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Stats: 1061038 members, 1231066 topics. Date: Monday, 20 May 2013 at 07:01 AM
|North Not Afraid Of Nigeria’s Break Up - Senator Gaya by manchy7531: 12:43pm On May 06, 2012|
Former governor of Kano State on the ticket of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and two-time senator representing Kano South on the ticket of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Kabiru Gaya, in this interview with AYODELE ADESANMI, speaks on burning national issues, including the stand of the North over possible break up of Nigeria, the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidency, among others. Excerpts:
MANY states of the federation are going through financial difficulties as they have been going to the capital market before they could embark on development al projects. What do you think are responsible for this financial crisis?
If you look at it, only four states can survive without the monthly allocation from the federation account; they are Lagos, Kano, Rivers and Delta. To me, what really caused the financial problem is lack of focus and vision by the previous administration in the country.
There was vision during the administration of our late leaders. In this country, leaders like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello among others, had their plans and vision of where Nigeria would be 50 years from when they were in power. Moreover, all of them focused on agriculture because of the virile land and the favourable weather in the country. But shortly after they left, oil was discovered and all of us became lazy. The discovery of oil is a curse, rather than a blessing. In those years, agriculture was the main focus and it worked well and we were exporting palm oil to countries like Malaysia. But Malaysia came here under our nose and picked the fruit and today, the reverse is the case. Then, we equally produced groundnut in abundance, so much so that we exported to some Western countries which from it produced groundnut cake, biscuits and oil.
But today, we import groundnut oil. Sincerely, the only way you can give people employment is through agriculture as you cannot give everybody job in the offices. A good example is when the late Audu Bako was governor of Kano State; he followed the footsteps of our former leaders and concentrated on agriculture. As one of his strategies then, he built dams for irrigation to supply water to farmlands of many acres of land. The benefitting farmers throughout the years were busy; they could feed their families; they made money. During the period, many river basins were established to assist farmers throughout the country.
Unfortunately, during the military coup of 1985, all the existing river basins were taken over by the military government. That take over took us backward. Later, the government went to sleep with the coming of oil. Instead of investing heavily in agriculture and securing our future, the money realised was used to build Abuja as the headquarters as well as many bridges that lead to nowhere.
Another mistake was the establishment of the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill. It was even a white elephant project because the wrong template was used. We started with the production of iron rods because we were going to build Abuja city, whereas we should have started with flat sheet and follow it by block for car engines. We made bullet bar which could be cut into pieces for iron rod, but should that be our priority? If we had started with flat sheet, we would have been able to produce so many things; but we went on making rods. So, you can see how we were misplacing our priorities.
Also, in the automobiles industry when we wanted to set up assembly, instead of starting with one type, we brought varieties; Peugeot, Steyr, Volkswagen and all of them. We just assembled the parts as all of them came with engines and other parts; the country did not learn anything from that. If we had redesigned the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill to a certain requirement for our factory it, would have helped us a lot.
There is also the case of the Defence Industry Corporation (DIC) Kaduna. In the beginning, the Brazilians came to Nigeria to learn more about the technology there, but today, from what they learnt here, they are now producing aircraft. Today, DIC can only produce furniture. We totally misplaced our priorities because we had oil and we forgot everything else.
The essential thing for us to have done was to have re-invest oil proceeds in areas like agriculture in particular. The financial crisis is the problem of some leaders of the country who misplaced our priorities and the effect is what we are reaping today; we used the whole money generated from oil to build structures that are not profitable and cannot stand the test of time.
How was it during your time as the chief executive of Kano State?
I was elected as the governor in 1992, but during that period, the monthly allocation from the federation account was between N50 to N70 million which is not at present up to one local government’s monthly allocation and I had 36 local government areas. But I was able to embark on projects that were beneficial to the people. I started earning foreign income at that time from exportation of meat to Saudi Arabia as I revived the moribund abattoir. Also, we developed sport; we sold some players to Saudi Arabian clubs and we made good money from this.
In agriculture, I told the then President Ibrahim Babangida that if Kano State was given a conducive atmosphere, it would produce all the wheat required for the country, but politics crept in and that was the end.
Nowadays, over 70 per cent of money available goes to re-current expenditure. The issue is that the government must have plans for the people.
What is your own opinion on this issue of Sovereign National Conference (SNC)?
