The Nigerian political calendar, according to my friend, Dr Mahmoud Jega, begins with the first 100 days. You could add anything after that…six months, one year, two years and any other figure depending on the luck of the incumbent.
The first hundred days have just passed for the governors sworn in on May 29. There were 28 of them about three quarters of whom are second-termers. Dr Nasiru Idris, Kebbi State Governor is a first-termer.
Although in fairness, a 100 days could be too short a period to assess the performance of a Governor, since it has become part of our political culture to so do, the Kebbi Governor cannot escape this scrutiny, for good or for bad.
In his inaugural address on May 29, 2023 in the grounds of the Haliru Abdu Stadium, Birnin Kebbi, the newly sworn in Governor of Kebbi State, Dr Nasiru Idris (Kauran Gwandu), brimming with confidence had said:
“We are going to have a government committed to blocking every hand that is stretched to exploit the resources of the state to personal advantage…To this end, appointees who place personal interests above public interests will be replaced quickly with those committed to the prosperity and well-being of Kebbi State and it’s people”. This pledge was important in light of the fact that malfeasance more appropriately called corruption in high places is our collective undoing.
For the purpose of emphasis, the Governor further said: “I want to assure Kebbi State that this administration will lead with justice, fairness and the fear of God. The government of the Land of Equity will govern with equity and give everyone a sense of belonging, hope and pride in our oneness…Over the next four years, we shall focus our attention on the improvement of the welfare of the people. We shall initiate programmes that will put the poor of our state at the top of our priorities”.
These were the words, some of the promises of Governor Nasiru Idris to the people of Kebbi State, especially the poor who had thronged to the stadium in visible joy and jubilation in apparent celebration of one with whom they had identified all along.
A hundred days-plus after, where is Kebbi State? Can we hold Governor Nasiru Idris to account? Given the fact that in 27 other state capitals, promises were also being made by governors who had just taken the oath of office, what made the Kebbi promises unique
In the estimation of not a few, the Kebbi promises were considered unique because of their people-centredness, particularly the poor. They were also promises that an errant governor could easily back out of given their amorphous nature.
Incidentally, the first major official task performed by the Governor was a constitutional one. In exercise of the powers confered on him by Section 105 sub-section 3 of the constitution, he issued the proclamation for the holding of the first session of the 10th State House of Assembly after dissolving the 9th Assembly.
The Governor urged the members to discharge their duties in line with the provisions of the constitution and in pursuance of the interest of the state and its citizens.
He did not get involved in the internal politics of the House as he stepped back to allow them freely elect their principal officers. For him, no remote-controlling, no favourites, no caucuses! Not surprisingly, there was no bickering after the election.
Coupled with this, the House has been functioning in a co-ordinate manner with the Executive since then even as only suicidal State Houses dare their Governors.
Nonetheless, what Governor Nasiru Idris did was in the overall interest of the people, for one of the fastest ways of bugging down governance is to engage in a needless war of attrition with the Legislature which often comes from tampering with their independence or funding.
In fulfilment of his inaugural speech “to make Kebbi State attractive for investors and facilitate our industrial development”, Governor Nasiru Idris affirmed his commitment to complete on-going and abandoned industrial projects. The Deputy Governor, Senator Umar Abubakar made this commitment while inspecting the Groundnut Oil Shared Facility Factory and Flour Mill (an on-going project) and Perkeb Ceramic/Plastic Company (an abandoned project) at the Bulasa Industrial Lay-out, Birnin-Kebbi on July 5.
Given the abandoned projects syndrome in our national life and it’s aftermath, Govenor Idris may have struck an unfamiliar chord by committing himself to executing or completing projects initiated by his predecessors. In not a few states, even the centre, this is considered an abomination as every political officer is obsessed with a sense of heroism which they are not ready to share.
What could possibly be the motivation of Idris for toeing this path of shared heroism? It may not be far from his noble assumption that these projects ultimately belong to the people ànd not to any administration in particular.
Coupled with this, the Deputy Governor appropriately remarked during the tour that the projects, when completed, would would yield more jobs and revenue for the state. What he forgot to add was that the state would be saving money by not embarking on new ones while these ones were yet to be completed.
The groundnut oil company when completed will produce from the locally available groundnuts, tonnes of groundnut oil, cakes and other by-products for human and animal consumption and export.
The Perkeb Ceramic/Plastic Company, a joint venture between the Kebbi State Government and Pellab Melamin Kashan Iinternational, an Irànian company, is designed to produce regular and decorative ceramics.
In a gesture of significant human empathy (that encapsulates rehabilitation, re-settlement and re-integration), the Governor has promised to offer scholarship to the rescued female students of the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri, “to enable them continue with their studies and actualise their dreams in various fields of endeavour”. One however wonders why this gesture is not extended to the boys who suffered the same fate even as their trauma levels in captivity differed.
