”Normally, the NUJ in Borno State does not celebrate the achievements of governors in less than one year of their tenure. Journalists are critical people. Before we give out awards, we look at things critically. This will be the first time we are celebrating the performance of any governor in less than one year of service”
– Chairman of the NUJ in Borno State, Comrade Bulama Talba
He has become the exception rather than the rule. He is rewriting the history of political leadership within the Nigerian matrix. He is indeed, turning the apple cart against the insatiable rogues of the people’s common will. One is talking about the Hungry Hamsters, Craving Cats and the Pop-Bellied Possums who have re-jigged our political pedestal and turned it into a jungle democracy.
The focus here is about no other politician than Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum, the humble, amiable and people-loving governor of the embattled Borno state. For a state that has long been enmeshed in the seemingly intractable terrorism by the Boko Haram insurgents, it does not take rocket science to imagine the enormous challenges his administration battles with, virtually on daily basis.
But he got to office fully aware of these and well equipped with a vision on how to frontally contain the attendant effects of the long-drawn insecurity. That is, by changing the narrative of the derelict primary health care and education delivery, huge infrastructural deficit, and agricultural practices laid waste by the armed bloodhounds.His foresighted government therefore, came forth with developmental projects and programmes anchored on 10- Point Agenda for 2019-2023, beginning with security.
In tandem with Section 14 Sub-Section 2, (b) of the 1999 Constitution(as amended he began with the introduction of recruitment of over 3,000 Civilian Joint Task Force, CJTF and vigilante hunters.They were motivated by improved monthly allowance each of N30,000.This was outside the introduction of electronic payments of salaries and allowances.Furthermore, he provided them with over 200 patrol vehicles and conducive office accommodation to boost their morale.
Still on insecurity, came the highly commendable Agro Rangers Scheme as a the first -of its –kind. It comes as a special security outfit comprising of the civil defense trained special squad, mobile police squad, CJTF and vigilante hunters group. They were provided with about 100 brand new patrol four -wheel drive vehicles to facilitate their mobility within and outside the Sambisa Forest Ranch. The infamous area was occupied by the Boko Haram insurgents before the Nigerian army embarked on a recovery mission.
This move has gone a long way towards reducing the clashes between herdsmen and famers and imbroglio over grazing land as clearly demarcated and reserved areas, strictly meant for cattle rearing.
Also, Governor Zulum has ensured that the challenges related to food distribution in IDP Camps were reduced by instituting transparency in the system. By this, the governor strengthened the security system manning the IDPs camps. Reports had it that before then, there were alleged diversion and abuse of donations and essential items provided by governments, donor agencies, corporate organizations as well as individuals.
At some point he personally distributed food and non-food items to the IDPs. This was done in collaboration with NGOs, SEMA and NEMA. To facilitate their effectiveness he directed that the LGC staff, teachers and traditional rulers should go back to their communities and be the change agents to the long-suffering victims of insurgency.
He brought in the pragmatic idea of the relocation of the IDPs to their localities. The noble aim is for them to continue their normal life especially farming. In fact, this laudable move encouraged many of the Emirs to return to their communities along with their subjects to access the basic needs.
Responding to youth unemployment, his government engaged over 3,000 unemployed youths into the Vocational Entrepreneurial Training Scheme for skills acquisition. That came through the new state Ministry of Science and Innovation. This timely move has significantly reduced the menace of political thuggery and the melee of loitering around government offices.
Noteworthy is the effort of the government geared towards the rehabilitation and reconstruction of decrepit health and educational facilities across the state. Some clinics, have been upgraded while new schools and hospitals have been built in communities including Monguno Resident Medical Doctors’ house and the construction of new LGC secretariat in Biu town of Biu LGC.
And to impact positively on the rural communities the governor approved the payment of outstanding allowances of NYSC medical doctors running into hundreds of millions of naira. These huge sums were owed them by past administration. All these have positively instilled good conduct, discipline and work ethics among civil servants.Not left out areextra duties by medical doctors and nurses, especially those on night calls.
As revealed by the governor, payment of salaries should not be seen as any achievement by any administration. The workers are being paid for their sweat and sacrifice of time and energy. This should serve as a wake-up call to some of his peers who rigmarole over what is due to their states’ workforce. Besides, his recent unscheduled visit to a primary school and remunerating a female member of staff who was on duty at 6.30 am should inspire others on the immense benefits of good work ethics.
By all these feats, in the face of the insecurity conundrum Zulum reminds us of Homer’s “Odyssey”.Long before the Athenians first instituted their radical direct democracy in 508 B.C., Homer began to teach the ancient Greeks to recognize good leadership when they saw it and to despise the alternative. Much like the type we have had in Nigeria over the decades.
According to Emily Anhalt, Professor of Classical Languages and Literatures, Sarah Lawrence College:“Until the late sixth century B.C., the autocratic rule of warlords, kings and tyrants was all that anyone had ever seen. The “Odyssey,” transmitted orally over centuries before ever being written down, powerfully shaped ancient Greek ideas about what constitutes good leadership. It identifies two crucial elements of good leadership: respect and reciprocity.
The “Odyssey” starts by emphasizing that greedy, unrestrained, irresponsible leadership makes communal life intolerable for everyone. By contrast, a good leader respects his obligations to his people, and ensures that they respect theirs to him and to one another. This produces order, harmony and happiness for everyone – powerful and weak alike.
Gov. Zulum, the real change agent,who commenced the new decade with the inauguration of five projects in the state, including 100- bed capacity General Hospital in Azare town, a 40-bed capacity primary healthcare centre in Kwajjafa town and a large skills acquisition centre in Marama town, all in Hawul, has become the beacon bearer in the long, dark tunnel of poor political leadership here in Nigeria.
According to inspiring-leadership quote: “When someone is truly a visionary and works all his life changing the course of history by inventing, discovering or implementing things that can improve people’s lives, they become immortals!”
Zulum has made the difference because he has stood by the truth, which other leaders detest. We need more of his type, right from the local council level to the presidency, more so now than ever before.