To the Chief Servant, With Love By Lanre Bucknor
“Brace yourself boy, you are on your way to the power state”.
That was the thought that struck me minutes after dancing for joy on sighting the deployment list of my class. I didn’t dance for joy for the fact that I was being posted to Niger, I actually misread the line reading my data and the corresponding deployed state. I saw OG instead of NG!
I started thanking God in euphoria until a classmate jolted me to reality with her question: “Ogbeni, kilode to n dunnu?” my response was laced with elation: “Omo, Ogun lo gbemi lo now!”. She laughed her soul out and reminded me that since I had not taken alcohol, how come I was seeing double? I checked again and the list dropped out of my hand. NIGER it was, against my data!
As if that was not enough, myself with some others posted to Niger and three other northern states had to wait for another two weeks before we proceeded to the orientation camp because of the menace of the ‘Benson and Hedges’ boys inherent at that time. Niger was included because of the highly popular and unfortunate Christmas day bombing in Madalla area of Suleja.
Away from the tales and travails of a corps member, although it is what transpired to me living in another state apart from Lagos where I have spent the major part of my life. It brought about what this piece is all about, it made my pen flow with inspiration to want to compare, contrast and model Niger with Lagos.
Almost everyone reading this piece knows the location of both states on the legendary Nigeria Map, both states has the Universal solvent as their base, Lagos having the Atlantic Ocean and Niger; the Fouta Djallon sourced River Niger.
Gidi, as it is referred to in street parlance is governed by Raji Fashola (SAN) while Niger is governed by the Chief servant Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu (Talban Minna). Both men speak impeccable English, the country’s lingua franca. The latter being a massive orator with ‘sugar coated’ tongue, our man can use his tongue to build ‘fourth mainland’ bridge leading from Gidi to his Niger. I respect both men for different reasons.
I am not the legendary Martin Luther King Jnr. but I have a dream that Niger can be like Lagos. Yes it can be!
*blocks sachet water*
Modeling Niger after Lagos might seem like a ‘pipe dream’ because both states differs so much in attributes but remember the ADIDAS’ slogan??
‘Almighty’ Lagos have its own disadvantages too, some of which Niger state have in abundance but which has not been put to judicious use, thus there’s absolute possibility for the Power state to cover up in that regards.
Lagos has abundance of human capital as it is the commercial capital but on the irony, it has the smallest landmass out of the 36 states the country boasts of. Commercial activities thrive in Lagos as there is abundance man power to execute industrial and technological endeavors. In other words, Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) ‘is amass. Niger state on the other hand boasts of the largest chunk of nature’s free gift as far as the country goes. Not only is its landmass the largest, it is also very fertile. There is hardly anything you would put into Niger’s soil that won’t grow. I trust even stones would grow if one is patient enough. Niger’s population is less than 4 million though.
Land fertility gives an advantage with a particular word spelt, ‘AGRICULTURE’!
Lagos gets its IGR from anything you can possibly think of, from LASAA’s advertisement stunts to LAWMA’s waste disposal technique. Such might not be instantly possible here in Niger but a lot could come from yam planting and regulation from Paiko, beans ‘exportation’ in Mokwa, beef production in Bida and the heavy melon seed planting in Wuya-Kede! Lest I forget, MAIZUBE farms boasts of one of the best dairy products in the country, there goes another gold mine.
How can some of these and more be achieved??
Pump money into mechanized agriculture, making use of nature’s free gift in its abundance. Push a large chunk of the state’s budget into commercial agriculture. ‘Wetin mouth go chop must sell’ and the returns would be more than massive.
On another note, don’t just produce, STORE! Storage is of utmost importance, large tonnes of food items cannot be sold off in a day; procure massive storage facilities for the perishable food crops.
Doing the above won’t only bring about massive IGR, it won’t only kill hunger, it would not only eradicate unemployment but will also attract foreign investors clamoured for by the state because not even other states but nations thrive on lesser natural endowments when compared to NIGER’s. A case can be made of Argentina that gets majority of its income from cattle and beef, Ghana once thrived on Cocoa and Nigeria herself sold Cocoa from the west, Groundnut from the north and Oil palm from the east to finance herself in the past.
Chief servant sir, you understand more than I have said.
In Tourism, it is not only enough to possess the Gurara Water Falls, neither is it just enough to be the host state of the legendary Zuma Rock. To regard these sites and the many others that are inherent here, they have to be well exploited, money has to be spent to bring them to international standard or at least African standard.
