Significance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Second Visit To Nasarawa State

President Mohammadu Buhari will be paying a two-day working visit to Nasarawa State from February 24th to 25th, 2023.

The President is expected to commission a number of key projects. President Buhari’s visit is expected to bring to national limelight, some of the legacy projects initiated by the Engr Abdullahi A Sule-led government.

The state governor, Abdullahi Sule, while announcing the president’s visit at the first state expanded Executive Council Meeting for 2022 at the Government House, Lafia, said the two-day working visit of the President to the State would be “an opportunity to show the efforts of the government in making the lives of people in the state more meaningful.”

For the record. In February 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari was in Nasarawa State on working visit. Again, in February, 2022, he will be in Nasarawa State, again on a working visit.

When President Buhari Came To Nasarawa State In February 2018

The President does not go to a State just for the sake of it, a leisurely visit, although he has every right to do so as he is the President of the country and he can choose to visit any part at any time. However, the President is too busy to engage in purposeless or leisurely visits.

Across the globe, a President’s visit to any section of his entity is usually very significant for him and the host community. And whenever such a visit takes place, it is beyond any political party activity. Over the years, the President has gone to States that are not governed by the President’s political party, the APC. He has gone to Rivers State, Benue State, and others and was well received by the government and people of those States. Indeed, it is a privilege to host the President of the country. No doubt, such visits go with some benefits. The President des not go alone. In many cases, some Minsters and other Governors accompany him.

Nasarawa State would certainly count itself lucky to host the President twice. Who knows, he could come third or even fourth time before the end of his second tenure in 2023. And the State would be the happier for it.

For the fact that this visit means so much to the Government and people of Nasarawa State, the Governor, Engr Abdullahi A. Sule and his Deputy, Dr Emmanuel A. Akabe have been up and doing since they received the nod of the Presidency about the Presidential visit.

The Chairman of the Central Planning Committee is none other than the Deputy Governor of the State. Eggonnews observed that the Deputy Governor has been very busy ensuring that things are done to have a hitch-free visit by the President. Amidst the very tight schedules, he was able to speak to the Media about the significance and extent of the preparations to receive the President come 24th and 25th February, 2022.

When asked about the significance of the visit of President Buhari to Nasarawa State, Dr Emmanuel Akabe said:

To start with, I think we must count ourselves lucky and privileged to have Mr President agreeing to come and visit Nasarawa State. There are very few States Mr President has visited in his past six years and half as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And for him to agree to come to Nasarawa State, I think we are honoured and it is a rare privilege that we must not take for granted. He is the Number One Citizen of the country coming to visit us. It is indeed going to be a memorable visit.

We on our part, as good citizens of the country and proud people living in Nasarawa State, we will try our best to display exactly what Nasarawa State is all about. And Nasarawa State as you know, is a mini-Nigeria. There is no tribe or religion that you don’t find in Nasarawa State. Ranging right from Karu down to Lafia and across to Awe, we have all citizens of Nigeria living in Nasarawa State.

And we are going to show him that indeed, we are a people that are accommodating, a people that are welcoming. It is our nature and our tradition.

It is an opportunity also for him to see what we are doing as a government and as a people. And for Nigerians who live in Nasarawa State to also see Mr President. Most of us see him on TV and have never really seen him in person. This is a rare opportunity for us to see him as a person.

Everything is being done to ensure that his visit is actually memorable and is hitch free.

By now we should be having some of the highlights of Mr President’s visit. Can you highlight some of the sites or projects or what he is expected to do during his visit to the State?

Basically, he wants to visit the State to commission the Akurba sub-station. That is a Multi-Billion-Naira project and there are few of its kind in Nigeria. And for us to be able to court his friendship and his fatherly attention to bring in such structure to put in Nasarawa State, we are very proud of it. And he is coming to commission that project. Because ever since the creation of Nasarawa State, electricity supply has really been a big problem. And now, gone are the days when you hardly have light in Lafia and its environs. And even when you had, it was not brighter than candle lights. But now with the sub-station, every part of Nasarawa State will now be lit. Every part of Nasarawa State will now have enough energy and that of course has a multiplier effect from the small businesses to even the big ones. Definitely that will grow the economy and the well-being of the citizens of the State. To us, it is a very big project and we are happy that that has been done. He is coming to commission that project.

