(EXCLUSIVE) Secession: If you help destroy Nigeria, you’ll find another audience, El-Rufai tells media (2)

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Uba Group

How was the Kaduna State Investment Promotion Agency (KADIPA) able to attract over N2billion investment despite COVID-19 and the security challenges in the headlines everyday?

When we came into office, we had a very clear vision to re-establish Kaduna State as the industrial heartland of Northern Nigeria, revive all the moribund industries and attract investments to create jobs. Eighty-nine per cent of the population of our state is below the age of 35.

It’s a young state, and the only way we can sleep with our eyes closed is to create jobs rapidly. We know that the government cannot create all the jobs, so the only way to create the number of jobs that we think will reduce the unemployment levels is to have a very welcoming environment for investors. We were assisted by the United Kingdom government. Her Majesty’s government gave us consultants who helped us brainstorm and establish the Kaduna State Investment Promotion Agency (KADIPA).

KADIPA became like a one-stop-shop for all investors. You want to set up an industry in Kaduna; you go to KADIPA. They will get you the land, the approvals and all the licences you require. They will interphase with the Federal Government, when needed, to get you any concessions, and so on. You’re an investor, we don’t want you to do anything, just bring your money, we’ll do the rest.

So, that is what KADIPA has been doing, and you know there is no advertising as effective as the word of mouth. By the time one or two companies came to Kaduna and saw how our investment promotion agency worked, how easy it was to get land, how communities were welcoming and how the Government stands up behind every investor, facilitating the investments, encouraging them, and getting concessions, when needed, they started trooping in. That was how KADIPA succeeded to a large extent.

Since we came into office, we have held a total of five investment summits. We have held one summit every year from 2016 till date. We held the last summit virtually as a result of the lockdown caused by Covid-19, but we still held it. Our investment promotion agency has a board of very high profile people.

The First Vice-Chairman of the Board is John Coumantaros, Chairman of Flour Mills of Nigeria. He helped in no small way in attracting American investors to Kaduna State.

‘A political understanding is an understanding and should be honoured. This is why I say after eight years of president Buhari, the Presidency should go south’

The Second Vice Chairman is HRH Muhammadu Sanusi II, who is a global citizen, with sound reputation in banking, financial and investment circles. It is people like that, of that kind of quality, that drive the activities of KADIPA. The Board is chaired by the Deputy Governor of the state, because anything that needs to be done can be done by the Deputy Governor because she only reports to me as Governor.

From inception, KADIPA had a good team, very young people that are hungry to make a point, and they have done very well, we are very proud of them.

When we came into office in 2015, the last sub-national survey for ease of doing business in Nigeria placed Kaduna State as Number 24 on the ease of doing business ranking. Within four years, with the cooperation of other agencies, KADIPA moved Kaduna from Number 24 to Number One. So, Kaduna, from 2018, has been the easiest state to do business in the entire country. And this is ranking by the World Bank; you cannot bribe your way to get that kind of ranking. You can only get the ranking by doing the right things.

And the international investment environment has rewarded us by having a lot of investments in Kaduna State.
The World Bank and all the bilateral and multilateral donors have given us large amounts of money, credits and loans because of the reforms that we have done and also because of the very clear and visible progress that we have made in many areas.

We share our experience with any state that cares, and many states have sent delegations to Kaduna to see how KADIPA is functioning and we open up our books, because we want every state in Nigeria to be as easy to do business in as it is today in Kaduna. We share our experiences, our KADIPA laws, our operating guidelines, our strategic development plan, our infrastructure plan. Everything we are doing, we open up for other states, if they are interested, because if all the states move up, then Nigeria moves up.

What is your advice for those who are agitating for self-determination?

Look, it is okay to ask for self-determination, but you must ask yourself: what are you going to do with it? This country is facing challenges and there are lots of frustrations about many things. Here, insecurity is a major problem for us. Every part of the country is facing one challenge or another, but in my view, the solution is not to say that you want your own little ethnic enclave.

The most successful countries today are the big countries, not the small ones. The United States of America is big, China is big, India is big. There are some very small successful countries like Singapore, which is a city-state with a population smaller than my extended family; or a tiny African country like Rwanda, which is about the size of Kaduna State in terms of population. But there is advantage in size.

