By Hon. Inuwa Bwala
By the time I depart as the Chairman of Hawul Local Government Area of Borno State, I may have garnered enough imputes to write about the enclave and her people.
But I want to start with a glimpse at the jinx that surrounded Azare, the local government headquarters, and how it is being broken.
Created in 1991 along with other local government areas across the country, Hawul Local Government Area of Borno State has an interesting and intriguing history behind it.
It is perhaps the most intellectually sophiscated, productively ingenious, culturally boisterous, highly industrious but politically unpredictable and sadly developmentally retarded until recently, of all the local governments.
Azare, the local government headquarters, even as the face of the local government has been a glorified village: bereft of facilities that qualify it as centre of attraction.
There might never have been a conscious effort to develop it, in the erroneous belief that one day the local government may be split and Azare may revert to a virtual no man’s land.
All the main towns, which serve as ward centres of the 12 wards in Hawul, are far ahead of Azare, the local government headquarters, in terms of infrastructure and population.
All the elites from Hawul, including me, prefer to concentrate our development efforts in our immediate towns or in Biu, the largest town in Southern Borno, at the expense of Azare.
Workers posted to Azare prefer to take up accommodations in surrounding towns, in the absence of befitting houses to rent in Azare.
The few government built houses have given way under consistent wind and rainstorms in the face of poor maintenance culture.
For over 40 years, the citizens were often sold the gimmick that there was no water flowing underneath the earth in Azare.
At a point, attempts were made to lay pipes from other communities into Azare, all in an attempt to further mystify the water story.
Indeed, the social media was awash with stories of people ferrying water from valleys into Azare; long after the jinx had been broken.
The water story in Azare was deliberately orchestrated to score cheap political points and to further portray the town as unsuitable for citing the headquarters of Hawul.
The only road, which is a federal highway, which passes through Azare from Biu to Gombi, is virtually a death trap. Travellers plying the road are at the mercy of so many odds.
Communities along the road tell stories of lamentations of neglect and deprivations.
The stories sounded rather too scary when I was asked to go and change the narratives; first, as a transition chairman and later as a caretaker chairman.
Coupled with the task of midwifing an election that was tension soaked, the assignment at first looked impossible.
I was torn between having to convince a population that was hoodwinked into believing that my party was a bad product, and having to work against a hypocrisy that wanted me to fail, even as members of my party, and further thinking of giving water to the Azare community that believed there was no water under their own soil, the task looked daunting.
So, in the first four weeks of my assumption of duty, when the governor, Professor Babagana Umara, visited and looked at me straight in the eyes and before the Azare community, ordered me to provide water to Azare-Tasha, I was at my wits end how to do it.
It was rather baffling that a few meters away from the community water was flowing from a borehole within a Church premise, but for the community, the story was different. But then, I took up the challenge and punched the first two sites without success.
On a third trial, water started gushing out at less than a hundred meters. That water still flows: in a community that was told to resign to fate.
That feat began to break the water jinx. Since then, any visitor to Azare in the last one year should be telling a different story from the gory picture painted above.
Today, there are not less than 30 functional water boreholes in Azare; all oozing out water, for human and animal consumption, and even gardening.
We immediately embarked on massive borehole repairs beyond Azare; including private and public borehole, just to gather goodwill. We drilled new ones in other locations, all of which only marginally impacted the usually unpredictable lot.
Again, when we looked around, the local government secretariat, where I was expected to operate, was in tatters. Staff morale was down, and there were no companies with whom to work, as they seldom come around.
To attract life back into the secretariat, we opened a staff register in each department and ordered workers to sign in on reporting to duty and to sign out at the close of work.
That trick worked as every worker immediately reported to work, and we started having people around who we assigned to do jobs of bringing life into the secretariat.
We commenced distributing palliatives to attract attention and even resorted to nocturnal visits in the community to win over friends.
We could not do much to Azare, enough to change the narrative in the first stanza, but we were able to prove that the story about water under their soil was a mere facade. Today, Azare is beginning to wear a new look, courtesy of a few structural developments we undertook.
The local government secretariat wears a new look after the rainstorm disaster of 23 May, 2023, that brought down walls and blew off roofs.
We have restored electricity, we have built an arena, with a shopping arcade to attract commercial activities to the town, we have completed a seven room befitting lodge for visitors, and we built a central store and repaired parts of the collapsed federal highway.
Bwala is chairman, Hawul Local Government Area of Borno State.