By Ibrahim H. Suleiman
As the first one hundred days since Engr Abdullahi Alhaji Sule was sworn in as the fourth democratically elected Governor of Nasarawa State elapses, there is a general wave of optimism that things are finally straightening out for the better. Of course the very groundwork upon which the new administration in the state would stand is still just about taking shape. The governor had reiterated he would deliver on his campaign promises some of which he intended to accomplish in his first one hundred days.
Already, there are positive signs the governor is a man of his words. Governor Sule has already resumed work completing all or most of the projects across the state started by his predecessor. This has not prevented him from initiating new programmes. And his project of providing (solar) street lights to all the thirteen local government headquarters in the state stands out as an indication that, like his predecessor, he is bent upon bringing development to the doorsteps of the state. The Governor’s style of inclusive administration aimed at bringing all stakeholders under one roof to iron out thorny issues ranging from herders-farmers crisis to general insecurity shows that his years of experience as an astute businessman and an executive manager of the people and humongous resources are here being put to good use.
Nevertheless there are many who still believe that it is too early to conclude that the future can be guaranteed. The spectre of despondency under his predecessor when the masses became totally alienated (in the latter years of Akmakura’s reign) has remained a reference point to the very masses that had supported Almakura to victory for his second tenure. Indeed, general unemployment persists as many more families are increasingly finding it difficult to fully take care of themselves, let alone cater for their younger ones This has led to fears that the new administration might not fare any differently. Others wonder why no word has yet come out of what the immediate past administration has left in the government coffers. With all the unpaid or percentage payments of salaries and pension running into several billions of naira! People want know the state of the government’s treasury. Are there debts or not? How much is left in the treasury? In other words, accountability and transparency beg for acknowledgment.
Meantime, to further assuage doubting Thomases about his resolve to revamp the civil service as the fulcrum upon which the state government revolves, the governor had gone ahead to set up a committee on restructuring the government ministries, agencies and parastatals. Already, the committee headed by one time permanent secretary, Mr Silas Dachor has submitted its report. There is cause for cheer as the governor had earlier indicated that a reward system would be put in place, while training and re-training of civil servants would be given priority as part of efforts aimed at reinvigorating the civil service for more efficient service delivery.
Needless to say, the governor has demonstrated in no small measure his resolve to toe the line of the progressive goals of the APC in all his endeavours. Already, the governor has firmly accepted FG’s suspended Ruga settlement proposal designed to bring an end to herders-farmers crises. To further demonstrate his commitment to the lofty ideals of the APC in terms of massive infrastructural development towards industrialisation, the governor recently led a delegation of who’s who in the state on a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari. During the visit the president reiterated his call on state governments to invest in education, primary health care, agriculture and security as the foundations for sustainable progress. The president also emphasised the need for a “collective vision on sustainable development.”
Apparently, beyond complying with the local government autonomy as enshrined in the Constitution, the toughest problem bedeviling LGs in the state goes deeper than what the eyes might behold. For many years the problem of ghost workers haunting LGs has become somewhat legendary. Various stories abound on how LG workers were employed or contracted by politicians who only wanted to please their prospective voters without regards to the general wellbeing of the generality of the population, nor the survival of the LG administration. Hence, with over-bloated workforce and dwindling revenue, the LGs have been unable to even pay salaries of their staff, let alone perform.
Many theories have evolved on how the problem can be resolved. While many experts suggest trimming down the workforce to a manageable size by doing away with the so-called ‘ghost’ workers, others frown at the thought of cutting down the workforce. The latter argue that already the state is crying under acute unemployment, particularly of the youths, pointing out that such a solution would rather create even more problems. This has been the dilemma at the LGs level in the state. And it is a problem that the state government cannot close all eyes to.
At any rate the state government is still without a cabinet as commissioners are yet to be appointed. As pointed out by some observers, the delay which smacks of a tradition in the state somehow confirms speculations making the rounds that the strong hands of our state governor’s predecessor are giving directions on details and the running of affairs from behind the scene.
Thus, while it is necessary to be wary of appointing credible men and women of timbre and calibre as members of the state executive, it is equally pertinent to ensure that appointees are true representatives of their people. The state is today at the crossroads wherein the masses of the population are more enlightened than they were some years back. Besides, there are higher expectations from the electorate on the leadership. Hence, the performance of leaders and not their status would be the critical determinant of their assessment.