By Mallam Prince Charles Dickson
A fine cage won’t feed the bird.
On August 6 2015, Soldiers kill notorious hippopotamus in Gombe dam headlined the news on premiumtimes an online news portal, it was a story written by Auwal Umar, it trended for a day or two received mentions in a few other newspapers and that was the end.
The crux of the story was that a notorious hippopotamus was accused of terrorizing Yamaltu/Deba local government areas of Gombe State, killing fishermen and farmers near the Dadin/Kowa dam. Finally the “notorious” hippo was shot dead by soldiers according to local officials.
“The animal killed many people in the last two years, the state government said.
Ismail Umar, who is the head of Forestry, Yamaltu/Deba Local Government, confirmed that the beast had been killed.
He said officials discovered the threat posed by the hippopotamus since 2013, and complained to the LGA about the damages it was causing them, and also requested permission to hunt it down.
Also speaking, the permanent secretary of the state Ministry of Environment and Forest Resources, Adamu Pukuma, said the state was committed to protecting hippopotamus to ensure they do not go into extinction, saying the killed animal was “notorious”.
“It killed people around the area as well as destroyed people farm and fishing equipment, and there were complaints from the people that was why we sought the governor’s approval and killed it,” he said.
As at the time of the story my young friend George Omo had sternly criticized those that were responsible for killing the hippo, and ranted about how the hippo could have been part of a tourism project and how it was savage to kill a hippo.
The part that was not included in the story was that the hippopotamus beef was shared among locals. Interesting that was a dam, or community that claims it had some 100 of such hippos, yet it identified one as notorious and killed it.
Very quickly before this becomes a boring story and one wonders what has hippos got to do with Nigeria. I will tell us in the next few paragraphs, and hope we see the metaphor.
In Jos, Plateau state, there is the Zaria road stadium project. The project was initiated by a former military administrator of the state, Col. Lawrence Onoja, the project is already 26years old, and in those years it has became a conduit to siphon public funds, receiving mention in almost every budget. With an initial sitting capacity of 20,000 increased to 50,000 and modern indoor facilities, it was original billed to stand as one of the most sophisticated and internationally acclaimed football stadiums in Nigeria.
In 1999, former Governor Joshua Dariye re-awarded the contract to Trans Project Nigeria Ltd at a sum of N1.2bn. But the company abandoned the project after the Dariye Administration ran into troubled waters.
This was after the administration had tried to persuade the Federal Government to take over the project.
The highlight of that era was when a commissioner in that government told me that the reason for all the delay and troubles was that the stadium was situated just opposite the cemetery and that the dead bodies “will” abhor the noise from the stadium, so made it impossible for the stadium to be completed.
Enter the Jonah Jang government of redemption; with a lot of social gain in line, the contract was re-awarded to BCC Tropical Nigeria Ltd at the cost of N3.2 bn.
The governor then had even promised that the stadium would be ready in 2013 to boost the state’s chances of bidding for the 2014 National Sports Festival.
Intact these were his words then…“We are bequeathing to the state a lasting legacy as one of the foremost sporting states in the country. If you remember that most of the football stars in Nigeria, both living, and dead, cut their teeth in Jos. And of course with our clement weather, Plateau cannot afford to lag behind in sporting activities. That is why we are trying to finish the project in time to boost our chances if we eventually bid for the 2014 National Sports Festival,”
He further stated, that about 90% of the work had been completed already.
More lies were told, like those by the then Commissioner of Sports in the state, James Yakubu.
He said that one of the problems encountered while the project was being revisited was that most vital documents relating to the contract, such as drawings, electrical, architectural and structural designs, could not be traced.
To ensure that the stadium is of world class standard, he added, FIFA officials who come in at regular intervals to assess the progress of work are inspecting the project.
So far, the lush artificial playing turf, the rubber running tracks, including other facilities, are ready.
Yakubu said that as required by FIFA, the contract for the construction of road network around the stadium would soon be awarded.
A representative of the construction firm, Mr. Robert Parkinson, said the synthetic running tracks and the artificial pitch would get a 12-year guarantee and that the work is being done to stand the test of time.
While all these drama was on, the project, had already gulped over N5bn because of variations in the contract sum, highlight of which it was alleged that the fence alone had been awarded to a “jang” at an outrageous sum.
Well, in the final analysis, today the end of 2015 is near, there is no stadium; Plateau is hosting no National Sports Festival, not even a Secondary Schools Sports Festival for that matter.
The dead bodies of Zaria road cemetery still abhor noise and have not been appeased.
Same Plateau, has two wild life parks, one in Jos, the other in Quan Pan Local Government, while the latter is almost an abandoned bush, the former is laughable as in recent times the lions there have been know to be given cabbage to eat.
And truth be told this is not about the Plateau State Zaria road stadium, it is about a nation and its various hippopotamus projects, notorious conduits in every state, where monies just disappear with the wave of an abracadabra political hands.
During the Obasanjo administration, a committee on abandoned projects was set up, but even that has been abandoned too…Sadly how a nation and a people kill it’s heritage, damage it’s future, and lie to itself remains a mystery that only time can tell.