By Ochereome Nnanna
IN 2006, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Dr Charles Soludo, gave a lecture in Kaduna in which he disclosed that poverty was “a Northern phenomenon”. He also said that Jigawa State was the poorest state in the North, and by extension the poorest in Nigeria.
This created mixed feelings among politicians and intellectuals in the North. Since Soludo was merely reiterating a glaring truth which had been repeatedly depicted in the facts published by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), some of them took the sobering disclosure as a challenge. While the Governor of Jigawa then, Alhaji Saminu Turaki, who was about to complete his eight-year tenure was incensed, the gubernatorial candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Sule Lamido, described the ranking of his state as “embarrassing”, and vowed to change the situation if elected.
Unlike many occupants of the office of state governors, who never underwent proper grooming, a major advantage Lamido enjoys is the benefit of experience and vision. He knew exactly what he intended to do and how to go about it. As a media savvy politician, Lamido involved his wide network of media contacts from day one to help keep a tab on his performance.
It was possible to establish that the rating of Jigawa State as the poorest in the country was actually an understatement. Dutse, the state capital, had only one tarred road running through it, and the regime of former Governor Saminu Turaki had merely put a median on a narrow existing road. The only visible structure in Dutse was the Information and Communication Technology Tower, which Lamido later named after Turaki.
Ministries and parastatals were scattered all over the State. Schools were more like poultry sheds. There was a particular case of the College of Arts and Islamic Studies in Hadejia which had its roof blown off, and boarding students huddled under trees when it rained.
The school compound was flooded during the rainy season and bullfrogs made conversation among humans nearly impossible with their noise. Most teachers in primary and secondary schools could not communicate in English, let alone teach in the official language. It was difficult to imagine how Lamido and his new team would start.
With five months left of his two-term tenure as governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido has successfully and effectively exited his State from the bracket of the nation’s poorest States.
In fact, Jigawa State has joined the front row of States that have virtually conquered infrastructural deficit, particularly in the areas of roads. Jigawa is one of the few States where you can travel without encountering potholes, except on the few remaining federal roads that are yet to be reconstructed by the Lamido administration.
Dutse, a small city, today is a sight to behold, in terms of its beauty, even at night. It does not have a single street that is untarred. Each of the 27 local government headquarters has been developed with a uniform model.
Each has a modern secretariat and suitably appointed accommodation to encourage officials to reside in their domains rather than come in from Kano to share local government allocations and go back, which used to be the case. Every major street is tarred, with drainage and solar-powered street lights. This has encouraged well-to-do indigenes to start putting up modern houses in their hometowns and to visit home more frequently.
In agriculture, Jigawa is one of the States where the frequent clashes between farmers and herdsmen have been eradicated. This was possible because a law was made to give 30 metres on both sides of major highways as herdsmen’s right of passage. This enables cattle to feed without going into people’s farms.
There are solar-powered watering boreholes over the state. On the other hand, farmers have been equipped with ox-drawn carts which enable farmers to till the land with plough and move their products through rural footpaths to the markets.
Lamido has not only fixed the dilapidated schools, he also has systematically upgraded the teaching staff after transferring the untrainable teachers to other areas where they can remain employed. As part of the permanent solution to the problem of poor quality teaching staff and public servants, Lamido set up the Jigawa Academy for Gifted Children, JIGACAD, in Bamaina, his hometown.