By Edward John Auta
It is often said that he whom the gods want to punish, they first make mad. This ageless wisdom is a near-perfect description of the APC situation in Kaduna State. The dismal performance of the party since taking over in 2015, its lack of ideas and creativity in curbing the insecurity in the state, the crushing defeat it suffered in the last LG Council elections in the State, and the influx of high-profile politicians into the PDP across LGAs ahead of the 2023 general elections are already sending shivers down the spines of the APC and its leaders. This is the reason the APC, in a recently published story, which was shared by Governor Nasir Ahmed Elrufa’i via his verified Facebook handle, embarrassingly blew hot, threatening never to ‘hand over the state to nonentities,’ as if the decision to hand over power resides with the party and not with the good people of Kaduna state, or as if the party has any iota of goodwill left to use to keep power in 2023. This cheap rant by the APC is an affront on the good people of Kaduna State, and smacks of mischief ahead of the party’s defeat come 2023. Instead of providing detail of the costs of the few road projects which they have done for transparency and the process through which the projects were given, the party chose to engage in mudslinging instead.
In a state where the APC has spent over six years in charge with its captain raining abuses and or arresting and incarcerating dissenting voices at every slight opportunity, using the instruments of state, to describe as nonentities the sound-minded, clear-headed, tested and trusted, humane and people-centric politicians of the PDP-extraction because of their individual/collective resolve to reclaim our dear state from the dark forces of oppression and totalitarianism is, to say the least, insanity taken too far.
The good people of Kaduna State, and indeed many fair-minded Nigerians must be wondering by now, how a ruling party that claims to be popular with the people of the state could descend as low as to engage its opposition in such uncouth, derogatory, and shameful manner, to the extent the governor of the State and many top government officials could share such garbage on their verified social media handles. This speaks volumes, especially about their suitability for such exalted offices. But the truth and consolation are, the good people of Kaduna State know who the true nonentities are, and how our dear state has fared under their watch.
Whether it is in the area of public health, infrastructure, education, agriculture, public finance or security, the APC has placed Kaduna State on a path of disappointment and regrets since it assumed power in 2015. Indeed, the APC under Governor Nasir Elrufa’i has set a new standard of governance; but it is an unenviable standard that has ruined the State and turned it into an arena of the absurd, as the analysis below would show.
Kaduna State has been rated the 6th most dangerous state to live in Nigeria, according to data obtained from the National Security Tracker. This was corroborated by a report of Global Rights, an international human rights organisation that ranked Kaduna State as the 2nd of states with persons killed in mass atrocities in Nigeria in the year, 2020. Furthermore, Vanguard reported on July 13, 2021, that “Kaduna State recorded 360 kidnap victims in 26 incidents (out of the 2,371 people abducted in Nigeria in the first half of 2021) leading to the death of 41 persons”; asides from the hundreds of hapless citizens maimed or killed daily by bandits/terrorists across various communities in Southern Kaduna, Birnin Gwari, Giwa and other parts of the state.
Kaduna State has been ranked 13th in the ease of doing business index, behind northwestern States like Sokoto, Katsina and Jigawa (which are all in the top 10), according to a survey conducted by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council chaired by Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. The group is made up of representatives from the nation’s six geopolitical zones, the National Economic Council secretariat, Nigeria’s Governors’ Forum, the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group and other private sector representatives. The homegrown indicators on which the states were measured were in four thematic areas – Infrastructure and Security, Transparency and Access to Information, Regulatory Environment and Skilled Workforce Readiness.
Education and health care:
In the areas of health and education, Kaduna has some of the worst statistics. Maternal and infant mortality are still very high compared with other states. The state has been ranked 4th on out of school children chart in the country, even as tuition fees for tertiary institutions have been increased by more than 100% forcing thousands of students to drop out due to their inability to pay their fees.
