By Abdu Labaran Malumfashi
At the risk of sounding trite, let me start this reaction with the cliche’, ‘facts are sacred, but opinions are free’, to understand why some people rush to commit pen on paper without the benefit of deep reflection on the subject matter of their discourse, and the eventual consequences. And at the end, they invariably expose their stupidity and the indiscretions of their sponsors.
A case in point is the op-ed, “On Masari, Shema and Commission of Inquiry”, written by one Umar Abubakar of Kofar Yandaka, Katsina, published in some national newspapers.
The write up, disguised as a contribution to the debate on the subject matter, was nothing but a poor defence of the wilful indiscretions committed by the immediate past governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shehu Shema, while in office.
Umar Abubakar’s piece got me to think of an article writen two years ago by one Hassan Malumfashi titled, “Where are the Katsina State Elders”? That article, as Umar’s, was also a poor defence of Shema but disguised as an impartial intervention in the raging blame-game between Governor Aminu Bello Masari and his predecessor over the finances of the state. I strongly believe that Hassan Malumfashi and Umar Abubakar are one and same person.
Both articles focus on the alleged indifference of Katsina elders to the “media war between the camps of Governor Masari and Shema”, Shema’s alleged prudence and accountability as governor and, more importantly, the Katsina State Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the loss of funds and properties set up by Masari.
Now, nothing can be further from the truth than the allegation of indifference against Katsina elders to the war of words between Masari and his predecessor. In fact, if the Katsina elders have had their way, not one word of the misunderstanding between Masari and Shema would have been heard, but for the latter shunned several attempts by the elders to broker peace. Even before the handover of the baton of power, the Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and former Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie, Sardaunan Katsina, and some prominent elders, including representatives of the two emirates in the state, had severally invited the two to a round table to ensure a smooth handover, but each attempt was rebuffed by then governor who refused to honour the invitations. And after the handover, Coomassie continued the efforts to get the two to sit and iron, our their differences. At one point, the former governor even dared Masari “to go to court if he feels so strong about his case against me”. The Sardaunan Katsina is a witness to all these failed efforts to broker peace between Masari and Shema.
The repeated claims by writers, including Hassan and Umar, to Shema’s prudence and accountability are simply nothing but propaganda, juxtaposed with the facts on the ground. Contrary to what commentators would want people to believe, the former governor left Katsina heavily indebted (from foreign and local debts) and deeply insolvent.
The claim by Shema administration that he left N17,743,913,731:00 in the treasury at the time of his departure is not true, as bank records and other documents showed only N4,251,100,820:00 was found in government accounts his administration had operated.
Another claim by the Shema that it left Katsina debt free is also false. To be sure, in addition to the over N11billion debt in unpaid pension and gratuity to retirees, the administration left a debt portfolio amounting to N67.9 billion. The external component of the debt, which stood at $78,925,362.43 or N15,469,371,034.00 (@ N196/$) as at 29th May, 2015), include four different loans acquired by the administration of the former governor.
There are documents from the Debt Management Office (DMO) Abuja to support this claim.
As for the impropriety or otherwise of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, which is the Shema camp’s main grouse, the courts have put the case to rest, as both the Katsina High Court and the Court of Appeal have ruled on the matter.
For someone who claims to be innocent of the allegations of graft against him, it beats the imagination why the former governor prefers to defend himself through the media and the court of public opinion, instead of in the nation’s courts of law. Of course, as someone noted, “The innocent fear nothing, only the guilty are afraid”.
*Malumfashi is SSA Media to Governor Masari of Katsina State