BY EBUNOLUWA OLADIPO, in USA
Governor Babagana Umara Zulum of Borno State in northeast Nigeria is changing the ugly narrative that political leadership in third-world countries can’t be people-centred. But doing so comes with great danger to his life. Multiple times he has come under Boko Haram attack while performing his duties as governor.
Zulum, being the second professor in Nigeria after Ben Ayande of Cross River State to hold political office at that level is faced with serious insecurity and yet, he must provide food security. And as a result of some of his government’s policies, a positive reality is gradually downing on the residents.
His developmental strides in agriculture and education amid insurgency, kidnapping and related banditries are endearing the man to the hearts of growing numbers of Nigerians, both home and abroad, as a leader worth the vote of the electorates. Though in the diaspora, several Nigerians watch with keen interest every event taking place back home. They know the politicians whose voices are louder but are lazy and corrupt. And the man in charge of Borno State is proving that he is of different species.
Borno before insurgency
Before the advent of insurgency and other forms of criminalities in Borno State, the state contributed immensely to the Nigerian economy through agricultural enterprises. In fact, at some points, Borno State was Nigeria’s largest beans producer, until the reign of terror from 2009.
Back then, a variety of food and cash crops such as beans, maize, millet, sorghum, rice, and wheat which are grown in high yield and livestock are produced in large quantity, and now with a governor who is down to earth and understands the language of agriculture in the hemp of affairs, farmers in the state are hoping again.
But with a figure of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the state due to attacks on villages and farmers put at over one million persons, and women and children populating the list, the people’s governor is unrelenting in his efforts to get the farmers back to the farm, as he recently inducted 1,000 hunters engaged to join existing ones in the ongoing fight against Boko Haram insurgents.
According to Tanimu Tahir, Media Assistant to the governor, the primary objective of these indigenous hunters is to provide dedicated protection to farmers who cultivate crops in the outskirts of Jere, where over 70 farmers were killed in November 2020, and farms in parts of Maiduguri metropolis, Konduga and Mafa Local Government Areas.
Governor Zulum has since 2019 engaged the services of thousands of hunters drawn from different parts of northern Nigeria, to join volunteers in the Civilian Joint Task Force and vigilantes. Similarly, he has also increased automated monthly allowances of all volunteers, provided them with kits, and surveillance tools and allocated hundreds of vehicles to units in all of Borno’s 27 local government areas. This is truly laudable and the right steps in the right direction.
Even Abdullahi Gana Muhammadu, a former Commandant General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), had stated while in office that Borno State under Zulum is the most active in the use of specialized agro rangers to provide security to farmers and farmlands.
In his drive to boost agricultural activities in the state, professor Zulum recently directed the state’s Rural and Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASA) to immediately drill an additional three deep aquifer boreholes in order to meet up the requirement of Monguno irrigation field.
It’s expected that each of the three boreholes will supply 20 hectares of the fields, which will expand the irrigation activities in the area. Zulum also said that government will release additional funding to complete other aspects of the project. The governor is targeting the cultivation of 65,000 hectares of different crops, beginning this year.
UNICEL and FAO
Only recently, Madam Phuong T. Nguyen, the Maiduguri Chief of Field Office of UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), flagged-off ceremony the World Breastfeeding Promotion Week in Maiduguri, Borno State. “Food insecurity and job loss are on the rise because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the disposable income of millions of families threatened, investments in breast milk substitutes will further deplete scarce resources for struggling families” she said.
On its part, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), a sister agency of UNICEF, has been a part of the project to ensure the continuity of agricultural activities in Borno State, training farmers on global agricultural best practices and giving of livestock to the people, among other humanitarian gestures.
Another cheering news was the recent announcement made by Mr. Fred Kafeero, the Country Representative of FAO) in Nigeria and ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) that 140,000 vulnerable persons in the state will be provided with livelihood support in the Northeast.
And yet, Governor Zulum has raised an alarm that feeding over one million internally displaced persons without having access to the means of livelihood was no longer sustainable for his government while calling for more national and international support. We do really pray that he gets more help towards alleviating the suffering of the people.
Borno State Core Agricultural Produce
- Legumes: cowpeas, groundnuts, soya beans and bambara nuts
- Fruits: orange, lemon, mango and guava. Borno also produces
- Vegetables: tomatoes, pepper, onions, okra, pumpkin and melon.
- Tree crops: gum arabic and ginger,
- Livestock and fishery: cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, rabbits and fish of different varieties.
Professor Zulum’s agricultural education foundation
- He combined farming with his primary and secondary school education
- He studied Agricultural Engineering at the University of Maiduguri
- He obtained a master’ Degree in Soil and Water Engineering at the University of Ibadan from 1997 to 1998 where he obtained a master’ in Agric and Environmental Engineering
- Has a PhD in Soil and Water Engineering from the University of Maiduguri and was a Deputy Dean and Acting Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural Engineering.