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Umar Bago has an energetic personality. Though a politician, he is not your everyday breed. He is a departure from the norm and is unafraid to be heard when it matters most. As Governor of Niger State, he has done what others could not do in years. He has changed the face of development in the state. But it came with a price.

Governor Umar Bago represents a dawn in leadership with the manner he had carried on in Niger State. His is a mix of passion, dedication and commitment. He has stayed faithful to his campaign promises of prioritising youth empowerment, quality education, and provision of basic infrastructure that would make life meaningful for the people.

We must agree that it is one thing for politicians to make promises and another for them to be fulfilled. It is an undeniable norm in Nigeria, and why hope seems lost for the ordinary citizens who have taken their destinies into their own hands.

In Nigeria, campaign promises are empty. It is a bane that refuses to go away. But the Governor of Niger State is attempting to change this narrative with his leadership style in the state. His energy has enveloped the entire state. There is only one language that must be learned. The language of work and more work for the benefit of the state.

“For kick-starting the process of transforming his state into what is now termed the “New Niger” through urban renewal, rural transformation, and huge infrastructural investments; for blocking leakages that have saved N10 billion for the state within four months in office, and adopting fiscal responsibility measures to set the state on the path of progress, Mohammed Umaru Bago is Governor of the Year 2023.”

This was how Leadership Newspaper described the Governor of Niger State in recognition as the Governor of the Year at its annual leadership awards in 2023. Were you surprised? A visit to Niger State would kill your curiosity. It is not the state that you used to know. It is now a “New Niger.”

The “New Niger” with a Farmer Governor at the helm of affairs. A first in the annals of the country. The ongoing agricultural revolution in Niger State is phenomenal. The recent partnership between Niger and Lagos States on food security is a worthy example.

The “Produce of Lagos” Initiative is a long-term strategic partnership between Niger and Lagos, where Niger State will produce food items (Paddy, Tubers, Legumes, Grains etc.) and Lagos State will position itself to be a major organised market (off-takers). I am struggling with the correct expression for this partnership. But a few facts will be good enough.

Lagos State is the biggest consumer of agricultural produce in Nigeria with its population, and Niger State has the most extensive arable land in the country. The phenomenon called Umar Bago is getting clearer. If this is not strategic, I don’t know what else to call it.

By location, climate and soil, Niger State is one of the most extensive and fertile agricultural lands in the country, with about 80% of the 74,244 sq. km total land area of the state, and can produce most of Nigeria’s stable crops. Niger has an estimated Fadama area of about 682,331 hectares suitable for lowland rice production, of which only 25% of it has been put to use. Governor Umar Bago understood this when partnering with the Lagos State Government under the “Produce for Lagos” initiative.

The implication on the economy of Niger is left to be imagined. This is what purposeful leadership brings about. Governor Umar Bogo has defied the era of business as usual, in which states depend on monthly allocations from the Federal Government.

To boost the drive for food production in the state, the state government has set in motion the plan to cultivate 250,000 hectares of land, with the long-term goal of cultivating one million hectares in four years. Ask me about innovative leadership, and I will tell you about Governor Umar Bago.

Recently, the Niger State Government, in partnership with a diversified agriculture value chain group, Origin Group, has taken delivery of agricultural equipment to scale up agricultural production and promote national policy on food security. This is another brilliant one indicating that Governor Umar Bago means business.

Other sectors in the state have received equal attention. For example, the Niger State Contributory Health Scheme (NGSCHS) is a health-care financing reform Social Health Insurance Scheme for the provision of affordable, accessible and qualitative health care to Niger State workforce and residents alike on a sustainable basis.

The state also plans to invest a whopping one trillion in infrastructural development. In a bid to transform infrastructure and improve connectivity, the government of Niger State is undertaking a massive urban renewal project, focusing on reconstructing 1,000 kilometres and 400 kilometres of federal roads.

The list is indeed endless. Governor Umar Bago is silently making waves in governance. He has revolutionised critical sectors of the economy of Niger State. And it doesn’t seem he is planning to slow down. This is what leadership entails.

The case of Niger state serves as a worthy example. It is a case where passion meets purpose; the magic happens, goals are achieved, and the impossible becomes possible. What more can I say? Congratulations to Nigerlites.

Okino wrote this piece from FUT Minna.

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