By Ali M Ali
Time flies, rapidly, especially when you are constantly engaged mentally and physically. Time just whizzes. And this is even more so when you are walking with a goal getter like Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar, Governor of Bauchi State. It is a whirlwind. The word “impossible” doesn’t exist in his dictionary. Once he sets his mind to a goal, there is no stopping. May be his training as a lawyer, made him both a dreamer and a realist. He dreams of a competitive Bauchi that is ranked among the best in the country. He is real enough to invest in education as the surest bet to achieve the dream.
His election as the 5th civilian chief executive of the state, against daunting odds, testify to his “can do” spirit. Odds don’t scare him. They inspire him. He was the underdog in a race some considered exclusively theirs. They underrated him. He was like a political midget in a combat designed for giants. The faint hearted will scamper to safety at the sight of a scaring scenario like that. Not M.A as he is fondly called by admirers and distractors alike. And he has both in disproportionate quantity.
Stiff challenges, I have come to appreciate, walking with this unassuming leader, these past 100 days, are the tonic that galvanize him to life and action. He walks his talk. He keeps his promises. He calls when he says he will-unfailingly. He communicates. He delivers, the impatient may say nay.
His strategy is simple-always. He confronts challenges, headlong, with the single mindedness of changing the narrative. He doesn’t circumvent them. He incinerates them.
His sojourn into the not so cosy chambers of power where political decisions are hammered on the anvil of necessity again, testify. The depressing state of affairs in Bauchi state was the cry for help, he hearkened to all the indicators pointed at an imminent shipwreck. Workers were owed a backlog of salaries. Public sector education was in the throes of death. Though the state is agrarian, agriculture has suffered great neglect in the past. And even more worrisome, was the heightened insecurity in the state caused, in the main, by a devastating insurgency, and to a lesser extent, poor governance at all levels. This was the legacy bequeath MA 30 months ago.
Before now, he was the top dog in his own law chambers, flourishing, by all accounts, with offices in key state capitals. An accomplished legal luminary that attained maturity early, at 34,he was Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General. Excellent manager of men and materials, widely exposed and travelled. At various times, he was resident electoral Commissioner of INEC and later national commissioner in charge of legal service. The list is long.
“So why jettison all these and join politics?” I pointedly asked him, before. I was appointed Advisor on Media and Strategy.
‘’I wanted to serve and salvage the situation. I wanted to give back what my state has given me” he said frankly, with no airs.
For the 100 days we have been walking together, I have seen how much service the man has rendered.
His austere lifestyle, testify. No fancy motorcade. All the vehicles in his very austere convoy are inherited and old. Trips to Abuja are either by road or scheduled flights in neighboring Gombe state, 150 kms away. And certainly, no fancy hotel accommodation in Abuja for all personal aides including those in cabinet position. He sleeps in his personal residence located not in “choice” neighborhood of Maitama or Asokoro.
MA had since “disrobed”. He exchanged his wig, gown and dog collar for a mechanic’s overalls and got down and dirty in the huge workshop that is Bauchi. If it were a car, the first thing he did, to my mind, was to stop the massive oil leak and fuel consumption. There was huge hemorrhage. It manifested in a humongous workforce-92,000- and even a more humongous wage bill-a staggering N5.1 monthly. That takes all of the state’s FAAC allocation, which hardly goes beyond N5bn.
Stopping the leaks served notice that it was not going to be business as usual. Scavengers of the status quo, expectedly, were incensed. Since then, they have been running from pillar to post, running their mouths, bellyaching.
No minute is wasted. Every second matters. It is always a whirlwind with MA. No dull moment. These past 100 days have been action packed. The man is always in ‘over drive’ fixing the sea of problems, anxious to reposition the state, desirous of making it more competitive.
In the first 100 days of his leadership, he set the tone of his administration. He cleared the backlog of salaries. Labor was ecstatic. It hailed him. Today Bauchi is one of the few states that pay salaries unfailingly every month. Beyond labour, accolades and recognition poured in these past three months. One was an honorary doctorate degree by a foreign university based in Benin Republic.
With thrift bordering on ‘tight fistedness’, MA is reforming all sectors and renewing urban and rural communities. Over 400 kilometers of roads are being constructed or rehabilitated across the state. For two consecutive years’ budget, education takes the lion’s share of 20%, 6% shy as recommended by the UN. This wise investment has seen the rise of the percentage of passes in WAEC and NECO from a dismal 3% in 2015 to 27% in 2017. Over 10,000 classrooms constructed and rehabilitated, a similar number of classrooms furniture supplied. The state fertilizer blending company, hitherto, comatose resuscitated and given life. Ditto the state run furniture coy. This year’s farming season saw farmers from neighboring states trooping to Bauchi to buy cheap fertilizer. His reforms extend to housing, rural water supply and improved security.
Bauchi is now relatively peaceful. Insurgent elements have lost their potent. Thanks to the counter insurgency administrators and the government of the state. Improving IGR has seen the state hidden treasure as a tourist heaven, the Yankari Game Reserve given a new lease of life.
MA is deep, intellectually, a profound and powerful communicator. He could hold his audience spellbound by his oratory in the audience’s given language. I have seen him address an exultant bunch of grateful Bauchi state students who converged on government House in appreciation of changing their fortunes. Amid thunderous applause, he spoke their language.
Two interactions lately told me a lot about the man. He reads every line in any correspondence to him. In matters of funds, he scrutinizes every word. And if he is not convinced, he tarries and queries. There, the whirlwind stops. Still these past 100 days were like a whirlwind.
Ali M Ali is an aide to Governor MA Abubakar.