For me, it is a homecoming. For one, my wife, Hauwa, is a daughter of the soil. For another, the Sokoto Governor, Rt. Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, is a personal friend and big brother.
So close is my relationship with Tambuwal that when, a few years ago. I was marrying off Habiba, my daughter and first child, Tambuwal left everything else he was doing and traveled all the way to Kano, not just as a spectator, but to hand her over in marriage to her husband, through his family, as Hausa tradition demands.
But Sokoto also has a symbolic significance to all editors in Nigeria. Not only is the Governor media savvy and friendly, to borrow the words of my brother Ken Ugbechie, the MC and exco member of the Guild, many events of historical significance to editors and the Nigerian media have taken place in the state fondly referred to as the Seat of the Caliphate.
So it is a homecoming to everyone of us, including those who, for one reason or the other, could not make it to the ancient city where, hundreds of years ago, Shehu Usman Danfodio, began a conquest that led to Puritan Islam getting entrenched in most northern Nigerian cities.
So when my good friend Mustapha Isah, the ebullient President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors called and informed me that the 15th All Nigeria Editors Conference (Sokoto 2019) was going to take place in the city I have since fallen in love with, I was ecstatic. It was an opportunity to meet with the governor who, though a big brother, I have not met since 2015 when I and Malam Garba Deen Mohammed led the exco of the Guild to a meeting with him. And since our annual conferences entail a facility tour of projects executed by any host state government, I also felt this was yet another opportunity to witness, first hand, the excellent projects Governor Tambuwal has executed in his onerous desire to launch Sokoto in a higher realm.
When Tambuwal became the Governor of Sokoto State four and a half years ago, I congratulated my friends from that state, including my wife, knowing very well that the State was poised for another era of greatness, perhaps in unprecedented dimensions.
Four and a half years down the line, the signs are all too clear that the man at the helm means business. If there is one regret on the part of Tambuwal, it is that Sokoto is not yet considered an oil rich state that will have given him more resources to turn it to an Eldorado.
Owing to paucity of resources, therefore, Governor Tambuwal cannot but become an expert in scale of preference, to ensure prudent management of resources and accountable governance.
Tambuwal, it will be recalled, is such a passionate believer in accountable governance that when he served for four years as the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, he left a record that is difficult to beat. It is on record that there was nothing that the anti-corruption watchdog, the EFCC, did not do to find him wanting, but found nothing to hang on his neck.
Luckily, now as Governor. one of the key areas he picked for prioritization is the bottomless pit, education, to which he is sparing no expenses in developing. As he told the editors at the ongoing conference, education is free for all children of school age in Sokoto, from primary to secondary levels. And what is more! It is not restricted to indigenes of the state, but all citizens of all shades and colours, obviously in keeping with Tambuwal’s well-known disposition as a pan-Nigerian leader who is averse to primordial sentiments.
There are those – and they are many – who criticize the Sokoto Governor for not staying over long periods in the state capital. But what these critics fail to realize is that for a state with limited financial resources like Sokoto, it is to the advantage of the state if by going out, he takes it to Nigeria by making it easier for potential local and foreign investors to invest in its economy. There are some serious investors people that will tell you they cannot go to Sokoto, but can meet the Governor in Lagos or Abuja or outside the shores of Nigeria, and they will later go to Sokoto, having now being convinced of its potentials. By the time this seed starts to germinate to fully yield good fruits, the wisdom in taking Sokoto to Nigerians will be all clear for all to see and appreciate.
Having personally known Governor Tambuwal relatively well, I have no doubt in my mind that by the time he completes his second term of office as Governor, Sokoto will undergo transformation, the like of which it has never experienced before.
It was refreshing seeing Tambuwal, at the opening ceremony that took place in the brand new Sokoto International Conference Centre that he built, reeling out some of the major achievements he has achieved. Tambuwal sees the whole of Nigeria as his constituency, but I know for a fact that he is also one man whose charity begins at home, and who is in deep love with his people, and vice versa.
The theme for this year’s conference: A distressed media: Impact on government, governance and society, is also very significant because it addresses the key challenges bedeviling media survival in the country.
