By Alex Ohemu
The world is replete with people who were born during historical milestones. Very often, such people grew up to become subjects of history. Engineer Abdullahi Sule, entrepreneur, businessman and politician, is one such personality. He almost shares the same birthright with the Nigerian nation-state, having being born on December 26, 1959, a day after the birth of Jesus Christ, saviour of the world.
But if one were to do a comparative analysis of Nigeria and Sule, the one trails inexorably behind the other in fortunes. While Nigeria is unstable and has refused to grow beyond her underdeveloped status, Sule has remained focused, surefooted and upwardly mobile. Sule keeps cruising to the top mainly due to his tenacity, doggedness and quest for success.
His parents did two things that were to shape his present life and living. First, they were perceptive enough to send him to school very early in life at a time when it was fashionable for most wards to be enrolled in primary school at puberty. Secondly, they sent him to a Roman Catholic mission school, missionaries being the best school administrators at that time.
Thus, he was educated at RCM Primary School, Gudi Station, in 1968. He proceeded to Zang Secondary School in 1974 and, later, Government Technical College, Bukuru, in 1977. After his secondary education, he went to Plateau State Polytechnic, Barkin Ladi, in 1980. He then left Nigeria on a scholarship to study at Indiana University, Terre Haute, Indiana, where he obtained a bachelor of science in Mechanical Technology and a master’s degree in Industrial Technology.
Returning to Nigeria in 1985, Sule served as a youth corps member with Plateau Utilities Board. He later joined the Jos Steel Rolling Mill in 1985 as a production engineer. Returning to the United States in 1989, he worked for several companies, including Lancer Corporation, OEM Component and Osyka Corporation, among others, before returning to Nigeria in 2000
On his return to Nigeria, he co-founded Sadiq Petroleum Nigeria Limited in Lagos and was made its managing director. Under his leadership, the company won a bid to acquire African Petroleum (AP) PLC and he became the CEO of AP in 2001. On June 21, prior to his gubernatorial ambition in 2018, Dangote Sugar Refinery PLC announced Sule as the substantive group managing director of the company.
He won the gubernatorial primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nasarawa State on October 1, 2018. On March 10, 2019, Sule was declared governor-elect of Nasarawa State. He was sworn in as governor on May 29, 2019.
When the governor sought the mandate of the people of Nasarawa State in 2019, he did so with the clear understanding that governing a state was not going to be a tea party. He knew that the road was going to be paved with obstacles, setbacks and challenges. Governor Sule has been in the saddle for close to two years but 2020 ate up the chunk of that period. For the governor, as with his other colleagues, 2020 was an unusual year. It was a year of ups and downs and full of issues. Everything about 2020 centred around COVID-19 and insecurity. No wonder, the governor started his brinkmanship with these two issues. But deftly, courageously and doggedly, he has weathered most of the impediments since he assumed office.
Security is the bedrock for harmonious co-existence and socio-economic development of the society. The state can only thrive in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. The administration commenced its efforts on security as soon as it was sworn in.
The governor visited Benue State and met severally with the leaders of Fulani, Alago and other ethnic groups in order to resolve the incessant border crises between those communities. He also met with security agencies, culminating in the establishment of military super camps in Kenyehu and Udege, Toto and Nasarawa LGAs, respectively, in order to reduce the upsurge of criminal elements in the state.
Furthermore, he increased the number of security personnel on the state’s highways and roads in major towns. The state government equally hosted the North Central Zone security summit and established Mobile Police Training School in Nasarawa Eggon, as well as an additional squadron in Toto. The governor’s visits and discussions with President Muhammadu Buhari on the security situations in Toto, Nasarawa, Doma, Obi and Keana LGAs culminated in the stationing of an Air Force Special Forces base in Nasarawa State. The Air Force Special Forces is expected to utilize the Lafia Airport for its operations and will cover the entire North-Central zone.
Not until the COVID-19 global pandemic hit town the state government did not know the true state of its health sector. The pandemic exposed the state of its healthcare centres at all levels. The government then went back to the drawing board in the provision of health facilities at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. It committed some resources to completion of the Centre for Infectious Disease Control at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH), Lafia. As a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus in the state, the state government converted the 300-bed IDPs hostel in Shabu and upgraded the facility to serve as isolation centre in the state. Similarly, it upgraded a structure at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital to an isolation centre. The government also established smaller isolation centres in the13 LGAs in the state.
