Kebbi State, since the coming into office of the incumbent Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, has constantly remained in the limelight and for good reasons. The North West is considered one of the rich agricultural belts of the nation. On assuming duty as the helmsman, he decided to focus the attention of his administration on agriculture that used to be a mainstay of the economy of the area and restore it to its pristine glory. This is with the intention of galvanizing the people to go back to their occupation. This time, not as a subsistent activity just to survive, but as a business that is sustainable over time. He bought heavily into the federal government’s policy of diversifying the economy away from hydrocarbons. He got a willing partner in the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) which through the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), ignited what is today a revolution in the agricultural sector.
Kebbi State with a population of about 15 million people, created from Sokoto State in 1991 with 21 Local Government Areas has suddenly become a model to emulate. And Bagudu’s contemporaries are indeed emulating. Following from his initiatives recognized by the federal government, self-sufficiency in rice production is on the verge of becoming achievable.
Landing in Birnin Kebbi, the state capital, on a start of a fact-finding mission regarding the realities on ground not just as they relate to rice production but other activities in the sector, I visited Argungu, Kalgo, Jega the famous trading destination, Aliero, and Bagudu just to mention a few. One of the easily recognizable impact of the government in the state is a feeling of satisfaction on the part of the citizens with the inclusiveness and outstanding leadership style of the Atiku Bagudu administration.
Kebbi State’s economy even from a mundane perspective, has gone beyond the monthly hand out from Abuja. The Atiku Bagudu administration has succeeded in bolstering the agricultural sector thereby developing new industries which, to a large extent, have contributed to the implementation of his goal which he sums up as “A strategic economic diversification which places human development and agricultural production as the economic stimulus that will lay the economic foundation and growth of the state”.
Espousing what drives his vision, Atiku Bagudu pointed out that “on assumption of office in 2015, my first assignment was to ensure that political distractions from opposition parties were reduced. And to achieve this gargantuan assignment, I reached out to former chief executives of the state with a plea that Kebbi State is our common patrimony and the last bus stop for all of us. I also used the meeting to unbundle my vision and tap into their wisdom because having been there before, they had experience of the effectiveness of the policy directed at inclusiveness. The state is happier for it today as all the former Governors, apart from been in the All Progressives Party, APC, are also members of the state’s think tank. This has contributed to the emergence of sophisticated, rapidly growing turnaround of Kebbi economy from that of subsistent agriculture to that of agro-processing export economy.”
The Governor explained that part of his success in the Kebbi turn around to a state of agricultural destination is largely because of the welcoming attitude and disposition of average Kebbi citizen to foreign investors.The state apart from been peaceful, has natural geographical advantages like River Port, Upcoming Lolo Inland Dry Port, Good road network, ultra-modern rail system and a high tech driven airport. The security network is second to none in Nigeria. There are negligible tribal or ethnic squabbles thereby contributing to the peaceful environment of the state. And most importantly, the Bagudu administration appreciates what the natural mineral resource base in the state can bring to the economy hence he is partnering with genuine investors to invest in the extractive industries. Apart from agriculture, the state is endowed with gold and magnesium oxide or lead oxide in large quantities.
The Governor believes that the next decade is going to be driven by those who understand the dynamics of international economic or political relations. Expatiating further on his vision, Atiku Bagudu pointed out that he has brought together a diverse labour force into an effective team. Professionals are now occupying critical position in the value chain, be it in agriculture, commerce, health, education, urban renewal development etc. Already, a new Capital Development Authority Master Plan is undergoing massive implementation. This new Master plan has massive road network, electricity, housing estate, magnificent layout for Shopping Malls, Hospitals and recreation facilities. Meanwhile the Federal Government has bought into the project with a massive development of housing estate while Federal Mortgage Bank and high net worth individuals and corporate organizations have indicated genuine interest to partner with the state government.
“This administration believes that Kebbi State is a brand. The state is secured 24/7 with electricity all through the day. We have integrity. There is commitment by this administration to move from point of inertia to global recognition. This we have succeeded. The state is not only exporting products like rice, processed pepper, onions and sugarcane but also service offerings as some other states in the Federation are now consulting the state for economic direction,” Atiku said.
He continued, “Our success is largely due to the fact that we departed from the traditional-culture oriented mode of doing business to a global dictum of an emerging market. We must work harder to train the unskilled to be skilled, create enabling environment for business to thrive, minimize hunger and poverty while enriching our people to rediscover their innate capabilities for the good of all.
The investment banker-turned-politician revealed that his background contributed immensely to his success in pulling Kebbi State from the not- too- good to an emerging economy. “I must also commend the past administrations for laying a solid foundation which I and my team are consolidating on. Our strategy is basically a people- oriented one. The policy formulation is anchored on understanding the needs of my people which must stir their resolve and determination to compete favourably within the available framework.
And to achieve this, the Governor is reaching out and making contacts with international developing agencies, potential joint venture partners, interventionist agencies, local and international entrepreneurs to avail themselves of the convivial, peaceful and friendly nature of citizens of Kebbi State as proof of its potentials. What is more, Atiku Bagudu assures them of reliable power which is critical to the survival of any growing economic concern. Already Olam, Walcott, Dangote and other multinationals are enjoying the benefits of early Bird Status.