Governor Abdullahi Sule inspecting the Akurba Power Project

Now, coming to Nasarawa State to do that, we felt that modest projects that His Excellency, Engineer Abdullahi Sule has been able to accomplish in just two and half years – remember that this government has just been in office for two and half years. The projects we have for him to commission, there are also one or two federal projects. Basically, as far as we are concerned, he is coming to commission our Airport; the Cargo Airport. Of course, that is a Multi-Billion-Naira project as well, which was started by Distinguished Senator Tanko Al-Makura and Engineer Abdullahi Sule in the spirit of accountability and prudence, he thought that a project like this should be completed because it has a lot of benefits to the people of Nasarawa State. That project will be completed and His Excellency, the President is going to commission that airport as he comes in.

Governor Sule inspecting the Lafia Institute of Technology

And also, we have the Institute of Technology that is close to the Polytechnic there. Again, a Multi-Million-Naira project, which again was started by Distinguished Senator Tanko Al-makura and Engineer Abdullahi Sule came in to complete the project. By the time we came in, it was about 40 percent completed and Engineer Abdullahi Sule has completed it now. Not only the structures but equally the equipment in there.

And from there, he is going to commission the bus terminal. That we constructed from scratch. And you can go and see it, it is world class. You can’t have such bus terminals anywhere else.

He will also commission the Central Bank of Nigeria.

From there, he will also commission the Kilema Road that cost us a lot of money. It cost us billions of Naira. The interesting thing about that Kilema Road is the drainage facility that is there. You know that Lafia is a town that is prone to flood and when it rains a lot of houses get submerged. And so, the big drainage facility that is there, and even the road that has now been completed, cost us a lot of money. The President is going to commission that.

From there he is going to pay a courtesy call on His Royal Highness, the Emir of Lafia who is the Chairman of the Nasarawa State Council of Chiefs. And then later in the day, he will also commission the Akurba Sub-station. That is what he is going to do on the first day.

Later in the evening, we are going to host him to a Gala Night. That finishes his program for the first day.

On the second day he is going to go to Keffi. And we have two projects there; the modern market that we constructed in Keffi and the Keffi Square. We realized that before now, when there are big functions in Keffi, most times we use the space at the Emir’s Palace. And as a traditional ruler, he is supposed to be very neutral to every person. And taking projects and programmes every time to the Emir’s Palace will disturb the peace of the palace and there was a need therefore to have a square in Keffi. So, we built a square in Keffi and the President is also going to commission this beautiful square.

From there, he moves to Karu. Of course, the mega bus terminal in Karu is the best you can find around. It is slightly bigger than the one we constructed in Keffi because of the closeness of Karu to the Federal Capital and the commuting public that we have more there than we have in Keffi. And also, that was envisaged because of the traffic that we usually have on the Keffi-Abuja road where you have parks all over the place. Now, we are going to aggregate all of them into a single park that will take all those small parks. By so doing, we hope that we will ease the traffic situation on the Keffi-Abuja road.

Those are the projects that Mr President will be commissioning when he visits us in Nasarawa State.

As massive as some of the projects are, especially the Akurba electrification, the airport and the bus terminal. They are multi-billion-naira projects as you mentioned. What is your take about the sustainability and ownership of such multi-billion-naira projects after their commissioning?

One is for the airport; we know that it will be difficult for the State to run the airport. We have been in talks with the Federal Ministry of Aviation and the Governor has made a number of visits to the Villa, to the Air Chiefs on the possibility of the Federal Government taking over the airport. Discussions are in advance stage now and we are optimistic that this airport will be taken over by the Federal Government so that it can be run as an alternative. It is a cargo airport and we know that Nasarawa State is an agrarian State and our produce need to be transported in good time. Because you know if you delay some of these things, they rot and they waste. The cargo airport will ensure that these produce move out quickly and fresh.

