Umar: Ex-Banker, Seasoned Administrator Steps Forward to Govern Sokoto

Onuminya Innocent writes that the Peoples Democratic Party governorship candidate for Sokoto State, Saidu Umar, is taking bold moves to win the hearts of eligible voters in the state ahead of the March 2023 gubernatorial poll

Watching Mallam Saidu Umar campaigning for the governorship of Sokoto State, reading his lips, and listening to people around him, one thing is easily deducible: an uncommon determination and passion to expand the frontiers of democracy and its dividends to everyone in the Seat of the Caliphate. 

A man steeped in the philosophy of integrity, truth, and justice, the governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says he is in politics to create a new kind of orientation anchored on honour and fairness to all, irrespective of social class. 

“I am convinced that we all, young and old, poor and rich, educated and uneducated, are in this boat together,” he says. 

Umar adds that together with his running mate, Sagir Bafarawa, a former Commissioner for Environment in the state, , “We are in this race to win the mandate to govern Sokoto, and very importantly, also win the hearts and minds of our people over to new ways of thinking and acting in politics based on the underlying principle of mass participation and shared benefits.”

Doubling down on things that are just and of good report stands Umar out in an integrity-stressed political universe. 

With the banker in him, Umar brings to the table strategic thinking, good analytical ability, development and service orientation, and capacity to cope under the drudgery of governance. Many believe his background in banking and administration can propel him to levels his political forebears did not attain.

He is making his pitch from a vantage position, having garnered useful experiences from the executive arm of government, particularly, under the incumbent governor, Aminu Tambuwal, and also from the private sector.

The immediate past Secretary to the Sokoto State Government (SSG) served as Commissioner for Finance in the first tenure of the Tambuwal administration (2015-2019). He was appointed SSG on June 6, 2019, at the beginning of Tambuwal’s second term. As SSG, he headed the secretariat of the government and together with the team of technocrats assembled by Governor Tambuwal in the state exco drove the development strides of the government.

Umar is a Fellow of the Chartered institute of National Accountants of Nigeria (FCNA); an Honorary Senior Member of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (HSIB); Fellow, Chartered Institute of Economics of Nigeria (FCEN); and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Accountants of Nigeria (FCPA). He is Senior Executive Fellow, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

In the Sokoto customary setting, conferment of traditional title is seen as a way of grooming a potential leader. Umar was turbaned with the scholarly title of Malam Ubandoma Sokoto by the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, on December 16, 2017. It is a position of responsibility conferred on persons who have demonstrated commitment to the advancement of knowledge, philanthropy, religious ideals, and socio-economic development of society. 

Umar is the fifth Ubandoma of Sokoto Caliphate, a title his grandfather had also held. The title of Malam Ubandoma was first conferred on Ubandoma Abubakar by Sultan Abdulrahman, who ruled from 1891 to 1902. The second Ubandoma, Malam Ahmadu, Umar’s grandfather, was appointed in 1938; the third recipient was appointed in 1951; and the fourth was appointed in 1986.

Umar is reputed for his anti-segregation, all-inclusive politics. It is the same mind-set that drives his philanthropy, which has lifted many out of poverty.  

He says, “My politics has the single most significant goal of lifting as many people as possible from the miseries of poverty, disease, and ignorance. I understand where we are coming from economically, socially, and politically, and having seen the light, I wouldn’t want my people to suffer many of the things we suffered. 

“I have a mission to help, and politics presents me about the most effective tool to use.”

Umar also declares, “If elected as governor next year, my focus would be on projects and programmes that would touch the lives of the greatest number of people in the state.  

“Agriculture would be key. And education, entrepreneurship, and income generation would receive utmost attention, as we try to discourage idleness, which breeds crime, and improve the quality of life in the state.”

There is no doubt that Sokoto residents have been very receptive to Umar’s message, as seen in the huge crowds at his campaigns.

Sokoto’s reigning Malam Ubandoma recently got a crucial endorsement from residents of the largest ward in the state, Waziri B ward. He went to the area on November 6 for a book launch organised by the Waziri B Youth Solidarity for Ubandoma/Sagir Door 2 Door Campaign.

Umar was received by massive crowds of cheering residents as his motorcade drove along Bazzah to the heart of the contiguous Gidadawa area. 

He assured the people that if elected next year, he would consolidate on the development strides of the incumbent administration, seek creative ways of advancing progress, and ensure inclusivity in governance, especially as it concerns women and the youth. 

Umar said, “Youth and women will be included in governance and party affairs. Women and youth will benefit through empowerment projects and skills acquisition programmes that will be initiated across the state.”

Umar received wide endorsement from the political elite in the state in May, when he emerged the PDP governorship candidate for the 2023 general election. The incumbent deputy governor, Manir Dan Iya, who had indicated an interest in the governorship position, ceded his ambition to Umar, and later decided to contest for the senate. Former deputy governor of the state, Mukhtar Shagari, and the state PDP chairman, Bello Goronyo, also withdrew for Umar.

Umar, 56, was educated at Model Primary School (now Yakubu Muazu Model Primary), Sokoto; Federal Government College, Sokoto; and Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria. He holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.

The Sokoto State PDP governorship candidate started his banking career in 1997 with First Bank of Nigeria Limited. He moved to Standard Trust Bank Plc. (STB) in 2000. 

He worked with United Bank for Africa (UBA) following its merger with STB Plc., before moving to Skye Bank Plc. in 2006 as Business Development Manager, and Oceanic Bank in 2009, which later merged with Ecobank Nigeria Limited, where he rose to the rank of Deputy General Manager and Regional Head, Northwest Region. As Regional Head, he had the responsibility of coordinating the bank’s business in Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, and Jigawa states.

Umar is a popular brand in Sokoto politics, with a lot of appeal, especially, at the grassroots. Many in the state, including Tambuwal, believe selling Umar as the most qualified to be the next governor won’t be difficult. But February 2023 will tell how easy this can be.

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