Engineer Turned Transformational Leader: Nasarawa State Under Engineer Abdullahi A. Sule
By Hon. Makpa Malla
Transformational leadership has been defined as “a leadership style in which leaders encourage, inspire and motivate followers to innovate and create change that would in turn help grow and shape the future of a society”.
Bernard A. Bass highlighted four salient elements of transformational leadership as: intellectual stimulation, idealized influence, individualized consideration and inspirational motivation.
A transformational leader must therefore possess the ability to: develop a vision for the future and map out strategies to get there; make difficult decisions in times of crisis and to sacrifice for the greater good; take the right risks and entertain innovativeness and new ideas; adapt to changing realities; and generally be able to manage human and material resources towards attaining societal goals.
The end of transformational leadership is the attainment of growth, sustainable social transformation and development.
Nasarawa State over the years has had a roller-coaster sort of experience as far as transformational leadership is concerned. Lots of vicissitudes have characterised past regimes. Beginning with the military administration of 1996, at its creation by the then head of state, the late General Sani Abacha, a foundational period in its history, it can be argued that the required foundations needed to be laid at this point were missed. With its capital sited in Lafia, a humid, largely agrarian society in the suburbs and averagely commerce inclined at the metropolis, not much was expected of the military due to the near absence of tools and institutions that should ensure accountabily in governmental dealings. The erstwhile military governments, like a host of others across country, had unfettered times squandering public resources and plummeting the then nascent state into squalor.
The re-emergence of democracy in 1999 came with a ray of hope, largely because of the notions of freedom and accountability democracy naturally promises. Down the years, whether democratic governments have successfully and effectively lifted the fortunes of the state from those of squalor to those of prosperity for the highest possible number, in the light of available resources, still remains a matter of diverse shades of opinions in public discourses.
Today, the state, like many others across the country, is described as a Civil Service State. This nomenclature is owing to the fact that the interplay of the forces of demand and supply which are the main drivers of free economies, which Nasarawa State’s is, is largely dependent on the spendings derived from the earnings of its workforce in the public service. Simply put, a large chunk of the money that circulates in the State and in turn propels the economy flows from the earnings of civil servants.
This state of affairs has not augured well for strength of the State’s economy over the years, dearth of public infrastructure been the most manifest.
Being a Civil service state, it goes without saying that it’s wage bill would naturally be the biggest consumer of government revenue. This alone, without belaboring other equally vital factors, could lucidly explain the huge and dire infrastructural deficit that bedeviles the state. These deficits range from education infrastructure deficits, health infrastructure deficits, transportation infrastructure deficits, human resource development deficit, and a retinue of other such deficits.
It became direly necessary therefore, for this morbid narrative to take a turn for the better. It is trite to say that only a change-inclined, clear-headed and forward looking leadership could be hoped to chart this course. This is because political leadership alone could wield the constitutional powers and authority of state to harness, manage and appropriate onto respective sectors the scarce resources at government’s disposal, towards realizing the developmental aspirations of the people. Leadership therefore is sacrosanct to development, it is almost divine.
The year 2019 would go down as an epoch in the annals of the State’s history. This is so for two very important reasons. First, it’s a year which witnessed the election of a man many have come to describe as ‘a breath of fresh air, to lead the state into the future. It was a popular choice with the highest possible margin of votes cast in elections of such a nature, with courts at different levels affirming the voices of the people.
With campaign rhetorics that majored on industrialization, an aspect of the State’s economy that had received no systematic and deliberate attention in the past, yet it is the nucleus of growth and development in any society, it was little wonder that these rhetorics resonated with men and women of goodwill who would love to see a more prosperous and economically viable state, a state that lifts its people from the dungeon of poverty and is able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with its peers in the commity of states.
Secondly, it is the first time leadership would take a strategic and deliberate approach to governmental actions as opposed to arbitrariness and impulsiveness in discharging the responsibilities of governance. The Nasarawa Economic Development Stragety document, a well articulated and all-encompassing road-map for growth and development presented by the government as a well thought through medium term plan of action that would set the trajectory of actions and strides in the duration of the government’s first term in office.
A perusal of the document shows that there is literally no aspect of the State’s economy which is not succinctly and sufficiently studied and captured with action plans spelt and mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating actions of persons and institutions as they drive the implementation of public policy. Issues around evolutionizing the agric sector, the mainstay of the State’s economy; promoting a technology driven state; attracting private sector participation in the State’s investment and business space through ensuring ease of doing business; bridging key infrastructure deficits, are the highlights of the governments drive for growth as spelt out in the document.
