What matters is our common humanity
Remarks by Malam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, at the 2018 Igbo Cultural Day, held at the Prison Staff Training College, Barnawa, on Saturday, 1st December 2018
Permit me to begin with a word of gratitude to the leadership of the Igbo Community Welfare Association for inviting us to this event. I am delighted to join you all today to celebrate the 2018 edition of the Igbo Cultural Day in Kaduna. This is a very diverse state. And the Igbo community is a valued and cherished part of this large Kaduna State family. We celebrate you first and foremost as citizens of Kaduna State, and we welcome your contributions to commerce, to education, to healthcare, the economy and society as a whole.
As you are aware, our state is just emerging from another episode of the violent crises that have challenged us over the last 40 years. I am aware that you had to postpone this event from its original date in October as a result of the unfortunate crisis.
We have overcome that crisis, and restored normalcy. That was made possible because of the active support for peace by our citizens, communities, and traditional and religious leaders. I want to commend the leadership of the Igbo community for working with the security agencies and other leaders to restore peace. This enabled the efforts of the military and security agencies, assisted by our brave civilian volunteers, to succeed and deal with the problem.
My message to everyone who lives in Kaduna State is that we must all commit to peace. Too many lives have been lost or blighted over the course of 40 years of violent conflict. Who has really benefitted? And what question or issue has violence ever settled? Crisis and conflict have certainly made us poorer, and it is time for all of us to say never again!
Kaduna State is not the only diverse place on God’s earth. Every responsible resident of this state can now see that the relentless obsession with ethnicity and religion is not helpful. The varied talents that we all have should instead be deployed for the common purpose of building a peaceful and prosperous society. Building the good society is in our hands, whereas our ethnicity and religion are often determined for us by the circumstances of our birth.
Let us keep religion in the private sphere, retain pride in our heritage but behave like citizens who respect the law and the rights of others.
Thankfully, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria protects the rights of citizens to live anywhere, practise any faith of their choice and pursue their livelihoods in peace and security. I assure you that the Kaduna State Government, which I currently lead, takes seriously its obligation to uphold these rights for every citizen, no matter their ethnic or religious affiliations. That is why in Kaduna State we know only citizens and residents, not indigenes or settlers. No one should be a second-class citizen because they arrived in a place later than others. For us, what matters is our common humanity.
It is for this reason that we took strong steps last year when some misguided bigots issued a quit notice to members of the Igbo community. No one has a right to issue any quit notice to any Nigerian anywhere in Nigeria. We will not allow it.
Since 29 May 2015, my colleagues and I have done our utmost to run an equal opportunity government in Kaduna State. We have tried to empower our citizens. And we have resolutely rejected past practises of allowing ethnicity or religion to influence policies and appointments. We have anchored our governance agenda on putting people first, by making lives better and by reordering the priorities of government to privilege human capital development.
In response to the speech by the President-General of he Igbo Community Welfare Association, I wish to assure you that I am aware that we have had at least three senior people of Igbo extraction in our government in the last three years.Mr. Martins Akumazi is the Special Adviser to the Governor on Project Implementation and Monitoring; Mr. Benedict Xavier is Special Assistant to the Honourable Commissioner of Finance, and Mr. Cyril Ezeamaka is Special Assistant to he Governor on Inter-Agency Support. Our government is an inclusive government, reflecting the fact that Nigerians from many parts of the country live in Kaduna State and make Kaduna State their home.
Crucial to this human capital development programme is our concentration on Education and Health. We are giving the children of ordinary people access to decent education, providing them a platform for social mobility. On behalf of the future of our children, we have taken great risks and made defining decisions. We have spent money to fix schools, providing furniture, better classrooms, water and sanitation. We are rebuilding schools where necessary. It has been a costly exercise, driven with vigour since we declared a state of emergency in the Education sector in 2015.
We have invested in teacher training, and we have successfully replaced those teachers that could not meet the standards for teaching our children.
Basic Education is free in Kaduna State public schools. For girls, it is free all through senior secondary. By abolishing hidden fees and levies, we save parents in Kaduna State N3bn every year. We have provided uniforms and raised the quality of meals in boarding secondary schools. In selected secondary schools, we are running a pilot programme that involves giving students computer tablets instead of printed textbooks. We will compare the performance of the 15,000 students, mostly girls, using the tablets with those taught with more traditional methods going forward.
In Health, we have taken decisive action to improve health outcomes for our people. We are reducing infant and maternal mortality, increasing life chances for mothers and their babies. This progress has been anchored on our project to renovate and equip 255 PHCs, to make them better able to offer antenatal care, and offer safer deliveries. Health care for under-5 infants and pregnant women is free in our hospitals.
Since 2017, we have been providing cash cover for treatment of senior citizens for diabetes and hypertension in our public hospitals. We have also enacted the Contributory Health Insurance Scheme in our state, which enables every citizen that subscribes to go to any hospital and be treated without having to pay out of pocket.
For our youths, programmes like KADSTEP, KADAT and KADEEEA offer alternative routes to skill acquisition and financial support for the enterprising. Our BATCs are being revamped and converted to Community Skills Development Centres (COSDECs) to provide skills and self-employment as alternatives to white-collar jobs.
This is apart from our determined efforts to attract investments, create direct and indirect jobs and grow the economy of our state. Our efforts in the economic front were rightly recognised in the World Bank 2018 report on Subnational Ease of Doing Business which showed that Kaduna State is the most improved state in the Ease of Doing Business. Our reforms in land administration, construction permits, adjudication of disputes and business registration have moved Kaduna State from 24th position overall in 2014 to first in 2018, thus making Kaduna State the easiest place to do business in Nigeria!
The Kaduna State Government is not leaving anyone behind. Our policy of putting people first is comprehensive and all-embracing. We will not let our citizens down.
Thank you for listening.
God bless Kaduna State!!
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!!
Governor of Kaduna State
1st December 2018