By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
It was Francis Bacon, eminent English philosopher in Shakespeare’s time who said, “Some are born great; some have greatness thrust them as others achieve greatness by hard work. For Professor Babagana Zulum, current governor of Boko Haram-ravaged Borno State, by accident of birth, he does not possess the luxury of being born great since he is not of royal blood, nor does he have greatness thrust on him by reason of powerful connections and the pull of strings in high echelon of society.
His ascendancy to government’s highest office in Borno is a product of his hard work, perseverance and dedication to his ideal of making the most of the little opportunities he has had right from birth in 1969.
Destiny is unique and has a way in one life’s struggles that can never be under estimated as a will of God. Today, Zulum has succeeded in ruling his destiny as he rises from a peasant humble background to become a university don and then governor of Borno state.
He once said: “From my humble background, I trekked 7 km daily to school in Mafa town of Mafa local government area in Borno State, Nigeria and covered same distance to help my father, a peasant farmer in his farm.”
He added: “I paid for my secondary education and National Diploma (ND) fees and also sponsored my university education”.
According to him, he secured admission at Unimaid to read Agriculture and since he couldn’t afford the school fees, feeding and accommodation fees, he worked as a taxi driver for commercial purpose as well as farm produce driver to make ends meet.
Prof. Zulum extended his commercial driving trade to Lagos, precisely at Alaba-Rago to raise his tuition fees for his M.sc program, three weeks after resumption.
Surprisingly, he returned to Maiduguri for his PhD program where, he moved through the ranks and files within the university community until his appointment as Professor in 2014.
It is also interesting to note that, as a university don, Prof. Zulum had more than enough family challenges that he couldn’t even afford to build a personal house but lived in rented apartments with his families even when he was appointed Rector, Ramat Polytechnic Maiduguri and subsequently, Honourable State Commissioner of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RRR)), one of the newly created State Ministries by governor Kashim Shettima in his second tenure in office. He operated commercial taxi driving for 16 years before he became a Professor.
In 2015, Prof. Zulum was appointed pioneer Commissioner for Ministry of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement by governor Shettima. The former governor once told a gathering in Maiduguri that one of his attractions to Prof. Zulum is the fact that despite being in control of billions of naira for reconstruction of thousands of homes, schools and hospitals, “he neither bought a personal house nor a personal car for himself.
He also came under attack of Boko Haram insurgents twice, but didn’t stop on his efforts to rebuild substantial parts of the ravaged communities across Borno state until relief came his way when he emerged as Borno State APC Governorship flag bearer. It was only then that the APC ruling state government bought him a house and car.
Baba Kura Aba Jato, the state’s commissioner for Information told BusinessHallmark that ” Professor Babagana Zulum is a humble man who has achieved much for Borno state. His work is there for everybody to see. It is hard to imagine his energy, dedication and humility. He has proved able to turn around the fortune of the state. Go anywhere in the state and you will hear testimonies, even of ordinary people.”
And to this very humble and trust-worthy Professor, nothing has changed, as he recently said, “All offices are temporal as days of democratic offices are numbered before our emergence, why the excesses?”
Adamu Misha , an Okada rider around Berger area of Lagos ,who is an indigene of Borno state told this newspaper that “Except, if politicians will begin to influence his character as beginner and new comer in to the political arena of Borno pollitics, this man is our saviour.”
“This is the first time Borno state is having a young and energetic Governor as a Professor and First Lady (Governor’s Wife) are PhD holders. It is a thing of joy coming from the northern part of Nigeria and North east Geo political zone”, Mohammed Aududu, a medical doctor at Ahmadiyya Hospital, Abule Egba said in a chat with BusinessHallmark.
Aududu further stated that, “We may begin to have qualitative education, transparent public financial transactions and multiple contracts awards under Due Process in Borno State. Let me tell you this man Zulum is the best governor in Nigeria.”
While John Adebayo, North-based contractor who has had long association with the state said ,”We may begin to see government contract activities involving suitable and qualified bidders in all the nooks and crannies of the state irrespective of location, ethnicity and religion in a humble manner with outward transparency and accountability unlike awarding contracts without tenders or bidders and making it private instead of public for the people.”
Adebayo added that,”This is when resources of the state will be available and visible all over the places and reach every citizen of the state instead of a particular group of people or families. The era of zero kitchen cabinet as exhibited in the Ramat Polytechnic and RRR contracts awards and execution will be enhanced”..
And that was exactly how Professor Zulum started his tenure as the governor of Borno state. First on assumption of office, he made it very clear that it was not going to be business as usual. Aba Jato told this newspaper that “From onset, he has started leading by example by coming very early to office.”
