By Ndama Abubakar, MD, Newsline

Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello

Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello

Children of the Niger State first family

Children of the Niger State first family

First Lady of Niger State, Dr Amina Sani Bello

First Lady of Niger State, Dr Amina Sani Bello

On April 11, 2015, Nigerlites took a leap of faith by electing Abubakar Sani Bello, 48, to lead them to a democratic el dorado in the next four years. He beat his closest rival by 353, 930 votes.
The first in the pecking order among 11 children, he is the son of a former military autocrat, billionaire, philanthropist, and investor. His father, Col Sani Bello, was at one time the military governor of old Kano State (between 1975 and 1978), and after retiring from a remarkable military career, he engineered business and financial success, holding vast interests in a cocktail of investments, which include oil exploration, banking, and telecommunications. Blessed with his father’s investment acumen and leadership skills, the son, popularly called Abu Lolo, followed his father’s footsteps faithfully, sometimes playing proxy roles for the patriarch in some businesses,  but mostly trying to carve a niche for himself in the investment world. His success came unsurprisingly, evidenced today in the existence of flourishing mega business empire, atop of which he sat as a mogul and owner. His investments, like those of his father, are multiple and divergent; they include investments in the oil industry, banking, telecommunications, airline, commodity trading, and hospitality sector. Inheriting hundred per cent genetic codes of his father, he is indeed a true reflection of the adage, ‘like father, like the son.’ A gifted tycoon like his father, he is also a governor like him.
BLOODLINE DESCENT
Sani Bello junior is descended from an illustrious Kontagora bloodline, where  meritorious public service is a compulsive tradition. His great grandfather, Alhaji Alkali Mustapha, was renowned Islamic scholar, jurist, teacher, and shariah judge. His grandfather, the great Mammam  Bello Mustapha, retired from Kontagora Native Authority as renowned sanitary inspector. The father was a soldier statesman, who later became an ambassador to Zimbabwe. In 2009, Abu Lolo himself became the Niger State Commissioner in charge of the strategic Ministry of Investment, Commerce and Co-operatives. His tenure there was eventful, although abbreviated. But he left behind indelible memories of hard work, selfless leadership and sacrifice and commitment to collective goal. A retired  mandarin and now a farmer, Farouk Mamman Shesunze, who worked with him for a year, as director of administration in the ministry, described him “as a man who had the zeal and enthusiasm to work, and who wanted to use his background as a successful international businessman to benefit the state, particularly in the area of investment.”  However, after about approximately one year in office, he quit in fuzzy circumstances that have stirred wild public interest in him, even though they have also provoked innumerable speculations about why he left. When it was announced that he was ditching the administration of Gov Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, many were speechless, while some openly shed tears. “We were amazed when he called us at a meeting to say he has resigned his appointment and was leaving the state,” said Shezunze in an interview with Newsline on Sunday. “Many people wept.” As a commissioner, the former director of administration recalled, “the man spent from his own pocket to run public office. Strange. As director of administration, I know he bought some office equipment, like computers, printers, etc and refurbished some offices, when there was no money, just for the smooth running of the ministry.”
In an environment where altruism is rare, Abubakar Sani Bello obviously set a tall example in selfless leadership and patriotism within the short time span he benefited Niger State with his time and intellect.
WHY DID HE QUIT?
A big question, still roiling in the public sphere, to which there are only speculations, harebrained theories, but no definite answers. Only Abubakar Sani Bello, governor of Niger State, sworn in Friday, can quench public curiosity and agitation on the subject. Comrade Ibrahim Aliyu Tungan Wawa, a writer and retired director in the Niger State Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, who is a close Bello family friend, said the subject  matter “is a privilege between Abu Sani and the chief servant, Gov Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu; so he is the only person who can speak about it.” However, he postulated that from fragments of information on the matter,  he obviously had some “irreconcilable differences with the government, which he felt would have some negative effect on his person and credibility.” For Shesunze, the man simply left “due to ideological differences and other things he was not comfortable with.” Whatever it was, irreconcilable or ideological differences, the state lost “because the man left with his zeal and energy, and most importantly, his blueprint for attracting investment to Niger State. You know, he was a successful business magnate with a lot of international connections. He had visited many developed countries, where he had witnessed real development, which he wanted to transplant in the state. When he left, he left with his vision, ” Shesunze said.
Did his departure, his inability to consummate his tenure and achieve his investment masterplan, wake up a recessive gubernatorial dream? Shesunze suggested that it must have provided some stimulus. “I think,” he siad, “not being able to achieve what he planned for the state must have spurred him to look for another way to implement his blueprint, which I believe he still has. Because immediately he left the state, he started nursing the ambition of being a governor. I believe he didn’t want his dreams to die, and now that he has become the governor, he will like to implement his investment and industrialisation masterplan.”
WHY HE RAN
Abubakar Sani Bello, economist, was trained at University of Maiduguri, where he earned his B.Sc in the discipline. He also trained in Nigeria Military School,  Zaria. He took to politics in 1993, but it was only in 2015 that he submitted himself for electoral mandate to govern large scale social organisation. And when he ran, it was on the platform of All Progressives Congress, with a banner catchphrase, ‘Restoration 2015.’ To support the political mantra,  the centrepiece of his manifesto, the candidate observed in the preface to the restoration manifesto that “the indices of development and mere observations show clearly that the state needs an injection of great and innovative ideas, quality and selfless leadership to turn things around for the benefit of all Nigerlites and to take the state to greatness and glory.”
