By Mary Noel Berje
It has been a breath of fresh air in the last five years. No longer the noise, no longer a personality show, but under the leadership of Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello (ASB), the system of political engagement in Niger State has witnessed a tremendous shift. It has been one of a people-centered approach.
For ASB, the greatest measure of true leadership is in beating a fresh path, not seen in the annals of the Power State. One laden with strength of character, charisma and courage. A leader not afraid to ditch the ‘business as usual mentality’. One who dares to be different.
Rationally, if a leader does what everyone is used to doing, he becomes like everyone else, but where a leader musters enough courage to be different, not minding the unfounded scathing criticisms of those who don’t mean well, those who want the status quo maintained, so that their narrow and parochial interests are sustained.
It is no wonder then that Education, Agriculture, and Health are given prime attention in Niger State for these directly touches the lives of everyone. For ASB, Education remains the pillar of the development of human civilisation, but he realises that without food and good health, no one can realize the ambition, hence the Governor’s prioritisation of education and health. While education produces better citizens, health enables them to put to good use their God-given intellect and life learning. Which explains why projects in these three core sectors dot the senatorial districts and many are on-going.
Religion, that tinder box of Nigerian politics has been put in its rightful place, engendering a peaceful atmosphere in the state. ASB has demonstrated often that religion is only a medium of connection between man and his Maker, hence, he frowns at religious victimisation and other forms of bigotry.
For Governor ASB, the philosophy is clear enough: “In a democratic society, the means and end of government are the wellbeing of the people, pathfinding to future overall aspirations and mentorship.”
This unique method of governance, though, queer in our clime, has earned for Governor ABS a mixed bag of reactions. While the well-intentioned and the masses are celebrating the departure from the vain and grandeur system of governance in the past, to accountable leadership; a segment, a few privileged ones, who see the state as a ‘fat cow’ that must be held down for them to milk, are angry that the hitherto circle of misgovernance has been permanently broken.
Some detractors have even gone to the extent of postulating the idea that Governor Sani-Bello is not a core politician. Simply because he is not foul-mouthed and does not fill the atmosphere with vain-glorious billboards. Despite the weak suggestion that he is not a core politician, he has remained resolute and visionary. The attempt to water down the significance of his visionary leadership trait is nothing but a distraction.
Before the advent of this administration, state chief executives arrogated to themselves the know-it-all aura, but see where it got us! ASB has a different approach, which is to delegate power, the hallmark of democratic governance.
Employing a time-tested formula used by multi-lateral development agencies, and knowing that the impact of governance is better felt when communities are allowed to have a say in the kind of projects they need, rather than government forcing projects down their throats, Governor Sani-Bello’s leadership has endeared himself to the people. His model of bottom to top approach is the participatory style recommended by the United Nations.
Hitherto, individuals, communities and even local authorities come cap in hand to the Chief Executive for handouts, but Lolo, as ASB is fondly called, has laid that brand of governance permanently to rest. His avowed commitment to building strong communities for financial autonomy is an open secret.
Ideally, if an election is won and lost, what is left is to face the all important business of governance. However, that has not been the case, as politicians do everything to frustrate progress, if their appetite is not assuaged at the expense of the people.
Governance should be about the welfare of the people and not a personality show. In the time past, politicians only engaged in projects for grandstanding. Under this administration, all that has given way to a well calculated, articulated people-oriented projects that directly touch the lives of the people.
To Governor Sani-Bello, trust is a burden that must be nurtured and sustained. In all his public service, private businesses and personal interactions, sharp practices and corruption are not tolerated.
Any achiever will realize why Governor Sani-Bello is not like the regular Nigerian politician, whose only interest is in acquiring power but not the responsibilities that come with it. He detests excuses and failure. One of the success secrets of this administration is making realistic targets. Hitherto, targets are set to bamboozle the people but under Governor Sani-Bello, the government says what it means and means what it says.
For instance, Governor ASB promised during his campaign to run a transparent and all inclusive government. He has kept this promise, except for the greedy few, who must be kept abbey, if his government must succeed.
Amidst the security challenges plaguing the state, Governor Sani-Bello has demonstrated good faith and capacity with his handling of the tensed security situation. Though tackling insecurity of such magnitude is within the purview of the Federal Government, he has collaborated effectively and efficiently with the relevant security agencies, and most especially, President Muhammadu Buhari, which to a greater extent, has reduced menace of banditry in the state. More importantly, is the governor’s motivational reward system for troops in the frontline. This has boosted their morale and have impacted positively on the war against insecurity.
He also promised to govern with the fear of God and protect all, irrespective of social and economic status. This promise he has also fulfilled by the keen/special attention the Governor pays to the Internally Displaced Person, IDPs, who are victims of banditry in the state.
The true definition of a man is what he can dare! Courage is the hallmark of government initiatives under Governor Abubakar Sani Bello. He is of the firm believe that if you have the courage to face the crowd and make promises, you should be courageous enough to keep your promises. Words are worthless, if not backed by actions, thus, he detests speeches, rather, he values actions over rhetoric.
The chequered history of Nigeria’s political evolution has diluted and imputed skewed meanings into the noble art of politics. For him, politics should be a vocation, where people with the burning desires to serve the people come to give back to the society which made them.
Alas, in Nigeria today, politics has become more of an end in itself, instead of a means to an end. Hence, you hear descriptions of some politicians as mainstream and non core politicians. These terms have become the basis for endemic corruption. It is a fulcrum of vain pride, ego tripping and self-service.
In Niger State, today, a paradigm shift has been introduced into the governance system. Before the emergence of Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello as the helmsman of the largest state in Nigeria, politicians expect the people to worship them for performing the role they took an oath to uphold.
In the demonstration of their pride, arrogance and disdain towards the electorates, they organise commissioning ceremony that costs thrice of the value of the executed projects. That is why Governor Sani-Bello, who believes Governors are not doing the people any favour but merely actualising the mandate of their office, will attract criticisms.
He is labeled a non-core politician because he don’t embark on commissioning bazzar. If he executes project, it is because the people have need of it, and not because a politician wants to show off, which was the tradition before now.
Little wonder that towns like Zungeru, that occupy the place of significance in the anatomy of Nigerian history, will be given face lift without grandeur and fanfare. No wonder, dilapidated road infrastructures around Niger State are receiving maximum attention without much noise?
No wonder today, he serves as the Chairman North-Central Governors Forum without him rolling out the drums and making a show out of a call to service. So also his nomination as North-Central states APC Chairman and reconciliation committee member without the gongs making sounds.
What a quiet way to be an achiever in the hearts and minds of the people without disturbing the peace of these progressive-minded people with a conservative outlook.
-Mrs Mary Noel Berje, Chief Press Secretary, CPS, to Niger State Governor, wrote in from Minna, Niger State.