By Muhammad Garba
I read with a feeling of shock and unbelief, a malevolent piece published in The Nation newspaper on page three of its Sunday, May 31 edition written by one Tunji Adegboyega.
Shock and unbelief because, for the first time, I have come face to face with the debilitating effect of armchair journalism, when someone could sit miles away, and like a voodoo priest, conjure and concoct stories for the purpose of deliberately misleading the public, especially direct stakeholders, in a matter that he knows next to nothing about.
A total fallacy, Tunji Adegboyega’s piece, insolently attempted to give a debauched impression and credibility to a report alleging that a lot of food items sent to Kano state by the federal government as palliatives were left in an open space on the premises of the warehouse of the State Agricultural Supply Company (KASCO) to rot away.
Can you imagine-Food items left to rot away, and in the open?
Apart from its glaring ingredients of lies and innuendos, the highly opinionated article shamelessly left footprints of underbelly motives that are contradictory to public interest and good conscience.
Having read the writer’s piece, the banality of his intention is laid plain because right from his first paragraph, he made his position clear which portrays him as nursing an antipathy against the government and people of Kano state by attributing to them negativity in the subject under discussion.
Also, by mere lifting a quote from an unnamed “concerned citizen,” the author could not mention anything to indicate that there was effort to reach out to the public in Kano or authorities involved in the matter.
I deliberately decided to venerate the shambolic write-up with a rejoinder as respect to the good people of Kano state especially those that may have come through the piece which only suitable for the trashcan as well as to set the record straight, because from all indications, the schmaltziness expressed therein points to a few flustered individuals or groups behind it. The writer, it appears, relied on the erroneous report published not even by his newspaper but remained in his Lagos office just to make molds out of an unsubstantiated report published by another newspaper which is quite unfortunate. Even if a repetition, let me state that while I am not joining issues with the author who care less to know the specifics, my response is intended to divulge the tissues of deceptions presented in the piece, mainly to unsuspecting public outside Kano, because the people of Kano state know what their governor is doing in their best interest.
For the record, the consignment in question sent by the federal government are relief items worth millions of naira meant to be distributed to the vulnerable and less privileged citizens who are the beasts of burden of the hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic. And even before the arrival of the items, the rainy season has already set in as Kano has recorded its first but heavy downpour. This informed the decision by the state Fund Raising Committee on COVID-19 which is taking the custody of the grains to keep them under water proof tarpaulin.
The author of the piece is also muddled when he tried to make an issue out of the time of arrival and distribution of the palliatives. Because even the online publication that released the initial report from where the author built his piece, was published on Monday, May 25. Therefore, when the Chairman of the State Fundraising Committee and Vice-Chancellor, Bayero University, Kano, Professor Mohammed Yahuza Bello referred to Thursday as the day for the commencement of the distribution of the palliatives, he meant the following Thursday of the same week, which is May 28. And it was on that very day Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje went to the KASCO Store to perform the official distribution of the items which are billed for 50, 000 poorest of the poor households.
To say that food materials, which are grains, carefully stored for the welfare of the people are already rotten just a few days of their being received from the federal government speaks volume of this writer’s basic instinct. What Tunji Adegboyega represent in his piece also indicates that he doesn’t know Kano; a cosmopolitan city of nearly 20 million people. When one intends to undertake sharing of items, you have to work out the logistics for the exercise which the writer is faulting as ‘’nebulous concepts usually used in government parlance to cover up for incompetence or inefficiency.’’
Where was writer when the first phase of the state-procured palliative was shared to about 50,000 households in the 484 political wards in the 44 local governments in the state? Of course, the same experience is being brought to bear on that assignment which is ongoing.
What also the writer fails to understand or deliberated swept under his journalistic carpet is the political awareness of the people of Kano state. If the previous exercise by the state government had failed, it would have been in the media. Ask around, Kano enjoys the freest environment for the expression of opinion in the media.
