Bago: Niger’s Vista of Hope and the Tasks Before Him, By Awaal Gata
NEWS DIGEST – Umar Mohammed Bago’s victory in the March 18th gubernatorial election in Niger State could best be termed as a classic miracle and the workings of Allah, who bestows leadership and power upon whomever He pleases.
Especially the primary election, the odds were not in his favour because there were many (perceived) moneybags in the race and his campaigns were not the loudest or the most glitzy, but with the struck of fate, he surprisingly took the day. For the general election, the story was (almost) the same. Since he arrived the political bloc in 2007, Bago has been a serial disrupter of the the entrenched political system. I see that as the testament of the trust the people have in him. It is this trust that has earned him the priced and coveted seat of the Executive Governor of Niger State where he shall, in the next four years, preside over the affairs of the state and paddle its developmental ship. Bago’s penchant for excellence and his firm and calculative leadership paraphernalia have left no one in doubt that he is, indeed, the person the people of Niger need at this critical time to take the state out of the backwoods of retrogression.
It is, nonetheless, imperative to stress that, while Bago and his political acolytes deserve to celebrate his victory at the poll, the true winners and owners of his victory are Nigerlites. The victory belongs to all those who invested their trust, time, and resources in achieving and enthroning the Bago mandate. It is equally important to note that there is no leadership without the people, and those who neglect the collective aspirations of the people betray their trust and sacrifice. While the people have expressed unalloyed confidence in the Governor-elect, it is hoped that the new leadership shall return the favour by embarking on people-centred projects that will propel the economic development of the state.
The first debt he owes the people is peace and security. The Bago-led administration must strive towards the prioritisation of the safety and security of the people as well as their economic empowerment, for any leadership that does not lead to the socio-economic emancipation of the majority of the people will suffer grievous setbacks because the people are the engine room of any sustainable development. For example, the people in internally displaced camps in the state must receive special attention because of their vulnerable circumstances which have led to the loss of their dignity and means of livelihood. The new government must work to ensure that peace returns to their ravaged communities so that they can return to their normal lives. Once peace is entrenched, the economic undertakings of the people will flourish, leading to high productivity and economic growth.
The new government must also work in reinvigorating the interests of the people in the affairs of governance and strengthen their hope for a better and prosperous state for all. Because of the history of hardship in the state, the people have lost confidence in governance, hence the Bago administration must work assiduously in bringing respite.
This respite can be in form of microeconomic grants that are tailored towards getting people on their feet economically. They could be in the fashion of the Federal Government’s social intervention programmes that are coordinated by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development. The Bago administration can establish the state’s version of the same ministry to tackle the humanitarian challenges in which the state is enmeshed as a result of insecurity and other disasters. The new government must initiate policies and programmes that are deliberately geared towards the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that can guarantee the attainment of the self-actualisation drive of the ordinary people.
The dire level of infrastructural deficits in Niger State is stifling development; therefore, for Bago to set the state on the path of sustainable development, he must vigorously pursue infrastructural development. He could start with completing the many uncompleted projects in the state. The abandonment of the multipurpose mall in the heart of Minna around Mobil Roundabout is an eyesore for what a city centre should look like. Nigerlites deserve a befitting capital city that can boast of all the paraphernalia of modernity. It would, therefore, be gratifying to the people if the government of Bago can make this happen.
The perennial water problem in Minna and other parts of Niger State is another huge embarrassment. In this age, Nigerlites should not be experiencing water scarcity. Potable water should be a human right, and if ‘water is life’ as the saying goes, then the government must do everything humanly possible to make it available. The various dams with which the state is blessed could be leveraged to resolve the scathing problem.
Access to a robust healthcare and educational services must be prioritised in view of the fact that living a quality life is largely dependent on them. Consequently, the new government must consider reviewing the state of education and healthcare services in the state. The General Hospitals in the state need revamping and the manpower needs strengthening, to foster effective service delivery. Also, an all-encompassing health insurance scheme should be a given in the state, since living a quality life is tied to seamless access to quality and affordable healthcare services whether in urban or rural areas. Niger’s education sector also needs overhauling. Bago should consider reviewing the existing educational policies to pave way for a more comprehensive ones which are cutting-edge and conform with global best practices. To make sure that it is ideally achieved, the education system has to be under the direct supervision of the governor and managed by a tested and trusted team. Bago has to take education as a do-or-die affair, since it is pivotal to every aspect of development. This is necessary because the state of public education in Niger State is shameful and despicable, and only a draconian measure will checkmate its decay and gradual descent into the abyss. Because scholarship is important in the pursuit of mass education, the new government must be deliberate in instituting scholarship schemes that sponsor gifted Nigerlites to acquire quality education in developed countries. The impact of quality education on society cannot be over-emphasised and if the crux of government is the development of society and its people, education must be prioritised as fundamental to the realisation of a functional society.
It is axiomatic that unemployment is deep-rooted in Niger State. It is one of the factors impeding its development. To reverse the situation, the new government has to embrace holistic skills empowerment programmes (not the popular cosmetic ones) in various endeavours since they are key in reducing unemployment and increasing productivity. Young people should be the main targets of the schemes.
Myriads of opportunities come with information technology skills and innovations. Unarguably, IT is the pivot of the present and future orders of the world. Youth in some Southwestern states are no longer satiated with government jobs because of the volumes of money they are earning through their IT skills. Niger should mimic those state by creating IT hubs for training its deluge of youth.
Bago can also make Niger more prosperous or increase its economic viability if he activates the huge natural resources that the state is endowed with. Agriculture and tourism should be on the forefront.
It is understandable that many government’s developmental objectives are stymied by paucity of funds. To avert this challenge, Bago has to tow the path of Public Private Partnership.
As Bago embarks on this journey, he should continue to remember that the well-being of the citizens and their economic empowerment is the surest way to achieving sustainable development since a society cannot develop without developed citizens who are the drivers of production and industrialisation.
Awaal Gata is a journalist and public affairs analyst