( this is the full text of Governor Aminu Bello Masari’s interview during the democracy day celebration)
There’s much clamour for restructuring in the country. What’s our take in the issue?
Restructuring, devolution or whatever you call it, I am for it 100 percent, because Katsina state is not poor and no state is poor. But you know this has to go with many, many things. For example, we have to devolve Agriculture. What is the federal government doing with agriculture when they have no land? How many parastatals and agencies are there under the Ministry of Agriculture? What are they all doing? If you devolve these monies to states and local governments, agriculture would be doing better. In the First Republic, all we had was Institute of Agricultural Research in Ibadan, not federal ministry of agriculture. Thus ministry was created for fertilizer. I think we have passed that stage now. I for one support this issue of devolution, and if you devolve, certainly, states and local governments would have more financial independence. And if you are devolving, it means most of the institutions yet seem to be unifying everybody would be affected. I have said it severally. I shouldn’t earn as much as the governor of Lagos state, or the governor of Kano state because his revenue base is stronger and bigger than mine. All these unifications, I think, are things that have to go with devolution and restructuring. And it affects everybody- civil servants, political office holders, and so on. We should earn according to the size and capacity of the economy of our states. During the First Republic, the Emir of Kano was highest paid emir because of the revenue base. He shares same border with the emir of Kazaure, but that did not diminish the authority of the emir of Kazaure, neither did it diminish the authority of the emir of Katsina. It’s not about salary. People are talking of devolution- bringing more money; it goes beyond that. What we have today as Katsina state was Katsina Province, made of Katsina and Daura Emirates. They were running their own civil service, then police, prisons and judiciary was under the native authority, and they were doing well. They built schools from primary to secondary, and were running them. If it was done then, who said it cannot be done today? I am one of those that believe that with the right leadership and proper arrangement, I think it is doable. Look, it is time we look at this constitution. I give you an example; there are many agencies and parastatals in one ministry. How can one minister provide effective oversight? There are certain jobs that evening you bring and Angel, unless you change the way it is being done, his performance would not meet expectations of people. I do believe that we should look at this constitution, devolve to states and look at those institutions that seem to to give us all the same names while we are different. I support this idea of restructuring of Nigeria. I support it by way if devolution in such a way that there are certain key institutions that the federal government must maintain for the union of the country. And we must devolve in such a way that you don’t have to weaken the federal government, in terms of performing its constitutional responsibilities.
What’s your intention in 2023? Are you going back to the farm or you will be going to Abuja?
I think I have made my point. I was in the House of Representatives. I was Speaker for four years. So, I have no intention of going back to National Assembly by contesting the Senate seat or any other seat. I was deputy national chairman of All Progressive Congress (APC) when it was formed. So, I am not interested in party office. Katsina has produced president for eight years. Before President Muhammadu Buhari, we have had Umaru (Musa Yar’adua). I think Katsina is lucky to be a state that produced Heads of State three times because even if you are not counting every term as a tenure, Buhari was military head of state, Umaru was civilian president. Buhari is now president for the second term. So, I don’t think we are being fair if anybody is saying they are looking for something again. I should contest with my farm. Really, I have no intention of contesting any election.
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari said states and counil areas were supposed to complement federal government in tackling insecurity; that the collapse of this support was what led attention being for focused at him, with some people calling for his resignation. Do you share this opinion with the president?
Looking at the constitution, security is under Exclusive list, so it is the responsibility of the federal government. Yes, states are complementing on a daily basis. If there are states that are not complementing, maybe those are the states the the federal government is referring to. But certainly, looking at the constitution, the blame will go to the federal government because it is there in the constitution. But this does not take away our own responsibility because the purpose of government is to protect lives, properties, welfare, wellbeing of the people. So, no governor or chairman of a local government can say it is not his responsibility. It is our responsibility. It is the oath of office that we have taken. The devolution we are supporting is simply to recognize this, and assign more resources to states to be able to do what the constitution and the oath of office has said. State police is part if it. I am for it because in every local government, we have vigilantes that government in one way or the other, is paying. We have the Nigeria Police and civil defense that we are supporting. So, I think what we need to do is to add a little. There was a time the Nigeria Police and native authority were coexisting side by side. So, nothing should stop the state police from existing with the Nigeria Police. What it means is normalizing the vigilantes, normalizing community policing, and area of responsibilities. There are areas for the state police and areas for the federal police, and there may be convergence.
You have two more years before expiration of your tenure. Are you satisfied with how far you’ve taken the state?
