By Emmanuel Ado
“The only reason to be in politics is public service”. Malcom Turnbull
The question has always been: What next for Dauda Lawal after his well-deserved retirement from the First Bank of Nigeria, where he rose to the exalted position of Executive Director, Public Sector. This is mainly because of his age and his solid financial standing. Dauda Lawal can afford a good life for the rest of his life without having to work. But he positively answered in favour of public service, by picking the governorship form having undoubtedly come to the realization that public service is much more stimulating and challenging, than the act of money making. Dauda Lawal deserves huge commendation for realizing that public service offers him the opportunity to lose himself in the service of others, than the financial world.
Created by the late Sani Abacha regime in 1996, Zamfara State by every standard of development index can be described as a failed state. For instance, the State has consistently occupied the last position in all the national examinations. Last year, the Minister of Education deeply worried that only 28 candidates had registered as at the closing date for the 2018 national common entrance examination into its 104 colleges, was compelled to extend the date. Like his education colleague, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, had equally berated the State for having only 23 doctors servicing the poorly maintained 24 health institutions. Zamfara State has the highest infant mortality rate in Nigeria.
Expectedly, with the zero state of the healthcare facilities, the people of Zamfara State died from all manner of diseases especially cerebral meningitis. Zamfara State had last year witnessed the outbreak of cerebrospinal meningitis in which over 400 lives were lost. Governor Yari characteristically attributed the outbreak to God’s anger with the poor peasants, who in his opinion seem to rival Sodom and Gomorrah in sin. For “Saint” Abdulaziz Yari, “Governor- General” of the Nigerian Governors Forum, the problem wasn’t the failure of his administration to provide functional health institutions. Rather, the poor became the problem, the corrupt and most adulterous while in the real sense, it was the dereliction of duty on the part of Yari, who was more of a visiting Governor to the State, that led to the avoidable disaster.
Going by the UNDP (UN development programme) definition of development, as including the ability to lead a long and healthy life, to acquire knowledge, and to have a decent standard of life, using main development indexes like access to healthcare, education, gainful employment, security, which can be measured Zamfara State train has definitely not left the station. There is no debate about the status of the State and that one of the factors responsible for its underdevelopment is the lack of a focused leadership that has vision, beyond State capture.
There is still some glimmer of hope if a new leadership that is bold and focused is in place in 2019. But if the Yari political dynasty succeeds in imposing the present Commissioner of Finance, Muktar Idris, then Zamfara State would have been forever condemned to underdevelopment. Since 1999, Yerima Bakura has comfortably determined who becomes what in the State and had successfully seen off the opposition of the likes of retired General Aliyu Guasu and consolidated his firm grip on power based on the manipulation of religion.
Yerima must be given that “credit” for understanding the psyche of the people, that religion is everything. But like every lie and deception, the time seems to have come like Mohammed Sanusi II the Emir of Kano predicted for the defeat of this rampaging local warlords led by Yari, that has neither vision nor convictions, which has viciously and mercilessly raped the State. Zamfara State, the first state that started Sharia law implementation in Nigeria, has the highest poverty rate in the country, which is clearly as a result of poor leadership that hasn’t also been very honest with the resources accruing to the State.
There is no doubt that Zamfara State is bleeding and in urgent need of surgery. But that is not exactly what Yari, the outgoing Governor of Zamfara State and a confirmed disaster, wants for Zamfara state. If he was a confirmed disaster, he wants to ensure that Idris, who can best described as a calamity, takes over. And Yari hasn’t disappointed those who predicted these outcomes. Abdul’aziz Yari, Chairman of the Governors Forum, is a modern day Nero. And like Nero, he is ineffectual. And as Nero fiddled and Rome burnt, so has Yari been gallivanted the world while Zamfara State continued its steady slide into decay.
There are enough indications that the people have had enough of the Yari political dynasty. The recent strike action embarked by the State Civil Servants due to the failure of Yari to pay about 1,400 workers recruited by the government and the non-payment of pension and gratuities; lend credence to that fact. Sanusi, the Emir of Kano, is spot in that with time, the likes of the Yari political dynasty will, like a pack of cards, collapse. “It’s a matter of time for people to realise that this is all deception. This is all politics, this is not religion; it is about politicians appropriating religion as a discourse for getting into power,” he said.
The other indication is the cynicism that greeted the announcement by Yari that he had spent a whooping N13billion fighting armed banditry, cattle rustling, and kidnapping. Apparently, the people didn’t believe Yari because their situation has not changed – villages are still being ransacked by the bandits. And they have made it clear in unmistaken terms that they finally caught him out. It is interesting that Yari couldn’t hide his indignation that the people finally had the guts to question his figures. “People should learn to respect their leaders and what the leaders say and ask for clarification on what they do not know”, he said.
The David that will finally slay Goliath (Yari) and set Zamfara State free is obviously Dauda Lawal, who those opposed to the Yari Political Dynasty are supporting with the necessary structure to take on the Yari political dynasty that is backward and that has ensured that the state equally remained backward and a problem to not just the North, but the entire country.
In the Sahara Desert of leadership, there is some hope that the more “urbane” and focused Dauda Lawal would change the fortunes of the State. For one, he is not a fervent disciple of the Yari political dynasty. Both in orientation and philosophy, he is opposed to the ideology of the Yari Political Dynasty where you must never question, where absolute loyalty is your guaranteed ticket for mobility, where all that matters is the sharing of State resources and the people sentenced to death for no fault of theirs. Secondly, Dauda Lawal has fire in his stomach and has the contacts to attract development to Zamfara State. He is competent and has what it takes to turn around the fortunes of the State.
Dauda Lawal started his working career in 1989 as Political Education Officer with the Agency for Mass Mobilization for Social and Economic Reliance Nigeria. At various times he was an Assistant Consular Officer (Immigration) and later Chief Protocol Officer, Embassy of Nigeria, at Washington DC before joining First Bank of Nigeria Plc in May 2003. He was Relationship Manager, Commercial Banking, and by 2011 was elevated to the position of Executive Vice President, Public Sector, North of First Bank of Nigeria Plc. In September 2012, he became Executive Director, Public Sector North. He was also the winner of First Bank CEO Merit Award for Outstanding Performance as the “Best Business Development Manager” in 2006 and “The Most Enterprising Staff” in 2009.
If Dauda Lawal is able to pull off the “coup” against the old order, his first assignment would be to restore hope and trust in government. He must also hold out hope to the youths of the possibilities which they can relate to with his own inspiring story. He must not attempt to tackle every sector even though the legacy of the Yari political dynasty is a Zamfara State of all round disaster case – from health to sports. It is a State where out of more than 8,000 teachers, only about 4,000 are qualified to teach; where the literacy level stands at about 40%; where in 2005, of the 55,694 students that sat for WAEC, only 4,249 obtained 5 credits. He must prioritize and bring his wealth of experience to bear in the running of the State. And must spend his days in Zamfara State, unlike Yari who was more of a visiting Governor.