In the early days, this newspaper learnt that one day he arrived at work very early in the morning, the time when dedicated civil servants were supposed to have resumed and be at their desk. The governor took time to go round the offices at the state Secretariat and behold most of the workers had not resumed work by 8:30am.
He did not find that funny. So disappointed and aggrieved he was that he meted out commensurate punishment to serve as deterrence and a warning to every civil servant in Borno state that a new sheriff is in town.
As that was not enough, towards the end of last year the governor on getting security reports of the atrocities of some Army personnel on road patrol who instead of providing security to the people and the state were busy extorting N1000 per person from motorists traveling on the road.
The governor was said to have led few members of his cabinet to confront the Army and demanded explanation and stoppage to the extortions.
While the dust of that confrontation with extortionist soldiers were yet to settle down, the governor was at it again when he paid an unannounced and unscheduled visit to the Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp. The Governor who arrived at the IDP camp around 10:15pm when most Governors and public officers were busy snoring away from first round of sleep was there to see things for himself and not depend on reports from his aides and lieutenants.
He took time to go round the different sections of the camp and by so doing he got first hand information on the challenges of the people and provided solutions to the problems.
The governor later provided the residents of the IDP with blankets, mats and clothing materials that will make their lives more comfortable and also cushion the adverse effects of the hard weather conditions particularly in the season of harmattan and cold that pervades the open camp area the people are subjected to. In fact he spent the night in the IDP Camp to have a feeling of what it means to sleep in such an environment!
The governor gave words of comfort and hope to the people by assuring them that necessary plans and efforts are being made to resettle them back to their villages and communities so that they can resume lives as normal citizens.
He has made efforts to address the Boko Hara insurgency. To boost the security of the war torn Borno state, Professor Zulum has established a local security out-fit codenamed BOYES( Borno Youth Volunteers) to compliment and boost the efforts of the Nigerian army and police in the war against insurgency and tackling other security challenges of the troubled state.
Here young men and women are recruited and kitted to face the issue of security headlong in the state. Arms and ammunitions are also provided to the security outfit to enhance their job of providing security to the people. In addition the governor has recruited about ten thousand hunters to fight the insurgents.
The Information commissioner told this newspaper that governor is consistently opening up rural areas with provision of good road networks to connect the backwater to urban centres for development purposes.
“Civil servants are now paid promptly in the state as our governor does not believe in owing workers salaries. Governor has come out to say he does not consider payment of salaries and pension as an achievement, saying it is his duty as governor.
He has since accepted to pay newly promulgated and approved N30,000 minimum wage! This is coming in the heels of many states still owing several months of salary arrears from the old minimum wage.
The election of Prof. Zulum as governor of Borno State, has altered so many things as the state has since changed for the better .On New Year’s Day 2020 for instance, he commissioned five projects started in the last six months of 2019 and also inspected ongoing projects in Hawul Local Government Area in the southern part of the state.
The governor who spent three days in Gwoza commissioning projects and distributing food items to displaced persons proceeded to Hawul on New Year’s day and commissioned 100 bed capacity General Hospital in Azare town; 40-bed capacity primary healthcare centre in Kwajjafa town; and a skills acquisition centre in Marama town in Hawul initiated by community members before the government took over in June 2019.
He further commissioned a primary school and a primary healthcare centre in Kwayabura also in Hawul, and inspected ongoing construction works at a central primary school and palace of the district head in kwajjafa. He was also in Sakwa town in the local government area where he inspected ongoing reconstruction of a Government Secondary School.
There are various accounts of how Boko Haram started. One of interest is the one given by General Jeremiah Useni, commonly known as ‘Jerry Boy’. According to him, as the National Vice Chairman of the ANPP, the party to which Senator Modu Sherrif, former governor of Borno also belonged, he went to Maiduguri for a party event. As Senator Modu Sherrif took him around, they were followed by a large contingent of party thugs, armed with machetes, guns and sundry other weapons of war.
Their menacing conduct sent cold shivers down his spine, even as a war tested general. When he complained about this, Modu Sherrif said he should not worry.
“The boys are good. They bring in votes during elections,” he was assured. According to Jerry Boy, these were the boys who later became Boko Haram. It was during the tenure of Modu Sherrif as Governor of Borno State that national newspapers were flooded with stories of massive looting of government treasury in Borno.
As this newspaper has learnt, Zulum’s silent ongoing revolution in the state with massive investments in education will reduce recruitment to Boko Haram cause.