Why did many European Countries form the European Union (EU)? The EU is like a federation. If you consider France, Germany, Spain and others, they are like states within the EU. Why did they do that? It is so that they will have a large internal market of 350 million consumers. Here we are in Nigeria, by some accident of providence, we have a market of 200 million. Why do you want to break it up into smaller markets?

If you have your Oduduwa Republic and you produce all those Cadbury products and Nestle in Lagos, who do you sell it to? Cadbury’s biggest markets are Kano, Kaduna states in Nigeria, not Lagos. We consume more of Cadbury products than Lagos, even though Lagos may have a larger population. So, there is advantage in size; there is advantage in diversity.

Some of the most unstable countries in the world are homogenous countries. Somalia operated for nearly 30 years without a government, but Somalis are one ethnic group, who speak the same language. They are all Muslims, and they are all Sunni Muslims. They don’t even have Shia Muslims, but they did not have a government for 30 years. Why? If homogeneity is what will bring progress, peace and stability, why did Somalia go through what it went through?
Let us look at countries that have broken up recently.

Let’s take Sudan. Sudan has broken up into Sudan and South Sudan. Since South Sudan became a separate country, have they had peace? Have they had stability? No. So, if you think your Oduduwa Republic will be quiet, peaceful, and so on, may be you should go to South Sudan and ask what happened.

Going beyond all that, if you check and look at the people that are shouting, they are shouting out of frustration because they are unable to advance their interest on a democratic platform. Those that are saying they are speaking for Yorubas, which mandate do they have? Who elected them? Many of them cannot get votes even in their households. We know them. But they will come out and speak for Yoruba people.

Here, we have them. Northern Elders this; Northern Elders that. They come out, they issue statements on behalf of all of us. Meanwhile, we know that in their polling units, they supported PDP and we defeated them, in their own polling units, outside their homes. Their own people have rejected them but newspapers give them platforms to say they are Northern elders. Elders of whom? I was elected to be Governor of Kaduna State, let anyone of them come out and contest with me if he wants to have the mandate of the people of Kaduna to speak for them.

Nnamdi Kanu, who is he speaking for? Who elected him? These are people that lack the political legitimacy but are getting traction because we have a media that is largely insensitive to the realities of the 21st Century. It is the media that gives oxygen to these separatists who have no legitimacy, no basis, and are essentially frustrated people that cannot compete on a level playing field of democratic platforms.

If you believe that you have the support of the South West states to form Oduduwa Republic, you have representatives in the National Assembly. Why are they not making any moves to call for a referendum to merge states and all that? There are provisions in the Constitution to do that. Why are your representatives in the National Assembly? We have our representatives too. Let’s sit down and talk about it. You cannot elevate thugs to national prominence just because you want to sell newspapers.

It is important for people to take a back seat and reflect deeply on this. Look at successful countries; are they the ones that are of the single ethnic group? No. Rwanda went through genocide. Tutsis and Hutus speak the same language, many people don’t know that. They are the same people.

It was the Belgians that created the two classes of Hutus and Tutsis. But what happened during the genocide? People speaking the same language, same origin, same ethnic stock, killed 800,000 of one another within days. Why? The media, the radio, was the main medium used to mobilise people against each other. And we are seeing the same thing happening in Nigeria, using various media platforms, mobilising people against each other, people that have lived together in peace for years, for decades, some for hundreds of years.

What the people doing this don’t know is when it will consume them. My advice to them is: by all means, seek for self determination, but do not be surprised at what happens if God answers your prayers and you get it. Don’t be surprised.

I think the media should understand that there can only be a national media if there is a country. If you help to destroy the country, you will have to find another audience to sell your stories to and get advert revenue. This is my view.

What legacy do you want to leave in Kaduna State?

I have not really thought very much about legacy. The funny thing about legacy is that you don’t really define it accurately. You may think that something is really important, but at the end of the day, people may think that something else is important. I always tell the story of what I thought was the most important thing I did in Abuja, and what turned out to be the most enduring was not what I thought.

Kaduna was ahead of every part of Northern Nigeria at a point, but over the years, we’ve been left behind. And what we’ve been trying to do in the last six years with my team is playing catch up, expanding opportunities for people without regard to their ethnicity or religion.

