Abeni Aso-Oke

Zulum: Engineering Professor, Dexterity and the Courage of Conviction II. By Prof MK Othman

Gov. Zulum
Abeni Aso-Oke

Even Zulum’s staunchest enemies cannot but agree with the facts that Borno state and, indeed, other states in Nigeria have never experienced remarkable, comprehensive, and significant progress in all aspects of human life and infrastructure similar to the feats recorded in five years of governor Babagana Umara Zulum in Borno State. The recording continues for the next three years.
As mentioned in the first part of this piece, at the commencement of duty as Rector, Zulum was challenged by a shortage of needed resources, disorganized, disarrayed, and disoriented workers, an insecure and ungovernable situation, and an overwhelming threat to lives and properties. These challenges were the tip of the iceberg compared to the gargantuan drawbacks Zulum was confronted with as the new governor of war-torn Borno state. Boko Haram’s fierce insurgency, internally displaced persons, broken families, a multitude of orphans, widows, shattered hopes, and despairs became the fates of the vast majority in the state. Courage is not being fearless or the absence of fear. Despite this, Zulum was able to commence stirring the affairs of the state on sound footing and accomplish so much more despite the enormous security challenges with its numerous setbacks. On the day of his inauguration on May 29, 2019, Zulum was aware of the burden of leadership thrust and, thus, swung into action to create hope and confidence for Borno state residents. The first thing was tackling the security challenge and building an enabling environment for good Governance and restitution of the broken livelihoods. In the first 100 days of his administration, Zulum completed 120 impactful capital projects and far-reaching programs and policies directly bearing on people’s livelihoods.
In the last five years, Zulum has executed over 700 impactful capital projects across the 27 local government areas of the state. The value for each of these projects ranged from 100s of millions to billions of Naira worth, and he is willing, even after successful mandates, to deliver to the people, as every success comes with a challenge. What is the scorecard of Zulum?
With courage and conviction, Zulum’s first step was to address the insecurity situation so peace could reign. There has to be peace for prosperity to flourish. Zulum stood tall in supporting the security agencies for morale boosting. He created a conducive atmosphere for the security agencies to synergize in the war against the Boko Haram insurgency. He is an excellent friend to the police, a darling to the army, a benefactor to the civil defense, and a patron to the civilian JTF. His materials and moral support to the security agencies were unlimited. At one point, he allocated 259 housing units to the police.
Governor Umara Zulum completed 326 capital projects by the end of his first year in office. These projects included 76 education projects across Borno’s three senatorial zones, 40 healthcare projects in 20 LGAs, 6,544 state-wide rural and urban resettlement housing projects in LGAs, urban and rural water supply projects, and 30 road infrastructure and transportation projects in nine LGAs. Additionally, Zulum executed 18 rural and urban electrification projects in 10 LGAs, procured and distributed 300 surveillance vehicles and ten bulldozers to support security forces in the war against insurgency, 11 commerce and industry projects in 5 LGAs, eight agricultural projects in 16 LGAs, and six environmental projects in 7 LGAs.

Zulum also focused on job creation and youth empowerment through vocational skills and entrepreneurship development projects in 6 LGAs, restoration of civil authority across LGAs, and provision of humanitarian and livelihood support in 14 LGAs. He established new institutes for vocational training and made routine humanitarian trips to remote areas severely affected by insurgent displacements. During these trips, he supported hundreds of thousands of refugees with food, cash, clothing, and other relief materials. He provided housing construction for hundreds to return to the liberated communities in a dignified and safe manner.

Abeni Aso-Oke

To support small and medium-sized entrepreneurs (SMEs) among IDPs and other vulnerable persons, Zulum approved one billion naira counterpart funding to the Bank of Industry. He also distributed one billion nairas and executed massive social protection initiatives for about 120,000 female IDPs, 3,127 petty traders, 3,127 physically challenged persons, and 1,037 vulnerable blind men and women. Furthermore, there were interventions to support 300 female IDPs who survived gender-based violence to start businesses after acquiring skills and over 28,000 youth in waste-for-cash projects after banning political thuggery.

Over Zulum’s twenty-four months, a total of 556 projects were executed, comprising 194 projects in Education, 63 in Governance, 63 in Roads, Transport, Rural and Urban Development, 59 in Water and Environmental Sustainability, 58 in Health, and 53 in Reconstruction, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement. In addition, 28 projects were implemented for Job creation, youth empowerment, and Humanitarian Support. Similarly, Zulum’s administration executed 15 projects under Commerce and Industry, 13 on Agriculture and Food Security, 10 on Security, and provided Special Intervention to Federal Institutions.
Notably, the Education projects included the construction of large secondary, primary, and vocational schools. This was done to counter the narrative of the Boko Haram insurgents against Education and in direct response to their destructive mannerism of educational infrastructure. There was massive teacher recruitment, pupils’ enrolment in primary and secondary schools, and the construction of new infrastructure, a teaching hospital, and a medical college at the Borno State University.
Zulum’s third, fourth, and fifth years did not only replicate the projects and interventions made in his first two years but made advancements in all sectors, culminating in the deradicalization of 80,000 repentant terrorists, resettlements of over 20 communities, restoration of confidence, and reinvigorating air of peace and tranquility. This signifies the consolidation of his second term in office. What is the strategy behind Zulum’s achievements?
The combination of project quantum, reasonable and prudent use of financial and human resources, high-level supervision, and transparency is the hallmark of Zulum’s winning strategy, which gives value for money and splendid outputs. Another high point of Zulum’s leadership is being exemplary. A story was told of how a contractor brought a kickback of N500 million from an N5 billion contract. Zulum smartly accepted and plowed back the amount into another project worth the same amount, which the same contractor was made to execute. At the same time, the facilitator of the ungodly act was shown the way out and left the job unceremoniously. The exemplary conduct indicates total rejection of bribery and corruption in Zulum’s administration, which sends shivers to all potentially corrupt officials and service providers. What a way to sanitize a sick system.
Despite many accomplishments of Zulum’s administration, there are weak points, with many in the public domain. On reflection, the security breaches that showed him face to face with bare terror, on at least three occasions, which ended fatally but spared Zulum who survived by the whiskers. It is on record that Zulum was the target of several attacks; namely, between July and September 2020, there were three assassination attempts resulting in the deaths of more than 40 people, including police officers and military personnel.
The last word is thanks to Vice President Kashim Shatima for discovering and nurturing Zulum to become a worthy leader we are all proud of. As of today, Zulum remains a shining example of a leader that Nigeria is desperately looking for. Can we allow him to pilot the country to the promised land? We are indeed tired of quacks masquerading as statesmen. Period!

Abeni Aso-Oke
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