As a trained Estate surveyor, I was taught the basic principle of value is location. Location itself is enhanced by accessibility. How are the roads leading to these lovely sites, are they motorable? These are natural sites and I don’t expect them to be brought to the centre of Minna, take Minna to these sites, take the world there and the state’s purse would be healthier than that of Qatar!
Zuma Rock for instance would not bring a dime in its present state; we need to take a cue from Ogun state’s Olumo Rock. Seeing the picture of God’s glory would not bring cash either. Lagos that we are trying to emulate here exploits all means of revenue.
I have lived in this state long enough to have learnt that an average child in this part of the country dreams of only two choices of profession: a soldier or a politician!
It goes beyond ‘Free Education’, it goes beyond just going to school. The average young person here believes those are the only two routes to becoming fulfilled and comfortable meanwhile a lot exists. Do I blame them?
It is simple enough; let’s awaken the other sectors of the state’s economy. The only sets of role models these young ones have are General Ibrahim Babangida, General Abdul Salam Abubakar and former Military administrator of the state and present senate president, David Mark.
Awaken the construction industry by awarding state projects to local contractors; start with small projects, follow-up on these projects, make millionaires out of your hardworking indigenes and you won’t beg any child to go to school. They would dream of being architects, builders, estate surveyors, engineers and what have you. They would repair the tractors used for farming, they would suggest ways to practice massive irrigation and they would build your roads and link your communities. In fact, they would make bigger name than that of Professor Jerry Gana, from that village called Busu.
The reason a human holds three jobs without delivering on any is that, qualified manpower is rare and hence, a qualified man manipulates himself into three jobs! Cut these excesses by employing qualified personnel from other states. Corps members are not only useful in your village schools, take them to state parastatals and let them bring input from wherever they have come from and pay them handsomely, look at the money not. They would add value to your communities, they’d inspire your people, they’d instinctively push your kids to want to go to school and by the time you cut expenses of ‘ghost workers’, employment would go round. This imported workforce would influence your community to be like Lagos in a way and besides, who says there is no place like Busu in present day Lagos!
Minna is a class apart. Minna is healthier than most other towns. I am taking my cue from Lagos dear Chief Servant!! Ikeja is not the cutest, in essence, investors won’t come because Minna is a ‘tight’ city. There’s really nothing of note to invest in the capital city! The state’s Gold mines are at all the interior villages we can think of, the money would flow in from agriculture that would and cannot be practiced in Minna. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against Minna being cute, I am only advocating for same prototype for other major towns and cities. We don’t need to go far; we start from the roads connecting Minna to other parts of the state. Are they in perfect condition to ensure the safety of our investors?
Agreed! An investor would first get into Minna before proceeding anywhere else but after getting to Minna and seeing the beautiful scenery, would he not be on his way to the villages to purchase raw materials for his melon seed oil? Would he not need to transact business with his customers in Paiko for the yam flour he produces? Or is it only minna we intend getting industrialised? The state’s goldmines lies in the villages, the geese that lay the golden eggs needs to be treated with utmost care, interior Niger needs to feel the impact of the state’s seat of administration!
I do not expect any governor to turn things around in 4 years, I don’t expect any man to make Niger rival Lagos even in 8 years but a step in the right direction is all we need. We don’t want miracles; all we need is the improvement in the life of the common man!
Policies that don’t affect the price of a ‘mudu’ of garri are not what we need, the common man doesn’t want to know the meaning of palliative measures. All the common man needs to hear is that he’d be entitled to 3 square meals daily, his children would be entitled to qualitative education, his health won’t only be government’s concern, it would be available, the common man doesn’t want to know the meaning of sustainable development, he wants to feel it!
And before I forget, the local government chairmen and councillors do not stay out of their local vicinities, they do not travel to Ikeja and only come to the secretariats at the end of the month, they do not come home only on weekends and they don’t come home only when they are being invited to high profile parties in Lagos. We are not asking Niger’s local government chairmen to be static but they should feel the people first hand. They should be responsible for any mishap that can be prevented in their areas; they should submit a report of their incomes and judicious expenditures expressed freely!
Chief servant sir, I am never in a position to teach you your job, you have been massive for the state, my cousin said so, he schooled and lives in minna, he praised your steps at stopping ‘money sharing’ government, he praised your steps at killing the ‘ghost worker’ syndrome. He believes in your oratory prowess to make things happen but oratory prowess can’t move a grain of sand, it cannot put food on the table of the common man neither can it increase the IGR capacity of this great state. The state has potentials and needs to move physically. This is the reason why I have allowed my pen to flow again!
Yes! I have a dream and yes, it can be achieved!
Governance is ‘simply’ defined as doing what satisfies common Good. – ‘Lanre Bucknor
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