Lately, the Borno State Government came out with a 25-year-old development plan. It says the plan will launch the state into a successful recovery. This kind of initiative sounds like a good song in my ears, and I expect it from an intellectual like this professor who is the governor of the state, Babagana Umara Zulum. Intellectuals give thought to what they do, including what they do in governance. Take, for instance, a vital explanation Zulum gave in regard to this initiative: “All activities of government will henceforth be executed according to the development plan.”
Zulum says this at a time I’ve devoted several pieces on this page to how governments execute projects that aren’t located within a broader plan. It’s the reason he catches my attention. At least, we have one more governor who’s making sense. He’s not one of those who go to the road in a neighbourhood, basking in the loud ovation of the gathered crowd to say they’ve just been informed that a road is in poor condition, and they have come to have it constructed. Just like that they release funds, and some contractors take funds. In a state that has an annual budget. Where is the fund coming from? When governments are run like this, it’s a pointer to bigger problems. Funds are expended without being legally allocated by lawmakers, and projects aren’t properly planned for. It’s an opportunity to loot. Incidentally, states where governors regularly engage in impromptu award of contracts for road construction are the ones who mostly sue the EFCC, preventing the anti-graft agency from asking questions about trillions of naira that are alleged to not have been accounted for.
What Zulum has done is such a crucial positive step; as such I’m interested in seeing that this works. It must work because of the positive implications for our people in Borno State. This is the essence of this piece, and I want to call Zulum’s attention to a few vital points which can ensure that what he has initiated works. If the plan works, followed through by his administration as well as others that will succeed him, he would have done something worth remembering for the people of Borno State. Why? In recent years, Borno citizens have been the most harassed of people in this nation. Here we have insurgent groups that keep people constantly on the edge of their seats. They worry each day about what insurgents could do next. Outside the capital, Maiduguri, nothing is secure. Thousands have been killed, their property and livelihood destroyed. Economic activity in that state has suffered. The rate of poverty is higher. How do you lead the path back to recovery? A plan is needed, not the ad hoc approach that has generally characterised how government is run in most states.
In the recent past, I called attention on this page to how government officials think up a project and the next thing is that they release funds to execute it. They run government as though we have an emergency. Even in cases of emergency serious nations have a plan, the calculated measures they take when an emergency situation arises, with funds set aside accordingly. In our case we run government as though we’re in a perpetual state of emergency. This doesn’t only encourage corruption, it encourages abandonment of ongoing projects. Every project the government embarks upon, every initiative it takes ought to be within the context of a grand plan that has identified purposes to be achieved in a development agenda. This means a road project, the construction of hospital, school, recruitment, training, or incurring overhead cost over a government organisation should be one link in a chain. For instance, the construction of school and the recruitment of staff for it should be one stage in the plan to develop the human capital in a specific way, to achieve a specific developmental purpose, within a specific time frame. The overall objective of this is already calculated in revenue for government, income for people, improvement in standard of living etc. When this is done, little room is left for looting of public funds, and projects would hardly be abandoned since if one link is missing the whole can’t work. We have the brains that could do the linkages. But do we have the political will to do it?
In Borno, Zulum appears to be saying he does. My concern however is how much buy-in he has among stakeholders in the state in regard to the Development Plan. Basically, a Development Plan is a document which provides planners with guidelines to follow during the development process. It outlines various objectives, principles and policies. These policies can cover a range of social, environmental and economic matters. Development Plans can also spell out the desired character for different parts of the area they cover. The basic structure of a Development Plan is relatively consistent, but the policy content varies depending on circumstances. Why is Development Plan important? It details the overall strategy for the proper planning and sustainable development of an area, community, organization or nation. The plan usually includes the broad aims for specific topics, for instance, housing, infrastructure, facilities which are reinforced by more detailed policies and objectives. Policies and objectives can be critical in determining the appropriate location and form of different types of development as the development plan is one of the factors against which planning applications are assessed.
The Borno State Development Plan which has the slogan ‘Our Borno, Our Success’ comes with a vision. It’s to ensure that by 2030, Borno transforms the insurgency-ravaged society into a peaceful, stable and self-reliant society with over 70% productive population. By 2045, the state hopes to deliver a prosperous society that is a leading regional agri-business and commercial hub that connects and supplies the markets of Central Africa and Northern Africa, reclaiming the glory of the old Bornu Empire as the stabilizing power in tropical Africa. The Borno government said its team interacted with all stakeholders including the grassroots, Ministries, and Agencies of government to collate views on the immediate, medium, and long term needs of communities in all the 27 Local Government Areas of the state. That’s good. Where I have concerns is the peculiar nature of our politics in this nation, and the need for Zulum to ensure that it’s not on that altar this vision for the state is jettisoned.
It’s for this reason I think the governor needs to deepen the root of this Development Plan. Politics ensures change from one party to another, even though Borno like Lagos State has remained under the control of political parties with progressive orientation since 1999. But this doesn’t mean a person cannot arrive office tomorrow and want to do it his own way, abandoning a Plan which the current administration has laid its groundwork, and one on which it has expended so much resources. If that happens, energy, time and resources are wasted. Who loses? The people of Borno State. Our people mustn’t lose. At least, I’m interested in seeing to it that our people don’t lose on the altar of politicians bent on doing things their own way. What benefits people must come first.
This is the reason I state the following. No plan is so perfect that it cannot be reviewed to make it even better. As such, I would like Zulum to see this initiative as work in progress. He should further seek the buy-in of Borno people across the divides of politics, tribe, or religion. He needs to see to it that all are made interested in this Plan, let them know it’s not just a plan for his government or his political party, but that of the people of the state. He could call for more contributions such that people outside his political party feel part of its design. If Zulum does this, even as he continues to implement the policies and objectives therein, he would have ensured a guaranteed future of consistent development for our people. It’s important he does this for a people who have suffered so much already, people have always been on the receiving end when governments run the place without a vision, without a development plan that guides.