In other areas of healthcare, the state government has carried out medical outreach for the treatment of glaucoma and cataract surgery, among other illnesses. This exercise had significant effect on the citizens of the state who were suffering from this ailment. The government also committed itself to the continuous expansion of the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital, Lafia, which was started by the Umaru Tanko Al-Makura’s administration, to facilitate the seamless transition to a teaching hospital. In the same vein, the specialist hospitals in Lafia, Akwanga and Nasarawa have been completed and put to use already by the Hospitals Management Board. Furthermore, the newly constructed School of Nursing and Midwifery has been furnished and fully equipped.
The governor’s greatest desire in office is to ensure that the people of Nasarawa State enjoy good standard of living throughout his tenure. It is on this premise that Governor Abdullahi Sule deemed it necessary to provide water for both human consumption and agricultural activities. The governor has constructed and rehabilitated water schemes in Keffi, Akwanga, Kokona and Karu LGAs of the state. He has also provided 2km solar-powered street light facilities to all the 13 LGAs in the state and in strategic locations in Lafia metropolis. In addition, he has procured transformers and distributed them to various communities to support the state’s rural electrification drive.
In the governor’s determination to provide basic infrastructure for enhanced socio-economic development, he has completed the construction of Shinge ricemill-Kilema road. Similarly, the construction of the all-important Mararaba to Udege25km road and 15.5 km asphalt Sisinbaki-Kwarra road projects in Nasarawa and Wamba Local Government Areas have been completed. The design for the construction of other roads within the Lafia metropolis and some inter local government roads have been completed and work on the projects will soon commence. Governor Sule is resolute in his commitment to open up rural areas for enhanced socio-economic activities. In that regard, he has embarked on the construction of Agwade-Shupe-Atabula-Obi, Shabu-Doka-Arugba-Lakio, Kanje-Abuni and Kagbu-Atsoko-Wana roads. These roads are at various stages of completion.
Realizing the importance of education in thty, the Abdullahi Sule led administration attracted the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board(JAMB) to Nasarawa State through the establishment of a technology Innovation Hub and provided equipment worth over N200million. The equipment have been installed and fully operational at the just commissioned Tanko Al-makura CBT Centre in Lafia. The government has constructed classroom blocks in Angwan Jarme, Mahanga and Mararaban Gongon in Kokona, Awe and Wamba as well as Keffi and Akwanga Local Government Areas respectively. The projects for the mass construction and rehabilitation of primary and junior secondary schools in the state has reached advanced stage. Similarly, the state government has formalized the appointment of 2,250 teachers and posted them to various schools across the state.
The state government has taken advantage of the agrarian nature of the state to make some stride in the agricultural sector. In this regard, it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) with the Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc and Azman Rice Mill and Farms Limited for rice, sugar and cassava production. It has also entered into agreement with the Lower Benue River Development Authority to access 500 hectares of land in Doma and other local government areas for the production of rice and other crops in the state. This is intended to provide employment opportunity for the youth as as cushioning the post covid 19 hardship in the state.
The journey so far has been tedious and challenging considering the peculiar circumstances which governor Sule has been operating like the lack of funds and the pandemic which he has been trying to navigate through. But it is gratifying to note that it has not been a wasted effort for the governor considering the volume of work he has done within so short a period. This impressive and modest record will no doubt inspire and give the governor the zeal to forge ahead in his determination to provide quality leadership to the people of Nasarawa State. His achievements so far are in keeping with his promise to serve the people selflessly by executing programs that will bring development to all the crannies of the state. Governor Sule is working tirelessly to fit into the large shoes left behind by his predecessor, Senator Umaru Tanko Almakura and he is poised to go far in this journey.
He has surely lived up to the expectation of the people. He has proven to be a high performance governor and at 60, time is on his side. A second term will surely avail him the opportunity to actualize his vision for the state. When the time comes, the people of Nasarawa State will cajole and pressure him to offer himself for the office one more time.
•Ohemu writes from Makurdi