Niger State: Waiting For A Leader

His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello, who, by the grace of God, is the Chief Executive Office of Niger state today, has no need to worry about the title of this piece. It is not targeted at him. It is not an attempt at slander. I write as a friend, not a foe. In fact; we both share the same objective, if we accept the view that he decided to offer his youthful self for service in the quest of leaving Niger state better than he met it. He campaigned on the platform of change, just in case we have all forgotten.

His victory, was therefore my victory as well. If there is one Nigerlite alive today who wishes the very best for the Governor, it is my humble self and the brand I shamelessly represent. I revel in the power of ideas and the audacity to make them work. But there is nothing radical in my orientation, but, neither will I call myself a conservative.

Still, I have been around long enough to learn that nothing can be achieved without ideas and the power to dream that they can be made possible with sufficient dose of daring and shrewd initiatives. We see so much of that at play in today’s Kaduna state, under the diminutive and stupendously imaginative leadership of Mallam Nasir el-Rufai!

Forget the intermittent flurry of irritating, and often distractive jibes from his mortal foe Senator Shehu Sani; in case you have all not noticed it yet, el-Rufai has, within the space of nine months, commenced the process of radically transforming Kaduna state and its principal metropolis in a manner that will surely make the previous chief executives of the state to seek temporary exile if they know the exact import of shame!

In the process, el-Rufai has emerged as the undisputed poster boy of all the remaining “change” governors put together. He has broken the delicate eggs that required to be broken to enable the indigenes of the state enjoy the delicious omelettes his courageous efforts will definitely serve in due course.  What makes his laudable initiatives so amazing, thus far, is that they were achieved at the same time his peers across the country were not only contemplating of laying off workers, but also, sadly, battling to pay salaries that have accrued for several months.

el-Rufai, unlike the rest, has shown that he arrived the scene fully equipped to provide the sort of courageous transformation Kaduna desperately required. He has hit the ground running. The same, obviously, cannot be said of the amiable governor of Niger state and most of his peers straddled across the famished precincts of the north.

What makes the lack of appreciable motion in Niger state so palpable, and difficult to digest, is that except for the terrorist attacks that targeted churches in Madalla a few years ago, the state has been spared the scourge of raging insurgency the likes of Borno and Yobe states have had to contend with. Yet, it is doubtful if Niger state has fared better than even the most insurgent-battered states in terms of the potency of their transformative ideas, or even the inspirational ‘presence’ of a Governor like Borno’s Kashim Shettima in terms of their greatest need.

When the definitive history of the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast is finally written, its narrative will surely be kind to Governor Kashim Shettima. He, it was, who first blew the first whistle on the pathetic under-equipment of the Nigerian troops dispatched to battle the insurgents under President Jonathan. It was also Shettima who diverted most of the scarce resources of his state to meet the requirements of the same military at the time as well as fulfilling the obligations of the federal government in providing succour to IDPs.     

Niger state did not have to grapple with such distractions. Leadership is not so much about what a leader is able to achieve, but also ultimately their capacity to inspire people to achieve daunting tasks. But leaders must first be visible before they can inspire others. One of the most frequently expressed grouses against the present governor of Niger state is that what has been described as his frequent absenteeism from official functions. He was represented by his deputy even at some key funstions.

In the past few weeks I have travelled to Niger state from Abuja on at least three occasions and the each time my trips were horrendous because of the poor quality of the road from Suleja to Minna. In fairness to the authorities in Minna, the road is supposed to be a federal road, but then, other Governors have invested heavily on federal highways that are of high economic value to them and recouped their refunds from the Federal Government later. But if previous governments failed to complete even township roads, cajoling them to invest on federal highways is an absolute waste of time.

No state in the north central part of the country enjoys as much proximity to the federal capital territory as Niger state in terms of adjacent land mass except perhaps Nassarawa state.  In the case of Niger state however, the ‘blessing’ has become a curse as the state prepares to mark 40 years with a few others.

No deliberate efforts were made to chart and develop swaths of contagious land to attract formal investments from industrialists to generate employment and improvements to its internally generated revenue (IGR). Even the few investments embarked upon by the state government at Madalla and the vicinity of Zuma rock have been abandoned.

The state has also failed to tap into the enormous tourism potential made available by the presence of Gurara falls which is less than fifty kilometres from the FCT. It has also not capitalized on the presence of Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro dams located in the states.

With effective leadership, so much pressure would have been applied on the federal territories to activate the inland water port at Baro, which is also located in the state. And that is not to mention the lush paddy fields stretching from Bida to Pategi in Kwara state which can feed the entire nation with rice.

To be fair to the Governor Bello, most of the problems bedevilling the state predate his tenure. He, alone, cannot be held accountable for them. But his victory at the polls ignited wide enthusiasm and hope for the better. So far, those hopes have not been matched by the desired results. What makes the matter even more frustrating has been the general paucity of a discernable blueprint for urgently required action.

Governor desperately needs to make himself more visible and also communicate his plans more effectively to rekindle hope in the badly demoralized indigenes of the state. They want to see more vigour and commitment from their leader.