‘Madakin of Katsina
I returned from a visit to Katsina State last week with a feeling that what Nigeria needs is probably a breed of impatient, ambitious state governors who should serve not more than two years in office without a renewable tenure unless they win two-thirds majority of the electorate.
I also came out convinced more than ever before that Nigeria does not need politicians. It needs activists. Not devout Muslims or Christians. Just decent citizens. They need not be angels. It is just enough they wouldn’t lie or cheat brazenly. Such men can transform Nigeria in 10 years. In 20 years, with similar men, the country would be unrecognizable.
Like many other editors, I went to Katsina more out of curiosity than anything else. Having never been there when it was a provincial town, or since 1987 when it was named a state capital by President Ibrahim Babangida, the “father of Katsina State,” as one huge billboard with the President’s portrait screams, Katsina I went. One other reason: African Concord on 22 October 1990 ran a lead story titled “MADAKI, a dossier of uncivil acts by the soldier-governor of Nigeria’s Katsina State.”
Madaki had caned a contractor and imprisoned and sacked his cook; he had blasted Nigeria Telecommunications (then the sole telephone company in Nigeria) by telling its territorial manager that “your set-up is useless.” He had beaten his driver silly for driving him home thereby diverting him from his environmental inspection route. He had screamed obscenities: “why did you bring me home? To f—k your mother?” He had sacked the PRO of the Ministry of Education on the spot for concealing information. He taught ‘jungle warfare at the Command and Staff College, Jaji, and goes about wearing a badge announcing him as a “jungle expert.”
In an interview in that edition Madaki also explained his actions noting that he visited project sites even after office hours “because I have a mission to accomplish in about 22 months. I do not want to be identified with failures resulting from civil service bureaucracy. That is why I am out to ensure that I do not get paper reports or airconditioned room reports. I want to be there myself and see what the correct thing is done.”
That was in October last year (1990).
Last week Madaki rode in a bus with editors to show the results of his efforts. He appeared to me to be simple, informal, impatient, intelligent, driven man. He ran the state like a man possessed.
Privately his aides worry that he often drove out alone at night to see things for himself. It became clear to me what transpired between him and the Shi’ite fanatics and why he had threatened to kill their leader if they caused a riot. A politician would not say that. But Madaki would. After the Jumat Service after his threat the sect poured out of the mosque and burnt the Ministry of Information and began what they do best – destruction. But Madaki was already waiting for them. That way the gruesome massacres of Bauchi and Kano could never have happened in Madaki’s Katsina.
In all my years in journalism I never met a public official as willing to talk about facts and figures especially about money as Madaki. “That contract was awarded to Julius Berger for that amount. We have paid so much. We are still owing so much. We will pay the rest next week.”
“Oh, you can see, this house has two ceilings. I found the first one sub-standard. I ordered that a better one be done. Oh, the doors here are removed. I ordered their removal for more solid doors.” It is difficult to describe what Madaki has made of Katsina because it humbles the imagination of anyone familiar with Nigeria’s political terrain and the scandalous track records of state governments. For nearly eight hours Madaki showed projects upon projects, physical structures, facilities, crucial amenities that would have transformed and would improve the lives of millions of people. I don’t know any state government that built an airport in Nigeria. Madaki’s Katsina has completed one. I do not know any city in Nigeria that is as a wonder to behold at night as Madaki’s Katsina. I do not know any state that could take on the construction of a polytechnic and a college of education all at once, equipping them, staffing them and building staff quarters and providing laboratories and workshops. The main roads in Katsina are the most impressive ones I have seen in recent times at home or abroad.
It was while discussing the College of Education project that his impatience surfaced. The first was at the airport when someone was taking too much time explaining some details. He asked for the microphone and concluded the discussion in three sentences and was once more on the move. The College would have become functional and all facilities installed but for former Head of State Major-General Mohammed Buhari who was sitting on the money for no apparent reason. The general is the chairman of the Katsina Development Fund which has N50 million in its coffers out of which N20 million was earmarked for the College. Unlike most states of Nigeria where you would hardly find the evidence of the hundreds of millions allocated to them, it would seem to me that Madaki seems to know where every penny went and could show something for every dime. There’s the Jibia Dam project of N1.14 billion.
He took us up the Zobe Dam, an enormous body of water that stretches to the horizon but which had been lying idle until he decided to utilize it for irrigation. Two industrial projects – the Funtua Brickworks and the Katsina Flour Mills are almost ready. There are sports facilities, electricity projects, agricultural mechanization projects.
It was not all success. He suffered frustrations with the Transport Authority. In 1990 and 1991 the government purchases 179 buses at about N43 million yet the Authority continued to make losses and to pester him for subventions. He tried everything. It didn’t work. He scrapped the Authority and is putting the buses to auction. For a man who wants to see results in every venture he could not stand the corruption and incompetence in the Authority.
In less than 60 days he would leave the helm at Katsina and in the next few weeks I do not know if Col. Yahaya John Madaki would get up to five hours sleep daily given the many irons he has in the fire. But whenever he goes, my observation is that no matter his weaknesses which may later appear, he will go down in history as one of the highest achieving governors Nigeria ever had.’
First Published in African Concord Magazine in October 1991
Postscript: I never met him again after the visit, only to learn last week of his passing. Farewell, Colonel. L.O.