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Covid-19: The Bread, the Cake, and the Shroud – An Open Letter to Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje

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Ganduje

Aliyu Barau

Introduction

Your Excellency, permit me to commiserate with you over the Covid-19 incident currently ravaging our dear Kano State.

The geometric rise in the number of cases is certainly worrying for every good citizen of our premier state.

At first, I was acutely hesitant to pick a pen to express my opinions over the current situation in Kano given the deluge of faulty assumptions, doubts, ignorance, expectations and high level politicization that create a metallic corona around the pandemic.

Nevertheless, I swiftly shifted gears and mustered courage to add what I believe is a knowledge-driven perspective in fulfilling my academic calling.

Perhaps, in this way, I may contribute towards silver lining the effects of the pandemic that silently and briskly peels off Kano’s envied fabric of elegance.

I fully understand that, the best way to fight this pandemic is through chorus in the voices and actions of the citizens, the government, the opposition, academics, traditional rulers, the civil society groups and les fonctionnaires – the public servants – as the French would say.
It is obvious that, the government and its hierarchical power and management structures cannot win the battle alone.

In order to effectively fight the Covid-19, a non-hierarchical, apolitical, innovative, interdisciplinary, and holistic approach is earnestly needed in urban Kano.

Read also: COVID-19: 15 more health workers test positive in Kano

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Government in Kano and everywhere in Nigeria enjoy swimming in the waters of DAD – decide, announce, and defend model of decision-making.

In Nigeria, everything the Government does is correct and unchallengeable. Contrastingly, in fantastic democracies, governments win people and processes through ADD – announce, discuss and decide model of decision-making.

In my view, not in Kano or Nigeria alone, the Covid-19 has opened the Pandora Box on how governments make wrong decisions in the times of VUCA – vulnerability, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. The situation also exposes the nudity of our poorly planned and managed towns and cities.

Cities are now more social than physical and Covid-19 has proved that in many economies. At least, I have visited cities in all continents to understand this notion.
We need unity at this time more than ever before. But, who is the shepherd of the unity to lead us win the battle against the dreaded Covid-19? I remember a Ghanaian adage which says: An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep. When Ibn Makhtoum, the father of modern Dubai met with some strategists, they told him this story: “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. The lion knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve.

Al-Makhtoum answered that he wanted to be both a lion and a gazelle.

We are gazelles, the coronavirus is the lion. Any procrastination from our side means the coronavirus will make us its meal. In this open letter, I aim at spotlighting the areas where the Kano State Government has remarkably done well; the areas where it does below expectation; and also to offer game-changing actions that may help us flatten the infection curve faster and faster.
Historically speaking, the last time governments in Kano and Nigeria were seriously proactive in the seasons of diseases outbreak was during the colonial period.

At that time, the British had to racialize and segregate urban spaces between Africans and whites for fear of epidemics.

In Kano, around 1930s the planning ordinances provided for creating a buffer zone of 440 yards between African settlements and the so-called GRAs. This form of crude social distancing is today being re-created digitally in South Korea and Singapore among others in tracking suspected Covid-19 patients.

Your Covid-19 Accolades

Your Excellency, I am personally impressed by some of the actions that the Kano State Government has taken a couple of weeks ago when you closed its borders.

The way you superintended the closure is highly commendable. Breaches by citizens is borne out of lack of patriotism and self-discipline.

Secondly, I raise my hat for you for initiating the evacuation of the abandoned children – the so called almajiris – to their states of origin.

Many compatriots frowned at this action saying it negates the freedom of movement of Nigerian citizens. What such individuals do not know is that, this is the case of abandoned underage children.

I hardly see anything wrong in this back to the sender approach. Without this action, only God knows the amount of infections these children will inflict on our streets and households.

If there is still many of them, I would say who (among the citizens) has reported to authorities.

The fact that you impose lockdown on Kano before the Federal Government is also commendable.

Importantly, without your red eyes, markets and masjids will devastatingly flaunt the orders at the detriment of all. Again, your request for Federal financial presence has been mocked by many on the social media.

But what is good for goose is also good gander, if the Federal Government has allocated funds from the national cake to other states then why discriminate against Kano? It is even encouraging to dare the Federal Government for abandoning Kano. Again, your threat to confiscate inflated consumables from business owners during this emergency is very encouraging.

A few days ago the Attorney General of Tennessee State in the United States did that to two brothers who hoarded 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizers which they forfeited to escape prosecution.

Criticisms, Observations, and Recommendations

Your Excellency, in spite of all of the above, I have misgivings on your decision for the partial loosening of the lockdown on Mondays and Thursdays. I say, “it is too soon” echoing the words of Donald Trump to one of the Republican Governors who eased the lockdown in his state. Lockdown people will complain, no lockdown people will complain.

