By Fabian Okoye
He shuns the limelight but his meteoric rise in politics and innovative and inclusive approach to governance have kept him permanently in the eye of the public. His actions and inactions are closely watched. He is like the golden fish that has no hiding place.
Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, teacher, lawyer, administrator, politician and humanist is a man of destiny. His unique attributes have endeared him to people across geo-political divides. Love or hate him, you cannot ignore him. He is the politicians politician, the quintessential bridge builder and the master political strategist. He is an enigma. The more you think you know the man Tambuwal, the more he confounds you. When you think he has drawn a line in the sand with people who betrayed him politically, he surprises you by re-embracing such individuals and showing even greater love to them. He is uniquely made.
He loves Sokoto State and Nigeria passionately. He spends sleepless nights visualizing how Sokoto State and Nigeria can become models of development. Nigeria saw a bit of the essential Tambuwal when he was Speaker of the House of Representatives. He set a record of responsible, responsive and fearless leadership. His leadership was crisis free and prudent. Nigerians still yearn for a return to Tambuwal – Style Legislative Leadership.
Sokoto State, the Seat of the Caliphate, is fast feeling the impact of Tambuwal’s Administration. Tambuwal is a man on a mission. He does not act on impulse. He is methodical. He is also a stickler for due process and details. In 2015, he met a state in a mess. Instead of agonizing, he set to work. Despite obstacles placed on his path by anti-development elements, he stuck to his guns, weathered the storms and set in motion a revolutionary process in critical sectors like education, health and agriculture. Lack of resources was a major handicap but Governor creatively went around the problem and chalked up successes.
Governor Tambuwal is a modern educational reformer. He declared a State of Emergency in Education. His Government has been implementing massive infrastructural development in the sector. Primary, secondary and tertiary institutions are being massively constructed, renovated or rehabilitated across the state. Girls education has been boosted with new Girls Science Schools and a Female Education Board. Sokoto State University and Shehu Shagari College of Education (it is in the process of being elevated to a University of Education) are being given priority attention and are on the way to becoming centres of excellence. A new Abdullahi Barau Secondary School, Dogondaji is being constructed. The problem of out of school children is being tackled with massive enrollment of children in schools, especially the girl -child. Training and retraining of teachers is ongoing. The Government has consistently since 2015 exceeded the UNESCO benchmark for percentage of annual budget devoted to education.
The Health Sector has changed remarkably under Tambuwal’s watch. The sector was an eye sore prior to 2015. The turnaround in the sector is a clear testimony to the power of vision and focused leadership. The State Specialist Hospital has been transformed and now delivering quality service to the people. Primary Health Centres and Hospitals have been built, reconstructed or rehabilitated across the state. The Sabon Birni and Tambuwal Premium Hospitals are two legacy projects primed to bring healthcare closer to the people. The constructed/rehabilitated hospitals have also been properly equipped and qualified personnel recruited to offer care to the people. The Government has started the construction of the state of the art Sokoto State University Teaching Hospital. The ultra-modern Sokoto Diagnostic Medical Centre, Farfaru is almost completed.
The government has been implementing a Contributory Health Insurance Scheme for workers and students. Efforts are now on to extend it to citizens in the informal sector. The health sector has not had it this good.
Governor Tambuwal stands tall as one of the heroes of the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Sokoto State has the distinction of been the first state in Nigeria to flatten the curve. When other states were still living in denial, Governor Tambuwal mobilized human and material resources and launched a pitched battle against the pandemic. He established a Taskforce made up of health experts under the leadership of the State’s Commissioner of Health, Dr. Mohammed Ali Inname. The team carried out the sensitization, testing and case management of patients afflicted by the disease.
Legal experts led by the Attorney General, Suleiman Usman, SAN came up with a Regulation, Sokoto State Infectious Disease Regulation 2020 under the Sokoto State Public Health Law 1985 as amended. The support of security agencies and the traditional institution was immediately enlisted.
