Governor Bala’s Boondoggles

By Malam Saadu Umar

Governor Bala has a perilous policy problem; he does things that he thinks Bauchi people want but we are not buying it: Over 6 billion naira Government House “upgrade”, close to 5 billion naira exotic vehicles, tens of billion naira roads to nowhere and multi-billion naira private massive mansion.

Where we need 7 million naira block of classrooms he built about 200 million naira palace. Where we need potable water they go about sharing 200 Naira bags of pure (sachet) water. While we have a dearth of PHCs, (14 million naira can build one) he is busy sinking hundreds of millions building/renovating churches, because, in his words, “Christians are one of the pillars of the PDP in Bauchi”.

These and many are part of Governor Bala’s Boondoggles since he was sworn in as the Governor of Bauchi State following his disputed election which was decided by the Supreme Court, based on technicalities.

Gov Bala’s publicly declared pro-business (elite) government, expectedly, continues to formulate and implement misplaced policies that lead to loss of jobs, poverty, suffering, anxiety, fear, alienation, cultural carnage and overburden families with secondary school children while his family and friends, few top public servants and the well-connected are either living a life of obscene luxury or relative comfort.

Specifically, Gov Bala’s policies on workers, school children, women, almajiris and achaba are as bad, wrong and misplaced as they are devoid of empathy, statesmanship and altruism. And, here is why.

First, after promising workers heaven and earth, Bala has initiated an anti-workers policy that denied some State’s and LGAs’ workers their salary.  The Punch reported a worker, Bashir Usman describing the situation of some Bauchi State workers as “sad and pathetic”. Mr Bashir put it mildly, given that the government could not pay them their wages in the last 30 months. Now, you can imagine the misery and suffering the government forced them to endure.

Worse still, for his lack of empathy, the governor is denying owing any worker any salary and appears to continue to give these aggrieved unpaid workers the silent treatment and remains unable or unwilling to pay them the fruits of their labour. It is so sad!

We wish to remind the governor that as a Muslim he ought to listen to the Prophet when he says: “Pay the worker his wages before his sweat dries”.

Second, Bala’s bad policies did not stop at the workers and the adults alone; they extend to school children. He is cutting funding for boarding schools and is now deboarding many of the school children. The burden of feeding those school children is now shifted to their parents many of whom are struggling to put food on the table. The old arrangement helped many parents in that the kids were being fed by the government while acquiring their education. But now, this policy will force them not to only feed them but pay for their transportation to and fro school.

It’s only a genius that will not see the huge hole that this policy will open in the pockets of these parents. By the way, some of the parents are the same government workers without a salary for 30 months. He also came up with a discriminatory policy that arbitrarily chooses who deserves to get Government fund for their SSCE. Those denied by this policy will drop out if they can’t afford it. This has put at risk the future of our young school children.  All recent past governments did pay but Gov Bala has refused, even though the government paid for his aides who all are responsible for this policy.

Needless to say that this single policy could add to the worrisome number of out of school children, worsen illiteracy and potentially add to the pool for recruitment for crime and terrorism. Our children deserve a free and quality education. It’s a shame, if I were the Governor I will give free and quality education from pre-primary up to university. Education is the right of our kids and they deserve it free of charge.

Third, Gov Bala hastily outlawed the Almajiri school system without due and careful consideration thereby causing cultural carnage. He opportunistically hid behind the Covid-19 pandemic to stab at the back of one of his key supporters, the revered Sheikh – who played a key role in his election. This reputable Sheikh is one of the leading proponents of the now-outlawed Almajiri schools.

Yes, I am not a fan of the institution because I think it’s a little bit corrupted but, how many institutions are systemically corrupted in Nigeria? The police, judiciary and public service are all known to be corrupted yet no one calls for their disbandment. So it’s a shame that the Governor proscribed the Almajiri schools. Yes, it may not be working for non-Muslims, liberal Muslims and the likes but for those parents whose pursuit of life is the Qur’an, it’s working for them. And who are we to force these parents on how best to give their children religious knowledge?  Isn’t religion a private matter?

If I were him I will review it, engage all the Sheikhs, commission experts to carefully and critically reform it to make it better through adequate funding, provision of infrastructure and all the necessary support it may require.

Fourth, Bala has created a policy that banned “Achaba”  leading to the loss of tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs.

Achaba is cheap and robust means of transportation.  Many people of Bauchi state used it.  Does the government think about how these banned Achaba operators will feed their families, pay medical bills, pay their rents and meet their other financial obligations? Don’t they deserve some financial support for the loss of jobs and incomes as a result of this wrong policy pending the time they get another job?  

Outlawing Achaba may make sense in Abuja where they came from but a hurried and blanket ban in Bauchi is counterproductive, to say the least. The Achaba operators like the Almajiris feel deceived and betrayed by the governor for not telling them that, if elected, he will outlaw their business – their source of livelihood.

If I were the Governor I will be ashamed of this policy and quickly reverse it. I will support them, better organize it to make it safe and secure, train them and tax them fairly.

Fifth, another dangerous and worrisome policy of this government is its intolerance to and disdain for critical and opposition voices. Thus far the government has incarcerated many opposition party members for fairly and justifiably criticizing policies and actions of the governor and his government.

War on freedom of expression is waged in the last two years on dissenting voices. But this war on freedom of expression will never silence the brave and fearless people of Bauchi State and is doomed to fail. And is that not shameful?

If I were the Governor I will respect and encourage free speech, I will not keep quiet and allow anybody, even the Governor, to trample on the rights of people of the Bauchi State to air their opinion however intolerable the people in government may find such opinions because freedom of speech is guaranteed under our Constitution.

