The Game Changer Sokoto State Needs

By Abdul Malik

Sokoto State occupies a special place in the socio-political history of Nigeria. Having produced Nigeria’s first executive President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Sokoto is also home to the Sultan, spiritual head of the Muslims in Nigeria.

Though the current Sokoto State was created on February 3, 1976, its historical greatness dates back to Usman dan Fodio, founder of the Sokoto Caliphate in 1804- who initiated a very formidable administrative system that held ground until the British invasion of the territory in 1903- he reigned as the first Sultan of Sokoto, from 1803 to 1815.

Dan Fodio, more inclined towards the religious reforms which he introduced and pursued vigorously than the pomp of political rule, passed the leadership of the Sokoto Caliphate to his son, Muhammed Bello, who became Sultan. Instructively, the Sokoto Caliphate which Dan Fodio founded held sway from 1804 to 1903, when the British invaded the territory, abolished the caliphate and put the area under the Northern Nigeria Protectorate. Despite that turn of events, however, the Sokoto Caliphate remains an influential chapter in Nigeria’s political evolution till today.

Sokoto added yet another important chapter to Nigeria’s fledgling political firmament with the emergence of Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, one of the leading lights of pre-independence Nigeria, as Premier of the Northern Region, and of course leader of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC). Alhaji Bello was a dominant personality in Nigerian politics throughout the early days of the Nigerian federation and the First Republic, till his death in the first military coup on January 15, 1966.

Yet, Sokoto’s sterling contributions to Nigeria’s formation and growth continued to be on the ascendancy as the years rolled into decades, from the early political years after independence and First Republic, to the Second Republic at the return to civil rule.

Thus, Sokoto’s influence and importance in Nigeria’s political landscape got accentuated with the emergence of Alhaji Shehu Shagari as the country’s first executive president in 1979. Historically, Sokoto has always wielded influence on the political direction of Nigeria, hence its importance to the country’s administrative pathways.

Given its long and rich history therefore, the governor of the state is of great significance and concern, both to the elite and people of the state, as well as the general Nigerian public.

With the defection of Governor Aminu Tambuwal from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the political permutations of who becomes the next governor of the state has become open. It therefore behoves the elite of Sokoto State, leaders of the APC in the state and at the national level, to look keenly at choosing a candidate to lead the state in the next elections; and, in doing so, equity, loyalty, experience, skills and academic laurels should be paramount in who qualifies to wear the crown.

There may be a number of candidates in the two leading parties in the state, the APC and PDP, but Sokoto State appears very fortunate to have a seasoned and experienced technocrat who the cap fits in social, academic, economic and political terms. The candidate, Hon. Faruk Malami Yabo, unlike many politicians, who lack the patience and equanimity for sacrifice, has waited patiently over the years even though he was previously pencilled down to run for the office of governor of the state.

More than anything else, perhaps it is his towering and intimidating profile that sets him apart as the most qualified to be crowned governor in 2019. Here is a man, who has served as Commissioner for Finance of the state under the former governor, Senator Aliyu Wamako- regarded easily as the biggest political heavyweight in Sokoto State.

A professional accountant of repute, his experience and professionalism were credited with the improvement of the state’s internally generated revenue, bringing Sokoto State second only to Lagos State, which is the richest state in Nigeria. Thus, the management of resources to bring about the improvement of key infrastructures in the state are credited to Yabo’s skills.

Indeed, Wamako, as governor, was so impressed by Yabo’s performance as Finance Commissioner that he had no second thoughts in appointing him as Commissioner for Local Government and Community Development, a position that brought to the fore, the social engineering abilities of Yabo, as he galvanised the people and built social infrastructure with peace reigning throughout all the nooks and crannies of the state.

Yabo studied Public Administration at the Bayero University Kano and also holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy Administration (MPPA) from the same university. He went on to attend the Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government where he studied Public Financial Management.

He also attended the University of Manchester, Manchester Business School where he studied International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). It is therefore evident why the sterling qualities exuding in him have been applied to the benefit of the state, as a two-term commissioner. Sitting as governor of the state will place him most appropriately to take Sokoto State beyond every expectation.

He was clearly seen as the preferred and anointed candidate to succeed his boss, Wamako, as the 2015 election knocked at the door and Wamako’s second tenure was coming to an end. But the arrival of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tambuwal, who had defected from his former party, the PDP to APC in the run-up to the 2015 elections, changed the dynamics of the state’s political equation. Yabo who was clearly positioned for the governorship ticket to take over from Senator Wamako, was prevailed upon to allow Tambuwal get the ticket “having sacrificed so much by defecting to the party at the level of Speaker,” as some chieftains reasoned and advised.

As a true democrat at heart and in practice, Yabo’s political sophistication showed itself as he took the decision calmly and instead worked tirelessly to see that the party’s candidate carried the day at the polls.

