For political leaders in Kaduna State, Saturday, September 16, 2017 was a day like no other in the State, at least in recent times. Setting aside all differences and burying all hatchets, leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from ward to national levels, in an unprecedented move, gathered at an expanded stakeholders’ meeting and unanimously endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari as the State’s candidate for the 2019 presidential election.
Similarly, the delegates endorsed the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el Rufai as the candidate of the party in the 2019 gubernatorial election. In all, APC leaders from all the 255 electoral wards of Kaduna State attended this very successful meeting, which held at the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua Hall in Kaduna. At this epoch-making political gathering were the State Governor, Mallam Nasir el Rufai, virtually all the members representing the State in the National Assembly, all the APC members of the State House of Assembly, all the Local Government Chairmen in the State, party executives at ward, State and national levels as well as several other critical stakeholders across the three Senatorial Zones of Kaduna State.
For leaders of the APC in Kaduna State, the stakeholders meeting provided a veritable platform for soul searching and self-assessment. The unequivocal verdict was that the APC government under the able, careful and mature guidance of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, has truly rescued Nigeria from the economic, social and political malaise foisted on our great nation by the crass misrule, ineptitude and unbridled corruption of the immediate past Peoples Democratic Party-led administration. Indeed, all the persons who spoke at the Kaduna Stakeholders’ meeting affirmed that in just two years of APC’s rule under President Buhari, Nigeria has begun regaining its rightful place as a peaceful, stable, cohesive, indivisible, economically viable and internationally respected nation. More so, party leaders were effusive in their commendation of President Buhari for guiding the nation’s economy out of the recession that was brought on us by the unprecedented corruption that characterized the last PDP administration in the country. The President and gallant officers and men of the nation’s Armed Forces were commended for defeating the Boko Haram insurgents in the northeast. Not surprisingly, the political leaders in Kaduna resolved, at this meeting, that never again would the State vote into any political office persons that are known to be corrupt, aloof, inept, clannish or unprepared for the rigors of the high office they are supposed to occupy. It was on that note that it was unanimously agreed (a voice vote was actually called) that Kaduna State will massively mobilize and vote for President Muhammadu Buhari and the equally profound Governor Nasir el Rufai to continue for a second term in their respective offices of President of our great country and the Governor of Kaduna State.
As one of the key organizers of the phenomenal APC stakeholders’ meeting in Kaduna, I must confess that since the outcome of the event was made public, I have received several calls, text messages and emails lauding the endorsements of President Buhari and Governor El Rufai for second terms in office. However a few persons have challenged me to openly disclose what the stakeholders were told that both President Buhari and Governor El Rufai have achieved thus far, that swayed them to pass the confidence vote on both men. I have, with all due respect, since accepted this challenge. However for want of space and given that the achievements of these great men in just over two years in office, are legion, I shall try to be brief.
On President Mohammadu Buhari, leaders of the APC in Kaduna State, especially our dear Governor, Mallam Nasir el Rufai spent hours enumerating and offering proper details of the achievements of Mr. President in just two years in office. Party members were told, among other things, that in the crucial area of the economy, the Buhari administration has returned the country to unprecedented growth in particularly Agriculture and Solid Minerals. Incontrovertible facts were made available at the meeting that showed all too clearly that these two priority sectors have in the last two years seen improved performance, in spite of the economic recession the nation contended with during the period under review. Facts that are available in the Federal Office of Statistics and elsewhere indicated that Agriculture grew by 4.11% in 2016, while Solid Minerals recorded a 7% increase. The contribution of the Ministry of Solid Minerals to the Federation Account tripled to about N2 billion in 2016, up from N700m in 2015. Party leaders were also happy to note that President Buhari has since restored the time-honoured culture of saving for the rainy day. Even at a time of low oil prices (and by implication low government revenues), Nigeria’s External Reserves grew by US$7 billion by October 2016; The Sovereign Wealth Fund witnessed inflows of US$500m in 2016 and 2017 (the first inflows since the original US$1bn with which the Fund kicked off in 2012), and the Excess Crude Account has seen an inflow of US$87m, in 2017.
The Kaduna political leaders, many of whom are big time farmers, were besides themselves with joy when the facts were laid bare that the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (which involves a partnership with the Government of Morocco, for the supply of phosphate), has resulted in the revitalization of 11 blending plants across the country – the benefit of this include annual savings of US$200 million in foreign exchange, and ₦60 billion annually in budgetary provisions for Fertilizer subsidies. Of course, many of the party leaders at the meeting said they were well aware that the Scheme has also made it possible for farmers to purchase Fertilizer at prices up to 30 percent cheaper than previously available.
Our party leaders applauded relentlessly when a number of persons spoke about the Buhari Administration’s support for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). It was succinctly explained that the Buhari administration has launched a series of funding and capacity development initiatives designed to support MSMEs across the country, these include: the new Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) which is at the verge of taking off, with initial funding of US$1.3bn (provided by the World Bank, German Development Bank, the African Development Bank and Agence Française de Development) to provide medium and long-term loans to MSMEs.