Lockdown is an exceptional lifesaving venture and hence a bitter pill to swallow. As I will explain later, the decision is unripe and in many respects irrational and antithesis of the best practices in combating the pandemic.

In the course of this lockdown I was compelled to move out on grounds of health, I crisscrossed many parts of Gwale, Kano Municipal and Tarauni LGAs.

I witnessed some level of maturity and understanding being exhibited by the security agents on duty.

I also observed active presence of low level informal businesses: mai kayan miya, mai nama, mai shago, fruit sellers and importantly water vendors. Bigger businesses from filling stations and pharmacies are all exempted from the closure. Thus, there are many unblocked goods and services most needed by the urban poor.

The significance of the improved power supply cannot be discounted in this context. However, I am by no means ignoring the fact that some citizens are roundly poor and can only eke-out a living when they are out.

Truly, the worst affected is dan maula whose forefather the British spy Heinrich Bath spotted in Kano city in the late 1800s. So why the selective rage from the social media? This is not normal time. We all suffer from it in many ways.

We are losing many people that are trunks of our society, neighbourhoods, and households. Preliminary reports of the Federal Government team investigating the waves of mysterious deaths in Kano linked the deaths to the gory hands of the blood thirsty Covid-19.

This is Kano.

In every neighbourhoods there are good Samaritans who help the poorest and relations.

Lockdown is for sunna; sunna is for lockdown. Didn’t Prophet Muhammad (SAW) urge Muslims to be patient and isolate during pandemics? Do we compromise anybody’s suffering to increase shrouds for our people? Corona bubble burst is an inevitability in an unguided eased lockdown.

My next criticism on loosening the lockdown is its crudity and blindness to realities of abusing and violating basics of the principles of social distancing.

Before easing the lockdown, the State Government needs to experiment with many scenarios of success and failures of easing the lockdown within particular sections of the city.

For instance, the Saudi Government is currently conducting trials of social distancing models in Masjidil Haram.

The Sudais-led Presidency General of the Holy Mosques is probably experimenting on how best they can handle the crowd when the Masjid is eventually unlocked.

Fighting Covid-19 is successful only when innovation and knowledge-based decision-making is embraced by governments. Anything less is rebound to spikes in infection.
Your Excellency, the Kano State Government is playing Marie Antoinette, the queen of France during the French Revolution who is notorious for saying, “let them eat cake” to the protesting French peasants that lacked bread.

By asking talakawa to go to malls and supermarkets, KNSG is asking the poor to eat the cake at the time the bread is out of their reach. More so, the distribution of the population and the location of the supermarkets is disproportionate. This further brings to fore the failure of urban planning in Kano.
At the moment, the wisest thing to do is to borrow a model of European open street markets where for instance, trucks and mini trucks in their hundreds can be strategically located at major urban hubs and nodes where market people from Sabon Gari, Dawanau, Rimi, Yan Kaba and others can sell grains, vegetables, and other essentials from 6 am to 10 am under strict social distancing guidelines. Indeed, this can be a shared economy system where our transporters and traders can jointly benefit.

Your Excellency, on the eve of Ramadan when the lockdown was first eased, local radios reported that some babies passed away at one of the markets in the municipality out of heat stroke and massive crowding that betrayed social distancing.

I am not convinced that effective social distancing was observed on Monday, 4th of May that can sufficiently protect the most vulnerable citizens.

I expected that KNSG will ban nursing mothers, children and the aged from visiting any crowd pulling locations. In other words, the administration lacks any strategy on protecting the most vulnerable.

Spain, Turkey, and Sweden have made breakthroughs in targeting some population groups in combatting the pandemic.
Your Excellency, one of the major minuses in your administration’s fight against Covid-19 is its inability to democratise and disaggregate infection locations data through appropriate real time mapping.

It is imperative for the Government to disseminate and map locations of infections released by the NCCD not only for decision support but also for supporting the public to know where to avoid infections.

Geo-locational mapping is critical to fighting this pandemic in India for instance.
Your Excellency, but fact is that our healthcare personnel at the frontline are scared and highly vulnerable to the current situation. Therefore, I strongly recommend that your administration incentivizes them for their sacrifices.

This can be in the form of promoting to next level of promotion all our healthcare workers directly involved in this fight.

This is necessary and not unusual with responsible governments around the world. As I write this, over one hundred private jets owned by celebrities and tycoons have been released for conveying doctors and nurses in France.

The cabin crew give them first class treatment as a sign of appreciation of their sacrifice.

Similarly, I witnessed Friday sermons in Mecca and Medina holy shrines where the Imams pray profusely for rijaal-assihha (health personnel) and rijaal al-amn (security forces) helping the Saudis at this critical time.
Your Excellency, I would like to recommend that you sanction any business outlet in Kano and especially the financial institutions and other businesses that have barricaded and protected their staff but are indifferent at how their customers use their premises. Banks in particular have duty and resources to provide sanitizers and impose social distancing and use of masks at their premises.