At this point in time when the economic fortune of Sokoto is dwindling, what the state urgently needs is a technocrat with focus, skill and experience such as Yabo possesses. Sokoto State needs to urgently be brought back to the path of economic prosperity, thus strengthening its values, empowering and encouraging self-reliance among the youth, women and the physically challenged.

Yabo himself said as much so when he declared his intention to serve as governor: “Sokoto State needs to be transformed and revived economically through job creation to make it an enterprising hub. My declaration is informed by the passion and vision to advance the state on a new economic, political and infrastructural stream, better than its present state for the benefit of all.” Given his unquestionable track record of achievements as a two-term commissioner and his academic and professional qualifications, Yabo is the jewel most desirable for the plum position of governor of Sokoto State.

Leaders of the APC in Sokoto State as well as the national leadership of the party will be doing the state and its citizenry a world of good by picking someone who other states in the country would give anything to have at the helm of affairs given his background. His personal mien, soft spoken yet with a firm and focused approach, and a humble nature that beguiles everyone on approach, makes Yabo a born leader, whose period of governance is sure to bring lasting benefits to the people.

In 2014, Yabo received the Presidential National Honour, Member of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (MFR) in the National Honours Awards for his outstanding public service as Commissioner for Finance, and later as Commissioner for Local Government and Community Development.

He served as Chairman, Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Conditional Cash Transfer Program (CCT) Sokoto State, which earned him recognition by the National Office of the MDG. He was also a member of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), as well as a member of the National Joint Tax Board (JTB) and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Peer Review Committee. He was also the Chairman State Tenders Board.

Yabo’s delivery on infrastructure, primary health care, peace and security and functional entrepreneurship model earned him recognition from national and international institutions. These include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of State Services (DSS), State of Georgia, USA, Congressional Black Caucus, the State of Maryland, Washington DC Chamber of Commerce, African Leadership Magazine Grassroots Development Program, National Assembly and News Watch magazine’s Commissioner of the Year awards.

Prior to joining the Public Sector, Yabo worked with Bank of the North Limited until the late 1990s. He founded a technology company called ‘K-Tech’, which pioneered the introduction of computer software in the three major Nigerian languages, (Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa) in early 2000.

Yabo is currently on the Advisory Board of Shehu Shagari World Institute for Leadership and Good Governance (SSWI); he is also on the Board of Centre for Economic and Leadership Development (CELD) UK, Advisory Board Member, African Leadership Magazine, Patron ECOWAS Youth Council, Vice President Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON), board member, New AD Energy UK and Co-founder, To-Be Connected Nigeria, a project that connects ideas and talents of young Nigerians to the right industries.

He is also leading the drive towards combining sports with education, a dual career path academic programme offered to athletes by Johan Cruyff Institute of Sports, Barcelona, Spain which is part of the Dutch University System.

Through public speech and paper presentations, he has created a profound public consciousness and connection towards harnessing the talent, energy and the innovation of Africa’s young people in order to achieve accelerated growth and development in the continent. He is a member of the IBB International Golf Club, Honorary Member Barcelona Football Club, Spain and member Washington DC City Club.

In furtherance of his quest for education, he attended the National Open University of Malaysia in 2012 that earned him a Certificate in Economy and Local Government Management systems and Administration. That same year, he attended the Chevro Institute of Politics, Prague, Czech Republic, where he bagged a Certificate in Municipality Management.

In 2013, he obtained a Certificate in Local Government Systems and Administration at the Institute of Politics, University of Nicosia in Cyprus. Most recently Yabo attended the Royal University of Bahrain that saw him grabbing a Certificate in Urban Planning & Municipality Management.

Since 2007, Yabo has continuously expanded upon his knowledge base and influence, and has become a member of a number of societies, institutes, and groups. In 2007, he became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). In 2009 he became a Fellow at the Chartered Institute of Economics of Nigeria (FCIEN), followed shortly after in 2010 by becoming an Associate, Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (ACIT) and earning his Chartered National Accountant (CNA) certification. In 2013, he became a member of Chartered Institute of Administration (MCIA), and in 2014, he became a Fellow with the Certified Financial Analysts of Nigeria (FCFA).

In 1998, Faruk embarked on his first entrepreneurial venture and founded Millennium Aviation Handling Company Limited (a major aircraft handler to United Nations Flights on Peace Keeping Mission in Angola), as its pioneer MD/CEO.

In 2004 he Co-founded and acted as the Secretary General for the Northern Book Trust, which was a United States Sabre Foundation Supported Book Donation Program to Educational Institutions in the north, particularly Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Bayero University Kano and Usmanu Danfodio University Sokoto. That same year he became the MD/CEO of Right Media Limited, which was a media firm that consulted for Sights and Sounds of Kano and the Bi-Centenary Anniversary of the Sokoto Sultanate, for the Cable News Network (CNN), and was appointed the Chairman of the Foreign Trade Relations Committee for the Kano Chamber of Commerce (KACCIMA).

Abdul Malik, a Public Affairs commentator, contributed this piece from Abuja

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