The governor of Kano State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, does not appear to me as a full-blooded Nigerian. His actions never cease to amaze me each time I reflect on leadership in Nigeria. Denied the right to exemplary leadership for so many years in this country, Kwankwaso’s quintessential character has provoked in me some kind of inquisitiveness about his identity. I must warn though that you should not expect any scientific proof from me-regarding his identity-because I lack the capacity for such technical and professional exercise. My simple proof is only through some documentary exhibits which some of us would probably have been ignoring in our newspapers because of their squint-faced lettering.
Every week, this man publishes in the newspapers the Minutes of his Exco meetings thus indulging the public with an insight into his government operations and decisions on certain issues, projects, programmes and policies. He has been doing this for some years but a 6 plus-month sampling will suffice for my discourse. Starting from June 3, 2013 to the time of writing this piece (Dec. 16), the Minutes of his 27 Exco meetings were all advertised except for the 11th meeting (officially the 111th Kano State Exco meeting) which is missing. It should have come between August 19 and August 26.
I do not know if there is any provision in the constitution compelling this kind of action. But what I do know is that, for the first time in the chequered history of governance in Nigeria, a leader has elected to submit himself to his people by being accountable to them. Even if it is a constitutional obligation, that he is the only one doing it speaks volume of his exceptional leadership. It must be noted that Kwankwaso has been doing this before the Freedom of Information Act came into existence.
In a nation immersed in reprehensible impropriety, moral bankruptcy, frightening impunity and political irresponsibility, Kwakwaso’s leadership style remains a revolutionary salvo for national leadership revival. It is a paradox that an action like this which should elicit a whirling vortex of emotion and support for its uniqueness is being treated with indifference and marginal adoration.
In one of the samples under scrutiny, the Minutes show the number of memoranda brought to the Council for deliberations, the presenting officers or ministries, the projects and items that are up for deliberations, their cost implications, the discussions, the decisions and the final approvals by the Council. For instance, at the 120th Kano State Executive Meeting held on Wednesday, 23rd October, 2013, the Office of the Head of Civil Service presented a request for funds for the absorption/conversion of qualified casual, non-pensionable and contract staff of the defunct Triumph Publishing Company to permanent and pensionable status.
In the course of the deliberations, the Head of Civil Service “respectfully reminded the Council, through contents of this memorandum of its resolutions contained in Council… which directed him to submit a proposal for the engagement/absorption of the Triumph staff”. In complying with this directive, a 4-Member Technical Committee was set up to work out the modalities for the absorption. It was the report of the Committee that was deliberated upon by the Exco. This was finally approved by the Council after formal deliberations.
Also at the same meeting, the Ministry of Higher Education informed the Council that “53 Kano State indigenous Law students were able to scale through for admission into the Nigerian Law Schools from ABU Zaria and University of Jos despite the incessant strikes by ASUU”.
As such, the Kano State Scholarship Board submitted a request for the release of the aggregate sum of N16,960,000 by Council as special grant to sponsor registration for the students at the rate of N320,000 each (i.e. N320,000 x 53 = N16,960,000). This was also approved.
What could be more transparent than this! I am here in Lagos dissecting the activities of the government of Kano based on the information retrieved from the Minutes of the meeting of the governor and his cabinet members published in national newspapers. The government of Kano State has adopted a “lying-in-state” approach to governance whereby all and sundry can come and have a view of its operations and activities for them to commend or to condemn. The important thing is that the government is telling its people that it has nothing to hide. When a government goes to this extent with its citizens, the dividends for the government come in the form of the confidence and trust invested in the leadership to continue to manage their affairs.
Besides, democratization of governance is a fundamental feature of democracy. It is nothing but sheer arrogance that makes our leaders think that the people do not deserve to know how they are being ruled. Any government operating on the mandate of the people is under very strong moral obligation to act responsibly and one of the ways to do this is to let them know and understand how their government is being motioned. The citizens are more appreciative of a government that shows them how important they are. But they become frustrated, neglected, isolated and psychologically demoralized when they have no idea about what government thinks of them. This is why they have the impression that government only remembers them during election. You can imagine how the Triumph staff that were absorbed and the Law students whose registration fees were approved would feel after reading about their cases in the newspapers. By this action, the government of Kano State and its citizens are conjoined in a covenant of faithfulness and emotional bonding.
By stating in clear terms the various sums of money being expended on projects and items, the Kano State government is also making itself accountable to the people. They (the people) have an idea of how government is spending their money. Since details of deliberations and funding of projects are made public, government officials are wary of the implication and the damage it will do to their career and reputation if they ‘load’ or ‘bloat’ any project or items. I am sure that under a different operational circumstance, the N320,000 for the registration of Law School students would have been inflated to about N500,000 or even more. But because everything is now for public consumption, the officials have put themselves in check. They know that the authorities of the Law School and the affected students would call the attention of government to any discrepancies in figures. The contractors are also aware of how much was approved for any project and this makes it difficult for government officials to bamboozle them with different figures. In all, the people can always object to or protest against the government if their money is not being spent judiciously.
