By Murtala Uba Mohammed, PhD
“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” Harvey S. Firestone
One interesting thing with the practice of Western democracy which we copied is the periodic nature of elections taking place after every couple of years (four years in our case in Nigeria). The year 2023 is a milestone because for the first time Nigeria is practicing an uninterrupted democratic rule for 24 years after long years of military rule. The year is important not only because it is an election year; other issues such as campaigning, bargaining and renewal of (traditional) promises are fundamental. This is what happened in ideal democracies. However, to the contrary, ours is characterised by party swapping and decamping, often termed in Nigeria’s Glo-English as cross carpeting. It is the time whereby any politician wanting to be elected, re-elected, who had not gotten what he wanted or felt threatened in his political party, decamps to another party. Nigeria’s democracy is not ideology-base and therefore political parties have neither manifesto nor specific mission, therefore, politicians find it easier to jump from one party to another, and whoever moved to a new party has the audacity to paint and cast his old party in dark. It is fascinating to note that none of the key politicians in the country (particularly in Kano State) could not be found wanting if party swinging case is to be opened up. Therefore in my opinion, it is a waste of time to discuss whether one political party is better or worst than others in Nigeria. They are birds of the same feather, as Hausa people say “ba wani nagari a kashi, duk ɗoyi ne”.
In spite all these challenges and disappointment, the electorate still have something to hold unto, light is always found at the end of the tunnel; and no matter how dark the night is, the dawn is inevitable (komai nisan dare gari zai waye). The beauty of democracy is that people have the “right” to change their leaders through popular votes. The election time is the best decision period people ought to utilize to gain best leaders/representation for their community. However, it is only when a community has estimates of its problems that they can think of its commensurate solutions.
Here, it is important to highlight some of these problems in order to prepare the people’s mind on issues to bargain in order to vote for any candidate in the next election.
Although, Kano which is the most populated state in Nigeria, a commercial nerve centre of northern region and equally a port of entry into the West African Saharan Hinterland is not with its perculiar problems. The first and the most problematic of all the issues is that of poverty.
Kano gave birth to the most richest person in Africa and the most richest black person on earth today, but a large segment of its population are perpetually and incredibly poor.
The recent multidimensional poverty index (MDPI) for the state according to multidimensional poverty network report was 43.4%, putting the state as the 9th poorest states in the country. Based on poverty headcounts 2019, the state had 55.1% of the population living below poverty line. Agriculture which as the mainstay of the economy has been largely relegated and therefore majority of the farming is mainly subsistence. The state is one of the most richest in terms of surface water wealth – with almost 23 dams, but only a small percentage of state’s irrigation potential is being explored. In effect, the rural economy remained largely untapped. This necessitated the rural folks to send their children to cities, disguising as Qur’anic disciples and using the Almajiri system as a camouflage, while in reality they are lured by the urban Eldorado treasure, which unknown to them is a mirage.
Majority of these children engage in begging under the scorching sun on the Metropolis’ street, harassing and disturbing the peace of the city’s visitors. It is this influx of beggars (from the state’s rural areas and neighbours) into the city that qualifies it to be unilaterally declared as the Beggars Medina, and also, this uncontrollable influx continues to aggravate the level of crime in the metropolis. No thanks to extensive presence of illegal/informal areas in the metropolis that host and serve as a breeding ground for criminals. Urban Kano is therefore a security risk city, considering the recent cases of phone snatching and use of weapons to force people to surrender their properties in many parts of the metropolis.
In spite all its commercial history, long tradition of industrialism and market potentials due to large population; commercial activities in the city is not appreciating in recent time as expected.
Polices of the federal and the state government and a sheer negligence, since the return to fourth republic, are reducing the city’s trading status from that of a leading wholesaler to a mere retailing economy.
The modern industries (built during colonial and early post colonial period) had already started collapsing due to the dwindling power supply coupled with stiff open competition with imported goods and poor management by those that inherited the industries. The traditional cottage industries that Kano is known for such as tannery, dyeing, blacksmith and weaving are fast disappearing and approaching extinction. Although, recently the city is witnessing proliferation of plazas and departmental stores, it is also experiencing fragmentation of stores and evolution of small containers and cage-like stalls. These small containers and stores are just pointer to the low economic status of the traders and indication that retailing economy has taken over with higher preference by the city dwellers.
Another developmental challenge which the state faces is the notorious on-street trading. People turn road shoulders and pavements into trading shops in and around all metropolitan markets, the worst case is that along Murtala Mohammed Hospital in the Old City. The implication of this, among other issues, is its effect on worsening the traffic congestion, causes road accidents, distorts the aesthetic nature of the road and disturbs the refuse management.
Population explosion is another challenge facing the state. Base on the population resources nexus, increase in population always comes with a corresponding demand for resources including physical (such as land for agriculture, housing and trade) and financial (for infrastructure, health and education). Kano State is both most populated state and one with highest population growth in the country. Currently the city had over 15 million residing population and an annul growth of rate 3.2%.
With the highlighted issues above, it is clear that all is not well with our dear state. In order to govern the state properly, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis (SWOT) are worth considering. The state’s strengths include population, size, history and resource endowment; the weaknesses are in certain traditional and cultural beliefs, literacy and the people’s addiction to everything informal. The opportunities include markets, being a metropolitan to its negbourhood, availability of labour; and its threats include competition with other state’s, Kaduna State under El-Rufa’i in particular who is trying to utilize any slight opportunity, capitalizing on low farsightedness of recent leadership, low power supply as well as climate and environmental changes.
Therefore, to set a new development agenda for the state this time, the voters have to make good use of their rights to bargain for the best leadership. The leadership should no longer be a status-core ante, where people are chosen for their party or their allegiance and alignment with certain candidates or groups. Candidates should only be chosen for their articulated ideology and good blue print for the state. The candidates also, should be chosen mainly if they can make an excellent use of the Kano Opportunities and Strength to built the state and its people, cancelled the weaknesses and avert the threats which shield our progress and are currently ascending the state off the developmental larder. To do that, a patriotic, conscious group and individuals have to rise and set a new agenda with respect to agriculture, by making it better through developing the farmers’ capacity, making it more attractive through increase in yield and marketability, and by making it more permanent through irrigation. Agricultural value chain should be well understood and every level should be made robust to improve people’s economy. Education for development should be made a priority and skills and its utilization (not necessarily through lengthy education) must be on the top agenda. Rural development and rural infrastructure provision must be our focus.
Epoch had gone when our villages should be proud with who will make our village better and not who is our son. Kano City and Mega settlement (including all the emirates headquarters) planning need to be revisited, redefined and total compliance should be ensured. A new administration to come should be one that will ensure power supply to the state in order to revive the industries and revolutionize the society for better.
The media has a role to play here. The over twenty conventional media that Kano State have need to help in this case by changing their focus, borrowing leaf from best global practices. The focus should be behavioral change, public education and enlightenment (rather than propaganda) and specialized programs (distinct from imitation). Patriotism and state’s/nation’s pride as well as good attitude should be inculcated especially among younger generations who should be seen as the future for the state.
Murtala Mohammed can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org. Mutala teaches Geography at Bayero University, Kano
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