I always allow people to judge, and I judge myself internally. I have gone round the state. I have made promises. How far have I been able have gone to meet the promises I have made? That is what would give me sound sleep even when I leave office. And you know, this has been one of the toughest times in this country. When we were battling with insecurity- banditry, came COVID-19 that not only affected Nigeria but the whole world. It is now that we are recovering from the nagative effects of COVID-19 and trying to met some of the obligations or promises we have made to the people. So, I think internally, we feel satisfied, but people should understand what we found ourselves in. The issue of security is everybody’s responsibility. We all have a role to play. It’s not about the president, governor, senator or house of representatives member or other public office holder. Everyone of us has a role to play because these bandits and their informants have addresses. They live within the community. There are those who know them. Why should you allow your neighbour to go buy a gun and you you wait until he uses it to want to kill you, abduct you, rape your mother, daughter or wife? What should we do that and expect only a policeman to come to your rescue? How many policemen it military men do we have? The issue of security is ours. It’s a collective responsibility and it has no coloration in terms of party affiliation or religion, or whatever; no. They don’t ask for membership card. So, it must have a bipartisan approach. Everybody should be involved. Naturally, you are already involved. When your neighbour is crying, he’s sent a message to you. By his crying, he’s invited you. But people who sit down and say, We’ve not been talked to should know that they’ve already been talked to. You listen to radio, read the papers and sometimes it happens to your neighbour and you say you’re not being told, you’re not being invited. The moment you’ve heard that this is what is going on in your country or community, you’ve been invited. You have a responsibility to that community, to that society. And God will ask you, What did you do? Did you fold your arms? Is it a way a responsible human being should behave? Look at those that have been kidnapped, raped, killed and properties vandalized. Whatever it is, animals or means of livelihood, this idea of staying in one place and blaming everybody while you have not started by blaming yourself of what you’ve failed to do as a responsible citizen, should not be. Nigeria is a while body. We have to change this our attitude. If something happens in Akwa Ibom, somebody maybe in Sokoto, says, ‘No, it is happening in Akwa Ibom’. No; if there is anything you can do to help stop it, do it. Because if you allow it, it will spread to catch you. If your toe is sick and you don’t take care of it, gradually, it will make the hand not to work. That is why is happening in Nigeria. When some problems started, we ignored them since it was not happening here. Until it reaches you, then you realize that, ‘Ah, I should have paid attention’. The late emir of Kano, Muhammadu Dikko told me that when the beard of your neighbour catches fire, somebody said water should be poured on the beared. But he said that no; go and help him out off the fire because by the time the water has dried up, it will come to yours. I think this is a very serious advise for all of us in Nigeria. That has been our attitude. It has been happening there and not here, so it’s not my business. But that business will come to catch up with you.
Which sector would your administration give priority to for the remaining two years in office?
For the next two years, our priority will be on education. If you see the level of decay in the education sector, those of you who were with us in 2015 when we went round have seen it. The level of decay is so much. Some of the schools that wee built 20 to 30 years ago, do not have a single block added even when the communities were growing. That has accounted for most of the children you see roaming about. What we’ve been trying to do is to restore even a classroom to when you go in, you would know it’s a classroom. But there are still areas we have no been able to touch. And from 2025 up to last year, we have accessed and contributed through UBEC. So, I want you to imagine the billions that we have spent on primary education. And if we can spend double what we have spent, we still may not be able to provide classrooms and furnitures and teaching aids to all the primary school pupils. When we came, even in the register, what we saw was was 1.2. million pupils. But when we counted physically, what we were able to get was llttle over 700, 000. So, we thought maybe because of lack of teachers, and classes that had fallen down and nobody cared, children were no longer attending. Today, when you go to our register, those who are going to school at the primary level- we have over 1.8 million, from Primary One to Six in Katsina state. You can see the addition, and these are students that are in class, not book register. I don’t believe that we should use book register. I work in physical records of pupils attending primary education. The number of out if school children, a substantial number, is from Katsina. It means we have to double what we have today before we can accommodate all children of Katsina state into primary schools, which we must, because part of the insecurity we talking about is due to lack of education. Without education, how can you have skills? It does not mean that all of us must have a university or polytechnic education, but when we have basic education, it gives us opportunity to learn skills that can support out lives. That’s how life is. It all goes down again to issue of devolution.
What is the state government doing in synergy with security agencies for farmers affected by insecurity, to return to their farmlands?
When you were coming, you met with the district head of Batsari, and these were the issues wee were trying to tackle- how farmers can go back tinthe land. And you saw also Dr (Bashir) Kurfi, he has an NGO, that we are working together to make sure that the environment is cleared so that farmers go back to the land. And I believe the security agencies, all of us together with traditional institutions are working. We now have statistics of those who cannot access their lands, and we are working to see how we can reduce the problem to ensure that majority of them, especially the peasant farmers, are back on their lands. We also have same problem with large scale farmers. If you go to areas like Faskari, Sabuwa, Dandume, some parts of Kankara where we have large scale farmers that have been forced out. We are talking about thousands of hectares of land. So, if we can regain these farms, many farmers will go back to the land, and they have to. We must do what it takes to make sure that people ple go back to farms, because without food, the situation will be more than what it is today.
