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Mohammed Goni: Requiem for a Statesman
Former Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Mohammed Goni who died recently was like the baobab tree: nobody can describe him holistically from a single standpoint, rather, one could only describe him from what one sees, and others from their own view side. Those who knew him more closely described him as the humblest of them all: honest and unassuming: practical and pragmatic. I have not had the privilege of coming very close to him or interacting with him on any issue.
I can therefore only speak about him from what I know of him as former Governor of Borno State, who did so well in his tenure. He sought to return to the same office later, but the people seemed to have forgotten all that he did during his tenure, so he failed. And later as member of the National Constitutional Conference, where he always spoke from a pan Nigerian view point.
The best I could also make out is to desribe Mohammed Goni as a man of average height, with a life story richer than the richest man in Borno state. His earlier life before he became Governor may not be well known, but it was common knowledge in Borno that he was a rather reluctant bride in the race for the Government House at that time. After he was persuaded to run, and eventually won as Governor, he did so well, to the effect that, most Government projects in Borno state since 1983 have either been an addition or a replication of his so many legacies.
Political analysts of the then regency were of the opinion that, Mohammed Goni lost the re-election bid on the platform of the defunct UPN in 1983 to Ashiek Jarma not because he was not popular, but because he could out outmaneuver the intrigues of the ruling party, the equally defunct NPN. He could not make it in 2011 either, because he contested against a sitting Government, which candidate was no less popular. There is no doubt that he gave the Government under the tutelage of then Governor Ali Modu Sheriff a run for her money. In his second coming, he hinged his campaigns on his performances during the first tenure, which was tied to the so many projects he executed, spanning all sectors of governance.
Like other prominent Borno people that passed on in the heat of the COVID19 pandemic, one is at pain to have to mourn only through the media.Many people would have loved to physically pay their last respects to Mohammed Goni, and I could not resist the temptation of making my presence felt through what has become my best pastime: writing tributes.
As far as I can remember, Mohammed Goni is on record to have constructed the famous Lagos street, the bridge on the street and the famous Lagos House, also along the same street. It is today one of the widest streets in Maiduguri, having been dualized and reconstructed by the Government of Kashim Shettima. The Maiduguri Monday market is one of hiss legacies, just as he built the Ramat Shopping complex, the biggest single shopping arcade in Maiduguri the Borno state capital. He equally fenced and reconstructed the Ramat Race Course, which is directly behind the shopping arena.
Mohammed Goni was reputed to have created 53 Local Government Areas Across Borno state, which tended to adequately addressed the yearnings of all parts and interests in the state. He built 50 housing units each for the 18 Local Governments of old Borno Stste, and completed the construction of the famous Abaganaram Low Cost Housing estate in Maiduguri. Mohammed Goni established 50 secondary schools and doubled the students’ intake into the schools. The Flour Mills, Rural Electrification Board, the only state radio and television station to date, the Borno Radio Televission Corporation, BRTV, the NEITAL Shoe Factory, Borno Clay Industry, Borno Wire Industry, the Maiduguri International Hotel, Alau Dam WATER Treatment Plant are others. Goni initiated the construction of the abandoned Biu Dam, in the Southern part of the state. Goni was the brain behind the establishment of the College of Education, Waka-Biu, College of Agriculture, Damboa, Schools of Nursing and Midwivery, School of Health Technology as well as the Ramat Polytechnic.
One remembers the exploits of A G Ferraro, a construction giant, reputed to have designed and constructed the the roads and drainages in Gwange and the Pompomari Housing estate. While, Borini Prono another construction giant during Goni’s time constructed the Dikwa-Gulumba-Banki road, all under the administration of Mohammed Goni. Mohammed Goni constructed the third phase of the State secretariat, and the International Conference Center within the complex. Eye Hospital, Dental Hospital, General Hospital Gwoza, and many of the rural link roads, including: Kwaya-Kusar/Milda Road, Shani Road, Gwoza-Damboa Road, Damasak-Cross Kauwa Road, amongst others.
I may not be in the position to mention most the Project Mohammed Gono did during his tenure, but this roll list presupposes that he had paid his dues. His death goes with the saying, that, people seldom value what they have at hand, until the day they loose it. At his death, Borno seemed to have realized that they had a treasurable asset in Goni.
May God forgive his shortcomings and grant him eternal rest.
Inuwa Bwala resides in Abuja, Nigeria.