By Yahyah Sarki
The emergence of Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu as the governor of Kebbi State, the Land of Equity, is indeed a blessing to the people of the state. Since he assumed duty as governor, following his landslide victory in the 2015 gubernatorial election on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu has always held that the entire Kebbi State is his constituency. Matawallen Gwandu, His Excellency, the governor of Kebbi State, chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum and vice-chairman, National Food Security Council of Nigeria, vowed to ensure that the people of Kebbi State, irrespective of their party affliation, religious or ethnic background, must be positively touched with dividends of democracy, myriads of formidable infrastructural development as well as economic empowerment for a better living of all citizens, including civil servants, women and youths, as well as retirees, with unparalleled respect and in the highest esteem.
The state, under the able leadership of Senator Bagudu, has now been put in its proper place in history and in the map of the globe and that of Nigeria. Bagudu’s Kebbi is now the beacon of hope of the country, in agriculture, especially in terms of rice revolution, and in terms of security of life and property. All these and myriad of other tangible and invaluable achievements were happily recorded, courtesy of the people’s governor, Senator Bagudu.
One, therefore, wonders and ponders how a governor of a state like Kebbi can effectively govern his state with meager financial resources. How can a governor like Senator Bagudu, whose penchant for hard work, dedication, patritotism, transparency and the delivery of the direly needed dividends of democracy to the electorate perform the magic of achieving myriads of development unparalleled within five years?
And just recently, the indefatigable governor approved the release and payment of over N3bn gratuity to retired civil servants for both the state and the local government. Another N2bn for constituency projects across the state with full involvement of the state’s lawmakers, approval for empowerment/projects worth over N464 million to the vulnerable to touch the lives of women, youths and orphans through the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, approval for the release of over N600 million for payment of NECO, WAEC and NABTEB for secondary school students in the state.
In his efforts to bolster women and youths’ participation in federal government’s empowerment and youth employment as well as other interventions, the governor approved the establishment of Kebbi State Data Portal (www.dcp.kebbistate.gov.ng).
The portal was also launched so as to enable the people of the state, especially youths, to benefit from the many interventions from Federal Government and other organizations in the country. This invaluable gesture was part of the unwavering commitment of Governor Bagudu to ensure that women and youths are not left at the periphery but are fully engaged in all productive sectors.
The aim of this laudable effort is to collate accurate data of all unemployed, educated and uneducated youths in the state in a smooth and transparent manner, free of charge.
The workaholic governor also approved allocation of 22,000 plots of land across the state under the Accelerated Residential Plots Porgramme (ARPP). The programme was initiated to enable first-time land owners to build their own houses in line with his aspiration for affordable housing to all.This is in a bid to drastically reduce the housing deficit across the state and make housing affordable to people in the state.
The list goes on and on, but to mention just a few within a span of five months between the end of 2020 and early 2021.
Certainly, Governor Bagudu routinely moves in and out of his state to other parts of the country and other parts of the world, all in the bid to attract more developmental projects to his own dear state. This is usually achieved through mutual collaborations between nations, states and, indeed, federating states of a country, like Nigeria.
Any patriotic follower of events in Kebbi State can also attest to the fact that the numerous trips of Governor Bagudu had yielded a lot of tangible fruits for the people of the state who have never had it so good like from 2015 to date. Many dividends of these trips are glaring across the state.
Some of these dividends include the now flourishing large and medium-scale rice mills dotting the landscape of the state, helping to reduce poverty, unemployment and restiveness, as well as bolstering food security in the state, apart from the chain multiplier effects on the economy of the state and that of Nigeria in an era of economic downturn, occasioned by the raging global coronavirus pandemic and other salient and intrinsic factors.
They also include the establishment of a tomato paste factory in Ngaski, attracting world-acclaimed investors like Dangote Sugar Factory, the Kebbi/NNPC Ethanol Project in Zuru Emirate, as well as the signing of many workable and plausible memoranda of understanding (MoUs) between Kebbi State Government and many private investors to come and invest more in the state, as well as many other renowned international organizations. They include the World Bank, CBN, NNPC and UNICEF, among others.
This is due to persistent efforts of the governor in ensuring that people at the grassroots are not left behind, especially on issues regarding their healthcare, education, empowerment and development in all facets of life.
And in his quest for a one, united, peaceful Nigeria, in his capacity as the chairman of the APC Progressive Governors’ Forum, Governor Bagudu never tires in leading his counterparts criscrossing the nooks and crannies of the country from North to South and East to West in search of peace and national cohesion.
It is on record that, more than any other governor, the Progressive Governors’ Forum chairman has made several trips in an effort to douse tension and search for peace across the country.
Recently, Governor Bagudu and governors of Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Oyo and Jigawa states held a meeting with the national leadership of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association (MACBAN) at the International Culture and Events Centre in Akure, Ondo State capital, in an effort to broker peace on the issue of Fulani eviction.
Again, the Peace Ambassador, Senator Bagudu, with two other governors, met the leadership of the Fulani and Igbo communities in Owerri for truce and peaceful coexistence in an effort to mend the fragile relationship between different ethnic groups and religious divides. In attendance were the governor of Imo State, Senator Hope Uzodinma, the governor of Jigawa State, Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, the Deputy Governor of Imo State, the Speaker, Imo State House of Assembly, Miyetti Allah national president, Abubakar Kiruwa, and his secretary, Miyetti Allah branch chairmen of Imo, Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi states, religious and community leaders. The intent of the meeting was to reconcile the Fulanis and host community (Igbos) and to also foster peace and trust between the parties in question.
