By George Daniya

Democracy Day in Niger State was a low key celebration; no loud boisterous activities, but it brought journalists together in a first media parley with Governor Abubakar Sani Bello. More than any other journalist in the state, only the correspondents covering Government House, the seat of power in Minna, have been opportune to know Governor Bello, to some extent, but Democracy Day availed many of my colleagues the opportunity for a close contact with him. It was an interactive forum that brought together all the media houses in the state to probe Mr Governor. My colleagues, especially those not familiar with the governor, were given to thinking that the governor was a shy person, especially because he avoided large scale press interviews. On Tuesday last week, many of them were thrown into disbelief as the governor engaged them headlong, answering all their questions without flinching and even bantering. He spoke passionately about Niger State, his intentions, dreams, and challenges. When the governor said that he didn’t make a promise to the people during his campaign in 2015, it was not in a literal sense; of course he did make some promises, but they were promises he knew he could handle immediately he got to power. Just listen to him when asked if he has fulfilled his campaign promises: “Let me correct you, first of all. Yes, expectations; coming from where we came from, right through our campaign period, we were very careful not to make a promise. Why? Because at that time we had an idea of the deficiency we had, an idea of the challenges, an idea of the gap we had in infrastructure, we had an idea of all the problems. But we didn’t get full information with regards to the depth of the problems, until we were sworn-in.”

As a Commissioner of Investment, Commerce and Cooperatives in the immediate past regime, Governor Bello said he was already well-informed and acquainted with Niger State and its problems, but it would be dishonest to make gigantic promises that could not be met. “If we had promised heaven and earth, we will face problems.” The crux of the issue is that the governor is focused on the completion of the projects he inherited, projects, according to him, which have direct bearing on the people. To his recollection, he made two promises: To do something about Tegina Road (in Kagara LGA) and the Sabon Gari Road in Minna, which he said would be his first gubernatorial action. And that was exactly what he did: those roads were the first he fixed. Gov Bello was already in the system, and before he took a sudden decision to resign his appointment, he saw the gathering clouds of economic downturn. He knew that making too many promises would spell doom for them, so he chose to be careful.

 Listening to Mr Governor, one could see that he meant well for the state. He wants his wealth of experience in the business and investment sector to come into play; so he is building a Niger State that would be privately driven. To him, the future of the state is bright, but it can only shine if the state moved away from over-reliance on the Federal Government monthly allocation. For him, it would be certain doom if the state did not increase its internal revenue generation. He saw many encouraging indices; he said if the informal Mariga Market could make a turnover of N1.5b every market day, what would happen when the market was made formal. He regretted that in the past the state government had not made effort to tap into potential.

The governor is concerned that 70 per cent of the Federation Account allocation to the state was spent on salary, a sad situation that prompted him to make boosting the state internally generated revenue a top priority. And he is making progress on that front; currently, he said, the state is collecting over N1billion in internal revenue. Still, he said, more can be collected. He wants to exploit all the potentials available in the state. Therefore, he is seeking for investment partners all over the globe, with major preference for Middle East investors. Yes, Gulf oil money can do magic to our state economy. All that the governor needs is the support from all and sundry.

A major problem hindering investors from coming to do businesses in Nigeria is the social media, which is awash with uncomplimentary reports about the country. It scares investors, the governor said. He thus appealed to patriotic sentiments of Nigerians; that the country should always be portrayed in good terms. Doing so would rub-off positively on efforts of leaders who want to attract investors to our clime.

LAST WORD: At the parley with the media on Tuesday, the governor broke his silence: in response to a question, he said he would seek re-election in the 2019 polls. He said is seeking a second term in office so that he can water the seed he has planted for the next generation to enjoy in his first tenure. He said what he has been doing in the first four years was lay a foundation for a better future and requires the second term to build on the foundation. Consequently, he urged Nigerlites to support his ambition to complete what he had started. “A lot of what we have we have planted cannot be completed now. We have laid the foundation and platform. Most of these things require gestation period, and that is why we are going to appeal to Nigerlites to re-elect us so that we take advantage of the next four years to ensure we have completed whatever it is that we planted today. We will not benefit from it, but the future generation will benefit from it,” he said.