For the avoidance of any iota of doubt, Prof. Muhammad Yahuza Bello, whom the governor assigned the responsibility of chairing the COVID-19 Fundraising Committee, together with other members, are doing their best to carry out this onerous task and there has been effective communication between the state and the federal government, which even informed the committee’s decision to take proper care of the palliatives sent.
Maybe Adegboyega is not aware that KASCO has been producing and keeping hundreds of thousands of tonnes of its products within the same premises of the warehouse at Farm Centre. No one has ever complained or made a report on the state owned company’s abandonment of its stock in the rain or under a scorching sun. But here, politics is involved and the media is out there to reap something out of it.
While attempting to cast aspersion on the ability of Governor Ganduje to sail the state through the prevailing scourge of COVID-19, the writer equally brings forward his lack of knowledge on what is going on in Kano. Even before Kano recorded its first index case, the Ganduje administration has been taking proactive measures to tackle the problem. First, the government mapped out three-point agenda for fighting the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic which are Preventive, Curative and Palliative, all of which are being pursued with vigour.
After the official index case appeared, the measures translate to setting up of a State Taskforce on COVID-19, Fund Raising Committee for Palliatives (which involved the distribution of palliatives to 50,000 households of poorest of the poor across the 44 Local Government Areas of the state), provision of Isolation Centres to Kwanar Dawaki Isolation Center for patients with critical condition, such as those in need of ventilators; Mohammad Buhari Specialist Hospital Giginyu, Abubakar Imam Urology Centre set up by the state government in collaboration with Aliko Dangote Foundation and the isolation centre at Daula Hotel. Isolation centers that are currently being constructed are 231-bed Sani Abacha Stadium Isolation Center, 200-bed capacity at Karfi Sports Institute Isolation Centre and Tofa Cottage Hospital Isolation Centre) and community mobilization through the media to challenge attitudinal and behavioural changes that need to be overcome in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
For obvious reasons, Lagos has more isolation centres than Kano but it has nothing to do with the number of deaths recorded which were yet to be confirmed whether the death had to do with coronavirus or not. And while Lagos still remains the epicenter of the dreaded disease, Kano is second to Lagos in terms of effort to combat the contagion.
If I may educate the writer, the Ganduje administration is known even by its detractors to be in the forefront in terms of management of resources and public property. Since assumption of office in 2015, the driving policies of the Ganduje administration are predicated on continuation, consolidation, fine tuning of on-going critical infrastructural projects embarked upon by the previous administrations and to further initiate more people oriented policies and programs for the overall development of Kano state. No administration in the state has ever upheld the principle of continuing with projects/programmes started by his predecessors as did Ganduje. You need to find out some of these gigantic projects but abandoned projects continued and completed by him.
In order to avoid wastage, the government also adopted the Medium Term Sector Strategy (MTSS) and the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) towards achieving value for every kobo expended by government. Through these strategies, the state government met the needs of majority of its citizenry irrespective of where they are domiciled.
By maintaining an expansionary fiscal policy stance, it was able to improve the revenue generation drive which ensured prompt payment of civil servants’ salaries and pensions as well as settlement of backlog of gratuities for retirees including disbursement of overhead cost to the MDAs, in order to ensure smooth running of government activities.
In fact, the last three years of tax administration in Kano state has been wonderful and fulfilling. Despite the jarring start, the noise, the misgivings, the collective outcome of the successes so far recorded within the span of three years (2016-March 2019) which, as a rider to the ongoing effort towards consolidation of success for the period under focus, has resulted in an increase in the revenue generation.
It also remained the only state that has a functional anti-corruption agency, the Public Complaints and Anti-Corruption Commission, which is fully provided with its requisite without any interference.
By the content of his fabricated serpentine write-up, Adegboyega is subtly advocating civil unrest in Kano by indirectly calling on hungry people, as it happens in some other climes, to take to streets protests. I believe it has never been part of a journalists’ responsibility to either take side or instigate a revolt.
But unfortunately for him, the people of Kano know their rights and the way to fight for it. Violence has never been their choice.
Muhammed Garba is the Commissioner for Information, Kano state