It is increasingly becoming a global norm to rate democratically elected governments in their first hundred days. While of course a hundred days can by no means encapsulate achievements, it nonetheless is endoscopic of the inner thinking of an administration. The Hausa have a saying: Juma’a mai kyau daga laraba ake gane ta (roughly translated as a good thing is known from its formative period). The hope that tomorrow shall be better sustains life. It makes the average person labour for a legitimate earning and makes his environment worth living. It is this hope that nudges individuals, societies and nations to aim for the sky.
A good hundred days outing by a government gives hope to the people that the tenure of that administration would raise their status to a higher one. It gives them hope that tomorrow shall be better.
Come to think of it, perhaps this is the premise upon which analysts of human nature made hundred days a milestone in the lives of tenured governments.
It is in this context that I intend to look at the tell-tale signs of the footprints of the Yobe State governor, His Excellency, Mai Mala Buni, and how his first hundred days foreshadows the future.
This is not meant to be a biography, so there wouldn’t be any need to recount history, but it will suffice to say that Governor Mai Mala Buni cut his political teeth at a tender age when he became a local government councillor in 1992 and since then had literally climbed the ladder of party politics to reach the zenith as national secretary of the ruling party, All Progressives Congress (APC).
Around July last year, long before the APC in Yobe State nominated its candidate for the governorship election held in March this year, I got into discussion with retired Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Mamu on who the possible candidate of the APC would be. Being fresh into civilian life, especially Yobe politics and its dynamics, the two-star was generally surprised at the number of aspirants.
I was then writing on who would possibly emerge candidate but I had to abandon it when it remained three candidates because the remaining three were all close to me and, therefore, I sensed I could make the two I would tick off think I wasn’t wishing them well.
However, in my private chat with AVM Mamu, we analysed the underlying factors in Yobe politics and the factors that could determine the emergence of the ruling party’s candidate and I told him that “Honourable Mai Mala Buni, the national secretary of the APC, would eventually emerge candidate and go on to win the election”. It came to pass, and being the bridge builder he is, he was able to bring closer to him all those that opposed his candidature. Perhaps minus one or two of all the aspirants, none would have been able rally the party together for victory like him.
Did he know he would be governor? This question came up because here is a man that his life from childhood was ordered along organisation, friendship, consideration, bridge building, bending backwards to accommodate others. He is the epitome of being a brother’s keeper. The attitude cannot be said to be contrived with a motive ahead; it came naturally to him. All these coalesced into making him a great person who can be a great leader. And perchance it attracted leadership to him despite his not going after it.
Perhaps he is among very few individuals immensely favoured by the creator that when you ask them whether there is anything in their lives that they would have done differently, they would tell you “no, I would do exactly as I have done”. He has his ways and his ways have been working for him.
A colleague who came out of a meeting (of course not for the first time) with Governor Buni where they discussed the setting up of an IT hub in Damaturu called me immediately afterwards, sounding ecstatic. Apart from the governor wiping his tears over some knotty issues, their discussion left him agape because the governor showed a surprising in-depth grasp of the topic and let him into his plans to turn the state into an ICT wonder.
“He must be a Jew, a black Jew”, he enthused and that very day went to town with his postulations on the governor being a “black Jew”. I excused his hypothesis for I knew he must have been overwhelmed by Governor Mala’s sheer intelligence and how he brilliantly dissects issues in such a way that you are left in awe of the man.
The truth is, bring any subject under the sun and you will never find Buni groping. From the most local issues to the most scientific, you will learn something new from his contributions. From him I first learnt how markets in the north are planned and the reason why every trade has its position (i.e. cited in its location).
In our first parley barely four days after his inauguration, if I hadn’t known better I would have concluded he had been a governor all along and was probably into his third term. The way he discussed many issues relating to administration and the manner he has been administering the state so far leaves no one in doubt that the state is in good hands and that his preparation has been natural as God, in his wisdom, having ordained that he would govern Yobe, prepared him for such task.
