Salaries, allowances of govs, senators, others must be reviewed


Former Kano State deputy governor, Prof. Hafiz Abubakar, is reputed for resigning his appointment to head back to the university as a lecturer. He is sad about the multiple issues that have arisen from the wide disparities between the leaders and the led in the country. He takes stock of them in this interview with PAUL UKPABIO, pointing out where we have all gone wrong. He also speaks about 44th conference and AGM of the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST) declared open by him in Lagos at the beginning of the #EndSARS protests, sharing his feelings about the youth, Nigeria and food security as it concerns the north and other parts of the country.  

 

WHAT is your view on the #EndSARS protests embarked upon by the youth?

The right to peaceful protest is guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

It is alleged that armed soldiers opened fire on the protesters. Couldn’t that have been avoided?

By my training as an academician, I can only speak with facts. I am therefore ethically constrained to apportion blame.

Some people believe that a fifth columnist has infiltrated the ranks of the youth and that could discredit the protests…

There is evidence of hoodlums’ infiltration, which calls for caution to avoid a slide into anarchy.

The youths are calling for a review of the salaries of top public officials like senators, governors and House of Reps members. Is that achievable?

I fully support the call for the review of salaries and allowances of all political and public servants in the country. There are multiple issues arising from the wide disparities. They need to be addressed urgently.

What would be your advice for the youth and the federal government at this time?

My advice to the original organisers of the protest is to calm down and stock-take the situation before charting the way forward.  As for the Federal Government, they should act responsibly in a transparent manner to address the issues raised by the youth before it is too late.

It was NIFST’s 44th Convention and AGM recently and you were there to declare the event open. Naturally food sufficiency came to the front burner. How prepared is Nigeria in this regard?

Food sufficiency in Nigeria is still a mirage. Although we have good policies that seek to promote it, critical gaps and lack of understanding of the pivotal role of other stakeholders in the agricultural food value chain have over the years inhibited progress in this direction. The agro-food value chain has three major components, consisting of production, processing and finance and marketing, which explains the strong interdependence. For quite some time, our agricultural policies and programmes have concentrated on number one, which is production, at the expense of the two other critical components, hence delaying our journey to food self-sufficiency as a nation.

Apparently, there had been mass motivated programmes targeted at agriculture in time past, like Operation Feed the Nation. Wouldn’t such a programme be necessary at this time?

I agree with you; we need a new programme with the same spirit like Operation Feed the Nation, but with a total paradigm shift. In the food value chain, production is at the beginning of the horizontal chain while processing is the centre and finance and marketing is at the end of the chain. To achieve food security and sustainable economic growth, we must recognise and accord processing that central role as provided in the food value chain. This is a universal concept that is tested and trusted.

The application of this concept after the Second World War is responsible for the economic growth of Europe, the USA and the Soviet Union. Nigeria is endowed with agro and food resources to lead Africa in securing ourselves, the continent and as global players. Regrettably, our political and bureaucratic leadership lack the understanding and will to follow the directions that will take us to the land of prosperity.

Recently also NIFST became chartered. What advantage does this convey?

The signing into law of the Act establishing the Nigerian Council of Food Science and Technology by President Muhammad Buhari on the 16th of October 2019 is a development that is long overdue. It simply means food science and technology is now recognised by law as a profession. It will begin to generate more interest by our youth to join the profession like other older ones like Engineering, Law and so on.

It will stimulate development in the processing component of the value chain, leading to wealth creation and economic prosperity. It will engender trust in our food product exports, especially by the international community, seeing that our food value chain is now being regulated more and is driven by regulated professionals. These benefits are not exhaustive. Over all, it is an additional stimulus to wealth creation and economic growth.

Kano has always been the centre of commerce in the north of Nigeria. At present, what relevance would you say that Kano has in the agricultural development of the country?

