Nasarawa One Year After: Appraising Engineer Sule’s Strategic Leadership

By Ali Abare

“I will endeavour to be a leader who not only knows, but also understands and appreciates; who not only hears but also listens; who not only looks but also sees; who not only touches but also feels”-His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule in his inaugural speech delivered on May 29, 2019.

By Friday, May 29, 2020, His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, will be exactly one year in office as the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State. The essence of this write-up is to evaluate Engineer Sule’s strategic leadership in the administration of the state during the year.

The common adage in Hausa custom, “Waiwaye adon tafiya”, which when translated will mean “retrospection enhances the journey”, informs the decision to embark on this assessment, not so much to offer the usual praise but, as the adage implies, to critically examine the ways and manner His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, is bringing his name, reputation and experience to bear, as he leads Nasarawa State to the Next Level of development.

Before delving into the matter, it will suffice to attempt to define the person of His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, having studied him carefully and from close quarters, as the months passed by. His decisions, what explains his decisions, his reactions to external stimuli, among such other traits that truly defines his leadership style. This, undoubtedly, will enable us clearly understand his motivation and why he is propelled to take decisions that constitute the fulcrum of the policy of his administration.

It’s equally pertinent to identify key parameters in our assessment, such as what defines leadership in general, particularly as it relates to our political arena, including expectations of the electorates. Certainly, we must not leave anything to chance as we seek to x-ray Engineer Sule’s leadership style during the past one year, which would serve as a pointer on what to expect in the next three years of his first tenure.

Scholars are of the view that a leader is that individual who has presence, knowledge, the ability to communicate, a moral compass, strong ethical values, shows concern for the people, and has the ability to analyse and act on the dynamics around his area of jurisdiction. Leaders are expected to demonstrate high moral integrity and vision.

On a personal level, Engineer Sule can be defined as being calm, purposeful and exuding such level of confidence as to instantly inspire followership, to the point of adoration. He is a philanthropist, compassionate leader, a practical leader; what the political class of thought can define as a realist. In fact, and on several occasions, His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, has publicly acknowledged that he is a realist.

According to Merriam-Webster English dictionary, a realist is a person who recognizes what is real or possible in a particular situation, one who accepts and deals with things as they really are. This, in essence, means that with Engineer Sule, there is no room for embellishment, aggrandizement or unnecessary prevarication. He is down to earth, frank almost to a fault and a study in focus and singlemindedness.

Before juxta positioning all these qualities, vis-à-vis leadership traits so far demonstrated by His Excellency, Engineer Sule, in a bid to explain the rationale behind decisions and actions taken by the present administration, it’s pertinent to first seek to understand the circumstances the Governor met on ground after he assumed office on May 29, 2019. If we clearly understand the situation Nasarawa State finds herself in terms of the core indices of development, it will present us with a fair ground to actually assess the performance of this present administration led by Engineer Abdullahi Sule.

Nasarawa State was created in 1996 out of the old Plateau State. Located in the North-Central region of the country, it is bordered on the west by the Federal Capital Territory, the north by Kaduna State, the south by Benue and Kogi States and on the east by Plateau and Taraba States. Nasarawa’s main economic activity is agriculture, producing cash crops such as yam, cassava and melon. Production of minerals such as salt, columbite, barites etc gave the state its tag of “Home of Solid Minerals”. The state has a diverse range of indigenous ethnic groups, with Nasarawa State, according to the 2006 census, having a little less than 2 million people residing in the state.

Since the creation of the state, it has had various forms of administrations, running from military rulership to the present civilian administration, starting with the administration of the first civilian governor of the state, former governor, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, in 1999, through the four-year span of the late Alhaji Aliyu Akwe Doma, which saw to the emergence of the administration of the Architect of Modern Nasarawa State, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-makura in 2011, who also handed over power to the present Governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, after eight years of purposeful stewardship in 2019.

It’s on record that each of these successive administrations gave in their best in the service of the state and its people, all geared towards achieving the development objectives of the founding fathers of the state. It suffice to say however that, a turning point in the political history of the state, manifested with the assumption into office by former governor, Senator Al-makura on May 29, 2011, after he defeated the incumbent governor under the platform of a nondescript political party.

