Gov. Matawalle’s Construction Of An Airport In Gusau: Criticisms And Resoluteness

The Oasis Reporters

June 2, 2019

Gov. Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State flagging off the construction of the airport project in Gusau.

The huge surprise to political watchers of Northern Nigeria is that the new and unexpected governor of Nigeria’s poorest state with the worst indices so far, is that Bello Matawalle who found himself suddenly as State governor by the grace of God and the ruling of the Supreme Court over a case he did not institute has indeed hit the ground running. It took the president of Nigeria, himself an indigene of the neighbouring Katsina State, a whole six months to announce a lacklustre and uninspiring cabinet.

Nigerians were surprised to observe that Matawalle wasted no time in picking the right person, the marginalized former deputy governor of the state to head the transition committee. He can easily command the clout to unearth the shenanigans of the “worst governor of Zamfara State”, according to Kadaria Ahmed.
So far, Matawalle has appointed a former deputy minister of finance, Bashir Yuguda as his special adviser, probably in matters of finance and education. His wife was heard making supportive statements on education, especially girl child education.

All that and more, clearly show that the new governor has the intention of making a difference.

Much of the facts that would be weighing on the mind of the governor are the depressing indices of Zamfara State in health, girl child education and education in general, banditry and the general insecurity, including food security and farmers access to their farmlands as well as herders access to foliage for their livestock, and beyond that, his eyes on the future as well as doing the big things that may seem “misplaced” today, but definitely would be a window to the future of Zamfara State and Nigeria tomorrow.

Ever since Governor Matawalle announced the airport construction, he has run into a huge barrage of criticisms from Nigerians and northerners in particular who call the project a misplaced one.

Take this tweet by Musa Ahmed for example:

“Zamfara is the center of poverty, it is a state with educational backwardness, the highest exporter of almajiris with security challenges and banditry. Yet, it’s an airport this governor is building.

Misplaced priority”.

Many of the tweets are even harsher and unsparing, but some people would agree that the inspiring aspect is that the new governor has hit the ground running, and he is even building something at least.
There was a governor of Zamfara State who neither built anything nor even scarcely stayed there, preferring to govern from Abuja and appearing when it was time to cash huge revenue allocation cheques.

Some have opined that beyond the fact of being so financially challenged, Zamfara State citizens are so poor that they can scarcely afford flight tickets, there’s already an international airport in nearby Sokoto and another airport in neighbouring Katsina. So why should there be yet another airport in Gusau?

There’s a huge distance of 207 km between Gusau and Sokoto.

Critics forget that the distance between Gusau and Sokoto takes 2 hours 47 mins by road, through the shortest route and that it is 207 kilometers long, along vast forests, now brimming with bandits even the army with the police has been unable to tame in 8 years of the previous administration. Add the increased poverty of the last four years which has driven even greater number of youths into banditry, hitting the road and hapless travellers from the same forests while they collect ransoms ranging from 100,000 naira and running into millions, or death for those unfortunate enough to be caught.

It also takes 3 hrs:12 mins on a distance of 207 kilometers from Gusau to Katsina.

Currently, if the combined security operatives efforts pay off within the State, bearing in mind that Zamfara State desperately needs investments from the larger Nigeria and the world, who is the foreigner that would take his venture capital and fly to Sokoto or Katsina, then hit the road for another two to three hours dodging bandits, bullets and kidnappers just to invest in Gusau?

Considering the distance between the neighboring airports and Gusau, why don’t the crItics talk about the nearness of Ibadan to Lagos and Ibadan to Ilorin, yet they all have an airport each?
In the late 80s, I had travelled by air from Lagos to Kano, and twice despite delays in Lagos, have had the flights diverted to Sokoto because we could not land in Kano and when the route was clear to get to Kano, I arrived home at 12 midnight, on a journey I commenced at seven O’clock in the morning. Just because there was no other nearby airport.
Why don’t they question the fact that there’s an airport in Benin City, yet another airstrip in Warri ?

A flying electric plane in Norway. That’s an air taxi.

With the revolution in air travel ongoing today, the more airports that Nigeria has, the merrier. There’s excessive sunshine in Zamfara state, and guess what?
Airbus’ solar-powered aircraft flew for a record 26 days straight in August 2018, according to CNBC news. It was an unmanned aircraft that operates in the stratosphere at an average altitude of 70,000 feet and has a wingspan of 25 meters.
The solar powered aircraft’s maiden flight lasted almost 26 days.

“Solar-powered aircraft offer an intriguing glimpse of what the future of aviation could eventually look like. In 2016, the Solar Impulse 2, a manned aircraft powered by the sun, managed to circumnavigate the globe without using fuel. The trip was completed in 17 separate legs”, says CNBC.

Consider all that as a complement to security arrangements for the viewing and policing of the Zamfara, Katsina forests and the dislodgement of bandits, driving them into the open and turning them into human capital that possible investments in a secure Zamfara can usher.

The revolution in air travel has commenced and improved, therefore one can say that Governor Matawalle is looking beyond the difficulties of today to plan for tomorrow, whereas some governors in the past did small minded things and planned for ancient years. Such that there were seeming laws designed for political popularity that amputated hands of cow thieves, without the ‘can do’ leadership to breed cows that give 50 litres of milk per day as it is in South Africa, as opposed to the One litre of milk per day that Nigerian cows have been producing for the past 200 years.

Lack of foresight and big dreams, is that not the reason for the desperate poverty in Zamfara state?

Bello Matawalle deserves a pat on the back for what Cubans call, “Laz lugar”, big eyes, farsightedness, foresight, whichever way you translate it.

Written by Greg Abolo.

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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