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Big Shame: Governor slams Obasanjo

Posted by By Mike Awoyinfa and Dimgba Igwe on 2005/03/20 | Views: 917 |

Big Shame: Governor slams Obasanjo


Yobe State governor, Alhaji Bukar Abba Ibrahim returned from a four-day visit to nearby Niger this week filled with anger and screaming "big shame" on Nigeria.

Yobe State governor, Alhaji Bukar Abba Ibrahim returned from a four-day visit to nearby Niger this week filled with anger and screaming "big shame" on Nigeria.

Governor Ibrahim had gone to Niger Republic to explore bilateral relationship between Yobe State and that country but was confronted with Republic the shock of towns in Niger Republic having 24 hours uninterrupted power.

What fuelled his anger was the realization that the electricity supply in Niger Republic comes from the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA)—a goodwill gesture from the government of Nigeria.

The governor shook his head as he went round, inspecting villages at the Niger side sparkling with electric light while their Nigerian counterpart on the Yobe side were shrouded in pitch darkness.

An angry Governor Ibrahim told a team of high-level The Sun Newspaper who had visited him at the Government House, Damaturu: "This is a big shame. What kind of nonsense is this?"
He continued: "I am not against Nigeria helping Niger, but help yourself first."
Trying to trace and rationalize the origin of this arrangement, the governor said: "I don’t know who started this. It might be this government or maybe their predecessors that started it. They have taken NEPA line from Borno to Niger.

"In Niger, there are 723 towns all connected to NEPA. When you cross to the Nigerian side just across the border, we have so many local governments that have never seen light. Except the few Rural Electrification Board projects of the state government which only gives power to a community using generators. On the Nigerian side we don’t have NEPA but on the Niger Republic side, they have NEPA."

The governor said the problem disturbed him so much that "for quite a long time I couldn’t sleep. I was so disturbed. I was so worried. I said to myself: ‘How would our Nigerian brothers in local governments right on the border—local government created some of them since 1976 or whatever—feel? They don’t have NEPA. Then they cross the artificial boundary and find that on the other side, the Federal Government of Nigeria is giving power to the newly created local government headquarters in Niger.

"It should have been the other way round. It should have been power lines moving from Nigerian local government headquarters to Niger local government headquarters. Not the other way round."
The governor noted that "six local government headquarters in northern Yobe have never ever been connected to NEPA national grid (but) six other local government headquarters on the other side in Niger are being supplied with power by Nigerian government.
"You can see how serious this issue I have raised is. I believe there are many other examples like that."

The governor says good politics starts from attending to local matters but to him President Obasanjo is paying more attention to foreign affair rather than facing the "fundamental" problems of Nigeria.
"Yes, it is true that before President Obasanjo took over, we were in a mess all round," he told Saturday Sun.

"Outside, inside, left, right and centre, we were in total mess. Chief Obasanjo took over and started very well. Along the line, he improved our image outside.
"We started playing the roles expected of us as giant of Africa. That went on beautifully.
"But along the line, what I consider as most important aspect of our development, that is developing our own country, paying a lot of attention to domestic issues, issues which will be the only thing that will show us as a developing country that is making progress appears to be taking a backseat."
According to the governor, there is nothing wrong with improving the image of Nigeria in the aftermath of the Abacha regime.

"To that I give Mr. President credit," he says, adding that domestic issues must take precedence.
"If he had achieved a lot on NEPA, roads, and education, if he had concentrated on those three areas and allowed the states and local governments to put in most of our resources into other areas, we certainly would have achieved a lot more than we have done so far.

"What I saw in the last four days in Niger, is a big shame. That in a country like Nigeria, which is so rich, we should have areas in this country where there are no roads, no light.
"The national grid is supposed to be taken care of by the federal government, but from 1999 to date only one power project was completed in the whole of Yobe State.

"If you see any power line, any town connected to power, it was connected by the state government. We have connected so many towns to the national grid where it is available. We have spent well over 2 billion naira in the last five and half years on power supply as a state, but the federal government has done nothing. "They are the one that are supposed to take the national power lines across the country so that we can hook up. Here in Damaturu, they take light 20 times a day."
In the eyes of the governor, it is not only in the area of electricity that President Obasanjo’s government has failed. He mentions roads as another point of failure.
"There are at least 14 federal government roads which have never been constructed in Yobe," he explains.

"They have been in their books since 70s. Roads that have been declared federal roads for ages (yet) they have never been constructed. The few which were constructed earlier have fallen into ruins.
"It is now they are struggling to do one which Mr. President has now grudgingly approved.
"These are the kind of things we should lay emphasis on as a developing country. Let us provide the basics, the fundamentals to our people. After that, we can then go out to do more in the areas of ECOWAS, Africa Union, the G77 or whatever."

The governor was reminded that President Olusegun Obasanjo is his close friend—a friendship manifested in the governor having his pictures in his parlour and bedroom.
To that Governor Ibrahim replied: "When I am talking about Nigeria, when I talk about development, when I start pouring out my mind, I don’t have friends.
"As far as I am concerned, in government, my friend is somebody who does well for all Nigerians, for everybody, for all Yobeans. If you work hard to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the people, then you are my friend.

"Friendship in this context is a different matter all together. Friendship is personal. When you put your friends picture in the parlour and also in your bedroom, that is good enough. We are now talking about very serious issues of neglect, issues of underdevelopment—no development, no attention."
Asked whether he doesn’t talk to Obasanjo on these problems, he replied, "I do talk to him. You see, the federal government is a very funny organization.
"He has told me on many occasions that he was going to send the Minister of Mines and Power to come and see these problems and attend to them but I have never seen a Minister of Mines or Power or even Minister of state since 1999.

"None of them has ever paid a visit to this state. Sometimes you don’t know what they are preoccupied with. As a President, he is always under pressure. One million and one pressure and he only tells them, ‘do this, do that,’ and there is no way he can make sure they do everything. Of course, there is even no way they would do everything.
"They would tell you the resources are not there, National Assembly did not approve money, the Ministry of Finance did not release money. The usual thinking of government. Up till today, as far power supply is concerned, we are totally neglected. We are in darkness. Half of Yobe is in darkness."

Governor Ibrahim is praying for when the "progressives" would take over from the PDP in the next presidential election.

"This PDP government is not paying enough attention to the ordinary people," he says. "They are not paying enough attention to the fundamental problems facing this country. That is why we have to take over power from them, come 2007."

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