To the average Yobean, Buhari’s visit to Yobe State, where he commissioned excellent projects by the Mai Mala Buni administration, confirmed what they already knew; life in the state has improved a thousand-fold from what it used to be just less than four years ago. To the opposition party, it sets the standard for their campaign so high that they know they are not going to reach it, as the scent of victory becomes nigh impossible to smell. To you, my reader, watching from the outside in, wondering if life could be better for the indigenes of a state once ravaged by an insurgency that put them among the most terrorised in the world, well, it hasn’t been easy, but it is achievable for those that make hay while the sun shines.
The level of preparedness that set the tone for what the world is witnessing today is one I believe is captured expertly in words that haven’t left my mind since I heard them in Eddie Murphy’s 1988 blockbuster “Coming to America.” It’s not from any of the well-crafted comic scenes or the hyperbolic show of grandeur satirising African leaders. No, it’s in a much more emotional moment that often gets overlooked because of Sam L. Jackson’s attempted robbery and Prince Akeem’s heroics in the same scene.
In the scene, Lisa was sitting down alone at McDowell’s, and Akeem was mopping the floor with the same overzealousness he had shown anytime she was around him. She asked him to sit for a moment, then told him, “You know you are a very unusual guy; I have never seen anybody take so much pride in mopping the floor.” Akeem’s response is a variation of this quote from Friedrich Nietzsche: “He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.” Akeem’s response showed an understanding that in any situation one finds himself, he can rise through hard work.
I find Nietzsche’s quote so relatable to Yobe State because President Muhammadu Buhari has met a state that is flying, pun intended, with the commissioning of an international cargo airport in his name. But Yobe didn’t just fly into flying. Matter-of-factly, it was grounded for the best part of the last decade, deflated by Boko Haram.
You would have to look at the last time a sitting president came to the state to understand the contrasting fortunes and the level of obstacles that have been surmounted. On that occasion, some eight years ago, it was Goodluck Jonathan. He came – rather hesitantly – after pressure from the opposition APC to show concern for his subjects devastated by the Boko Haram insurgency.
He met a state enduring the loss of territories to insurgents, disrupted academic and economic activities, a strict curfew, and a ban on motorcycles, and some claimed he came wearing a bulletproof vest under his babban riga. The state has shown enough resilience to have crawled and walked back to normalcy and began to run under Ibrahim Geidam.
Under Mai Mala Buni’s consolidation agenda – still with its back against the wall – an empirically good vision was set, and the state has moved up a gear. A vision to strengthen the shabby legs on which it once stood and build wings that could guide its flight.
These legs came in the shape of fourteen mega and model schools built by the Mai Mala administration and commissioned by Buhari – the seeds sown with the declaration of a state of emergency are already bearing fruit sooner than everyone expected. And with over two hundred students in fully funded programmes in India, the music can only get louder and the dance more daring.
The Ibrahim Geidam Ultramodern Market in Damaturu was also commissioned on the same day. There are four more across the state that have been commissioned or are awaiting completion, with a new trailer park currently under construction. The hitherto crippled economic activities are now not only running but also thriving. Brace yourself, for this, is just an introduction to all the good work that has been done.
A partnership was entered into with an Egyptian firm, and another was entered into with a Qatari consortium, all to utilise the high number of livestock in the state. Instead of sending livestock all over the country and abroad, the state will be able to process meat through modern means, utilise the hide and skin in making leather and fur, hooves for the production of gum, horns as material in the production of tools, tiles, and furniture, and bone and blood meal for poultry and fish feed.
The partnership with the Qatari consortium will also utilise the gypsum and limestone deposits in the state through the setting up of a cement factory, which will only be the second in the northeast after the Ashaka Cement. This is timely, as a limited supply of cement has caused its price to soar, causing untold hardship for the Nigerian people.
In the health sector, primary healthcare centres are springing up, with at least one in each ward – an area where the state ranks high ahead of its peers. The President also commissioned the new Yobe State University Teaching Hospital, which also has one of the largest maternity wards in the country, which was named after the late Governor Mamman B. Ali. A bond was also entered into recently with pharmacy students from Yobe. The goal is to support their education and, in the end, bring them home to work under the new facilities and improved working conditions.
Two sets of nursing and midwifery students from Shehu Sule College of Nursing and Midwifery have been granted automatic employment. With the great facilities and structures set up in the health sector, it is logical and profitable to employ them. On one hand, it creates jobs for deserving health practitioners, and on the other, it creates effectiveness and efficiency in service delivery. You wouldn’t be wrong to think of a third hand, as the clear path laid for these students to have a career in the state counts as another advantage.
The state is modernising and regulating land ownership through the Yobe Geographic Information Systems (YOGIS), which will further aid farmers and investors looking to utilise the vast arable land, as seen in the recent planting of gum Arabic on 100,000 hectares of land in each of the three senatorial zones.
Incentives have allowed private rice processing plants to spring up and thrive across the state, heavily helping the Federal Government’s policy of Nigerians producing what they eat.
Yobe remains the leading state in the haulage business in Nigeria. This works so well with the traditional farming practice. Year-round, its farm produce and millions of livestock are transported to every part of the country.
It is no surprise then that the administration of His Excellency Mai Mala Buni has identified these sectors for deliberate short- and long-term investments that are yielding fruits. The trailer park and cargo airport will change and improve the way farm produce and livestock are processed and moved within and outside Nigeria, starting with the exportation of processed products to the Middle East.
While many of the indigenes were indifferent during Goodluck’s visit, you can tell they were ecstatic to receive Buhari. And it has nothing to do with political differences, but simply because of the difference one man has made. They have seen kidnappings, bombings, and killings all around them, and now they see growth and prosperity, and the future smiling at them.
Because of this, they have run, climbed and danced – now they fly. You have heard it before, probably from my heavy usage of it today, yet you will hear it again – the people of Yobe did not merely fly into flying. It has been through efforts that unfolded before their eyes, capped with the presidential fleet and other planes landing on Yobe’s soil for the first time.
•Gimba, a barrister, writes from Potiskum and can be reached at [email protected] or 08100000888.