[By Philip Agbese]
No Nigerian is oblivious of the life and times of the first Northern Premier and the Sardauna of Sokoto, Late Sir Ahmadu Bello. He was and even today reputed to be a man who established globally as very thick in leadership and treasured wisdom on regional, national and African issues. He is fondly remembered as one Northerner, who altruistically laid the foundation for what semblance or relics of development anyone can sight in the North today.
Disappointingly, what is often heard today are lamentations by emergent Northern leaders on the abuse and disregard for the legacies of Sir Ahmadu Bello. The national mockery of the North as a poverty-stricken region of Nigeria is rooted in this negligence. Unfortunately though, hardly do you find any of the contemporary Northern leaders willing to emulate the developmental and unity inclinations Sir Ahmadu Bello set in motion. This was a leader famed for a range of personal sacrifices in leadership, as against the cut-throat greed and quest for materialism of today’s bunch of helmsmen in the North.
Sir Ahmadu Bello’s convictions about leadership are embedded in these words; “I am impatient, and who would not be with all that lies before me and the responsibilities that have been placed upon me? I have a thousand causes for impatience, but I am not impatient for myself or my family. All my time I give to my work: my life has been in the service of the state even from the time that I went to school. For there, I was learning for the future and that future had caught up with me. A new future lies ahead into which I, trust in God’s eternal mercy.”
But alas, a replica of Sir Ahmadu Bello’s leadership instincts has emerged in today’s North. The incumbent Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello distinctively believes in the leadership wisdom, emblem and selflessness of this great and iconic Northern leader. Elected governor of the state in 2015, Sani Bello has marketed himself as a marked departure from leadership for personal braggadocio at the expense of the poor and suffering masses of his state.
In 2015, enslaved Nigerlites sighted their hour of liberation and so, Governor Sani Bello seamlessly repressed the ruthless power cabal of the ruling party in the state to emerge victorious in the guber ballot. One would say, it is not accidental that the Governor bears the same surname – Bello, with the late first Northern Premier.
No wonder then that, he peculiarly exudes Sir Ahmadu Bello’s leadership traits. His mind consistently reminds him that he has just one bloc constituency in his state- the poor and downtrodden in the state. And once he pleases their yearning for attention and good governance, he goes to bed a happy man.
Not unmindful of the vulnerability of leaders to mistakes while on the governance vehicle, Governor Sani Bello pleaded with journalists to assist him administer the state by exposing irregularities or errors committed by his administration for possible adjustments. This was when he interfaced with the state leadership of the Niger State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, led by its chairman, Mohammad Mohammad.
So, with this public declaration of dedication to transparent leadership, Governor Bello has refused to be part of the conspiracy of conniving with elites of the state to feast on public funds. He calls a spade a spade in-so-far as it serves public interest and offers solace to the weak, poor and marginalised. In virtually all states of the federation, former governors looted them blind. Former Governors yet to be called to refund looted loots are in consonance with successors, who have gone to unimaginable extents to cover-up the fraud of predecessors’ to also continue with the pillaging of state or public resources.
But Governor Sani Bello has shown a difference, hence public funds belong to the people of Niger state. It explains why the former Governor, Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu is being prosecuted by the anti-graft agency- the EFCC for alleged looting of the state. It is a signpost of Governor Sani Bello’s commitment to transparency, accountability and probity in public governance.
Many states in Nigeria are groaning over basic problems like payment of salaries to workers. The subsisting economic crunch in Nigeria has hit hard on states to the extent the number of months some governors are owing salaries has informed their inner conscience that they have edged out of reckoning for re-election in 2019. But Governor Bello has towered above it as payment of workers’ salaries is his utmost priority. He belongs to the special league of governors free of grumblings and ill-feelings against government from workers over accumulated salary debts.
But the most amazing aspect of his governance is that despite the economic recession and with a low borrowing profile as low as N3 billion in the last two years, Governor Sani Bello is also simultaneously executing infrastructural projects in rural areas. He has already commissioned some of the projects, while work is on-going on multiple others to his credit.
Fundamentally, the Governor has no tolerance for contractors who collect mobilization fees for projects and develop irretraceable wings. He stealthily goes out at nights to supervise the extent of work on projects and does not hesitate to fire any indolent/dubious contractor where lapses are observed.
He has earned admiration from (even) rural dwellers for this posture, which many have confessed is a rare disposition in leaders, who award projects and proclaim them as completed only in the media or make public show in commissioning non-existent/ dysfunctional projects. He believes in the philosophy which emphatically stress that “water is life” and so, within just two years of his tenure, the Governor penetrated seemingly impenetrable rural communities in the state to break rocks to give his people hygienic water.
Leading a state heavily trapped by natural disasters, communal clashes and violence laced in acts of terrorism, Governor Sani Bello has risen to the occasion and keeps his focus on the development demands of his people. His prompt response and resolution of these crises in the state has endlessly endeared him to the hearts of millions of Nigerlites.
One of the problems that bedevilled the workforce in the state was official negligence and laxity to work. This is intolerable and it angers Governor Sani Bello limitlessly. He knows Niger state cannot progress when public servants are not committed to assigned duties. His disciplinary instincts are all encompassing and unrestricted.
Recently, he sacked a school principal, Hajiya Amina Mustapha of Government Girls Secondary School, Agaie for keeping a shabby school premises during one of his unscheduled official visits to public institutions.
This unique style of leadership by Governor Sani Bello is only reminiscent of the leadership posture of the revered Sir Ahmadu Bello . The Governor nurses no grudge against anybody, but hates sloth with a passion and infinitely loves, patronizes those with the passion of assisting him develop Niger state, the land of his forebears.
It explains why he is not keen about advertising “arrangee” projects in the media, the delight of some of his colleagues. But Nigerians are amazed why there is complete absence of dissenting voices in rural communities, whether dwelling in the caves, hills, rocks and mountains of Niger state against his administration.
In Governor Sani Bello, Nigerlites have found a leader in whom they are well pleased. The people shout on rooftops in their hamlets and other public places that those nursing a governorship ambition in 2019 should tarry awhile. As Governor Sani Bello straddles the footsteps of Sir Ahmadu Bello, his admirers have mouthed that he has disproved the time-tested political philosophy of Ambrose Bierce, renowned American journalist, more applicable in Africa. He satirically qualified politics as , “ A strife of interests masquerading as contest of principles. They conduct public affairs for private advantage. “
Agbese writes from the United Kingdom.