What six billion naira can do for my state
By Hassan Gimba
Yobe is a small agrarian state on the path to becoming great. All those who governed it ensured this. All the past governors, one way or the other, have taken the state beyond how they met it. There have been hiccups here and there, disappointments now and then, but that’s okay; that’s human nature for you, and how anything human grows.
The current governor, Hon. Mai Mala Buni, has, since receiving the baton of the state’s leadership, been doing his best in the infrastructural development of the young, growing state that Yobe is. He is about commissioning thousands of houses built for the less privileged and, at least, five modern markets that would improve the state’s revenue generation capacity.
He has also resuscitated over ten dormant industries, renovated and built schools, constructed some roads linking important communities, improved the health delivery capability of the state and attracted many incentives for farmers. His administration also considers with importance civil servants’ welfare. When many states find it increasingly difficult to pay salaries, Yobe pays its civil servants on time. Retirees get their pensions and all go home happy.
However, the revenue generation capacity of the state is low, as his efforts in putting in place revenue generators will only yield fruits with time.
For instance, in September this year, the state generated about N9.5 billion – a massive improvement – and got a value-added tax allocation of N20.5 billion. That’s spread over twelve months.
I was mulling over this when I dozed off and started having a sweet dream. I dreamt that God mercifully opened some unknown doors for me and I made some cool, lawful N6.5 billion. Even in the dream, I did not doubt because I know He is capable.
Well, I woke up, and it was just a dream, but it did not fade away as such dreams do. My brain – my fertile imaginations – was at work. I started thinking about what to do with all that money if I had it and an idea hit me: “Why not donate six billion naira to my state through the state government and give some suggestions?”
I know that six billion naira is money that Yobe State will gladly welcome. It can complete many ongoing projects, including a cargo airport in Damaturu, the state capital. That money can be used in renovating other schools and even building more. Without a doubt, a state-of-the-art renal diseases research institute and associated hospitals can be put in place with that amount. There is a part of the state that more than any other thing needs, nay, deserves it.
If the state desires to augment its revenue base by constructing revenue generators as it is doing now, then six billion naira can set up a soap and detergent producing industry because there are places in the state blessed with the basic ingredient for their production – potash.
The state can also become one of the highest exporters of fresh river fish. But first, the rivers around Nguru and that of Gashua have to be dredged. Typha grasses have to be controlled as well. Aside from the fact that if the Gashua River is not dredged as soon as possible, over 50 communities along its path may be lost, its dredging would enhance rice production and vegetable farming. There will be agricultural activities throughout the year because the area could become number one in the country in terms of irrigation farming. Six billion naira sunk here can go a long way to making this vision a reality. Just imagine the employment opportunities and wealth creation such a project would generate! Ngalda, in Fika Local Government, is also another fishing and dry season farming goldmine that such funds can help.
Education, too, can benefit immensely from six billion thrown at it. The Federal University in Gashua still occupies the only staff quarters inherited from the secondary school it displaced. Imagine the staff quarters six billion naira can build. Now, most staff members go back to their towns on Thursdays to return on Mondays. The university is yet to have a community of its own and be a proper citadel of learning eight years after its establishment. The compensation of some fields added to it is even yet to be paid, unfortunately.
Though some well-meaning indigenes have donated their houses to the university as a way of supporting the staff to be comfortable, still more houses are needed. Perhaps people who fortune has smiled upon and can now build better and bigger houses would not destroy the old ones to build new ones in their places. It would be good to see them donating or even hiring out the old ones to the university.
The current state government has built many schools and classrooms, as well as renovating many others. With an additional six billion naira, the remaining primary and secondary schools will get a befitting facelift. Teachers could be further trained and retrained, too.
Yobe, my state, is infested with eRats. eRats are jobless, or frustrated, youths who, for want of survival, have donned the toga of “journalists”. They survive on harassing people – primarily on Facebook – on behalf of political leaders who have nothing good to offer those they rule. Anyone who points out the shortcomings of such terrible leaders, or about the ills in society, is fair game to these attack dogs.
The best of these eRats cannot understand simple grammar. For instance, in talking, one may say “…to meet with the relevant people…” This has “the” as a determiner and it means the relevant people are known. When used without the “the”, it becomes a generic reference, just like saying “any person you consider being relevant.” eRats will take the latter for the former and get everything wrong. They may also not understand what the word “assuming” connotes. It is not only a poor understanding of semantics and syntax. No, it is the whole gamut. But then, it is understandable where there is a lack of good education.
A small fraction of six billion naira can return such eRats to foundation schools. Since they may all be above 20 years old and hustling to survive, special classes can be built for them all over the state. They missed out on attending the type of primary and secondary schools the children of those they fight for went to. But if they are lucky this time around, after the foundation schools, their heroes may take them to the United Kingdom to study alongside their children. They may even get the type of jobs the children of their mentors get when they return to Nigeria. They can then rattle with knowledge, having become “informed senior rattling” eats.
Talking about mentors and followers made me ponder the natural transfer of attitudes from one to the other. It is socially and psychologically normal for followers to imbibe their mentor’s worldview and copy his attitude. A mentor consumed with the narrow-mindedness of ethnicity and hate breeds the same mentality in his followers. His narrow worldview and the bile in him seep down and permeate their thinking; they now view everything, every opinion from the prism of tribalism, sectionalism and hate. It is sad, but it is a reality. Conversely, a cosmopolitan mentor who sees brotherhood in humanity inculcates love, unity, justice, understanding, consideration and fairness in his followers.
Still, education lightens the mind darkened by negativity or any other atavistic tendencies. Plato, an Athenian philosopher in Ancient Greece and founder of the Platonist school of thought and The Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western World, said: “If a man neglects education, he walks lame to the end of his life.”
Socrates, a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of western philosophy, exhorted us to “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Therefore, I will keep to myself the balance of N500 million and be kind with it.