· Task before Gov-elect Bagudu
By Malami Maibindiga and Maryam Musa
In the next couple of days, swearing-in formalities would have been concluded to signpost the formal takeover of governance of Kebbi state by an APC government headed by the new man at the helm, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku Bagudu.
DESERT HERALD weekly has visited many parts of Kebbi State to sample public opinion after the triumph of the APC. Some say Bagudu’s victory as a result of the Buhari tsunami that swept everything PDP, while others averred that the gross incompetence and failure of outgoing Governor Sai’du Nasamu Dakingari was the reason why Bagudu was overwhelmingly elected like it was done in many northern states and therefore by implication most or virtually in all the northern states voters did not consider competence in the choice of a prefered candidate during the last election particularly in the election of governors and federal and state lawmakers.
But in Kebbi like in most northern states the general view is that the electorates considered APC overwhelmingly due to their trust, love and solidarity for the President-elect, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Atiku Bagudu notwithstanding is widely seen as more popular, largely independent and competent than Dankingari’s anointed retired army general that suffered woeful defeat due to the alleged crimes his boss committed in his uneventful 8 years misrule of Kebbi State.
Under Mr. Dankingari Kebbi State has gone far backward in terms of human and structural development with more citizens ravaging in squalor and alarming rate of school dropouts due to his anti-education policies and lack of investment in the decaying education sector. In Kebbi State under the retired Customs officer residents lamented that all has gone wrong in the state despite the billions Dankingari collected on behalf of the state and local governments. They said if there is indeed any achievement the outgoing governor will be remembered for, it is his promotion and virtual institutionalization of tribalism in the state with only his tribal and people from his home town being favoured in any so called lucrative appointments or projects.
The citizens, therefore, hope that after a few days of warranted celebration that heralded the defeat of Mr. Dakingari’s guber candidate, the serious act of governance will start in earnest because the important tasks of state building are as daunting as they are intimidating and overwhelming. Kebbi has unfortunately fallen into the hands of mindless and cruel leaders who either lacked the capacity to appreciate the enormity of the challenges inherent in it, or they were abreast with its problems, but out of sheer malice and meanness refused to take the necessary transparent measures in order to take the state out of the woods of underdevelopment.
There is no need going all over the individual roles played by each governor since 1991, because a tour of Kebbi State is enough evidence to the rot and decay as bequeathed by those who took charge successively. If the military interregnum was extricated, at least one will have hoped or expected the democratically elected governments that followed, run by supposed patriotic indigenes of the state, to have worked diligently as their counterparts in other more developed states have done.
This reporter had, sometimes in 2013, interviewed Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo of Gombe State on a special TV documentary programme and when he was asked what was his motivation for the plethora of infrastructure in education, roads, water supply, agriculture, youth empowerment and community development, this reporter was momentarily taken aback when he bloated out almost whimsically, ‘’the job we are doing in Gombe, we are doing in anger, anger out of the realization that Gombe should have gotten more value for the money it has received from the federation account over the years.’’ At the end of the interview, this medium left with a feeling that here are men with the spirit, the courage and the temperament to turn things around for their state.
Today, Gombe is a shining example of how to lead and how to serve. Even though Gombe is a junior sister to Kebbi, there is absolutely no basis for comparison. Those who served Gombe as Governors, right from the military down to the administration of Danjuma Goje in particular, demonstrated pure love for Gombe and they were reasonably selfless and less opportunistic in the way they governed their state. Kebbi was not that fortunate as those who governed the state in civilian settings ended up helping themselves rather that pursuing policies of doing greater good for the state.
The fact that the first three civilian Governors of the state were all ex-Customs officers complicated matters further. If truth is to be told, we all know the mindset of most young men who pursued a carrier in the Customs Service; we know their antecedents, their reasons for joining and their world view about matters of transparency. Sa’idu Nasamu Dakingari in particular was a worst case scenario; he joined the Customs on the ridge of childhood hunger and deprivations, he became governor by default, he was about the least suitable, he never vied for it, nor did he even covet it because he was not, in the least, in any reckoning.
In fact, even Adamu Aliero who eventually forced him down the throat of Kebbi was originally not conclusive on him. Outright self-serving considerations by an illiterate younger (contractor) brother of the then Governor became the deciding instrument. (This topic will be a topic worthy of interrogation in another edition someday).
Now that the jinx of the ex-Customs ruling cabal has been broken and Kebbi has a brand new Governor who, again for the first time, is from the core Birnin Kebbi town, some people would be tempted to assume , rightly or wrongly that the era of mediocrity and leadership deficit is over. There are justifiable reasons to be positive, but this paper has chosen to be circumspect, because we will not rush into conclusions until convinced by the manner of governance of the new governor.
Despite these hopes, some people still feel that the antecedents of our brand new Governor are not encouraging at all, citing some kind of a case of malfeasance in the United States. When DESERT HERALD asked for evidence, every one of them kept an undignified silence. For this reporter, it will be grossly improper to judge, not just Atiku Bagudu, but anyone else on the basis of mere allegations of financial impropriety by a foreign country, the facts of which neither, nor any other person is privy to.
