It is only apposite to begin this write up by recalling the time-honoured journalism dictum that facts are sacred while comments are free. In other words, it is incumbent on any commentator to distinguish between facts and comments; you can stretch it further to say, between facts and fiction. This requirement assumes greater currency when the commentator is a high profile personality.
The above has been recalled against the background of a recent news story in which Nigeria’s Ambassador to Germany, His Excellency Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, was reported to have criticised the Bauchi State Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, over the on-going Government House project, in Bauchi.
- We won’t allow foreigners overrun Nigeria – Military
- Kontagora Emir: Niger Gov redeploys commissioner, orders review of election
Let me state from the outset that anybody has the constitutional right to criticise any government activity. And for an ambassador, such a right assumes greater significance because as a widely travelled person, he is expected to show knowledge and a sense of balance. It is regrettable that the ambassador failed in these reports.
In the story recently published, the ambassador, who had twice tried unsuccessfully to govern the state, was quoted as saying: “At this period of economic meltdown, it is not advisable for one to construct accommodation for the governor and his family because things are being managed. As a common man can manage his livelihood, the same should apply to the governor”. Great thinking!
By hinging his claim on the erroneous basis that Bala Mohammed is deploying the state’s resources on the Government House rather than on empowerment of the youth, the ambassador committed a big error that can only be explained by his absence from home. But before looking at the giant developmental steps recorded in the over two years of Bala Mohammed’s tenure, it is important to clarify the issue of the Government House. First, the project is not personal. Like all his predecessors, once his tenure abates, the incumbent will leave the Government House for his successor. Besides, anyone familiar with the Bauchi State Government House would notice the extreme shortage of accommodation that has rendered many senior government functionaries ineffective. Thus, one compelling reason was to provide a conducive environment for the Government House personnel and to make for synergy of the Administration. It will interest Ambassador Tuggar to know that the Government House as planned has accommodation for even junior staff serving in it. It is, therefore, wrong to suggest that it was for self-aggrandisement that Governor Mohammed embarked on the project.
Furthermore, though the project is for N6.2 billion, the segment that has been completed and handed over to the state government is less than 40 per cent of the total project. It might interest Tuggar to know that the main Governor’s office is yet to be constructed. So also is the international conference centre, among many other facilities aimed at easing the business of government. It is unfortunate that the ambassador cannot see the benefits of the project.
Now, to the issue of people empowerment. Tuggar deserves to be congratulated for his new-found expertise in people empowerment which, according to him, was achieved through travels. But long before Tuggar’s encounter with people empowerment, Bala Mohammed, as a top federal civil servant, senator, minister and Governor of Bauchi State had not only been schooled in it, but indeed practised it. We need not go outside Bauchi State to confirm this.
If Ambassador Tuggar knew the beneficiaries of the 1000 tricycles or the 154 beneficiaries of Sharon (commercial) vehicles given out by Bala Mohammed, he won’t try to derail the governor’s focus on the youth. The same goes for the 2000 youths who have undergone training on modern agricultural techniques. Not to talk about the many women, young and old, whose lives have been positively affected by the empowerment initiatives of the governor and his wife.
As the saying goes, it is not yet uhuru. But what cannot be denied is that, within a very short time, Bala Mohammed has demonstrated beyond any doubt that he came into government with a clear blueprint to change the ugly narrative of public administration in the state.
In this respect, Tuggar should be honest enough to acknowledge the unparalleled strides recorded in infrastructural development in Bauchi State. All over the state, bulldozers have become a common sight, on the over 20 road projects that are either ongoing or have been completed.
Important too is the fact that the massive infrastructural projects undertaken by the administration have provided jobs for many people who, previously idled away because the absorptive capacity of the state for labour was almost nil. Where was Ambassador Tuggar when all these were happening?
For Tuggar to suggest that a government that has achieved all these is not people-oriented is unfortunate. We can understand that, in a democracy, arguments are advanced to gain electoral advantage. But when such arguments stand the truth on its head as Tuggar has done, it is something else but democracy.
The good news is that those who think that the Bauchi electorates are fools have a surprise waiting for them.
By Dahiru Musa, a self-employed economist and social analyst, who lives in Abuja.