Speech delivered by Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, OFR, Governor of Kaduna State at the Kaduna State House of Assembly, 10 June 2015
I am delighted to visit the Kaduna State House of Assembly. Thank you for permitting this visit. Please accept my congratulation on your election as representatives of our people. We salute your new leadership and wish all of you a successful tenure. This is a new moment in our state, and I welcome you all to the task of making it a meaningful era for our people.
Honourable members, permit me to stress that cooperation is a crucial aspect of our democracy. The three arms of government are independent, but interdependent. The three arms need each other and must cooperate to effectively do the work of the people.
The elections that have thrust the responsibility of governance on us reflect the yearning of our people for leaders that are competent, responsive and willing to offer dedicated service. As elected officials, we must view our massive mandates as instructions by our people for unrelenting work on their behalf. The change they voted for is for substantive improvements in the delivery of public goods, a new way of doing things and the prioritisation of their needs.
As you are aware, the executive branch of this government has been taking briefings from the ministries, departments and agencies that constitute the public service of Kaduna State. The preliminary findings indicate that our Kaduna State is in dire straits. Its finances are a shambles, with huge debts and other liabilities, including pension arrears and pending obligations to contractors. This highly indebted state is also dependent on allocations from the federation account, without which it will be unable to pay its workers their salaries and allowances. Once done with paying salaries, allowances, overheads and pensions, the state is unable to do much by way of building infrastructure or providing services. The stark fact is that Kaduna State spends 80 per cent of its total revenues on its public servants and political office holders.
Can we as elected leaders deliver any significant service or implement progressive actions or attain desirable outcomes for the majority of our people if we devote only 20 per cent of available resources to their needs? Would will not be undermining the very rationale of democracy if, after being elected by majority vote, we uphold a system that solely serves the pleasures of a servant-minority? How many good roads or decent hospitals can we build and maintain when we leave so little monies for the things that actually matter?
One damning consequence of this skewed expenditure pattern, for instance, is the education of our children. According to the briefing that we received from SUBEB, 50 per cent of our primary school pupils sit on bare floors. Many of our schools lack decent toilets, and there are obvious issues with the quality of instruction. The transition ratio from primary to secondary school is also dismal. Be it in security, jobs or healthcare, the task is immense.
Honourable members, this is a small sketch of the nature of the challenges we confront. It is our duty to overcome, or at least navigate, the impediments of low revenue and unsustainable recurrent expenditures and overheads. That will enable us to responsibly concentrate on applying our best efforts to meeting the justifiably high expectations of our people. We have been invested with hope, we cannot deliver despair.
In meeting our people’s hopeful quest, we the elected officials must be at the vanguard of change. We must lead by letting our conduct manifest hard work, sacrifice and humility. The deputy governor and I have signaled our intentions in this area by announcing that we are taking a pay cut of 50 per cent of our salary and allowances until the fiscal situation of the state improves. We appeal to all political office holders to embrace this example and attitude of sacrifice.
Honourable members, we need a serious dialogue about what our spending priorities should be, and the sources of the revenues to finance the huge demand for public services that improve the quality of lives of our people.
One casualty of the new commitment to change surely must be the perks that elected officials and political appointees have been conditioned by the previous era into assuming as legitimate entitlements. We cannot be authentic representatives of our people if the only thing that changes as a result of our being in office are our personal circumstances. We should value highly our ability to fairly reflect our society and our commitment to help realise for our people all the substantive dimensions of democracy.
In the service of our people, let the three arms of government cooperate in a new consensus that prioritises service to our people as our mission. We need a partnership of we the elected servants and the judiciary to deliver comprehensive change, to improve the circumstances of our people and requite the hopes that have been so kindly invested in us. We are here to extend our hands of collaboration and cooperation so we can collectively govern our state in the overall interest of the majority that voted for change in March and April 2015.
On behalf of the executive arm, I wish the Kaduna State House of Assembly and its esteemed members a successful term in the service of our people.
Thank you and God Bless the Kaduna State House of Assembly. God Bless Kaduna State of Nigeria. God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.