Uba Sani: The Triumph of Tenacity

Mansur Abdulmalik

Persons familiar with the antecedents of the Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Uba Sani,  readily attest to the fact that he is hardly ever deterred by challenges or adversities, no matter how daunting. Stories abound of his daring exploits as a young civil and human rights activist when successive military juntas held sway in Nigeria.

Sani’s can-do spirit and raw courage are matched only by his crisp intellect. In the 9th Senate, where he represented Kaduna Central Senatorial District for four years, his dexterity was all-too apparent. Senator Uba Sani conceptualised and sponsored 32 bills, including three seeking constitutional amendments to allow States to establish their own Police Force and State Police Service Commissions. Even more important, his bills were ranked as the most progressive bills by the very authoritative Nigerian legislative watchdog, orderpaper.com. Indeed, Senator Sani had the singular distinction of being the only senator in the 9th National Assembly who had three of his bills assented to law by the then President Muhammadu Buhari.

Long before he won the gubernatorial election and assumed office as the Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Sani knew that the job would be challenging given that he was bound to inherit the seemingly intractable problem of insecurity in the state. Also, Kaduna State, historically, contends with ethno-religious tension. Knowing the State so well, Uba Sani was unfazed; he was thoroughly prepared for the job and committed to returning Kaduna to its long-acclaimed status as the pride and shining star of northern Nigeria.

Sani’s assumption of office as governor instantly brought relative calm to the hitherto tensed Kaduna State. In just a matter of days the state started enjoying the dividends of peace, safety and security. What was the trick? Sani mounted the saddle with a clear, and measurable mission – to be a servant-leader, a unifier with his sights set on the economic empowerment of overwhelming majority of the citizenry irrespective of their places of abode, ethnicity or religious persuasions. His plans were easily understood and welcomed with relieve by the populace. The people quickly keyed into his agenda, which was unambiguous – an inclusive governance that is calibrated to leave no one behind.

Working very closely and relentlessly with the President Ahmed Bola Tinubu, the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the leadership of the nation’s armed forces, the police and other security agencies, Governor Sani, very early in his administration, began deepening peace, safety and security across Kaduna State. The results of his efforts become instantly evident: The Kaduna – Abuja express way, once notorious for the nefarious activities of bandits and kidnappers, received a deserved respite and travellers, in their numbers, began plying the road regularly without fear or anxiety. The rail service between Abuja and Kaduna which was momentarily halted after a heinous attack that led to the abduction of several passengers, resumed in earnest. Previously traumatized farmers began returning to their abandoned farms.  Even the worst critics (actually political opponents) of Governor Sani, till date readily affirm that Kaduna is a far safer place than he met the State on assumption of office in May 29, 2023.

For most residents of Kaduna State, the unfortunate security breaches in the state in recent days, notably, the unfortunate abduction of innocent children from their school in the Kuriga community in Chikun Local Government Area, though deeply saddening, have not blighted the great work Governor Sani has been doing since he was sworn-in to office. Rather, for keen observers, the latest acts of bandits in Kaduna State clearly signpost the desperation of the criminal elements whose days are clearly numbered. Given that Governor Sani has, in less than one year in office, substantially made Kaduna State unattractive for criminal elements operating in the very vast forest that straddle all the states in the northwest of Nigeria. These cowards in their recent dastardly incursion into Kaduna State, chose very soft targets – innocent school children and their harmless teacher.

For the 16 days that the children were in captivity, Governor Sani with the full and ceaseless support of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu worked very closely with the highest levels of the nation’s military, police and other security agencies to rescue and safely return the abducted persons to their respective homes.

From the get-go, Governor Sani’s resolve to get the children back to school was resolute and unequivocal. During this very trying period, the governor doggedly, albeit quietly, led the rescue efforts from the front. And in the numerous meetings he summoned and chaired he repeatedly assured parents and all stakeholders that working very closely with President Bola Tinubu, the National Security Adviser, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, the Service Chief, the Inspector General of Police and heads of other security organisations, the abducted children would be speedily returned to their homes and their parents.