Judging from Its content, it is amazing to see the clarity of purpose with which the Engr Sule led administration had set out to discharge its duties. The goal, as gleaned from the document, is to set the state amongst the three most industrialized states in the country by 2023. As inordinately ambitious as these ideals may appear, in the past few months since its inauguration, efforts were not spared in making good these promises, after all, nothing great can ever be achieved without ambition.
As a result of aggressive efforts at implementation, the agric sector is already witnessing massive interests and investments of monumental proportions. It is no longer news that such big-time players in the sector such as the Azman Group and the Dangote group have moved in to invest hugely in the rice and sugarcane farming and processing value-chain.
The ripple effect of these developments would be felt directly in areas of youth employment generation. This is because youths in the state would naturally be drawn into participating in the diverse opportunities that would be thrown up in the value chain. The wealth that would ensue and the attendant impact on the State’s economy cannot be downplayed.
To cater for the emerging opportunities these developments would throw up, the government didnt spare resources in providing the needed infrastructure as an enabler for the private sector to flourish seemlessly. Road infrastructures, notwithstanding the lean resources available to government, continue to witness extensive expansion especially at the rural areas, the agric hub of the state with their huge potentials. Feeder-roads are proactively undergoing construction in key parts of the state. The Sisinbaki-Kwara 15km road located in Wamba, a road nearly completed, amongst other locations across the state, is one such important infrastructure.
Crucial projects like the Bus terminals at Lafia and Karu embarked on by the government, are assets that would not only bring sanity to these important urban cities, they would also impact positively on the government’s internally generated revenue thereby making available to government, more resources for service delivery to the people.
The Governor’s early decision to go ahead with erstwhile abandoned and uncompleted projects commenced by his predecessors within the context of available resources, has proven to be quite popular and pleasantly acceptable to the public. The Cargo airport sited at Kwandere has since received the Governor’s nod to be expanded to meet international standards of such airports as reported by the government’s media team. Of particular interest, is the completion of the now Aliyu Akwe Doma hall within the precincts of the government house. To the undiscerning mind, such a project is elitist and may not have a direct impact on the life of the ordinary man in the street. But, when viewed from the perspective of the huge millions of naira that would be saved overtime in the form of costs of renting private halls for public/official events and the channeling of this funds, to service delivery for the people; the scales fall off the eyes and the wisdom behind the completion of this all-important hall becomes apparent.
Engr Abdullahi A Sule has proven to be a witty and tactful lobbyist. The attention of the Federal government towards Nasarawa State has been on an upward trajectory in recent times, thanks to the engagements of the Governor with the President of the Federal Republic on the State’s need for key interventions in some areas. The Farin-Ruwa hydropower project recently approved by the Federal Executive Council to the tune of over 8billion naira and taken over by the federal government, a project started since the year 2000; the siting of a police training facility at the Eggon hills in Nasarawa Eggon local government; the establishment of an airforce base at Kwandere as a panacea to the spate of insecurity in the State are among the fruits of the Governor’s efforts at lobbying the federal government to site projects within the state.
The government’s disdain for acts of pilfering public purse, wastefness and general corruption leaves no one in doubt. Whether a leader is poised to or merely paying lip-service could be viewed and understood from his institutional approach to the problem. Engr. Abdullahi A Sule, with the passage by the State’s Assembly of an executive bill into Law, and the subsequent establishment of the Nasarawa State Public Procurement Bureau pursuant to the enabling Law, has left no one in doubt about the place of prudence and probity in his dealings as Governor. This is better appreciated when we consider that in the past, we have had laws enacted to ensure probity in the handling of government expenditure which only ended on the pages of the statute books with no further steps taken.
An example is the Nasarawa State Fiscal Responsibility Law passed by the legislature and provided for the establishment of the Nasarawa State Fiscal Responsibility Commission, this was not to be done. 90% or more of government activities Centre around procurement, of goods and services. The need for a strong institution to ensure probity and accountability in that sector is as important as the government itself. Indeed, with the swift establishment of the Public Procurement Bureau, a body set to ensure government gets the best out of its procurement activities, posterity would judge this government kindly.
This is a legacy that would long outlive this administration. To some of us, it is one step taken by this government that is both unmatched and like no other. This is because it is a bold and courageous effort at institutionalizing cost-efficiency and effectiveness in government procurements.
It may be required, for an opinion like this one to assume a balance by equally highlighting areas where improvements could be made for the overall success of an administration that already holds alot of positive promises.
In my considered view, it may be early in the day to put up such observations. It is a four year term scarcely was a year expended about a month or two ago. There is therefore so much yet to unfold. My prayers always is for the Governor to succeed in his drive towards developing a better Nasarawa State. His success is our collective success otherwise, we would have equally failed collectively.
Makpa Malla is a Lawyer, public affairs analyst, entrepreneur and he writes from Wamba, Nasarawa State.