and one-sided. It was not acceptable to majority of us in Kano state particularly, that the structures and leadership we built since 2003 under ANPP were to be surrendered to him. We made our representation to the party National executives and asked rather than give the whole party machinery to him; we should sit down at a table to harmonise and discuss to arrive at an acceptable working relationship. Unfortunately, the party refused to listen to us. Subsequently, 95% of our members in Kano state agreed to move to another party than being oppressed. So that was what happened in 2013/2014 .Suddenly again, in 2018 as part of the build up to 2019 elections the same group led by Kwankwaso got enmeshed in another crisis in APC and wanted to come back to PDP. We initially welcomed the group back, but similar to 2014, somehow, Uche Secondus, the chairman of PDP, felt that his group must again be given an upper hand in the executive composition and party structures. I told him, that the constitution that protects him as the chairman of the party is the same constitution that protects the ward level chairman and what better right does he has in the constitution than them? Eventually, they dissolved the party structures and formed caretaker committees that were more populated by Kwankwaso men than our people and we left. And almost in the similar version, to when I was accepted into PDP and made the Minister of Education, by President Goodluck Jonathan, we were embraced in APC and I was offered to contest as the Senator representing Kano central of the state at the National Assembly. Therefore, there are no personal grudges amongst us and it did not about Kwankwaso or me not want to work together with him but perceived injustice that cannot be tolerated by mass members of our political ideological bloc. He remains my brother and warmly welcomed.
Why is Kano Politics Unique in style and political participation?
Well many things make Kano Politics unique. Historically, it has been a trans-Sahara trade route for thousands of years attracting different kinds of people, orientations, attitudes, exposures, civilizations and cultures. And when they come for their trading activities, many eventually settled in Kano. If you go to Kano city and check the names of the various quarters (kundila) 90% were derived from either the language of the very first people that settled there or the name of the towns they came from. Kano is where you have virtually every major ethnic group in Nigeria that is so populated that they are only more in their own traditional settlements thus it is a very large cosmopolitan city. In the process it attracted various trades and skills and made many busy to be learning from one another thus influencing their thoughts and actions. Also, Kano is not only educated in the so-called western system of schooling, it has the advantage of a very deep level of Islamic knowledge and scholarship. Of course, if you have any scholarly environment, then one is sure that environment has education, development, awareness, civilization and politics, which may guide its inhabitants. Therefore, the awareness, the knowledge, commercial activities and population make Kano politics outstanding and guide Kano great leaders like Malam Aminu Kano, in their agitations and political sojourns.
What should the people of Kano state expect from you as the Senator representing them in the National Assembly?
My first priority is to go to any length to work with the executive and my colleagues in the national assembly to appreciate that our number one priority is to protect people’s lives and property. Secondly, I will work to ensure the executive and legislature work together like husband and wife relationship; and to enlighten my colleagues why we all needed to go to the same destination. The so- called separation of powers does not mean these two arms of government have to work in parallel directions rather to complement each other to make sure there is peace in the country. And the people of Kano should expect from me a robust representation of their interest.