Professor Babagana Zulum is at the helms of affairs in Borno State at a time of dispair. The dust of hate, terrorism and insecurity pervades the state. Professor Babagana Zullum is an exemplary leader who is building bridges, salvaging towns and setting dynamic governance standards inspite of unpalatable times.
What comes to mind when a lot of Nigerians speak of Borno is a dusty landscape close to the borders of warfare, and far from development. A few relate to the glorious Kanem-Bornu empire populated by the valiant peoples of Kanuri, Marghi, Shuwa Arab and others inside its walls. Borno morphed from a Kanemi Emirate into a part of a Northern Nigeria Protectorate in 1907. At independence, it remained under the influence of the regional leaders until it was made a state in the Gowon years. Borno State has now earned a reputation of an unsafe place. News of the presence of the Islamic State of West Africa, ISWA, a terror group known as Boko Haram, has become a dreadful staple in the consciousness of Nigerians. The heavy presence of the Nigerian military set to push Boko Haram back is felt by reports of its countering force. The shocks of the killings of 176 school teachers in 2011, and the kidnapping of the Chibok Girls in 2014 still resonate on a global scale. It is true that Boko Haram has ravaged Borno State espeWhat comes to mind when a lot of Nigerians speak of Borno is a dusty landscape close to the borders of warfare, and far from development. A few relate to the glorious Kanem-Bornu empire populated by the valiant peoples of Kanuri, Marghi, Shuwa Arab and others inside its walls. Borno morphed from a Kanemi Emirate into a part of a Northern Nigeria Protectorate in 1907. At independence, it remained under the influence of the regional leaders until it was made a state in the Gowon years. Borno State has now earned a reputation of an unsafe place. News of the presence of the Islamic State of West Africa, ISWA, a terror group known as Boko Haram, has become a dreadful staple in the consciousness of Nigerians. The heavy presence of the Nigerian military set to push Boko Haram back is felt by reports of its countering force. The shocks of the killings of 176 school teachers in 2011, and the kidnapping of the Chibok Girls in 2014 still resonate on a global scale. It is true that Boko Haram has ravaged Borno State especially Northern Borno, but is not true that governance in Borno State has come to a halt.
Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, the governor of Borno State has made the state a reference point for Pan-Nigerian governance when he appointed multi-ethnic special advisers. He expressed firmness and support for the Nigerian military at the forefront of quelling a guerrilla Great People BABAGANA ZULUM 56 cially Northern Borno, but is not true that governance in Borno State has come to a halt.
Professor Babagana Umara Zulum, the governor of Borno State has made the state a reference point for Pan-Nigerian governance when he appointed multi-ethnic special advisers. He expressed firmness and support for the Nigerian military at the forefront of quelling a guerrilla insurrection, while making critical development points and boldly calling soldiers to order at conferences and state briefings. He has also given vehicles to the military, the civilian Joint Task Force, the RRS and local vigilantes in order to prosecute the insurgency and protect lives and properties. This and many other interventions made the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Turkur Yusuf Buratai to pay a courtesy visit to him in July 2019. General Buratai said ‘I want use this opportunity to thank Your Excellency, most sincerely, for all your support to the Nigerian Army and other services, the Nigerian Airforce, as well the theatre of operation Lafiya Dole. Your support is quite immeasurable. We appreciate it and this has really made us to improve on our operations’. The Governor has enacted a robust and functional pension plan for 552 retired civil servants and the cash support of 23.5 Million Naira for 47 fallen soldiers has not gone unnoticed by the media.
The governor has also been swift to announce a lockdown immediately after discovering the index case of COVID19 in the state, in order to prevent the double tragedy of community transmission and the Boko Haram insurgency. He has also urged the Federal Government to empower repentant members of the group. Governor Babagana has also given out cash gifts, clothes and food to less privileged women and children ravaged by the scrooge of unemployment and malnourishment due to the lockdown and insecurity in the state. The governor is also finding ways to increase its internally generated revenue by renovating the Maiduguri International Hotel, the Borno Fertilizer Company LTD, NIETAL Shoes and Tenary Factory, Borno Steel and Wire Industry, and the Borno Supply Company.
Babagana was born to peasant farmers at Mafa, a small town in Borno State. He grew to till the soil. He was a student of Mafa Primary School in 1975 to 1978. He later gained admission into Government Secondary School Mungono in 1980. Young Babagana ‘trekked 7 kilometres to school in Mafa town’ and returned same distance on his legs to assist his father on the farm. He continued to pursue educational gains despite his circumstances, ‘I paid my secondary education and National Diploma, ND, fees and also sponsored my education’ he told The Nigerian Voice. He later went ahead to earn a Bachelor of Agriculture from the University of Maiduguri in 1994, an Msc from the University of Ibadan in 1998 and a PhD from the University of Maiduguri in 2009.
