By Adewale Adedayo
The devastation insurgency has brought to the North East, especially Borno State, would take decades of rehabilitation to heal. The war has wrought untold pain, anguish, starvation. The level of poverty in the region is better imagined. Farming, the major occupation in the state, and the entire North, has been disrupted, making food expensive. No wonder the region canvassed and got the Federal Government to set up the North East Development Commission (NEDC) to take care of the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the region.
Outside the NEDC and what the governors of the region are doing in their respective states to improve standard of living and working conditions, there is need to recognise and commend Borno State governor, Babagana Zulum. He is brave, pragmatic, sincere and, above all, prudent in the utilisation of resources. He is a governor with a difference, the people’s governor. He is always there with his people each time they are bedevilled with tragedy. He has, since he was sworn in, improved the infrastructure of the state. He has built brand new classrooms and is still renovating old ones and opening up the hinterland through new road construction. He does not just give orders, he follows up.
In spite of the economic crunch, coupled with the COVID-19 challenge, he is up to date in the payment of salaries, including pension of retired workers. They all get prompt alerts when due. When Boko Haram fighters strike his people, he is usually the first person to get there to console the victims. Indeed, he has brought a human face to governance in Borno State. Senator Shettima Kashim is so proud he backed his candidature during the 2019 governorship election.
There are other stars, particularly from Borno, though younger, who are toeing Zulum’s line. One that readily comes to mind is Aliyu Muktar Betara, the Biu-born lawmaker who represents Biu, Bayo, Kwaya Kusar, Shani federal constituency.
He is the least talked about member from Borno State in the National Assembly, yet his contribution is the most impactful. He doesn’t and has never craved publicity. He is not different from Zulum. He wants to go unnoticed doing his work and affecting lives. He has been representing his constituency for the past 14 years. Interestingly, Betara, at the outset, was never interested in politics but for the insistence and push of beneficiaries of his benevolence who insisted that, given his philanthropic activities as a private citizen, he would represent them well. That was how Betara became a politician and ended up at the National Assembly. Since then, the people of Biu, Bayo, Kwaya Kusar, Shani have never regretted having him as their representative.
Recently, a ‘stranger’ approached Betara in one of his numerous visits to his home to ask if he could support someone whose wife had kidney-related disease that required urgent transplant in India. Betara didn’t give him a token. Rather, he asked for particulars of the said lady. A month later, the lady, Hajia Fatima, and her husband, Hassan Ibrahim, were at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport en route India, all expenses paid by Betara. There are numerous such medical interventions, both within the country and outside, that Betara has undertaken.
Mallam Alkali Abubakar is a peasant farmer in Biu with five children. His daughter, Saadatu, 19, wanted to study medicine. Abubakar could not afford the expenses. He sought the assistance of the state scholarship board, which, unfortunately had exhausted the entries for that session. Betara got wind of it, called Abubakar and requested for Saadatu’s particulars. She is studying medicine at Ahmadu Bello University at the expense of Betara.
Ali Bukar, 36, presently works with one of the banks in Maiduguri. He graduated in 2013. He met Betara by happenstance. He explained his joblessness even after graduating. He sent his particulars to him as requested. Two and half months later, he was employed as cashier.
Over 8,000 grinding machines and more than 15,000 sewing machines have been distributed to empower his constituents. More than 10 fully-equipped ambulances have been donated to the three local government areas that make up his constituency and the state government.
He has built and donated more than 20 well-equipped health care centres, 600 solar-powered streetlights to the three LGAs, facilitated construction of major roads network in Biu and another three linking villages within the constituency, built mini stadium in Shani District, upgraded the Biu Emirate to a modern palace, built Islamic schools and renovated mosques in Biu.
He has so far paid for over 3,000 students on scholarship both within and outside the country, built skill acquisition centres in each of the three LGAs. The centres have since graduated over 500 apprentices who have also become employers of labour, thereby generating wealth and adding value to the society. He distributed over 250 cars of different brands ranging from Peugeot 406, Mercedes-Benz C class and Volkswagen Sharon 7 seater buses. At a point, he was donating a trailer load of motorcycles to his constituent every quarter. He stopped when it was banned as a means of transportation because of the insurgency . He promptly replaced it with tricycles. Through him, over 3,000 job opportunities have been given to persons not only within his constituency but Borno State extraction.
Given all these, you would think his name and picture should be everywhere in the media, but Betara would rather remain in the shadow, doing what he knows best – solving problems, including helping the needy.
Born on November 22,1966, he attended Biu Central Primary School, Borno State, Biu Central Junior Day Secondary School, and Government Technical Secondary School.
He read Business Administration, both for his Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and Higher National Diploma (HND) at the Ramat Polytechnic, Borno State. Indeed, he became what he dreamt about – successful businessman. Success, they say, come with its responsibilities. Betara kindheartedness would not allow him see people in need and look the other way. That is one weakness that Betara cannot control. This non assuming posture of his, perhaps, is what endeared him to his colleagues at the National Assembly. From the tenure of Patricia Etteh to the present Femi Gbajabiamila.
Betara may not be the speaker, but his influence in the Green chambers is glaring. His popularity is bipartisan. No wonder he is called headboy. In appreciation of his support during campaign, Gbajabiamila made him chairman of the House Appropriation Committee.
His relationship with former speaker Dogara was not only cordial, they became blossom friends. He made him chairman, House Committee on Defence. Dimeji Bankole made him chairman, House Committee on Army, the same position he occupied when Etteh was speaker. Betara is young yet powerful. Simple yet generous, in words and resources. He is one of the front runners of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the National Assembly, yet, he is the least recognised and talked about in the media.