Senator Al-makura came onboard in 2011 and redefined governance in the state. As a reformer who came with a vision to straighten governance, salvage the state from looming collapse, weaning it from wastefulness, flamboyance and outright mismanagement, his early years in government provoked unquantifiable and dogged resistance from an establishment that epitomizes highest level of profligacy and wanton abuse of public funds.

Nasarawa State depends entirely on monthly subvention from the Federal Government, with salaries and emoluments of civil servants in the state, which constitutes about 5 percent of the entire population, gulping nearly 95 percent of the monthly allocation due to the state. Before the coming of Al-makura, previous dispensation borrowed money to pay salaries. Even at that, Senator Al-makura inherited a backlog of unpaid salaries.

By and large, former governor Senator Al-makura succeeded in laying a solid foundation for the building of a new, modern Nasarawa State, with Engineer Sule assuming the mantle of leadership, bringing along his hard earned reputation and several years of experience in the organized private sector, to not only consolidate on the gains of the previous administration but equally erect solid structures in the collective desire for sustainable development.

It is generally agreed that the major problem confronting the state was not so much as the absence of experienced, qualified and competent workforce to actualize the vision of any given administration. Nasarawa State is blessed with well educated, highly exposed workforce that, if adequately motivated, could deliver on any set objective. But the single factor slowing down the pace of development in the state, is the inability to generate appreciable internal revenue in order to make the state less dependent on Federal allocation.

While describing the IGR situation of the state as “vexing but crucial”, Engineer Sule, in his inaugural speech, promised to tackle this obvious deficiency by developing innovative strategies and deploy technology for the optimum generation, collection and management of all revenue due to the state. In this regards, the state has continued to witness steady turn around in its internal revenue generation, with the State Internal Revenue Service Board, surpassing its average monthly IGR of N600m to an appreciable N1.2bn.
With the administration setting the revenue board a target of N20bn annual revenue, it is the aspiration of Engineer Sule to take Nasarawa State to the top ten states in terms of internal revenue generation, in the bid to make the state less dependent on the Federal allocation.

On a general note therefore, it can be stated unequivocally that so far, and since the inception of the administration of Engineer Abdullahi Sule, all ongoing interventions recorded in various sectors of the economy of the state; agriculture, education, security, investment, industrialization, revenue generation, women and youth empowerment, civil service etc, have been targeted at addressing these obvious deficit in the collective effort for sustainable development in Nasarawa State.

The decisions taken from the onset by the Engineer Sule administration, are mostly geared towards building on the foundations for sustainable growth and development in Nasarawa State bequeathed by previous administrations, especially the immediate past administration of Senator Al-makura. These steps are again, aimed at weaning the state away from over dependence on the federal allocation, which has proved to be inadequate in meeting the development needs of a fast growing state like Nasarawa.

Time and space may not allow for a detailed examination of all these laudable development strides (over 460) recorded within a year of his inception as the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State. However, an overview of some major strides, would further buttress the motivation behind Engineer Abdullahi Sule’s leadership style and how he is working tirelessly, to build a better Nasarawa State.

Being the Engineer that he is, Engineer Sule knew the significance of design and planning in achieving set objectives. To this end, the administration intiated the Nasarawa Economic Development Strategy (NEDS), as a blueprint for the attainment of its vision and mission, in the quest for sustainable development.

According to the Governor, the development strategy is a testimony of the collective determination of the administration to implement a practicable economic transformation strategy for the state, founded on a vision to sustain accelerated growth of the economy of Nasarawa State.

“We have recognized that the growth of the Nasarawa State economy is low and suffers from some vagaries of the national economy, albeit being tackled by the current federal administration, which has not successfully translated to the delivery of tangible results to our people,” Engineer Sule stated while unveiling the NEDS.

Bringing his exceptional experience from years of managing blue chip companies in the organized private sector globally, Engineer Sule is gradually and surely taking Nasarawa State to a new level of accomplishment and recognition across the country, by putting his hard earned reputation at stake in order to change the narrative, all to the benefit of the state and its people.

The NEDS has become the gospel of the Engineer Sule administration, which didn’t waste any moment in preaching this gospel across the four corners of the world, thereby opening up Nasarawa State to new opportunities.

Indeed, coupled with the trust investors have in him, together with the influence of the high-powered Economic Advisory Council, made up of prominent global players in the private sector, the state has continued to witnessed a flurry of activities as investors from within and outside the country, cash on the reputation of the Governor as an industrialist and private sector operator, to venture into the state. Even those that were there already, like the Dangote Group, felt emboldened enough to further expand its investments.