In the all-important area of provision of critical infrastructure across the country, delegates at the meeting acknowledged the fact that road projects are ongoing across every State of the country; many of these projects had been abandoned in recent years because of mounting debts owed by the Federal Government to contractors. They also appreciated the fact that the Buhari Administration is also pushing ahead with the revitalization of Nigeria’s 3,500km network narrow-gauge railway. In addition, Abuja’s Light Rail system is slated to go into operation later this year and Kaduna political leaders at the meeting were also well aware that the Buhari Administration successfully completed the reconstruction of the Abuja Airport runway within the scheduled six-week period (March – April 2017).
Political leaders in Kaduna State also took cognizance of the fact that the four components of the Buhari Administration’s Social Investment Programme (SIP) have fully taken off. President Buhari’s SIP is reputedly the largest and most ambitious social safety net programme in the history of Nigeria, with more than 1 million beneficiaries so far. These include 200,000 N-Power beneficiaries (160,000 of them have had their details validated and are now receiving the monthly N30,000 stipend, while the rest are undergoing verification.
The Kaduna political leaders were also made aware that the Buhari Administration’s Strategic engagements with OPEC and in the Niger Delta have played important parts in raising the nation’s expected oil revenues. Already, Nigeria’s External Reserves have grown by around $7 billion in the last six months. In the same period the nation has added $87m to the Excess Crude Account, and $250m to the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Even more profound is the administration’s war against institutionalized corruption. The Kaduna political leaders applauded the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), which was set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to strengthen controls over Government finances through a continuous internal audit process across all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), particularly in respect of payroll. Through the activities of PICA, more than 50,000 erroneous payroll entries have been identified, with payroll savings of N198 billion achieved in 2016. Also, the Federal Ministry of Finance has set a target to ensure that the Federal Government’s Payroll Platform — the ‘Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System’ (IPPIS) — covers 100 percent of MDAs by the end of 2017. Currently 60% of MDAs are enrolled on the IPPIS platform.
Further, the Buhari administration has since expanded the Treasury Single Account (TSA) coverage. This decision to fully operationalise the Treasury Single Account system — a public accounting system that enables the Government to manage its finances (revenues and payments) using a single/unified account, or series of linked accounts domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria — has resulted in the consolidation of more than 20,000 bank accounts previously spread across banks in the country, and in savings of an average of N4.7 billion monthly in banking charges associated with indiscriminate Government borrowing from the banks. As at February 10, 2017, a total sum of N5.244 Trillion had flowed into the TSA.
It is also to President Buhari’s credit that safety, security and sanity have retuned to the once war-ravaged northeast of Nigeria. Barely weeks after assuming office, President Muhammadu Buhari and the gallant officers and men of our armed forces worked assiduously to defeat the Boko Haram insurgents in the northeast. Though, the defeated insurgents continue to target soft spots occasionally, the fact remains that Boko Haram’s operational and spiritual headquarters, “Camp Zero”, in Sambisa Forest has since been captured by our armed forces. Following this, the Nigerian Army conducted its Small Arms Championship from 26th to 31st March 2017 in Sambisa Forest, a measure aimed at enabling the Armed forces to dominate the area, and avoid regrouping by the terrorists.
After enumerating the huge achievements of President Muhammmadu Buhari in just two years, Governor Nasir el Rufai bluntly informed the gathered stakeholders that the political future of President Buhari is closely tied to his own personal political future. He reminded the Kaduna APC leaders that he (El Rufai) was among the few persons who begged and prevailed on President Muhammadu Buhari to run for the office of the President of Nigeria in 2015, after three unsuccessful previous attempts. It was the view of Mallam El Rufai that if President Buhari does not accept the plea to run for a second term in office, the nation stood the risk of returning to the dark era of ineptitude, corruption and insecurity. Mallam Nasir el Rufai was so emphatic about his insistence on the continuation of Buhari in office beyond 2019 that he even suggested that he (El Rufai) might not be keen on seeking reelection as Governor of Kaduna State if President Buhari decides not to seek reelection in 2019. In fact, the Governor reminded the Political Stakeholders in Kaduna that as far as he could remember, he was the only person President Buhari prevailed on to run for office. Indeed several of the stakeholders recalled all too vividly how President Buhari staunchly insisted that El Rufai must contest for the Governorship of Kaduna State in the 2015 elections under the APC. At this stakeholders meeting an emotional Governor El Rufai said he was happy he has not betrayed the trust reposed in him by President Buhari and the teeming electorates in Kaduna. The political stakeholders agreed with the Governor and cited the fact that the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Kaduna three weeks ago to commission the multi-billion Naira Olam farm, was the President’s first official visit outside Abuja since he returned from his medical vacation. This, many of the stakeholders agreed, can only be a measure of the unwavering love, trust and confidence the President has in the Kaduna State Governor. They were also quick to point out that the solidarity rally the Kaduna State Government organized for the President shortly after his arrival from medical vacation in London remains unprecedented. Over 200,000 persons were said to have attended the rally, just to show support for the President.
