Sokoto: Silent Revolution Making Loud Impact By Imam Imam
In Sokoto, it has been 365 days since the election of Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as Governor of the state. It has been a time different approach to governance. While expectations were high following the ouster of the former ruling party at the national level, Tambuwal and his team understood the need to render diligent service to the people. That diligence was spiced up with innovations that have not only made the necessary impact, but have galvanised the citizens into being part of the governance process.
As a member of the new breed political class, it is safe to say that Tambuwal and his team know too well that doing things the old way is never an option. This is because in addition to the glaring failure of the past, the old ways have left a toxic feel in the political firmament of the nation.
To make the future secure, the present has to be ruffled. Far reaching — and I dare add innovative — decisions were taken to ensure the mistakes of the past were not repeated while at the same time making the necessary impact on the people. Key sectors in the state have felt the impact. As one columnist recently pointed out, in Sokoto, governance trumps politics because all the buttons of development have been pressed.
The last one year has seen its fair share of emotional pain for the people of Sokoto. In September 2015, 114 pilgrims who were away for the annual Muslim pilgrimage died during the now infamous Hajj stampede in Saudi Arabia. 22 other citizens have been missing since then while two sustained various degrees of injuries. They were treated and discharged. Reeling from this pain for a huge number of its citizens, Tambuwal quickly stepped in by providing support to the families of the victims. In that regard, the sum of N500,000 was given to each family of the 138 victims.
In terms of social intervention, Sokoto is shoulders above its peers in the country. Even when the Federal Government was yet to decide on payment of benefit allowances to the vulnerable members of the society, Sokoto had implemented the policy by giving the sum of N6,500 to extremely poor citizens monthly. In addition to this, less privileged members of the society do not have to pay for drugs in hospitals because the government sets aside N10 million monthly for provision of free prescribed drugs to the sick who cannot afford to purchase the drugs. The funds are kept in selected hospitals and pharmaceutical stores in different parts of for easy access.
In education, the impact made by Tambuwal is very visible. First, he declared a state of emergency in the sector and followed that up with a release of N1 billion for settlement of fees for Sokoto students studying in various schools across the globe. The school expansion and renovation project has already commenced in four schools namely: GGC Rabah, GGMSS Illela, GSS Tureta and GDSS Sabon Birni. The government also provided free forms to 8,000 beneficiaries who sat for the unified tertiary institutions admissions examinations in April this year.
As a demonstration of its new found commitment for the sector, government set aside 29% of its 2016 budget estimate to education, the highest allocation in the budget and far above the UNESCO-recommended 26%. Government thereafter flagged off a programme to enroll over one million children into schools in the present academic calendar. Happily, the target has already been met after a total 1,193,760 pupils were enrolled into basic education level for the 2015/2016 academic session. More teachers have been recruited while a committee set up to proffer solution to the challenges confronting the sector has just submitted an interim report. Watch this space because more far reaching decisions are on the way.
In addition to the provision of free drugs, government has passed legislation that has totally transformed the delivery of service in the primary healthcare sub-sector. The PHCs under-one-roof policy has streamlined control and removed unnecessary bureaucracy in the implementation of health goals in Sokoto state. In terms of immunization, after certifying the state polio, lassa and guinea worm free, one million children were immunized against measles in February alone. In the fight against malaria, Sokoto has in the last one year provided more than six million doses of antimalaria drugs to the people. Similarly, 44,808 Artesunate injection vials were administered to patients while more than 3.3 million rapid diagnostic kits were purchased for use in hospitals and other health facilities.
Within the first few months of the second year of the present administration, a signature policy, one that will transform healthcare delivery in the state for ever, will come into effect. About three million citizens are expected to benefit from the Community Contributory Health Scheme. It will expand access to heathcare delivery, reduce the number of those uninsured and importantly reduce medical costs at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. This will form a giant leap towards the famed healthcare for all policy.
One of Tambuwal’s campaign promises was to enhance collaboration with the private sector and empower small businesses to deliver quality service to the populace. In that regard, the sum of N2 billion was set aside by the Government and the Bank of Industry (BoI) as intervention fund for the development of micro, small and medium scale enterprises in Sokoto state. Another N2 billion set aside for the implementation of UNICEF’s 2016 Work Plan in Sokoto. The sectors are education, health, environment, sanitation and nutrition.
Not contented with that, the government signed an MoU with two firms, Erisco Foods Ltd and Prime Gold Fertilizer Company for the establishment of a tomato processing factory and a fertilizer plant in Sokoto. Works toward implementation are at advanced stage. When completed, both entities will provide employment opportunities to thousands of people and open markets for farmers and their produce.
Who can easily forget the impact of the ‘Light Up Sokoto’ initiative that has seen major streets illuminated at night? It not only prevents accidents on the roads, it increases safety of towns and villages. In addition to that, business activities have picked up in Sokoto’s famed and ancient ‘Night Markets.’
Tambuwal’s innovative approach to leadership is more visible in the management of the state’s environment. After reintroducing the monthly sanitation exercise following a decade of suspension, the government then introduced a monetary incentive to have the cleanest neighbourhood rewarded with cash. Without much prompting, people embraced the idea and the quantity of refuse churned out from inner streets within the few week of the implementation nearly overpowered evacuators. Residents have not looked back since. Sokoto has now regained its place as one of the cleanest cities in the federation. To mitigate the effect of desert encroachment, it now mandatory for any person building a new house in Sokoto to plant a tree within his/her premises.
No column space will properly capture what Tambuwal has done in the last one year. That is the duty of book writers to attempt, but it is worth mentioning here that having created employment opportunity for close to 20,000 people in different sectors, notably agriculture, mining and the state civil service, and seeing to the creation of 1,000 new millionaires following the payment of N2.6 billion to nearly 2,000 retirees, the upward trajectory of impact on the economy of the state will only continue.
After coming to power in a time of raging economic crisis, with many states struggling to even pay monthly salaries of their workers, Tambuwal has steadied the ship and prevented a wreck. In one year, he has engineered quite a few quiet revolutions that are today making loud impacts in his state. His approach to issues like legislative harmony, youth and women empowerment, environment, finance and civil service reforms has reshaped governance and stood his administration out as a government of relentless activism.
*Imam is the Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs to Governor Tambuwal. He’s on Twitter @imamdimam