Your Excellency, I implore that KNSG should vigorously embark on mass production and acquisition of face masks for free delivery to the public.

In particular, I find it very disturbing to observe that most of the security agents deployed on our roads lack face masks.

Your Excellency, I also urge you to deploy your land powers to open new graveyards and expand the existing ones in the metropolis to cope with increasing deaths.

Many graveyards have been encroached upon and at this time, KNSG can acquire more land to cope with the increasing burial of the shrouded bodies.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Your Excellency, my verdict is that Kano under your leadership is ill-prepared and less prepared in combatting this pandemic.

Youradministration prioritizes arm chair committees and excessive red-tapism against the best practices.

But there is hope amidst lockdown fatigue. Prayers, innovation, and knowledge based approaches are promising when embraced.

I believe for the recommendations that I have made you can implement most of them within 24 hours.

I am sure the State House of Assembly can help you pass any law within 12 hours of putting your request.

Aliyu Barau, PhD

[tps_title][/tps_title](Associate Professor/Chartered Town Planner)
05.05.2020/Ramadan, 12, 1441

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Opinion

Electronic transmission of results: The joke is on NASS, INEC, not NCC  

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Aliyu Momodu

In the heat of the debate over Electoral Act Amendment Bill and the propriety and workability of electronic transmission of result, the House of Representatives invited the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, the nation’s telecoms regulator.

The House also invited the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to answer to some questions. But as it has now turned out, the invitation to NCC was needless, baseless and at best a futile exercise in red-herring. The NCC, it must be stated, is one of the best performing public institutions in Nigeria with its exemplary culture of good corporate governance noised abroad even as far as Switzerland, the head office of the International Telecommunications Union, ITU.

The NCC has over the years become a worthy Ambassador of Africa in the ITU family. It has not only represented Africa on the international circuit, it has sponsored young Nigerian techies and tech nerds to ITU-promoted competitions on innovation and in most cases, these fecund Nigerians have come out tops, beating competitors from Asia, Europe and the rest of the world. NCC has functioned as a truly independent regulator, inspiring confidence in investors, telecom consumers and other stakeholders including the media. It was therefore needless and a clear act of mischief to drag such an untainted commission into the nation’s murky political waters.

Dragging the commission to testify before the House on the feasibility of electronic transmission of results is mischievous on the part of the lawmakers. It’s a joke taken too far by a body that was supposed to understand the basics of the nation’s Grundnorm, the constitution. They feigned ignorance of relevant sections of the constitution just to scapegoat the NCC and make themselves look squeaky clean.

The Senate itself was fraudulent and duplicitous when it pushed the responsibility of Electronic Transmission of result to the NCC in spite of what the constitution says about the powers of INEC to determine the electoral process including the pattern of voting and mode of transmission of result. Some senators, including the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, a man who once desecrated the hallowed chamber when he sponsored and promoted in broad daylight the ignoble venture of stealing the Mace, the symbolic authority of the Senate, were quick to quote obviously false statistics which they dubiously ascribed to the NCC. What a show of shame that persons elected to make laws for the good governance of the nation and who should know the rudiments of extant laws including the constitution would feign ignorance of aspects of the law that makes utter nonsense of their tomfoolery and moral somersaults in the chambers of the Senate.

For the avoidance of doubt, Section 78 of the Constitution provides that ‘The Registration of voters and the conduct of elections shall be subject to the direction and supervision of the Independent National Electoral Commission’.”

The Third Schedule, Part 1,F, Section15 says: “INEC has power to organise, undertake and supervise all elections to the offices of the President, Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor of a state, and to the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each state of the Federation.”

The Constitution further provides that INEC operations shall not be subject to the direction of anybody or authority.”

This, therefore, renders the action of the NASS nugatory. By inviting NCC and INEC shunning its own invitation, it appears the House was acting a devious and utterly treacherous script intended to do harm to the purity of the electoral process, and only conscripted NCC into the plot to draw legitimacy from the globally acknowledged good governance rectitude of the telecom regulator. It was a wrong decision meant to hoodwink Nigerians and clearly intended to make the lawmakers smell like rose flower while the NCC and INEC appear like villains of a political plot.

Electronic transmission of result is not rocket science. It is a universal norm in the 21st century. Smaller and poorer nations across the globe have achieved electronic transmission of result even with their limited infrastructure, Nigeria should not be an exception. It’s as simple as sending a text message, WhatsApp message or using any other platform recommended by INEC, not NCC, not NASS. Even if network is weak or non-existent in a particular unit, moving further away from such unit until you access a place of better network still will not vitiate the authenticity of the result already tallied at the polling units. The electronic copy only complements the physical copy which must have been signed by all agents relevant to the election. Electronic copy as a back-up copy helps to strengthen the electoral process and reduce incidents of ballot-snatching and primitive manipulation of the physical copy. There ought not to be a debate on this especially when INEC, the only body mandated by the constitution to organize, undertake and supervise all elections has categorically stated that it can achieve electronic transmission of results.