Tambuwal’s Government procured and distributed freely to the people, face masks and hand sanitizers, while a locally fabricated hand washing equipment was developed in conjunction with UNICEF and installed in most public places. The effort in Sokoto State included testing centres set up at all entry points into the state. Isolation centres were established at Amanawa, Usman Danfodio University Teaching Hospital, Specialist Hospital Sokoto and Catholic Hospital, Sokoto.
These were complemented by rapid response teams provided with 254 ambulances with 10 operating in the capital city and 244 Electoral Wards in the state. Over 1000 health and non-health workers in the state carried out the sensitization of local communities. Contact tracing was massively undertaken, with the support of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), who made available, vehicles and their drivers for the exercise.
Online Radio lessons and lectures were organised and sponsored by the State Government before the opening of schools to enable students carry on with their studies during the peak of the pandemic.
On the economic front, Tambuwal’s Government supported Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises with interest free loans to stimulate the economy and save jobs, while tax holidays were granted and payment of water rates was suspended. Palliatives were distributed by both state and federal governments, business organisations and NGO’s to the weak and vulnerable in the society. The State Government’s palliatives distribution have been widely acclaimed. Polling units were used to reach Sokoto citizens irrespective of party and other affiliations.
The agricultural sector has been reinvented. Massive funds have been injected into the strategic sector and farmers are already reaping the dividends. The Government has been facilitating access to credit facilities for farmers. Agricultural inputs and fertilizers are being delivered to farmers at subsidized rates.
Poverty alleviation is one of the major thrusts of the Tambuwal Administration. Programmes and projects to economically empower women, youths and the vulnerable are being vigorously implemented. The government organized a vocational training program for 1000 young people in furniture and block making, tailoring, fashion design and cloth embellishment. Starter packs were distributed at the end of the trainings. Soft loans have been given to young women enterprenuers, while the grant of financial assistance to indigent people, especially women in the rural areas is ongoing.
Youth development is one of the major planks of Tambuwal Development Agenda. Youths are being effectively mainstreamed in the policies and programmes of the government. A 31 years old youth activist, Comrade Bashir Gorau was recently appointed Commissioner for Youth and Sports Development. Nuraddeen Harande Mahe, a dynamic youth mobilizer and social media influencer is the Governor’s Special Adviser on Youth Matters. The government has come up with a major youth empowerment initiative tagged Sokoto Youth Economic Empowerment Project (SO-YEEP). The government has also initiated the Youth and Women Empowerment on Technological Innovation under the Science and Technology Ministry and a Youth Mentorship Program from December 1, 2020 under the Governor himself, to groom young people in Sokoto in governance and leadership.
In the sports subsector, the construction of a world class Stadium and a multi – purpose sports hall have reached advanced stages. The aim is to further boost the competitiveness of the state’s athletes and footballers, who have been acquitting themselves at national and global stages.
Governor Tambuwal’s women empowerment drive is unprecedented in the history of Sokoto State. He has not only given women visibility in government, he is mainstreaming gender in the governance and development processes. There are currently 3 female commissioners in his cabinet. He appointed 4 female Special Advisers, 3 Female Permanent Secretaries and 7 Directors-General. Before the recent dissolution of Local Government Committees, there were 69 Female Councillors across the 23 local governments appointed by Governor Tambuwal. This is in addition to many female board members. The government has been implementing many women -centered empowerment programmes. Women engaged in petty businesses across the state have been receiving soft loans.
Before 2015 Sokoto State was a challenging operating environment for development agencies. The political will for strategic and sustainable engagement with development agencies was lacking; strong policy, legal and institutional frameworks for transparency and accountability were non – existent. The relationship between development agencies and civil servants was one of mutual suspicion. This had a negative effect on programme/project impact and accountability. Only development agencies that had developed “thick skin” and were determined to surmount all difficulties/challenges remained behind. But all that has changed.
Governor Tambuwal’s first major move was to tackle a key source of corruption in the public sector which is contract awards. In 2016 he sent an Executive Bill to the State House of Assembly for the amendment of the law setting up the Bureau of Public Procurement and Public – Private Partnership. The Bureau has now been strengthened and is empowered to ensure probity and transparency in contract award.
