The stars seemed perfectly aligned for Class Teacher, Miss Obiageli Mazi, on February 7, 2020 as she went off to the Shehu Sanda Kyarimi Primary School II, Maiduguri, Borno State, and unknown to her Governor Babagana Zulum, the restless state governor, had scheduled to go to the school to appraise the school’s infrastructure and its needs. The governor barely expected teachers in school at 6.30 a.m. When told there was one, Governor Zulum sent for her. The video conversation of Governor Zulum and Ms Mazi has gone viral on the Internet and drawn more than a few tears. She was the Primary I class teacher, always the first to come to school. So they gave her the keys to open the school. She had been a class teacher for 31 years in the service of Borno State. She has the National Certificate of Education (NCE). She is Igbo, from Abia State, but has spent all her life in Borno State and was happy doing what she does for which she received N35,000 a month. The governor, obviously moved by her dedication, went to his car, then handed her N100,000 and she went down on her two knees to thank him and to say prayers for him. Furthermore, the governor asked the education authorities to review her civil service conditions and recommend a promotion. The next day, the Chairman of the Borno State Universal Education Board, Shettima Kullima, with the governor’s approval, promoted Miss Mazi to assistant headmistress. Explaining her elevation, Kullima said: “even though the woman was not a graduate, her 31 years teaching experience and commitment, coupled with an executive order by the governor, have earned her the promotion.”
The governor summed up his observation: “Her gender, tribe, religion or state of origin does not surprise me but her passion; enthusiasm, dedication, commitment and above all patriotism do surprise me a lot. As a government, we are mightily proud of her!”
We congratulate Ms Mazi on her luckiest day, for her dedication and commitment. She must not forget that the reward for excellent work means more work. This has been her way of life. She ignored the bitter harmattan chills. She didn’t know the day was going to be the day of reward for her years of dedicated service.
We salute the governor for his inspired, hands-on approach to governance, the kind of which the nation has always yearned for, a modern day chief executive, a free spirit, candid, honest, sincere, and an activist hard at work. Governor Zulum has demonstrated that governance is a human enterprise. When in January the Nigerian Army created a horrendous traffic nightmare on the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway and thousands of travellers were stranded and were being extorted because they were unable to show the National ID card, Governor Zulum drove into the thick of it to raise his voice to say: “This is unacceptable. How can you subject people to this kind of torture all in the name of National ID card? And you are all here collecting N500 and N1,000 from poor travellers who don’t have national ID.” When a soldier tried to offer excuses, the angry governor refused. “No, this is not right. The Federal Government has not created an enabling environment for our people to get their National ID cards and you are here collecting N500 and N1,000 as fine for not having what the Federal Government hasn’t provided for all,” he declared. When his aides got through to the Theatre Commander, Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, Zulum was heard saying on the phone: “Theatre Commander, where are you? Right now I’m at the checkpoint near state university and we have thousands of people stranded and your people are here collecting money from people because they don’t have National ID Card. Why?”
Governor Zulum works like a driven man. He calls things the way he sees them. You could see he’s a truthful, courageous man of utmost integrity, attributes his predecessor observed, anointed him for and pulled for him. Kashim Shettima put it succinctly: “Despite being in control of billions of Naira for reconstruction of thousands of houses, schools and hospitals, he (Zulum) neither bought a personal house nor a personal car for himself. He also came twice under attack from Boko Haram, but didn’t stop in his efforts to rebuild substantial parts of Borno.”
In the wee hours of July 30, 2019, Gov. Zulum left his bed and went to the Umaru Shehu Ultra-Modern Hospital. He also visited the state’s Specialist Hospital. He went to these hospitals between midnight and 2 a.m. He knew when death stalks hospitals, when care is most needed, when the presence of a doctor could mean the difference between life and death. Not a single doctor who was expected to be at his beat was found. He, therefore, suspended a medical director and four doctors.
Governor Zulum is a governing phenomenon we have not seen for quite a while. He is not a year in office, but we are celebrating already. May his tribe multiply. May his energy never run low.