Of all the 36 men who govern the states of which Nigeria is comprised, the Governor of Niger State Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello is perhaps one of the most limelight-shy yet profoundly impactful. Away from the often blinding lights of media attention that many of his counterparts crave and go to extreme lengths to court, his leadership and administrative acumen is steadily bringing the dividends of democracy to Niger State in ways that complement and even surpass the work of some of his predecessors. For this, the people of Niger State have just rewarded him with a second term in office through the polls and it would not be unreasonable to say they will be better for it in the long run.
If the personal sacrifices Abubakar Sani Bello have made in order to serve his people in his first four years are anything to go by, then his is the kind of leadership that the broader spectrum of Nigerians should yearn for. In a nation where many of his contemporaries seek public office primarily for the perks and luxuries that come with it, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, who is the son of the esteemed Colonel Sani Bello (RTD), has done quite the opposite. For example, the Governor has for the past three years been living in a small, dinghy “boys quarters” apartment because of the deplorable state of his official residence. When he first assumed office in 2015, he met the Government House in a dilapidated state, so much so that even its perimeter fencing was porous and goats used to jump over it to roam in the premises.
Apparently, a renovation project had been budgeted for and approved for work to commence by the administration of his predecessor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu but it was abandoned and never completed until he vacated office in May 2015. Despite his privileged upbringing with his father being a billionaire and former governor of the old Kano State, Abubakar Sani Bello did not make the renovation of his official residence a priority. He preferred to live within modest means while using the state’s minimal resources to focus on education, building roads, providing health care infrastructure and improving rural and urban water supply in the state. To his credit, the water drought and paucity that left most parts of Minna and Bida without potable pipe-borne water for over 20 years were taken care of by his administration and it is perhaps one of the reasons for which the people of Niger State have rewarded him with a second term in office. After all, one good term should deserve another.
Perhaps another reason the Niger State Governor defeated his closest rival, Umar Mohammed Nasko in the just concluded governorship election is that the Governor is more of a people person than Umar Nasko. Both of their parents are friends from their days at the Government High School and it is fair to say they both men lived above average. However, Governor Bello is clearly a people person and is connected to the grassroots, which is one thing that Umar Nasko doesn’t have. In fact, he is perceived as too elitist, out of touch with the common man’s realities and even unapproachable. He contested against Abubakar Sani Bello in 2015 and lost, and did so again in 2019 only to end up with the same result. Clearly, the incumbent Governor’s electoral victory is no fluke.
Apart from the infrastructural developments that have taken place in the last four years and the reduction of government wastage of scarce resources, one thing that the Governor has done that is having a profound and as yet the understated effect on the people of Niger State is his war against illicit drug use and human trafficking. Identifying that a lot of the criminal activities carried out in the state were by people under the influence of hard drugs and alcohol, he has adopted new forward-thinking strategies to deal with the menace of drug abuse and its debilitating effect on the future of Niger State. From ordering the instant closure of drug shops found selling hard drugs and the prosecution of pharmacists found wanting, he has also reached out to traditional rulers and religious leaders in his war on hard drugs in Niger State. As documented in surveys and even in the BBC’s documentary “Sweet Sweet Codeine”, substance abuse is particularly rife in Northern Nigeria with over 3 million bottles of codeine reportedly consumed in the region. Governor Abubakar Sani Bello’s efforts to curb the menace are worthy of commendation and it reveals that his heart is one that is compassionate, his mind intelligent and his methods revolutionary.
May the people of Niger State enjoy even more dividends of good leadership in the next four years and even if their Governor’s stewardship does not draw international attention, may history be kind to the silent revolutionary.