A Marketer of Distinction

Bala-Mohammed-profile

Bala-Mohammed

It is either he has always had it or that being thrown into the ring as minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, transformed Senator Bala Mohammed into a consummate marketer.

A few years ago, Akpan Ekpo, professor of economics and director-general of the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management, WAIFEM, advised that if Nigeria would make the target of becoming one of the biggest 20 economies in the world by 2020, politicians who determine the fate of the country should imbibe financial literacy. He says that the economy should dominate politics. Mohammed is an apostle of Professor Ekpo’s school of national economics. His activities as FCT minister have been dominated by economics and this is already showing in the skyline of Abuja.

Nigeria’s recent history is filled with public office holders who toured the world in search of investments but when the chips were down they had nothing on the ground to show for it. In the four years he has been in the saddle as FCT minister, Mohammed has not only brought big-ticket businesses to Nigeria, he is showing how to run a productive government. By his projection, the FCT would be able in a few years to generate N500 billion in internal revenue annually to fund its budget. That would free the territory from over-dependence on federal allocation.

This will come from the dividends of Mohammed’s marketing mix. By December 2014, the first two towers of the Abuja World Trade Centre will be launched. Each has 23 floors and already over 60 per cent sold out. The total project cost is put at $1.2 billion. Other signature projects being catalysed by Mohammed are: the Abuja City Centre projected to invest about $2.7 billion; the Jabi Lake Project that will cost between $3 billion and $5 billion when completed; the Hudson Triangle will invest about $1 billion; and the Abuja Industrial Park will make Abuja a self-sufficient city in manufacturing.

Another brain wave of Senator Mohammed is the Land Swap Initiative. Through this policy, the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, is developing a total of 16 Greenfield districts by 15 investors. This has already saved the administration over N4 billion. These private investors will invest at least N500 billion in the development of primary infrastructure in the districts. This is money saved for the government.

Nigeria-Abuja-Metro-complex

Nigeria-Abuja-Metro-complex

All the investors say Mohammed is a unique administrator. And he is. The traditional rulers say they have never seen his like. He is transparent in his dealings with the investors, patriotic in his negotiations and passionate about service. A regular politician plays for today but Mohammed thinks about tomorrow. In the business deals under him, instead of selling land to investors and collecting cash to fund his government, he rather takes equity for FCT so that as the business grows so shall the revenue of the government. Instead of taking a cut for self, he takes equity for government. He takes interest in the progress of the projects being executed by the private sector and keeps urging the promoters to meet their milestones. Mohammed even goes further to help the investors get funds from credible financial institutions.

Hakeem Belo-Osagie, chairman of Etisalat and promoter of the Jabi Lake project, explains the importance of the disposition of the government component of business. “When you bring in investors, they want to see the minister. And they want to meet him, and they want to see that the person who is the heart of the town has vision and is really committed. So the foreign investors we have brought were very impressed with him, seeing his humility, seeing his determination. If you bring foreign investors into a place and they meet the minister of the area you want to invest and he did not impress them, you will have a tough time convincing them. If they meet him and they feel confident, they feel comfortable, they can see his sincerity, they can see his intelligence, they can see his determination, then they are encouraged and not only do they move forward themselves, you find that they start talking with other people and see how they can convince them to invest in the project.”

Belo-Osagie sums up the nature of Mohammed. He is “very intelligent, very hard-working, very committed Nigerian and he has the respect of people from all over the country. Whether you are from Bauchi, Edo State, Katsina or Rivers State, he is ready to attend to you, so far you are a Nigerian, so far you are committed to Abuja. I find him very broadminded. He listens to both sides. He is very considerate. Even when sometimes he takes a decision that doesn’t favour us, we know that he has examined all the implications carefully before taking the decision.”

Like a private sector marketer, Mohammed goes after big businesses and persuades them to come and invest in Abuja instead of sitting back in his office waiting for the investors to come to him. He convinced tested and successful Nigerian businessmen to invest in Abuja. Today, Dangote and Alakija, the richest man and woman in Nigeria, have taken stakes in the development of Abuja as a result of Mohammed’s deft marketing skills, transparency and commitment.

Mohammed is the proverbial prepared mind which fortune favours. A combination of long preparation, competence and providence always puts him on the right side of history when it counts. Nigerians remember him as a vibrant senator representing Bauchi South in the Sixth Senate where he deployed his oratorical gift and sound mind to good use. He made history in the Senate when he moved the motion for the Doctrine of Necessity, which made then vice president, Goodluck Jonathan, acting president and solved the constitutional logjam caused by the ill-health of then president, Umaru Yar’Adua.

In those uncertain days of a national deadlock and intense sectional prevarications, he stood up to be counted on the side of a united Nigeria. It was quite a great risk which Nigeria will continue to remember him for. A technocrat with about 30 years’ public service experience, his political career has been defined by such calculated acts of courage which stabilised Nigeria at very trying time.

Born on October 5, 1958, at Duguri Town in Alkaleri Local Government area of Bauchi State, Mohammed attended Duguri Primary School, Bauchi, from 1965 to 1971. He attended Government Secondary School, Bauchi, from 1972 to 1976 where he passed his WASCE. After that he attended North-East College of Arts and Science from 1977 to 1979 for his Advanced Level certificate. In 1979, he gained admission into the University of Maiduguri from where he graduated in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Language. He attended the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, ASCON, in 1988 for a general management course. He attended a capacity building training in Lagos and was given a certificate of the Institute of Purchasing and Supply.

Mohammed’s confidence in the parliament and poise before the media may be a product of his early training as a journalist, a heritage he is so proud of. He began his career as a journalist in the early 80s and rose to become the news editor of the Mirage newspaper, Jos, between 1982 and 1983. He also had a stint as a reporter with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN. After NAN, he worked in Democrat newspaper as state editor in charge of Benue from 1983 to 1984. Those who worked with him during that period remember him as a highly committed and principled journalist who stuck to the ethics of the profession.

In 1984, Mohammed left his flourishing journalism career for the civil service when he joined the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs, Abuja. In 1994, he was promoted and redeployed as principal administrative officer in the Cabinet Secretariat of the Presidency. He was chief supplies officer, Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals from 1995 to 1997. He rose to the position of assistant director in the Federal Ministry of Power and Steel in 1997. In 1999, he was promoted deputy director/special assistant to the Minister, Federal Ministry of Transport, till 2003. He was promoted director of administration, Nigerian Railway Corporation, in 2003 and later in September same year he became special assistant to the minister of aviation. In January 2004, he became director of Administration and Supplies, Nigerian Meteorological Agency.

Then politics called. And on April 21, 2007, he was elected senator representing Bauchi South at the National Assembly under the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP. However, he later returned to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, where he belonged. But his days in the Red Chamber, as the Senate is known, was cut short when President Goodluck Jonathan nominated him minister of the FCT, in 2010. He resumed duty as minister on April 8, 2010. Since then, Mohammed has grown in political stature to become one of the key drivers of federal government’s Transformation Agenda. President Jonathan reappointed him FCT minister on July 2, 2011

A man of few words, he acts decisively and is a great manager of men and resources. These qualities came to count during the just concluded Nigeria centenary celebration, which he chaired. Under him, Abuja is fast developing into a mega city. The city’s skyline is changing. The light rail project is shaping up and the necessary infrastructure backbone is being built. His innovative land swap initiative and robust marketing mix is attracting greater inflow of private sector funds and foreign direct investments into Abuja. With this committed team, Mohammed says he is upgrading Abuja to a smart city, a knowledge driven mega-polis where everything works.

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