Sixth, one more dreadful anti-people policy of Governor Bala’s administration is the privatization of public assets. He has already put a committee in place to sell our collective assets, most likely, to a few people, probably, the same elite, his friends and family gave that cronyism and nepotism is synonymous to the PDP. We have heard how a PDP leader swore to sell NNPC to his friends and family if given the chance. We strongly believe this is what will happen to our assets that the governor is planning to sell.

If I were the governor I will not sell any of the assets of Bauchi State. The privatization and pro-business policies will only increase inequality and poverty, in that they will just transfer public assets of the many to the few. How will that help the poor?

Seventh, Governor Bala as the Chief Security Officer of the state has failed so far to come with enhanced policies that will better protect the lives and property of the people of Bauchi state.  Homicide cases are growing in the state. Few examples will suffice here.

A member of the State legislature was murdered while his family were abducted.  A new groom was murdered at Itas-Gadau, another young man was killed at Tirwun, a son of a prominent APC member from Toro was murdered recently, and the cases go on and on, so sad! Besides, kidnapping and other crimes are on the rise.

Recently, a community in Ningi LGA decried cases of kidnapping in their villages forcing them to pay over 72 million naira in ransom, dangerously pushing them into poverty and despair. The Governors elder brother was kidnapped and freed. A sixteen-year-old kid was kidnapped and gruesomely murdered at Doctors Quarters, Bauchi.

We feel that a single life lost is like the whole of the state is lost. The Governor needs to do better and invest heavily in insecurity instead of spending on boondoggles It is pointless to say that investment to protect the lives of the citizenry must be the priority.

Again, if I were the Governor I will be ashamed of these happenings and will critically review the security votes usage with a view to better protect the lives and property of the citizens. I will support state police, increase funding for the security of the state and create a community defence force that will be trained and funded to help defend their community.

Eighth, Bala has another awful policy of spending recklessly particularly what he does not have. Although he inherited lots of money in the treasury he has since squandered wastefully the monies and started borrowing from banks and other lenders at a great cost. So far, Gov Bala has borrowed close to 150 billion Naira! He has curiously engaged a consultant and borrowed 100+ billion Naira from Kuwait. He borrowed about four billion Naira from a commercial bank and has quickly wasted the same on his boondoggles. He now seeks a 30 billion Naira loan from the World Bank Group; all this will put our children and posterity in debt even before they are born.

It’s a shame, if I were the Governor I will live within my means and spend wisely. I will instil fiscal discipline and balance the budget. I must rein in my reckless spending habits and borrowing. Remember Quran says do not squander wastefully, certainly the squanderers are brothers of Satan.

Ninth, since the inception of his government Bala has guaranteed an opaque and ineffective local government system. It is by far the most opaque and unaccountable way of running the LGAs. And, despite the huge allocations accruing to the LGAs most, if not all, of the LGAs have failed and are failing to perform some of their basic constitutional functions. He ensured the over-centralization of the affairs and finances of the LGAs.

Now only a few people, very few people sitting in air-conditioned offices in  Bauchi decide what, when and how to spend LGAs funds. We the poor people at the LGAs don’t know how much we have and how our monies are expended. Yes, if I were the Governor I will be ashamed of this and will be open, transparent and accountable with LGAs money. I must tell the people of Bauchi how much the LGAs got in the last 30 months and how, when and why I  spent the money, and I will give them their true autonomy.

In summary, Bala’s bad pro-business, and anti-people policies are too numerous to mention here, suffice it to say they failed and caused unnecessary hardship, hunger, poverty and misery. Worse yet, these policies though wrong are not as terrible as his opening acts of autocratic legalist act when he helped stage a coup on the State Legislature.

The governor succeeded in undermining the State House of Assembly when he enabled 11 out of 31 members-elect to purportedly elect the speaker. His aim was to neutralize the second arm of government constitutionally created to check and oversight his actions and hold him to account. Now, he has weakened the chain of constitutional control on his executive powers.

Lastly, Gov Bala’s government has since shot its bolt; sadly, only to push the people of Bauchi state to their beam ends – hungry, angry, jobless, anxious and fearful. Many of his promises have turned to dust. Everyone is disappointed including his cheerleaders whose loud victory songs have now sunk into whispers and not quite a few jumped ship.

Make no mistake, I’m not saying our governor is bad or has a malicious motive, NO. What I’m saying is our governor is just not like us. While he is rich, very rich we are poor – impoverished by them, the political class. While he is cosmopolitan we are rural ordinary folks. While he is a royal we are commoners. While he adopts elite, the liberal culture we are conservative traditionalists – we don’t dance and hug our adult female kids. He is different from us which is why he is out of touch with our reality.

Staying with us, albeit in walled Government House, will only reveal him but will not change him to be like us. Since he is not like us he will not be for us. He is not going to be on the side of the unpaid and underpaid workers, the almajiris, the achaba riders, the poor and the rural dwellers. That is why we need to get rid of him and his pro elite, anti-workers, anti achaba, anti almajiris and anti-people government which prioritizes boondoggles; implement wrong policies; emasculates the judiciary, legislature and Local Governments and enables only family, friends and a select few to live in affluence while carelessly pushing the majority of us into joblessness, suffering, hunger poverty, fear and alienation. And replace it with a progressive government that will entrench good government; prioritize the people, provide human infrastructure, give autonomy to the judiciary, legislature and the local governments while guaranteeing freedom of expression and safeguarding the lives and property of the good people of Bauchi State.

Malam Saadu, a lawyer and Secretary of the APC Publicity Committee Bauchi State


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