27 January 2011

Nigeria: Nasarawa - Footprints of the Emancipator

Lafia — IRRESPECTIVE of whether or not he ever attained the mantle of governor, Alhaji (Dr.) Aliyu Akwe Doma's place in the annals of the history of Nasarawa State was already assured at the point of the creation of the 14-year old state in 1996. And the reason is not far-fetched: Doma was the propelling force behind the long drawn-out struggle of the people of the erstwhile Lower Plateau to rescue themselves from the backwoods of Nigerian history.

Such was his epic leadership role in the struggle that, in the course of time, he found himself unabashedly propagating the message of Franz Fanon: "every generation, out of relative obscurity, discovers its mission, fulfills it or betrays it". His position was founded on the conviction that it was the very system that created the privileged class and perpetuated it that oppressed the weak without remorse.

Therefore, the mere fact of the creation of the state was fulfillment enough. Even so, there was always the sneaky chance that the struggle, like similar struggles for self determination or self_actualization, could end up in an anti-climax. As it turned out, the coming into being of the state was the easier part.

The harder part comes with being able to translate the political aspirations that informed the struggle in the first place into socio_economic reality. Herein lies the unfinished struggle, and the "emancipator" was called to the rescue once again. Doma's emergence as the second democratically-elected Governor of Nasarawa state in 2007 was a bold initiative to re-invent the dream.

It has to be stated that his job was cut out for him from the onset. The seasoned bureaucrat that he is, Doma would promptly set forth at dawn as it were, in a bid to confront the huge developmental challenges facing the state. Thus, his administration's 13-Point Agenda is a blue-print for the socio-economic development and transformation of every facet of life of the people of the state predicated on wide_ranging reform measures. The package aptly captures the yearnings of a people who are very much in a hurry to leapfrog current constraints, to develop and to join the big Nigerian league.

Firstly, realizing the place of the civil service as a veritable engine for the design and implementation of government's programmes and policies, he proceeded straightaway to give fresh breadth to the comatose state bureaucracy which he inherited at inauguration. Up till the moment, the civil service was largely dysfunctional, unfocussed and not goal driven, and as a result could hardly discharge its mandate effectively.

In order to put in place a cohesive and result-oriented civil service, the Doma administration embarked upon enhanced remuneration, training and retraining programmes for the state civil servants. As part of the reform measures, he has also had to upgrade the infrastructural facilities in this sector so as to provide a conducive working environment for all cadres of civil servants in the state.

Today, the gains of the re-organization are immediately visible in the prompt and sustainable payment of salaries, emoluments and allowances; payment of arrears of severance gratuity to past public officers of the state, including local government officials. It is also on record that the State's Internal Revenue Board, has been restructured by the Doma administration for greater efficiency.

Nevertheless, prior to 2007, the agricultural sector in the state was steeped in the drudgery of subsistence which provided attraction to only tired, old hands. The state's agricultural potentials were frozen as a result. Given his acute appreciation of the opportunities that the sector presents especially in the face of meager revenue accruals from the centre, the helmsman moved swiftly to position agriculture as the engine of wealth creation, employment generation and ultimately poverty alleviation.

It was against this backdrop that Governor Doma established the Bada Koshi Agricultural Scheme! The vision of the programme is to repackage the agricultural sector and make it attractive as a major economic activity of the people of the state, to be able to attract investors to partner with government in developing the state. In pursuit of this laudable programme, the Doma administration has invested huge sums of money to provide inputs such as fertilizers, improved seeds and seedlings, pesticides and herbicides, farm implements and tractors; adequate modern infrastructures and access to ready markets.

As things stand, the Doma administration has succeeded in turning around the fortunes of agriculture in the state and in further positioning the state as a role model for the rest of the country. Nasarawa state is today the fastest growing agricultural economy in Nigeria and a major contributor to the food security needs of the country. It is interesting to note that the farmers in the state have started getting economic value from agriculture through appropriate pricing mechanisms.

The implication is that the government has through this programme succeeded in uplifting the standard of living of an overwhelming majority of rural dwellers in the state. Another fall-out of this grogramme is that the government has embarked upon the reconstruction and rehabilitation of many rural roads to ensure the evacuation of food items from areas of production to places where they are needed.

In a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society such as Nasarawa, it is rather difficult to achieve peace, security and a harmonious social relationship. And where these indices are absent, sustained socio_economic and political developments are very hard to attain. Apparently to ensure unhindered implementation of his 13-point agenda, the Doma administration placed high premium on security. For the avoidance of doubt, security entails the maintenance of law and order and protection of lives and property. It is on record that under Doma administration, the state has never been more peaceful, and has not at any other time experienced greater social harmony and cohesion than under Doma.

In view of the fact that Nasarawa occupies a strategic position as a gateway state to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory FCT, the Doma administration has not left any stone unturned towards transforming some of its existing townships and urban centres into big cities and metropolitan centres within the shortest possible period.

It is no longer news that most workers whose offices are located in the FCT, live in several towns lying within Nasarawa from where they commute to Abuja each working day. This explains the reason why on assumption of duty the Doma administration embarked upon an aggressive programme of construction and expansion of urban roads infrastructure, drainages, solar-powered street lightning, improvement and enhancement of energy, upgrading and expansion of urban water supply schemes.

The sustained drive for urban development and renewal has yielded tangible dividends following the mapping of the state and the production of master plans for Lafia, Akwanga, Doma, Karu, Keffi, and Nasarawa towns. This is in addition to the computerization of the state's Land Registry.

Of great importance, is the deliberate and aggressive construction of roads within Lafia metropolis, installation of a solar-powered 16 kilometre long street lighting project; award of contract for the redesign, expansion and reconstruction of additional roads in Lafia, as well as the construction of a landmark roundabout at Doma road junction.

With the April 2011 general elections in view, the political stakes in Nasarawa State are as high as never before. Crucially, the state finds itself at an important political crossroads, as it navigates a historical transition from the backwoods into the national political and economic mainstream.

Because of Governor Doma, in the main, the state finds itself literally at a point of no return in the determined pursuit of its manifest destiny. Should he succeed in his bid for re-election, the incumbent will be presented with a unique opportunity to perpetuate his imprints on Nasarawa's sands of time. The wind of progress which Doma has unleashed in the state seems certain therefore to endure.

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