Where are those advising Governor Bago?

Before anything, let me first drop a caveat. If this article’s title is ‘mischievous’, readers should not think so of yours truly. There is no sinister intent behind giving this piece the above theme, even as one will not find anything condescending about the aides of Governor Mohammed Umaru Bago of Niger state.

Besides, I wish to even doff my hat for them. Virtually all of them are square pegs in square holes. Even though I lack a deep personal familiarity with most of them, the few I have briefly engaged with exude charming candour, charisma and sheer intelligence.

I am referring to the Commissioner for Finance, Alhaji Lawal Maikano, and one female hijab-wearing commissioner (whose name I can’t recall), together with Abdullberqy Usman Ebbo, the Special Adviser on Digital Media and Strategy to Governor Bago. The trio of Maikano, Ebbo and the female commissioner were part of a breakout group I was included in, at a two-day retreat on the review of the Niger State Green Economy Blueprint, held last month in Abuja.

As men and women of timbre and calibre, they are the primary reason His Excellency, who now wished to be called ‘Farmer Governor’, hit the ground running on assuming office in May. The modest successes Bago has recorded during his stint as Niger governor (so far) could not have been possible without having a crack team of technocrats as commissioners, special advisers, SAs; and senior special assistants, SSAs, among others

If as a concerned indigene of Niger state, I had lost hope in our ‘Power State’ to be redeemed from the malaise of infrastructural, educational and socio-economic backwardness it battles with since its creation, the advent of the Bago administration bolstered my frail optimism.

Sometime in October, I authored an unpublished essay titled: “Indeed, the Birthing of a ‘New Niger’ is Nigh Under Bago”. In the piece, I applauded the Bago administration for its resolve to change the narrative of Niger state.

Part of the article, where I highlighted the milestones of the young administration of Bago in Niger, reads: “In changing the narrative of our dear Niger, Governor Umar Bago whose trademark white cap has become a fad among his admirers, has introduced sound policies and beneficial programmes geared towards enhancing the fortunes of teeming Nigerlites, while also resetting the developmental trajectory of the state.

“It is pertinent to assert that when Bago assumed office as Niger’s helmsman, the economy of the state was in a doldrum. But he is a leader of sincere purpose, visionary direction and focus. He knows that rebuilding Niger state can be achieved, among other things, by also creating strategic ministries, and agencies of government to aggressively work towards actualising his lofty governance agenda.

“Thus, he established the Ministry of Home Land Security and Economic Affairs; Ministry of Industries, Trade and Investment; Ministry of Rural Development; Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management; and Ministry of Secondary and Tertiary Healthcare, among others.

“Cognisant of the role good road infrastructure plays in boosting any national or sub-national economy, Governor Bago has started remodeling some dilapidated roads in major towns across the state. Recently, he flagged off the construction of the Bida Ring Road and awarded contracts for the rehabilitation of over 20 township roads in Minna, the state capital.

“To boost the tertiary health sector of Niger state, the Bago administration in September awarded the contract for conversion of the moribund Shiroro Hotel Minna to Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, IBB, University Teaching Hospital. The project is worth N18.62 billion.

‘To say that Niger state is not ravaged by banditry and general insecurity will be a BIG LIE from the pit of hell. But Governor Umar Bago has remained dogged in tackling the state’s insecurity conundrum. The governor, as a matter of fact, separately visited the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Chief of Air Force (CAS) and even the National Security Adviser (NSA), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu; to solicit their cooperation in fighting terrorists and other daredevil criminals in the state.

“Again, it is now under the exemplary stewardship of Governor Bago that Niger is truly reflecting ‘The Power State’ she is otherwise called. After several years of residents enjoying only power supply that can best be described as poor and erratic, the intervention of the Bago administration has facilitated the improvement in power generation and supply by the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, AEDC, to Minna and several parts of the state.

“Governor Bago has also taken practical steps to revamp Niger’s healthcare sector. His Excellency, so far, has flagged off the project for the upgrade of central medicine store to a Pharmagrade standard, while also distributing 25 motorcycles and essential medicines to primary healthcare departments in all the 25 local government areas of the state”.

But a recent pronouncement, together with a repeated action of the ‘farmer governor’, not only provoked this reflection, but also demanded that a voice of conscience and reason speaks out. At least, to draw Bago’s attention to what his diligent aides may have either told him or, regrettably, forget to do.

Mr Governor, the uproar that greeted your new dress code for a section of workers in our dear Niger may have subsided. But it was needless, and could have been avoided entirely, in the first place. Since I won’t like to dwell on the already consigned-to-history event, this is my plea moving forward.

Government proclamations and sound administrative policies the farmer governor must announce, henceforth, should either be in a language or words that are explicit even to a kindergarten. It will save Mr Governor the stress of coming out to clear the air, next time.

Very few Nigerian governors are worried, and show true commitment to the welfare of their people. Our farmer governor is part of the exclusive minority. He has always assisted many Nigerlites and the downtrodden, long before he became governor. But someone must whisper to Bago that the habit of allegedly sharing 5k to 10k to a flock of persons at the government house occasionally, in Minna, when the governor ‘is in town’, does not solve any problem.

Such chaotic scenarios can endanger the governor and workers at the government house, even as the ‘stomach infrastructure’ is not addressing the state’s poverty crisis or youth employment. On one hand, some women in Minna now risk being divorced, the next time they dare leave their matrimonial homes to ‘fight’ for Mr. Governor’s ‘cash largesse’ – in defiance to their husbands’ order.

Equally, I don’t know if our farmer governor is aware that some students of public schools in Minna personally declare holidays for themselves, each time they get wind of him planning to share “money”. Hence, they abandon their schools and besiege the Minna government house. Concerned Nigerlites, like me, will prefer Bago continues lifting the needy and the less privilege, in any way he deems fit.

However, that should not be at the expense of the state’s education sector, which is already gasping for breath. A more organised and dignifying strategy can be evolved to disburse Bago’s cash stipends, preferably on weekends. Since they have become nightmares for travellers, motorists and commuters, I cannot rest my case without mentioning them.

The Suleja-Minna highway, particularly the section between Farin Doki and Chanchaga, has totally failed. Traveling through that axis is always hellish, both for passengers and vehicles. The state of the Minna-Bida road, on one hand, is what is better left untold. It is unfortunate that the last administration could not make good its promise of fixing it.

I know, and still recall, that you pledged to remedy the appalling condition of the road if you are elected governor, in the build up to the 2023 polls. As our farmer governor now, we anticipate your quick intervention on the ‘Trunk B’ road.

Back to the question the title of this essay is asking, this writer cares a hoot about the ‘whereabouts’ of Governor Bago’s aides. Relaying my unsolicited pieces of advice to His Excellency and our ‘Dear Farmer Governor’, is what matters if they stumble across this article, by any chance. Meanwhile, they should continue on the path of offering (their principal) the best of their wise counsel on issues affecting Niger’s development and progress.

Mahmud, deputy editor of PRNigeria, writes via: [email protected].