He was a taxi driver, a truck driver, a grinding machine operator and farmer in order to raise funds for his education till he was employed as an assistant lecturer at the university. He rose to become Deputy-Dean and Acting Dean at the Faculty of Engineering in few years by getting involved in the daily administration of University of Maiduguri. He also helped stretch the frontiers of scholarship in his field in Nigeria. He was made a professor in 2014.
One can find a thread of resilience in Babagana Zulum’s life from his childhood to his civil service years. He was an Assistant Technical Adviser in Borno State Ministry of Agriculture, after is Bachelor of Agriculture degree, in 1989. He was later deployed to the Unified Local Government Service as Senior Field Overseer and promoted to the position of Principal Water Engineer in the year 2000. His work as a Field Officer and Water Engineer may have brought him closer to the harsh realities of residents of Maiduguri who are faced with lack of basic infrastructure and state presence on a daily basis.
Professor Babagana Zulum was appointed by Governor Kashim Shettima as the Rector of Ramat Polytechnic while teaching at University of Maiduguri. He was made commissioner of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, RRR by the Governor. The Guardian noted that Zullum built hospitals and schools. He neither built a house nor bought a car for himself from the state coffers as commissioner of RRR. Jack Vince, a journalist based in Maiduguri said ‘The Governor was the Rector of the State Polytechnic.
He transformed the place from a glorified secondary school to something one could call world class. The former governor was impressed. So, he brought him to government, made him commissioner of RRR (Reconstruction Renovation and Rehabilitation). Zulum did excellently well and became more popular than the governor. In short, anywhere you take him to, he regenerates the place’. The ministry of RRR built 10,000 houses, schools and hospitals in local government areas like Bama, Kaga, Dikwa, Gwoza, Askira Uba and others in a bid to resettle displaced victims of the insurgency. 57 The former governor, Governor Shettima found a loyal and rare leader in Professor Babagana Umara Zullum. So, Shettima backed Zullum to become the governorship candidate for the All Progressive Congress, APC, a new opposition party. This was at a time when the house of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, was divided against itself. The PDP was embroiled in internal wrangling which led to parallel primaries. The opposition APC had a smooth ride to the Maiduguri state house where a political neophyte assumed office with a different orientation towards development and governance.
Governor Babagana Zullum is not prepared to rest until the end of his tenure. He has shown that the work of governance needs great mental alertness in the deployment of problem-solving skills.
A TVC special documentary said that Zulum was one of those who influenced the establishment of the North East Development Commission by the President of Nigeria. Governor Zulum also returned traditional rulers to their thrones by bringing desolate communities back to thriving normalcy. The Governor is building 1000houses for Gwarzo and Bama localities along with police posts, places of worship and fire stations. He has upgraded the capacity of primary health care centres to cater for secondary needs while launching new ultramodern health centres, one of which is the Umaru Shehu Ultra-modern Hospital at Bulumkutu.
Governor Babagana Zulum has continued to ignore the gun shots from the insurgents whose slogan is ‘Western Education is Evil’. He has opened the first state owned university and granted admission to over 400 students. He has also built more primary and secondary schools in all the Local Government Areas in the state. He emphasised on girl child education at the recent 1 Million Girls March to School Programme.
He promised that technical and vocational education will be made available for the girl child without abandoning the boy child. Some of these students will be going to school for the first time due to poverty or their unfortunate refugee status but the state government had made provisions for free school uniforms among other free amenities.
Governor Zulum in collaboration with the military and Joint Task Force,JTF, has reopened major highways leading to Dambawa and Chibok, former strongholds of the Boko Haram insurgents. Governor Babagana Zulum has been awarded the ‘Personality of the Year’ 2019 by MuslimNews, as well as the ‘Most Promising Governor Award’ by the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Borno Branch, for his meritorious service to the state.
The governor has given countless relief materials in the Mongono IDP camp, the largest IDP camp, and has distributed seeds and cash to farmers as a way of encouraging them to return to their farms. Last years, farmers planted more than 500 hectres of land despite the threats of the insurgents.
Ahmed Satomi, a Representative of the Jere Federal constituency has praised governor Zulum for the wide berth of projects he has embarked upon, he however urged President Buhari to support him by providing more resources. He urged the Federal Government to do more to equip the security operatives who are fighting against the insurgents so that the state can live by its slogan ‘Home of Peace’. Suleiman Galadima Public analyst
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