By Ibrahim H. Suleiman
Nasarawa State is being touted as the political home of President Muhammadu Buhari. It was the only state that had a governor in 2011 from the president’s party, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. And it has maintained the tradition of being the apostle of change in the country. Hence, although Nasarawa State Governor, Engr Abdullahi Alhaji Sule would be clocking a hundred days in office by September 5, the All Progressive Congress, APC has been at the helm of affairs in the state since May, 2015. This goes to show that some form of continuity is inevitable as far as the programmes of the new government vis-à-vis that of the immediate past administration in the state is concerned.
Indeed, the Governor had in his speech earlier while being sworn into the exalted position declared his resolve to complete ALL the projects started by the immediate past administration headed by former Governor Umaru Tanko Almakura. And the Governor has so far not disappointed the people on that score. What is more, this strategy has tended to be pursued rather religiously raising concerns in some quarters that he might eventually be lost trying to navigate his way back to facing the reality. Nevertheless, it is all too early to draw any conclusion.
Nasarawa State has had its fair share of violent conflicts, particularly in the southern senatorial zone during the time of the last administration. Although the bulk of conflicts occurred before the coming to power of the APC both at the central and the state levels, in the state the same government was in power since 2011. To date a lot of people in the state feel that the so called Ombatse crisis was not handled well by the then state government which was a precursor to the APC administration both at the state and federal levels. At any rate, with the coming to power of President Muhammadu Buhari leading the change onslaught of the APC across the country the security situation improved considerably for the better especially in Nasarawa State. Ombatse was neutralised completely with the death of the spiritual leader of the group, Baba Lakyo, while the menace of Boko Haram in the Northeast was being curtailed, restricting the insurgents to cowardly suicidal attacks on vulnerable targets.
Of course, President Muhammadu Buhari had pledged that his administration would tackle three cardinal issues when eventually ushered onto power. They include, first of all, the maintenance of security of lives and property of the citizens, particularly with the aim of curtailing the menace of Boko Haram in the Northeast; secondly, to ensure economic prosperity; and finally to fight corruption. This programme of action has remained the driving force of the Buhari administration at the centre and has been passed around down to the states and possibly local governments. Happily, there has been considerable achievement in all the three issues.
So far, new security challenges have emerged. And while the administration could be said to have effectively been tackling the Boko Haram insurgents in the Northeast, the farmers-herders clashes erupted in earnest alongside the activities of criminal bandits specialising in kidnapping for ransom as well as robberies, which have spread across the length and breadth of the country. Indeed, the question of security or verily insecurity has tended to become the leading issue that has been giving majority of the population sleepless nights. The APC-led federal government has swung into action by deploying men and machinery in large numbers to counter the activities of the criminal bandits. While the federal government has been playing its part, the various state governments have also been doing their best to tackle the ugly situation across the country. In Nasarawa State, the Governor had welcomed the Ruga Settlement, an initiative of the federal government, which has been suspended following the anti-Ruga hysteria from some quarters, particularly from the southern states. However, Governor Sule’s administration had remained hopeful that the Ruga settlement programme would eventually see the light of day as a veritable solution to the seemingly unending farmers versus herders conflicts at least in the state.
In the same vein, Governor Sule’s administration has cued in to APC’s programme of ensuring economic prosperity which is hinged upon general infrastructural development like the construction of roads, modern railway lines and other means of transportation to open up the state to internal and external investment. In addition, Governor Sule had pledged to industrialise the state ab initio while he was still an aspirant. This was both in line with his wealth of experience as a top class industrialist and his love for his fatherland. To this end he has already begun to build on what his predecessor(s) have started in terms of infrastructural development, including the provision of electricity to all the nooks and crannies of the state. On a daily basis the Governor has been introducing new programmes including the youth and women empowerment initiative to be launched soon geared towards providing our women and youths with skills and the means to start up their own businesses. This would eventually provide thousands of citizens with gainful employment thereby improving the living standard of the populace.
On the civil service in the state, the Governor has already set the machinery in motion for its structuring in line with international best practices. He has already put a fullstop to percentage payments of salaries and pension and has promised to pay all areas of pension and salaries. All this is geared towards making the civil service, the engine room of government productive. As one retired civil servant said, “so far so good,” as according to him: “the difference is clear. Here is a Governor who sympathises with us, senior citizens after so many years of hardship under the previous administration. Although he is yet to pay us the arrears of our pension for nearly three years, by paying us full pension he has shown that he can be trusted.”
Of course, the state governor is gradually warming himself into the hearts and souls of the people of the state with his people-oriented programmes across the state. One aspect that has yet to come under the spotlight perhaps is the third part of the APC programme of action as outlined by Mr President. This is the fight against corruption. Some people have started calling on the new administration to tell the world what it met in the coffers of the immediate past government of Governor Umaru Tanko Almakura. Other people who have even thumbed up the past administration, but insist that the world still needs to know what transpired, what was spent and the balance or otherwise in the government coffers.
However, whatever the the case may be the new administration has started on a sound footing and the best the people can do at the time is to give government maximum support so that with the people’s prayers and pieces of advice where necessary it can succeed. Besides, as the National Vice Chairman of the APC North central zone, Alhaji Ahmed Suleiman Wambai put it in an interview, “it is too early for anybody to criticise this government in the first one hundred days. The government came and met a programme on ground, so it has to study the programme and look at where there is omission or commission.” Hence, keeping faith with APC’s progressive ideals there is perhaps light at the end of the tunnel, that democracy would prevail. And as I had written in one of my last write-ups online: “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.”