Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Nigeria: Some True Dividends of Democracy

It is quite easy to get engrossed in the general deplorable state of the Nigerian nation and overlook some commendable deeds occurring in nooks and crannies of the nation. In what may seem uncharacteristic of state governors in Nigeria, some- actually three governors- stood out and have performed quite well, and deserve recognition for their foresight, passion, and simple applications of commonsense.

In my humble assessment, Donald Duke of Cross Rivers, Ibrahim Turaki of Jigawa, and Bukola Saraki of Kwara State have separated themselves from the lot of non-performing Nigerian governors by delivering to their people, at least, some dividends of democracy.

The government of these states, under the direction of these resourceful Nigerians, have taken bold steps in using tourism, information technology, and agriculture to improve the lot of their people.

It will be naïve to assume that these men are without blemish, or free from controversies; however, the cumulative effects of the strategies initiated by each of these men outweigh their individual shortcomings.

Unlike their colleagues that appear to be operating without direction and clear-cut agenda, these men have found and created niches for themselves, and have delivered "big-time" in their chosen areas. These men deserve commendation for giving their people true dividends of democracy, and for keeping the hope of millions of Nigerians alive.

Donald Duke, Cross Rivers State: Tourism

The state of Cross Rivers has huge potentials for tourism and Duke has capitalized on this, and has invested hugely in actualizing his agenda. He has achieved quite a lot through his tourism initiative. Duke’s idea to use tourism as a “vehicle that will promote the orderly growth and development of sustainable tourism (eco, business, leisure and roots tourism) for the social and economic development of Cross Rivers State” has been yielding fantastic results.

The Obudu Ranch - a holiday resort located on a plateau of about 1,600 meters above sea level has undergone massive renovation under his administration. This temperate exotic location has an airstrip, a water park, a cable car, and integrated honey and diary farms to mention few of the attractions. Recently, the resort was the venue of an international mountain race; this event was the first of its kind in Nigeria.

Perhaps the most ambitious of Duke’s tourism initiative is the Tinapa Resorts which has been tagged “Africa Premier Business Resort”. Tinapa is an eco-tourism project with integrated business and leisure resort being built along the Calabar River. When fully completed, the “complex will provide international standard wholesale emporiums, integrated shopping complexes and product distribution elements supported by business tourism and entertainment facilities”.

Ibrahim Turaki, Jigawa State : Information Technology & Solar Power

Jigawa State under the leadership of Ibrahim Turaki won the first ever W2i Wireless Communities Best Practices Award for Digital Inclusion in 2005.

The citation from W2i speaks to Turaki’s innovativeness and resourcefulness:

“There are few telephones to speak of in Nigeria’s arid Jigawa State. As recently as 2001, the population of four million mostly poor farmers had no information technology — let alone dial-up Internet access over clunky copper-wire infrastructure.

But when Governor Ibrahim Turaki took office in 2000, he decided to change all this — and he wasn’t waiting for Nigeria’s telco or cellular operators to help. With $6 million in World Bank grants and state and federal monies, the governor bought two satellite dishes and set up 47 access points to connect schools, libraries, cyber cafes and a new university with Wi-Fi access. The state buys bandwidth from a European company at considerable expense, but it can now bring voice, data, and video capabilities to schools, university students, and local economic players. Local authorities facilitate the rollout with real-estate rights of way.

The next phase includes a massive voice-over IP network to provide low-cost mobile voice services across the state and into neighboring jurisdictions.”
In addition, the impressive use of solar energy by Jigawa state has been showcased in a CNN documentary. This feat was achieved in collaboration with The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a nonprofit organization.

Bukola Saraki, Kwara State: Agriculture

Bukola Saraki just won the 2005 Dr. Kenneth Kaunda Leadership award for his commonsensical approach to agriculture.

An earlier post on Grandiose Parlor:"There's no Aggro or Animosity"- says Zimbabwean Farmers in Nigeria, highlights Saraki’s initiative to invite some displaced Zimbabwean farmers to settle and farm in Kwara state. It appears his gamble has paid off, not only have the expat farmers fully settled in the state, the federal government is encouraging other governors to replicate this commercial farming initiative in their states.