Bala Mohammed: Two trips, one vision

In less than a month, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi state has visited strategic global business hubs and centres of excellence. Accompanied by some key members of his administration and private entrepreneurs, the governor attended first, the World Cities Forum and Regional Leaders Summit in Jinan, capital of the Shandong Province of China, and lately, the 8th world Investment Forum in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Two words describe what Bala Mohammed was looking for at those centres: Investments! Partnerships! 

During the China visit, the Bauchi state government signed two memoranda of understanding aimed at fast-tracking economic development of the state. The first MoU was signed by the Bauchi state government (Nigeria) and Government of Shandong Province (China) on a mutual co-operation, economic friendship and inter country business exchange as well as value addition on critical sectors of the economy while the second was between Bauchi state government and Minsheng Group LMT on strategic co-operation framework agreement on China/Nigeria. For Bauchi state, the aim of these agreements is to promote trade and investment, build industrial capacity, boost green energy, improve food security and fight poverty.

Lest we forget, since 1976, Bauchi has been home to Steyr Nigeria Limited, manufacturer of heavy duty road haulage and farm equipment such as tractors, trucks and buses. Will the Bauchi-Shandong sister city agreement lead to a revival of this once solid agric and logistics machinery manufacturer?    

Predicating his optimism on China’s ever-growing relationship with Africa, Bala Mohammed, who, as minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) between 2010 and 2015 had enjoyed a cordial working relationship with the Chinese, said: “Nigeria and China had shared a relationship of mutual respect with Nigeria being China’s third largest trading partner in Africa and China Nigeria’s largest source of imports. The renewed commitment towards improving the bilateral cooperation between the two countries has been bolstered with major sectors witnessing development driven by strategy and investment”. It is this new ferment that Bala Mohammed wants to leverage for the Benefit of Bauchi state.

To understand Bala Mohammed’s mission in faraway Asia and the Middle East, some fundamentals are necessary. To start with, one needs to plug into the “My Bauchi First” document of the governor, which explains the philosophy of his administration. The thrust of that philosophy is to leverage the land assets of Bauchi state, to transform an agrarian society into an industrialised one where citizens will enjoy full employment and higher living standards.

The administration would, in partnership with private sector, harness the state’s land resources. Top on the list of these are solid minerals. To accelerate growth in this area,17 mining licensees covering deposits of limestones, lithium, gold, kaolin, mica lead zinc tin/columbite, etc have been acquired. The MoU with Minsheng Group LMT is targeting Bauchi’s huge solid mineral endowment. Equally open for mutually rewarding private sector collaboration is the vast agriculture value chain embracing rice, sesame, etc., hydrocarbons as well as animal husbandry.

This is the right time to invest in Bauchi state because Bala Mohammed’s investment pitch is anchored on a solid foundation. In recent years, Bauchi state has ranked between 4th and 6th on ease of doing business index among the 36 states and Abuja. This is the outcome of institutional effort at establishing a governance environment that benchmarks global best practices in transparency, accountability and inclusion. The breath-taking investment in infrastructure that earned Bauchi state federal government’s recognition as the best in rural infrastructure should also excite prospective investors particularly those involved in the agriculture and solid minerals value chains. Before confidently setting out on his investment drive, Governor Bala Mohammed had taken steps to address another major factor: human capital development. With the commencement of the Oil & Gas academy in the state and the various skills acquisition programmes, investors would have access to skilled and affordable labour that not only guarantee seamless business activity, but good return on investment.

It is against the above background that Bala Mohammed’s investment drive should be considered and understood as a most propitious move by a modernising and transformational technocrat who is determined to bequeath a legacy of sustainable development to his state.

In Abu Dhabi as in China, the message was the same: come, let us collaborate to achieve a win-win situation for all stakeholders. “I am committed to collaborating with development partners in business exploration, tourism and agriculture”, he told the Abu Dhabi Investment Forum, stressing that the collaboration aims “to promote and advance small businesses by showcasing our local products globally”.

By emphasising small businesses, Bala Mohammed was simply reiterating his familiar refrain: that for Bauchi’s rich resource endowment to translate to wealth and progress, local businesses must benchmark value additions that qualify indigenous products to play at the global level hence the need to collaborate with foreign partners. He also implied that sustainable progress would revolve around the micro, small and medium businesses.

In addition to agriculture and the mineral sectors, smart investors would realise that it is not for nothing that Bauchi State is described as the tourism pearl of Nigeria. The famous Yankari Games Reserve still holds much of its allure as an unrivalled hospitality haven, a quiet get-away where, with investment and proper management, nature and modernity would blend into a wholesome ambience delivering quality entertainment and rest to tourists and solid returns to investors.

Confidence in Bauchi’s investment climate is boosted by the administration’s recognition that development is about people; that unless they take ownership of programmes and processes, every effort will come to naught.  Thus, from October 11-13, the top echelon of the Bauchi state government gathered at the new ultra-modern Bauchi Hajj Camp, in a no holds barred retreat whose primary objective was to prepare the leadership cadre to brace up for the decisive stage of the implementation of Bala Mohammed’s “My Bauchi Project” document.

Led by human resource impresario, the straight-talking Usman Bugaje, who also chaired the transition committee that produced a three-volume report for the administration, resource persons took the participants through some thought-provoking sessions that signaled the seriousness of the administration. Drawn from the academia, government, security agencies and the private sector, the speakers took turns to dissect various aspects of governmental administration.

One of the biggest revelations of the retreat is the fact that a new corps of young men and women, who constitute a significant number in Bala Mohammed’s second term cabinet, had arrived on the scene, announcing a mission to unleash a new dynamic on the developmental scene and ready to orchestrate a paradigm shift in governance, to the benefit of Bauchi state, the country and development partners.

Comrade Gidado is special adviser to Governor Bala Mohammed on media and publicity