• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Umar Namadi: Leveraging private sector experience to drive governance in Jigawa state

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Nigeria is full of people of insatiable ambition but whom, when presented with power and authority; they look vacant in terms of both idea and the resolve to deliver on campaign promises and the confidence of those who facilitated their entry into the palace of power.

One other state in which everyone seems pleased with the choice they have made is Abia, where banker-turned Governor Alex Otti is turning things around for the better. Up north, it’s also action, all the way, in Jigawa state. Jigawa, one of the safest places in Nigeria to live is, indeed, bubbling with good ideas under its brand new Governor, Umar Namadi.

There’s something about Umar Namadi that evinces self-confidence. The level of his self-confidence was so high that the chartered accountant by training and profession, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting, could quit the position of Group Financial Controller at Dangote Industry to go into his own private business and the risky terrain of partisan politics.

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Gov. Namadi was very well prepared for the job. He has enunciated a 12-point agenda that straddles education, health, water resources, agriculture, environment, ICT, and other equally critical spheres of human endeavour.

The self-confidence was also in evidence when his All-Progressives Congress (APC) party wrestled power from the stranglehold of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015. Instead of aspiring to, or lobbying for, a political appointment, he recalls: “I was in Abuja when my name was submitted as Commissioner to the Jigawa State Assembly for screening,” he recalls. “To be fair to the Governor, he never contacted me. Maybe he knew that if he had contacted me, I would reject it and he knew that was what I would do. But because he took me by surprise, it would have been an embarrassment for me to say ‘No, I don’t want it.’ So, that was how I became the Commissioner.

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Indeed, that was how he also became a running mate to Gov. Mohammed Badaru Abubakar and Deputy Governor from 2019 to May 2023. A similar scenario would also unfold preceding his emergence as Governor. He says he was similarly in Abuja on an official assignment, “when he asked me to go get the form for Governorship. I never believed that I would become the Governor. Because he is my boss, I could not tell him no.”

So much is for another “accidental public servant” for the easy ride of Umar Namadi to the throne in Jigawa state. The challenge is now to deliver on the confidence serially imposed on him by Gov. Mohammed Badaru Abubakar, on the one hand and, on the other, more critical, hand by the people of Jigawa State.

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Gov. Namadi was very well prepared for the job. He has enunciated a 12-point agenda that straddles education, health, water resources, agriculture, environment, ICT, and other equally critical spheres of human endeavour. To show his intent, he has set up a 16-member State Executive Council of “people appointed based on their competencies, their reputations and their exceptional capabilities.” “Our vision is to simply take Jigawa to the next level in development terms,” he says with strong emphasis.

He elaborates on the criteria he used to make his selection: “The strategy is to get the right people in the right places. In addition to the right people as Commissioners, we also have a veteran administrator as Secretary to the State Government (SSG). Also, in the next few days, we will announce the appointment of seven technical advisers who are professionals to the core as Technical Adviser on Health, Basic Education, Higher Education, ICT, Energy, Environment and Agriculture. In addition to these, the Civil Service, being the critical engine room that will drive government policies, will be rejuvenated through training, retraining, and discipline and enhanced welfare.”

At the recent CEO conference hosted by BusinessDay, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Akinwumi Adesina was effusive in praise of the rice factory Governor Namadi established in the state before he even joined politics, noting its high quality, at the time he (Adesina) was Minister of Agriculture. This, Adesina, did while standing on a podium before the high calibre local and international dignitaries at the conference.

Expectedly, Namadi has resolved to develop the entire agricultural value chain. “We will also review the agricultural policies to ensure that they meet our expectations. In addition to these, we will try to expand our cluster system of farming, a system introduced in 2016 that has really boosted agriculture in Jigawa State. We will boost dry season and rainy season farming.” He will continue the cluster farming scheme in the state, in which land and inputs, as well as extension services, are given to farmers as loan and, at the end of the harvest, they pay back in cash based on prevailing market price.

His administration will expand irrigation facilities to enable about three sessions of farming every year; encourage investors in out-grower schemes; as well as establish processing factories. “With that, more people will be involved and we will be able to expand production. We are focusing on rice, sesame, hibiscus, wheat, groundnuts and millets. We will improve the varieties and provide extension services to them,” he assures.

Although the IGR rate is low, Gov. Namadi is quite careful not to heap more burden on the people. “Before you introduce tax, you should be able to know if the economy can absorb the shock that its introduction will bring to the family,” He prefers to first build the economy. Meanwhile, he’s hoping to, within the first two years, raise internally generated revenues, at least by at least 49% of what is coming from the Federation account. Meanwhile, he’s reorganizing the Board of Internal Revenue to explore several other options for increasing our IGR without necessarily creating a burden on the people.

An important focus of the 12-point agenda is youth empowerment and education. He has broken the Ministry of Education into two — Basic and Higher Education. Also on Youth empowerment, we have created the Jigawa State Agency for Youth Empowerment and Employment, headed by a seasoned administrator, as the Executive Secretary. Currently, the agency has a portal that will take a census of all unemployed youth and their qualifications as part of efforts to strengthen our database.

“I will keep our source of funding for this project close to my chest,” he says of the ways and means of funding the area. “This is because we are trying to create independent funding that will give us the opportunity to train and empower as many of our Youths as possible.”

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When trained, the youth will be equipped with the necessary tools to work with. The training will be well structured to focus on the demand base. It will be demand-driven training. At present, Jigawa has seven skills acquisition centres in Jigawa. “We are going to re-evaluate and re-equip them where they lack the basic equipment.”

Jigawa State Government is exploring with a German agency a project to replicate those training acquisition centers across the State.

On industrialization, Namadi says the state is targeting the gas industry that is currently booming in Nigeria. It will train youth in welding and other artisanal and technical occupations. This is to ensure that their skills will be required across the country — not only in Jigawa state — so that they can work anywhere their skills are needed.

For investors interested in coming to Jigawa, Namadi assures: “We have the land, which many states cannot boast of. Secondly, we are the most secure state in Nigeria. God has helped to protect us. One of the most important factors investors are looking for today in Nigeria is security. In Jigawa state, labour is in abundance and it is very cheap and, as you know very well, Jigawa has been ranked very high on Ease of Doing Business for a very long period. The last evaluation rated us as number 2 amongst the 36 states and FCT. So, the environment for business is very conducive and very attractive.

Of great interest to this writer are Governor Namadi’s personal qualities of detesting injustice, exceptional humility, profound forthrightness and rare honesty–both in words and actions. He is, even by looks, not like your “typical” Nigerian politician. Namadi means each word he speaks. His words, all of it, are typical of the words that could be taken to the bank by anybody without any hesitation.

At the end of his administration Namadi says: “I want to look back and say that I have moved Jigawa forward and that the vision of making it great has been achieved. I hope and pray that this will happen, In sha Allah.”