There are few sights as arresting as the aerial view of a well lit city as the pilot gently lowers the plane from the boring view of misty clouds.
A well lit city is enough to take your mind away- for a few minutes anyway- from the fact that your seatmate is speaking in tongues or caressing a Tesbir as he negotiates with his God for the price he’ll pay for a safe landing.
Kano domestic airport
I fear I’m romanticising something which frequent travellers have come to take for granted. However, I’m a Nigerian; I’m allowed to revel in the little things. Thanks to PHCN, electricity anywhere, albeit at night, has become some sort of eight wonder of the world.
I was finally in the ancient city and from the minute I made my way into what could pass as the arrival lounge in an unbelievably shabby airport, I could tell without a shadow of doubt that I was in the city of scents.
My nostrils registered so many scents I was starting to fear all the scents would blend into one. If I didn’t know better, I would think there’s a constitutional provision that all inhabitants of Kano must soak their Jalabiyas and Dansiki’s in strong cologne.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to endure the arrival lounge for long as I had the good sense to move to outside the building; to be greeted by the missing plastic lettering that’s supposed to make strangers familiar with the name of the airport.
If there’s a city you should visit at night, it should probably be Kano; the promise of brightness from my aerial perspective did not fail as I was on the ground.
From the airport to my hotel- a reasonable distance, I was entranced by how well lit the city was and even with the fatigue, I couldn’t close my eyes for fear of missing a landmark or something captivating.
The Governor of Kano, Dr Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso is a man who is relatively unknown outside of his home state despite having held positions at the federal level. Having served as the governor of Kano state from 1999 to 2003, how is it that he’s such an unknown?
Governor Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso
If he didn’t add excitement to the Presidential race by throwing his hat in the ring alongside some of his party heavyweights notably Buhari and former Vice President Atiku, he would probably have been condemned to a lifetime of anonymity at the federal level.
Having recently decamped from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Alliance (APC), he claims there was never any room to express dissenting or contrary opinion in his former party and this influenced his reason to cross carpet.
For someone who has managed to remain under the spotlight in eight years of governance, Governor Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso talks a big game. His “red cap revolution “is a vivid symbol of his campaign to rule Nigeria.
The chants of Kwakwansiya amana, a phrase which loosely translates into “a man who is trustworthy” has quickly become as popular as the man himself. “Kwakwasinya” is a signature; dotting school building and other physical infrastructure the government has provided.
The now familiar slogan!
The government of Kano stamps this to prevent the previous administration from “claiming” its victories- how is that for competition?
Hearing him reel figures seemingly off the top of his head as well as listing the projects as he confidently asserts “you’ll need more than one week to tour Kano, to see all we’ve done”. It’s easy to call him confident but it’s even easier to look at the numbers and look at the source of his confidence.
As the most populous state in Nigeria, it is easy to assume he inherited a government with massive internally generated revenue, but the books say the IGR stood at a measly 400 million naira per month when his administration came on board. Today, the IGR figures stand at roughly 1.8 billion.
If you take his word for it, his administration spent the first year cutting the overhead cost of governance as well as making efforts to increase IGR and it is the tremendous success of these two factors that ensure Kano is a talking point today.
When you move away from the numbers to the reality on ground, we’re confronted with a city which seems to be perpetually under construction.
It’s almost like a kid’s giant playground, everywhere you go, there seems to be a tractor or a crew working on something. The government has committed 5.6 billion naira to building two bridges; one of which stretches up to 2 kilometers.
A lone cyclist tries out the new 1.8 kilometer bridge
The road network is indeed impressive and one is hard pressed to find a bad road within the metropolis and where there is, there’s a tractor and the sign of “men at work”.
Of course with a city which is as large as this, there’s the obvious problem of traffic congestion and even as the government seems to be hell bent on tarring every road it lays its eyes on, there’s still no avoiding it.
Even the creation of KAROTA, an indigenous traffic management agency has not completely succeeded in tackling this bottleneck effectively.
As with many examples such as Lagos state, we have been shown time and time again that “rapid development” of cities which have hitherto been left to grow without guidance always comes with collateral damage.
Every newly constructed road is bordered by demolished houses which have been deemed “inimical” to the steam rolling train of development.
There’s very little doubt that one of the challenges in Northern Nigeria is education; what with things like the Al-majiri system to make things worse. Not only has this government outlawed the al-majiri system, it has built well over three thousand classrooms. The roofs of these new schools are emblazoned with the now familiar “Kwakwasinya”.
One of the over 4,000 clasroom blocks constructed by the Kwakwanso administration
In a region where free education is not nearly enough incentive for people to go to school, the government has had to introduce extra incentives such as free lunch for all primary school students as well as two free sets of uniforms every year.
These incentives have been enough to boost the enrolment from around one million students to roughly three million. The resultant effect is that the government has found itself in the unenviable position of needing qualified teachers if it hopes to deliver not just free education but qualitative education.
Among this administrations many projects is the creation of three new communities which have over three thousand housing units. With underground electrification and sumptuous looking building, it’s hard not to be enthralled- until you ask for the price that is.
The going rate for any of these units ranges from between 9 million naira to 35 million naira. In a region which isn’t necessarily noted for affluence, it is hard to imagine how this project would remotely benefit the ordinary citizens of Kano.
In a tongue in cheek assertion, the Secretary to the state government tells us “we don’t have the office of the first Lady here; we don’t need to hide under pet projects”.
The government seems to put the bulk of its energy into education and in Kano state, education is free at ALL levels; the government has gone as far as creating two new state Universities among which is the North West University.
Students of these universities who manage to graduate with first class or second class (upper division) degrees receive scholarships to foreign universities of their choice- whether or not they’re Kano indigenes.
Perhaps, it’s apt to ask; over the long run, is this kind of initiative going to be sustained by successive administrations? Or is it the kind of populist policies which get discarded a couple of years down the line?
Kano state faces its share of problems especially the menace of terrorism which seems to have the North enveloped in fear. The secretary to the state government asserts that the security situation is a bit beyond their control, and he even goes as far as accusing the Federal government of starving them of funds.
By and large, the Kano state government is an example of a system which works; if they blow their own trumpet, I’d have to grudgingly admit they’ve probably earned the right to do so. With an independent power project which is supposed to generate about 30 MW of electricity, it is clear the government is beyond looking or waiting for federal government hand outs.
It claims it would use 5MW to power all the streetlights which at present are powered constantly by generators.
In the final analysis, although Kano state is far from Uhuru, it is refreshing to see a government which is desirous of change and committed to actual improvement. All of these are commendations on the Governor and just maybe the Nigerian people would be willing to see if he can replicate these “local achievements” on a nationwide scale.