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Can this deal lead to Nasarawa’s development?

There were all together six tables set for an exercise on effective governance. Table 1 had Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura as its presenter, after all…

There were all together six tables set for an exercise on effective governance. Table 1 had Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura as its presenter, after all who manned it: legislators, cabinet members and other appointees of Nasarawa State government – had carried out an exercise, exploring ways of salvaging the fifth generation state from tightening grip of backwardness.

It was a day of frank talk between Al-Makura, his cabinet members, other appointees and top civil servants, as well as members of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly (NSHA). The event was the Day 1 of the three-day retreat organized by the government in Makurdi, capital of the neighbouring Benue State, on “Effective Governance and Public Service.”

The retreat came up with classroom exercises and frank discussions, identifying factors that have tied down the state from development over 15 years after creation from the old Plateau State and attempting some suggestions for practical solutions to address the tortuous backwardness.

Called Lower Plateau, a political parlance that referred to Nasarawa, then a senatorial zone under the old Plateau State, leaders of this area initiated several agitations for state creation, beginning from 1979 in the Second Republic. Proponents of the creation of the state, including late Mohammadu Wade, late Musa Adamu Gale, Mr. Samson Alu, Aliyu Akwe Doma, late Dr. Dalhatu Araf, late Muhammadu Mai Donoma, named structural imbalance and general neglect of the area as their reason for the agitation.

The agitators also said the proposed new state had all the indices of self-reliance requiring curving out of the old Plateau. They named resources, including solid minerals and other natural endowments as well as population, as some of the pre-requisities for a new, viable Nasarawa State. The proponents went heights at strategizing how development of the new state would come, initiating phases that would take care of growth in stages. Their agitation heightened by 1990, leading to the success on October 1, 1996.

The two military administrations that preceded the 1999 return to democracy created the path to development, adopting the vision formulated by the founding fathers of the new state. They laid the foundation that saw the new state heading the way that promised to meet the development aspirations of the people.

But no sooner had the management of the affairs of the people, their resources, and the future of their children fell into the hands of indigenous rulers than Nasarawa State slipped into neglect, as the civilian administrators completely abandoned the vision of the founding fathers and embarked on a journey that led the state to perdition. The state treasury which the military managed well and put up foundational structures  became the back pocket of the new leaders who allegedly squandered the fortunes and looked away while the people suffered the retangle of death: disease, poverty and illiteracy.

Al-Makura, the current governor, acknowledged this last year when the state marked its 15th anniversary. “Ours is perhaps the least developed state in the country. Even the states created on the same day as us have made tremendous strides”, he had said.

“While one equally poor northern state built over 300 kilometres of good roads in the past four years, Nasarawa State has failed to build a single kilometre of asphalt road in the 15 years since its creation”, the governor had said further, adding, “Today, on this 15th anniversary, we must pause and reflect on the way forward. We must search our conscience and ask ourselves hard questions.”

He made some commitment, saying “We will do our best to equip our people with skills and help them to help themselves.”

The Makurdi retreat, therefore, came as an opportunity for the governor to begin the processes that should lead to matching his words with action. The retreat attracted resource persons cutting across various sectors, particularly banking.

The retreat discussed the following: Overview of the Global Economy and Challenges of Political Leadership in Nigeria; Nasarawa State and the Challenges of a Local Economy; Unleashing Governance with Information Technology; Government, Economic and Public Leadership; An African Case and Role Model; as well as Business Modeling and Performance Measurement for the Nasarawa State Government. It had participation from political and public office holders and top government functionaries of the state; including the governor, his cabinet members, civil servants and lawmakers, all of whom participated in the exercises from where ideas on how to evolve a new Nasarawa were generated.

Day 1 of the retreat had opening from the governor, who re-echoed his commitment to delivering sound political leadership that will salvage the state from over a decade of backwardness.

The governor who was at the retreat with his deputy, Dameshi Barau Luka, Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Hamza Elayo; and the speaker of the state assembly, Musa Ahmed Mohammed, among many others, spoke about the need for “Strengthening Executive and Legislative Relationship Towards Good Governance” while declaring the three-day retreat.

He said, “Operational conflicts are inevitable.  Indeed, sometimes they take the semblance of muscle-flexing and even mistrust.  We must, however, accept that such disagreements are necessary for the functionality of the principle of checks and balances which is a requirement for the efficacy of democracy. It is gratifying to state that from the seeming differences of views and approach to governance witnessed in the formative stages of our administration, we have come out stronger and focused in the common cause for the development of our dear state. At this juncture, it is incumbent on me to call on all of us to endeavour to expand the frontiers of the existing synergy between the executive and the legislature.  It is only in this way that we can achieve the noble objectives of our development agenda for the benefit of our people”.

He participated in the discussion generated by all members of Table 1 on which he sat. Also vocal during discussions were the speaker and some lawmakers, especially Francis Orogo (Keana PDP), who has remained a critical voice on the governor’s programmes in ways which seem to have violated conventions.

The answers of Group 1 were presented by Al-Makura. Two of them were the need for value reorientation and wealth creation. Not far from this table was Professor Muhammad Akaro Mainona, head of Al-Makura’s economic team and commissioner for finance. He presented the ideas of Group 4, saying value creation, attitudinal change and security are some of the ways to invite and boost growth in the state.

Group 6 explored higher heights, with Comrade Abubakar Hussaini leading. The socialist-turned commissioner for education presented his group’s discussion with references to the Chinese revolutionary, Mao Tse Tung, who led the Communist party from 1935 until his death on September 9, 1976.

Comrade Hussaini said: “There is the need for interaction, so that there can be due consultations with the people. This is so that the people must not be reduced to mere voters, so that their leaders go back to them only when they need votes. Mao Tse-tung said it: that the revolutionary war is a war of the masses. It can only be waged by mobilizing the people and relying on them. We have to go back to them every time, like we did while campaigning for votes. They have to name and support our projects for them to be executed.”

Mohammed Baba Ibaku, House committee chairman on information described the retreat as “too academic”, but added that “it provided an opportunity for us to identify problems for solutions.”