Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues
October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007
Obasanjo's Presidential State Tours
Dan Azumi Kofarmata,
November 19, 2005
As President Chief Obasanjo takes leave from his never ending foreign trips to begin an official State visit to Sokoto State, I hasten to caution His Excellency and our reading public on some fundamental issues in respect of official commissioning of State Government projects (and even some federal government-owned projects). To start with, more often than not, these Presidential State tours are driven by and arranged by the State Governors in order to show-case their “monumental” physical development projects to Mr. President for his endorsement. Let me state from the beginning that, there are some good State Government initiated projects in some States but the overwhelming majority are ill-conceived and very badly executed to say the least.
In a country where most of the State Governors don’t advertise contract tenders (unless the World Bank is involved) there is bound to be a lot of shoddy white elephant projects lettering our landscapes all over the country. Some federal government projects also fall under this category of failed and poorly executed projects. Unfortunately however, these are the sort of projects that Mr. President is invited to commission all over the country by the State Governors and Federal Ministers.
The standard practice all over the country is for the State Chief Executive to award capital projects running into several millions of naira (in these days, most capital projects run into billion naira mark) without recourse to the State Executive Council and State Tenders Board for approval and vetting. More often than not, the contracts are single-handedly awarded by the State Executive Governor to private companies that are often formed during the tenure of his administration. Some of these companies lack statutory registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and or other statutory business registration bodies at the State and Federal levels respectively. Therefore the issue of prior experience, ability to execute and financial wherewithal are all thrown overboard. In fact, to say the truth and nothing but the truth, most of the companies belong to the State Chief Executive, his close and extended family members, political associates etc.
Now back to the main issue, Presidential State Tours. For the sake of currency, I would critically examine this issue by looking at President Obasanjo’s scheduled three-day State visit to Sokoto State starting from Sunday November 20, 2005 to Tuesday, November 22, 2005 as announced by the Sokoto State Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Ibrahim Gidado.
State Information Commissioner Gidado gave details of the President's schedule of activities in Sokoto State to include commissioning of the following completed capital projects: (a) a N900 million flyover in the State capital, Sokoto; (b) Tambuwal-Kebbe road; (c) Kebbe electrification projects, (d) inspect the Shagari-Kambama-Tureta road; (e) inaugurate the Sokoto-Goronyo federal road; (f) inspect the Marnona-Isa road; (g) inspect the Government Secondary School, Isa; (h)inaugurate the Government Technical College, Bafarawa (i) inaugurate the Take-Tsaba-Sabon-Birni road; (j) the multi-million naira Goronyo federal dam project; (k) the Falaliya irrigation project and the Katsira bridge and (l) inspect the Sabon-Birni-Yar-Rima road; (m) officially open the College of Engineering of the state polytechnic and later inspect some projects at the institution, amongst others. In addition to the above activities, Mr President and his entourage will also be hosted to a number of civic receptions and festivities to add colour and glamour as part of the hospitality of the Seat of the Caliphate to the august visitor.
A cursory look at the above itinerary indicates an impressive array of socio-economic projects that will make great differences to the lives of the town and rural dwellers of Sokoto State, courtesy of Governor Bafarawa’s administration and the Federal Government as well. However, the real issues that need to be addressed include the following: a) How realistic are the costs associated with these projects? (b) Were the projects subjected to open competitive tendering process? (c) Are the companies that were awarded these contracts experienced and competent in handling such projects? (d) Are the names of the individuals behind these companies known to the general public? (e) Are these companies registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) as required by law? Last but not least, were these projects supervised professionally by relevant public officials and or agencies? These are food for thought for Mr. President, who believes and preaches accountability, transparency and due process in public service.
We may not be lucky to have all the answers to the above questions from the Sokoto State Government or any State Government for that matter. However, reliable information scouted from Sokoto State indicates that all the contract sums of the Sokoto State-owned projects listed above were over inflated well over and above the national average for similar projects in similar geographical settings. Furthermore, the contracts were awarded to proxy companies belonging to Governor Bafarawa and Umaru Kwabo.
The 900 million naira flyover for example, is just a waste of public fund because there is no need for such a structure in Sokoto State at the moment. There is no need to copy projects seen in some places and replicate them just for fancy sake and personal aggrandisement. This is all what the fly-over is meant for. Least we forget, Governor Bafarawa purchased a 16-seater Donnier Aircraft for the State Government some years ago at about 250 million naira; following the example of Taraba State. The plane is just wasting at the tarmac of the old Kaduna Airport. The more assertive civil servants of Kebbi State prevented Governor Adamu Aliero from following suit. Unfortunately this time around, they failed to prevent him from establishing a State University and an Airport all to be located in his village, Aliero.
