By Ibrahim H. Suleiman
From this Wednesday, May 29, the Shendam Road Government House, Lafia will have a new occupant. Henceforth, the old landlord, Umaru Tanko Almakura will cease to parade himself there as Governor – officially. Engr Abdullahi Alhaji Sule, the incoming landlord of the imposing Government House will officially begin his first four-year tenure. From that day onwards as the new Executive Governor of Nasarawa State, all eyes will turn towards his direction; and His Excellency, the Executive Governor of the state also becomes the father of all. The era of promises would come to an end, because now you are there people will henceforth expect deeds or action and not just words.
For the outgoing governor he leaves behind his deeds alone to stand for him and the executive power would have gone along with him; he becomes another citizen, with in fact all his “former” executive titles only stripped of that immunity clause. If he were everything he made us believe, the dreaded anti-corruption agency would have no need to chat with him, otherwise…well, you just have to face the music. After all others before you have played their part in that same position and had to give their own account in the custody of this owesome national commission. This has become routine now that few really expect to escape the fangs of this dreaded commission.
Strictly speaking, we shall have another smooth handover, of course because it is more like a family affair – an all APC affair. No wolves in sheep clothing. Just another inauguration day, perhaps, a little less colourful because it would be low keyed. Unfortunately, everything that has a beginning must have an end. Everyday someone is born, just as another passes on. The law of nature.
On this day, Governor Almakura will bow out of office after eight highly eventful years. Of course, outgoing governor Almakura has done a great deal in terms of socio-economic development where he embarked upon unprecedented infrastructural projects that gulped billions of naira, but that seemed to have been achieved at the expense of the people’s welfare. Notably, state and local government workers ans pensioners had to pay through their noses for these projects as many had to forfeit months or years of their salaries and other entitlements, while many died without getting to this stage. That was sacrifice at its best. After all, one time United States president, JF Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you… ask what you can do for your country.” Sacrifices of this nature are supposed to be by all people from all walks of life – the top brasses, the privileged and the less privileged alike – and not by only the defenceless masses in the service of their motherland.
At any rate, it is pertinent to note that every leader must endeavour to carry everyone along irrespective of tribe, religion and party affiliation. Some people are in the habit of insisting on the cliché that says, you cannot satisfy everyone. But the underlying principle of equity, justice and fairness over-rides such parochialism. No society can survive, particularly a democratic society, where injustice prevails in any form. Everyone is important in his/her own way. It might not be possible to carter for everyone in the society at the same time due to economic constraints, but it behoves on the leader(s) to ensure that nobody is really left out in the scheme of things. The so-called transformation programme of the outgoing Almakura administration has served its purposes, but it was not totally impeccable.
The incoming state Governor Engr Abdullahi Alhaji Sule therefore has to firstly look before he jumps. Perhaps, that’s why he is there on the exalted seat – to clean the Aegean stable, as the case may be. Of course, it is no easy task. Nasarawa State has gone through rather turbulent times during the two-term tenure of Almakura. Many citizens have had their dreams fulfilled, while many others have had theirs killed.
The one distinct shortcoming of the Almakura administration has been its disregard for the welfare of workers and by implication the generality of the masses of the population. As a civil service state what happens to the workers will have repercussions on the majority of the population – the artisans, subsistent farmers, traders and market women, most of whom, until the coming of trader money introduced by the Buhari administration, were left at the mercy of the harsh realities of the economy. Trader money and other similar economic palliatives introduced by the federal government gave many in the state at that level some relief, some measure of a sense of belonging. Workers and retirees have remained in abject penury as the economy continued to take a harsh toll on the masses of the population. They cry in vein of unequal justice or verily no justice at all. Now, these classes of the society, apparently the most downtrodden, but who constitute the bulk of the electorate would continue to seek for a better deal somehow. It is no easy task.
In fact, with a predecessor nicknamed “Sarki Aiki” the incoming governor must be on his toes from the very onset. The infrastructural projects embarked upon by Almakura were only the beginning of more to follow if the state actually wants to catch up with other states in the country that have made their marks in developmental projects. Indeed, there is the need to ensure increased internally generated revenue, IGR in order to meet up with challenges of development. There would be no excuses. We have seen what the previous adminstration has achieved with the “meagre” available resources, stories of high-handedness in the award of contracts notwithstanding.
Furthermore, the incoming administration should endeavour to shake off the burden of shouldering local government councils once and for all. Already, the debt incurred by the outgoing state and local government joint account on salaries and pension arrears of state and local government staff runs into billions of naira. This is notwithstanding the payments of gratuities which, added to that of state government pensioners, would run to nothing less than thirty billion naira (an estimate). There is therefore an urgent need to ensure that local government councils were given full autonomy to manage their own affairs themselves and that way they can be assessed based on their performance.
By Ibrahim H. Suleiman