Any right-thinking indigene of Kebbi State or even an avid observer of the collossal transformation that has been going on in different sectors of Kebbi State, from 2015 to date, cannot but vehemently commend and support Governor Bagudu’s quest for formidable development of Kebbi State.
Governor Bagudu should also be given pats on the back for sacrificing his life for his own dear state, Kebbi, and indeed Nigeria. The erudite governor deserves sincere accolades for it is crystal clear and an indisputable fact that, while other states grappled with the backlog of unpaid salary arrears, Kebbi State civil servants are paid as and when due on monthly basis. Pensioners, too, smile to early alerts from their banks, barely the very month they left service. Therefore, there is a smooth transition of salary and pension money on monthly basis in the state despite the backlog of pension and gratuity he inherited.
Bagudu’s welfare policy in Kebbi state has greatly helped to develop and implement proper working environment for workers in the state.
Governor Bagudu, having realised that a good welfare policy provides better physical and mental health to workers and, thus, promotes a healthy work environment, the Kebbi State Government was one of the first few elite states in Nigeria that implemented the new National Minimum Wage of N30,000. Even with the lean revenue resources of the state, the governor took the bull by the horns and approved the new wage, well ahead of other seeimingly more buoyant states in the federation. This caurageous gesture by Governor Bagudu has no doubt cemented the cordial relationship between organised labour (NLC), with the Kebbi State Government, thus, a sustainable industrial harmony thrives in the state.
Without any doubt, in the last five years, Bagudu has made tremendous efforts towards improving the standard of living of workers, with the resultant multiplier effects on the workers’ psychology, leading to improved productivity, which the governor has always acknowledged and commended in many public gatherings.
Beyond the timely payment of workers’ salary and monthly pensions, Kebbi State Government is also gradually defraying the gratuity of retired civil servants. To Bagudu’s credit, he recently gave an approval for the release of N3 billion as payment of gratuities to verified retired civil servants in the state, comprising state, local government as well as ;ocal government education retirees. This was happily contained in a recent statement signed by the commissioner of finance, Alhaji Ibrahim Muhammad Augie, in Birnin Kebbi, on Thursday, December 31, 2020.
According to the statement, N2 billion has been approved for the state government’s verified retirees, while N1 billion was approved for local governments and local government education authorities. It said that all necessary processes for the electronic payment to all categories of the affected beneficiaries on a very favourable equitable ratio have already been put into motion.
This happy development, certainly, sent workers, especially retired civil servants of the both tiers of government in the state, jubilant. It will be recalled that, in May 2020, N2 .403 billion arrears of gratuity was paid to all categories of verified retirees across the state, local governments and local government education authorities.
It is on record that, from inception of this government to date, a total sum of N20.052 billion was approved and paid as arrears of gratuities to state and local government retirees of Kebbi State, according to the Commissioner of Finance Augie. Augie emphasized that Kebbi State was among the elite states that pay both salaries and pensions regularly, without any outstanding arrears, from 2015 to date.
It is also pertinent to state that Governor Bagudu has settled the backlog of gratuity arrears he inherited. This government met a liability of N4,376,242,726.93, which was not only liquidated but an additional sum was provided, which beefed the whopping amount of money up to N20,052,000,000.00.
At this point, workers and indeed the NLC must be reminded that the resources at the disposal of government to execute necessary economic and social development demands are scarce, considering the limited revenues accruing to the coffers of the state government, more so, under the current scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic and other formidable extraneous factors inhibitng smooth governance. Government cannot effectively attend to all the demands of labour, in view of the lean resources available, as well as the competitive expectations from the citizenry, for government to execute the direly needed developmental projects that have direct bearing on them.
In order to bolster cordial labour relationship and reassure the public of the commitment of the government of Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu on sustaining continuous welfare of civil servants and retirees in the state, the Kebbi State government has expended N20bn on payment of retirement benefits in six years.
Unlike in other states, Kebbi State government did not go to any bank to borrow money to pay pension and gratuity. We all know the implication of borrowing or incurring debts to our economy, especially if the resources are not managed prudently by any incoming government. Posterity will bear the brunt.
Again, we equally need to appreciate the commendable gesture of Governor Bagudu during festive periods like Sallah and Christmas to civil servants, organizations, including labour, tribal organizations, religious organizations, NGOs/CSOs and individuals, all geared towards improving the welfare of people.
What is required now is mutual understanding, and dialogue, between labour and government. The citizens, on their part, especially those better informed about the current economic circumstances of the world, the federal and state governments, to educate others, appreciate the efforts of the Kebbi State Governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, and fervently pray for lasting peace and development in Kebbi State and Nigeria in general.
Times like this call for mutual understanding, prudence and self-discipline, and we must all agree to the necessity to prioritize state expenditures to areas that can best uplift our society from poverty. Let us all join hands to support and cooperate with government to move Kebbi State to greater heights under the leadership of Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu (Matawallen Gwandu).
•Sarki is special adviser, media, to Kebbi State governor