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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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Jarman Kano professor Isa Hashim: A unique personality

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

Remembering Ja’afar Mahmud Adam

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Na-Allah Mohammed Zagga

Sheikh Ja’afar foresaw the imminent monster called Boko Haram, but was brutally silenced by the assassins bullets!

Today marks the 14th Anniversary of the assassination  Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam, who was fatally shot by yet to be identified gunmen on April 13, 2007. His death was like a defoliation of the tallest tree in the forest of knowledge. He was one of the greatest preachers that ever lived; he was a scholar par excellence. In fact, he defies all the superlatives that you can ever find in  the dictionary.

Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam was not only famous for his erudition, but also for his amazing ability to foresee an imminent danger(what today becomes known as Boko Haram). He posed the most potent intellectual challenge to the outlandish and poisonous extremist ideas of Muhammad Yusuf, the notorious Boko Haram founder. He advised Yusuf, his former student, to renounce those dangerous ideas and apologize to his blind followers for misleading them.

Caught between ego and doing the right thing, Muhammad Yusuf rejected the advice because he didn’t want to lose face by admitting to his brainwashed followers that he was wrong. The rest is history. We are today paying heavily for his stubborn resistance to reason. His poisonous ideas have so deeply settled in the hearts and minds of his credulous Boko Haram  followers that they thought God is on their side and that  any Muslim  who opposes their violent extremism is automatically an infidel or an enemy.

Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam was thus vindicated; the grave danger he foresaw is now consuming us, destroying lives, schools and disrupting our social and economic life. Since 2009, more than 15,000 lives were destroyed by the Boko Haram terrorism. Because extremism paralyses a man’s capacity to think and reason, the terrorists are not even perturbed by the consequences of their atrocities, let alone give a moment’s thought to compassion and humanity.

I won’t challenge anyone who thinks Boko Haram had a hand in Adam’s death because putting two and two together, it is impossible not to reach that conclusion. Because of their extreme brutality, taking out a scholar who represented the greatest intellectual challenge to their poisonous ideas is not beyond them.

May the soul Adam continue to rest in peace! May Allah  forgive his shortcomings and eternally  reward his great deeds! Amin!

NOTE: I originally wrote this tribute to Sheikh Jafar Adam on April 13, 2018. As we mark the 14th Anniversary of his dastardly assassination today, I find it worthy to reproduce the tribute. He was an extraordinary scholar that deserves such honour.

Na-Allah Mohammed Zagga is a media consultant at Atiku media organization

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Opinion

Meet unsung court registrar, Ustaz Sunusi Khalifa

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Ustaz Sunusi Khalifa, Principal Registrar of Chief Magistrate Court 9, Nomansland.

Sunusi Umar Sadiq

When our courts’ business has for long become a cash and carry business, when the attention your case gets depends on the amount of money you give, when everything smells and breathes of money, when even the welcome you get depends on how much you give, there stands out one person, alone on a very high moral ground, and to whom public service is a sacred trust that must be discharged against all odds, without expecting any benefits in return. His name is Sunusi (Khalifa). He is the Principal Registrar of Chief Magistrate Court 9, Nomansland.

He doesn’t ask for money. He is too noble to do that. Not only that, he only takes what is necessary from lawyers to render the services they require, compilation of record of proceedings in most cases.

I once gave him money as ‘deposit’ with the intention of giving him more when I came back for the records. He insisted that the ‘deposit’ was enough and I shouldn’t care to pay anything more. At another time I gave him what other registrars will definitely ask for more. Khalifa insisted that I should reduce something out of it as the amount I gave was too much for what I wanted.

For Khalifa, his salary is his consideration for which he is under an obligation to discharge duties. While other registrars will demand thousand of Naira to enroll order and have it signed, Khalifa does that as a matter of course, a normal course of business.

It is a pity that this rare gentleman is unheard and unsung. I have not heard of any award of excellence for him from the Branches, the MULAN or any other organization or association.

Heaven rewards. The world appreciates. I will be glad if Khalifa gets appreciated though he is not in need of it. It will, however, send a very strong message to those who make our court some sort of market places and our machinery of justice (or is it machinery of law) a booming business in which every situation is exploitable.

Kudos, bravo and gracias to my namesake. We are aware of your gentle and sterling qualities and I personally always tell your story. And I do so in the most colorful of language. Something like this:

‘There is a court registrar that never asks for money. If you need anything he only takes the exact cost. If you give him more than that, he will return the surplus and say “wannan kudin ai ya yi yawa”.’

Barrister Sunusi Umar Sadiq is a legal practitioner based in Kano

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RE: In defense of Salihu Tanko Yakasai

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Salihu Tanko Yakasai

Salihu Tanko Yakasai

The above article written by Sule Yau Sule, the spokesperson of Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, might seem like a defence against my unlawful detention on 26th February 2021 in Kano, but soon after the first paragraph, it morphed into an attack on me while I was still in detention.

