‘I was com­mer­cial driver for 16 years be­fore be­com­ing pro­fes­sor’

I be­came a com­mer­cial driver of taxis, par­tic­u­larly Peugeot 404. At some point, I also drove buses car­ry­ing pas­sen­gers to dif­fer­ent vil­lages, and neigh­bor­ing states. At a later time, I drove com­mer­cial pickup trucks car­ry­ing fire­wood from forests

Weekly Trust - - News - Hamza Idris

In the first of rev­e­la­tions to news or­ga­ni­za­tions on his back­ground, Pro­fes­sor Baba­gana Umara Zu­lum, the gov­er­nor­ship can­di­date of the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) in Borno State ahead of the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions, took Satur­day down mem­ory lane, giv­ing ac­count of move­ment from grass to grace. He was de­clared win­ner of the pri­maries two weeks ago. With the ad­van­tage of sup­port by in­cum­bent Gover­nor Kashim Shet­tima, and sharp di­vi­sions in the main op­po­si­tion PDP which pro­duced gov­er­nor­ship can­di­dates in par­al­lel pri­maries, the Pro­fes­sor of Ir­ri­ga­tion En­gi­neer­ing from Univer­sity of Maiduguri looks is set, bar­ring any un­fore­seen even­tu­al­ity as­so­ci­ated with pol­i­tics.

A mem­ber of the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Pol­icy and Strate­gic Stud­ies (NIPSS), Prof. Zu­lum also said he never had the lux­ury of be­ing lazy, since he had to strug­gle all his life. He be­gan by talk­ing about his hum­ble back­ground, in which he had to join his father in till­ing the ground at a ten­der age in Loskuri vil­lage in Mafa LGA of Borno State.

“Ev­ery day, I trekked for seven kilo­me­ters to reach my father’s farm from our home,” he re­called. He com­bined farm­ing with his pri­mary and school in Mafa and Monguno from 1975 to 1980 and 1980 to 85, re­spec­tively. At “class five” in se­condary school in Monguno, he be­gan to fully cater for his ed­u­ca­tion.

“From 1984 to around 1999 (16 years) I be­came a com­mer­cial driver of taxis, par­tic­u­larly Peugeot 404. At some point, I also drove buses car­ry­ing pas­sen­gers to dif­fer­ent vil­lages, and neigh­bor­ing states. At a later time, I drove com­mer­cial pickup trucks car­ry­ing fire­wood from forests. While work­ing as com­mer­cial driver, I learned how to fix any ve­hi­cle I drove,” he re­called.

In 1986, Zu­lum gained ad­mis­sion into Ra­mat Polytech­nic in Maiduguri, owned by the state gov­ern­ment, to study for a Na­tional Diploma in Ir­ri­ga­tion En­gi­neer­ing, and lived with rel­a­tives off-cam­pus in Kofa Biyu, a densely-pop­u­lated area. “I trekked for eight kilo­me­ters from Kofa Biyu to Ra­mat Polytech­nic and back when­ever I had lec­tures. But I was al­ready used to long walks all my life, as I couldn’t af­ford trans­port to school. When­ever I drove taxis and re­turned the ve­hi­cles to own­ers, I used what I got for my ba­sic school needs. I later also be­came a com­mer­cial op­er­a­tor of grind­ing ma­chine, and I owned one in Mafa, and dur­ing week­ends I went there to serve cus­tomers,” he said. He ob­tained his ND in 1988.

In 1989, Zu­lum joined to the Borno State civil ser­vice as an As­sis­tant Tech­ni­cal Of­fi­cer in the state’s Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture. In 1990, he moved into Borno State Uni­fied Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Ser­vice as Se­nior Field Overseer. “While work­ing, the salary couldn’t cater for my needs and some depen­dants, so I con­tin­ued com­mer­cial driv­ing to aug­ment my in­come,” he re­called. It was still as a com­mer­cial driver that in 1990, he se­cured ad­mis­sion into Univer­sity of Maiduguri for a de­gree in Agri­cul­tural En­gi­neer­ing, and grad­u­ated in 1994. Af­ter three years, he again got ad­mis­sion into the Univer­sity of Ibadan for an MSc in Agri­cul­tural En­gi­neer­ing.

