The political feud between Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano state, and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, both of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC) is not about ending anytime soon. Ganduje in this interview in Abuja, admitted that though there is no permanent friend or foe in politics, he doubts if APC national leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who has been saddled with the responsibility of reconciling aggrieved party leaders by President Buhari, will be able reconcile him and Kwankwaso because, according to him, the former Kano governor has frustrated over 17 of similar attempts in the past.
Ganduje who served as Kwankwaso’s deputy for eight years said his former boss set up traps for him to fail including leaving behind a liability of over N300 billion, declaring free education at all levels and foreign scholarships for students that is today costing his government N4 billion, establishing Technical College of Education five days before handing over without approval from the federal government, or the state House of Assembly, with no infrastructure, no plans for teachers, and equipment, among others. JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE reports the details.
You are one of the leaders who called for the removal of indigene issue in the constitution. Why do you think such move is necessary?
Well, in this country we are having a lot of problems; religious, tribal, herdsmen and farmers’ clash, etc. All these have to do with relationships and, of course, the current economic realities. But, the constitution we borrowed from the United States of America should be applied fully even though we are in a different zone and culture. In order to get very serious national integration, the parameters of national indigeneship should not be based on tribe, religion or place of birth, it should be based on where you are staying and what you do. Are you paying your taxes? Are you contributing to the overall development of where you are since you are benefiting from the services there? You are benefiting from the security that is being provided, are you contributing your own quota to the development of that environment? If you are already paying your taxes, I think you are already an indigene of that place, not just because you are the son of the soil, but because you are contributing to the economic development of the state, employing people and doing great and positive things.
In Kano, we are doing our part to ensure that that dichotomy is removed. Because in some states where we have some problems, it is basically because of this indigeneship issue. So, our belief is that to have national integration we should remove indigeneship issue. So, I think it is a constitutional issue, which the national and state assemblies should deal with.
In other words, you are saying that all the people in Kano state are indigenes?
Yes. In Kano, I tell all the ethnic groups that they are indigenes of Kano state only claiming to come from somewhere else.
The Vice President said in Kogi state recently that N1.9 trillion was given to states as support. How much did Kano get? How much did you spend on workers’ welfare?
Of course, we have benefited from all the bailouts from the federal government because the situation we found ourselves when the oil money dropped below $30 a barrel was such that many states couldn’t even pay salaries. We got the bailout and now we are paying salaries on time. We are not owing any salary arrears. The problem we were having initially was an internal one, which has been solved. Some people were being overpaid while others were underpaid maybe due to the fact that something went wrong in the system, but we have already put that in order.
The projects of the previous government you have completed and the ones you have initiated, where did the funds come from? Is it from your internally generated revenue?
When we came, we had to reform the old system. I had to request all the staff of the State Board of Internal Revenue to go back to the Office of the Head of Civil Service. We employed a consultant, advertised, and then we took the best brains, some of them not even from the state. When we took over, we were getting less than N1 billion a month, but because of our reforms and interventions, we now get over N4 billion every month. It is not up to what we are expecting because up till now those that are supposed to be paying tax are yet to be fully captured in our revenue net.
You know some people don’t want to pay tax, so we are deploying a lot of advocacy to capture them on our revenue net. The reason people don’t want to pay taxes is that they assume their money is being embezzled.
Yes, the increase in our IGR made it possible for us to embark on a lot of capital projects. We virtually use what we are getting from Abuja to pay salaries. So, all our capital projects in Kano state are being funded from the revenue generated from taxes and that is why we label each project thus: ‘This project is being funded with taxpayers money.’ This of course is encouraging people to pay taxes.
You said recently that the political history of Kwankwaso cannot be written without you being mentioned and yours too cannot be written without mentioning him. So how come you have refused to bow to him to get the maximum political stability and peace in the state?
Yes, we were very, very close. Even before 1999, we have been friends. I was Commissioner for Works and Transport for six years during the military, and my former governor is a politician right from the military when political parties were formed. I started politics right from 1978, and in 1979 during the NPN period, I even contested election and was even part of the executive members of the party in the state. So, politics is not something I am just starting now.