In addition, because every citizen knows they can always monitor or get information about their cases in the advertised Exco Minutes, they have no cause to put civil servants under unnecessary pressure to leak information to them. When a government does not allow its citizens access to information, they become desperate to obtain it at all cost and by any means. Since he became the governor of Kano State Kwankwaso has published more than 127 Minutes of his Exco meetings and heavens have not collapsed. Rather, this action has in fact given some deserving credibility to the man and his government.
Our leaders should be made to understand that government is not run like a secret cult or a cabalistic organisation where initiation rites and other ritualistic practices are shrouded in secrecy. The rituals of government can be performed in the open where the people can also participate. No one is saying that government is not entitled to some degree of confidentiality, I am only advocating for the demystification of the mystery around government bureaucracy so that this lapse is not exploited by its officials for capital appropriation and pecuniary benefits. The crowds thronging government secretariats nationwide could be reduced if government liberalizes its information management by allowing citizens access to certain harmless information through the media.
Another thing that fascinates me about Kwankwaso’s style is the fact that these Exco Minutes were advertised with religious commitment every week. It is as if the government is under a compelling obligation to honour an agreement whereas it is only a commitment made by the government to convince its citizens of its steadfastness to a creed that binds them together. This consistency and regularity was what caught my attention. Bewildered that a government could show such consistency to a commitment that carries no constitutional or legal punishment, I felt that such a leader deserves a national mention.
Though I have not been Kano nor have I met Kwankwaso himself to know if the efficiency that reflects in the published Minutes is reproduced in terms of development on ground, I have two reliable witnesses who had visited Kano before and I stake my honour to rely on their evaluation and assessment. The first is Wale Edun, a polo freak, who has been to Kano on several occasions for polo tourneys. In a private discussion we had on leadership in Nigeria, in the presence of another national leader that I will not mention, he confessed to me that Kano is almost at par with Lagos State in terms of road network and other infrastructural development. Edun, a former Commissioner for Finance under Bola Tinubu, is not someone that is generous with encomiums. But when he was talking about Kwankwaso, he was so excited. He said the roads in Kano have walk-ways, good drains, medians and street lights. What more evidence of development do I need if the roads in Kano State have walk-ways? End of discussion!
The second person is Kemi Rotimi, a history lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife. Rotimi, a restless cerebral scholar of unassailable pedigree, is an expert in police history. He is currently on a national assignment with the Federal Government. This itinerant task has taken him to most parts of the country including Kano. In one of our regular telephone conversations on private and national affairs, without the slightest hint on what I was doing on Kwankwaso, Rotimi told me how beautiful and neat Kano is. He was full of praise for him (Kwankwaso) and his leadership perspicacity. For Kemi Rotimi to have scored Kwankwaso this high, it shows he can pass any leadership test because Rotimi is not a magnanimous lecturer.
Kwankwaso’s defection from PDP to APC along with his other four compatriots, was therefore not an accident. It was a natural switch. While in PDP, he was in the same vehicle with political misfits who can never appreciate his progressive posturing. The PDP is not the correct party for a man like Kwankwaso who respects his people, who cares for his people and who is responsive to the problems of his people. It is a party with unlimited liability from head to tail. In a not-too-distant time, the PDP will discover that the goodwill it used to enjoy with the people has gone into deficit and that its slogan: “PDP is the Biggest Party in Africa”, is nothing but a stale and impotent catch phrase. Now that he is in APC, Kwankwaso can begin to operate in a natural habitat where his vision of a greater and saner Nigeria can be achieved. His political aspiration for a higher position and office can also be realized in a Party that allows for healthy competition of ideas, visions, and ambitions among its numerous members that can boast of competencies in diverse spheres.
However, Kwankwaso’s recent identification and alignment with the All Progressives Congress (APC) is not sufficient enough to dismiss the case of identity riddle against him. His incredible leadership humility and submissiveness is a very strong evidence to show that he is a very strange leader in this nation called Nigeria. It may seem invidious to single out Kwankwaso out of the many progressive leaders of worthy exploits. But let me say without any equivocation that Kwankwaso is being appraised not only for his achievements but for recognizing and acknowledging the inviolable right of the people to access information about the activities and operations of his government with an unparalled accountability and unprecedented consistency.
When a nation that is agonizingly soused in predatory leadership hallows a leader with a messianic potential, it is a way of showing GOD, that we can be appreciative, in case, the problem we have as a nation is the pilatic persecution of leaders who could have saved us in the past from our national rot.