Kudos, Knocks For Sule, Al-makura

BY VICTORIA N. IKEANO

Something of a storm brewed out in Nasarawa State. Although the initial draught was brewed in Nasarawa state, it extended its tentacles to Abuja, the nation’s capital where it was given a life of its own so to speak and blown up like a typhoon; no thanks to Governor Abdullahi A. Sule and his immediate predecessor now senator of the federal republic, Umaru Tanko Abdullahi who elected personally, to make a public show of the matter. How? Governor Sule and his deputy, Dr. Emmanuel Akabe (that is, the number one and number two citizens of Nasarawa state) visited Senator Almakura in his residence in Abuja last week, specifically “to clear the air and restate with resounding clarity that Governor Sule has never raised an alarm or complained about alleged budget support obtained by Nasarawa state whether by the immediate past administration of Al-makura or at any other time in the history of Nasarawa state”. Thereafter, they both held a joint press briefing on the matter. This shows the seriousness and concern with which the leaders view the originating news report from Nasarawa state, such that they had to bring the full weight of their persons and positions to “refute” it.
But first, let me do a recap of the news story that precipitated all this. At a meeting with elected councillors of all 13 local government councils in the state, Governor Sule was quoted as having advised them and the management of local government councils, to focus more attention on initiating ideas on how to generate revenue to enable the Councils do more than just paying salaries. While describing Nasarawa state as being among the most disadvantaged state in the federation in terms of allocations from the federation account and internally generated revenue, the governor listed three major debt burdens which the state must settle. “The economy of the state is facing serious challenge with dwindling federal revenue as it has to contend with settling three major debts namely, excess crude account debt, bailout funds and budget support all collected between 2015 – 2018”, he lamented. This, formed the basis of an editorial by Nasarawa Eye, a Lafia-based newspaper. The governor echoed similar views at a retreat for public officials. Some other newspapers crafted a bolder headline of the story such as, ‘Gov. Sule cries out over N18.9bn debt inherited from Al-makura”.

Expectedly, every Nasarawa citizen would naturally be concerned that repayments of these facilities which started in September is leading to a further shortfall in revenue available to the state which could in turn hamper its development efforts and consequently taxing of the citizen my in one form or other to somehow bridge the gap. It was out of this genuine concern and in accordance with governance principles of transparency and accountability that the Nasarawa Eye called for the setting up of a committee made up of people of integrity in the state to investigate whether the projects, etc., for which those humongous monies were given are commensurate with what is on ground. There is nothing unpatriotic about this call by the newspaper. Neither is it meant to cause bad blood between the two leaders. On the contrary it is meant to serve them and the state in general. For, by itemizing all that these federal government facilities were used for in a report/document by an esteemed committee, it would put to rest once and for all, rumours/speculations about what these huge sums were deployed for. Everybody is aware that former governor Almakura did not owe salaries; he gave Lafia, the Nasarawa state capital a befitting look with network of roads, etc.

Indeed one can say without any fear of contradiction that all of Nasarawa state’s governors since advent of democratic rule gave of their best. Senator Abdullahi Adamu the first democratically elected governor, laid a foundation for the state, establishing a number of tertiary institutions, including the state university, focused on construction of rural roads, etc. Alhaji Aliyu Akwe Doma (R.I.P.) was going to put the state on the international map with exportation of yams, etc. I am sure he would have done more if he had a second term which did not happen. Senator Al-makura as stated, opened up the state with urban road constructions, etc and incumbent Engr. Sule is set to develop it further with establishment of industries.
In their joint press briefing, both the current and immediate past governors seemed to be particular about stressing that there is no rift whatsoever between them as insinuated by some from the news report of what Sule had said. In our ‘toxic’ Nigerian environment Politics appear to cloak virtually everything. For me however, I believed that by such disclosure Governor Sule was only intimating the citizenry of the revenue challenges now confronting it (like most other states) for which they should brace up. Whereas one looked at the matter from an economic perspective, many others read political meanings into it. Said Engr. Sule at the Abuja briefing, “At no time have I stated that there is a debt of N18 billion taken by Governor Umaru Al-Makura and that it had stopped the running of government. For the purpose of clarification, I mentioned to stakeholders during the recent retreat for public office holders that we should all tighten our belts in view of expenses ahead and the reduction in revenue accruing to the state from the Federation Account. I mentioned the need for us to all wake up and improve our revenue base in order to continue to prosper as a state. I mentioned that currently we are having some deductions from our allocation due to the federal government intervention such as the bailout which is not peculiar to Nasarawa state”. And former governor Al-makura stated, “I am saying with every sense of sincerity that I did not go to any bank to take any loan on behalf of the state government while in office. We are here to reassure the people of Nasarawa state that whoever is wishing to see that we have friction with the current administration is chasing shadow”.
Apparently another of their concerns is that the ‘debt’ is being misconstrued as a commercial bank debt. That may be so at first glance until you read diligently the text of the story. Unfortunately many people get carried away only with headlines which do not tell the full story. Nonetheless, the fact is whether from a commercial bank, the stock exchange or the federal government, a loan is a loan and in so far as it has to be repaid it remains a debt. The difference between a government and bank loan is the latter comes with huge interest while the former is a soft loan with little or no interest attached to it. There is certainly nothing to be ashamed of in calling it a debt as far as one specifies the type of facility it is. It is good that both Sule and Al-makura have set the records straight. Kudos. Wrongly interpreted cum false reports should be refuted quickly before they grow wings.
One is disappointed that they had to do this personally with a pubic visitation outside of Nasarawa state to wit. When I was a media assistant to a former governor of Nasarawa state, there was only one resident reporter in the state – Daily Trust. Whenever there are big events in Lafia and elsewhere in Nasarawa state, reporters used to come from Abuja to cover them. I felt this was not good enough and I challenged my colleagues, the editors, to have their reporters in Lafia, Nasarawa state. I can say without being immodest that the fact that today, there are a plethora of resident reporters in Lafia specifically covering happenings in Lafia/Nasarawa state is a legacy I bequeath to Government House. You can therefore feel how depressing it is to me that the assembled press in Abuja had to be called to address them in Abuja on a wholly Nasarawa state issue which germinated in Nasarawa state.
Secondly, the two leaders need not to have gone to the extent of personally refuting the report with their presences. It would have sufficed for their media aides to issue statements in the names of their bosses denying the newspaper reports. The rebuttals would equally have been given prominence in the media because it is ‘hot’ news. Thirdly, Governor Sule and his deputy should not have gone to pay a public courtesy visit with pressmen in tow, to former governor Al-makura wherein he reportedly pledged his loyalty, trust, respect for his predecessor. It is an unnecessary dramatization. He should have just paid him a private visit where they can discuss privately and make mutual vows to each other, if you like. They both have shared mutual interest which is to move Nasarawa state forward and their loyalty is to the people and the Almighty – to serve the people and to obey/adhere to the Will of God at all times which is nothing other than to spread happiness and peace in their duty posts. Nobody should endeavour to put any wedge between current and past governors. All of them should work in unity for the overall interest of Nasarawa state.

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