Kano remains the centre of commerce for the North; a position it gained pre-colonial Nigeria. It is endowed with a huge, flat, arable land and fertile soil; a mix of good climate and medium rainfall pattern. Furthermore, Kano is lucky to have the largest water reservoir in the country with 15 dams and an active surface water holding of well over 3.5 billion cubic metres. This places it at a vantage position for both wet and dry season farming. Consequently, agriculture contributes to more than 60 % of the states GDP.

There was a time that Kano State was known for her groundnut pyramids. Can the state make a comeback with the pyramids?

From the facts stated earlier, Kano has the potential to re-create groundnut pyramids, rice pyramids, tomato pyramids, sorghum pyramids, sesame pyramids and a host of other food commodity pyramids. However, what we need now are more oil mills, rice mills, tomato processing plants and so on, as a matter of paradigm shift. The emphasis should be to make food available, adequate in essential nutrient content and affordable by the low income and the poor. This is the correct road to a food secure and prosperous nation.

What was it like being the deputy governor in Kano State which though very religious is open and accommodating to people from other parts of Nigeria?

(Laughs) On a serious note, it was a great honour and privilege for me to serve my state as deputy governor. I owe a debt of gratitude to the present Governor HE Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and his predecessor HE Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso for the opportunity. I didn’t contest for the position. They consulted and invited me from the university. It’s a great and life time experience. I learned a lot about my state, people, country and the realities driving our nation. I can comfortably say there is a very wide gap between critical stakeholders in this country; that is the academia and politics and the political leadership at all levels.

Most northern leaders started out as teachers, including you…

Yes, I am one. And I am not just one; I am the son, grandson and great grandson of teachers. So

my wife is a teacher, my eldest son is a teacher, my daughter is a teacher. So you can deduce from that.

Do you miss the classroom?

I didn’t allow the gap to miss it. As deputy governor, I continued the supervision of my PG (PhD) students.

There was a time that there was a paucity of educated people in the north of Nigeria. The story appears different now. What is your view?

Kano was lucky to have a visionary leader at inception in 1967, and that was in the person of the late CP Audu Bako of blessed memory. He laid a world class foundation for agricultural and educational development and many of his successors built on that.

What motivated your early education and inspired you to become a professor?

My grandfather! As a pioneer student of Food and Nutritional Sciences from Kano State, I was motivated to get to the top. I thank God for fulfilling my dreams. I am the first Kano State indigene to become a professor of Food and Nutritional Biochemistry: The first in Bayero University Kano.

How did you get into politics?

I was a follower of political activities since childhood. The great nationalist and champion of the poor, Malam Aminu Kano of blessed memories, was our neighbour. We came from the same clan, ward and local government in Kano.

It is not usual in Nigeria for people to resign from public office probably because of the perks. Should the perks of office be bigger than individual’s dignity?

I came from a dignified poor family of Ulamas (Teachers in Islamic theology). Decency was central to our bringing. For me, l will continue to thank and pray for my deceased parents who have inculcated in me to cherish one’s dignity over all world attractions.  So, yes, for me, dignity is bigger than the perks of office.

You also aspired to be a governor in Kano State. Is the zeal to serve still there?

Before I answer you, let me give you a little background. When I resigned my position as deputy governor on the 4th of August 2018, I rested for only two months receiving well-wishers, counseling my followers, reflecting on my experiences and thanking God. I wrote and requested for my reinstatement to the university. It was approved and I resumed duties as a professor to my department on the 1st of November 2018. In the university I held the position of a head of department, deputy dean, pioneer dean of a faculty, pioneer director of a centre of research and, finally, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academics) of Bayero University. I was called to serve my people from that seat as deputy governor.

Currently, I am serving as a visiting professor at the National Universities Commission, Abuja, crisscrossing the country offering my service for the development of university education in our beloved country. It is clear from the foregoing that I am willing to serve my country in any capacity at all times.

What would you do differently if you were in such office again?

I will look differently into how I handle some of my relationships with peers, bosses and so on.

Who have been your role models?

My role models have been Malam Aminu Kano, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Sardauna of Sokoto of blessed memories.


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