“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,” he noted.

Af­ter ob­tain­ing a Masters De­gree, Zu­lum said, he joined the Univer­sity of Maiduguri in 1998 as an as­sis­tant lec­turer. From 2005 to 2009, he ob­tained PhD in Soil and Wa­ter En­gi­neer­ing from Univer­sity of Maiduguri, ris­ing through the ranks, at some point Deputy Dean and Act­ing Dean of the Fac­ulty of Agri­cul­tural En­gi­neer­ing.

Zu­lum de­cided to re­tain his teach­ing job in UNIMAID, even while he was ap­pointed into the state gov­ern­ment in 2011. Though a he was ap­pointed rec­tor of Ra­mat Polytech­nic in 2011 by Gover­nor Shet­tima, he pre­ferred to re­tain his salary of lec­turer in UNIMAID. He con­tin­ued with teach­ing stu­dents in UNIMAID dur­ing his lec­ture hours while also man­ag­ing the Ra­mat Polytech­nic. “I didn’t want any­thing to stop me from teach­ing in Univer­sity of Maiduguri so I re­tained that as my main job and I con­tin­ued do­ing ev­ery­thing I was sup­posed to do as lec­turer with­out also com­pro­mis­ing my ap­point­ment in the state gov­ern­ment,” he said.

As rec­tor of Ra­mat Polytech­nic, Zu­lum is cred­ited with ex­pan­sions and erect­ing cap­i­tal in­fras­truc­ture us­ing in­ter­nally-gen­er­ated rev­enue and at­tract­ing in­ter­ven­tions from fed­eral agen­cies.

In 2015, Zu­lum was ap­pointed pioneer Com­mis­sioner for Re­con­struc­tion, Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and Re­set­tle­ment by Shet­tima, who told a gath­er­ing in Maiduguri last week that one of his at­trac­tions to Zu­lum was the fact that de­spite be­ing in con­trol of billions of naira for 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.”

Zu­lum him­self told Satur­day that his ap­point­ment as Com­mis­sioner for Re­con­struc­tion, Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and Re­set­tle­ment was one of his big­gest chal­lenges in life. “Gover­nor Shet­tima told me in Septem­ber 2015 that he was trust­ing me with so much funds for the re­build­ing of hun­dreds of com­mu­ni­ties de­stroyed by Boko Haram, and he was wor­ried about the dis­place­ment of more than two mil­lion peo­ple of the state.

That ap­point­ment was one ma­jor chal­lenge, and I took it up ready to die do­ing it or try­ing. Yes, at some point, there was the is­sue of safety since in­sur­gents can spring sur­prises, but we had the over­whelm­ing sup­port of the mil­i­tary and the po­lice in par­tic­u­lar, as well as other se­cu­rity agen­cies, and vol­un­teers. The re­build­ing was some­thing that needed to be done. As the gover­nor said, we couldn’t wait for­ever. I’m happy that he suc­ceeded in his de­ter­mi­na­tion to re­build many com­mu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­larly places like Bama. To­day, the gov­ern­ment has re­set­tled vic­tims in most of the LGAs, in­clud­ing Bama, Kaga, Dikwa, Gwoza, Askira Uba and oth­ers.”

“We re­built more than 10,000 houses in Bama, schools and hos­pi­tals in that lo­cal gov­ern­ment area, and most oth­ers. The min­istry is still work­ing and I am sure in few months the gover­nor will com­plete the re­build­ing, and this is ma­jor his­tory for the ad­min­is­tra­tion and the peo­ple of Borno,” Zu­lum said.

Pro­fes­sor Baba­gana Umara Zu­lum

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