It was Alex Malley who observed who said what is needed from strategic leaders with journalistic discipline, is the confidence that their ability and relevance are nearly impossible to compete with, not only in the newsroom but in politics and governance as well. It is Malley’s conviction that journalists can make an appreciable impact in providing creative and purposeful political leadership.
Yet, seldom do journalists step out to be the public voice, to seize the mantle of ultimate decision making responsibility, all of which perpetuates the common misconception that journalists only engage in informing, educating and entertaining as spelt out by the noble profession.
Presently in Bauchi state, a journalist, Sen. Bala Muhammed Muhammed, has stepped out into the public space to accede to Malley’s clarion call for journalists to move over from the newsroom to the political sphere. Although not the first time for reputable journalists to access power, but this is the first time in Northern Nigeria. In the South-west, there was Lateef Jakande, Bisi Onabanjo and Segun Osoba.
Few months after Bala’s official oath of office, a lot have started to authenticate Malley’s perspective that journalists have much to offer in the political arena than in the newsrooms. Various leaders make a lasting impression on their admirers through diverse means.
Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr and Barack Obama, Adolf Hitler, Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Thomas Sankara, Abubakar T/Balewa, etc created respectable spaces in the minds of their followers through their oratory prowess. Other leaders earned public respect through the strength and depth of their principles and convictions.
In his style of governance, one item that has become quite steady is his penchant for probity, transparency and keeping to his word. In this clime, a good number of political leaders make promises they fail to honour while in office. During the electioneering campaign, the typical Nigerian politician could make a thousand and one pledges to the electorates. Upon assumption of office, the story dramatically changes. Several years of vague and empty promises have, thus, made Nigerians not to actually expect much from their leaders.
It is, however, in keeping faith with his electoral promises that Sen. Bala Muhammed has become quite different from most contemporary Nigerian politicians. To him, a leader’s words should remain his bound. In his inauguration speech, he pledged to run a government that will leave no one behind; a government that will make life simpler, easier and happier for the people. In fulfilment of that promise, he is ensuring even allocation of infrastructure across the state. In a bid to ensure effective human and vehicular movement, the PDP administration has started the rehabilitation of dilapidated roads, providing steady portable water, healthcare, security, qualitative education, fertilizers etc.
It is, however, imperative to emphasize that the exercise covers the entire state. This is essential because it underscores the governor’s pledge to run an all-inclusive government.
In the area of youth empowerment, he has created a favourable atmosphere to achieve that feat. Presently, his administration has put in place the necessary structure to encourage creativity and exhibition of talents for the possible realization of dreams.
Similarly, in fulfilment of his promise to make Bauchi state a sure and first destination of choice to investors in Africa, the governor is putting the required structures on the ground for ease of investment. The intention is to later make Bauchi as the North-East’s Model Megacity and National Economic and Financial Hub that is safe, secure, functional and super productive.
He is equally making good his promise of ensuring prompt payment of civil servants salaries and other fringe benefits while hunting for ghost workers for the prosecution that has attracted him insults and baseless allegations from drowning clowns masquerading as politicians.
It is beyond public debate that he inherited several months backlog of gratuities and pension from his predecessor which he has since started clearing. To the benefitting retired civil servants, it was a welcome development but to the governor, it was only a way of fulfilling one of his campaign promises of creating a conducive, atmosphere for senior citizens to enjoy their retirement and discharge of their statutory responsibilities to their families with less financial stress. In our climes, there is, indeed, no better way to motivate workers than ensuring their wages are promptly paid since it makes them avoid distractions that emanate from financial worries. Gov. Bala’s gesture, which is the basic practice in most multinational firms, originates from his firm belief that workers are those that determine the pace of development in the state and as such must not be denied their wages which is, indeed, one of their core entitlements.
It is, however, not only serving public servants that are benefitting from the governor’s promise of improving worker’s welfare, but those retired are also not left out in the welfare package and other mouth-watering incentives to be doled out soon. The development forms part of his promise to find a solution to the issue of regular payment of pension entitlements to retirees under the pay-as-you-go pension scheme, as well as outstanding accrued pension rights due to retirees and gratuity under contributory pension scheme while sovereign allowances of disengaged political officeholders may soon be part of history.
At any rate, If the governor’s plans eventually succeed, it will go a long way in ameliorating the hardship threatening retirees, verified disengaged political office holders and their dependants as well as improve their living standards.
Disturbed by the huge monthly salary bill of the state which is between N6 – 7billion (State and Local Governments), in an effort to sanitize the system, the governor directed a thorough investigation of the actual number of civil servants in the employment of the state and the local governments to clear any doubt. That effort of probity attracted him several hate speeches, insults and blackmail from those hidden crooks that stabilized the crime of ghost workers over the years. Wonders shall never end, as the investigation eventually revealed, there are suspected at least over 10,000 ghost workers ploughed back to the payroll after the exit of M.A Abubakar. Several other cases of financial malfeasance were discovered along. Crooks and rogues had steadily penetrated the system. Bauchi state was made to bleed while the criminals smiled to the banks. Gov. Bala Muhammed has vowed to get to the root of the crime to reposition the financial base of the state to guarantee a steady monthly salary to those that deserve. But that is not all, should those that duped the state over the years be allowed for whatever reason to go scot-free? Gov. Bala will be the last to subscribe to that nonsense. Those that survived on duping the state should in earnest start preparation for a showdown or silently refund what they stole to save face.
But above all, who are responsible for the over bloating of the state civil service with ghost workers? Was it not calculated connivance to defraud the poor state or to derail any effort of developing the state by a successive administration? Whoever faults the corrective measure on course by Governor Bala Muhammed must be a temporary criminal that deserves exposure and disconnection from the larger society.
In contrast to Napoleon Bonaparte, who once said, “the best way to keep one’s word is not to give it”, in his few months in office, Gov. Bala Muhammed has not only given his word, but he has kept same. Without fear or doubt, Bauchi state is in safe hands with a leader who is resisting intimidation, temptations, threats and frustration piloting its affairs with a promise to navigate the state from troubled waters to safe coast within the next four years and possibly beyond.
As most of the people shout praises of joy, those left behind in blind opposition are now moving closer to the Ark of Noah for their personal safety and that of the state.
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues