By Mukhtar Gidado
Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States of America was once quoted to have said that; “the greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”
Arguably; one of the biggest challenges facing modern democracy, particularly in Nigeria is the inability of leaders to bestow trust or delegate responsibilities.
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The somewhat “I know it all syndrome” has seen many leaders crumble—for, they defy the foundation upon which impactful democracy rests—that foundation remains their ability to allow citizens have a say on what decisions they undertake, how they were taken and why they were taken.
Since his assumption of office after successfully wrestling power from an administration that is at best described as a non-performing regime that diminishes the integrity of Bauchi State is the bedrock of politics in Nigeria; Bala Mohammed assembled independent technocrats, academics and experts that would collectively chart a vision for the state where the citizens would have a say on how they are governed.
There is nothing that embodies Bala’s vision for Bauchi State more than the choice of his appointees and cabinet commissioners.
The choices of people who have excelled in their various endeavours have demonstrated his resolve to alter the face of Bauchi State which unarguably has been ruined by successive governments.
The idea that people are inherently intelligent in their unique ways and could proffer solutions to uniquely human problems was the major motivating factor for Bala l when making choices as to who would man which position in the administration. It’s the same spirit that drives the governor to alter the norm where past governors sit at Ramad House and make decisions without consulting the millions of people of Bauchi State who ought to have a say.
The governor during the campaigns vowed to run an inclusive government. Many people thought that the inclusivity he was referring to means rewarding political friends.
But Bala had an idea of running an administration that embodies the true definition of inclusivity—where the citizens, for whom leaders exist—would have a greater say on any decision that would address their plight and admirations.
Many readers may recall the Gadau declaration—where the people’s governor assembled his cabinet and a handful of experts from different field of endeavours to chart a new road map for the state. The governor eschews the urge to surround himself with ‘political friends’, who by nature of the game only tell their principals what they want to hear. He decided to also call people that share opposing views from across the divide—in an attempt to emphasis multiculturalism and pluralism that truly define Bauchi State.
The Gadau declaration enabled the governor to collect different, but intelligent pieces of advice from experts and local people—which culminated into a blueprint that would serve as a working document for the administration in its quest to reclaim the lost glory of the state.
Bala’s characteristically distinguishable leadership style means that the working document from time to time would be tabled before the people—for whom it was produced; to enable them to scrutinize it to conform to their needs and aspirations before final decisions are taken.
The spirit of the governor in this regard is simple—the buy-in of the people who remain the beneficiaries of every government’s decision should be sacrosanct in a constitutional democracy.
Governor Bala believes that for meaningful and sustainable development to take place, the people must be involved. His idea is premised on the basis that the local people are intelligent and could be active agents of sustainable progress. He argued repeatedly, that in peculiar climes such as Bauchi, people’s capacity to contribute and participate in the task of governance can alternate years of retrogression that beclouded the state.
From education to health and from the budget preparations to getting rid of ghost workers, and of recent—the agenda of fighting a pandemic; there is no single decision that this administration took without subjecting its processes to the rigours of public scrutiny.
Without fear of contradiction, I’m starting without any equivocation, that there is no administration in the history of Bauchi State that conducts town hall meetings or retreats to sample the opinion of people and experts before decisions are taken.
The bottom-line according to the governor is to enable the administration to share information, knowledge, trust, commitment and canvass the right attitude in planning and implementing programs that would reshape Bauchi for the better.
For instance, the governor was quoted as saying during a town hall meeting to review some decisions taken regarding the Coronavirus pandemic that; “We want to fight this virus in the best possible ways without compromising standards, and for us to achieve that we need the buy-in of the people through active community engagement.
“Active stake-holding is important because everyone has a role to play in our effort to defeat coronavirus”, he says.
The governor added that “Bauchi has its own peculiarities, any method we are adopting has to consider its peculiarities, and we must provide a peculiar solution to suit our context”, he opined.
From the foregoing statements, one may note that the spirit of Governor Bala Mohammed as far as governance is concerned is that, the people can alternate local solutions to local problems. The governor rather than placing premiums on a top-down approach to problem-solving emphasized that it’s high time we downplay the idea of knowledge transfer as a solution to our problems.
He believes that relying on local knowledge and local capability has greater chances of accelerating our development rather than implementing planning strategies that may not address the peculiar challenges of the state.
There is nothing that perhaps explains this better than the recent decision of Governor Bala Mohammed to delegate a well-coordinated team that is responding to the global pandemic, the coronavirus that seems to have defied global solution.
The state’s task force led by the Deputy Governor and various sub-committees where the governor opted for experience, integrity and expertise in appointing the heads of the committees—in opposition to the new normal where cronies and allies would have had a field day as evident in other places and climes.
Readers may recall not only Bala’s series of town hall meetings that keep reviewing the strategies of fighting the pandemic, but chances are that the people of Bauchi will continue to appreciate his recent direct conversations with citizens in a live broadcast where people placed calls and asked questions.
“We are serious in our resolve to fight this virus in the best possible ways without compromising standards, and for us to achieve that, we need the buy-in of the people through active community engagement.
“So, even if we don’t want what you are saying, we have to listen to you because we believe that you have what it takes to support us fight the virus”, the governor responded to a caller during the live broadcast.
The sojourn of this administration where the emphasis is placed on the recipients of development as active agents of change remains the watchwords of Bala Mohammed.
* Gidado is Senior Special Assistant to Governor Bala on media and publicity.