The cardinal programmes of the candidate, about 10 items, called Flagship Priority Programmes, included job creation and youth empowerment, education, health, agriculture and food security, infrastructural development, and peace and security. Others are public service reform, value re-orientation, industrialisation and natural resources management. The manifesto included elaborate roadmaps for achieving each of the flagship programmes and the key governance outcomes, which may serve as the crucible for measuring the effectiveness of government and its flagship projects. “The implementation strategy, ” says the governor, “shall be guided by our core guiding philosophy. ” These guiding philosophies are a conscious and deliberate emphasis on people, respect for the dignity of Nigerlites, accountability, integrity of government and governance,  pursuit of excellence, and good governance, based on transparency, participation and inclusion of all citizens and upholding the rule of law.
From the manifesto,  it is unequivocally clear that the governor knows what he is about. He has a crystal clear vision and mission, a realistic agenda with the right implementation tool box, and suitable guiding philosophy, which will serve as constant reminders to policy formulators and implementors. What is more, the governor has a measuring rod to determine if outcomes matched planning or the initial drawing board expectations, a necessary sine qua non for review, reversal, or intensification of public policy. This is a private sector culture, strange to our local governance model, which obviously borrowed heavily from the governor’s private sector background. Shesunze suggests that there will be a transmission of ‘private sector values,’ which emphasises economic success, to Minna Government House. He said: “Just as he did not fail as a businessman,  he would not like Niger State to fail economically.” Comrade Ibrahim Aliyu Tunga Wawa concurs: “In the private sector, people don’t tolerate laxity or wastages. This governor obviously will not tolerate indolence, laxity,  or wastages in management of public resources.”
In spite of the clarity of his vision and agenda, efforts have been made by some stakeholders to scale the areas of intervention, which should be in the governor’s gun sight for the next four years. In a telephone interview with Newsline on Sunday, Comrade Saidu Ibrahim, chairman of Kontagora Youths Development Association (KEYODA), suggested that Gov Sani Bello pay heavy attention to education, particularly primary education, saying “If we get it right in the area of primary education,  we will obviously get it right with the secondary and tertiary levels of education.” He said KEYODA recently held a summit, where participants enumerated areas that have suffered attention deficit from past governments and suggested ways to overcome the problems “in order to move Niger State forward. ” He said their suggested blueprint to the Niger State dilemma, which was at a compilation stage at the time of writing this report, will be sent to the governor for his guidance.
Comrade Aliyu Tungan Wawa, who presented a paper at the KEYODA summit,  listed other areas that should get lion share of attention as primary health care (particularly preventive and curative medicine), diversification of revenue away from the monthly Federation Account hand-outs (to agriculture and new areas of investment), revitalising the civil service, and blocking areas of wastes or leakages in governance and the Board of Internal Revenue. “I believe, ” he said, “that critical stakeholders in the state have a responsibility to pinpoint those salient areas that will help the government to maximise opportunities for success and good governance.”
FAMILY CULTURE
The Bello family is a brand name in Kontagora town, headquarters of Kontagora Local Government, in Niger State. The mere mention of the name conjures up distinct impression: islamic scholarship, justice, preeminence in public service and discipline, benevolence,  philanthropy,  community service, patriotism. That name must feel like deadweight on the shoulders of young family members to the extent that they may feel they lacked the strengths or stamina to carry it, but it must also be a source of inspiration and motivation for descendants of the family to work hard, excel, provide exemplary leadership and be of good character in private and public spheres, to be above board, as they say, in order not to rubbish hard earned family reputations of several generations. Many people feel strongly that the governor will not suffer the moral and ethical breadown of many who go to political office for selfish and pecuniary reasons “because,” as Shesunze observed, “he is already too rich. Even by the time he came to serve as a commissioner,  he was already ok. So he has come to serve. That is the purpose for which he has come to public office.” The governor will be continually oppressed by a consciousness that should he fail, he will drag his distinguished family name in the mud.
Comrade Ibrahim Aliyu Tungan Wawa agrees that the family name will be a force for good, a a red flag, and constant reminder to walk the narrow path. Besides, he said, as a man who received military training and discipline and is a good and efficient economic manager, as private sector operator, “You cannot teleguide him. By his own training and orientation, he has acquired the know-how in the art of management of human and material resources”. Consequently, he declared, “Abu will not tolerate waste; he will channel resources to productive sectors of the state economy.
“Abu will not tolerate extravagance.
“Abu will not tolerate abuse of office.
“And Abu is going to stand for merit,  efficiency and effectiveness because his central focus is the economy. In his life, as a private investor, he has succeeded in all his undertakings – in petroleum industry, airline, telecommunications,  banking, etc. So Abu will not tolerate indiscipline, because by his orientation and being born in a military family, his ethics are strict. He will not tolerate indiscipline in the civil service. And definitely,  I believe,  Abu is going to reward hard work and punish lazy ones.
“He is a man who stands for merit. He is a detribalised leader, in the sense that he doesn’t care whether you are from Kontagora, or from Zone A or Zone B, provided that you can discharge your assignment to the best of your ability and to his satisfaction,  you are Abu’s friend.”
Shesunze said, if as a businessman,  Abu Lolo did not tolerate anything that would jeopardise his business; as a governor he would not tolerate anything that would jeopardise the economy and well being of the state. Well put and succinctly too. Abu cares.

 

TAURARUWA