Whoever dismisses Kano State’s Governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso’s politics as a gimmick is merely being a Nigerian, that person to whom a politician is an ordinary scam artist whose corporate frauds and tricks, as testified to by the history of misappropriations of public funds and the impunity always earned here, are just to be left for God to punish. On the day of judgment, of course. It’s the climax of the people’s despair, which is why we must encourage and celebrate any deviant politician. Kwankwaso’s deviancy is a social revolution impossible to ignore. And he has been trying to convince us that he’s not a joke, that his second coming is to show us a face of politics we have learned not to expect.
In all the time I praised his policies as a follower and reviewer of his administration, his later actions never gave me a reason to cringe at the superlatives employed to qualify his unusual style of leadership. This is because he understands the psyche of perceptive masses, and the needs of the Third World: our foundations, carelessly dug or stopped halfway, are the reasons we are yet to overcome social challenges that have erupted in recent years, seeking to destroy us, seeking to end all of the privileges we took for granted.
Governor Kwankwaso’s declaration of free education for all indigenes of Kano State may be a tough task for a State that size, but it’s the only way to redeem our devastated human capital. When Imo State’s Governor Rochas Okorocha launched his free education policy, I warned his northern counterparts in my column, thus: “Free education and allowances for students of Imo descent. As a northern Governor, I should despise this. You don’t know what this policy means, do you? Soon there will be an explosion of educated Igbos in and outside our civil service which the federal character principles cannot forestall. While Imo breeds educated and intellectual indigenes, the north breeds street beggars (and the States that propose to end the Almajiri child-begging have no feasible alternative in place!)”
That was in early January, and it never occurred to me that a governor here in the north will meet my expectation. But it had to be Governor Kwankwaso. If any other Governor in the north promises to implement such policy, I don’t think I will waste a word reviewing theirs. Kwankwaso’s overwhelming antecedent as a perceptive welfarist is an assurance; he has demystified the lie that “northern governments don’t have money… we can’t afford this and that!” – things we have been told by politicians whose misuse of our budgets we refused to question.
Welfarism, in the north especially, is not an option; it is a necessity! I’m happy that we have realised that we can’t develop anything unless we’ve developed our people. We have lived for so long under the illusion that a group of friends and families or factions of a clique can actually build a functional country and still run it by themselves. It is under this same illusion that elitism thrives, and forms a financially segregated society in which schooling is seen as a privilege of the haves or, to the cynics among the have-nots who concentrated on religious education, Western education becomes a way of the morally stray!
But it’s not too late to attempt to demolish this ignorance that makes the north almost uninhabitable. We have built a northern Nigeria of dangerous illiteracy; a region of disillusioned beggars, destitute citizens, miseducated extremists, and now insecure elite where leadership has always been a system for the same people, the same families, the same friends and the same cliques to ally in sharing the resources of the State or Federation while the masses suffer. We have never had it really good ever since the early years of regional governments. And for all the people and dreams destroyed by our history of aborted welfarism, supporting Kwankwaso’s intervention in a time a militant group has risen to condemn the Western education is a new revolution!
This may be an expensive project, but a good manager of resources, which is what Kwankwaso has proven he is, is up to the task. With prudent management, the funding of education and welfare of the teachers are certain; with prudent management, this is sustainable! What our governments need is a culture of discipline, a lack of which inspired the cynicism being shown by some critics of the free education policy. These critics obviously underestimate the level of poverty in this part of Nigeria, where the people are more concerned about what to eat in the next hour than in proposing to go to school. We have been so dazzled in our air-conditioned offices and houses in the federal and state capitals that it’s easy to dismiss welfarism as a waste of taxpayers’ money. There is no policy as gainful as investing in the human capital.
I have found many reasons to disagree with friends who challenge the use of public funds to alleviate the sufferings of the masses. It’s exactly the same reason I find Lagos State’s Governor Babatunde Fashola as a man cruelly ahead of the time, pretentiously insensitive to our harsh realities, the same way I find elitisations of Abuja cruel and misplaced. Fashola’s disconnection from the poverty around the Owambe-craving elite is just as wide as that of the ‘iPhone freaks’ tweeting no-nos at the declaration of free education. This perhaps gave Fashola the confidence to deport fellow Nigerians. This gave our leaders the immoral right to criminalise the existence of the poor. If we want a functional country, let’s de-elitise our policies. You cannot build a castle without proper foundation. And for the endless troubles of these Third World people, welfarism is that foundation.
By Gimba Kakanda
Blueprint Newspaper (27/12/2013)
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)