What are they going to talk about? Personally, I don’t even know what they mean. Somebody said recently that we should go back to regional government, but to me, we have since passed that stage. In those days of regional government, what was the total sum of revenue generated compared with the present? If you would agree with me, the revenue generated in Northern Nigeria was used in funding projects in Southern Nigeria. That is why I laughed when some people said that we were using oil money to develop projects in the North. People forgot that all the development we have like the port in Apapa, the ports in Port-Harcourt and Warri were from the revenue generated in those days from the cacao, cotton, groundnut, palm oil, among others. I remember vividly that the Federal Government then borrowed money from Northern Nigeria which it never paid back. Why are Nigerians so forgetful? Now, you have oil and you are saying ‘let us talk.’ What do you want to talk about? At present, some sections of this country are rich. Let them share their own money within themselves, but people tend to forget that if I invested N1 million in those days in a company and that company is a billion naira company and if that my N1 million share is just 10 per cent of the company, that means that I have 10 per cent of N1 billion. Then, why are people saying that some states are just taking money from oil money without contributing? This oil money is our money. What happens to the oil we produce off shore? I think all this problem is the issue of greed. As of now, we have 360 House of Representatives members. After that, we have 109 senators who are also representing Nigerians. Then, who do you want to bring to discuss Nigerians’ problems, if not these people? At the state level, we have state Houses of Assembly members and at the local government level, we have councilors. These are the people you can communicate to and give your views and allow to discuss them and take resolutions. One other thing is that those people who said they wanted to talk; are they going to be elected or nominated by the governments? Let me tell you, if the North wants to break up, fine and if the South wants to break up, then, it is fine, but what of the investments in the North and the investments in the South? What do you do with all those investments, especially those of the ports authority? Would they go to the North or the South as we used the joint money to build them? Those are the major revenue generation sources from the South and when you go to the South-South, they are producing oil, but how did they drill and set up refinery to refine the oil? Was it not the initial money collected from cacao, groundnut and cotton that was used then? So, what do you want us to break for?
The North is not afraid of break up at all as we have so many potentials that we can survive on. If a country like Niger can survive and discover oil when the land is not even good at all for agriculture, the North equally has potentials of producing oil, but oil is not the solution as many countries without oil are surviving extremely well.
However, for those who believe Nigeria must be united for peace and tranquility, they are the ones who believe that the more the merrier, because if we have a population of 150 million people, then, we are the heart of Africa. I personally believe the issue of disunity would not help us. People forget that this country must remain united and they must all realise that we fought a civil war to get this country united. And I don’t think we want to fight another civil war. Those who witnessed the civil war would not pray for a repeat. To me, why do we need to fight over resources we can tap and enjoy together? I think the problem we have in this country is how to manage our resources, but every Nigerian wants to be corrupt and be too rich. In this country, if all of us are sincere and honest with ourselves, we would achieve greater heights.
Some parts of the country believe that what they are getting from the federation account is not commensurate with the output, while others are getting without making any contributions. How do you see this?
People only fight when they want to share money; even thieves, when they want to share their loots. Some parts of the country are thinking that they need to take all the resources from what they produce, but the North equally produced groundnut and cotton and we did not take all the resources then. What we are saying now is that if you say you want to manage your resources at this time and with the present situation in the country, it means that what you are stealing at present is small and you want to have more so that you can steal more. The population of North-West is about 33 per cent of Nigeria’s population and one state in the South-South is receiving an of equivalent allocation to the seven states of the North-West, then, are you saying that is equity and balancing? It is not. If you say you are ready to talk, we are equally ready as there is a lot to talk about. There is a lot of deprivation by people from other parts of the country. But I don’t want to talk like a Northerner but like a Nigerian because I am a Nigerian and I value all Nigerian people and I respect them. I also believe that we are all brothers and sisters and if we believe in the biblical injunction that love your neighbours as yourself, why then are we saying that your neighbour is taking too much and you want to reduce it? In Nigeria, we should try and realise that we must survive together.
Some believe that some parts of the country have more states than others in the 36-state structure of the country and that there is need to balance it. That is the reason for agitation for creation of more states. How do you see this?
The North-East has five states, North-West, seven, while others have six each. But look at the map, take the land area and the population of the North and compare them to the land area and the population of the South. The creation of states is not based on the North and South dichotomy, but we should look at the viability of the states. Let me tell you, no state from all the zones is viable and they are still yearning for more. The issue of creation of states is to bring development and government closer to the people, but it should not be based on balancing. Creation of state is good, but what we are saying is that such a state must be viable and be able to stand on its own.
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