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GOV. ZULUM: TRAVERSING WHERE SOLDIERS FEAR TO TREAD

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By: Inuwa Bwala

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I do not have to conduct any research to reach the conclusion, that Borno state Governor, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum’s rating has geometrically risen. Indeed, he is making book makers eat their words, as many did not give him a chance, in the face of the plethora of challenges confronting him. Now even his critics have run out of raw materials and are beginning to change their minds. Those who called us names for saying the Governor hit the road running are avoiding us. Good work speaks for itself, and as the Hausa’s will say, “yabon goni ya zama dole”.

His achievements have tended to put advocates of negative reportage out of business. Very often, I find it difficult resisting the temptation of returning to my days as a reporter, given that journalists do not have to look too far for story lines, once they are with Professor zulum. Trailing reports of his visits makes it easy writing about him, even from the comfort of one’s room.

I might not have had the privilege to go with him to some of the areas he visited, having caught up with the team only in Hawul and Biu Local Government areas. But it is no longer news that, Professor Babagana Umara Zulum spent the yuletide period traversing the southern part of Borno State. The reports about the southern Borno outing so easily fell onto my laps: thanks to the vibrant media coverage he enjoys, especially in the social media.

When he first called, during his maiden tour of the state, many people thought the commitments he made, to the effect that within one hundred days, he was going to turn around most of the negativities associated with structural development, as mere political statements. To some, he was swimming in the euphoria of the new office and to others, he did not seem to realize the enormity of the challenges before him, that was why he was making some of the commitments.

He chose the Christmas and new year period to again visit. This time around to assess the various works and gauge the mood of citizens towards him and his administration. Most importantly to retire skeptics, and to make a statement to the effect that, it is possible to do the right thing even in the face of challenges. I was overwhelmed by the quality and levels of the jobs, just as he must have been overjoyed with the reception accorded him by the people at every stop and on the way.

From Gwoza to to Askira/Uba, Hawul and Biu, where I caught up with team, all the projects he earlier earmarked had been completed or at final stages of completion. As he moved around commissioning or inspecting some of the projects, the Governor was dishing new orders for even more amenities to be provided in each community he visited. The tour also accorded him the opportunity to reassess the damage caused to private and public infrastructure by Boko Haram, even as he continuously outlines moves to rebuild and rehabilitate.

In Gwoza where Governor Zulum spent two nights, he started with distribution of relief materials to citizens who were affected by the insurgency. Professor Zulum while distributing the material assured citizens of his determination to ensure peace returns to Borno.

This was followed with the commissioning of a Primary Health Care Center in Pulka, Gwoza Local Government, where he directed for the immediate drilling of ten aquifer boreholes to address water problem in Gwoza. He equally ordered the construction 1000 housing units to address housing problem.

The Governor moved on to Hawul, where he commissioned a 40 bed capacity hospital in Kwajaffa town, inspected ongoing work at the palace of the District Head as well as construction work at the central Primary School, Kwajaffa. It was in Kwajaffa that the Governor was informed that he remains the first sitting Governor to visit Kwajaffa in more than fifty years.

He was almost mobbed by jubilant citizens in Azare, the local Government headquarters where he moved to Azare. There he inaugurated a 100 bed capacity hospital, before departing for Government Secondary School Sakwa, to inspect massive rehabilitation work on staff quarters, the administrative block and parts of the academic area. Governor Zullum’s next port of call was the multi skills acquisition center in Marama town: an initiative of Bura Women Development Association. The Skills Acquisition center, the first privately initiated center attracted his attention earlier as a result of which he pumped in about N200 million to complete it. He also promised to expand the center, with a promise to collaborate with the owners for its take off.

Apparently not finished with Hawul and the Marama Community in particular, Professor Zulum upgraded the Government Secondary School Marama to a senior Secondary School, promised to build a mortuary at the General Hospital Marama as well as fencing the collapsed part of the hospital wall. He capped it with participating in the annual Bura Cultural Day, which holds in Marama every first day of the year. I understand he was meant to be brief in Marama, but the thrills of the Bura festival held him down. It did not come as a surprise that the Marama Community honored him with an award, for his special recognition of her sons and daughters.

Bura Cultural Day remains the only event that pulls together all the five judges from the town, all five Professors, the numerous lawyers, engineers, doctors, professionals and course a chunk of Professor Zulum’s cabinet. It was an occasion for the Marama community to also celebrate their own, this time around, the new Head of the Civil Service, Barrister Simon Malgwi was the cynosure of attention.

With Zulum, neither darkness nor the chilling harmattan cold in Hawul could stop him visiting Kwaya/Bura to inspect and commission a Health Care Center and a Primary School: both initiatives of his administration. The cowardly ones like me could not continue at that point to Biu, where he continued attending to stakeholders, elders and youths from all adjoining Local Governments.

We were however at hand when Professor Babagana Zulum commissioned the ultra-modern Local Government secretariat in Biu, seemingly breaking the jinx of a befitting accommodation for one of the oldest Local Government Areas in the state. He had earlier commissioned a mega Primary School in Biu town, before paying a visit to the octogenarian mother of the Deputy Governor, Hajiya Kwaksa Usman Kadafur.

Hajiya has never prayed for somebody as passionately as she did for the Professor of Agricultural Engineering. Many could not understand the language in which she prayed, but many could not hold conceal their emotional attachments to that motherly blessing.

I was tempted to continue with the Governor to his next destination until he announced that he was taking the Biu-Damboa-Maiduguri road. That was the moment that defined the brave as different from the lily livered like me. And Professor Zulum traversed where even soldiers fear to tread, by spending the night in Damboa.

Even soldiers who went with him to Damboa later confessed, that, they have never seen this display of courage and sheer patriotism by any leader in the quest to identify with the led. They spent the night on their toes, even when to him it was normal, having vowed to rescue his people from the jaws of the Frankenstein monster called Boko Haram.

Inuwa Bwala is a journalist and Public Affairs Commentator.

About Femi Ige