“Given my background and coming from the organised private sector, I consider investment as a critical instrument in the economic development agenda of this Government.

“To this effect, we intend to give the private sector cardinal role to play in driving the economic development activities of the State.

“Accordingly, Government shall adopt a robust investment policy and drive which will be structured on interim, short, medium and long term arrangements,” Engineer Sule stated during his inauguration.

It is gratifying to note that within the period under review, Engineer Sule matched his words with action, attracting several private investors into the state to do business, with several more still showing interest to come in and invest their capital in the state.

No wonder then that only recently, the Nigeria Investment Promotion Council (NIPC), in its Q1 2020 report on investment by destination, listed Nasarawa State as second on the list of 14 states across the country, including the FCT, that attracted a total of 19 projects during the period. Again, its worthy of note that Nasarawa defeated Lagos, Ekiti and other states to emerge second on the list, attracting investments estimated at US$0.06bn.

This signifies that already, Engineer Sule’s promise to make Nasarawa State not only an investment haven but uplift the state to the top three most economically competitive states in the country by 2023, is coming to fruition. Indeed, the chips are gradually falling in the right places in Nasarawa State and with Engineer Sule at the driving wheel.

The renewed effort to capitalize on the proximity of the state to the Federal Capital Territory, which saw to the award of the contract for the construction of the 350-capacity Karu Mega Bus Terminal, as well as the concerted effort to bring live to the Karu International Market, which saw to the arrival of over 100 businessmen from Kano, are all geared towards boosting economic activities in the state, in line with the philosophy of the NEDS.

The rejuvenated interest in reawakening the solid minerals sector of the state, saw the Governor tackle the issues affecting the state’s ability to maximally utilize its abundant potentials and endowments in solid minerals to the benefit of the state and its people. Engineer Sule engaged the national authorities on problems associated with the mining sector, which brought about a new lease of life to the sector and which placed the state on a better pedestal to live up to its billing as the “Home of Solid Minerals.”

Knowing too well the role of security in bringing about the desired development, the administration left no stone unturned in the quest to build and sustain on the peace architecture left behind by the previous administration. Accordingly, in his inaugural speech, the Governor declared that his administration will, as a matter of priority, place special emphasis on the security of the state.

It is generally acknowledged that in the span of one year, through conscious and deliberate efforts, this administration has brought about tremendous improvement in the security situation of the state. This is of course, in line with emphasis placed on security and peace, which constitute the very basic pre-requisite for overall socio-economic development.

In fact, even the recent outbreak of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic with its attendant health and economic challenges, only further served to highlight the leadership qualities of Engineer Sule, a leader that is so full of compassion for his people. In line with his realist nature, when others were romancing with emotions and sentiments, the Governor remained focused, taking every conceivable, practical step, to protect the state against the rampaging pandemic.

Isolation and treatment centres were established and fully equipped. Realizing that restrictions placed by government to curb the spread of the coronavirus, may have drastically affected livelihoods of the vulnerable in the society, palliatives were shared across the state to cushion the effects of the measures put in place by government to control and contain further spread of COVID-19.

Indeed, Nasarawa State is in safe hands, with Engineer Abdullahi Sule at the helm of affairs, with former governor, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, speaking at the recent flagging off of the 25km Marraraba-Udege feeder road, described the Governor as “trustworthy and a man of his words.”

Within a year of his administration, in line with the NEDS blueprint, Engineer Sule is gradually and effectively consolidating on the gains so far recorded by previous administrations. The future indeed, couldn’t be better and brighter.

However, in the bid to meet the aspirations of the people in terms of delivering the dividends of democracy, especially with the people eagerly looking up to the administration to uplift their standards of living, it is to be expected that there could be challenges. In a state like Nasarawa, where politics is mostly viewed as an avenue to share the spoils, there is bound to be misgivings as Engineer Sule adjusts to this reality, far removed from the result driven organized private sector.

It’s on this premise therefore, that it has become pertinent to appeal to the people of the state, to cooperate, understand and support the administration, as His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, puts in place solid structures that will guarantee the future of the state for the yet unborn generations.

Ali Abare is a Special Assistant on Media to His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule and can be reached on aliabare2003@yahoo.com.

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