Governor Babagana Umara Zulum of Borno State is one governor whose activities I have been following for some months now. I had wanted to write on him in May, when he clocked one year in office. I saw some of the projects he had executed within the period, particularly the model schools that he built, and some other projects that were inaugurated to mark his first anniversary. Somehow, some other developments pushed my decision to comment on his administration to some future date.
Somehow, that future date is here. The impetus this time was the attack on his convoy on July 29 by Boko Haram insurgents on Maiduguri-Damaturu highway. Five people, including three policemen, were reportedly killed during the incident.
Since his first appointment as Assistant Technical Officer in Borno State Civil Service in the state’s ministry of agriculture in 1989, Zulum’s profile has been rising. In 1990, he moved to the state’s Unified Local Government Service as Senior Field Overseer and later Principal Water Engineer.
He crossed over to the University of Maiduguri where he was engaged as assistant lecturer in 2000; he rose to the rank of Professor in the university. Zulum became Deputy Dean and Acting Dean, Faculty of Engineering in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
He was appointed Rector, Ramat Polytechnic in 2011. Meanwhile, he retained his teaching position in the University of Maiduguri. In 2015, the state governor, Kashim Shetima appointed him as Commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, a position he held till 2018.
Apparently it was the way and manner he carried out his assignment as commissioner that endeared him to Gov Shetima and the people of the state. Borno State is the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency. This being the case, his ministry was central to the main issue affecting the state.
The courage and passion that he brought to bear on his job made it easy for him to clinch the gubernatorial ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on October 1, 2018. He was subsequently elected governor in the governorship election on March 9, 2019, under the party’s platform.
Somehow, since then, there is no stopping him. Zulum has continued to steer the affairs of the state in a way that would make not only his predecessor and boss, Shettima, but majority of the people of the state, proud of him.
Born on August 26, 1969 in Mafa Local Government Area of the state, Zulum had his elementary education at Mafa Primary School from 1975 to 1980 and secondary education at Government Secondary School, Monguno, from 1980 to 1985, and proceeded to the University of Maiduguri, where he obtained a degree in Agriculture Engineering.
He did his National Youth Service at Katsina State Polytechnic. He obtained a Master’s degree in Agriculture Engineering at the University of Ibadan from 1997 to 1998. He returned to the University of Maiduguri for his PhD in Soil and Water Engineering in 2005, and completed the programme in 2009.
Something told me it was time to write on this governor who has been working round the clock to rebuild the state that has suffered much devastation from the activities of Boko Haram terrorists, after the attack on his convoy by the insurgents, last week.
Indeed, Zulum would seem God-sent to the state at this point in time. Borno State needs someone who would run it as business unusual, not a governor who would sit in his air conditioned office drinking tea and only enjoying the perks of office, sparing little or no thought for the electorate.
As at June, that is barely a year after his swearing in, he had undertaken 326 capital projects and 49 policies and programmes, some of which were capital-intensive, according to the Secretary to the Borno State Government, Usman Jidda Shuwa. These included construction of 6,544 sub-urban and low-cost houses in 12 local government areas for re-settlement of internally displaced persons and refugees.
Zulum also undertook 38 capital projects on water supply including drilling of 213 new boreholes, 18 projects on electrification, eight on agriculture and seven on vocational skills and entrepreneurship development.
Zulum had in July 2019 launched a ‘cash for sanitation’ programme through which 2,862 registered members of political thugs called “ECOMOG” were being paid N30,000 each for a period of six months while they abandoned thuggery and clean the streets to earn pay. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has adopted this as a model. He is constructing the first flyover in the state.
In demonstration of his passion for his people, he had, early in the year, precisely in January, had cause to accuse soldiers manning a portion of the Damaturu-Maiduguri Road of extortion. The governor, who was travelling to Jakana where Boko Haram had just struck then made the allegation when he ran into a long queue of vehicles at one of the checkpoints. “I’m going to report all of you in this unit… nobody can tolerate this.