The joke truly is on NASS and an inconsistent INEC.

Aliyu Momodu, is a public affairs analyst.

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Unusual signs may emerge on Laylatul Qadr – Alakarmawi

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Sheikh Muhammad Nazifi Alkarmawi

Nasiru Yusuf

A renowned Islamic scholar in Kano Sheikh Muhammad Nazifi Alkarmawi said it is sometimes possible to witness unusual signs on Laylatul Qadr.

Kano Focus reports that Sheikh Alkarmawi revealed this while delivering his Friday sermon.

He said Laylatul Qadr is one of the most sacred nights in Islam found in the last ten days of Ramadan.

According to him it is sometimes possible to witness unusual signs on the night.

Some of the signs highlighted by the Imam is the night is serene, quiet and shining where the temperature is neither hot nor cold and the moon shines clearly.

Sheikh Alkarmawi said Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him used to double effort in the last ten days of Ramadan aimed at witnessing the night.

He described as a weak a narration wich declared twenty seventh night of Ramadan as Laylatul Qadr, and urged adherents to seek the night in the last ten days of the holy month.

On the recommended acts in the night, Sheikh Muhammad Nazifi Alkarmawi cited a hadith narrated by Nana Aisha which prophet taught Muslims to recite ‘Allahumma innaka afuwun, tuhibbul afwa, fa’afu anna.

He also admonished faithful on supplication, forgiveness, upholding good deeds and assisting the needy.

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Opinion

Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu at 65

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Professor Abdalla Adamu

By Ibrahim Sheme

On this day, April 25, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, clocked 65 years.

He was the VC of NOUN from 2016 to February 11, 2021. When his tenure ended, he returned to his former duty post at Bayero University, Kano, but then took sabbatical work as Visitor at Kaduna State University (KASU), Kaduna, on March 1, this year.

Born in Kano City on April 25, 1956, Adamu is unarguably one of the leading academic lights in Nigeria. He obtained a professorship each in Science Education and in Media and Cultural Communication, both from Bayero University, in 1997 and 2012 respectively. Indeed, he is one of very few academics in the country to have attained the feat of a double professorship.

Adamu is an international scholar, having taught media and science education courses in many Nigerian universities and around the world, including serving as a European Union Visiting Professor at University of Warsaw, Poland, in 2012, visiting professor, Rutgers University, New Jersey, and visiting professor, University of Florida in 2010. He was also Fulbright African Senior Research Scholar in 1991.

One other remarkable achievement he recorded was the development of ‘hooked’ Hausa language character font sets (ɓ Ɓ ɗ Ɗ ƙ Ƙ), which were not present at the advent of the Internet. The emergence of these fonts, which he created as part of his various extracurricular activities, has helped many authors, publishers, scholars, students and ordinary users in conveying the Hausa language in a way that it should be written.

Two years ago, on a day like this, I penned a birthday tribute to Professor Adamu to help celebrate his 63rd anniversary. In that write-up I did not dwell on his unfolding accomplishments at NOUN in the area of infrastructural development of the university because others had done so already. Instead, I emphasised on the then VC’s human relation, which I have always found unique. And I wrote: “On that score Prof. Abdalla has remained the same person I have known for about two decades – easy-going, humorous and understanding towards all. I think this essence is a great contributory factor to the achievements he is making as a leader and chief executive.

“His approachability is rare. I know chief executives who are ‘feared’ – and consequently loathed – by those working under them because of their stiffness and unbendability. Some, you strictly need an appointment to see them, and their secretaries become lords because they emulate the ‘man inside’.  Not Baba Prof (as we used to call him). He runs an open door policy, with a  secretary (Esther) just as approachable and nice as he is.

“Once you get into his office, you immediately feel at home. He has a joke for everyone. You will never find him mirthless or sad as if the whole world rests on his shoulders. If it is lunch-time, he offers you his food.

“That sense of humanity, for me, are as important as the infrastructure he is putting on ground at NOUN. That sensibility, plus the infrastructure and the policy transformation, will no doubt count as his best legacies when his tenure ends in February, 2021.”

I daresay many at NOUN would remember him for such virtue. Happily, his successor as VC, Professor Olufemi A. Peters, is another approachable chief executive who doesn’t put on airs. Even though the two men do not necessarily share the same character traits, one can say there are several points of convergence that one can easily point at – but that is a story for another day.

Meanwhile, I’d like to use this opportunity to wish Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu happy birthday and many happy returns.

Sheme is the Director, media and publicity at National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja

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