In Kongi’s Harvest, Soyinka explores the manner in which men in power immortalise themselves by naming public institutions after themselves. Last week, the Kano State House of Assembly directed that the term “Kwankwasiyya,” a label usually found on projects done and commissioned by the former Governor of the State should be wiped out with immediate effect. The motion, Haphazardly moved and passed, caused uproar in the political fray and worsen the fragile reconciliation between Senator Kwankwaso and Governor Ganduje. But this action, seen by many as a wrong move, is already in effect in Katsina State.
Last year, Governor Aminu Bello Masari set up a committee to review the naming of certain public institutions; an orthopaedic hospital built and named after Ibrahim Shehu Shema, a stadium, a housing estate bearing the name of Shema’s wife, a computer and business institute also named after Shema, and a couple of other things. To this moment, all these places carry different names.
It is not surprising to see these things unfolding this way. Zamfara State is a classic example of this tug of war even between two former allies. The Katsina scenario was thought to happen long before Shema left office. Don’t be surprised to have Shema facing same humiliation had Nashuni won- politics, we are told, is like international relations- there are neither permanent enemies nor permanent friends- only permanent INTEREST prevail. To lots of people, Shema is losing the battle daily. His projects being named after someone would have won him some sympathy, but then there is this issue of SURE-P funds allegedly stolen under his watch, probably with himself being the chief beneficiary.
One of the reasons why political leaders, in my opinion, name projects after themselves is the manifestation of ego, an essential nature of human beings. Leaders, largely due to the perverse phrases showered on them on the daily basis, become reckless in their actions and godly in their decisions, and too possessed by pride. As a result, they see themselves ALWAYS right because the bootlickers sorrounding them keep reminding them that THEY ARE ALWAYS RIGHT! Shema suffered this as a Governor, something which started immediately after the death of former President, Umaru Musa Yar’adua. During the preparation for the first Convocation of Umaru Musa Yar’adua University, Katsina, it was rumoured that Shema, boastful as the Visitor, threatened to disapprove of the funds to be used for the event if he was not going to be given the honorary degree of Law. Anyway, he was given the degree and that made him the first holder of degree of Law ever awarded by the University (The first set of Law students in the University were at level 100 then!)
Now, it is interesting to look at the implications of naming oneself after one’s projects executed with public funds. Present leaders think that the best way to preserve their legacy, long after their death, is to name it after themselves. Governor Kwankwaso once said that he didn’t want his projects hijacked by others. It has become a norm for Governors to site great projects such as universities or other higher institutions of learning in their villages and name it after themselves. They believe that it is the best way to preserve their legacy and plant their memories in generations to come.
In Katsina today, we see what in Literary Theory; a field I highly admire, is called “The return of the repressed.” That is, the Masari administration is making the same mistake they believe Shema had made. The gate to Batagarawa Low cost is now painted in APC colours. Some primary schools today are also repainted after APC colours. We obviously know that the APC in Katsina did not come to stay. The party colours might be repainted to another party too. Probably, one day someone would come and rename the projects after Shema again.
However, it is important to note that the ordinary people of Katsina would continue to suffer as the grass on which the elephants fight. Funds that would have been used for improving their lives would continue to be misused for such naming and renaming; painting and repainting!
As a final note, I think Masari would do himself a great good for himself if he concentrate on executing his own projects and naming them as whatever he deems fit. He would be badly remembered if he only succeed in becoming a governor who came, saw, renamed and repainted! If leaders cannot but name projects after themselves, I am pretty sure that the people in the State won’t mind having it that way. I am personally against it. I think people shouldn’t see projects, done with public funds, as their personally possession.
Don’t mind my stubbornness. Only the patriot cares.