El-Rufa’i has rescued political leadership with his performance – Dr. Page Igbuan

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Dr. Wahab Page Igbuan, a Kaduna-based legal practitioner, before studying law, practised journalism for many years. Page, as he is popularly known, has lived in Kaduna since 1972. He has seen several governors, civilians/military; and Kaduna state, from its time as a North-central state, when the present Katsina state was part of it, till date. Page in this interview tells CHAMBA SIMEH what he thinks about Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufa’i and his governance style vis-a-vis his predecessors’ scorecards.

You have now spent 50 years in Kaduna state. You have seen Kaduna state, from when it was a North-central state to the present Kaduna state, with Katsina state being part of it, and the eventual creation of Katsina state out of the present day Kaduna state. Can you fill us up on your time from 1972 to date?

Between 1972 and now, I have lived in Kaduna state, first as a North-central state, and as Kaduna state, with the present Katsina state, as part of it, until the creation of Katsina state out of it. Being a keen observer of my environment, I have noticed the sequential changes, especially the transformation of Kaduna state, in the last six years of Nasir el-Rufa’i.

I came to Kaduna state when it was North central state, with Col. Abba Kyari, who later became a Brigadier General, as governor. I witnessed military rule with its fiat. The Gen. Yakubu Gowon administration definitely made a lot of impact. You must remember that Kaduna was once the headquarters of the Northern region. It was a pacesetter for the other states. Some governors experimented on governance, and I say this boldly, until the coming of el-Rufa’i, only some military governors made tangible impacts in terms of governance.

I can assure you that I am not the only person who sees issues the way they are today, from the perspective of development. What has transpired in leadership between the time the present governor came in and now, in comparison with his predecessors, democratically elected leadership, is what I am referring to as something that beats one’s imagination.

So, the military did well?

Yes, they did well…some did well. It couldn’t possibly be absolutely all of them; some didn’t do enough.

Let’s talk specifics. Balarabe Musa, who was impeached, the last six years of el-Rufa’I; Ahmed Makarfi; Namadi Sambo; Patrick Yakowa, Ramalan Yero…your assessment?

To start with, Alhaji Balaraba Musa didn’t have the opportunity to showcase his talent, which I believe he had. He was removed from office because of dirty politics of where you come from, where you do not come from. His removal was largely spearheaded by the Katsina mafia. …they held sway in the then Kaduna state, and they didn’t want somebody like Balaraba Musa, who was seen as coming from a lower class. Unfortunately, the Zaria people couldn’t fight to help Balaraba Musa survive the gang-up. Then came Abba Musa Rimi; I can’t tell you any tangible development initiated by Abba Musa Rimi, it was all politics; after Abba Rimi came Lawal Kaita, who also followed in the footsteps of Abba Musa Rimi. I’m analysing democratically elected governors….then came Ahmed Makarfi….unfortunately, the Makarfi regime was almost brought down by civil strife, religious and ethnic crises, but in his wisdom, he doused the tension.

Makarfi did quite well in terms of physical development. Like now, there were questions about the spread of projects. It will always be an issue. Overall, I give Makarfi a pass mark, although he didn’t embark on critical reforms, like el-Rufa’i.

Then came Namadi Sambo, who didn’t spend four years as governor, because he moved up to become vice-president to Goodluck Jonathan. His deputy, Patrick Yakowa, became the governor. From the little that we saw of Yakowa, he would have moved mountains because within that short time, he opened up Kaduna metropolis. Patrick Yakowa opened the way to Hayin Danmani, which was a ghetto. He awarded the contracts for 23 roads across every part of the state, but unfortunately he died and his successor, Ramalan Yero, tragically abandoned several projects initiated by Yakowa.

Ramalan Yero, by my reckoning, in terms of governance, is a total disaster; a complete failure. I challenge him to list his achievements. It’s a shame that Yero, a young man, squandered the opportunity that fell on his laps.

After Ramalan Yero came Nasir Ee-Rufa’i, the incumbent governor. I want to tell you that nothing comes from nothing. Knowledge is power, it’s key. This is obvious in the success of the el-Rufa’i administration. Very key are the unprecedented reforms that he embarked on. In the education sector, the revenue agency, to be a leader you must be informed. He has displayed his mental prowess; a leader who has ideas of what he wants to do and those who can help him achieve them. So, a good leader must delegate. A quantity surveyor is in many respects like a lawyer, who must know a little of architecture, urban planning, mechanical and electrical engineering, etc, just like a lawyer is learned because he or she knows a little of everything.

God-forbid that a man should know everything, but knowing where to source for the information makes a huge difference.

I’m passionate about el-Rufa’i because he has fundamentally transformed Kaduna state. Very key is that el-Rufa’i has shown the people of Kaduna state that it is possible for elected governors to work.