Though the writer superficially intended to “defend” me against the injustice meted against me for justifiably and conscientiously expressing my opinion on the current drift of the country toward cul-de-sac in apparent deviation from the vision of the ruling party to take the country away from the abyss in 2015, Sule Ya’u Sule ended up castigating me for simply exercising my constitutional rights of freedom of speech as enshrined in the constitution.

The article also bordered around ethics and professionalism of the work of a spokesperson as highlighted by the learned writer. If he had stopped there, one would have taken it objectively and picked all the lessons therein, which truly, are valid and worthy of being noted. Unfortunately, the writer digressed far away from the subject matter and delved into politics, bringing to the forefront a grudge he has been nurturing against me for over a decade, because we were on opposing sides politically with his principal when we were in the defunct ANPP.

To set the record straight, I joined APP back in December 2000 and a couple of years later, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau equally joined partisan politics and contested for the governorship election in 2003. When I joined politics, Alhaji Al-Amin Ibrahim Little was the leader of the party in the state, but when he lost the party to Shekarau and decamped to PRP, I remained in APP and went on to serve as the returning officer for Shekarau’s election, which he eventually won largely due to Buhari’s huge influence. But soon after that, Shekarau drew the line against us, Buhari’s supporters in the state, which birthed our rivalry with the Shekarau’s camp. My political mentor then was Hon. Balarabe Wakili who was instrumental in Shekarau becoming a member of the APP at that time. This was the genesis of our crises in Kano APP which led to our exit from the party in 2011 to form CPC.

I was in my mid 30s during the 2011 general elections and, of course, I went all out in my attacks on Shekarau which I later regretted and posted on my Facebook page, apologising for such a behavior; a post which is still there on my page if he wishes to look it up. I do remember Sule Ya’u Sule’s call one evening, a few days before I made the apology, and in that call, he gave me some sound advice on the choice of words whenever criticising Shekarau, a point I took to heart, and unlike what he has stated in his recent article, I have never attacked Shekarau again after that phone call till date.

Now back to the part of the article in which he has talked about ethics and what not. I am a person that take corrections to heart and I have picked all his points like a student in his class. But you see, the funny part about life is that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Let me refresh Sule Ya’u Sule’s memory about how when he was the spokesperson of the then Governor of Kano State, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, he fabricated a letter allegedly from the EFCC claiming that Shekarau had been cleared of all charges, which turned out to be a big lie, thereby causing a huge embarrassment to his principal to the extent that he was suspended for six months only to be reinstated after several pleas and interventions.

As stated by Sule in his article, “A spokesperson’s best tools are decorum, decency, belief and passion.” So I ask Sule, is embarrassing your principal also among the tools of a spokesperson? May I also ask, what punishment did he receive from NIPR at that time? If he did not receive any, perhaps he should include it in his note to the professional body in order to come up with a suitable punishment against others that will try to emulate him and ridicule their principals with fake clearance letters.

Let me also take this opportunity to set the record straight on the issue of my comments that resulted in my unlawful detention. I neither planned it nor did I have the intention of provoking such reactions. It was a spontaneous reaction on my part triggered by a number of the recent rise of insecurity in the country particularly in the north. I have personally suffered two major security issues in the last four months; the murder of my younger sister’s husband in Bauchi in front of my sister and her kids and the kidnapping of my sister’s husband’s younger brother in his house in Kaduna. N5 million had to be paid as a ransom to secure his release and in the process of raising the money, armed robbers carted away N1 million of the amount. I was certainly not thinking about ethics when I reacted to the devastating news of the abduction of the over 300 Zamfara girls. I believe anyone with a tiny bit of conscience will certainly be moved by the abduction.

Perhaps Sule is too pre-occupied with enforcing PR ethics of a spokesperson that he has lost all his conscience to the extent that he cannot see that I am a human, which comes first, before any ethics or even a temporary position that I will not occupy for life.

On a final note, though Sule is a PhD holder in Mass Communications and a professional by all standards in the field, both in terms of qualifications and experience, when it comes to human relations, I believe he is merely a kindergarten pupil. If he truly regards me as a brother as he had claimed in the article, he would not have written such a politicised opinion at a moment when I was still in unlawful detention and my family and friends were equally terrified as to what might happen to me. Irrespective of whether I was out of line or not, that is certainly not the action of someone you consider a brother. I remember when I was first appointed as the Director-General, Media in 2016, the first thing I did was to pay a visit to my predecessors to seek for their blessings and guidance, namely: Baba Halilu Dantiye, late Umar Saidu Tudun Wada and Sule Ya’u Sule. Sule promised to provide me with all the support I needed to execute my work, but little did I know that he was holding a decade-long grudge against me. Indeed with friends like Sule, who needs enemies?

Salihu Tanko Yakasai (Dawisu) is the Founding Curator of the Global Shapers Community Kano Hub of the World Economic Forum. 

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