Dr Mamman Mohammed, the chairman of the State Independent Electoral Commission (YSIEC), came out of a meeting with him and enthused: “He knows a lot more about our work than you can imagine and, therefore, I believe he would make our work easier.”
This makes me recall a story told to me by a friend who was close to both Malam Adamu Ciroma and Dr Ibrahim Tahir, both of blessed memory. Ciroma and Tahir were strong members of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) but when the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party were decreed into existence by the then military ruler, General Ibrahim Babangida, Ciroma pitched tent with NRC while Tahir perched with the SDP.
When Tahir was asked why he did not seek accommodation with the NRC, he said, “How can one be in the same party with Ciroma? This is a man who would listen to all sides of arguments in silence and when the discussants were about to take a stand, he would chip in and say ‘well, what Chief so and so said is right, what Alhaji this and that said is also correct but why don’t we look at it this way?’”
Dr Tahir said, at the end, his suggestion would be found to be better than all suggestions and thus becomes the adopted one.
He did not mean Ciroma was the type who insisted on his viewpoints, but that in most cases his contributions were better informed and more applicable towards national development. In 1990, the late Chief Paul Egbogwu, Secretary to the Anambra State Government between 1979 and 1983, told me that from his understanding of President Shehu Shagari and Adamu Ciroma, Ciroma would have been a better president and that it would have been difficult for the army to have toppled him.
Truth be told, Governor Mai Mala Buni has something in him that great leaders all have. Is it sharp memory? If he meets you once, he will recall your name when he sees you again anywhere, no matter how long it takes. Is it retentive memory? He can tell you about events he witnessed or books he read or films he watched decades ago. Is it empathy? He always puts himself in the other person’s shoes. Is it concern for those he governs? He always thinks of ways to make life better for the citizens. Is it honesty? Sincerity of purpose? Fulfillment of promises? Is it focus and burning desire to achieve set goals and targets? You see the fire to succeed in his eyes.
Name them, he has them.
You can summarise and condense them all into something and call it The X Factor. All great leaders have it. Mai Mala Buni too has it.
Governor Mai Mala Buni, the Desert Camel
The camel, nicknamed Ship of the Desert, is a mammal with long legs and humps consisting of stored fat, which they can metabolize when food and water is scarce.
The camel’s hump is like a storage container. When camels use their stored fat, their hump will diminish. When they eat and drink again they refill the hump. When there is little food and water, the camel’s hump fat releases water. According to a research by the University of Singapore, 9.3 grammes of fat release 1.13 grammes of water. It is this special feature that makes it possible for camels to survive up to six months without taking in food or water.
They can run at 25 mph (40 kph) for long periods. If their owner is in a hurry, they can kick their speed up to 40 mph (67 kph). They have a third, clear eyelid that protects their eyes from blowing sand. Two rows of long lashes also protect their eyes. They can shut their nostrils during sand storms.
Therefore nothing stops them from their seemingly slow but in reality fast, sure and consistent steps towards their destination.
Like the desert camel, Governor Buni has been moving nonstop, undeterred by anything, since his inauguration and has recorded tremendous achievements within his first hundred days in office.
All these were recorded even as he has become his party’s arbiter, being assigned to flash-points to resolve contending issues. Nothing gets in his sure footed speed to provide the best for his people.
Expectedly, he would soon put his executive council in place and knowing who he is, he will give each nominee tasks, targets and time span within which to show results. He knows the ministries well, having worked round the clock to achieve such giant steps in just a hundred days. They can be sure of one thing: Buni will give them maximum backing and that should make their assignments easier to accomplish.
If one is to take these first hundred days as a glimpse into the future, then the next four years may yet turn out to be Yobe’s golden years when an industrial base was built for the state. Industries would be rehabilitated and new ones put in place.
The hundred days have come and gone but it remains indubitably true that, so far, among all the governors, not only in the North but in the whole country, Governor Mai Mala Buni is leading the pack and Yobeans have a lot to hope for.