Some people have called el-Rufa’i a dictator, a description which I don’t agree with. The question is was he elected based on a manifesto?

el-Rufa’i is not the usual politician. I remember him during the campaigns telling Kaduna state people that he would implement the urban renewal policy; that he would address the allocation of school land to politicians – he didn’t hide his intentions. So, he has a clear mandate to implement the policies upon which he was elected. This is my sincere assessment, others are entitled to theirs.

Obviously, el-Rufa’i has won your heart; I’m sure some people will disagree with you. I agree with you that there is no evidence that he is a dictator, he’s blunt, he’s confident…these might be what people interpret as dictatorship.

Definitely, that was why in answering your question, I went straight to what I referred to as knowledge. el-Rufa’i is ahead of his time; he has seen tomorrow and it is only with knowledge that you can acquire that power. el-Rufa’i has vision. A society whose leader doesn’t possess these qualities is dead.

Spending 50 years in Kaduna is not a joke. So, what was the attraction that even after Abuja became a reality, you didn’t move. By the way, if anybody told you that Waff Road and Swimming Pool Road could be dualised, you certainly would have disagreed, but they have been dualised with pedestrian walkways, etc.

Urban renewal is much more than roads. There are several components – property redevelopment, efficient transportation system, etc. I have had the opportunity of using cars and I have gone round many states of the federation, but I haven’t seen the kind of magic that el-Rufa’i is performing.

There is no part of Kaduna state that I don’t know. Once a new layout is opened, I must visit it. el-Rufa’i has rescued the political leadership from shame. Before now, I had given up hope on any meaningful development. Look at Yakubu Gowon Way, named after a war-time head of state; it was left in a state of disrepair, until el-Rufa’i came. This is the same with Rabah Road and Isa Kaita Road. I live in Barnawa, I marvel at the transformation from the railway station to Barnawa shopping complex, down to the Mobile police base and from Television garage to PAN drive. This is part of the reasons that I describe el-Rufa’i as a visionary leader. I care about politics, but I am not a politician. If tomorrow someone outperforms el-Rufa’i, I will equally praise him. My position, which wasn’t arrived at easily, is that in my last 50 years in Kaduna state, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufa’i is, without a doubt, miles apart from the other governors. People should acknowledge reality.

I have friends who criticise el-Rufa’i, it’s their right. But I always ask them for three reasons they constantly criticise el-Rufa’i. One constant reason is that he lacks pity. And I have always replied, pity about what? Pity for impunity? The state of lawlessness before el-Rufa’i came was scary. People were building without permit; they built and were trading on every available space without regard for other people. How can you erect your shop on a junction without consideration for other road users – those driving, who need to see the road before entering?

He has arrested the total breakdown of law and order. Thankfully, we have learnt the hard way. Many people have learnt lessons, such that in future, they will be the ones warning others when they want to build without permit. The fear, the possibility of another Nasir el-Rufa’I, who will correct any distortion of the master plan, will keep people in check.

Were you able to convince them that el-Rufa’i is not heartless, that building without permit is breaking the law?

Part of the criticisms against el-Rufa’i is that he demolished houses left, right, and centre. I have asked to be shown any building that met every planning law; that was pulled down, but nobody has shown me. Mind you, the government, for overriding public interest, can acquire a land, but it must pay adequate compensation as provided for by the Land Use Act. Some previous governors are responsible for the bastardisation of Kaduna master plan. They allocated every available corner plot to traders for shops; that was the beginning of the disaster that el-Rufa’i had to clean up.

Those who conceived Kaduna metropolis from the beginning made adequate provision for its future development, with green spaces, but our so-called elite have built on natural streams and green areas. So, part of el-Rufai’s crimes is his refusal to help, when floods strike.

If I were in el-Rufai’s shoes, I certainly would have carried out more demolitions than he did. I will, without hesitation, bring down any structure, once it’s not built in compliance with the provisions of the law. Can our elite, who own properties in London, improve them without first obtaining the necessary approval? Definitely not!

Is that the way to go?

That’s the way to go. We Nigerians are unnecessarily sentimental. In the belief that people are hungry, we try to justify every breach of the law.

Before el-Rufa’i took the decision to re-develop the markets, the markets were a complete eyesore; you couldn’t access the market because hawkers had occupied every space, shopping was a nightmare. Thankfully, the hawkers have been cleared, the traders forced to clear the walk ways. In place of the impenetrable shanties, we now have modern markets that are clean and orderly. We want Kaduna state to be a modern city, a tourism destination, occasioned by a clean environment.

Clearly, you make it a point of duty of going round town. You have mentioned many of the issues that were confronting the state.

The lack of education is the worst sickness that can afflict any society. A society where classes are not respected is in trouble.