|Port Harcourt 09|
|Entertainment & Style|
|A Visit to the Seat of the Caliphate|
|Written by Jonathan Elendu|
|Sunday, 26 March 2006|
The invitation to visit Sokoto State came soon after our story on the Governor’s London home. We turned it down, but Governor of Sokoto State Attahiru Bafarawa remained undeterred. He insisted we had to know him personally to form an objective opinion of him. We made it abundantly clear to him that we did not need to meet with him to do our job. However, we promised to visit with him whenever we came to Nigeria.
A few days after we arrived Nigeria we got in touch with Kabir Ahmed, the Governor’s personal aide. He informed us that the Governor had just arrived Nigeria from an overseas trip. It turns out Attahiru Bafarawa was in Boston, MA at Harvard University for an educational program. And why would the Governor of Sokoto State go to Harvard to study? “Why not?” he countered. “What is better than learning? I love education and any opportunity to study, I will grab it.” So, are the people of Sokoto State paying for your Harvard education, we asked. “No!” he said emphatically. “A friend is paying for it. He is not a contractor or anybody that would benefit from this Government. He is a banker and he paid for my Harvard studies.”
We had set out on what we considered a private visit to Sokoto. On arrival at the airport, we were met by the Governor’s personal aide and the Director of Press for the Government House, Shehu Mustapha. Ok, this is supposed to be a private visit. “Well, Elendureports.com is a very important outfit and we want you to see us the way we are,” said the Director of Press. Can we go anywhere we like? “Of course,” he said. “Just tell us where you want to go and we’ll take you there.” And then we were handed a two-page program of activities.
This was this reporter’s first visit to Sokoto in thirteen years. As soon as we checked into our quarters, the Elendureports.com team informed the Sokoto Government House Director of Press that we were ready to go. Two minutes after we took off from our quarters, we stopped to visit with Ahmad Tangaza, the Sokoto State Commissioner for Works and Transport.
The Commissioner gave the Elendureports.com team a list of roads that had been constructed and the amount spent on each project. From there we were taken to several ongoing construction projects in Sokoto City and beyond. We took a long drive to Bafarawa, the Governor’s home town. According to some people we spoke with, the Isa-Bafarawa road was for a long time unusable. The road was usually cut off during heavy rains and the inhabitants of Bafarawa would go through Niger Republic to connect with Sokoto. The Bafarawa Administration is credited with constructing the road. In all, the Bafarawa Administration is reputed to have constructed over 750 kilometers of road in the life of the Administration. From 1999 to date, the State has invested about twenty-five billion naira in road construction and rehabilitation.
Another area where the Bafarawa Administration has made huge leaps has been in education. In 1999, Sokoto State had one of the lowest enrollment rates for primary, secondary, and post-secondary schools. Gov. Bafarawa, according to Hamza Gwadabawa, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, embarked on a program that targeted parents, as well as the students. Through this program, parents were assured that morals and Islamic religion would be taught in schools. This led to a dramatic increase in the rate of enrollment. Scholarships were offered to Sokoto students at all levels. The Sokoto State government, as a policy, sends deserving students to study overseas, all expenses paid.
The Elendureports.com team visited the Attahiru Bafarawa Institute for Qur’an and General Studies. When we were told that we would be visiting the school, I thought “Oh boy…now I have to go see little boys dressed in white, sitting on the floor and reciting passages from the Qur’an.” Big mistake! We were stunned by what we saw at the school. The Attahiru Bafarawa Institute of Qur’an and General Studies, to our surprise, is better equipped than most Universities in Nigeria. The school auditorium is comparable to any school auditorium within and outside Nigeria. Having given speeches and attended ceremonies in Universities in the United States, I was pleasantly surprised at the facilities in this school’s auditorium. But it could all have been for show. So we demanded to see the classrooms and laboratories. Again, we were dumbfounded. All the laboratories in the school are connected to the Internet. This school, which has primary and secondary school wings, has seven well-equipped laboratories for the secondary section which is used by male students, five laboratories for the female students and four laboratories for the primary section. There are also computer laboratories. The Elendureports.com team was able to log on to our website from the computer room of the primary section. Another big surprise at the school was the boarding facilities which are enjoyed by both primary and secondary school students. There are also about twenty-five buildings for staff quarters while more were under construction during our visit.
Our experience at the Attahiru Bafarawa Institute for Qur’an and General Studies was replicated in all the institutions of learning we visited in Sokoto State, including the Olusegun Obasanjo School of Science and Technology in Bafarawa, the Governor’s home town. The governor told our team that he had to go to school outside his hometown as a child as there were none in his village.
Provision of portable drinking water is another area in which the Bafarawa Administration has made significant achievements. Attahiru Yabo, the Commissioner for Water Resources, demonstrated for our team how water is taken from the City to other parts of the Sokoto Metropolitan. We also witnessed some of the one thousand borehole schemes of the government. The Bafarawa government had embarked on a scheme to provide one thousand boreholes for the State. While some of the boreholes had been constructed and completed, we were shown equipment for the boreholes that are yet to be constructed. According to Yabo, “We have seen a significant drop in cases of water-borne diseases.”
We were reliably informed that the State Government has a policy of paying for all its contracts in advance and ordering equipment as soon as it approved. This was the case at the new Government House under construction. According to the supervising engineer, the three hundred million naira project is the brain child of the State Ministry of Works. The construction is being carried out through direct labor by the staff of the Ministry. The project is expected to be completed before the end of this year.
The Attahiru Bafarwa Administration, in a bid to bolster its Islamic credentials, embarked on construction of mosques for the people of Sokoto State. So far, the government has constructed about seventy-four mosques. “Is your Governor not aware of the Principle of separation of Church and State?” we asked Mustapha Shehu, the Director of Press for Sokoto Government House. “Well, the Governor will give the people what they want. The people wanted places of worship built for them and as a listening government we have provided that,” he responded. Mmmmm.
The Elendureports.com team was invited to a State dinner in honor of some visiting students from the Command and Staff College, Jaji. At the State dinner, which was attended by the Governor and members of the Sokoto State Executive Council, Attahiru Bafarawa vowed to leave office no later than 2:00 PM on May 29th, 2007. Obviously taking a swipe at the President and proponents of the third term agenda, he urged Nigerians to discourage any talk of extension of tenure for him and other elected officials, saying, “I don’t want to be the Governor after May 29th, 2007. Anybody campaigning for that is on his own. Let another person come and serve.” The Governor told guests at the dinner that since 1999, his Administration has received about ninety billion naira as revenue. From the ninety billion naira he has executed projects, never borrowed from any bank and still had savings of four-and-a-half billion naira in the bank. The Sultan of Sokoto and some Princes of the Sultanate were there, including former Minister and Ambassador Alhaji Alhaji.
The Elendureports.com visit to Sokoto was tedious, yet very educative. Like the Governor told us when we first met with him, “I am happy you have come to see for yourself what we are doing here. We have refused to talk about it and make noise. We want people like you to see what we are doing and be surprised by it. Isn’t it better to see for yourself than staying in the U.S. and be abusing people?” He burst into laughter before we could respond to his statement.
The Sokoto Governor gave us gifts of locally crafted rugs. The rugs were breathtaking in their beauty. A member of the team was agitated because for three days he did not have access to the kind of ‘nourishment the Sharia law frowns at.’
|Last Updated ( Sunday, 02 April 2006 )|
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