In the early hours of Sunday, March 24, the prayers and tenacity Governor Sani with the full support of President Ahmed Bola Tinubu paid off. The 137 abducted Kuriga school children were released unharmed. The jubilation in Kaduna, nay, across Nigeria, was rapturous. Finally good has triumphed over evil. The people’s hope in government was rekindled, once again.

A very relieved Governor Sani announced the good news moments after: “In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Most Merciful, I wish to announce that our Kuriga school children have been released. Our special appreciation goes to our dear President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, for prioritising the safety and security of Nigerians and, particularly, ensuring that the abducted Kuriga school children are released unharmed.

“While the school children were in captivity, I spoke and met with Mr. President several times. He shared our pains, comforted us and worked round the clock with us to ensure the safe return of the children. Special mention must also be made of our dear brother, the National Security Adviser, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, for his exemplary leadership. I spent sleepless nights with Ribadu fine-tuning strategies and coordinating the operations of the security agencies, which eventually resulted in this successful outcome.

“The Nigerian Army also deserve special commendation for showing that with courage, determination and commitment, criminal elements can be degraded and security restored in our communities. We also thank all Nigerians who prayed fervently for the safe return of the school children. This is, indeed, a day of joy. We give Almighty Allah all the glory.”

Giving further update on the rescue of the Kuriga school children, the Director, Defence Media Operations (DDMO), Maj Gen Edward Buba confirmed that the school children were rescued from the bandits at Dansadau Forest in Zamfara State. “In the early hours of 24 March 2024, the military working with local authorities and government agencies across the country, in a coordinated search and rescue operation, rescued the hostages. The hostages are same persons that were abducted from the school at Kuriga in Chikun LGA of Kaduna State. These hostages were handed over to the Sokoto State Government. These efforts demonstrate the armed forces resolve to finding other innocent hostages and track down the terrorists that perpetrated these crimes.”

The released school children where eventually escorted by officers and men of the Nigerian Army from Sokoto to Kaduna where they were handed over to an excited Governor Uba Sani at the Kashim Ibrahim Government House, Kaduna. The governor’s joy was unmistakable as he went about embracing and bantering with the school children immediately they arrived the Government House. He promptly instructed that the kids be cleaned up and given urgent medical and psychosocial attention before being handed over to their thrilled parents, who had already besieged the Government House to receive their children. Governor Sani, later in the day, hosted the now well-rested and freshened-up school children to a dinner in the Government House.

The formal hand-over of the rescued Kuriga school children to Governor Sani by the nation’s military and security agencies was done by the General Officer Commanding the 1st Mechanised Division of the Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Maj. Gen Mayirenso Saraso. At the brief but emotional hand-over formalities, the GOC clarified that 137 students and a teacher were abducted from both the Government Secondary school and Local Education Authority Primary school in Kuriga (both schools share same vicinity).

“Through kinetic and non-kinetic efforts that were deployed under the guidance of His Excellency, President Ahmed Bola Tinubu, through the Office of NSA, the school children were rescued in Dansadau forest in Zamfara State. The 137 children were released and of this number six of them are in the hospital. But unfortunately, the teacher died in captivity. So, in all, 137 school children were abducted and the 137 children (76 females and 61 males) were rescued and are now being handed over to their parents through the Kaduna State Government,” the GOC said and thereafter handed over a list containing the names of the released school children to Governor Sani.

Governor Sani who once again showered encomiums on President Tinubu, the NSA and the nation’s military and security chiefs, was quick to caution against the politicisation of security matters, especially the release of the Kuriga school children.

“When it comes to issues of security, please and please let us be careful. Politicising issues that border on security endangers lives. People who do not mean well are cooking up all sorts of conspiracy theories. The most important job of any responsible government is the safety and security of lives and properties of citizens. That is what the Federal and Kaduna State Governments have just done in the matter of the abducted Kuriga students. It is not time for conspiracy theories. Just like any other good father, I was informed that the children have been released and I was extremely happy and I have received them with immense joy. We are all relieved that they are back and we shall build on the experiences that we have garnered from the incident to consolidate on all on-going efforts to make every community in Kaduna safer,” Governor Sani said.

