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Sen. Nenadi Usman: A life of passion for service

By Shittu Ahmed Obassa

Opening up the democratic space in 1989  for fresh Nigerians  to vie for public office  by  former  Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi  Babangida (IBB) who  temporarily  banned politicians of the first and second republics from participating in his  transition programme, offered an opportunity for dark horses like Senator  Nenadi Esther Usman  to join the political fray.

She registered with the National Republican Party (NRC),which was  a little-to- the-right party and not quite long, her party won the governorship election and her candidate, Alhaji Mohammed Dabo Lere (now  of blessed memory) was inaugurated. She was appointed the Executive Adviser, Information, a position she  occupied until the coup of  November 17, 1993.

This was her first baptism in politics which  merely succeeded in further rooting her zeal to be a public servant so much so that when another military transition programme  was rolled out  she deemed it fit to join like minds to form the United Nigeria Congress Party(UNCP).

On the platform of the UNCP she contested and won an election into the House of Representatives, representing Kachia-Kagarko Federal Constituency of Kaduna.  But she was not to be sworn in, owing  to the demise of the then Head of State, General Abacha on June 8, 1998. That election was actually her first shot at an elective position but she  coasted   home and dry.

After  General  Abdulsalami Abubakar  took over mantle of leadership and set in motion  another transition programme  Senator Usman  pitched her camp with  the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 1998 and chose to work for the realization of the governorship ambition of Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed  Makarfi who was the Director of Finance at the Abacha Foundation for Peace and Development in Abuja.

She was appointed the Chairman of the Campaign Committee, with Alhaji Othman Suleiman Hukuyi as Director-General. Makarfi won the election and the Senator served in an all-male cabinet first as Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development.

Before the expiration of the first four –year tenure of  Gov. Markarfi she had been moved to Ministries of  Environment and Natural Resources and Health in quick succession. All through, she gave her boss absolute loyalty and devoted service.

 

Impressed with her dedication and hard work during his first term, her boss (and now her colleague in the 7th Senate) deemed it necessary to nominate her for a ministerial appointment in 2003 .

She first served in former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration as Minister of State for Finance. Her performance as junior minister under Dr. Ngozi Okonjo -Iweala with uncommon humility largely accounted for her elevation to the position of Minister of Finance between July 2006 and May 2007. This was after the latter was redeployed to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

For, it was under her stewardship that the Nigeria Customs Service went through a drastic rejuvenation and its revenue generation capacity got expanded to the extent that the paramilitary outfit began to hit double digits in billions of Naira .She encouraged the order of merit to be the vogue in the selection of Comptrollers-General and based on this criterion Mr. Jacob Buba  Gyang became the first Comptroller-General after the reforms.

Another landmark was the establishment of Fiscal Responsibility Commission when she took full charge of the Ministry of Finance.

The commission was set up essentially to track public expenditure and   promote transparency and accountability at the three tiers of government in the federation. But the commission is now for scrapping on the recommendation of the Steve Orosanye Committee on Rationalization of Federal Agencies.

Senator Usman was in political wilderness for four years after her meritorious service to her fatherland under the leadership of Chief Obasanjo. During those years, she preoccupied herself with grass root development and became the  Chairman of  Bunkasa  Micro Finance  Bank  in Jere , Kaduna state and the Chairman/ Chief Executive Officer of   Plumstead  Investments Limited apart from being the Chairman  of  Thomas Wyatt and Sons( Northern Nigeria) Limited.

There were then wild speculations about her political ambition among her admirers and well-wishers until she began to fly kites  about her  desire to displace the incumbent  Senator, Caleb Zagi, representing  the Kaduna South  in the sixth Senate.

Many watchers of the politics in the Southern Kaduna saw her philanthropic activities and community empowerment programmes across the eight local government areas that make up the senatorial district as pointers to the direction of establishing political structures  in order to reap  a whirlwind of goodwill of the ordinary indigenes and win the support of the various interest groups ranging from traditional institutions through to the women and youth associations.

From the swell of support she garnered within a short spell, it was pretty obvious that the male lawmakers had been a bunch of disappointments in their representation since the inception of the fourth republic and to the prodding of her teeming supporters Senator Usman had to succumb.

 It became crystal clear that she would be the ultimate clincher of the senatorial seat occupied for more than a decade by men, beginning from the party primaries to the proper election.

She made history as the first female distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic to represent Kaduna South by trouncing a politician with a knack for reaching out.

``In the course of my campaigns, I noticed the difficulty faced by our people as a result of the inadequate availability of potable drinking water, unemployment and medical challenges amongst others.

I, therefore, shortly after being elected, embarked on a project whereby, I sunk a borehole in each of our 87 wards at a cost of N550,000.00 each totaling N47.8 million. To complement my effort, the MDGs Office in 2013 sunk 6 additional boreholes within the zone.

Also in December 2011, with N10 million, I commissioned a medical team that went round the zone and successfully carried out free surgical operations on 688 patients and to further ameliorate the sufferings of patients within the area, I purchased and installed a scanning machine at the General Hospital in Zango town of Zangon Kataf local Government Area at the cost of N1.3 million.

Students from the zone were not left out as 426 of them received scholarships of N10,000 each totaling N4.26 Million.”

It is now a little over three years since she came on board. So, on June 2, 2014 the Senator returned to her senatorial district to give account of her stewardship to the 1.7 million people she is representing.

The meet- the -people forum was held in Kafanchan Township Stadium and some of the dignitaries who  attended the memorable event included the Senate President , Senator David Mark  and the Minister of Special Duties, Alhaji Tanimu Turaki.

She said she had so far expended slightly above N200 million on community projects and empowerment programmes and on the occasion, she distributed 19 cars, 106 Keke NAPEPs, 368 motorcycles in addition to welding and vulcanizing machines, automobile diagnostic system machines amongst others purchased at the cost of N81.3 million.

The Senator ensured that the Federal Government through three (3) of its agencies, the Industrial  Training Fund, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria ( SMEDAN) and National Directorate of Employment (NDE) lent a helping hand by training a total number of 86 women and youths in the following areas:Welding 21,GSM repairs 10,Autotronics ( Automobile Diagnostic Skills) 6, interior decoration, fashion design and  plumbing52.

The trainees had their starter kits to make them productive, with each category going home with a minimum of 12 and the maximum of 18.

She gave N100,000 to each of the 45 registered women cooperative societies in the district under her soft-loan scheme with an assurance that more will have access to the scheme as soon as possible. She further sharedout N 5.12 million to 512 students from various tertiary institutions in addition to procuring 125,000 note books meant for public primary schools across the district. It cost her N8 million.

 Her constituency projects are as follows :A Library was constructed for the sum of N150 Million at the Kaduna State University, Kafanchan Campus; three community town halls at Kyeyya, Damkasuwa and Kubacha towns respectively; a clinc at Iddah, Kagarko Local Government; three transformers  supplied and installed at Garaje, Police Headquarters’ Barracks, Kafanchan and Kwoi town.

 

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