Governor of Brono State, Prof Babagana Zulum is a politician and an agricultural engineer. For many years, he has dedicated his life to these two career paths, scoring high marks in them. Now, he is adding another feat: defender of his own belief.
Some days ago, Governor Zulum squared up with the Nigerian military in warfare. Though he did not train in the act of war, but he took the military head on. And that was not the first time he was doing so.
Digging deep, he aimed at the army’s jugular, hitting it where it matters with his salvo, leaving many perplexed.
For his effort, Zulum grabbed the headlines of major national dailies, including the electronic and online media.
All began on July 30, when Zulum was attacked while on his way to war-weary Monguno and Baga in the northern fringes of Brono State. As he ran into an ambush, his entourage came under a volley of bullets from suspected Boko Haram insurgents. About five persons were believed to have died among them policemen. But the governor was lucky as he was spirited to safety and shielded in the belly of an amoured personnel carrier.
Emerging from the shock of the sudden attack, the furious Governor Zulum confronted the army commanding officer in charge of the sector. He demanded why his unit chickened out and was unable to secure the area despite their numbers. The soldiers’ performance was below par, he reasoned. He couldn’t take it; he couldn’t figure out why the Nigerian military could not retake Baga and halts the insurgents’ sweeping attacks.
“You have been here for over one year now; there are 1,181 soldiers here; if you cannot take over Baga which is less than 5km from your base, then we should forget about Baga. I will inform the Chief of Army Staff to redeploy the men to other places that they can be useful,” Zulum fumed.
The next day, Governor Zulum went on television smoking. Hitting the army harder, he pointedly accused it of ambushing him, insisting the incident was a clear case of sabotage.
“You heard what happened at Baga. It is a complete sabotage. The issue is not about the president. The soldiers and equipment are on ground. We have a total number of about 1,181 soldiers in Baga. I think the problem is in the command or control structure which has to be looked into.
“I cannot end my interview without clearly stating what happened. As far as I am concerned, there was no Boko Haram inside the town yesterday. That was a serious shooting by the Nigerian Armed Forces who are residing in Baga. The situation is very embarrassing,” he said.
Further lambasting the military, Zulum maintained that the army failure to retake Baga was causing chaos in the area.
He then dropped a bombshell: “Baga is important…. We shall organise the community to take destiny into their own hands so that we can occupy Baga. That’s important.”
The governor insisted that the alleged soldiers’ ambush was to prevent him from reaching Baga, accusing them of dropping their assignment to chase a flurry of flourishing fishing businesses now fetching them humongous sums of money, claiming that they didn’t want him to see things for himself.
But, the army authorities said that they were investigating the attack, dismissing Zulum’s outburst as a ruse.
“The Nigerian Army wants to reassure the public that this will be interrogated with a view to forestalling future re-occurence,” Sagir Musa, army spokesperson, said.
But that was not the first time Zulum was confronting the army. On January 5, 2020, he accused the soldiers of Operation LAFIYA DOLE on Maiduguri – Damaturu road of extortion.
“This is unacceptable,” Zulum roared, “How can you subject people to this kind of torture all in the name of (not carrying) National ID card? And you are all here collecting N500 and N1,000 from poor travellers who don’t have national ID card.
“No this is not right. The Federal Government has not created an enabling environment for our people to get their national ID cards and you are here collecting N500 and N1,000 as a fine for not having what the Federal Government has not provided for all.”
Then, the army through Aminu Iliyasu, its operations media coordinator also lashed out at him. While pledging to investigate the allegations, it warned that Zulum’s “outburst could be counterproductive to the fight against Boko Haram,” while describing itself as “a professional and disciplined institution.”
But Zulum was not deterred from pursuing his belief, he has rather reinforced it that many are now paying attention to see what he is actually pointing his fingers at.
Zulum had his basic education at Mafa Primary School from 1975 to 1980 and secondary education at Government Secondary School, Monguno between 1980 and 1985 before studying at the University of Maiduguri, where he earned a degree in Agriculture Engineering. He studied for his master’s degree in Agriculture Engineering at the University of Ibadan between 1997 and 1998. In 2005, he enrolled and studied for a PhD in Soil and Water Engineering at University of Maiduguri, completing his programme in 2009.
He started his life in the civil service in 1989 with Borno State, as an Assistant Technical Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture. In 2000, he took up a lecturing job with the University of Maiduguri as an assistant lecturer and rose to become a professor, having served as deputy dean and acting dean, Faculty of Engineering respectively in 2010 and 2011.
In 2011, Zulum was made Rector of Ramat Polytechnic, Maiduguri. In 2015, he veered into politics, having been appointed Commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement by former Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State.
He got elected as governor of Borno State on March 9, 2019.