By Wole Mosadomi
The gubernatorial election has never been so explosive and interesting as it is in Niger State. It is a departure from the past when an aspirant would be imposed on the electorate by the elders without resistance. Though there is a campaign by the opposition on the age of the PDP flag bearer who they say is too young to govern the state, Umaru Nasko, who turned 40 on March 13, said in a country where life expectancy is put at less than 50 years, a 40- year old should not be seen as too young to serve as a state governor.
Niger is eager for a change. The people’s expectations are high.
They are mindful of the fact that the state is still backward in terms of education, provision of potable water, health care delivery, industrial development and the economy. Past administrations, both military and civilian, have played their part but the belief of the people is that there is still a lot more left undone and, perhaps, that is why the people are looking forward to a dynamic, energetic, vibrant and an astute administrator especially somebody who has been in the system and who, therefore, knows where the shoe pinches most.
Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu had, at different times, made it clear to the electorate that he had no anointed candidate to take over from him but that his wish is for somebody from his cabinet to succeed him, not for any hidden agenda but to continue with the good works his administration started.
Fortunately, when the primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was held, Nasko, who, was, for many years commissioner in different ministries in the present state administration and, lately, chief of staff to the governor, picked the ticket and thus became the party’s flag bearer.
Nasko served the state as commissioner for commerce and tourism during which the two ministries witnessed rapid transformation.
Besides, he was the coordinator of the ward development project in Magama Local Government Area of Niger during which peoples lives were touched through the provision of roads, schools, market stalls boreholes and other infrastructural facilities.
His running mate, Alhaji Isah Liman Kantigi, was Chairman, Edati Local Government Council for years and, lately, the state commissioner for local government. The duo are seen in the political field as an impeccable combination and this has raised the hope of the people of Niger for better dividends of democracy after Aliyu. Meanwhile, some people saw Nasko as too
young to be at the helm of affairs of the state.
On this, the PDP gubernatorial candidate said, “How an individual feels about his age is largely the state of the mind which is why a 30-year-old with the right exposure and experience can achieve more than a 70-year-old and vice versa. That is not to diminish the value of old age but it is only to underscore the need to give the young ones a chance.”
In an interview with our state correspondent, he affirmed that he has the zeal to provide positive change in human development, economic emancipation and infrastructural development in the state.
“A vote for me is a vote for progress, youth and gender empowerment, agricultural and economic regeneration, infrastructural development, health and education advancement, ethno-religious tolerance and integration, accountability, respect for the rule of law, equity and justice,”he stated.
One of the major problems in the country is lack of continuity of the projects started by a former government. Nasko said he will continue with the good works his predecessor started.
“We seek to continue the purposeful and pragmatic leadership style of the outgoing administration that has served in the best interest of the people. This is to consolidate on the gains of various remarkable achievements already recorded in the bid to create a springboard for higher performance,”the PDP governorship candidate stated.
“I also promise that my administration will advance all frontiers of developing the state and step up the implementation of vision 3:2020 document which is to make Niger state the best economy in the year 3:2020.”
He noted that the only way to achieve the vision is by developing the education sector and thus declared that his administration will strengthen all existing policies in the sector which is pursuing the free education, payment of National Examinations Council (NECO) and West African Examinations Council (WAEC) examinations fees and also increase the bursary allowances to deserving students.
Nasko promised that more schools will be built while the existing infrastructure will be expanded to sustain the tempo of increased pupils’ enrolments and the standard of quality educational services.
According to him, more emphasis will be placed on technical schools by making them become sources of producing quality furniture for all schools in the state.
He was quick in identifying the role of the civil servants which he described as the engine room towards actualizing the 3:2020 dream.
“The civil service is the key element in public policy – making and therefore, we shall strive to restore professionalism and discipline in service and we will dispense with, in maximum speed any incidence of corruption and misappropriation in the civil service”, the gubernatorial candidate said.
Since the creation of Niger State in 1976, many industries have been established by government and individuals as a source of employment and improving the revenue base of government.
Unfortunately, several of these industries have packed up thereby overstretching the recruitment of workers into the civil service and also making the state 100% dependent on federal allocation.
The PDP flag bearer said there must be a departure form this, pointing out that the bitter experience by states across the country in terms of income from the federal allocation is a pointer to the fact that states should look more inwardly towards generating funds for their survival..
He noted that Niger is endowed with mineral resources such as gold, talc, iron ore, kaoline, quartz, oil and gas among others but that they are yet to be developed fully.
He said, “Attention would be given to this sector by keying into the flow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the global mining sector and open up to the business community. We also have on our agenda to provide incentives for investors which will include tax relieve, import duty relieve, foreign exchange remittance of certificate of occupancy, availability of Infrastructural facilities such as roads, electricity, water supply, hotel services and above all, we intend to provide effective mechanism and partnership for the actualization of Bida Basin Exploration project in order to make the state join the league of oil – producing states.”
He said Niger State Internal Revenue Board will be reinvigorated towards improving on its revenue base thereby serving the electorate much better.