The emergence of Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Borno State in the just concluded primary election is one of the most cheering news to come out of Borno State since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999.
Having clinched the APC ticket, it is almost certain that Prof. Zulum will emerge as the governor of Borno State in the 2019 general elections. This is so because the APC, which is the amalgamation of the legacy parties including the ANPP, has dominated the political landscape of Borno since 1999.
When the news filtered in on Saturday, 29th September, 2018 – a day to the primary election – that the outgoing Governor, Kashim Shettima had settled for Prof. Zulum as his successor, a lot of people were not taken by surprise. This is mainly because Shettima, who is an intellectual in his own right, has up the ante of governance in Borno State.
Having presided over the most challenging period in the history of Borno, Governor Kashim saw the nexus between intellect and development and how the dearth of ideas and knowledge sowed the seed and fueled the Boko Haram insurgency in the North Eastern state. With Prof. Zulum, Governor Kashim sought to create a new equilibrium where Borno will no longer be at the rung in the indices of development due to the social and economic dislocation caused by the insurgency.
Having attained the educational qualification of a professor, coupled with his administrative and managerial skills as a Polytechnic Rector and the Commissioner of such a strategic ministry as that of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, certainly, Zulum will not be your run-of-the-mill governor. He has been around to familiarize himself with the nuances of governance and politics.
Without prejudice to his co-contestants for the governorship ticket, who are equally qualified in so many respects, Prof. Zulum, possesses the intellectual capacity and the acumen required to consolidate on the successes so far recorded by Governor Kashim and expand the frontiers of development in Borno State.
What we need at the moment in Borno State are inclusive governance, reconstruction of destroyed communities, rehabilitation of the distraught citizens and their resettlement. These are areas where Prof. Zulum was at the forefront as a cabinet member. Because of the delicate nature of Borno, the state needs someone with the hands-on experience who will hit the ground running by placing his hands on the plough and drive the course of development.
According to a survey conducted by the World Bank in partnership with the European Union, and the Presidency, the destruction inflicted on the Northeast by Boko Haram amounts to about $9.6 billion, of which Borno State alone accounts for about $6 billion of the destruction.
I was among a group of journalists who had a chat with Governor Shettima in his office in Maiduguri on the night of 5th February, 2018 when the governor said: “A total number of 958, 357 units of houses were destroyed in the state making up to 30 percent of the total number of houses in the state, about 5,600 classrooms in 510 primary schools, in 34 secondary schools and 2 tertiary institutions of learning were destroyed, so the statistics are very depressing, but one thing I believe is that where there is a will, there is always a way.” The people of Borno have suffered enough and cannot afford the luxury of a governor who will learn of the job. The risk is too high!!
Borno State will never forget Governor Shettima in a hurry because of his uncommon effort to rebuild destroyed communities, which indeed gave birth to the creation of the Ministry of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement. A lot of infrastructure and houses across towns and villages have been rebuilt including Mosques and Churches. 34 mega schools are underway as well as the state-owned university. The state needs to consolidate on these achievements and move forward.
Borno was the economic hub of Niger Republic, Chad and Cameroun before its fortunes were rolled back by the insurgency. To make Borno great again, the leadership should have the ideas and knowledge to convert this deficit into opportunity for economic prosperity. The state has a vast arable land capable of producing rice for the entire country, sesame seeds, wheat, perishables like tomatoes and pepper and other crops can be conveniently produced and processed for export.
The last time I was in Maiduguri, I had the privilege of inspecting the huge investment of over N40 billion by Governor Shettima in agricultural mechanization equipment ranging from over 1000 tractors, planters, combined harvesters, sprayers, 600 rice mills, etc. These farming implements need to be put to use to drive the agricultural revolution in Borno.
President Buhari is also not sparing any effort to secure Borno for total peace through the decimation of the Boko Haram insurgency. The President’s effort in mobilizing a multilateral support for the resuscitation of the Lake Chad is equally legendary. Borno State therefore has to take all these advantages and launch itself into an economic power. However, the state will continue to grope in the dark without an intellectual powerhouse at the helm of the leadership. Prof. Zulum combines knowledge and integrity and these are the essential qualities we need in the leadership to drive the development process.
The choice of Zulum, a professor of Irrigation Engineering and an alumnus of the prestigious National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS)was neither selfish nor coincidental. It was borne out of conscious and patriotic desire to make Borno great again.
Mr Mutah contributed this piece from Abuja.