What are your views about independence of both the judiciary and the state Houses of Assembly?
Personally I have no problem with the independence of the judiciary, they are welcome. In Katsina we don’t have any problem, we will share what we have so there is no problem and I don’t think the Katsina judiciary have the kind of complain other places have. It’s a welcomed development and I think priority should be given to the parliament and there is no problem with whatever decision is taken.
The Governor of Zamfara state recently said people should defend themselves against attacks by gunmen. Do you also share this same view?
If your neighbour comes and wants to slap you, would you not block him from doing so? Will you allow him to continue slapping you? It is not possible we are in our country, home, or community, and where we would he buried when we due; for some rascal to come and evict us and we allow him to do so. And this person is just like you, not of a different tribe or race. Our problem in the northwest is easy to solve. It’s what the White Man refers to as Dog Eat Dog. We are all Hausa-speaking and Muslims. Nobody will say you killed person from another tribe or religion. If someone will come and slap you and you let go without doing anything, then there’s problem. I think that’s what the Zamfara state governor was referring to.
We are yet to hear anything about Local Government elections. You initially said it was the court case that stalled the polls, but the court has already decided on the matter?
The Supreme Court was on break when the judgement (on the removed PDP council executives) was delivered. But we hope to collect details of the judgement since there’s monies wee were told to pay. We’ve finished our wine work as far as the council polls is concerned, and I assure you that preparations for the polls have reached 70 percent completion stage. We’ve bought vehicles for them (state electoral body), and procured the necessary materials. What is remaining now is for us to fix the date for the polls, as it is when date is fixed that we would print ballot papers. That’s what is remaining. But when we get copy of the judgement, we’ll sit down and look at what to pay. We’ve actually paid some of them already. We have details of what we’ve paid each person, from chairman to councillor, including what is remaining to be paid. We are ready for the polls, God willing.
Since the fire incident at the Central Market, some shop owners have been lamenting about being idle and having no shops to begin selling their goods. What’s the state government doing about rebuilding and resettling the victims?
We’ve set up am implementation committee, and one of the things we agreed upon us that people can go ahead and rebuild their shops, but should be according to governnent standard. In the past, shops were built on waterways. There is a fire hydrant that was located in someone’s shop, and waterways going right through some of the shops. But what is guaranteed is that every shop owner that lost his shop would be given another one, but it may not be the one he wants. People should understand that what happened is God- ordained, and every true Muslim ought to believe in this. Government has intervened and has set up monies to assist the victims. But we’ll not allow some people out to cause trouble to to dabble into the issue. We’ll not allow that. Government will do what it is supposed to do, and we are not doing this for the now, we also doing it for tomorrow.
Some parts of the country have been calling for session or breaking up of the country. What are your thoughts on the issue?
Those calling for separation of the country area senseless. If they were in their right senses, they should know that their people migrate the most in the country. If they were to gather together in their region, would the area he able to contain all of them? There is no village or community where you won’t see them. It’s a senseless call. It’s not the voice of their leaders nor that of their sensible ones. These calling for sesession are mostly the trouble makers. They have their trouble makers there, and we have ours here in the North, who are in the forest. I doubt if there’s any leader who knows what he is doing, who has come foward to call for sesession or division of the country. It it were to happen, where would they go? We’ve been together for the past 100 years. I don’t know if anyone that was around during the amalgamation in 1914 is still alive, and even if there is, the person would not be in his right mind due to age. It’s a normal thing for such agitations to exist in a country that is developing. But we pray that God will give our leaders the wisdom to address such problems. But sometimes, when you address one problem today, another one comes up tomorrow. These are challenges of life.
You recently visited Zamfara state. Does it signify more collaboration between Katsina and Zamfara in the area of tackling insecurity in the region?
Katsina and Zanfara are one. We have same tribe, religion and way of life. Whatever affects Katsina affects Zamfara, and vice versa. If the government of Zamfara is doing something and our going there would make what they doing feasible, we’ll go. It doesn’t matter who is in power. I want you to also know that the governor of Zamfara state and I have been together at the National Assembly. He was chairman of one or committees of which I was member of. We’ve had good relations with him for long. So, it’s not new if he has invited me for an event. That’s why I when I came back, I’ve not spoken a word about our political differences. Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Niger and other states affected by insecurity need to join hands together and fight this problem. I didn’t go to Zamfara for political reasons. National brotherliness was what took me there.