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Sokoto: Statesmanship or showmanship?

By Aliyu Bello

IT is generally agreed that Sokoto as a town nay state recorded its finest moments under the administration of Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa. Prior to the advent of the Bafarawa regime, what did we have in Sokoto State? The military had just returned to the barracks after having been in power for 16 years.

As it happened in several other states, military rule stunted development in Sokoto. So when the administration of Bafarawa came on stream, it was some sort of challenge for the then governor. Sokoto is a vast state, spanning several thousands of kilometres of roads, mostly in disrepair. Health facilities were in bad state.

The state is agrarian with the majority of the people engaging in agriculture; yet that sector was in shambles. Whereas education is a tool to build the society, attention to education was nil. Water was everywhere but no potable water for the people to drink.

Revenue generation was poor while the morale of civil servants, the engine room of government,  was low owing to poor remuneration. So what did Bafarawa do? First, he organised the finances of the state such that the revenue generation machinery could be strengthened to bring in more income. Yes, money was coming from the Federation Account but relying solely on it would mean that programmes of the then governor, thirsty to accelerate development in the state, would have suffered.

So, through financial ingenuity, Bafarawa raised the state’s internally generated revenue from N244 million monthly in 1999 to N1.1 billion at the end of his tenure in 2007. That is almost 500 percent increase. Second, Bafarawa prioritized the projects in view of the limited resources.

In the education sector, all sorts of incentives were provided to encourage parents to put their children in school in a state where children enrolment in school was low. The step paid off. By the end of Bafarawa’s first two years in office, enrolment of children in school had up by more than 300 percent.

The icing on the cake in that sector is the building of a model school in each of the local governments to signpost that children ought to learn in decent environment.

Then that administration gave so much attention to roads. This was a strategy to get the people to move their produce from the rural areas to the urban centres in a way to boost the state’s economy. At least 1000 kilometres of roads were either rehabilitated or reconstructed by the Bafarawa regime.

This translates to about 130 kilometres of roads per year. In the two sectors – education and road construction – the succeeding administration consolidating on the gains of the Bafarawa years would have seen Sokoto meeting up with its peers in a very short time. It is within the context of the high pedestal that the then governor put the state at the end of his tenure that one is sick about the current happenings in the state: The shenanigan of the Magatakarda Wamakko administration and the non-performance.

The regime officially has been in office for one year now because of the rerun but to the people of Sokoto, the tenure has run for three years.  And  it has been three years of waste and profligacy. Today, democracy in Sokoto is standing on its head, bleeding and groaning, the legs having been cut by those who should have nurtured it to deliver dividends to the people. And the scenario has been so because, rather than spending quality time to improve what is on the ground, Wamakko and his men have been busy chasing around real and imagined enemies. Now, the state must suffer because Bafarawa and his associates must be silenced.

Even by their own admission in sponsored materials in the media, nothing seems to have been added to what the Bafarawa administration did in the education sector, three years after. All the things listed as having been done under the Wamakko regime in the sector were actually the preceding administration’s initiatives. For instance, to further modernise education in the state, one would have expected this governor to add to the three model schools built by Bafarawa. But this is a no-go area for Wamakko and his men that have clearly run out of ideas.

The situation is even worse in the area of road construction where in three years the Wammako regime has done only 216 kilometres of  road (also by their own admission) as against the average of 125 that Bafarawa was doing, translating to almost 400 in three years. What a record for the Sokoto regime that claims to be alive to its responsibilities.

Even more uncharitable is the claim that they are constructing a flyover in Sokoto metropolis. Yes, Sokoto needs infrastructural development but definitely not this kind of project because the volume of traffic in the metropolis does not warrant it. This is a clear case of misapplication. The billions being committed to the flyover could have gone into the education or agricultural sectors or even build more roads and the state would have been better for it.

The problem with the Wammakko regime is that those who would have helped it with ideas (as it lacks them) to move the state forward are currently being hounded because of political differences. We are all waiting to see how far the administration can go in this process to self destruct.

*Bello is chairman of the Sokoto Democrats


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