Baba-Ahmed writes Kano Gov. Yusuf, preaches justice in property demolition

Letter to Governor of Kano, By Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed

Your Excellency,

First, let me congratulate you over your election as Governor. We may not have heard the last of the challenges to your election, and you are not new to litigations that follow elections in our country. In the end the judicial process will have its say, but Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala will be the final judge over who will govern Kano for the next four years. In the meantime, the burden of leadership is on your shoulders, and every day counts in terms of what you do, or choose not to do. If it is Allah’s wish that you will lead the people of Kano, I pray that He guides you, and Blesses you with wisdom, courage and compassion.

You have been a major player in Kano’s unique, tumultuous and deeply passionate politics. You have, doubtless, your own stories to tell regarding the justice, or the lack of it, in the electoral and judicial processes; the heavy hand of external power in influencing who emerges leader; the bitter relations which have literally bound togrther a dozen or so leading politicians in Kano since 1999, and the awesome strength of loyalties of simple citizens who treat politics with a commitment surpassed only by their commitment to their faith. Today, you sit as leader in a state with the largest population in Nigeria, bearing the brunt of basic failures of leadership and showing flashes of redemption. I suspect that you will vote with those who think that the democratic process has not created the level of positive impact in the lives of citizens and the economy of the state as it should. You must, like all major players in Kano, bear scars from major skirmishes that have polarized the people of Kano, such that it has no innocent by-standers in politics.

No one who has followed the background and build-up to the 2023 elections will expect either your NNPP or the ruling APC to roll over or to come to power with velvet gloves. In Kano, politics has always been the main theater, with the winner taking all. You had a number of advantages.

Ganduje’s administration had acquired a hue that was easy to be sold as disposable, and your NNPP/ Kwankwasiya Movement had prepared millions of minds that some restitution was on the way. Few observant people failed to hear of grumblings from your party and other adversaries that your predecessor’s administration was involved in land allocations and other activities that offended basic standards of decency and propriety. Hard core followers of your ambition had been primed to see immediate action that would signal your arrival, and you did not disappoint them.

You have embarked with gusto and a sense of mission to destroy buildings which offend propriety, even if not, strictly, the law. Your predecessor had allocated, sold-off or alienated land and properties under fancy names which sought to give them legitimacy. In all probability, people whose structures have been destroyed all have pieces of paper that invoked the powers of the former governor, powers which you now posses, to build, as we hear, in or around cemeteries, mosques, schools and ancient monuments. They have documents that gave them approval to take over government assets and turn them into private property. You have even pulled down a monument outside Government House because it blocked views of road users. You did all these because the law gives you the powers to do so, the same powers the former governor had to allocate them or construct them. You appear to have operated with the belief that wrong is wrong, no matter how much you dress it to look right. The truth is, no one can or should fault a leader who comes to correct wrongs. What distinguishes good leaders from others are their motives and the degree to which they weigh their obligations on the demanding scales of justice.

Your Excellency, you are familiar with the rather derisive expression that the law is an ass, although a few people have provided the corrective that it also has a conscience. Now that some of your decisions to erase structures are being challenged in court by those most affected, we must pause to hear what the law says. For me, the politics of it all is my main concern. First, you have set a very high bar in conduct of elected officials, it may just be what you need to acquit yourself when history judges you and more importantly, when Allah asks what you did with the power you asked for, and He gave you.You now have no luxury to do what Ganduje did with public assets, law or no law. You also have to find a fair response to the question whether people whose properties have been cancelled are also entitled to some form of justice.

Second, you now have to be your own man with the strength to resist pressures and temptations to please those close to you. You have to prove wrong, those who think you are a proxy for powers greater than you. Third, what happens after the euphoria of the buildings that have been brought down and powerful and rich people have become paupers? What plans does your administration have to sustain support and limit the damage of the opposition and other well-meaning people who may not approve of your decision? Do you give thought to the reality that you will also take decisions, and another governor will sit in judgement over them? Long after the rubble is cleared, people will remember the hoard of young Kanawa who followed bulldozers to scavenge, or even extend the boundaries of official activity. They should remind you that Kano has a huge population of young, unemployed, drug-ravaged and violent youth. The greatest legacy you will leave behind is addressing the challenges of the youth. People will move beyond demolished buildings, but they cannot stand the worsening of the threats which young, out-of-school, drugged and violent youth represent. And while we are at it,will you look critically at those 10,000 people who may lose the jobs Ganduje gave them, to see whether some deserve to be retained?

Your Excellency, your past must have taught you that you have to fight for power every inch of the way, and you never take your eyes off the opposition. This past, and the earth-shaking announcement of your arrival, demand that you raise the bar on quality of governance higher than all your predecessors. While you bear the flag for your party and the Kwakwasiyya movement, you must never forget that you are now leading all the people of Kano, including those who fought hard to keep you away from where you are today. Justice is the foundation of good governance, and the most important form of justice is one you apply to yourself. On the Day of Judgement, Allah will ask you to account for your stewardship of the great Kano State. I pray that you will succeed in acquitting yourself satisfactorily.

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