Similarly, the Sokoto State Five Star Giginya Hotel, which used to be managed by the Arewa Hotels Ltd under a management contract with the State Government, was renovated at undisclosed sums. The renovation contract was awarded to a company believed to belong to Governor Bafarawa and his associate at the Bolingo Hotels, Abuja. The renovation work was supervised by a young lady of age between 20 – 25 years. Also, the management contract with the Arewa Hotels Ltd has been revoked. The Hotel is now being managed by one of the wives of the former national Security adviser to late General Sani Abacha. She reports directly to Governor Bafarawa and not the State Commissioner of Commerce, the supervising ministry.
There is also more to the august visit by Mr. President to Sokoto State than he knows about beyond the commissioning of State and federal projects. It is now a common knowledge that many of the non-PDP State Governors are desperately looking for ways to be relevant come 2007. For example, most of them (including Attahiru Bafarawa) are ending their constitutionally sanctioned 2-year terms of office by 2007. As mentioned in my earlier article published on November 17, 2005 “State Governors and Nigeria’s Anti-Corruption War”, posted on the internet website:
http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1940), some these State Governors want to strategically align themselves with Mr. President now that the cat has been let out of the bag against any corrupt public office holders. For example, Governor Bafarawa has been rattled by the recent discovery of his ownership of expensive real estate in London and elsewhere in Nigeria acquired in the last five years or so.
Therefore, President Obasanjo’s visit to Sokoto State is going to be used by Governor Bafarawa to seek for forgiveness from Mr. President against all the sins he, Governor Bafarawa had committed against the person of Mr. President in the past. Space and time constraints would not allow me to list all them here as a reminder to those who do not know them. I would however, cite just few examples of the several cases where Governor Bafarawa had challenged Mr. President publicly in the form of open letters whenever it suits him to seize opportunities of events remotely connected to him to chastise President Obasanjo as part of his grand strategy to boost his political ego.
Over the last five years or so, Governor Bafarawa has written more insulting open letters and speeches to President Obasanjo than any Nigerian citizen since 1999. In all these letters and speeches, the issues raised by Governor Bafarawa against the person of Mr. President or his administration’s policies were issues that can be naturedly handled through the normal channels of Executive communications available to persons like Bafarawa. Instead, because he wants to play to the gallery, he always resorted to the use of open letters to castigate President Obasanjo as a person and as a President of the federal Republic of Nigeria. One of Governor Bafarawa’s favoured forums for making uncomplimentary speeches against President Obasanjo is the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) (see for example, the following website:
When it also suits him to seek favours if he senses danger coming his way, he equally adopts the same strategy; this time around, he would extend a hand of friendship or solidarity. A good example was when Governor Bafarawa ran into problem with Col. Umar Dangiwa (Rtd.) regarding his desire for his son to marry one of Col Dangiwa’s daughters. Least we forget, retired Col. Umar Dangiwa had reasons to write an open letter to President Obasanjo some time ago to remind him of some fundamental flaws in his administration’s economic and social policies (he has done so again just on Thursday November 17, 2005 in an interview with a journalist – see the following website: http://www.guardiannewsngr.com/policy_politics/article01).
Characteristically, Governor Bafarawa seized that opportunity to write an open letter to President Obasanjo. The open letter was published in selected major Nigerian Newspapers and internet websites and paid for using public funds. At this point, I would like to guide you to the website where this open letter is still posted:
The contents of the letter speak for itself. We now know after that letter was published, Col. Dangiwa finally succumbed to Bafarawa’s intrigues and the young lady is there for Governor Bafarawa’s son to marry and move to their London acquired mansion. Now, I would like readers to compare and contrast other open letters to Mr. President by Governor Bafarawa. They are available by clicking on these website addresses:
The tantrums and utter disrespect in Bafarawa’s open letters and speeches against the person of Mr. President are very unbecoming of a public office holder at the level of Executive Governor. In view of all said above, I would advise Mr. President to avoid been hoodwinked by State Governors to giving presidential stamp of approval to projects that are questionable in terms of accountability, transparency and flagrant disrespect for due process.
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This page was last updated on 10/27/07.