The so-called reforms across the three educational levels have failed to yield the desired results. The mass sack of experienced teachers (without paying their entitlements) and their replacement with ‘more qualified’ ones as well as the arbitrary cut in the state-owned tertiary institutions’ overheads have all but lowered the standards at all levels. For example, while Kaduna State ranked 12th in the WAEC performance chart in 2015 when the APC took over, it embarrassingly ranked 24th in 2020; and Kaduna State University which ranked 52 in 2015, dropped to 53 by the end of 2021. As of today, there are also thousands of teachers and lecturers recruited for our public schools without posting or posted salaries between May 2021 and now.
IGR and Loans:
In the referenced carefully knitted pieces of lies served by the APC spokesman, there’s the outrageous claim of a geometric increase in IGR from 13b in 2015 to 52b in 2020. While this may sound very cheering news to the unsophisticated, a run-down of the public expenditure and accounts of the government will certainly lead to very many curious questions. For instance, within the same period of 2015-2020, the APC-led government has raised the Kaduna State debt profile to scary heights. According to data obtained from the Debt Management Office, the Kaduna State’s debt profile as of December 31, 2020, external and domestic, stood at a whopping $567milllion and over 63 billion naira respectively, the highest behind only Lagos state without commensurate gains across the 23 LGAs of the state or clear repayment plans. It is amazing to see how a state that claims to have generated so much from IGR would borrow so much to execute so little, over the same period, leaving behind the burden for future governments and generations to bear.
The short kilometres of roads being reconstructed and concentrated within the urban centres cannot justify the trillions that have accrued to the State in terms of monthly federal allocation, grants, donations and loans over the last years. Like the PDP State Chairman said in his new year broadcast, Kaduna citizens should demand an immediate audit of the state’s accounts and contract awards to unravel the costs and credibilty of the processes, while the findings should be made public, to enable citizens know how their resources have been used. This is a challenge, the APC-led government in the state will never accept.
30,000 minimum wage, salaries/incentives:
The state government, as it is often wont to do to score cheap political points, at the start of implementation of the 30,000 naira minimum wage, went on the media to brag about being the first state to implement the minimum wage and deceiving many unsuspecting people in the process. It is important to let the world know that it was all a hoax as the implementation of the said minimum wage has been quite epileptic just as the payment of salaries and pensions have been since 2015. There are many workers, those at the local governments for instance, who are paid based on the old 18,000 minimum wage package. Even at that, no one is usually certain whether their salaries will be the old or the new scale, or that the salaries would even come at the end of every month at all. For instance, in the last quarter of 2021, the government failed to pay the salaries of its workforce (perhaps, except its political appointees) across MDAs and educational institutions for three consecutive months. The purported payment of a bonus in December 2021, therefore, was merely a face-saving measure rather than an incentive. To date, there are thousands of civil servants and pensioners who are owed salaries for various months or years for no just cause. This was not the case under the Government it succeeded.
During the PDP years, the provision of fertiliser at highly subsidized rates to farmers as well as various agricultural support and extension services were in place to boost food and large scale production. In just over six years, these gains have been completely eroded, with bandits and terrorists also pushing many farmers out of business thus increasing the threat of food scarcity.
In the final analysis, Kaduna State under the APC has been on a forward march to despair, despondency and misery. The crackdown on opposition and voices of dissent in the state, the appointment of fugitives, family members and cronies for top government jobs have characterised the government. Perhaps, this is a great example of “making politics and governance an arena for the serious-minded and accomplished.” Ultimately, there is no single evidence to show that the quality of governance or the lives of the people has improved under this administration.
The 3rd January 2022 publication by the APC, therefore, is simply the height of political insanity taken too far, but the people of Kaduna State, whose senses are still intact, will team up with the PDP to ensure that the APC and its army of election riggers-cum-thieves do not get away with election rigging again come 2023.
~Edward John Auta is the Special Adviser, Media and Public Affairs to the PDP Chairman, Kaduna State.