As we look forward to the Executive Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Muhammed, Kauran Bauchi’s second term in office from May 29, we think it is another opportunity opened to him to rethink government policies and programmes to align them with the yearnings and aspirations of the people and the realities on the ground.
Bauchi State is lucky to have been enjoying relative peace in a region bedevilled by insurgency and general insecurity.
His Excellency might have inherited several challenges and created some for himself, such as the embargo on employment since 2015, with a devastating consequence on service delivery in key sectors, thereby denying the general populaçe quality service.
It’s now evident that this wholesome embargo is crippling or, in some instances has crippled key sectors such as primary and basic education, health care delivery, water supply, and general social empowerment.
The reality on the ground in Bauchi State, at the moment, is that most primary and secondary schools lack teachers, whether qualified or not, as a result of retirement from service, deaths, transfer of service and the non-recruitment of teachers since 2015; bearing in mind that education is the surest way in which a modern society can wean itself from rampant poverty and incessant urban gangsterism that is dominating the urban setups in the state.
The 2018 UNICEF statistics put the number of out-of-school children in Nigeria at 20 million, with Bauchi State leading with about 1.23 million. This is totally unacceptable as the issue of access and quality of education can easily now be addressed by leveraging technology.
Technology will help reduce the wage bill, a primary factor that makes states hesitate in the recruitment of teachers.
Management of primary and basic education needs competent and experienced hands as well as relevant IT experts to chart a new course for all public schools in Bauchi State to eliminate the dichotomy between urban and rural schools as well as between the haves and the haves not.
Bauchi State indigenes must be given the opportunity to get the best in public schools to make them compete nationally and internationally as it was a few years ago.
His Excellency might not be aware that all the semi-urban water schemes that were established over 30 years ago have collapsed due to the absence of budgetary allocation and staffing by the state water board.
With the urbanisation of most local government headquarters housing large populations, it’s now imperative to rethink water supply as a priority by creating large water schemes through dams to cater for the needs of the changing landscapes and to avoid the frequent outbreak of waterborne diseases.
The unregulated drilling of boreholes will have adverse consequences on the water table in view of climate change, desertification and the ecological destruction being witnessed, particularly in the northernmost part of the state.
The state government should take advantage of the federal government’s funding for the semi-urban water schemes by constructing dams that will cater for two to three local governments as a long-term measure in addressing this key need component of the population. The government must see investment in water supply as a long-term investment in the quality of life for the people of the state.
It is also important that the state government revisits its plans for health care delivery in the state by recruiting more doctors and enhancing their pay.
Bauchi State now pays the least to healthcare workers in the region.
There is also the need to take disciplinary measures against the lackadaisical attitude of health workers in public hospitals under the guise of being overworked and underpaid, especially in rural areas. Many deaths recorded in some of the state hospitals can be attributed to the sheer carelessness of healthcare workers.
The healthcare management board must be empowered with the tools and wherewithal to deal with issues of indiscipline and professional negligence and carelessness that are becoming more and more rampant in public hospitals.
One critical area that the new administration must pay attention to is the massive destruction of the forests for the production of firewood and charcoal for sale to neighbouring states and export.
The Lame-Burra game reserve has ceased to be a game reserve, having been totally destroyed by charcoal merchants and itinerant miners.
The Galambi cattle ranch, established by the Northern Nigeria regional government for what was once the famous Bauchi meat factory, has lost its last forest by the same wood merchants. So many other forested areas of the state have been turned into commercial wood farming and charcoal businesses.
This has serious environmental consequences for the state’s well-being.
A 1994 World Bank report indicates that Bauchi State had lost over 43 per cent of its total land to desertification. Between 1994 and now, it’s estimated that it lost over 65 per cent of its total land area to desertification and forest destruction.
It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that the state shows quality leadership in addressing these critical environmental issues.
Efforts in the past to address the issue of desertification and environmental degradation by planting trees and orchards have come to nothing due to lack of continuity or the appreciation that addressing environmental issues is good for the well-being of society.
The state government can partner with the universities in Bauchi and Gadau to deploy smart technologies in raising seedlings and the manpower to deal with the issues.
Leadership is about service and taking tough decisions to deal with the issues at hand. The governor must be willing to use the big stick to deal with all those who are not willing to comply with the demand of the time to address the challenges facing the state because we have no other state but this one; we must ensure that the state works for everybody in meeting the basic demands of the population.
Toro resides at New G.R.A, Bauchi