More so, many of the political stakeholders at the meeting poured encomiums on Governor El Rufai for changing the face of Kaduna for good. Faced with the arduous task of speedily creating an economy for the State outside earnings from crude oil and also saddled with the task of revamping inherited decayed infrastructures in the State, Governor El Rufai, on assumption of office in May 2015, opted for, and continues to assiduously pursue series of homegrown options. In particular, the State Government began focusing on mining and agriculture to rev up the economy of the State. Effectively collaborating with key players in the private sector, the administration has practically made Kaduna State the agricultural hub of sub-Saharan Africa. Not too long ago, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai was joined by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, to perform the ground breaking ceremony for the establishment of a potato farm and processing facility worth $120 million in Manchok, Kaura local government area of the state. The project, jointly initiated by the state government and Vicampros Farms Limited, is the biggest potato plant in sub-Sahara Africa, cultivating 10,000 hectares of land and is expected to generate 30,000 job opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths in the State and beyond.
Similarly, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai has attracted to Kaduna State, the biggest poultry and hatchery farm in the whole of West Africa. The farm, which is worth about $150 million (about N30 billion), was constructed by the Olam group and was commissioned at a very colourful event three weeks ago by President Muhammadu Buhari himself. Olam Group had on Friday April 8, 2016, commissioned another mega farming project in Kaduna, the Olam Integrated Feed Mill and Poultry project in Chikpiri Gabas village.
In the same regards, the agricultural revolution in Kaduna State under Mallam Nasir el Rufai has caught the attention of the highly successful Dangote Group. Dangote Group is currently investing $10 million (about N2 billion) on a 7000-hectare tomato farm and processing plant in Kaduna state. Apparently, borrowing a leaf from the Dangote Group, another reputable business giant, the Stallion Group has also committed about 100 million USD investment to rice farming and milling in Kaduna State. Of course, sensing business expediency, Indorama, one of Africa’s largest fertilizer companies has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to build an organic fertilizer plant in Kaduna to power the agricultural revolution going on in the State under Mallam El Rufai.
Conscious of the fact that Kaduna State is the leading producer of ginger in Nigeria, Governor Nasir el Rufai has perfected plans to more than triple yields between this year and 2018. On this score, the State Government is collaborating with the Central Bank of Nigeria to enable ginger farmers in the state access a N5 Billion loan to boost ginger farming. It is the hope of the Governor that when the loan is properly harnessed and utilized as intended, ginger farmers in the state will be empowered economically as the crop is in great demand across the globe. Already many ginger farmers in Kaduna State are hitting gold as they are merrily exporting several tons of their produce to China, Chad, Sudan and Ghana while a considerable volume is being sold locally across the country.
But for the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, it is in abundant deposits in raw Gold and Nickel that Kaduna State holds the aces. Indeed, mappings carried out by the Kaduna State Government has shown clearly that the raw gold deposits in one local government area of the state is larger than the entire Gold deposits in the Republic of South Africa. Mallam El Rufai disclosed recently that solid minerals alone would attract about N40 billion investments to the state, and urged investors to explore the opportunities in the state. No doubt, good times are in the offing for Kaduna State.
It is also on record that Kaduna State is one of the first subnational governments in the world and the first in Nigeria, to conduct an in-depth analysis of local SDGs data and strategy development to implement all 17 Goals in the State. At the recently concluded United Nations General Assembly in New York, Kaduna State was the cynosure of all eyes as the State showcased to the world how it integrated the SDGs into its State Development Plan for 2016-20 as well as how the integrated system is improving livelihoods, investing in education and ensuring access to life-saving services, while boosting environmental sustainability, social cohesion and peace for its citizens. The overall goal of the El Rufai administration is to leave no one behind as every citizen counts in this development agenda. To achieve this, the State has taken drastic steps on the journey to sustainable development to generate sufficient data to understand where Kaduna State stands in relation to these SDG goals, and to help guide policy interventions to target the deepest and most persistent pockets of poverty.
Clearly, the call for a second term in office for President Buhari and Mallam El Rufai has become so overwhelming that has practically transmuted to a Movement in Kaduna State that can hardly be halted or diluted by whatever means. It therefore did not come to many as a surprise when critical stakeholders and political leaders who attended the crucial expanded stakeholders’ meeting vehemently insisted on President Buhari and Mallam Nasir El Rufai as their respective candidates for the 2019 presidential and Governorship elections. This much they articulated in the communique issued at the end of the meeting and made available to the public. Kaduna State has become the first State to make its stand known: President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Nasir el Rufai have much more to offer the nation and Kaduna State respectively beyond 2019.
Sani is the special adviser on political and inter-governmental affairs to the governor of Kaduna State.