By Suhaibu Safiyanu Bagwai
Indeed, one of the most important developmental aspects of modern Nigeria is the growth of public opinion, which, aided by universal education and the mass media, can today keep the government in check as has never happened before. We can still march on through our fastidious conscience and occasional rebellion or our constant prodding of society’s leaders for better things. Even in a perfect world, there will always be men who will dream of other worlds, of better things, since not everyone is likely to be enthused by their current world, let alone someone who lives in Kano, a state that is riddled with corruption, social insecurity and illiteracy, bloated by debts and battered by economic volatility, poorly planned buildings and poor refuse disposal and management, to mention but a few.
Kano is one of the seven ancient Hausa kingdoms, and the principal inhabitants of the state are the Hausa people. A commercial nerve centre of Northern Nigeria, the “Centre of Commerce”, with a population of about 20 million people. The large population of people and the ease of doing business in the state have added to the crowded nature of the state. Nevertheless, it has maintained its commercial status for centuries, although the economy is friable, despite the inconsistent government policies and sporadic electricity supply, which hamper the manufacturing industry. Kano’s economy relies primarily on trade, retail and services.
Over the years, Kano has encountered enormous urbanisation challenges, ranging from rapid population growth, overcrowding, increasing vehicular and industrial pollution, high rates of out-of-school children, and urban poverty resulting in many environmental issues. Compared to its neighbouring states, Kano is faring better; but when put on a realistic scale, it is devastatingly poorer! Thus, every Kano citizen dreams of seeing that the major problems bedevilling the state are properly checked, and I am not an exception.
Looking at the population of Kano, one will find how it grows at a hysterical height. Rural-urban migration is at its peak; the city is overpopulated with people who leave their hometowns for greener pastures. That makes the city dirtier and unhealthy to travel around. But why the rural-urban migration increases every day? This is the question we seldom ask.
Nigeria’s current economy is debilitating; the inflation rate is high. The recent statistics of multi-dimensionally poor Nigerians rise to 65%, and 75% (of this percentage) live in rural areas. This shows that the urban-rural poverty and unemployment margin is wider, hence the rise in rural-urban migration. However, this is something that is not uncontrollable. Job creation and providing basic social amenities will go a long way in solving this problem. Offering loans, fertiliser and seeds to our small-scale rural farmers and making sure they reach the target people and introducing government and private agencies aimed at educating the farmers on how to make a good harvest, storage and sale will boost our agricultural produce, create job opportunities, diversify our economy and reduce the rural-urban migration drastically.
Reading the statistics of the number of out-of-school children in Kano and seeing it myself in my hometown, Bagwai, scares me the most. A society that invests less in education is stagnant and hopeless, with little or no future. Over the years, our government’s educational policies could have been better planned and executed. For instance, the current government’s introduction of the “Free and Compulsory Education Scheme” has, owing to poor planning and execution, ruined the education system. Before the scheme’s introduction, students used to pay 700 naira per term, which was used for the management of the school and pay teachers, mostly volunteers, some tokens. Now that the fee is removed, teachers – that are primarily voluntary – become scarce, and the principals and the head teachers cannot raise the money to pay them or manage the schools. It is the government’s responsibility to look for a way out. Unfortunately, public schools have remained neglected since the law was passed.
Many students drop out of school due to dilapidated buildings, overcrowded classrooms, scarcely qualified teachers, and poor teaching and learning atmosphere and facilities. Therefore, the government should look deeper into this scheme and make immediate improvements. In addition, the sectoral allocation in the education ministry should be increased. We have thousands of well-trained, unemployed education graduates ready for recruitment.
Kano is notoriously known for political thuggery, and it is one issue that perversely mocks my hope of a better Kano. However, I learned that most are either unemployed or school dropouts. Thus the creation of rehabilitation centres, youth empowerment schemes, sporting activities and public enlightenment programs will help reduce it.
Although there has been some development in the road network of the Kano metropolis, the number of vehicles at some road injunctions exceeds the road’s designed capacity. The trading activities along the major roads and inadequate planning obstruct efficient road transportation in urban Kano. Poorly planned buildings in our major markets, mostly built on water passages, blocks the water passages causing water to flood when it rains, which leads to the loss of lives and properties worth billions of naira – as it happens yearly – and obstructs the easy passage of vehicles whenever there is an accident or a fire outbreak in the markets. I dream of seeing some of the major markets relocated from their present locations or their buildings re-planned and trading activities along the roads banned, providing them with space for their businesses. More bus stops and parking spaces should also be provided to prevent indiscriminate parking and to stop at prohibited places.
One of the most disturbing environmental problems we face is refuse dumping on the streets outside our homes and any unused space in our neighbourhood, including open sewers and ponds. We produce almost 2,000 tonnes of garbage daily, but the sanitation workers can only approximately dispose of 800 tonnes. The remaining 1,200 are piling up on the streets and alleyways of the city, posing severe health risks to the inhabitants and blocking water passages. That is why the city is always dirty! Therefore, through REMASAB, the government should provide sufficient equipment for refuse disposal and the general public, who mostly needs a culture of refuse disposal, be enlightened on the dangers of improper refuse disposal and how to control it.
Bringing traditional and religious leaders closer to the government will influence public adherence to some governmental policies since the citizens are religious. The leaders are also influential. There should also be an establishment of a law that will restrict religious leaders from using abusive or provocative language during their sermons and preaching.
The poor supply of electricity and acute dearth of pipe-borne water in Kano can also be reduced if the government were to utilise its resources accordingly. Kano is blessed with almost seven major dams that can generate hydroelectric power, like the ones done at Tiga and Watari dams, providing adequate electricity and water supply for public and industrial usage. The surroundings can also be used for hotels and tourism by building amusement parks which can generate revenue for the state and create jobs.
The agency responsible for revenue collection, KIRS, needs to be redressed and transparent. The government’s spending should also be transparent to the public to know where and how their taxes are spent.
If I were to advise the government and the budgetary committee, I would suggest they determine budget priorities so that resources can be directed to issues of higher priorities and the proposed plans to be in line with the projected range of resources for each government agency. That will also compel the government to make hard choices between using available resources to start new projects or completing the existing ones. For instance, this year’s priority is education; new teachers recruited, buildings renovated, wages increased, teaching and learning facilities provided and so on. Then, next year will be the health sector, followed by commerce, water, electricity, agriculture, and sports…in the subsequent years. This will go a long way in tackling our problems.
Finally, I believe that hopeless as she may seem, Kano is not beyond redemption. We just need the will to do that. This is my dream, and I believe it is everyone else’s!
Suhaibu Safiyanu Bagwai is among the winners of the 2022 “The Kano of my dream” writing competition jointly organised by Muhsin Ibrahim, PhD, and The Daily Reality online newspaper. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.