In the words of Niger State governor, his excellency, Abubakar Sani Bello, “developing a brand is the most important action any organisation will face during its existence. “
According to him, once a brand is created, whatever expectation the brand delivers to the customer, is exactly what the customer will expect to receive.
Unfortunately, in Niger State, prior to Governor Sani Bello’s administration, our product,”local government administration” was unaccepted by our customers (the masses).
The truth is that seven years ago, local government administration was overwhelmed by a brand that the public did not want nor followed. This lack of loyalty and faith arose by local governments creating policies that were and unattractive to the public.
Laden with this burden, a messiah, in the person of his excellency, an achiever who believes that through re-branding the local government, we can turn the hearts of our customers (masses) towards all the positives we achieve came to our redemption.
His inclusive and open door policy in the local government administration no doubt, have generated positive results in growth and income of the LGAs.
Keeping this form of growth mindset has been a blessing for Niger State generally and they are on the cusp on transforming a pre-existing brand, to a brand of high economic developmental value and desirability.
Transforming local government administration’s brand into a positive and desirable product for the public, according the governor “requires a complete adjustment to what we have been doing, to one that is evolved for what will work now”.
When he assumed office in 2015, Sani Bello said: “ I am desperate for a local government brand that is worth holding on to, worth sacrificing for, and worth being prideful for. Until we adapt and change out current brand to what the public needs, they will continue to find solace in crime, something that will never give them lasting value, like a well branded local government can.”
To attain his dream for local government administration, he made a vow never to temper with local government funds, even before the agitation for the declaration of local government autonomy by the presidency.
It is against this background that he hurriedly dissolved the existing joint account of local government and the state. He took the bull by the horn in order to ensure the overall development of the rural areas in fulfilment of his electioneering campaign.
Some of the on-the-spot discoveries he made include the lack of access roads, complete absence of basic amenities and inadequate healthcare facilities among other necessities of life in rural areas.
In the light of these practical needs of rural dwellers, the present administration under Governor Abubakar Sani Bello’s watch has fulfilled its promise which has thus, given birth to the rebranding of local government administration in the state.
According to the permanent secretary, Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Chieftaincy Affairs, Alhaji Akilu Musa , who spoke on behalf of the commissioner, Barr. Abdulmalik Sarkin Daji, “In Niger State, the local government areas decide on every project situated in a particular community based on incoming budgets. Since the coming of Sani Bello, projects have been based on community participation,” he said.
He attributed the successes behind the even rural development recorded so far to the rebranding of local government administration, which ensured the involvement of the various benefitting communities.
The system encouraged.and treated the needs of the rural dwellers such as the opening of rural feeder roads, renovation of primary schools, financial assistance to people with serious health challenges, construction and renovation of healthcare facilities.
Others are supporting the operation of security agents, construction of standard worship places, repair of abattoirs, graveyards and palaces of traditional rulers.
The permanent secretary added that:” to be frank and sincere with you, the state government does not in anyway interfere with the affairs of the local government areas in the state.
“Other major steps taken by this administration are the timely payment of pension and gratuity to retired local government workers which was hitherto a major problem. We met a tradition where about N16million was being remitted for payment of pension but we increased to that figure to N300million monthly . This no doubt has helped in the payment of benefits to our retires in the 25 LGAs .”
Alhaji Akilu, added that the training and retraining of local government staff within the period under review also received maximum attention, a move that has greatly helped in the smooth implementation of t policies and programmes of the ministry.
He said: “He projects executed by the ministry were carried out with the full mandate of the elected chairmen. All these projects are spread across the 25 LGAs and are there for every one to see. They are not hidden , as they have direct bearing to the benefiting communities.
Generally, the mission of Governor Sani Bello in rebranding local government administration and to further strengthen democratic practice, as well as promoting modern rural communities embodied with a healthy culture as well as encourage popular participation in governance process is yielding tangible results .
Garba is the technical assistant to the commissioner for Information and Strategy, Niger State.