The keynote address was aptly delivered by a thoroughbred professional, my mentor and big brother Mr. Gbenga Adefaye, Editor-In-Chief of the Vanguard Newspapers. In his well presented paper, Adefaye gave out statistics showing the media is in the throes of death, but that it has only remained afloat owing to its tenacity and uncommon resilience. Revenue, through sales and adverts, he said, has been reducing drastically, such that many media houses are either closing shop or are engaged in load shedding, all in the bid to give our democracy a meaning.
In reality, a distressed media is a major threat to democracy, because without a vibrant media, any society is doomed. The Buhari Administration will therefore do very well to ensure the survival of the media in Nigeria by including it in the kind of bailouts it has been giving other sectors of the economy, some of which are not even half as important as the media.
Buratai: Celebrating the peoples soldier at 59
Five days ago, specifically on November 24th instant, Lieutenant General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, Chief of Army Staff of the Nigerian Federation turned 59.
When he was born in the sleepy town of Buratai in Borno State, little did anyone, probably even his parents, know that he was going to grow up and play a very decisive role in keeping Nigeria as one corporate entity.
With a budget that is a mere fraction of the annual budget of the New York Fire Service, General Tukur Buratai has been leading the Nigerian Army with credibility and distinction. With very obsolete equipment that he inherited from his predecessor four years ago, Buratai has led the Nigerian troops to recapture the many local government areas that Boko Haram had seized and were administrating with unprecedented wickedness.
Of course the Nigerian Army, or the military in general, has benefitted hugely since the advent of the Buhari Administration In May 2015, but the government itself is seriously co tending with dearth of resources, making it unable to do the best it plans for the military.
While the Nigerian Army has since been overstretches, keeping the peace or warding off insurgency in at least 32 states of the Nigerian federation, and doing everything to as much as ensure we continue to cohabit in peace, some politicians have unfortunately been sponsoring campaigns of calumny against it, particularly the Army leadership, such that many politicians that get defeated in free and fair elections find in the Nigerian Army a whipping boy who they unfairly blame for their failures in the polls.
There are also other politicians who are unpatriotically doing all they could to divide the army along religious or tribal lines, without according a thought to the inherent dangers in so doing.
Yet, General Buratai has taken all the attacks and insults in his stride, refusing to allow subversive elements to distract him from the credible governance he is giving in the largest branch of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
With hugely inadequate budget and a section of soldiers that tend to get demoralized by the ceaseless attacks and incitement from a section of the media, it has been Buratai’s task to literally squeeze water out of stone and get the best out of the troops. Such is the testament of his exceptional leadership qualities that the Army Chief has been doing exactly that, and giving Nigeria a lot more, especially in terms of leading by example.
It is common knowledge that since his appointment, Buratai has refused to be an arm-Chair General. To inspire his troops, he visits them regularly in the trenches, where he dines with them and also partake in the battle aimed at entrenching the peaceful Nigeria of our collective dreams.
Last week, I was on a visit to a Brigadier General friend in the Nigerian Army Resource Centre, one of the many brainchildren of General Buratai, and the man told me that in his over thirty years in military service, Nigerian Army has never had it so good.
Under the leadership of this rare Nigerian, monetary allowances that are due for soldiers get paid promptly, and will only be delayed if funds are not released to the Army.
General Buratai, perhaps because he Heigl’s from Borno, the state where insurgency has been mostly pronounced, knows that only ignorance and illiteracy will drive someone to commit suicide bombings or even be a member of Boko Haram. He therefore decided to confront the problem headlong by first, ensuring a massive improvement in the standard of teaching and learning in all command secondary schools, and cap it all by establishing the Army University in the city of Biu. By these measures, more and more young men and women will get the benefit of quality education, and will never allow themselves to serve as tools in the wicked hands of terrorists.
Yet, very strangely, there are many Nigerians that have been finding fault in the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to retain the service chiefs. In the case of Buratai, the President who knows more than everyone else about the challenges faced by our armed forces, is seriously impressed by what has been achieved in the light of very limited resources.
Though neither Buratai nor any of the service Chiefs is indispensable, Mr. President is aware of the serious danger of changing them at this time when a lot of success is being achieved, with hundreds of insurgents surrendering everyday to the Army, and the recalcitrant ones either getting arrested or killed. As the popular saying goes, you don’t change a winning number,
What therefore, the Army needs is the collective support of all Nigerians. As General Buratai once told the management of Sun newspaper when they paid him a courtesy call in the Army Headquarters recently, the war against insurgency will be easily won with the active support of the media and Nigerians in general.