So, we contested together for governorship in 1999 and the result was controversial. Prince Tony Momoh was in Kano to supervise the primaries, the result was controversial; the elders reconciled us that he should be governor and I should be the deputy governor. I insisted that there should be re-election, but elders pleaded and I agreed to be the deputy governor. Tony Momoh is still alive, you can ask him.
And since I became the deputy governor I had to do it well. I had to be loyal, respectful and honest. So, I worked hard to add value to the government by supporting the governor not only by being loyal to him but working very hard to fill the gaps, promote the government and work round the clock to ensure when he is not around there is no difference. That is how we worked together. Even when he was a minister, I was with him. I was on my own when he invited me to come and be his adviser when he was Minister of Defence. I agreed because after all, we have been together, and he felt we could work together.
When we won the elections in 2011, he graciously invited me, it was not as a result of any contest between us, but out of his own volition. I have to thank him for that because he could have invited someone else.
So, we worked together peacefully. When I was nominated and after I won the elections in 2015, before handing over, I started seeing some elements of undercuts from his body language.
He didn’t attend my swearing-in, he just handed over and left for Abuja because he claimed he had something to do. I said okay and went for the swearing-in. A night before he left, I went to him and I said during my campaign, I said that my administration will be a government of continuity. I told him that I want to retain the Secretary to the State Government. The SSG did not know, I was the one that told him. I told him that I want to retain the Accountant General. The DG Media is his friend, I told him I want to retain him, and I later made him a Permanent Secretary. The Press Secretary, I told him I want to retain him, so he phoned and told him. And then the four administrative staff in the office, I asked him ‘will you like to take some’, he said he was taking only one, the remaining three are still in my office. So, that was a symbol of continuity.
Then it came to the appointment of commissioners and, of course, from his body language I had started seeing some elements of disagreements. So, I didn’t get his opinion on the appointment of the commissioners because I thought that was not even necessary because the commissioners are not as strong in government as SSG and the Accountant General. So, I thought it was something I could do. Even at that, my Commissioner for Agriculture now was also his Commissioner for Agriculture, we are still together; the Commissioner for Local Government is a younger brother to his wife, he was chairman of local government during his time; the Commissioner for Water Resources was an adviser in his government; the Commissioner for Finance was also Commissioner for Finance in his government.
Like I said, I started seeing some elements of undercuts from his body language, and then he started attacking my administration. First, even before handing-over, he said he has paid all the contractors in Kano, but the contractors went to radio stations and said he was telling lies. You could see that he was trying to heat up the system even before handing-over.
Some months before he left, he declared free education at all levels knowing well that it was clearly impossible. When he said free education, the Vice Chancellor of Bayero University said okay, the highest number of students in the university, ‘this is the figure please give us the money because since you declared free education what it means is that they will not pay single kobo.’ He said the VC should divide the figure into four that he will pay and the VC said no, ‘our budget is not based on that.’ Students in other universities were paying, and yet he said it was free education.
And also, few weeks before he left, he was sending students in thousands abroad; some studying chemistry, geography, biology, engineering, medicine. And you know how much it is costing us so far because of the fall of the naira, he paid N4 billion on foreign scholarships. When we calculated, each foreign student will get N68,000 per month. It was a huge expenses considering our challenges occasioned by the drop in the prices of oil at the international market. In fact, some state governments returned their students from foreign universities because they couldn’t cope, but I didn’t return anybody. I’m still paying with tears.
Again, he took pension money and built houses that up till now we are finding it very difficult to dispose off. We put N4.1 billion from the pension fund and the liability we have on the houses is over N3 billion. So, even if we sell the houses, we have to pay contractors. So, what I am trying to say is that even before handing-over, he was setting up some traps so that the government will be a failure. He even went to my senatorial district five days before my taking over and said he was establishing a Technical College of Education in one of the local governments. How can you establish a school like that without approval from the federal government, without any legislation from the State House of Assembly, without any infrastructure, no plans for teachers, no plans for equipment? He did this so that when I come, I will find problem on ground.
After he left, I told the people that it was a story-telling because there is nothing on ground to establish a college of education. What I discovered later is that we have a Federal College of Education (Technical). The Provost told me that Kwankwaso told him he wanted to establish a college of education and he told him not to because we are not even filling our quota in the federal college.