Similar view was expressed by the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr. Muhammed Idris shortly after the weekly FEC meeting in Abuja on Monday, 25th March. “Mr President and members of the Council were happy to note that, as promised by Mr. President, these children were reunited or have been rescued from the captors and in keeping with the commitment of Mr. President, no ransom was paid,” the Information Minister said

Mr. Idris further disclosed that FEC and the President had expressed their appreciation to the NSA, the security chiefs, and others who participated in the process that led to the freedom of the captives.

“The Federal Executive Council and Mr. President are very grateful, to especially the National Security Adviser, the service chiefs, and all security agents, who participated diligently in ensuring that these kidnapped children are reunited with their families.”

Idris confirmed that the number of schoolchildren kidnapped was the exact number rescued, as there was no information to the effect that any of them died or was held back by the kidnappers.

“There was a question or reports that 287 of these children were taken. What I can tell you is that there is no report that any of these kidnap victims either died or has been withheld. So, all those that have been taken, have been brought back in safety to their families. I can tell you that,” the minister affirmed.

Delivering Good Governance in spite of Adversity   

Interestingly, while he worked round the clock with other stakeholders to secure the safe release of the Kuriga school children, Governor Uba remained firmly focused governance and meeting his targeted goals in Kaduna State. If anything, the ugly incident brought out the best in him. In an audacious move that ‘shook’ Kaduna State and reverberated across the country, Senator Uba Sani on Monday 18 March 2024, flagged off the distribution of the second batch of palliatives to Kaduna State citizens and residents worth over N11.4 billion. The highest such intervention in one fell swoop, at least in recent times, by any state government in Nigeria.

Governor Sani literally set a new national record on transparency, probity and accountability in the planning phase and the eventual distribution of the palliatives in the state. In a move that has been hailed by many as novel, prior to the distribution, the governor set up a high – powered Palliatives Distribution Committee charged with developing an implementation strategy/plan and executing the distribution of the palliatives in a “fair and even manner.” Members of the committee include the representatives of Organized Labour (NLC and TUC), Civil Society Organizations, Persons with Disability, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Traditional Institutions, Youth and Women Organisations, the Commissioner of Police, Director of DSS, Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and officials of the Kaduna State Government.

“The broad-based and inclusive committee underscores our determination to ensure transparency and fairness in the palliatives’ distribution process. It is also a key step towards the effective monitoring of the distribution exercise to check diversion of palliatives meant for the people. The labour/CSOs driven process will help strengthen and deepen engagement between the demand and supply sides of governance,” Governor Sani explained before astounding his people as he reeled out the long list of palliative measures to the jubilant populace.

The governor’s gestures were roundly applauded by a cross section of residents and citizens of the state. Speaking on behalf of Organised Labour in Kaduna, the State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Suleiman commended the governor for releasing 500 million naira for the workers’ revolving loan scheme. 

The release of an additional 3.3 billion naira for pensioners, in addition to the 3.1 billion Naira disbursed last year, the labour leader said, is a testament to the governor’s concern for the welfare of both pensioners and active service members.

Governor Sani who is a staunch believer in the combination of both kinetic and non-kinetic approaches in curbing banditry and other forms of criminality, is aggressively opening up rural and underserved communities across the state for development and access to economic empowerment. To this end, two days before he distributed the second batch of palliatives, the governor performed the groundbreaking for the construction of a 327 kilometers road linking College Road to Mashigi, stretching down to Eastern Bypass of Millennium City. The road will cut across Igabi, Kaduna North and Chikun Local Government Areas. The 327 kilometers road include the main road linking College Road to Millennium City and other feeder roads within the various districts.

He envisages that during the construction period, employment opportunities would be created for hundreds of skilled, semi – skilled and unskilled workers in the state. When completed, the road will ease movement of people and goods. The flagging off of the construction of this road on the 16th of March, brought to 21 the number of roads Governor Sani has performed their groundbreaking across all the local government areas of the state since assumption of office. About 827 kilometers of roads are currently under construction in the state.

“We are ramping up our Infrastructural Development Drive. Our Rural Transformation Programme is being executed concurrently with upgrade of infrastructure in the urban areas. The new investments flowing into Kaduna State are being supported by infrastructure upgrades. We are determined to make Kaduna State a safe and secure business hub in the North and a choice destination for investors. We are putting Kaduna State on a sure path towards actualising its God-given potential,” Governor Sani said.

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