By Bashir Ibrahim Hassan
Greatness is the product of both our choices and the opportunities open to us. The choices we make are the key to realizing our potential and capacity for greatness. Ultimately, capacity is expressed in the present, and its outcomes are immediate and palpable.
We can assess capacity for greatness when we focus on the present; on what is happening now, in terms of ground breaking policies and programmes ambitiously initiated and meticulously implemented across the length and breadth of a defined landscape that point to a brighter future for the citizenry.
A careful look at the present happenings in Bauchi State today will glaringly show the state is on the path of attaining its potential for greatness. This is down to the capacity of its current governor, Mohammed Abubakar. He has displayed a rare capacity to engender the accelerated development of the state through carefully chosen policies and programmes leveraging on the opportunities open to him at present.
The ascension of Governor Abubakar to seat of executive governor of the state came as a surprise to his political opponents, who had held sway in the state for many years. However, they had to embrace the inevitable reality of his emergence.
Governor Abubakar began his reform at the right place — the civil service, the engine room of the state executive arm, but also the hotbed of mismanagement. He attacked, frontally, the over-bloated civil service by trimming the number of ministries from 26 to just 16 and the permanent secretaries from 60 to 28, thus drastically reducing the cost of governance in the state. He borrowed the idea of the Federal Government’s policy of tenure system for the permanent secretaries and directors and encouraged those with little time left in the service to take early exits, thereby stemming any potential negative uproar.
A slimmer government has led to firmer operations, leaving no rooms for duplication or redundancy. He and his team of carefully selected Commissioners were ready to start the journey of taking the state to greater heights in areas that it has comparative advantages.
Two sectors come to mind when talking about comparative advantages of Bauchi-agriculture and mining. And those two areas have seen the bests of the Governor’s mature thinking and sound judgments. Bauchi occupies 1/5th of the total land mass of Nigeria and between 80-85% of her people practice one form of agriculture or the other. As for mining, Bauchi is home to several solid minerals idly waiting underground to be extracted, including such money spinners as hydrocarbons and gold.
Pegging his development on these two areas of comparative advantages has portrayed the governor as in tune with the people. It has enabled his government to take advantage of the opportunities available to him to achieve greatness — after all, what is greatness other than a passion and commitment to evolutionary change? Evidently, passion and commitment are the hallmark of Governor Abubakar.
The governor is bound to succeed if he adheres to this path and uses best practices that now exist in countries like Botswana with experiences of extensive mining. Botswana is the best example of diamond mining benefiting an entire nation. Botswana gained independence from Britain in 1966, and the diamonds were discovered in 1967. Diamond mining has dominated the economy ever since – making up one-third of the GDP and 70-80 percent of export earnings. The success story of Botswana came down to sound management, fiscal discipline and the lowest level of corruption that helped Botswana evolved from being one of the world’s poorest nations to a middle-income country with a per capita GDP of $7523.22 and GDP per capita PPP of $15,807.37 in 2017.
Botswana’s Diamond Development Initiative (DDI), on which Governor Abubakar is modeling Bauchi’s approach, was established in 2005 with goal of addressing the poor living and working conditions of the people at the core of the diamond industry -estimated at over 1 million diamond diggers.
The other comparative advantage Bauchi state has is in agriculture. And here the governor is matching ahead and revolutionizing the sector through mechanization. In one fell swoop the Governor ordered 500 tractors. The scale of the procurement is unprecedented in the entire history of the state. These tractors are being sold to small-scale farmers who can afford them, big time farmers and agriculture companies operating within Bauchi State at subsidized rates. Apparently the governor has both manifest and latent goals for this project. The manifest goal is mechanization of agriculture in the state for greater yields; while the latent one is to attract the teaming youth in the state back to agriculture, by removing the back-breaking drudgery associated with traditional farming.
Even as governor is attracting big-time investors in agriculture, he is also planning big for the small-holder peasant farmers. He has also procured power tillers, because many soils in the northern part of our state do not require heavy-duty tractors. The state has successfully implemented the Federal Government-initiated Anchor-Borrower Scheme. The determination to revolutionize the agric sector has seen the state going outside the shore of Nigeria to establish collaboration.
Success after success recorded in the state in the fast three years have put the governor in good stead to go about his business of steering the ship of the state unperturbed by efforts to frustrate his programmes by powerful forces in the state to whose selfish tune he has refused to dance.
What narrative about Bauchi state can be complete without mentioning Yankari Game Reserve-the bastion of the State tourism trump card? Despite misfortune of being part of the North east sub-region that has suffered from Boko Haram insurgency, the governor is working in earnest to improve the Game reserve. The Game reserve now has an air strip in place. Also, an 18-hole golf course is on-going.
All the potential to make Bauchi a great state is in evidence, and efforts to this into productivity are coalescing. The state internally generated revenue (IGR) is on the rise, to guarantee funding for laudable programmes. Also, the people of Bauchi are hoping that more windows of opportunity for the state’s economic development will open with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) back to prospect for petroleum oil in the state.
Meanwhile the governor is busy talking to experts across the broad spectrum of the extractive industry to give him bankable reports on the gold deposits discovered in the state so that he can attract internal and external investors.
All is thus set to catapult the state into modernity. And the architect of this statecraft is Governor Abubakar who is bringing his law and administrative acumen to bear on the administration of the state.
Hassan wrote this piece from Abuja