By Imam Imam
When former Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, was sworn-in as Governor of Sokoto State on May 29, attention of the nation was shifted to the historical state, with genuine prospect of ‘continued change’ rising among citizens. This was expected largely because of the pedigree Tambuwal built while representing the people of Kebbe-Tambuwal Federal Constituency in the National Assembly and his subsequent success as the Number Four citizen in the hierarchy of protocol in the federation.
Tambuwal had campaigned for the new position on the premise of continuing with most of the programmes of the previous administration of Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko in Sokoto state. This was much evident in his numerous speeches before, during and after the elections. The need for the ‘continued change’ mantra was necessary since both politicians not only belong to the same political party, but were from the same political family whose cord was coupled together years back. But like all individuals, it was an established fact that even though continuity of policies is guaranteed, governance style is a product of individual peculiarity since all persons are born different and unique.
Rather than feel any difference in individual composition between the last and present administration, foundation laid by Tambuwal in the last 100+ days have heightened the already spiraling expectation from the public. The new approach to governance has galvanized the populace and attracted attention not just nationally but among development partners and other interest groups. The people have been co-opted and their inputs sought in efforts to improve their well-being and build on the foundation laid in preceding years. A priority to him at the moment is institutional reform. He has repeatedly said that when the institutions are on sound footing, the journey will be smoother.
What we have been served by Tambuwal is a development module that integrates Sokoto’s historical peculiarities and huge potentials while seeking to modernize all aspect of its life. Knowing fully-well that no human endeavour will move successfully without quality education, Tambuwal made the revamping of the sector his number one priority. Within days of taking over the reigns of affairs , he received an unusual request from Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar to introduce school transportation system for kids in the state. His thinking was that with this kind of arrangement on ground, learning will be enhanced. Tambuwal promptly took up the challenge. Modalities for implementation are currently being developed pending budgetary approvals from the state legislature.
In a bid to boost enrolment figures and halt historical anomaly, government announced a policy that will criminalise refusal to send children to schools. The policy, seen as both radical and revolutionary, has drawn wide applause from social commentators and other stakeholders. This was followed immediately by recruitment of 500 teachers to address shortfall in teaching personnel in public secondary schools.
At a meeting with UNICEF, Tambuwal ordered immediate payment of counterpart funding for training of primary school teachers whose services will be employed upon completion of the trainings. The government has also abolished the discrepancy in the payment of school fees between indigenes and non indigenes in all public schools in Sokoto state. The entire operational manual for the tsangaya system of education, which integrates western and Islamic school system, has been redrawn. From the next academic session, designated teachers will lecture the students in their areas of learning pending when better facilities are provided to create a condusive learning environment.
Then also, in Sokoto, emphasis is now on technical education to ensure all students who graduated from O’levels are equipped with necessary skills for self reliance. Feasibility studies have been completed for the opening of entrepreneurship development centres in the three senatorial zones of the state.
In the areas of employment and youth empowerment, few weeks back, government started registration of 25,000 youths expected to benefit from a skills acquisition scheme over a two year period. In the coming weeks, government will unveil a special training scheme for artisans and semi-skilled professionals to enhance output and marketing potential for their products. Sokoto government has also signed an MoU with the Usmanu Danfodio University for the training of nurses and birth attendants whose services will be deployed in all parts of the state. To appreciate Sokoto indigenes studying health related courses, government has offered automatic employment for them upon successful completion of their studies.
Much has happened in the health sector in Sokoto in the last 100 days. After paying unscheduled late-night visits to public hospitals to assess things for himself, Tambuwal announced increnment in allowances paid to itenerant health care workers who frequent rural areas daily to render services to those in need. To enhance use of life-saving drugs, government began distribution of free drugs to pregnant women and those who gave birth in public hospitals or private health care centre under government supervision in the rural areas.
Consultations have also started on efforts to introduce health insurance scheme in Sokoto State. The scheme is part of measures to decentralise the National Health Insurance Scheme for optimum performance. Governor Tambuwal said seeking the views of religious scholars and traditional rulers is essential for its future success. Due to space constraint , let me say that social welfare schemes met by Tambuwal have been enhanced, with the ultimate objectives to ensure all citizens feel the impact of government at all levels.
In agriculture, Tambuwal started off by reclaiming a huge irrigation land abandoned since colonial times. With it on board, the new drive to enhace rice farming received a boost. Government has also opened discussion with the Central Bank of Nigeria to open new credit line in addition to existing facilities so as to modernise the farming, packaging, storage and export of rice from Sokoto. Tambuwal has already appealed to the federal government to stop granting waiver to rice exporters in order to assist local producers.
In housing, Tambuwal last week laid the foundation stone for a 250-housing unit Caliphate Workers estate to be sited at Kasarawa, along airport road in Sokoto. Three other estates, initiated by the last administration, will be commissioned early next year with a combined capacity of 1300 housing units. At the last Sokoto Bussiness Forum, Aso Loans and Savings Ltd announced that it will construct 4000 units of houses over four year period in Sokoto.
On security, apart from sustaining cooperation with various security agencies serving in the state, Tambuwal ordered all hotels in Sokoto to, from next year, ensure that all guests present valid ID cards as a condition for lodging.
An innovative approach to environmental sanitation was unveiled where government gave a monetary incentive to the cleanest neighbourhood in Sokoto. The policy has attracted interest from all parts of the state. On days designated for sanitation, huge crowd flock to streets with brooms and shovels in bid to win Tambuwal’s N2.3m Naira on offer.
On the important matter of bills and legislations, to demonstrate government’s commitment to have legal framework and institutionalise reforms, work on nine bills have been completed. They are the Sokoto Commodity Board bill, Sokoto Criminal Justice Law Reform bill, Anti-Child Ponography and Cyber Crimes bill, State Mortgage bill, Sokoto Education Reform bill, Sokoto Geographic Information Systems bill, Sokoto Transport Management Agency bill, Sokoto Primary Healthcare Development bill and Sokoto Environmental Protection Agency bill.
*Imam is the Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs to Governor Tambuwal