Conscious of the fact that Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are yet to imbibe the habit of adhering to the law establishing the Bureau, Governor Tambuwal has adopted the dual strategies of changing the mindsets of civil servants and withholding approvals to memos/contracts that fail to go through DUE PROCESS. It’s a new way of doing things. Those not ready to conform with the strict accountability regime may have to find other things to do.
Governor Tambuwal’s new approach to procurement is already yielding dividends for Sokoto State. Over 4 Billion Naira has been saved as a result of scrutiny of Bills of Quantities presented to the Bureau by MDAs from 2016 to date.
All donor funds are now captured in Sokoto State’s budget estimates. It is for purposes of effective tracking, accountability and to stop duplication.
Governor Tambuwal has also repositioned the State’s Ministries of Finance, Budget and Economic Planning to effectively drive the government’s reforms, reinvent the economy and robustly engage International finance institutions/agencies. The two ministries have been placed under the watch of the highly cerebral, innovative and resourceful duo of Hon. Abdulsamad Dasuki and Mallam Mainasara Ahmad Mni.
The Sokoto State Government has taken its drive for public sector accountability a notch higher by adopting the International Public Sector Accountability Standards (IPSAS). Developed by The International Public Sector Accountability Standards Board (IPSASB), IPSAS are a set of accounting standards for use by public sector entities in the preparation of financial statements.
On October 7, 2019, the Sokoto State Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and State House of Assembly organized a 3 weeks intensive IPSAS Workshop at the International Conference Centre, Kasarawa, Sokoto. The workshop brought together 150 participants drawn from over 100 MDAs, the private sector and youth organizations. The
workshop reflects intersectoral collaboration and full citizen engagement as pillars of governance.
150 IPSAS compliant computers were distributed to participants at the workshop. The aim is to fully digitize the budget making processes in Sokoto State (starting with the 2020 Budget), economic policies and programs of government in line with global best practices. When fully mainstreamed in the governance processes in Sokoto State, IPSAS is expected to impact on the following areas: (1) Accountability and Transparency in Governance (2) Entrenching a January – December Budget Cycle (3) Tracking Budget Performance and Compliance (4) Fighting Corruption (5) Ease of Doing Business (6) International Development Financing (7) IGR Enhancement/Fiscal Responsibility (8) Citizen Engagement/Ownership and Participation in the Budget Processes (9) Improved ICT Infrastructure (10) State Civil Service Capacity Building (11) Improved Salaries and Remunerations, and (12) E – Governance.
Governor Tambuwal recognizes the important and strategic role of citizens, especially organized civil society in holding government accountable and accelerating growth and development. He knows that achieving substantial dividends in terms of (i) delivery and allocation of social/public goods, and (ii) transparency and accountability, and tackling corruption will be contingent on civic and political forces creating demand – side pressure for changes in public policy. Consequently, the Governor has put in place mechanisms that would facilitate more effective engagements with various stakeholder groups.
The State Government, through the Office of the Attorney General, is in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation with a view to keying into the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a multilateral Initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from national and subnational governments to promote open government, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
To this end, Governor Tambuwal has directed the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Suleiman Usman, SAN to constitute a State Steering Committee on Open Government Partnership (OGP). A date will soon be set for the formal inauguration of the all inclusive committee. At the formal inauguration of the Committee, Governor Tambuwal intends to sign on to the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The first task of the Steering Committee would be to develop a State OGP Action Plan.
Governor Tambuwal’s sustained push to institute a regime of transparency and accountability in Sokoto State has caught the attention of international development institutions like the World Bank. The State Government was recently given a grant of $22 million by the World Bank in appreciation of its unwavering commitment to the implementation of the States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) programme.
To fully drive his reforms, Governor Tambuwal has prioritized the modernization of the state civil service. He has carried out a massive computer training for the state’s civil servants. They were given broad – based computer literacy education aimed at implementation of a paperless policy in the civil service.
