It was Bill Taylor who once remarked that, “The true mark of a leader is the willingness to stick to a bold course of action.” Niger state Governor Abubakar Sani Bello sure has this remarkable boldness of staying true to a course of action that will translate to general good.
Leadership is not leadership until it translates to better living condition for the generality of the people. Governor Bello has his eyes on leaving a footprint in the history of the Power State, as Niger state is fondly referred to. He came with a clear cut idea of what to do to change the leadership narrative in the state.
However, having intention alone is not enough, rather it requires the needed guts and skill to implement. These are qualities found in abundance in the governor. He is humble but stubborn at adhering to character and principle, and it is not baffling that his track records since assuming office bear eloquent testimony to the fact that he doesn’t compromise on standard.
Upon assumption of office, the governor focused on the triangular challenges facing the critical sectors of Niger state, namely insecurity, unemployment and economy. These three are interwoven because that tackling one will have effect on the other.
The swiftness with which Governor Bello swung into action connotes that of a man armed with a blueprint. Unlike some who come to office and begin to learn from their mistakes, Governor Bello approached leadership from an informed position having had administrative experience as a commissioner even though in the Peoples Democratic Party government where he added to his private sector experience.
The burning issue when he came into office was insecurity which invaded the state due to domino effect of the dislodgement of bandits from the epicenter of war on bandits in Zamfara state. It had direct spillover effect on Niger state, hence, increasing security concerns. But governor has a better idea of how to tackle them.
The security challenge of Niger State is peculiar because the state constitutes 10 per cent of Nigeria’s landmass with 95 forest reserves, sharing boundaries with Zamfara, Kebbi and Kaduna, all of which have one form of military operation or the other.
To tackle the security challenge plaguing the state, the governor decided to take a multi-agency approach. He took his collaborative advocacy to the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Sadiq Baba Abubakar, where he emphasised the need for a renewed mode of operation to dislodge the armed bandits which have been causing untold hardship to some communities and villages in his state. Governor Bello’s approach paid off eventually with the launching of ‘Exercise Ayem Akpatuma II (Exercise Rat Race).
He is not relying on military approach alone, after all, after war, solution will always be at the negotiating table. Unlike the norm, Governor Bello stoops to listen to the grievances of the bandits, which resulted in an agreement, a peace deal.
The governor confirmed this when he said, since reaching the peace deal, no cases of armed banditry or kidnappings has been reported from that part of the state. This singular initiative ensures that the former bandits have taken to various trades and other useful ventures.
The result of Governor Bello’s deliberate and deft moves is improving security situation in the state, is evident that in last few months, the state has not been in the news for wrong reasons.
On economic front, the governor knew very well that ability to move goods and services from one point to the other, without hindrances holds the key to economic transformation. Most roads in Niger state have been in deplorable state in the last few decades having served their life span and also due to past neglect.
Governor Bello, quoting the World Bank once said: “Roads make a critical contribution to economic development and growth, and brings important social benefits.” To put the states’ economy on the path of steady growth, his administration had within 100 days in office in 2015, intervened and rehabilitated federal roads at Tegina (2.4km) and Kagara town (1.7km). Similarly, the maintenance of Minna-Zungeru-Tegina was carried out in 2016 by the Khalifate Engineering and Construction Company Ltd. Throughout the administration’s last four years and now, Bida- Minna and Minna-Kakaki-Lambata-Suleja road has witnessed several interventions with the state government spending colossal amount of funds in the process.
Currently, the state government is carrying out various intervention work on some federal roads where emergency rehabilitation is required to avoid disruption to the movement of people and goods with dire consequences on economic productivity and prosperity.
There are also a state government’s major road interventions after Lokogoma along the Zungeru-Wushishi-Lemu-Bida highway. Perhaps, the most conspicuous of the federal road intervention by the administration of Governor Bello is on the Minna-Kakaki-Lambata-Suleja road. Although the road is been dualised by the Federal Government, the slow pace of work has necessitated the state government’s continued intervention.
From initial palliative measures, the state government has engaged a major construction company which is fully doing a long term reconstruction work from Lambata-Baidna- Kakaki while NIGROMA takes over from Kakaki to Chanchaga bridge. Despite the paucity of resources, Governor Sani Bello has remained undaunted to make federal roads in the state motorable.
The issue of youths and women unemployment has always given the governor a nightmare, hence, he made youths unemployment the focal point of his administration’s agenda. Impressed by how Governor Bello is steadily transforming the state, the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) decided to key into the governors vision, which resulted in the signing of MoU for Strategic Partnership Deal worth $10million over a five-year period. The Foundation is providing $5 million grant and the state government will equally provide a matching fund.
The Foundation is funding agricultural enterprises in the state by providing assistance to over one thousand farmers to achieve greater food security, expand production and achieve greater market access. The terms and details of the agreement include job creation and empowerment of youths, women and vulnerable groups. This wouldn’t have been possible without the visionary leadership of the governor, as confirmed by the Chairman of the Board of USADF, Jack Leslie, who commended Niger State government for its foresight and efforts.
Like torrent, the governor’s dogged commitment and pure intentions have continued to attract investors and stakeholders into the state. Like USADF, the Flour Mills of Nigeria also signed letter of intent to Partner in the USADF programme with the state government. Chairman, Flour Mills of Nigeria, John Coumantoros said linking agriculture and industry will bring about vicious circle of development and sustainability, describing the North Central geo-political zone of Nigeria as critical to the advancement and development of the country.
Barje is the Chief Press Secretary to Niger state Governor.