Danladi Ndayebo pays tribute to the Niger State Governor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu at 58
Not many knew Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu’s pedigree as a unionist. His activism predates the now controversial G-7 governors. Way back in the early 80s, he had etched his footprints on the sands of the nation’s democratic struggles as one of the leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) under the administration of former President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari. His chairmanship position in the Niger State chapter of the NLC had thrust on his shoulders, the responsibility of being a major actor and one of the prime negotiators in the many interfaces between the Nigerian workers and the then government.
There’s no gainsaying that the Hassan Sunmonu NLC was a model for labour struggles in Nigeria. It was also a period of a series of struggles that marked out that era as one of the most challenging in the country’s history. Aliyu’s resilience, straight talks and intrepidity won him the hearts of his people.
As a mark of reciprocity, he convincingly won an election into the House of Representatives in 1983, while still writing his final examinations for his first degree at the Bayero University, Kano. That set the template for the engaging credentials that now mark him out as a statesman.
When he left the shores of Nigeria for the United States to pursue further studies at the University of Pittsburgh, following the military coup d’état that truncated the Second Republic, his interest in the democratic enterprise remained unflinching. After his successful academic sojourn in the US, Dr. Aliyu returned to Nigeria and joined the federal public service.
For several years, he served meritoriously in various sensitive positions and in different public institutions – Ministries and Agencies, including being a Director in the Cabinet Secretariat and Director Maritime Services in the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
Always a high flyer, through a dint of hard work and the grace of God, Aliyu rose to the pinnacle of Civil Service as a Permanent Secretary in 1999. Fortuitous circumstances took him through the high levels of decision making and policy implementation.
From the Ministries of Youths, Sports through the Cabinet Secretariat to Federal Capital Territory (FCT), National Planning Commission, Transport, Establishment and Pension Matters, he applied himself scrupulously to the tenets and ethics of the service. These are the features that made stakeholders draft him to run for the governorship race in Niger State in 2007. And he won.
In the last six and a half years, his strides in mass mobilisation, resource utilisation and management and guts have left developmental imprints that are difficult to ignore. His openness has attracted as many enemies as it has endeared him to more. His large heartedness and capacity for elevated reasoning also many times, put him at crossroads. But they have led to giant leaps in the fortunes of the state.
Niger State, today, under Aliyu’s watch has recorded impressive gains in all considerable fields of human endeavours. Is it education, health, agriculture, infrastructure and social security? Nigerlites have a reason to miss him when he eventually leaves the state and wish that he had come earlier than he did.
The administration had tackled some issues that were hitherto thought intractable. Immediately he mounted the saddle, the non-payment of gratuity and pension which had accumulated for almost a decade vamoosed. Shortly after taking office, Governor Aliyu directed that the labourers deserve their wages.
He ordered the prompt payment of all outstanding arrears of gratuities and pensions to all retirees. Till date, he has not defaulted. He continues to pay as and when due, monthly pension of these old folk as a major plank of his administration’s social contract with the people. This was probably informed by his civil service background. Like he usually says, “You cannot expect discipline from a staff you owe.”
A lot of work has been done in the educational sector. The introduction of tuition-free education is remarkable. The Payment of WAEC and NECO fees to all students regardless of students’ state of origin in Niger schools has become an embarrassment to those who still discriminate on the basis of state of origin. He has equally addressed challenges in the health sector. The implementation of free medical care for children between the ages of 0-5 and for the aged has come to stay. The ripple effect of this on the psyche of the populace cannot be over-emphasised.
Aliyu has also embarked on rapid reconstruction of township roads. He is providing access roads in all the local government areas through the construction of 10km roads in liaison with the 25 local government councils.
Conscious effort has also been made to ease housing problems faced by Nigerlites. This is done through the provision of housing units in all the major towns of the state. Other areas of intervention by Governor Aliyu include the establishment of graduate employment scheme and the distribution of agro input to farmers starting from the ward level to make it more accessible to the rural dwellers.
Perhaps, the most popular dividend of democracy in the state is the introduction of Ward Development Projects Initiative. The recognition of the ward as the smallest political unit and the target of development programmes are apt. Through a state legislation, each of the state’s 274 wards receives monthly grants for the execution of capital projects that are considered relevant to the socio-economic life of the wards.
Dr. Aliyu has extended his Midas touch across the political landscape. With his election as Chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) in 2007, his leadership has made prolific impact in terms of peer review and experience sharing. Before then, NSGF leadership was rotated amongst the governors of the region with each selected to chair sessions. He reckoned that this kind of spatial arrangement defies logic, as cohesion was sacrificed.
However, the influence of the NSGF as a socio-political entity has transcended the myopia of sectionalism. It has become a force to reckon with, a voice of wisdom and against despotism and lawlessness.
Through the NSGF, the Governors have been able to galvanise the interest of the people of the North, Nigerians and International community on the potential and investment opportunities existing in the region. These are no lame duck efforts. They are real marks of intellect and courage.
As he trudges on, here’s a wish for a happy birthday to the man who prefers to be the Chief Servant of his people.
-Ndayebo is the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Babangida Aliyu