By Abdullahi Aminu Mudi
The intriguing question is, what makes Kano State what it is today? Coming from Kadawa on Zaria Road, into Unguwa Uku, and on Eastern By-Pass, going up to Mariri, and getting to Wudil, back to Hadejia Road, going up to Dawanau and Bichi, and finally, moving to Janguza on Gwarzo road, is a sprawling and a densely populated city. Its growth in number matches its enterprising exuberance. Kano is a commerce city with a large market covering northern, extending to many parts of central and southern Nigeria, and linking up to the Central African Republic, Niger, Cameroun, and Chad.
As business and entrepreneurial opportunities abound in Kano, due to a large population, it represents a sordid state with a grubbily degenerating condition. Its growth depicts chaotic organization, unplanned settlements, lack of, in many aspects, the absence of sanity in the society and the public system. This is the intriguing question that points to a paradox and a binary of opposites; from one angle, one sees the positive outlook of Kano, and another perspective provides insight into the deplorable and annoying situation that has engulfed the state.
The impetus for this write-up emanates from the disorganization that has become of Kano. Given its status and development, the state has metamorphosed over the years into what it is today. Therefore, setting a clear path, and for us to understand and appreciate the status of Kano, its historical and evolutionary development must be looked into. This will shed light on its present condition and the challenge of managing a cosmopolitan state. Building on this, having understood its current situation, an attempt will be made in the second part of this article to suggest pathways towards addressing such challenges and rebuilding Kano to claim its rightful position.
Like many other cities, towns and states, Kano’s evolutionary and historical development to what it has become cannot be linked to or reduced to a single factor. Cumulative actions by different actors and events, not what some historical accounts say, of the decline of Katsina as a city of commerce, or the trans-Saharan trade, have influenced and shaped Kano’s growth and ascendency. Ruled through a combination of efforts and collaboration between traditional authority, merchants, and religious leaders, over the years, from pre-colonial, through colonial and post-colonial times, Kano has transformed and developed. During the colonial era, the traditional leadership took active steps by changing key institutions and making the Native Administration a functional system in a way that key social and economic sectors were made to be responsive. Thus, industrialization and economic reinvigoration were made to match statecraft. Under Alhaji Abdullahi and Alhaji Muhammadu Sunusi (I) as emirs of Kano, the Challawa and Bompai Industrial layouts were established. These were made and established to industrialize the state. Their impacts, so enormous were they, relative self-sufficiency was achieved, jobs were created, and set Kano in an envious position.
This collaboration and the state’s central role in development and planning continued in post-colonial Kano, principally with Audu Bako’s government prioritizing agriculture and its value chain. Based on the prevailing macro-economic, social and political climates, subsequent military and civilian regimes enhanced Kano’s industrial atmosphere and production base. The state, capable of competing and compared with any other important state in Africa, became significant. As a consequence of the phenomenal economic activities, an aviation hub and centre emerged, serving the domestic market, and connecting regional and international routes.
Amid the oil boom in the early 1970s, shortly after Nigeria’s civil war, the federal government’s indigenization and nationalization policies led to the emergence of industries in many states. Manufacturing and assembly plants became catalysts for economic activities. In Kano, Bompai and Challawa became beehives of activities. With the progress made and subsequent expansion, Sharada Phase I and II came on stream serving Nigeria and many other African countries. These developments were made possible through the active interplay between various institutions, political actors, and the merchant class.
The collaboration, as stated earlier, over the years, to what prevailed in the 80s, made Kano a centre to be reckoned with, then, even with the subsequent economic decline and collapse of industries in the following years. This collapse signals the frightening condition that was to become of Kano from the 80s to the present. In the last three decades, the aftermath of this collapse from the 1980s has seen a persistent increase in unemployment, rise in social vices, failure in social and political institutions and general discontentment, coupled with excessive population growth. Kano’s position has continued to degenerate and placed it on a gargantuan precipice. Kano’s enduring decay represents a classical negation of positive and functional development. It is not the case here; it is neither growth without development but a community geared towards self-destruction and eventual destruction.
Coming into Kano’s airspace from Lagos or Abuja, pleasing as it is, as one nears home, descending into the town, one’s happiness changes into a burning gloom, as one comes into a full glimpse of Kano as a poorly planned city or an unplanned one. From 1999, with the coming of new civilian administration, Kano witnessed drastic changes and massive development in socio-economic and commercial activities. It also heralds crystallization, from the rise of industrialization in the 60s up to the early 80s, of a downturn and further decline and collapse of manufacturing. As political leadership collaborated with the merchant class in bringing about industrialization in Kano state, their cumulative efforts and inactions derailed the state’s progress in this dispensation even against their enlightened self-interest.
It would seem, looking at the myriads of challenges, nagging and unmanageable as they have been, institutional bottlenecks might have hampered development. Indeed, institutional failure, especially in the public sector, dramatically contributes to escalating the challenges facing the state. Against itself, the public sector operates in a complete variance of its mandates, sowing discord and seeds of its destruction and weakening its sustainability. The civil service cannot be relied upon to carry out government business or regulate life in civil society. One cannot understand this failure in isolation and a vacuum.
Since 1999, Kano has been managed by four regimes belonging to different political parties. Successful implementation of policies of each administration relies on an efficient and effective civil service. However, and to our dismay, none of these regimes ever contemplated reforming the civil service so that contemporary challenges are tackled, visions translated into policies, and their implementation carried out. Expediency, which is a hallmark of utility, necessitates a system of succession that is vital and critical to the survivability of the public system. There is a need to do a lot to fix these and other problems, especially in recruitments and promotions in the civil service.
Mr Mudi sent this article via email@example.com.