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One councillor, One Dozen Advisers

It is the stuff of political and good governance legend. The vernacular Leadership Hausa newspaper reported a story last Monday with the by-line of its Kano reporter, Mustafa Ibrahim Tela. It said a Local Government councillor in Kano State, Hon. Kabiru Shugaba, representing Kwanar Diso and Lungun Makera ward, has appointed twelve special advisers to assist him in the discharge of his duties. They were sworn in at a colourful ceremony held last week at the headquarters of Gwale Local Government, home base of the late Malam Aminu Kano.

The new special advisers to the councillor are Sunusi Alhaji Jibrin, Adviser on Youth Education; Malam AbdulKareem, who is the Imam of the Jumu’ah Mosque, as Adviser on Religious Affairs; and Alhaji Liman, Adviser on Agriculture. Other advisers include Alhaji Sa’idu Kura, Political Adviser to the Councillor; Alhaji Namadi, Adviser on Special Duties; Alhaji Murtala Ado Kwage, Adviser I on Youth Affairs; Alhaji Tijjani, Adviser II on Youth Affairs and Malam Ali, Adviser on Senior Citizens. The remaining ones are Malama Zainab, Adviser on Girls, Spinsters, Divorcees and Widows; Malama Halima, Adviser on Housewives/Married Women; Malam Mai Citta, Adviser on Godfathers, and Malam Alhaji, Adviser in the Hon. Councillor’s Office. According to the report, the swearing-in ceremony was attended by people from all over Gwale Local Government and its environs. The councilor said in his speech that he appointed each one of them on merit and also because of the help they had been rendering to him even before their appointment.

I congratulate Hon Kabiru Shugaba for his vision, innovation, dynamism and exemplary courage in this matter. I am not surprised because his surname means ‘leader,’ which means he has been associated with exemplary leadership qualities all his life which he is clearly determined to uphold. In these difficult times that we are in, our leaders at all levels need all the advice they can get. Some of our leaders were however deceived because Nigerians tend to criticize the number of advisers and special assistants that they appoint to assist them, so many of them chickened out.

For example, in the old dispensation, the President of the Federal Republic and state governors had dozens of special advisers and special assistants each. At one time, one state governor appointed 2,000 special advisers and special assistants. Because Nigerians complained, the current president got the National Assembly to approve only 15 special advisers for him. Although the National Assembly approved his request since June last year, he has so far appointed only two special advisers. He  has not appointed an Economic Adviser despite the economic crunch, steep fall in government revenue, crash of the naira, bearish stock market, flight of foreign capital, fuel shortages and collapse of the national electricity grid, all for fear that Nigerians will say he has too many advisers. He also refused to appoint a Political Adviser even though his ruling party is dysfunctional, beset by infighting, with its key leaders disgruntled and grumbling, with its once fervent base of supporters saying there is no more Sak in 2019.

In contrast, look at the kind of quality advice and assistance in the discharge of his duties that Hon Kabiru Shugaba will get from one dozen special advisers. Unlike the advisers of president and governors who mostly do paperwork, phone calls, emails and endless meetings in Abuja and abroad, the Councillor’s  advisers deal with real human beings, real issues and in real time. The Adviser on Youth Education, for example, has the task of convincing youths in Kwanar Diso and Lungun Makera ward to continue to go to school rather than abandon their studies in pursuit of quick kills on the fuel black market. It is a daunting task. Why should a youth continue to go to school for years and years when he can bribe a fuel station attendant, get a few jerry cans filled with petrol and resell it to desperate motorists at ten times the official price? Any clever youth in Gwale will ask himself, those boys and girls who went to school up to university level and got degrees, are they not lying around unemployed for many years now? It is the Adviser on Youth Education’s task to counter this flawless argument.

Councilor Kabiru Shugaba cleverly appointed the Imam of the Juma’at Mosque as his Adviser on Religious Affairs. Is he not the man who does all the local fatwah and tells the district head and everyone else what the Shari’a’s stand is on all issues? The last thing a politician wants is for the Imam to smuggle a few words of criticism into his Friday sermon. Now Imam cannot do that since he is part of the councillor’s cabinet. The President could emulate this clever example by appointing the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress [NLC] as his Special Adviser on Labour Matters. Let us then see who will call a strike during the president’s tenure.

There is an overlap between the functions of Political Adviser Alhaji Sa’idu Kura and those of Malam Mai Citta, Adviser on Godfathers [stylishly called Adviser on the Politics of Senior Citizens]. For politics at the ward level both of them can give only one advice: be cheerful as if you are a madman, dish out money, pretend to respect everyone, visit the sick including those who are pretending, attend funerals, marriages and naming ceremonies and hang on tightly to the apron strings of godfathers.

The most challenging of all the advisers’ responsibilities is the one given to Malama Zainab, Adviser on Girls, Spinsters, Divorcees and Widows. When Babatunde Raji Fashola was appointed the Minister of Works, Power and Housing some Nigerians said it is a very difficult portfolio. It is nothing compared to Malama Zainab’s portfolio. I would rather be in charge of power sector than be saddled with the management of girls, especially adolescent ones. The belief here is that teenage girls are fickle-minded; they make and unmake their minds with the regularity of sunrise. Gwale Local Government is also teeming with divorcees and widows. It is Malama Zainab’s duty to bring their problems to the councillor’s attention. In one word their problem is: to remarry. I do not know how many wives the Councillor already has but if he has “closed his door” with four wives, then he can only counsel them to be patient and try to put in as many of them as possible in the list for Kano Hisbah Commission’s next mass wedding.

Malama Halima, Adviser on Housewives and Married Women, has a portfolio more challenging than the Minister of Defence’s. There are tens of thousands of housewives in Hon Shugaba’s ward. Most of them have problems, the commonest one being that their husbands are irregular in sending home the ingredients for the day’s supper. A housewife will come up to the Councillor and say that a spider has spinned cobwebs on her cooking stove because she has not started a fire on it in a week.

This is a problem the President never encounters; his preoccupation is macroeconomic policy. For a woman who has not cooked for a week, can you lecture her on the potential benefits of the anti-corruption war? Councillor must dip his hand in his pocket and solve her problem for that day. How many times can he do that from his salary? And when he tries other means in order to live up to the expectation of all these youths, spinsters, housewives, divorcees, widows, senior citizens and godfathers, EFCC will come and say procedure was not followed in the award of contracts. Is it the correct procedure that so many housewives did not start a fire in the evening to cook the family’s meal?

Source: Daily Trust

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