By: Ismaila Y Kana Onzonu
Nasarawa State, created alongside six others on October 1st, 1996 has had a tortuous ride indeed. The state is known as the home of solid minerals because of the huge mineral deposits wasting away in her bosom or sometimes mined with impunity by orientals, however, the states Economic mainstay is unarguably, Agriculture.
This sector makes up over 80% of the means of livelihood of the people of Nasarawa State. From the Yam hips in Asakyo, to the mountains of Melon and sesame bags in Mararaba Udege, Nasarawa and Keffi; everywhere in the state, it is very hard to overlook the industry of the proud people of Nasarawa. Favoured by nature, there is almost nothing that the people of the state can not grow. With a land mass that is more than thrice its human population, it is shocking to imagine that past leaders didn’t see the need to develop the rural areas and trade.
This is because, Agriculture in Nigeria is known to be a rural area business chiefly run by rural folks, many of whom abandon their villages for a whole year, to seek fertile farms lands deep in the wilds, all in a bid to make a living off the craft of their fathers. To the industrious villagers, this sacrifice is made for the survival of their immediate families in particular, and the community in general, for in Nasarawa state, food is considered the right of every one whether they could produce it themselves or not. Unknown to the people however, their industry benefits the state even more than it benefits them as Agriculture accounts for a very large chunk of the states Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
Unfortunately, successive governments in Nasarawa state have treated the village people with disdain to the surprise of many. From Education to Health Care and road infrastructure to security, rural areas have been left in coma since the return of democracy in 1999. Those of us who had had a stint in the villages in the 90’s will agree that there was more government presence then compared to now, and that is regrettable; to say the least.
Despite the neglect since 1999, the people have tended their farms with the zeal it deserves until all hell broke lose, beginning from 2011 or so when killer herdsmen took over their farms, burning what their animals could not eat and leaving corpses in their wake. Brandishing sophisticated weapons, the ordinary farmers were no match for them. Policing the thickets was a herculean task because of the lack of roads, reducing security response time to forever. The only option left for the farmers then, was to abandon their farms and with it, their means of livelihood.
Unfortunately, even this sacrifice proved inadequate as the now emboldened herdsmen formed an alliance with misguided youths, products of the domino effect of government neglect; to mainstream a new era of criminality in the form of daring kidnappings for ransom that most times proved fatal and even daylight robberies. Many petitions were sent to the erstwhile governor, Tanko Al-makura, but little or nothing was done besides the alleged release of criminals apprehended by the people, giving them a free pass to return and continue to wreak havoc.
However, where the failed approaches or inertia of the past government reduced the people to hopeless and defenceless targets that are picked up at will by criminal elements, the proactive approaches and positive posturing of His excellency, Governor AA Sule is rekindling their hope and enthusiasm.
For instance, insider sources reported that, in a meeting with stakeholders which also had the first executive governor of the state and a current Senator serving his third term, Abdullahi Adamu in attendance, it was Governor AA Sule who insisted that the security of the general Nasarawa Local Government Area (in Abdullahi Adamu’s constituency) which has become one of the most volatile areas in the state, should take priority. That passionate showing is what has now led to the establishment of two Military Super Camps in Kenyehu of Toto LGA and Mararaban Udege in Nasarawa LGA.
Only recently, Gov AA Sule presented three brand new Hillux vans, 15 motorcycles among other necessary equipment including Radios, Mobile Handsets etc. to the Military to help in the smooth running of the camps. Aside from committing whooping amounts to the construction of observation posts, perimeter excavation, installation of solar powered lamps as well as 5 brand new generating sets to ensure power supply to the camps, the Governor also approved a monthly running cost fund of 10 million Naira for the camps. This practical show of leadership is unprecedented as far as the state is concerned!
Beyond security however, the governor has commenced the process of delivering road infrastructure to rural areas. The first time in more than 16 years. You will have to go back to 2003 or so, during the reign of Abdullahi Adamu to find any attempt at rural roads development. The focus of the Al-makura led government was urban beautification, concentrated around Lafia – the state capital and Kwandare, with a few kilometre stretches approved for other so called towns in Nasarawa state.
However, in one fell swoop, Engineer Sule is constructing six rural roads in what is a phased exercise. The roads, in this first phase are: Shabu – Doka – Arugba – Lakio road; Agwade – Ashupe – Atabula – Obi road; Kagbu A – Atsako – Wana road; Kanje – Abuni road; Mararaban – Udege road; Sisin baki – Farin ruwa road; and the completion of Shinge BAD road.
The decision of the governor to invest in security and roads, especially those selected for construction in this first phase reflect his desire to truly harness the potential that abound in Agriculture and tourism, and use it to reduce the state’s over dependence on monthly allocations from the federal government, specifically since the nation is facing acute paucity of funds occasioned by the impact of COVID-19 on the global economy. But, more than anything, investing in rural development and by extension, Agriculture makes lots of economic sense as it positions the state to benefit from many Federal Government interventions in the area.
I am, naturally a sceptic. However, I have seen enough from these initiatives to know that Engineer Sule means well for the state, if only he can stay focused and avoid the deification advances of sycophants who have derailed what could have been very laudable projects of past governors.
Ismaila Y Kana Onzonu writes in from Biu, Borno state.