Aerial View of the Lafia Cargo Airport

Also, it will serve as an alternative to the Abuja airport. Should there be anything at the Abuja airport, you have an alternative. So, strategically, this suits many purposes.

We have taken our cry to the Federal Government and the Governor is on top of it. Like I said, we are optimistic that the Federal Government will take it over. Our hope is that by the time the Federal Government takes it over, we will be compensated for the monies we have put in and then we can have resources to do other things for the people of Nasarawa State.

For the electricity sub-station, of course it is for us. I was with the people that came in from AEDC and NIPP. The accolades they poured on the former Governor Al-makura were quite overwhelming. They had never seen a thing like this where a government is supporting such project. It made life a lot easier for them.

And they said the Governor, Engineer A. A. Sule has made 33 visits to that sub-station since he came in as Governor. And I didn’t even know that they were keeping count of the number of times he has been there. And of course, because he knows how much this affects the daily living of the people of this State, no wonder he spends so much time going there to ensure that these things are done – done well and in good time. We must really thank him for all his efforts.

The Karu Mega Bus Terminal set to be commissioned by President Buhari

And he even reminded us that some of the other things he did to facilitate the early completion of the project was his visit to the customs, visit to the ports terminal in Lagos to ensure that the parts are moved quickly to Nasarawa State. And indeed, we are very proud of him as Governor for doing that for the people because it benefits everybody.

For the bus terminals, we are in discussion with the various unions; road transport users, transport owners to go into some understanding with them so that they can take over the bus terminals to see if they can run it in a kind of PPP thing. Because we know that with a thing like this, you must get the buy-in of the users of the facilities. If you don’t get the buy-in of the users of the facility so that they can have some form of ownership, it becomes difficult. Now we are in discussion with them and the Governor has already challenged them and they have taken up the challenge that indeed they are going to make this a reality. Because it is one thing to have a bus terminal and it is another thing for the people to use it. Because they can decide to still use their small spots by the road side. But they are in agreement with the government that they will make sure these facilities are appropriately used. And if they do that, it will be good for everybody.

And for the road, I told you about the flood and all that. And the people are very happy about that.

Basically, these are projects that touch the lives of the people and the excitement on the faces of the people each time we went to the site is quite overwhelming.

What remains so dear to you as Chairman heading the committee on Mr President’s visit?

I must confess, it is not easy to chair such a big event. And in doing so, we have constituted sub-committees. We have sub-committee on programmes and protocol taking charge of that as far as this event is concerned.

Of course, the issue of security, we must bring it to the fore because we want a visit that is hitch-free. We have put everything in place to ensure that the beauty and peace that we enjoy in Nasarawa State is sustained before, during and after the President’s visit.

Considering that we will be expecting a lot of people to come into the State, the visit is for 24th and 25th and our party the APC is having her convention on the 26th, so you can imagine that might be the last outing of Mr President before the convention. So, you won’t be surprised if Nasarawa State ends up having a convention before the convention. And we are expecting not less than eight Governors that will come in. Not to talk of the Ministers and the legislators and party stalwarts to at least have the opportunity to meet with Mr President before the convention.

We are expecting this large number of people so everything must be put in place to ensure that the visit goes hitch-free.

We have a sub-committee on media and publicity because we will need to publicise this visit.

We have projects he is going to commission so there is a sub-committee on projects. They are to identify the projects – which have already been identified – to ensure that the projects are ready and in the state that they will be commissioned. Of course, they have been completed but there are some finishing touches here and there. The Englishman will tell you dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s to make sure that nothing tampers with those projects.

And then of course, venues where he will visit, we have a sub-committee on that.

