On February 3, Niger State turned 40. It was created on that day in 1976, but its official existence as a State began on April 1 of the same year. The territory used to be a part of the old North-Western State, which was the era the people of Niger province registered themselves as extraordinarily progressive and, instead of being dominated by number, they only became the backbone of bureaucracy in that political formation that included the people of today’s Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbistates.
Prior to the existence of North-Western State, Niger even produced the Deputy Premier of the Northern Region, Alhaji Aliyu Makama of blessed memory. It may break your heart to learn that “Aliyu Makama”, a bureaucrat of primal esteem and model, is not even a Wikipedia entry. The era of the Makamas was that of polished bureaucrats who inhabited the multi-ethnic territories in their pursuits of a more unifying regional agenda eventually disrupted by the military goons.
At 40, and going down memory lane, what could be pointed to as accomplishment of the State, something to celebrate as a benefit of the demarcation (aside from, perhaps, the avoided inter-ethnic rivalries between the Nupe and the Hausa)?
Well, at 40, Niger is only a memorabilia of wasteful administrations and a few ones praised only because of the failings of the others. At 40, the strongest legacies of governance in Niger State were by the military. The progress of Niger State in those four eventful decades seems to have gone the inglorious way of its first Governor, the military administrator who only recently, as democratically elected this time, ran another state aground: Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako!
First, we started with a tradition of progressive bureaucracy which, ironically, has become our setback. The same Civil Service we used to point to as evidence of our administrative advancement is now what consumes the allocations received by the State and the meagre revenues it generates internally to run its affairs. We failed in this department because our policymakers did not exactly recognize the needs to identify and develop sectors of the economy to keep the burden away from Civil Service.
At 40, we boast that our States is enormously rich with solid minerals, but the governments have no official records of the distributions and amounts of deposits across the state. Because we are sure of the federal allocation that comes to complement our deficits.
What I always point to as the most symbolic evidence of retrogressive growth in the State are some of the policies of the past governments that only make me nostalgic and conscious of the achievements of the soldiers who came in the 80s. Niger is so indebted to the soldiers that, I think, it may not be a waste of resources to build monuments in their honour. The soldiers have left behind legacies that call to question performances of their successors in plainclothes.
For instance, I grew up in a Minna of well-paved roads with flowered central reservations and functional streetlights and flowing pipe-borne water and economic boom and regular environmental sanitations, achieved by the soldiers. So it’s funny to find us celebrating, about two decades later, the installation of streetlights by the last government.
If a streetlight was a normal sight in Niger in, say, 1991, celebrating it two decades later only calibrated our underdevelopment.
So, at 40, instead of celebrating Niger State, and our obviously laughable boast of being the largest state in Nigeria, I will call on our policymakers to develop a practical development plan to rescue this State that that is home to hydro-electric power stations that have accounted for nearly 50% of Nigeria’s stable power sources for decades!
Niger is a stallion mortally wounded, its promise of better days uncertain and hope resting on destructive ethnic politics. Our politics has taken the form of the nation’s. It’s levered by zonal Cabal whose interest is merely to restore their ethnic or family heritage. Today, it’s either a candidate is Christian or he is anything other than Nupe, Gbagyi or Hausa.
In just two decades we have devolved into the opposite of that State where the Nupe, who are largely Muslims, elected their Christian brother Professor Jerry Gana as legislator. We are no longer the State that elected a man who was not Nupe, Gbagyi or Hausa, Dr. Musa Inuwa, as governor. Those were the years; those were the good years destroyed by several seasons of rearward development which the lucky Governor Inuwa himself energised in his ethnically inclined Civil Service reforms that revived the demons of tribalism that still terrorisethe State.
The legacy of Governor Inuwa wasn’t the foundation of our ethnic polarization and affinity, but it was the lintel on which ethnic ambassadorship and politics became the aim and priority of our zonally rotated executive leaderships. We have fallen from the tower of progressive ideas to the pit of primordial ethnic rivalries to the detriment of our proposed development. It was, thus, a relief that the current Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, which some creative mischief-makers refer to as “Diasporan Governor” for his many foreign trips, didn’t even acknowledge the day, let alone bother to celebrate“the fool at 40!”, wasting our resources in vain. Happy Anniversary (Reflection), Niger State. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda on Twitter