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Zulum: Greatness toiled from cradle

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On Monday, August 25, 1969, Babagana Umara Zulum was born to a hardworking agrarian family in Loskuri village of Mafa Local Government Area in the central part of Borno State.


At a tender age, Zulum trekked seven kilometres daily from home to join his late father in the farm to till the ground at Loskuri.


As such, Zulum combined child-farming with primary education in Mafa from 1975 to 1980, before proceeding to Government Secondary School, Monguno, from 1980 to 1985.


He graduated from secondary school at the age of 16 and took up the full responsibility of catering for his education while supporting his younger siblings.


In 1986, Zulum gained admission into Ramat Polytechnic in Maiduguri, to undertake a National Diploma in Irrigation Engineering. As a student, he trekked eight kilometres from Kofa Biyu ward in Maiduguri, where he stayed with relations, to and from school, because he could not afford daily transportation fares.


After graduating with a National Diploma from Ramat Poly in 1988, Zulum joined the Borno State Civil Service in 1989 as an Assistant Technical Officer at the Ministry of Agriculture.


In 1990, Zulum began his Bachelors Degree in Agricultural Engineering at the University of Maiduguri and graduated in 1994.


From 1984 to 1999, when Zulum was a student at the Polytechnic, the University and afterwards, Zulum earned a living as a commercial taxi driver, intermittently driving buses, moving later, to a commercial pickup, ferrying firewood.


In these 16 years, Zulum learnt how to fix all the vehicles he drove, and he combined driving with operating a commercial grinding machine while spending weekends in Mafa, where he was born.


In 1997, Zulum proceeded to the University of Ibadan and graduated in 1998 with a M.Sc. in Agricultural Engineering.


In 1998, Zulum joined the University of Maiduguri as an Assistant Lecturer.


In 2005, he began his PhD programme in Soil and Water Engineering and graduated in 2009.


Zulum grew in rank in the Ivory Tower. At some point, he served as the Deputy Dean, and Acting Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural Engineering at the University of Maiduguri.


In 2011, former Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, who had tactfully identified and admired Zulum’s potentials for years, appointed Zulum as the Rector of Ramat Polytechnic Maiduguri. Zulum was already very familiar with this institution as a student.


However, as Rector, Zulum preferred to retain his meagre salary as lecturer at the University of Maiduguri. In other words, he served for free as Rector. That wise and selfless decision enabled Zulum to continue lecturing at the University while overseeing the Polytechnic.


At some point, Zulum attended the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies.


In four years, Zulum brought impressive changes to the Ramat Polytechnic so much that in 2015, Governor Kashim Shettima, stunned by Zulum’s rare incorruptibility and competence, appointed him as Borno State’s pioneer Commissioner for the Ministry of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement.


Despite controlling billions of naira for reconstruction works, Zulum, neither bought a personal house nor a personal car for himself, as testified by former governor, now Senator Kashim Shettima.


Zulum oversaw the reconstruction of over 30,000 re-settlement homes, schools, hospitals and other vital public services which facilitated the gradual restoration of civil authority across the local government areas in Borno State and the consequent return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to communities in 14 LGAs.


While rebuilding communities, Zulum sustained his teaching and research at the University of Maiduguri, and his passion was crowned in 2016, when the University promoted Dr. Zulum, to the rank of Professor in Soil and Water Engineering.


In October 2018, when it was time to choose who was best positioned to become the candidate of the ruling APC ahead of the 2019 Governorship election, then Governor Kashim Shettima came up with what became a nationally referenced article, which comprehensively advocated the choice of Professor Zulum as Borno’s natural Governor in the midst of daunting challenges.


In Shettima’s article, he predicted so honestly, humbly and generously, how unusually, Professor Zulum would outperform his achievements, for the benefit of the people of Borno State.


Professor Zulum, who was a best seller to Borno’s electorates, won the 2019 governorship with more than one million votes. It was a rare feat!