The forward looking Governor is fast mainstreaming Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in all the critical sectors. He has reenergized the ICT Directorate and appointed a Director General to drive his reforms in the sector. The result has been remarkable. Key stakeholders in the sector have taken notice. Governor was recently voted the Digital Governor of the Year. The son of the Caliphate is indeed on a mission.
In his first term the visionary Governor prioritized human capital development, agriculture and health. In his second term he has turned Sokoto State into a huge construction site. Flyover bridges are springing up at strategic locations in Sokoto. Massive road construction is being carried out in Sokoto metropolis and across the local governments of the state. A few are worth mentioning here: (1) Tashar Illela – Achida Junction Dual Carriageway (2) Waziri Abbas and Maituta Roads Dualisation (3) Dualisation of Unguwar Rogo Road (4) Construction of Runjin Sambo/Gidan Igwai Township Roads (5) Mabera Drainages and Access Roads (6) Rijiya Flyover Bridge (7) Runjin Sambo Flyover Bridge (8) Dandima Flyover Bridge (9) Water Supply Projects in 23 LGAs. 17 have been completed.
The people are amazed at the speed with which quality projects are being initiated and executed. Governor Tambuwal is setting unassailable standards. He can be likened to the legendary Usain Bolt; slow off the blocks but ends the race in lightening speed.
The Governor has been working assiduously with security agencies, traditional and religious institutions, as well as community associations to root out banditry, kindnapping and other forms of criminality. All is now quiet at the fringes of Sokoto State notorious for banditry. Aside from the fringes, other parts of Sokoto State are very peaceful and conducive for business.
By far Governor Tambuwal’s biggest legacy is his inclusive and consultative approach to governance. His fairness and sense of justice are simply amazing. The resident communities in the state attest to his fair mindedness, warm disposition and exhibition of the true Nigerian spirit. He has zero-tolerance for discrimination. Children of non-indigenes attend primary and secondary schools free in Sokoto State.
The rights of Persons with Disabilities have not only been fully recognized under the Tambuwal Administration, a Special Adviser has been appointed to fast-track disability mainstreaming in the development agenda of Sokoto State.
Governor Tambuwal’s legislative experience has come handy in forging a robust relationship with the Sokoto State House of Assembly. The Sokoto model of legislature-executive partnership is an exercise in mutual respect, partnership for development and legislative bipartisanship. The Assembly is sharply divided between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), but Governor Tambuwal enjoys the support of all due to his consultative and inclusive approach to governance. The interest of Sokoto people is placed above partisan or personal interest.
The pro-people Governor has taken the state by the “scruff of the neck,” doing incredible things with little resources. Despite his huge successes, he keeps a level head, humble, simple, compassionate and respectful. It is really the stuff of legends. The unforgettable words of St. John Baptiste de la Salle aptly captures the leadership philosophy/style of the inimitable Governor Tambuwal: “Zeal with prudence, light with charity, and firmness with gentleness.”
Governor Tambuwal has refused to be distracted by the talks about 2023. He is concentrating on the completion of his legacy projects and uplifting the living condition of Sokoto people. But a broad spectrum of Nigerians believe Governor Tambuwal is a man for this season. Nigeria yearns for a bridge -builder, champion of development; a firm but compassionate person who can restart the rebuilding process and help forge a true Nigerian spirit. They yearn for a person who will restore Nigeria’s pride in West Africa, Africa and the world.
If Governor Tambuwal bows to pressure to throw his hat into the presidential ring in 2023, the stage may be set for the reinvention or reingineering of Africa’s most populous nation. Africa awaits us. The world waits with bated breath.
As this jewel of the Caliphate clocks 55 on Sunday, 10th January, 2021, it is our fervent prayer that God Almighty will continue to guide, protect and strengthen him. May he never waver in his determination to take Sokoto State to higher heights. At the end of his second term as Governor, may he answer the call of well meaning Nigerians to take another shot at the Presidency so that he can deploy his uncommon qualities and experience to steady the “ship” of the Nigerian State and restore our pride of place in the comity of nations.
Happy Birthday the People’s Governor!
*Okoye is a senior aide to Governor Tambuwal