By Wole Mosadomi
For the first time since he came into power three years ago, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello spared about two hours to interact with journalists in Niger State.
The Government House hall was filled to capacity by journalists and some state Cabinet members.
The enthusiastic journalists were however shocked when only five of them, including Vanguard Correspondent, were selected to be on the panel to ask the governor questions.
Asked by one of the members of the panel to speak on his achievements, Bello said he did not promise the people of Niger anything during electioneering campaigns in 2015, explaining that he took that decision to avoid a day of reckoning such as this when he would not be able to give reasons for broken or unfulfilled promises.
His words, “During my campaign tour to all the nooks and crannies of the state in 2015, I saw a lot of things including the way people were living. I saw backwardness; I saw poverty written on the faces of the people. I saw very bad roads; dilapidated school buildings, no portable water for people to drink; no access roads, among others things, and I was overwhelmed by these problems and I thought the only way to play safe was to be silent over promises that might not be fulfilled and this decision has paid off for me.
“I am a practical man and, knowing fully well that the financial resources of the state cannot capture all these problems, I played safe and, when I took the mantle of leadership, I decided to continue and complete many of the on-going projects inherited from my predecessors that have direct bearing on the people before embarking on new projects. I am happy to say that my administration has not only completed most of the inherited projects but has also embarked on new ones”.
The governor said governance is not all about commissioning of projects, saying it included many intangible things which should be provided for the people.
According to him, besides completing most of the abandoned projects scattered across Niger, he has renovated nine out of the forty boarding schools in the state while work is on-going on another six, adding that five hundred kilometres of rural, township and Trunk A roads had been completed and few on -going.
“When I assumed office in 2015, I felt bad to hear people describing Niger as a civil service state due to its backwardness economically and, knowing fully well that we have the economic base to move higher, I took bold steps to pave the way for investors, both from within and outside the state, to come and do business with us and we already have quite a number of them on ground while others are coming soon and these are not projects to be commissioned but are solid foundations being laid by my administration for the future of the state especially economically and socially,” Bello said.
On whether he would run for second term, the governor declared, “I will surely seek for a second term because I have impacted positively on the people. Every day, I think about how to improve the lot of the people of the state and to also turn the state around positively and we are getting results and I know we will get the support of the people as we will go for the 2019 elections and we will win.”
REACTIONS TO BLUNT DECLARATION
It is normal to expect bashing from the people especially politicians in reaction to such frank talk and while some praised the governor for his practicality, some others cashed on the comment to rubbish his administration.
Alhaji Muhammed Alkali, a businessman, described the submission of Bello as “frank talk”, saying he should be commended for his boldness.
“Going by history of the state, many of the past governors and political leaders have been deceitful. We have had unfulfilled promises; we have numerous uncompleted projects scattered across the state and they have direct bearing on the people and they continue to pile up and unattended to and, here is a governor from a different political party who has taken bold step to complete most of these projects and has also started new ones”, Alkali said.
“Honestly, I see him as a bold, blunt and practical man and he needs to be commended for this, for not deceiving us but he still needs to hasten up because there is room for improvement”.
However, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirant, Alhaji Aminu Mohammed Baka, expressed shock over the comment by the governor that he did not promise the people of the state anything during his campaigns in 2015, describing it as “unfortunate and disheartening”.
In an interview in Minna, the aspirant said the declaration by Bello clearly showed that he had nothing to offer the people before coming to power over three years ago and should therefore be voted out in 2019.
“This is a wake up call to the people Niger; what the governor means is that the people should stand against his coming in 2019 because if granted additional four years, even unborn children will beg for food from the womb,” he said.
“It has clearly shown that the All Progressives Congress (APC) was not and is not prepared for governance and should therefore be voted out of power next year for the state to move forward”.
Baka called on members of the state House of Assembly to kick against the N21.5 billion Sukuk bond being negotiated by the Bello administration, adding that the money, if collected, will only be squandered on the 2019 elections, “history will never forgive you if this loan request is obtained because it is going to be a waste”.