Martin Luther King junior asked, “What are you doing for others?” To Mariam Wright Edelman, ‘service is the rent we pay for living.’ The core of governance is centred on service to the human populace but this seems not to be so in Nigeria. Africans in general and Nigerians in particular have been victims of epileptic leadership. During election campaigns, the citizenry is cajoled with obnoxious promises. Once election results are announced and a winner emerges, it’s back to the statuesque. While we hope and desire better from our leaders, it is worth applauding when we see some leaders show genuine interest in the wellbeing of their citizens.

Known for his passion to serve and desire to transform the lives of his citizens, Professor Babagana Umaru Zulum, Governor of Borno State, has become a measuring scale for effective leadership in Nigeria. Born on the 26th August 1969 in Mafa Local Government Area of Borno State, Professor Zulum childhood and growth is one experienced by a lot of Nigerians. Due to his poor background, he had to walk for seven kilometres to get to his father’s farm from their home in Loskuri village, Mafa LGA of Borno State. At a young tender age, he began tiling his father’s land to assist his family. After his elementary and secondary education, he proceeded to Ramat Polytechnic, Maiduguri, where he obtained a National Diploma in Irrigation Engineering in 1988. Thereafter, he attended the University of Maiduguri to study Agricultural Engineering between 1990 and 1994 and then had his mandatory service year in Katsina State.

Since his parents couldn’t afford his education, Zulum became a commercial driver while in secondary school. He drove farm produce, trucks as well became a mechanic from which he was able to sponsor himself through his time at the University of Maiduguri. Due to his interest and love for education, he proceeded to have his Masters degree in Agricultural Engineering at the University of Ibadan. According to him, “An experience after gaining admission in Ibadan will always remain memorable, as my registration was delayed for three weeks because I could not pay my registration fees. I didn’t have the money when I departed Maiduguri, but I believed I could get some work to do in Lagos. For three weeks, I lived in Alaba Rago working with commercial vehicles and there I raised the money for my tuition. I went to Ibadan, paid my fees and started. I graduated in 1998, returned to the civil service as a Senior Agricultural Engineer and later Principal Water Engineer,”

After obtaining a Masters Degree, he became an Assistant lecturer at the University of Maiduguri in 1998. He then completed his PhD in Soil and Water Engineering from the University. Known for his tenacity, he was appointed rector of Ramat Polytechnic in 2011 by Governor Shettima. As a man who was more interested in serving, he retained his salary of lecturer in UNIMAID and not that of Rector of Ramat Polytechnic. While as a Rector, he continued teaching students in UNIMAID. As Rector, Ramat Polytechnic experienced some unprecedented academic and infrastructural advancement. He achieved this through the judicious management of the Polytechnic’s internally generated revenue.

Professor Zulum’s achievement as Rector resulted in Governor Shettima appointing him as Commissioner for Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement in 2015. As commissioner, he was entrusted with billions of naira budgeted for his ministry. According to Governor Shettima, one of his attractions to Zulum was the fact that despite being in control of billions of naira for the reconstruction of thousands of homes, schools and hospitals, “he neither bought a personal house nor a personal car for himself. He also came under attack from Boko Haram twice, but didn’t stop in his efforts to rebuild substantial parts of Borno.”

In 2019, Professor Zulum became Governor of Borno state and has since endeared himself into the heart of not just his citizens but that of international agencies also.  Known for his hard work and desire to rebuild his state which has been torn apart by the Boko haram insurgency, Professor Zulum has become a beacon of hope that there are still some sincere politicians. In recent times, on two different occasions, Governor Zulum’s life was threatened when his convoy was attacked by the insurgent on his way to visit towns and villages greatly affected by the crises. He has made continuous and vivid effort to rehabilitate the internally displaced persons back to their villages. He regularly and personally ensures the distribution of food as well as other essential aids to citizens who are gradually returning to their villages. Professor Zulum has no weekend. He always says that “he cannot be a governor of a troubled state like Borno and enjoy the luxury of a weekend.”

This article was written for Fatherland Gazette by SOLA ALOGBA

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