Boko Haram is attacking people and you are here collecting N1,000 per car,” the governor angrily told the soldiers. The army command was obviously unhappy that the governor made the allegation in public adding that such an allegation was capable of reversing the gains the military has made in the anti-terror war.
The Baga attack made the governor to express his frustration over the military’s capacity to flush out the insurgents from Baga town in Kukawa local government area of the state. This is justifiable anger given that Baga town is only about 196 km from Maiduguri, the state capital.
Moreover, there is a huge military presence in Mile 4, about four kilometers from Baga. Zulum, who made the disclosures while flagging off the reopening of Monguno Baga highway after two years of closure said: “You have been here for over one year now; there are 1,181 soldiers here, if you cannot take over Baga which is less than 5 km from your base.
“Then should we forget about Baga?”, he asked. He threatened that he would “inform the Chief of Army Staff to redeploy these men to other places that they can be useful. You people said there’s no Boko Haram here, then who attacked us? adding rather rhetorically “I doubt if there is any Boko Haram in this town, I can go in and sleep here.”
Moreover, the governor had earlier been assured by the Sector 3 Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole Baga, Brig-Gen. Garba, that the place had been rid of Boko Haram insurgents.
The trip was supposed to be a memorable one as it was one of Zulum’s humanitarian tours during which he led hundreds of residents of Kukawa, Cross and Baga to their ancestral towns, two years after they were sacked from there by Boko Haram.
Although Governor Zulum had safely returned to Maiduguri, the state capital, the army authorities must carry out its promise to probe the circumstances that made the governor’s convoy so easily vulnerable to such attack.
When our military and security agents give intelligence reports, those for whom such are meant must be able to take the reports as the gospel truth. If the governor got go-ahead to visit an area and his convoy was attacked, then it most probably means something is wrong with such report.
One can only hope it is not this kind of attitude that has made the anti-terror war seemingly intractable. One can only hope too that the army would not treat the governor’s allegation with levity this time around.
There is no way the terrorists would like a governor like Zulum. They (terrorists) see western education as evil, which is a cardinal campaign of their senseless war. But, Gov. Zulum has not only been erecting edifices where such type of education can take place, he has just promised to remodel some primary schools in line with his dream of how schools should be. This means clashes with the terrorists would be inevitable.
They would want to do everything to get rid of him so as to truncate his dream for the state and also dissuade other governors who might want to be as daring as him in terms of their policies and programmes. As a matter of fact, that heightened my fears when I saw pictures of those magnificent schools that he showcased as part of his 326 projects in one year in May.
What came to my mind then was whether there is adequate security for those structures so that the destructive elements would not bring them down overnight and cause the state government to begin again from scratch, wasting a lot of resources in the
But it would be foolhardy to completely ignore the enemy within in the convoy attack. Although it would seem there is a consensus that the governor is doing well, this might not necessarily be good news to everyone in the state, including some of his aides. It is possible some people are envious of him, especially over the favours he received from the immediate past governor of the state that shot him to power. Yet this was earned in that the former governor saw his dedication to duty, honesty, passion for his assignment as commissioner, etc. which endeared him to his boss.
But, whatever the case,the soldiers in the state have a duty to ensure adequate security there. That is why the army authorities must probe the Baga attack and make their findings public.
But the governor too must take personal responsibility for his security. It is true he had been traversing the state in the course of his assignment as commissioner without security details and sometimes unaided; the truth is that levels have changed. He is no more a commissioner but the number one citizen of the state.
His actions and inactions, policies and programmes, no matter how laudable, would be different strokes to the different folks in the state. People benefitting from the ancient regime in the state can never be happy with the innovations he is bringing into governance. Governor Zulum has to realise that life has no duplicate.
He has to be alive to deliver the people of the state from the shackles of illiteracy, poverty, ignorance, superstition, etc. that he once went through before extricating himself from their firm grip.