We also have a sub-committee on health. We expect a large crowd and with any large gathering, anything can happen so we must be ready. Ambulances have been assigned to various places. The reference hospitals are also being re-equipped to ensure that whatever emergencies we have, they can cope with. The medical staff are also up and doing.

And I must say here that we have responses from the various medical associations; the Nigeria Medical Association, the resident doctors and the nurses, volunteering for the period that the President will be around. And I must say thank you to all of them.

Because of the number of people we are expecting, there has to be a sub-committee on accommodation to take care of all the hotels and places the dignitaries are going to stay before, during and after the President’s visit.

And of course, they will not come and go without being entertained. So, there is a sub-committee on entertainment. That takes care of their meals and whatever it is that should be done.

And of course, I told you there is going to be a gala night. There is a sub-committee to ensure that the gala night we organize for Mr President is the best he has ever attended in Nigeria because our Governor, Abdullahi Sule doesn’t believe in anything less than the best. We will ensure that we have the best for Mr President.

And again, you will notice that of all the States Mr President has visited, I can only think of Kaduna State where Mr President agreed to spend the night. So, we are really highly privileged that he is going to spend the night with us here in Nasarawa State. I am sure it is going to be to the envy of other States that he chose to spend the night. And of course, I am not surprised that he is spending the night because this was his baby State – his laboratory according to Distinguished Senator Umaru Tanko Al-makura. We all know that it is true. When the legacy party was going to be formed, he only had one State under his control as the CPC and that was Nasarawa State.

Some people are wondering whether as the Chairman of the Committee, would it not have been a privilege to drag Mr President to your native zone as part of his visit?

That would have been it, to take Mr President to Doma. But the time he has is so short and there are so many projects for him to commission here. I would wish he could extend his visit to Doma but considering what we have arranged for him, we even had to cut down a few projects. There are more projects he would have commissioned even within Lafia but we chose that he would just attend to these few.

We could have kept him in Lafia for two days and then other places but we feel that even coming to Lafia alone is an honour to us.

You have outlined a lot of projects that will be commissioned for the people of Nasarawa State. What are you as government expecting from the people of Nasarawa State?

We are known to be accommodating. We are known to be friendly. And we are people that respect ourselves and I am sure we are going to behave as typical people of Nasarawa State. We are well behaved and accommodating.

And because it is Mr President and because of his exalted office, not many of us will have the opportunity to come close to him. But wherever we are even along the streets and along the corners, we will all come out in our numbers to say a huge welcome to Mr President, wave him and smile at him and let him know that indeed he has come home and we are happy to see him.

We are mobilizing people from the Local Governments to come in. It is not going to be just Lafia alone. I forgot to mention that there is a sub-committee on mobilization. And that sub-committee is headed by no other person than our chairman, Chairman of our great party in Nasarawa State, Dr John W. Mamman. In that sub-committee we have the youth organizations, the women organizations and all the Local Government Chairmen as members of the sub-committee. The idea is that we mobilize the citizens from all the Local Governments to come and say a big welcome to Mr President. Let them have the opportunity to see Mr President live and direct, rather than to see him on TV.

For Lafia, our plan was that the Local Governments around this zone will come to Lafia. And since he is going to Keffi the next day in the morning, we expect the Local Governments around Keffi to mobilize to come out to say welcome to him in Keffi. And when he goes further, the Local Governments around Karu should also come out.

Once he leaves here, he is going to leave by helicopter; to Keffi and to Karu. So, if all the Local Governments come here, there will be nobody to welcome him in Keffi. Those around Keffi should remain there and those around Karu should remain there so that they can be fresh to receive him when he comes.

To the people of Nasarawa State, this is a rare opportunity we are having as a people. This is the number one citizen of the country coming to see us, coming to spend the night with us. We should come out in our numbers to say a big welcome to him. We must also be well behaved because that is also important. We want to ensure that anyone who comes here, leaves with that sweet memory that Nasarawa State has taken over. And that it is not only a State of solid minerals but also a State of tourism and also the food basket of Nigeria and all the good things that we are known for.

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