Just as wisdom drives the aphorism that you do not change a winning team in a competitive match, so is the bid for a second term in office by His Excellency, Abubakar Sani Bello, (Abu Lolo), Executive Governor of Niger State. Believing more in action than talk, the governor is rounding up his first term with an impressive parade of legacies, leading to prayers across the length and breadth of the state for continuation of his developmental strides, pursuant to taking his state to the next level. And as he straddles the state in the course of his campaign for a second term in office, his performance during the past three and half years bears an eloquent testimony to his eligibility for a return, as champion of the people’s cause.
It would seem Bello came to town prepared to launch his agenda on a running pace. Both his vision and mission statements attest to that, as they both bear the common theme of repositioning Niger State towards a predetermined status of emerging as one of the best three states in the federation in the foreseeable future. And given the pace at which he is going, that target is within sight.
The justification for a return ticket to the seat of power in Niger State for Bello derives from several factors, most of which capture the uniqueness of the state. By virtue of its geography, Niger State occupies a unique position among the 36 states of the federation. Created in 1976 from the old North Western State which was divided into two – Niger and Sokoto States, it has the largest landmass among the 36 states in the country. With its neighbours as Benin Republic to the West, the Federal Capital Territory to the East, Kwara and Zamfara States to the South and North respectively, Niger State constitutes a bridge that straddles ordinarily disparate geographical terrains. In the same vein is its endowment in a wide variety of Nigerians from several ethnic stocks, Niger constitutes a melting pot, as it remains one of the most diverse states in terms of ethnic nationalities as well as cultural diversity in Nigeria. Hence governance of such a complex state in Nigeria is never a tea party.
Yet Bello has within the course of his first term moved the state to a new level with resounding success, reaping in the process a windfall of accolades, along with a popular call for him to continue with the good work he has been doing. More significantly the interest in his continuity is not confined to any isolated area or group but is across the entire state. From Rijau Local Government Area the northern frontier to Agaie and Lapai in the South, and from Borgu and Agwara in the West to Munya, Gurara and Suleja in the East, Bello as governor, enjoys the airs of a welcome ‘home boy’.
His successes in governance have been driven by several aspects of his engagement with the public. In one vein is his disarming candour, infectious humility and unlimited accessibility which remain sterling selling points for any leader in a state like Niger. However, the pillar of his positive rating across the state remain the laudable legacies which he is building in terms sustainable infrastructure projects in virtually all areas of public life. Not only are they sprouting like mushrooms and proliferating uniformly across the length and breadth of the state, they are also bearing the stamp of quality to global standards with respect to aesthetics, functionality and service delivery expectations. If good governance is all about providing affordable standard of living for as many citizens as possible through a judicious use of available public resources, then Bello must have hit the right chord in public service.
Typical faces of his exemplary run in service are numerous but just his efforts in prioritizing and advancing the state’s healthcare, provide an insight into the mindset of Governor Bello. His forays into the health sector reflect an appreciation by him that health is wealth, and a healthy citizenry will always remain the key to meaningful development. Among the landmark turnarounds in that sector is that Niger State is the first and perhaps the only state to develop a state led comprehensive health care plan referred to as the ‘NIGER HEALTH 1.0’ as a stop gap measure to addressing the weaknesses of the defunct Niger State Public Health Plan. The state under his administration is the first in the country to flag off the ‘One Functional Health-care Centre Per Ward’. Although a policy of the Federal government, Bello is driving it with gusto as it fits squarely into his plans for the state.
Other areas of his intervention in the health sector include the introduction of the first ever costed-implementation plan for family planning in the state. Added to it is the increasing allocation of statutory resources to the health sector from the previous 8% to 11% with expectations that in the course of time it will rise to 15%. Collateral to the foregoing is the operationalizing and strengthening of the management of hospital equipment and consumables stock and flow. These are complimented by the setting up of an active Emergency Tracking and response programme for emergencies in any area of health challenge for the people of Niger State. In this respect more operational vehicles along with spares are being procured on a continuous basis, to ensure sustainability of the programme.
Of course beyond the health sector is his robust approach to general infrastructural development in particular the issue of roads. With respect to roads, Bello has launched an elaborate programme aimed at making all parts of the state easily motorable. The sheer scope of challenges associated with transportation development in Niger State is better appreciated when it is considered that the state comprises both riverine and upland terrains as well as valleys and high grounds. Niger State boasts of the entry point of the great River Niger, on which the country’s two largest hydro-electricity dams – Kainji and Shiroro are located. The state also boasts of the great Gurara River along whose trail falls the Gurara Falls. The challenges facing the state with respect to these endowments dictate a creative approach towards ensuring that the best options of facilitating the maximum public weal are harnessed.
Against the backdrop of the foregoing, a second term for His Excellency Abubakar Sani Bello cannot but place Niger State in the pantheon of iconic states in Nigeria.