Of course, the little this paper can remember of the man Atiku Bagudu in the media circles in the late 80’s and better part of the 90’s and the kind of headlines he was making then, were, by and large, for the wrong reason (topic for discussion in future editions). Regardless of this paper’s reservations, it will be in the interest of the state to give the new governor the benefit of the doubt, and since the majority of the people of Kebbi State have spoken in unison and have surrendered their mandate to him, they should, at the risk of being taken for another ride, hope for the best under the circumstance, that the new Governor, well-educated and well connected, will be the man to provide world class leadership, devoid of the shortcomings of those before him. Atiku Bagudu has no option than to hit the ground running, to work in the kind of anger that pushed Governor Dankwambo of Gombe to embark on an aggressive developmental campaign that has turned Gombe into a model state.
The first initiative of Dankwambo, which this paper suggest should be replicated in Kebbi, is the establishment of 11 sector based committees in areas like education, agriculture, health, youth unemployment and economic empowerment, rural and community development, internally generated revenue (IGR) and Higher education among others. Each committee will have as members highly educated, transparent and committed indigenes of the state with special biases in their respective areas of assignment and their job is to take a very critical look at the challenges and prospects of each area, explore avenues of utilizing those specific areas, adopt them to advantage and come up with short and long term solutions. While undertaking their assignments, the various committees must traverse the whole state, reach out to people through their community, political, youth, market, farmers, NGO’s and religious leaders so as to sound out every stakeholder.
In the case of Gombe, while these committees were on their assignments, Dankwambo refused to constitute his cabinet, wanting to have a working document first. He was the bout of severe criticisms for not having an executive council for close to a year, yet he refused to yield because he believed in his convictions. By the time the sector-based committees submitted their very detailed reports almost a year on, a lot of money had been saved during the period and Dankwambo’s job was thus made easier with robust cash back up and a reliable working document.
Even when the cabinet was constituted, the Gombe Governor refused to disband the committees and instead incorporated them into monitoring committees, to keep an eye on how their recommendations will be implemented. This way all stakeholders continued to feel and be part of government and the whole community of the state became stakeholders in their own government. The re-election of Ibrahim Dankwambo in the just concluded elections, even when everybody has given him off for defeat, was a fitting testimony that the people of Gombe were happy with the good work he has done and the way he had gone about doing it. His party, the PDP, had lost the presidential election, but his people changed gear during the gubernatorial election by giving him a fresh mandate.
A lecturer at the Gombe State University, Musa Abdullahi, told this reporter that “I am particularly in love with Dankwambo’s youth employment and empowerment strategy that has provided jobs for thousands of young people as well as his higher education effort in which special arrangements with the University of Maiduguri were made to arrange remedial interventions right inside Gombe, for secondary school graduates who had problems with their level ‘O’ papers. Under this arrangement, the state government provided the logistics and every support while the University provided the syllabus under which at least 1000 of such young people were prepared every year to make up their papers and fulfill requirements for admission into universities. Under the agreement, the University of Maiduguri admits more than half of those who passed while all the rest are moved into other universities nationwide. It was under similar and other robust strategies of development which made Gombe to be one of the best in roads, agriculture and education infrastructure”.
A respondent with vast knowledge of Kebbi politics and in-depth analysis on issues in the state said “to be very frank on the aspect of the people and characters that surround the Governor-elect and I wish to interrogate their commitment, competence and comportment to the service of the state. Atiku Bagudu needs to be assertive and to demonstrate in very unequivocal terms to all and sundry that he is the man in charge. In the course of the electioneering campaigns, I have heard some of his associates complained about his inability to rein in some recalcitrant errand runners; they alleged that he has, in many ways than one, demonstrated a worrying and disturbing level of weakness in the face of some incredulous behavior of people around him”.
It was also alleged that one or two of them have the tendency to shortchange people whenever he (Atiku) directed them to give specific amount of money for field assignments. If his attention is called to this misdemeanor, the governor elect will, instead of reining them in, ask the complainant to go back to the same people. The danger is that if these dubious men decide to exploit this weakness (and they sure would), Kebbi will be saddled with needless distractions reminiscent of the ones in previous settings. Even among his very close political associates, there are those with the clean heart to work for the advancement of Kebbi State, but there is another group of kleptomaniacs who are ready to capitalize on this same weakness in order to line their pockets.
Musa Abdullahi said he is “very worried with the likely sense of justice of Atiku Bagudu. Can he do justice to the diehard APC members he met on the ground? Can he carry along the large crowd of the legacy members and the weather beaten patient foot soldiers who have suffered greatly in sustaining the APC before Atiku Bagudu and his crowd of ‘’gate crashers’’ barged in with their bags of money and took control? The governor-elect should be broadminded and large-hearted enough to accommodate everybody, including the people he met in the party and those with whom he literally leapfrogged and came into the party with”, Musa admonished.
So this report, calculatingly excessive though, should be seen by the Governor-elect as an indigene’s genuine concern about the need to get it right this time, to work hard, not just faithfully and transparently but with the utmost fear of Allah. At the end of the razzmatazz and limelight of governance, there will come a time when Atiku Bagudu will give account, to the last Kobo, of the resources that accrued to the state, with none of those prodding him today, being of any use to him in terms of protection. Then, nothing, but truth will matter”.