By Mohammed Adamu
Niger State is famed, on the one hand, for Power -on account of two contradistinctive sources of power and noted, on the other, for history -on account of two opposing causes of history. As Power State, she is the source of two voltages: one political, being the birth place of two former Military Heads of State, (IBB and Abdulsalami), and the other hydro-electrical, -being home to the nation’s only two hydro- dams, (Kainji and Shiroro).
And, of history, she is noted for the same illustrious sons, IBB, a veritable creator and maker of history (if not because of his extra-military adventures, the historic annulment of June 12); and Abdulsalami, a creature and beneficiary of it (if not on account of his un- stirring ascension to power, his historic handover to a democracy. Yet, Niger is noted for history on account of another dual apposite: being home to Nigerias first colonial seat of power, Zungeru; -and itself birth-home of one of Nigeria’s foremost nationalists and first President, Nnamdi Azikiwe.
And, concerning things of note, Minna, the capital, is noted for state-of-the art drainage systems that have ended perennial urban floods and an excellent network of roads combing the city from its hairless scapula up to its soaring groovy forehead on the segregated Hill-Tops of Minna where, again, IBB and Abdulsalami are pre-eminently ensconced.
But these facilities are neither a state-wide phenomenon nor are they even the dividends of our democracy; -but largely benevolent gifts of the military, particularly under IBB’s regime.
Of note too are the state’s enormous agricultural potentials in virtually all sectors of it. In the expanse, type and fecundity of her soil; in the multi variegation of her crop and plant varieties; the irrigable nature of her lands; her largely untapped, cash-crop-rich ecosystems; numerous fish sources and diverse species; a plenitude of graze-able plains for animal husbandry, and in the existence of a clement weather conducive for a variety of all-year farming systems, Niger State is preeminently nonpareil.
She is no less endowed in other exploitable but regrettably dormant treasures such as her huge gold deposits; many tourism destinations like the twin-dams in Shiroro and Kainji, waterfalls of Gurara, Borgu Games Reserve; the famous Ladi Kwali Pottery; Zuma Rock, -a natural landmark-mystic significant, especially in its touristic value; and a strategically-positioned Gateway City, Suleja, that is exploitable in its Real-estate potentials both on account of its Gateway location to the nation’s capital and its enviable history as the baptismal progenitor of Abuja. All these constituting a potpourri of saleables from which a world of infinite commercial possibilities lies.
Asking: what has Talba done? is a rhetorical enquiry more into whether or not he has exploited these treasures than it is a contest zone for whether he has been consistent in the payments of pensions, salaries and gratuities; -which even non-benevolent governments do, if that’s all they do; or the fact that government has introduced free female education -or ante-natal care for pregnant women, -again, fringe services even non- democratic, millennium-goals-conscious governments effortlessly render; or that Niger has done what every state does: -built houses for civil servants -because in the midst of scarce resources it suffices, ordinarily, that civil servants (constituting an infinitesimal fraction of a state’s population), have at least a monthly take-home pay, benefit from numerous genuine and flimsy allowances, engage in daily chuwa-chuwa , and in the end are entitled to pension and gratuity. A governor should do well to prioritise the construction of culverts because its franchise of usage is wider than the restricted ownership of white-collar estates.
Thus, an enquiry into a governor’s performance should not be about ephemeral everyday administration, but the more enduring issues of development; the serious Einstein-peak that lifts Lagos into space, not the mutative, Darwinian pitch that keeps others paddling below sea-levels.
Talba himself, at his inaugural, promised this much: to set, he said, goals that will raise the standard of living for everyone; to make Niger State one of the most if not the most developed state in Nigeria; to tap her untapped agricultural potentials in order, he said, to improve food security, process for export and to generate gainful employment for our citizens; and to not only establish secondary health care facilities in all local government headquarters but a medical city that shall serve the whole of West Africa.
Can’t blame a governor for making good promises? Or assail him for genuinely failing to deliver on them? Yet, by a stretch of equidistant logic, no reputation should be built on the basis of good intentions. Great ideas C.D. Jackson said, need landing gear as well as wings. But the big issue is: why four years from the ambitious, high-tech pitch of Talba’s lofty inaugural goals, the taps -even in Minna- should not run with the most basic of needs, water?
If even Kure who met them gurgling, at least, did manage to leave them dripping, has not Talba laid himself bare to the ambush, even, of a governor whose name is a metaphor and his regime a byword- for non-performance?
Or now that the electoral storms are over, will Talba change gear? Will he wear new wings?