Gov Bago’s Litany of Howlers in Public Domain

Ayoola Ajanaku

The recurring decimal of errors reared it’s ugly again as the helmsman of North Central sub national entity, Mohammed Umar Bago in a bid to position Niger State as the most productive in agricultural terms as well as leverage its vast resources and potential for growth via attendance of an Agribusiness Seminar at Harvard Business School, Boston Massachusetts. The photo-op’s from this latest installment of howlers is one too many from the number one citizen of the largest state in the country by land mass.

Before the army of yes men aim their vitriol towards this author, it’s important to highlight some salient points to elucidate on the elements that constitute blunders in public domain. The latest sojourn to the prestigious citadel of knowledge in the United States is a laudable initiative on face value, but when a third party takes a cursory look at the leveraging of the lone image of Governor Bago projecting the academic touchpoint of HBS Executive Programme – One is forced to ask where’s the presence of the Honourable Commissioner of Agriculture, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Special Adviser of Agric, if one exists therein? These key figures are the policy drivers of food security at that level. According to the African proverb that states: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. This key element of governance was lacking in this latest jamboree and this factor was there for all and sundry to witness.

Governor Bago craves for media attention like bees to nectar and he never fails to let any opportunity to slip by when it presents itself. Earlier he dropped ‘His Excellency’ for Farmer Governor – Whatever that means with no commensurate output to match the newfound appellation(s) so far even when one considers the gestation period of the agricultural cycle. Bago stated this during the presentation of the 2024 budget to the House of Assembly said that the name is to reinforce the priority of the government on agriculture. The governor said he should no longer be called ‘Excellency’ or ‘Honourable’ or ‘Mr Governor’, but be called ‘Farmer Governor.”

He said, “I want to inform the people of Niger state that from today, my nomenclature has changed and I wish to be addressed as Farmer Governor Bago from henceforth.” Bago, who wore a tee shirt and a trouser during the presentation, however, said that he has not banned the wearing of “agbada” attire by civil servants, as reported by some media platforms. He explained that he only emphasized the need for civil servants working in the ministries of works, agriculture or other ministries that require physical functioning to dress in outfits that would enable them function properly.

Lest we forget, if the much heralded stance of Bago is to optimize the value of the agricultural value chain in Niger State as he trumpets then he should know that the civil service is an engine room to foster these initiatives. Like they say in local parlance, “Wetin dey for Sokoto, you go dey find am for Sokoto.” All it takes to maximize the value of the rich laden Niger State agro values is to engineer roundtable with leading agro firms such as Dangote Group, Flour Mills Nigeria (FMN Plc) – (They are present in Kontagora with their much touted backward integration initiatives for sugar and wheat amongst others), Folawiyo Farms – (They are also present in the North Central state) BUA Group, Olam Group, TGI Plc amongst others to engineer agricultural initiatives to foster crop and livestock development in the State.

All the state needs is to offer equity via land holdings that would be leveraged via well-honed SPV’s therein. It’s interesting to note that Governor Bago stated earlier that his administration will likely hit N1 trillion in revenue through the Niger Food Security and Logistics Company, in the next five years – One needs to remind His Excellency that his tenure is based on four year term as enshrined by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and governance takes a backseat during electioneering season.

Lest we forget, the howler where Niger State had to hastily deny allegations that it did not issue any directive to ban the sale of alcohol in any part of the state. It followed alleged reports that NGSG, through the state state’s Liquor and Licensing Board, had prohibited the sale of alcohol in nine LGA’s of the state, including Suleja. The quick turnaround constituted an embarrassment for the reputation of the state in public domain.

This development came to life following governor’s appeal to Federal Government to allocate 13 per cent derivation to the state for power generation to Nigerians through the four hydropower generating dams situated in the state. Bago made the appeal when the Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally-Displaced Persons, Tijjani Aliyu Ahmed, paid him a courtesy visit at the Government House in Minna. The governor, who decried the rate at which Nigerlites have been ravaged and displaced every year due to overflow of water from the hydro dams, described the situation as absurd.

Bago suggested a round-table discussion on the way out, or the state might cut off the supply of power from the hydro dams until its demands are met. He also stated that commercial entities such as Abuja DISCO and NNPCL should equally pay the state for the hydrocarbon exchange. The governor further said that the state had done a lot for the country, including the ceding of its land for the creation of the nation’s capital, Abuja, hence the need for the Federal Government to compensate the state for it. He, however, expressed dismay over the Suleja-Minna Road dualisation project awarded in the last 12 years, and it is yet to be completed even though the state is a gateway between the northern and southern parts of the country, describing it as unacceptable. The governor noted that the state would no longer allow itself to be marginalised, stressing, “enough is enough.”

He reiterated the state government’s willingness to continue to press its demands until the FGN gives it the desired attention. It’s imperative to point out the legislative background of the governor at the NASS where laws of the land are made at the hallowed chambers. He should know better than any average smart Alec on the streets that laws govern such fiscal appropriation and not bombastic braggadocio cum bravura to press home points.

In a nutshell, his Excellency penchant for making highfaluting and grandiloquent statements in public domain leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Public policy dissemination is the forte of the ministry of information and communication – At this rate; the commissioner is redundant with his role usurped by the helmsman of the state so far. The governor should act more and say less, as these constitutes the key block to drive governance that delivers democratic dividends to the masses. The lord of the manor locomotion needs to stop and if one disputes this the helmsman’s pugilistic and militaristic stance came to the fore recently when he made declarations at the Emir of Lapai’s palace that he would crush and deal with anyone who dares his policies in Niger State – The statement(s) are in circulation for contextual alignment. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

•Ayoola Ajanaku is a Communications and Advocacy Specialist based in Lagos, Nigeria….

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