Anniversaries present opportunities for us to reflect on milestones and absorb their lessons. They are mathematical reminders of events that define our journeys regardless of eventual outcomes. February 29, 2020 is an important anniversary; one not based on conventional calendars yet of immense significance. The annivesary of 342 ; sauran Kebbe. The number, pronounced as Three Four Two is the margin with which Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal won his main challenger of the All Progressives Congress in the 2019 governorship re-run on March 23, 2019. February 29, 2020 is 342nd day since the election, and its peculiar anniversary. Three Four Two changed the power dynamics of our state for good; on that day, power truly returned to the people of Sokoto state. The number is now a cultural reference point so much that it is even used on number plates by followers with an appreciable sense of humour and history.
Sokoto, a beacon of tradition, is not one to follow the band wagon or accept a new order blindly at the expense of ingrained doctrines. My people, Sakwattawa can be enlightened yet deeply committed to their values and culture. We are a people beyond rhetoric and renowned in history for fighting perceived injustices. History has a way of repeating itself; one who directly benefited from the largesse of Sakwattawa will seek to undermine them years later. This would prove to be the APC’s Achilles heel in its 2019 permutations. Assuming the people were still voracious in their appetite for them, the APC grossly underestimated the clout of Governor Tambuwal and attempted to promote its candidate on the ‘strength’ of an ailing brand. A tall order.
The success of Governor Tambuwal’s politics is not based on any myth. The fact is; Governor Tambuwal entered the race with impeccable credentials. He was a Three-time member of the Federal House of Representatives who emerged Speaker under heroic circumstances and had never lost a general election throughout his entire political career. He was clearly the people’s choice. Nevertheless, the desperation to subvert the will of the people was at its peak when all but the results from Kebbe were collated, leaving the people saying; “sauran Kebbe”; meaning “Kebbe is on the way”; a phrase now etched in history signifying a time when the state awaited its fate. The votes the APC “recorded” in Kebbe were enough for them to win Kebbe but not enough to capture Sokoto.
On that day, the streets of Sokoto were thronged with people with eyes filled with expectation, the air felt different. The PDP won but the ensuing judicial drama will prove that it is not over until it is over. Of all the celebrations, the most profound to me was when INEC’s returning officer was bade a heroic farewell at the Sultan Abubakar airport. This was a genuine, unplanned show of appreciation by real people who recognised her as the principal citizen that announced the gubernatorial election results on television moments before. They cheered her for a job well done and thanked her for saving their children. It was an emotional episode which must have validated her refusal to compromise in spite of registered temptations. It was yet another reminder that the victory was less for Governor Tambuwal and the PDP than it was for the people. Against all odds, the people won!
Not one to blow his own trumpet, Governor Tambuwal is reliable and dedicated to the welfare of his people. His proactive interventions and synergistic relationship with security agencies are responsible for the relative peace enjoyed in the state. Governor Tambuwal’s person-centred leadership, and his involvement of community leaders in governance have enabled collaborative efforts to tackle evolving challenges. By contextualizing development, he has brought forth numerous localized programmes that will serve as a model for the rest of Northern Nigeria. Notably, the Zakat Committee, a full-pledged commission that ensures adequate controls in the collection and distribution of charitable wealth in Sokoto; recently earning the commendation of the Dangote Foundation. His administration promotes improved crop production techniques among thousands of farmers, and supports incorporation of modern technology into agriculture. He is transforming the education sector by criminalising parents’ refusal to send kids to school and implementing a free education policy diligently.
Governor Tambuwal is building a lasting legacy without fanfare, and this demonstrates the sincerity of his purpose in politics. He is boosting the local economy by disbursing loans to viable SMEs across the state in addition to offering N20,000 grants to 1000 beneficiaries in every local government. As the state sets out to fund mega projects, 2020 stands out as Sokoto’s year of infrastructure. He will be remembered as the man whose frugality and fiscal reform led to a remarkable rise in Sokoto state’s internally generated revenue (IGR). As a Governor in the opposition, he operates with the mindset that in order to grow at a desirable pace, Sokoto needs novel ways of financing projects. He is positioning Sokoto as a reliable partner of development organizations and the private sector. This is the driving force behind Sokoto’s emerging economy.
These projects and policies make one more enthusiastic about the renewal of Governor Tambuwal’s mandate and make the vast emotional and material investments of 342 worthwile. Three hundred and Forty Two days ago, Governor Tambuwal not only won the Gubernatorial elections in Sokoto but also won the hearts of the people. It is an earnest reminder of the burden of trust upon us due to the expectations of “sauran Kebbe”.
Last Friday, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal emerged the Silverbird Man of the year 2019, and there could not be a worthier Nigerian. He fought several forces and was serially vilified for his principles, triumphing due to his valour. He used the podium in Lagos on that day to challenge Nigerians to reawaken their civic engagements, while reminding the President of his betrayal of public trust.
Dasuki is the Sokoto State Commissioner for Finance