Saturday, May 28, 2022

Leadership and Lawan’s Cake of Shame, by Barr. Suleiman Gimba

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This week marks 11 years since the first episode of the legendary TV Show Game of Thrones premiered. In those eleven years, the show has left many lessons that are relevant and could be employed, to sum up the Yobe situation. In one of its episodes, King Robert Baratheon was lamenting his fear of an impending Dothraki attack, for which his wife, Cersei, replied “we still outnumber them.” “Which is the bigger number, five or one?” he asked rhetorically. And as expected, she said “five.” Robert held up his left fingers, each of the five standing alone and said: “five” then clutches his right fist and said “One. One army, a real army, united behind one leader with one purpose. Our purpose died with the mad king.”

Robert had acknowledged that the seven kingdoms he leads – collectively called Westeros – are far more populous than what the Dothraki would bring against them but they are not as united as all his kingdoms have different agendas and are already fighting each other while the enemy has only one leader and a unified purpose. Should the attack come, the majority would be too distracted by its squabbles to put up a resistance.

As much as we hate to admit, leadership is about who gets what and who doesn’t. It has always been about the sharing of resources. In a country as complex as Nigeria, a place can go an awfully long time without having a feeling of the presence of the Federal or State Government. That is why constituency development projects were introduced for every federal lawmaker to have some of his constituency’s immediate needs included in the federation’s budget. But most importantly, to have a fairer distribution of resources.

Still, with our system of sharing bereft of checks and balances, one can almost only be sure of development reaching his community if there is a big man swinging it their way. Potiskum and Zone B by extension has had its fair share of federal government presence when things were fair and square but like the people of Westeros, internal squabbles have stopped it from finding that oneness of purpose and others have been taking advantage of it – often to devastating effect. Bukar Abba took away the College of Agric from Mamudo to Gujba even though Mamudo is best fit to host any agricultural school or college in the region.

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Yet a few cries and the region was back to concentrating on the things that matter – stopping one another from becoming Governor of Yobe despite having 52% of the voting population in the state. As a result, it has had to contend with producing the Deputy Governor, consistently like the Super Eagles getting a bronze medal at the African Cup of Nations.

Growing up, I have agonizingly noticed how the region has remained stagnant, as most of its development has only come from private citizens’ investments in its cattle and grain market, the largest in West Africa; its haulage business, the biggest in Nigeria; and the little feel of federal presence that it was able to scavenge, most notably a prison and a college of education that continues to benefit the whole northeast. With the current inclusive government of Mai Mala Buni, things have improved with its major business sectors undergoing ambitious modernisations.

At the Federal level though, it is seeming like a war where one is proving to be the greater number is on. It was quite quiet at first until it climaxed when news broke out that the Senate had passed “A bill for an act to provide for the Establishment of the Federal University of Medical Sciences and Biomedical Technology in six Geo-political zones and related matters connected therewith 2022 (SB. 678)” on 5th April 2022. The bill was sponsored by State Sen. Pius Ayo Akinyelure of the Peoples Democratic Party, representing Ondo Central. It went through First Reading on 21st April 2021, Second Reading on 19th January 2022 and was referred to the Senate Committee on Health. The Committee had a two-day public hearing in the 3rd week of February where Ahmad Lawan was a special guest of honour, before it was passed after the Third Reading on 5th April 2022.

Should this be a cause for a mass outcry? Definitely not, except when you look at the specific details, study the history and begin to put one and two together. It is proposed that the University would go to Gashua in Zone C despite the town already having a federal university. With Damaturu in Zone A having a state university, it means one senatorial zone has one, another has two and Zone B is left with none.

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It hasn’t stopped there still; the Eastern Narrow Gauge Railway Project construction was taken off the Kano-Potiskum-Damaturu route seemingly on the behest of Lawan. Having infamously said that anything that comes from Buhari is good for the nation and will be approved immediately – throwing into the dustbin any semblance of checks and balances – he is using similar tactics of grabbing and dragging everything to Gashua as in his own understanding it could be seen as the only good for the nation and thus, shouldn’t be questioned.

The grabbing and dragging have led to:

The construction of a new Airport (Airstrip) at Wachakal, a few kilometres from Gashua Town.

Gashua Mega Water Project is worth about 3.5 Billion Naira, Plus hundreds of Mini Solar Powered Water Boreholes funded by Hadejia/Jama’are River Basin Development Authority.

Poultry farm in Gasamu, Jakusko local government built by National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA).

Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in Gashua, Bade Local Government of Yobe State.

Construction of a Medical Center at the Federal University of Gashua.

120-bed Capacity Mother and Child Hospital (named after President Muhammadu Buhari) was constructed by the Federal government through the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (OSSAP-SDGs) in Gashua.

A Skills Acquisition Center constructed by OSSAP-SDGs and donated to Umar Suleiman College of Education, Gashua (commissioned November 2021).

Internally Displaced Persons Estate built by the Federal Government in Gashua.

Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) Skills Acquisition for 1,000 youths from Gashua focussing on GSM phone repairs, hardware, software, and entrepreneurship development.

Three Solar powered boreholes and a 1km campus road project with side drainages at Umar Suleiman College of Education, Gashua.

Male Hostel and Ultra-modern Sports Complex at Federal University Gashua.

ICT Center is being built by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) at Federal University Gashua.

36 Km long Gosamu-Gogaram road in Bade and Jakusko Local Government Area in Yobe North.

Ongoing Reconstruction of Bade Emirate Street in Gashua among multiple other federal road projects going on in and around the Bade LGA.

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Bio-resource Development center is being constructed in tajuwa town as a subsidiary of the National Biotechnology Development Agency.

Similarly, appointments into major parastatals that should have been evenly distributed are occupied only by people from Gashua. They are:

Chairman, National Assembly Service Commission.

Director of Finance and Admin, North East Development Commission.

National Commissioner/ED Finance and Administration, Nigeria’s Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.

Executive Secretary, FCTA Education Department.

Director Finance and Admin, FERMA

National Commissioner, Public Complaints Commission.

This is likely to draw bad blood from not only Potiskum and Zone B but from the whole of Yobe State. One that is not greedy will most likely allow others to have even a slice of the national cake, but this one prefers to eat and watch others starve.

You can take the guy out of the village, they say, but you can never take the village out of the guy. Having rose to number three in the country, and with mooted gubernatorial aspirations, one would expect such a person to have a national or at least a state outlook on life but not Lawan. He probably needs a lesson or two on how not to be a divisive figure.

Through all these there, were two other senators from Yobe who admittedly are afraid to go against the Senate president, but in those 12 months, they could have at least mobilised their people to attend the public hearing en masse and oppose the siting of another university in Gashua. I partly blame them for the university fracas, but for everything else there is very little they can do.

For Potiskum lies an important lesson of unity. Until it is united, development will continue to elude it. But if it gets it right, the rest of Zone B will, and Yobe as a whole might. What the elders of the ancient town need to do is usher in a Pax Romana of some sort. The détente will give it the stability and collective purpose to at least try not to be an ethnic bigot’s punching bag. And maybe then all else shall follow.

Mr Gimba wrote from Abuja

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