sokoto-postcode-map

Sokoto is a place of great history and stimulating memory, and offering the young a new world to cohabit and learn to cultivate the intellectual tradition of their ancestors is a laudable foresight. Personally, I love the idea of a generation of Nigerians exposed to the language of their neighbouring countries.


It’s not unsound to conclude that the heart of Nigeria was in Sokoto last week, as the state hosted our traditional and political leaders to a durbar in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Sultan of Sokoto, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar III. It was a celebration of a grand and colourful culture, and a loud restatement of the place of our traditional institutions in both the society and our politics. To attest to this marriage of our politics and traditions, President Muhammadu Buhari was also around – even though the purpose of his visit was the commissioning of the 500-unit housing estate built by Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.

For all curious guests, the visit was an opportunity to see where the governor is headed, and confirm all that has been written about him and his widely publicised proposals and projects for the welfare of the people. If the first year of an administration is considered too short to measure its accomplishments and determine its direction, the second is definitely enough to tell a joke apart from genuine commitment. For a state as conservative as Sokoto is, Tambuwal’s policies have been loudly courageous. This is so because, for instance, it takes more than power to initiate bills that criminalise parents’ refusal to educate their children, noting the consequences of such approach in an environment in which western education is seen by some as wasteful and unnecessary.

I got to tour parts of Sokoto State to see, firsthand, some of the projects in progress. This trip took me to the most important of these projects, in my evaluation, in Balle, Gudu Local Government Area, which, before Tambuwal, had no all-level secondary school. What the government has initiated in Balle isn’t just a school, but a revolutionary idea and intervention to offer students more than just roofs to study under.

The ongoing impressive structure is an institution intended to serve as a dual-curriculum school, in a proposed partnership with the Niger Republic, of which I have only sketchy details. The design is to have both English and French curricula, offering the students an opportunity to learn the ways of their neighbours and be academically bilingual.

If this project is actualised as proposed, this may become a lasting legacy and provide a new window into this State at the mercy of desertification. But having understood that Sokoto is a place of abandoned and half-completed projects, perhaps it’s safer to hold on to one’s excitement a little longer. But if Tambuwal, at the end of his term, delivers as promised, and a certain standard of education is sustained at the school, it may be a truly international habitat for other Francophone countries to mingle with their Anglophone brothers and sisters. But it’s too early to be sure of what comes out of this ambitious project.

Sokoto is a place of great history and stimulating memory, and offering the young a new world to cohabit and learn to cultivate the intellectual tradition of their ancestors is a laudable foresight. Personally, I love the idea of a generation of Nigerians exposed to the language of their neighbouring countries. Nigeria has been a deaf neighbour to Niger Republic, Chad, Cameroun and Benin. And it’s been absolutely shocking that we are illiterate in French and, strangely, the West African French have shown more curiosity and understanding of English, and the learning of it, than we have of French.

This dilemma makes the existence of the British School of Lome in French-speaking Togo, an attraction for the African elite to have their children trained in both systems of the colonisers of the sub-region. And, as explained by the spokesman of the Governor, Malam Imam Imam, the state government seeks to make the project a “unity school”, welcoming students from other parts of the country. This, as I understood, will make the prospective students of Sokoto descent close to fellow Nigerians as they have been to their French-speaking neighbours.

Sokoto is a low-earning State, and it’s sad that it has been a breeding ground for abandoned projects, some of which have already been taken up for completion by the new government. Perhaps Tambuwal’s cosmopolitan orientation, and position in national politics, earned partly as an independent and rebellious Speaker of the House of Representatives, will make him sustain this tempo for the sake of posterity. He has to, because Sokoto needs a functioning head to rebuild it, from healthcare delivery to urban renewal.

Sokoto has a lot to do, an effective agency for the protection and management of the environment, an upgrade of the state-owned Specialists’ Hospital, functional traffic management structure and personnel – things only a leader who’s seen the systems of a changing world understands. Even though I wasn’t unaware of the economic downturn frustrating the performance of our serving political leaders, I was able to see the direction of the Tambuwal-led administration in an interaction with his incomparably hardworking media manager. And that included a proposed partnership to build a modern health facility in the state.

Mallam Imam has kept Sokoto State in the news, and has been a model to his counterparts in this department, just as he’s able to make the world see his principal as a model in governance in this part of the country. We all need media managers who tell and show us where their principals are headed. We have seen what’s happening in Sokoto State and shown evidences of a promising administration by a political communicator truly in charge of his arts.

Revealing an unpopular public policy is better than keeping mute on one’s principal’s administrative direction. At least, analysis and criticism of such policy introduces our policymakers to the expectations of the people, and inspires them to prepare decent plan for the impatient constituents. Silence or inefficient communication gives even the most loyal supporters an impression those elected to redeem their conditions are clueless. But then, we exist in a country we keep telling our policymakers that government isn’t designed to be a secret cult. May God save us from us!

@gimbakakanda on Twitter