Babagana Umara, a professor, was today, administered with the oath of office as the 7th democratically elected governor of Borno State.
He was sworn in alongside his deputy, Umar Kadafur, by the Chief Judge of Borno State, Kashim Zanna.
The inauguration, however, had to be cut short after Mr Umara coughed persistently while reading his speech.
The new governor takes over from Kashim Shettima, whose eight-year tenure winds up today.
While delivering his inaugural speech, Mr Umara said his administration will hit the ground running with a 10-point agenda for speedy development of the state.
He thanked the former governor, Mr Shettima, for not only assisting him to become governor but also for laying a ‘solid foundation of development upon which he would build upon.’
He said his government will work with the newly established North East Development Commission (NEDC), UN system and other development partners towards the rebuilding of Borno State.
Reeling out his 10-point agenda, Mr Umara said his government will focus on security; education, job creation, and good governance.
He also said there would be the “replacement of ‘political thuggery’ with job creation.” He said this will be carried out under a proposed Entrepreneurship Development Skills centre.
“The era of political thuggery, known as ECOMOG, has constituted a nuisance in the state for over two decades.
Mr Umara said the restoration of security will be the number one cardinal agenda of his government.
He said he will support the Nigerian security agencies to ensure that Borno State is made safe again.
The governor said he would support the Nigerian security in the area of acquiring and deploying modern security technologies for more effective tackling of insecurity in the state.
The professor of irrigation engineering said his government will invest massively in the area of agriculture, especially by establishing buffer zones in locations that are secured by the military “in order to return Borno as the food production hub of northern Nigeria.
“My focus is on improving the security of the state as insecurity is the major impediment that affected people’s lives for a decade.
“I will ensure the return of our displaced people to their farmlands to ensure national food security.
“I will also fight unemployment and poverty among youths and embark on the massive reconstruction of destroyed communities.
“This will enable the people to return to their ancestral homes, while we seek more support from humanitarian donor agencies across the globe.”
He also promised to run an all-inclusive government where all policies and programmes of government shall have the support and inputs of all stakeholders.
“This administration will be devoid of personal/group interests, politics, religion or ethnicity among the various communities in Borno,” he said.
Shettima thanks Borno
Earlier, the former governor, Mr Shettima, in his farewell speech, thanked the people of Borno for giving him the opportunity to lead them as their governor.
“In the last eight years, I have been to all parts of Borno State. In these movements, you never showed anything other than a sense of belief that we are a people of destiny. Thank you so much.”
He said the last eight years was a journey full of trials and travail.
“Together with all of you, we passed through many a storm, but you did not waver. You have soldiered with me when many died on the streets and in the bushes.
“During these years, some who were rich became poor. Some who had shelters turned homeless. Some who had villages became refugees, some who had food became beggars. Farmers witnessed famine, some who slept at night woke at dawn to nightmares as they or their families were slaughtered.
“The insurgents took many steps to take us backwards. As we rebuilt communities, they destroyed them. As we upgraded schools, the insurgents destroyed them.
“They destroyed hospitals after we had equipped and commissioned them. For every step we took, the insurgents took us back by two or more steps.
“In addition to rebuilding communities, schools and hospitals, we were also faced with a severe humanitarian crisis which arose from massive displacement of people.
“We constructed 1,711 classrooms and other school buildings in 256 primary and junior secondary schools. We established 16 new secondary schools, renovated more than half of our over 80 secondary schools and built 44 Mega primary schools of world-class infrastructure.
“These schools are to cater for more than 50,000 orphans whose parents were killed by Boko Haram. We deliberately located half of the schools in Maiduguri so that a sitting Governor can personally ensure the welfare of these orphans, many of whom have neither mothers nor relatives. Majority of them have no one at all.
“Together, we have been able to establish Borno’s first state university since our state was created in 1976.”
The former governor said he was leaving the stage with the confidence that his successor will not disappoint.
“My good people of Borno State, the job of rebuilding our state and our people has only just begun. I have done my modest part, and I am bowing out.
“I am happy that the stage is shifting to a great and worthy son of Borno. The stage is shifting to a man who made himself out of a low estate. A man who drove a taxi and sold firewood to pay his school fees, a man with an uncommon touch, a dynamo of a worker.
“Babagana Umara is very well prepared for the task ahead. He showed it expertly as a commissioner. Insha’Allah, he will excel as the chief shepherd of the state.
“He is very energetic and very brilliant. My prayer is for Professor Babagana Umara Zulum to surpass my achievements by a wide margin.”
New governor ends speech abruptly
While Mr Umara was midway into reading his speech, he suddenly began to cough as though he was chocking.
As he struggled to read his speech, the coughing became persistent that his security aides had to ask him to pause for a while. He was asked to return to his seat.
Having paused for about five minutes, the governor stood up to continue his speech. But the coughing resumed.
People around the podium began to complain about a police officer who mistakenly released a tear gas near the area where the governor was reading his speech.
Mr Umara had to sit down again as the former and present deputy governors climbed up the podium to check if he was okay. He was not offered water because he was fasting.
The situation became a bit disturbing, especially as the crowd began to show concern, asking if all was okay.
After assessing the situation, the security chief at the arena advised that the rest of the ceremony be put on hold. They call on the police band to chant the national anthem.
From the podium, the governor stood for the National Anthem after which he stepped down and waved at the large crowd which thundered with cheers before he left the arena for the airport with the former governor, Kashim Shettima.