It will be recalled that on June 17, 2021, bandits abducted students (both male and female) plus two teachers of the Federal Government College, Birnin Yauri. It took more than a year to organise a negotiated rescue of the female students through the concerted effort of the government and their parents.
The Governor promised to collaborate with Nigeria/TUILP, a reputable Turkish organistion with a history of quality health care delivery to raise the health status of the poor in the state, especially through eye surgery and related health-care. Those familiar with the North West, and not only Kebbi, can attest to the prevalence of tse-tse flies which are often responsible for eye diseases.
Perhaps, one of the most remarkable achievements of Dr Nasiru Idris in a 100 days was the buying and installing of a mega dialysis machine complete with major oxygen tanks that has been put into operation with immediate results. The importance of this achievement can only be appreciated against the backdrop of the fact that before now, those in need with capacity had to travel to distant places. Others without financial capacity simply died slowly in their legions. Now, all that has changed courtesy of a people-oriented decision! Infact, looking back and given the predominance of renal diseases in the state, it was curious previous administrations did not demonstrate the requisite political and financial will to buy this machine.
It is important to point out that it has not been all honey-moon with Governor Idris as in the period under review, he had reason to dismiss his Adviser on Youths for posting on his WhatsApp platform homosexual pornography.
In easing out the Adviser without hesitation, the Governor said the conduct of his Adviser, “trampled on the moral and social ethos of Kebbi society”, warning that his government would not tolerate any conduct that lowers or threatens to lower “the morality and integrity of the people of the state”.
Not a few hailed the Governor for his decisive action. Clement Oluwole in his column entitled, _Lessons from Birnin Kebbi_, *Blueprint Weekend,* Saturday15—Sunday 16, 2023, back page, wrote:
“Most folks in the corridors of power are hedonic by nature. Once sucked in by the vortex of power where free bucks are at their beck and call or are always surplus to requirements, they go on overdrive behind the wheel of hedonism. And sexual pleasure is a branch of hedonism that is of concern today.
“The latest victim of this branch is the Special Adviser on Youths to the Kebbi State Governor….who was fired for taking pleasure in indecent postings in his WhatsApp status…Ex-Special Adviser is a let-down for advocates of not-too-young-to-run or those in the vanguard of appointing young folks into government…”
The signal to the public service in the state was equally clear. The Governor would not condone sloppy behaviour. Civil servants should brace up for quality service delivery or face severe sanctions. There would be no room for lazy, corrupt or subversive civil servants. He made the point poignantly clear during the swearing-in ceremony of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Yakubu Bala Tafidan Yauri; Head of Service, Alhaji Safiyanu Bena; and Chief of Staff to the Governor, Barrister Attahiru Maccido.
It was an opportunity he used to reiterate his commitment to run an all-inclusive government that will be fair and just to all as well as open to constructive criticism.
Teachers and local government workers who had always been at the receiving end of misgovernance were singled out for fair treatment.
At the time of making this promise to teachers and local government workers in June, it probably sounded like the familiar political promises which come to nought. However, by September, the Governor had approved the review of the retirement age of primary and secondary school teachers from 60 to 65 years in the hope that it would boost their morale.
The Governor also approved leave grant for all categories of workers including teachers under local government education authorities.
One other remarkable thing Governor Nasiru Idris did was approving additional N3.5 billion to the N2 billion he received from the federal government for purchase of grains for palliatives. In justifying this empathic decision, he said that “…nobody could deny the fact people are hungry”.
Knowing full well that equitous distribution of palliatives could be problematic, he directed his commissioners and special advisers to supervise the implementation and report back.
Governor Nasiru Idris did a couple of other things beside these people-oriented ones such as road construction and renovation in Birnin Kebbi (with a plan to extend same gesture to other senatorial districts), resumption of work at the state secretariat as well as regular payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities.
The first 100 days have since come and gone but greater challenges lie ahead. The future, as it is were, is more important than the first 100 days, no matter the verdict of critics.
Kebbi is a landlocked state with a long border with Benin and Niger. This is an opportunity. It is advisable for the state to build on the present inter-border business initiatives. There is so much to do in the context of inter-border trade.
River Niger is another asset. It is up to the state to decide what to do with the River beside fishing.
Kebbi has enormous tourism potential across the three senatorial zones including the famous Argungu Fishing Festival.
One other tourism potential yet to be developed is the Usman Dan Fodio Heritage. The Kebbi state government in collaboration with Sokoto state government can do so much and turn the two states into international tourist destinations.
Kebbi has vast arable land for virtually all types of crops for which there are both internal and external markets and livestock in equal measure. The Governor will have to set up an economic think-tank (if he has not done so already) to fashion out a strategy for wooing investors, forming partnerships and generally opening up Kebbi to the outside world. Thank God it has a functional airport and receptive people. I do believe this will be in the enlightened self-interest of the state.