We’ve been levelling the playing field, ensuring that the poorest and the most vulnerable get the same opportunities, as everyone else, to climb the social ladder. So, we have been investing strongly in education, particularly public education. We have been investing in healthcare because we were losing too many babies and mothers during childbirth. We have been reforming the public service to make it a public service, not government of kings looking down on the people as if they are their masters when it is the other way round.

We have been reforming the public service by bringing in younger and smarter ICT compliant people into the government and easing out the old guys, the dead woods who cannot adapt to the 21st Century.

‘If you check and look at the people that are shouting, they are shouting out of frustration because they are unable to advance their interest on a democratic platform. Those that are speaking for Yorubas, which mandate do they have? who elected them? Many of them cannot get votes even in their households. We know them’

We have tried to improve teacher quality; we have sacked incompetent teachers, we have hired tens of thousands of competent teachers. Those are the things that are close to our hearts, but the results may take 30 years to show. So, for us, as a team, this is our major legacy – institutional reforms in education, in health care, in governance.

Insecurity is a major issue. What has been done so far?

Yes, security, Kaduna State has suffered more than most states in the north, the ethno-religious crisis, divisions and so on. But we are healing that. We are using a combination of carrot and stick to heal that. Southern Kaduna is quiet to a large extent. It has never been quieter for quite a while, largely due to measures that we have taken. We are facing banditry and kidnapping but we are dealing with those issues too.

So, these are the things that we think are important, but people consider roads more important because they see them, but they don’t see the institutional reforms and the impact of the institutional reforms on the long-term health of the state.

They don’t see what we are doing in attracting investments because it is not that apparent. People are getting jobs and so on, but when you build a road, it is more visible. However, what we are doing in infrastructure is getting us more attention and more commendation than all the hard work we did in reforming the governance of the state that led to the inflow of resources that are now being used to fund the infrastructure.

So, legacy is very difficult to define because we have our own priorities, but the people may end up thinking it is something else. My hope is that on May 29, 2023, I will leave behind a state that is more united, more inclusive, more integrated, less divisive, less tied to ethnic and religious paradigms. I think even now, we know that we have made progress in that direction. But two years from now, we would have to assess that.

You mentioned in the beginning that you lost your father at a very young age. Can you share one thing you would always remember about him?

He always encouraged me to take my studies seriously. Even on his death bed, when we last saw him, what he said to me was, ‘the key to your success in life is to take your education seriously. Don’t joke with your education.’ Less than an hour later, he was dead. So, I never forgot that. That is why, for me, education is everything.

The opportunities I got as an eight-year-old orphan; the opportunities I got attending a public school and then going to Barewa College, though I was the son of nobody, and getting here, were all as a result of the vision of some people to ensure that everyone’s child got decent education.

This is why, for me, the most important thing I had to do, as Governor of Kaduna State, was to ensure that public education is restored to its previous quality as much as possible.

That was why when people told me that if I dared to test teachers, I would lose election as (Governor Kayode) Fayemi did in Ekiti State, I said I would rather lose elections and have good teachers so that young orphans like me would have the same opportunities that I had, than for me to have a second term in office. So, we damned the consequences, we did what we did, we did the tests, fired 22,000 of them and we still got re-elected.

Politicians don’t understand that the ordinary people are smarter than they think. The ordinary people knew what we were doing by sacking those bad teachers. They knew that we were working for them, that we were putting everything on the line for them, and they came out strongly to re-elect us.

Education is very important; it is the key to everything. It is the key to giving people equal opportunities. It is our most important priority as a government, but the results will take 30 years. That is why many politicians ignore education; there are no immediate results to show for their investing in education.

It takes 30 years before you get to see the results. But here in Kaduna, we take a long-term view. We’ll invest today; we’ll do whatever we can today because we want to secure the future of the state 30 years from now.

If you become the President of Nigeria today, what would be your first assignment?

It is a completely speculative question and I have not thought about it. I have never thought about being President of Nigeria. And as I said, if you want to run for President of Nigeria, you need to plan. You have to prepare psychologically, intellectually, emotionally and financially.

There are many dimensions to it. I tell you, anyone that answers that question has either thought of running for president for a long time, or is foolish, because he will just tell you what comes to his mind. The presidency of Nigeria, as I said, is a very very big deal and you don’t go into it without very deep reflection.