To those who support Barrister Ibrahim Shehu Shema, the immediate-past governor of Katsina State, the legacies he has bequeathed to ‘Katsinawa’ in the eight years he was at the helm have remained the enduring, since the state was carved out of Kaduna State in 1987. To buttress how broad these legacies could be, they point to the fact that whether anyone supports Shema or not, he or she must benefit from or utilise a Shema project in everyday life in Katsina. Most of the roads were either completed or built from scratch by him, thereby leaving no opponent or supporter an alternative but to drive on said roads. They also cite enduring legacies in education, agriculture, and other fields of human endeavour.
However, Shema’s opponents, most of whom are drawn from the current administration in the state, point to the cost of these projects, which according to them, were inflated. They do not believe Shema deserves the praises that came, and are still coming his way. They believe that their own, Rt. Jon. Aminu Bello Masari, is going to do much better and become the best governor Katsina has ever produced. And for them, Shema should not be allowed any peace in his retirement; he should be made to account for funds allocated to the state during his tenure, etc.
Since most of these viewpoints are political, it is pertinent to look at them from a dispassionate perspective so that inherent lessons can be learnt, to the benefit of the state and its good people. To many Nigerians in Katsina and beyond, Shema remains a sterling governor. Those who hold on to this point of view believe for us to get it right as a nation, we should, as a people, learn to be fair to the few leaders in our society that have excelled in their call of duty.
Was Shema selfless, and was the cost of the projects he executed jerked up to shortchange the good people of Katsina? These questions are difficult to answer. But one of the best examples to use in answering these questions is the Katsina Government House project he executed in the course of his tenure of office. Whereas Shema spent a little over four billion naira to build a befitting structure standing to the pride of the state, and which incumbent Governor Masari is enjoying, a state in North-Central Nigeria has spent more than three times that amount to erect one that is not even close to that of Katsina in terms of size, equipment and quality.
Even more importantly, Shema built that government house without touching one dime of Katsina’s statutory allocation. In Nigeria, this is an unprecedented feat. No governor before Shema was able to achieve this feat. Indeed, many such funds invested ended up disappearing into deep pockets of those governing. The above example buttresses, in a big way, the fact that he served as selflessly as possible, and that the cost of projects he executed were some of the lowest, given the example of a smaller structure executed in another northern state. Should the present administration in Katsina continue what in some quarters is described as a witch-hunt? Definitely it is within its right to do so, but only because of political expediency.
In saner climes, since government is a continuum and there is always a lot of work to be done, the expectation is that upon coming to power, the incumbent administration will roll out the drums and hit the ground running, as Shema did when he assumed office. Already, about one-tenth of the four year period is gone, and there is the danger in Katsina that if the current slow standard is maintained, not even half of Shema’s legacies could be met, and the pull-him-down project in place would at the end of the day not work, because the people are not fools.
The people cannot, for example, forget Shema’s achievements in education, particularly in taking girls off the streets of Katsina and making them better future mothers and leaders by getting them educated. They recall the incentives given to mothers, which made school enrolment a top target for those homes that considered western education prohibitive. Throughout the state, parents did not have to bother about payment of WAEC and NECO fees for their children, and many did not also have to enrol their children in private schools.
The people of Katsina also recall, with nostalgia, strides in agriculture and poverty-reduction. The Zobe Dam he spared no effort to transfer ownership from the federal to the state government ensured a major boost in irrigation. The Songhai agricultural initiative, introduced in three senatorial zones, and based in Daura, Katsina and Funtua had gone a long way in ensuring farming is made more attractive to youths. Through this initiative, thousands of youths were lifted off the streets and made useful to the society, accounting for why under Shema, Katsina was one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria. At a time most states were owing billions of naira in salary arrears, Shema ensured Katsina civil servants were paid without fail.
As stated earlier, no one is stopping Masari from investigating Shema, but it is a whirlwind which will bear neither him nor anyone any good. Of course palace courtiers, many of who regard Shema as an enemy, will not allow the governor see or accept this. But governance cannot be done by instituting too many committees, especially in our clime where most committees serve only the purpose of the person setting them up. The hundreds of millions appropriated to the numerous committees by the Masari administration can be spent in productive sectors of the state economy. And doing less with them will speed up governance by reducing red tape. At the end of the day, what should matter are the good people of Katsina, and not the political party one belongs to. And no time should be spared in building on achievements and creating more, so that at the end, the people would look back and remember Masari, just like Shema.
Uba wrote from Wuse Zone 7, Abuja.
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