Recent events in some parts of the country have induced a feeling of fond rememberances in me. They have forced me to compare notes. In doing this, I have, metaphorically, been transported back to Kano, the city where I carried out some undercover reportage nearly two years ago.
During the countdown to the 2019 general election, I had cause to comb through Kano State. I was on a reportorial assignment. As an accustomed hand in political reporting, I knew where my focus should be. I knew the right corners to concentrate attention on. Even though government and its agencies were supposed to be my ready sources, I held back somewhat. I did not want the assignment to be a dead giveaway.
However, regardless of the fact that I chose the path of circumspection in my dealings with officialdom, I saw the world class flyovers and underpasses built by the administration of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje. I saw the ultra-modern Integrated Vocational Skills Aquisition Centre. I saw the sprawling Kano Economic City. The 250-bed capacity Muhammadu Buhari Specialist Hospital was there for all to see. The same thing was true of the imposing Khalifa Sheikh Isyaku Rabiu Paediatric Hospital. These are some of the landmark projects of Governor Ganduje, which even his implacable foes cannot wish away. But all this was by the way. They were not the reason why I went to work in Kano State.
My interest was in knowing how the governor has been able to foster ethnic and religious harmony in a state that is easily the hotbed of violent uprisings in the country. I have had a long romance with Kano and I wanted to know how the governor has been able to chart a new course.
Before the coming of Ganduje, Kano had recorded major upheavals that shook the state to its foundations. We have not forgotten the unforgettable Maitatsine riots of 1980 engineered by the Islamic fundamentalism of Mohammed Marwa, who was better known as Maitatsine. Several lives and valuable property perished in that uprising. I was a witness to the Kano riots of 1991 brought about by the crusades of Reinhard Bonnke, the German-American Pentecostal evangelist. I covered the uprising from the frontline for The Guardian as a young reporter. The carnage was sordid, to say the least.
Apart from the earthshaking riots, Kano had a notoriety as a city where it was customary for strangers, particularly the Igbo, to be targets of attacks, either for ethnic or religious reasons. It was so bad that most southerners doing business in Kano never slept with both eyes closed. Kano has always sat on a keg of gunpowder.
But all that appears to have changed. While there last year, I moved into the Sabon Gari area of the city of Kano where I interacted freely with the people. Sabon Gari is home to the army of non-indigenes that live and do business in Kano. My interlocutors were at ease with the new order in the state. They pointed to the fact that Ganduje has brought to an end the indigene-settler dichotomy in the state. The governor says it makes no sense for such a dichotomy to exist. Some of the people being discriminated against, he reasons, were born in Kano, they went to school in Kano, they work and do business in Kano; and they also die in Kano. Where then is the sense in discriminating against this lot? It is for this and related reasons that he decided to integrate non-indigenes into his administration. The Igbo community, the Yoruba community and other non-indigenous communities have their representatives appointed into the administration of Governor Ganduje. Those appointed act as the bridge between the natives and non-indigenes. With this arrangement in place, government is better able to gauge the pulse of the people at all times. This inclusiveness has helped to nip in the bud potential areas of conflict. It has brought with it mutual trust and understanding and, above all, peace and harmony in the state.
In furtherance to this, Sabon Gari residents bear witness to how Ganduje has opened up their long-forgotten enclave with quality roads and other social amenities. During the campaigns for the 2019 elections, the governor went for a face-to-face and one-on-one interaction with the people. I was enthralled by the friendly outpouring of good feelings by the people. I was equally humbled by the governor’s unassuming and humble disposition. The blend was an inimitable way of managing tension in a country where ethnic and religious misunderstanding and mistrust easily snowball into crisis of immense proportions.
If you ever had the opportunity to share with the governor his thoughts on this matter, he will take you back in time. He will tell you about the events of 1967 and thereabouts. He will tell you that he witnessed the murderous uprisings, which saw to the killing of Igbos in Kano and elsewhere in the North. He still remembers the gory details of the massacre. Ganduje says he does not want to witness this sordid incident ever again. He does not want Nigeria, our beloved fatherland, to go through that painful episode again. That is why he regrets the exuberance of agents of separatism. He dismisses them as juveniles who do not understand. They do not understand what their fathers and grandfathers experienced. He believes that it is the collective responsibility of those who know to rein in the young agitators. As governor, therefore, Ganduje is making conscious effort to ensure ethnic and religious harmony in his domain. Keeping the peace, for him, is a task that must be done. So, those who are still wondering why Kano has ceased to be its old, violent self may well borrow a leaf from the Ganduje formula.
It is for this reason that I shuddered at the tactlessness, which some governors display whenever they are faced with issues that test their ability to manage ethnic or religious tensions, the two fault lines that have become the bane of our country. A few weeks ago, for instance, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State flew off the handle over some alleged killings in his state. He said members of the Indigenous People of Biafra were responsible for the action. He came on national television to denounce the group. He accused them of killing soldiers. He vowed that they will no longer be allowed to operate on Rivers soil. Wike’s display was most un-gubernatorial. A governor was not supposed to inflame tempers as he did. Such tactlessness belongs to people in the street.
I am just disappointed that many in positions of authority do not know the right use to which they should put power or authority. Leadership has a lot to do with maturity. Leadership dwells in patience and tolerance. A leader must understand the complexities that rule human nature. When you do, you will be at home with your environment. You will get to know why people behave in certain ways. The understanding helps the leader to act right and apply the right solutions. In the absence of such knowledge, the leader becomes the problem, instead of being the solution.