Across Yobe’s major towns and urban centers, people often watch helplessly as their streets – and neighbourhoods – regularly sink under flood waters during the rainy season. For many, the rainy season is, therefore, paradoxically a tipping point between the prospects and joys of a return to the farms and the spectre of inconvenience and even health challenges caused by flooded streets.
For the people of Buni-Yadi, Babbangida, Damagum, and Jajimaji towns in Gujba, Tarmuwa, Fune, and Karasuwa local government areas of the state respectively, however, the story could be – or perhaps has to be – different this time around.
It is all thanks to a township renewal and development programme currently being executed by the Buni administration. Within his first year in office, Governor Mai Mala Buni, teaming up with the respective local government councils, has ensured that these four major towns are kitted with new roads and concrete drains. On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, the governor is set to conduct the ribbon cutting in Damagum and Jajimaji towns to officially commission the roads and drains that have been built there.
As a government of ‘continuity and consolidation’, the Buni administration is effectively poised to ‘innovate’ to effect. It is a concept that syncs – and builds – on the robust road development programme of the immediate past Gaidam administration. This was a decade-long programme in which the towns of Damaturu, Potiskum, Gaidam, Gashu’a, and Nguru, amongst others, had seen their fortunes improve with billions of naira in road and drainage investments.
These are investments that have paid – and will continue to pay – in full. When people can move freely and conduct their businesses easily, it redounds to their capacity to be more productive. The roads and drainage lines in Yobe’s major towns also have a direct impact on people’s health because they potentially reduce the prospect of flooded waters becoming the breeding locales for mosquitos and other disease-causing parasites.
But steadily changing the face of Yobe’s urban centers is not the only plank of Governor Buni’s road development initiative. As the governor commissions the township roads in Damagum on Tuesday, for example, he will also flag-off the construction of Damagum-Gubana road on the same day and, on Wednesday, Nguru-Balanguwa road.
These are key agriculture-enhancing projects. Both of them will connect communities that are already connected culturally but that are literally separated by terrains that are difficult to navigate.
The Damagum-Gubana and the Nguru-Balanguwa road projects will bind the transformative extension of the road development revolution that was underway in Yobe over the last decade. In the coming weeks and months, the Buni administration will also commence the construction of the Gujba-Ngalda road, a major project that would be a game-changer for the agricultural communities that straddle the vast swathe of land along the project’s trajectory.
All of these fit together in Governor Buni’s overarching development strategy, a strategy that says to develop Yobe State, you have to re-engineer and retrofit its education and agriculture sectors. To make both work for the people and become sustainable over the long haul, you have to provide a modern road infrastructure as a necessary next step because roads are signifiers of mobility, not just of people but of economies as well.
And although the nation’s economy is teetering under the weight of global oil shutdowns and coronavirus lockdowns – and an ensuing global economic recession seems poised to make matters a little more dismal, Governor Buni’s projects and programmes over the course of his first year in office show that Yobe is set in the direction of progress.
It is true that there could be difficult days ahead if the economy does not rebound quickly, and a rebound will have to come with many costs and difficult choices. But even with the meagre resources at the disposal of government, I am confident that a future of hope and possibility is within Yobe’s grasp.
This future, as always, would have to be a shared mission – between the government and the people. This is because socio-economic development, to paraphrase Dr King, is not – and will never be – an either/or proposition. It is a both/and proposition. It takes both the government and the people, working together, to bring about change. It takes both the government and the people, working together, to bring about peace and progress.
With the people’s support, as demonstrated during the course of the war against Boko Haram insurgency, the Buni administration will fulfil its mission and Yobe will go farther along over the next three years and, certainly, over the next seven and beyond.
Bego is Governor Buni’s Commissioner of Home Affairs, Information and Culture and sent in this piece from Damaturu, Yobe State