By Ndama Abubakar

MD, Newsline

emir (6)

Dr Abubakar Sani Bello

One year after he assumed office, it is still a very difficult project to try to describe the governor of Niger State,  Dr Abubakar Sani Bello, son of multi-billionaire businessman and former military governor of Kano State, Col Sani Bello (rtd). The reason for this partly is that character is eternally evolving, but among fully formed adults, who have become fairly fixed in their ways, it is somehow possible to distil or discern the elements that constitute their character. Within what has unfolded so far, it is possible to identify a mix of personality traits that summed up to the quintessential Abu Lolo, as he is well-known, the governor with an ivy league background who is attempting to commit class suicide. By giving up four solid years or perhaps eight, if he is re-elected in 2019, is the governor not imperilling his billion naira business empire by leaving it in the hands of others, working just for salaries, who might not have his investment and administrative acumen, drive, ‘long-leg’, vision, flair, and commitment. It is clear from his inaugural address that this governor, who is undoubtedly richer in Naira and Kobo terms than the necessitous, luckless state he has come to rule, is not in power for the spoils of political office or economic adventure, but to increase the quality of man.  In his May 29, 2015 inaugural speech, he said: “My political ambition was inspired by the plight of our people, which has been of great concern to me and all well-meaning Nigerlites. We have seen how politics had consistently been used to divide our people, and as a pretext for diverting our scarce resources for funding projects of doubtful social and economic benefits to the state.” 
Recently, he told a group of development partners, (i.e. World Bank/French Development Agency) that he was committed to changing the living conditions of the people; that he had seen so much that material things no longer detain or enslave his acquisitive desire, except to make them available to the greatest number of people.
What can we say about the man? 
Simplicity: Gov Bello lacks complication or complexity; he is, as they say, the guy next door. He does not put on airs, no hauteur, to dramatise his self-importance or wealthy background. He is what Dr Ibrahim Dooba, his former press secretary, said of him in trying to interpret him to the world that, unless you are told, he can be easily lost in the crowd. “Here is a man,” Dr Dooba said when he had interface with heads of state-run media parastatals in the state early in the life of Bello Administration, “who has affluent background, but for whom that does not matter. He mixes freely with the people.” One day, while driving along Broadcasting Road, he caused his motorcade to stop in front of an open air roadside snack joint to buy roasted yam, a delicacy he relished.
The governor is plain speaking, without adornment of language common with politicians, intended to hoodwink, cheat, avoid responsibility, or lure the people to sleep when they intend a policy to serve some hidden agenda. He means what he says and says what he means. Gov Bello does not engage in double-speak.
Focus: The governor has a fixation with policy and implementation. He has followed through with all the inaugural pledges he made at Bako Kontagora Memorial Stadium, Minna, when he was sworn-in to office May 29, 2015. To give just a few examples: during his inauguration, he said he was going to do a forensic audit of the state finances to determine the true indebtedness of the state and the utilisation of the bonds to see if they were correctly applied; that he had done by setting up Financial Management Committee, led by ex-CBN director of Currency Operations, Mohammed Nda, which revealed benumbing financial sleaze and recklessness of the immediate past administration. He said he was going to restructure the unwieldy civil service, dominated by 36 ministries; that mission too had been accomplished, resulting in a slim number of 14 ministries. When he decried overpricing and over inflation of contract as the bane of development in the state, he was not just complaining: he was ready to confront it. As an example, he has brought down overvalued contract price of N1.8b to N400m. Needless to say, his pledge to renovate the courts to enhance justice delivery in the state is currently being operationalised. 
Gov Bello has a stubborn will, without being mean, which helps him to carry on without distraction or in spite of sly or pronounced subterfuges masquerading as well-meaning advice to dissuade or discourage him from the pursuit of public good.
Impromptu oversight calls: A trademark management style of Gov Bello is his penchant for surprise, unannounced visit to MDAs or projects to assess work, project status or resource application or use. The objective is to apprehend the state of affairs without the chance of adulteration, concealment or embellishment by officials, which would impair the facts on the ground to somebody’s favour, but to the ultimate disadvantage of the public which the institution or project was intended to serve. In the early days of the administration, the governor would, without any hint, break off a ministerial briefing and hop into the car for an emergency on-spot assessment tour of a project or facility to confirm a point just made. He used the information so derived for policy building, review or action. When the governor visited Newsline Newspapers in March, this year, the management hadn’t the slightest whiff of intelligence or prophecy that he would be their honoured guest that day. His visits to Abdulkareem Lafene Secretariat, Niger State Transport Authority, Radio Niger, Niger State Agricultural Mechanisation Development Agency, Science Equipment and Development Institute, on-going projects, etc. had been conducted in the same guise. The governor double checks every information for its integrity to avoid policy failure or embarrassment. 
Financial intelligence:  The governor has mathematical and financial savvy, earned from his backgrounds as a graduate of economics, from University of Maiduguri, and his involvement in banking boardrooms. He was also an investment goombah, owning a cocktail of interests in aviation, hospitality, communications, oil and gas sectors. His decisions on several matters are determined by cost-benefit analysis. His shrewdness in financial matters has saved the state costly millions. In one well-known example, a contract for road rehabilitation valued at N1.8b was reduced to under N400m.
Self-effacement: The governor is averse to worshipful publicity; indeed, he warned his cabinet members that, rather than take to the pages of the newspaper to congratulate him on his birthday, a collective birthday best wishes expressed in a greeting card from them would suffice. The governor prefers his achievements in office to speak for him, rather than rig up media hype or publicity stunt to arrest public imagination. The governor’s intense aversion to media celebration was once captured in his metaphoric catch phrase, reported in an edition of Newsline On Sunday, that “I do not want to be a billboard governor.” He said he wants to be celebrated in the minds of the people, through his genuine and concrete achievements. 
When I was writing this article, I was warned that the governor would not read it if he sensed that he was at the centre of an adulatory article; to which I said, “Fine I was writing about him to the world.”