This Thursday, Kano State launched its version of the Federal Government’s “Change Begins With Me” societal reorientation campaign. This Columnist should be interested because, for almost seven years from 2004 to 2011, he was Director General of the original Kano State Societal Reorientation Programme (known as A Daidaita Sahu) of the Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau Administration. Therefore, any attempt to refocus our sometimes ignorant and careless society (not only Kano but the larger North and Nigeria) should elicit his interest, and support.
Interestingly, the Thursday event was addressed by the quintessential “Mr. Concerned Citizen” – Alhaji Bashir Othman Tofa – who has proven time and again that he wants a better Kano, a better North and a better Nigeria. This politician (June 12, 1993), author (several books to his credit), Islamic Propagator, businessman and philanthropist, is involved in many good causes – Friends of Democracy (NGO), Concerned Kano Citizens, Kano LEADS (CBOs), etc. His abridged speech follows:
It is an honour to deliver this short address at this very important occasion of the launching of the FG’s hopefully-genuine initiative; to refocus and reset the minds of Nigerians towards what is good for the individual, for the community, and for the nation at large. But, of course, this is not the first effort.
General Buhari, in 1984, introduced the War Against Indiscipline (WAI). General Babangida never bothered, probably because he had something to do with WAI, the original soft concept which I wrote. The late General Sani Abacha also toyed with what he titled, Not In Our Character, and even established a high-rise building for it in the CBD, Abuja. Even President Obasanjo tried his bit – he established the EFCC and other corruption-fighting organisations during his time. Every President wants to fight corruption. That has become the vogue in Nigeria, even today!
Now we have come full cycle. The old WAI, as was re-written by others, sought to inject discipline by force. That worked for some time but, because fear and coercion were its driving forces, it subsequently failed and inflicted much damage to the image of that Government. With that experience in mind, I think, President Buhari (who truly believes in discipline) now requires his democratic FG to re-introduce another version of WAI, with a human face, and with this new name, “CHANGE BEGINS WITH ME”.
This, to my mind, is a direct personal proclamation; a voluntary resolution, if you will, that the Federal Government requires each Nigerian to make effort, in good faith and with determination, to change himself and herself for the better. Many State Governments have also introduced their own fit-for-purpose schemes, supported by jingles, dramas and so on, all in an attempt to put their people in the line of self-regulation and self-discipline, at enormous expense to the treasury.
But here we are again. Why, if we may ask, is it that despite all these efforts and expenses, Nigeria and most of her citizens are going from bad to worse? I hope this question was asked and answers found when designing this new campaign. I also hope that the Minister who is leading this new campaign will enlighten us.
The simple answer, if I may offer it, is the hypocrisy and the failure of leadership in this country. Leaders want the bottom to change, while the top remains rotten. The fight against corruption and other bad behaviour must be at all levels; equally and justly. It cannot work any other way. And, punishment without counselling cannot be the deterrence that is needed. A serious, workable and lasting plan is absolutely necessary.
No one can dispute the fact that Nigeria has made some progress over the years. That is, if progress is a measure of a new Capital City, beautiful new buildings and population explosion.
But if progress and success were to be measured by how much we have become a better people, generally more honest, more patriotic, more united; and the majority of us much wealthier as individuals because we have eradicated more poverty, provided better and functional education, grossly reduced unemployment and created a much bigger middle class among our people and so on; then, I am afraid, we have only managed to take two steps backwards. We have not been successful in the way we needed to be. We must therefore redefine the parameters of success in this country.
We must stop kidding and deceiving ourselves. Truth is, Nigeria of today has become more corrupt, more violent and more irresponsible. I need not list all the atrocities we inflict upon ourselves on a daily basis. You all know them. Leaders lead in violent acts against their religious, ethnic and political opposites. Our youths have no future, mostly because corrupt politicians, corrupt officials and corrupt clergy have dimmed the light on their paths. The outcome is that they have resorted to drugs abuse, kidnappings, daba, insurgency and rebellions of all sorts.
This new campaign the FG plans to embark upon, probably at great expense, will only be successful if we are sincere, and if the “change” will be in people’s pockets, rather than in those of a few politicians and officials.
In my opinion, “Change Begins with Me”, or, in Hausa, “Mu Gyara Kanmu da Kanmu”, will work better if we pay much more serious attention in getting our people out of poverty; if we educate, train and empower our youths for self and productive employment; if we rebuild our institutions; if we adhere strictly to the Rule of Law; if we commit to sincere, realistic and just fight against corruption by showing example; and if we educate the public to elect better representatives at all levels.
“Change Begins with Me” will also only succeed if we organise and empower our communities, ward by ward, to effectively secure themselves; to deal with drug dealers sneaking and dealing in drugs in their communities; to help with the education of their youths and bettering their health and environment, and so on. I have written a small booklet since 2011 on this as a guide, and we use it in some wards here in Kano and it is yielding good results. It is in Hausa, but can be easily translated into some Nigerian languages and English.
We must also involve the traditional institutions directly in all these efforts. The Kano Emirate, for example, under the effective guidance of His Highness the Emir, can connect to every nook and corner of the Emirate through the Ward Heads, the Village Heads and the District Heads and could extract information and act very quickly to deal with all these societal ills more effectively and at a much lesser cost to Government. All Emirs, Chiefs, Obas, Obis, Obongs and Ezes can do all that effectively, if given the chance and the resources.
My last advice is “Please let us be honest and serious in whatever we do. Our leaders should change themselves first and those around them, and give an all-rounded example of honest, purposeful and caring leadership. Otherwise, this effort will also fizzle away as all the others did earlier. I truly wish us every success and Allah’s guidance and protection in this much needed endeavour.”
TRUST @20: This week, alhamdu lilLah, this newspaper is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. Significantly, when I say “this newspaper” I mean THIS – Daily Trust Saturday (known for years as Weekly Trust). It was the first in the stables of Media Trust, as the others came after. We thank Allah for enabling Mallam Kabiru Yusuf and his colleagues sustain this tremendous effort. In my own little contribution, alhamdu lilLah, this Column itself is in its 12th year – more than 600 WEEKS of unbroken appearance. May Allah see Trust to the 50th and 100th and beyond Anniversaries.