Since his swearing-in on May 29, 2019, Zulum wasted no time, in confronting the daunting challenges facing Borno State.


Professor Zulum undertakes surprise visits to hospitals at midnights, schools early in the morning, and public establishments, any time, to get first-hand information.


With that unusual approach, Professor Zulum in his first one hundred days executed 120 projects.


In one year, Zulum delivered 326 physical projects and 49 capital intensive programmes and policies.


Shortly after his first year, Professor Zulum developed, launched and adopted a 25-year development plan for Borno, with initial 10-year phase of implementation.


In his second year, Zulum delivered 556 capital projects which included 194 capital projects on education, combining fresh construction of about 20 Mega-size government technical colleges and primary schools in different communities, completion of inherited schools and rehabilitation of others. Professor Zulum also invested heavily and ensured the take-off of Borno’S first state University, established by the Kashim Shettima administration in 2016. Zulum also facilitated the take-off of a Federal Polyctehcnic in Monguno, after presidential approval.


Zulum also completed 63 capital projects on governance, and another 63 capital projects on roads, transport, rural and urban development. 59 capital projects were also delivered on water and environment; while on health, 58 capital projects that include establishment of 74 primary healthcare centres across local government areas, rehabilitation of 8 General and specialist hospitals in MMC, Biu, Damboa, Monguno and Magumeri, were delivered.


The Zulum administration also undertook 53 capital projects on Reconstruction Rehabilitation and Resettlement which involve estates combining over 6,000 resettlement houses for IDPs and Refugees in 18 towns.


Zulum also delivered 28 capital projects on Jobs creation, Youths Empowerment and Humanitarian support which included an all-inclusive vocational training centre with 14 workshops for capacity development of 1,500 persons per annum.


Adopting multifaceted approaches towards tackling the Boko Haram insurgency and consequent humanitarian situation, Zulum allocated hundreds of vehicles and logistics to the Nigerian Armed Forces, increased monthly allowances of volunteers like the Civilian JTF, and recruited thousands of hunters and vigilantes.


Zulum also became Borno’s chief humanitarian officer, touring communities to supervise livelihood support to limit the possibility of insurgents recruiting their victims in case they are left hopeless.


As he serves towards his third year, Professor Zulum has delivered Borno’s first flyover which was commissioned by Mr President. The Governor is working to deliver many key projects including a state University Teaching Hospitals and lots more.


In recognition of his astonishing achievements, Professor Zulum has Niger Republic’s second national honours, the equivalent of Nigeria’s Grand Commander of Order of Niger, GCON. Professor Zulum received over 20 institutional, professional, community-driven awards which include:


  • The NUJ’s Most Promising First Term Governor, 2019
  • Muslim Personality of the Year, 2019
  • Tell Magazine’s Governor of the Year, 2020
  • Vanguard Newspapers’ Personality of the Year, 2020
  • Leadership Newspapers’ Personality of the Year, 2020
  • Zik Prize for Leadership, 2020
  • Silverbird’s Special Award, 2020
  • Igbere TV’s Governor of the Year, 2020
  • Community Development Pillar Award, 2020
  • Blueprint Newspaper, Nigeria’s Person of the Year, 2020
  • BusinessDay Newspapers’ Governor of the Year, 2021
  • University of Ibadan’s Alumni of the Year and Most Distinguished Alumni Award, 2020
  • Ordre National Du Niger Grand Officer, Niger Republic National Award, 2021
  • Leadership Newspaper’s Person of the Year Award, 2021
  • National Postgraduate College Fellowship Award, 2021
  • Nigerian Institute of Agricultural Engineers Fellowship Award, 2021
  • Community Development Institute (CDI) Community Pillar Award, 2020
  • Fellowship Award, Nigerian Institute of Architects, 2021
  • National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) 2021 Human Rights Award
  • New Telegraph’s Governor of the Year, 2021, (Education & Housing Category)



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