Gov Bala Mohammed and Politics of Criticism

By Danliti Goga

 I was putting finishing touches to a criticism of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development following Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State’s disturbing allegation that the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) is not working in Bauchi State because funds for the programme are being diverted to private pockets , when the rejoinder from the Ministry caught my attention.  The rejoinder was so comprehensive in details of various NSIP projects implemented in Bauchi State that I just had to review my write up and ascertain the status of the programme in the state. 

Governor, Bala Mohammed made the allegations while flagging off the distribution of empowerment materials to selected beneficiaries under the Kaura Economic Empowerment Programme, which is the state government’s version of the NSIP. He said, “ The APC economic empowerment is so huge but it is not reaching anywhere and I want it to be conveyed to the Presidency. The Social Investment Programme is not working.  They don’t have anything like this (Kaura Economic Empowerment Programme) to show, whereas, a trillion naira is budgeted for that.”

For a state governor to make such a weighty allegation implies that it is authoritative and factual but when the ministry released its own statement as the implementation agency, it rendered the governor’s version questionable due to lack of necessary details when compared to the ministry’s rejoinder. As a concerned citizen, the urge to ascertain the situation was irresistible if only to be better informed before taking a stand.

The Ministry’s rejoinder issued by the National Coordinator of the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP), Umar Bindir maintained that N1 trillion budgeted for the NSIP was not siphoned and described the allegations as “unsubstantiated, manifestly false, and have absolutely no bearing to the realities on ground.” Significantly, it said in Bauchi State, there are 75,110 poor and vulnerable households in the National Social Registry, made up of 401,395 individuals, from which a total of 99,957 from all the 20 twenty LGAs are in the National Beneficiary Register (NBR) currently receiving monthly payments up to date.

 It also pointed out that the NSIP is jointly implemented by state government appointed officials and indigenes, including the head of the State NSIP implementation team or Focal Person directly appointed by the Governor.  All beneficiaries and participants are indigenes of the state and payments to participants and beneficiaries go directly into their individual accounts.

It also gave verifiable statistics on the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP), N-Power beneficiaries, Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), Grant for Rural Women, Engagement of community-based Independent Monitors (IMs), Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and the Alternate School Programme (ASP) “as ample and credible evidence that the NSIP is fully operational and functional across Nigeria, including Bauchi State”.

For the other side of story pertaining to the antecedents that may have informed the governor’s “unsubstantiated” criticism I concluded that my best option was to follow the press coverage of the NSIP in Bauchi State.  It was however lamentable that, contrary to my expectations, there was nothing in the press coverage to warrant such sweeping denunciation of the NSIP in Bauchi State. In fact it was interesting to come across a September 20, 2019 news report by Daily Nigerian saying “ The Executive Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, Wednesday, defied partisan politics to laud the Social Investment Programmes of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration!”

It quoted the governor from an interview on Channels Television acknowledging that NSIP programmes met the needs of ordinary Nigerians thus “The social investment programme is working and I am very happy with it because the N-Power is working. That is the only solace to the graduates where they find some form of employment. ” He even hinted on taking a cue from the NSIP to introduce a similar scheme in Bauchi State which, ironically, he launched last week with a diatribe against it !

Another report from November 15, 2020 was on Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Sadiya Faruk supporting 200 poor women in Bauchi state with the sum of N20, 000 each as part of federal government’s conditional cash transfer program where citizens receive the token sum of N5, 000 each monthly, affirming that  a total of 54, 738 vulnerable households in Bauchi state would benefit.

The clincher was that the minister presented the money to the beneficiaries at the office of the wife of the Bauchi state governor Aisha Bala Mohammed who received the minister and even lauded the federal government for the gesture assuring that the state government would complement it through women empowerment programs. When you consider the many reported previous instances of cordial official meetings between Governor Bala Mohammed and the Humanitarian Affairs Minister in Bauchi and Abuja where mutual satisfaction and shared commitment to the progressive implementation of the NSIP and other poverty and youth and rural women empowerment programmes of the Buhari Administration defined the discussions, it is truly perplexing to diagnose the governor’s grouse.

 After all he was aware of measures taken to ensure accountability and optimum implementation of the NSIP because Sadiya Umar Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, made the announcement of the posting of  300 independent cash monitors for the National Social Investment Programme ( NSIP ) in Bauchi State after a meeting with him in Government Ho use.

However, the search of news reports gave some clues such as when the Daily Nigerian report on Governor Bala Mohammed’s candid commendation of NSIP on Channels Television quipped that he had “defied partisan politics” in so doing. That Governor Bala Mohammed is an incurable politician is a notorious fact given his tendency to leap into political puddles, often without looking. He had no qualms basing his abrupt decision to dissolve his cabinet on his preference for politicians rather than civil servants and technocrats.

The governor said: ”I dissolved my cabinet because some of them do not know much about politics, so I had to bring in the real politicians who can do the job and join hands with me to move the state forward Nevertheless, I must commend them, because they performed very well .”  By his own admission, Governor Bala Mohammed places politics above performance even in constituting his cabinet, so we must also situate his unsubstantiated denunciation of the NSIP within this context.

In the world beyond the governor’s whims and caprices however, a more credible, objective and honourable assessment of the NSIP and indeed the entire challenging national assignment incorporated in the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and deservingly assigned to Hajiya Saadiya Umar Farouq has been meticulously carried out.

In a bold and befitting appreciation of her humble but herculean capacity for hard work for humanity, the Minister has just received a diplomatic award for transparency and accountability by the International Human Right Commission (IHRC). The Country Head of IHRC Dr Friday Sani said the minister was found worthy for her hard work and diligence towards making impact on the lives of Nigerians, especially, the youths through the National Social Investment Programmes after a two-year investigation with the help of world class security organization partner known as the International Police Corporation which cleared her of several complaints over financial irregularities, diversion of funds meant for the poor people of Nigeria.

In an apt response , the Minister thanked the commission for the award, noting that the activities of the ministry and agencies under its jurisdiction were built on transparency and remarked: ‘’We are very grateful and humble. As it is always said history or posterity will judge us right. This award goes to the teams who have supported me through thick and thin. I see this as divine; we will continue to serve our country to the best of our ability.” Posterity speaks louder than politics, PERIOD !