Alhaji Yakubu Ahmed Maibindiga, a media consultant has called for more patience and support for the Kebbi State government as it struggles with the economic downturn. He told HUSSAINI JIRGI, that the gradual shift to non oil exports will benefit Kebbi in the long run.
There is rising concern in Kebbi State that the high expectation placed on the governor is not being met. Do you share same concern as a stakeholder?
It is unfortunate that the Buhari administration came into office at a of economic stress arising from the drastic fall in the prizes of oil. The implication of this has cascaded down to the states and I really feel for Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi state, who assumed office with the best of intentions and with the best of credentials and vision to take the state out of the woods of underdevelopment and infrastructural decay. Like every other state battling cash squeeze and high debt profile, the challenges facing Kebbi state have posed very serious incapacitation in terms of capacity to timely deliver on campaign promises.
But these excuse has been there for a long time now, do you think the people of the state would sympathize with the government to the point of accepting excuses?
I do not know how it works with the Bagudu administration, but I should think the government is not allowing communication gap to exist between it and the people. In fact, all the state governments and even the federal government must develop an effective mechanism to reach out to the people with the facts of the unfortunate economic problems facing the country. I hope the state governments are reaching out to their people through rigorous and aggressive sensitization and enlightenment campaign on the implications and consequences of the situation the country finds itself in. I know as a fact that in Kebbi the government is working to take the citizens into confidence through the usual traditional enlightenment policy on the predicaments and the need to be patient and patriotic in order to bridge a yawning gap of misunderstanding that has been allowed to fester. With the right proactive information dissemination system, the people will be able to appreciate these handicaps.
But so far, can you say that the state government in Kebbi is on the right track?
I am an optimistic person and I believe that the state government is struggling to settle down to the business of governance despite these challenges to improve the lot of our people. I have always called for patience giving the problems he inherited in Kebbi. The governor met a debt profile of more than N80billion and a high wage bill at a time of economic downturn brought about by falling oil prices. Kebbi is one of the most underdeveloped states in the country and with the lack of the necessary infrastructures to drive the state out of its malaise, no government that has come at this time and is faced with an empty treasury and a huge debt profile can just begin to dish out goodies or begin to embark on multibillion Naira projects because the money is
just not there. There was the need for the state government to carefully take stock, look at the books, weigh its options, carefully do the necessary analysis based on available resources, explore avenues for funding and then prioritize. All these require meticulous scrutiny on the part of government and patience, support and prayers on the side of the people. I can understand the impatience of the people because their hopes have been raised, but we must be realistic. The Dakingari era would have been a time for Kebbi to be transformed because of the available resources at government’s disposal at that time, but we missed that one. Now is a different era with its attendant multi-faceted problems.
Kebbi is purely an agrarian state and a shift to non oil exports is gainingmomentum, what is the government, doing about it?
I think this is one particular area where the Kebbi state government and the people of the state have already demonstrated readiness to fully be active. Governor Atiku Bagudu has shown what made him different from past leaders of the state. Kebbi has one of Nigeria’s most arable fadama belt and on coming to power, the state government moved fast to bring in high level stakeholders including the federal government, the Central Bank, the private investors and our farmers into an entrepreneurial partnership to produce high quality rice with the aim of reducing and eliminating the huge rice importation that has been eating into our reserves and weakening our local currency.
Let me tell you that, about four billion Naira has been set aside to mobilize rice farmers and I can tell you that Kebbi is on the verge of moving to the fadama fields to help the country achieve self sufficiency. The state governments can play an important role in sourcing for soft loans, providing the guarantees, making the environment amenable to investors, protecting all interests and ensuring security. In Kebbi all these have been provided and it is our hope that our people will reciprocate by playing their part well. Of course, there are grounds for people to be worried over issues of development that are either slow in coming or are inadequate. A lot of people may have issues with the style of the Governor and very justifiably so, but the man is less than one year in office and for us to fairly assess him, we need to be patient for at least one full year and be hopeful that he will buckle up and deliver. If after our patience Atiku Bagudu still proves that he is the wrong man for the job, we can then begin the process of doing something about it in 2019.
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