Bauchi State is the strategic gateway to five other states in northeast Nigeria. The state itself is a leading breadbasket, and also endowed with natural beauty. It abounds in rare species of birds and animals which remain at the centre of the state government's determination to create a tourist paradise as part of its economic development plans.
In pursuit of these plans, the state government is forging links with Kenya, South Africa and Namibia which have all already sent experts to Bauchi to examine the potentials for joint partnership. The climax of these efforts was the recent visit by the Namibian president, Sam Nujoma, who was hosted by the state governor, Ahmadu Adamu Mu'azu.
Bauchi may have been de-linked administratively from its neighbour Plateau State, but not from the natural beauty of this area of Nigeria that abounds in highlands, hills and rock formations. Here you come across some of the most stunning countryside scenery.
You drive in from the highlands of Plateau, leaving the city of Jos behind and immediately cross the state border, and then you start on the gradual descent that takes you into Bauchi. All along the one-and-half-hour inter-state country road are miles and miles of hills and rock formations interspersed with plush green and farming communities.
Among the various people you meet on the journey are Fulanis in colourful wear. Even along the way, you are struck with evidence of new developments undertaken by the current state governor, Ahmadu Mu'azu, in the number of newly built schools and the noise of lively school children within the school walls.
Bauchi is not only endowed with tourism potential, but has historically contributed to national political and intellectual leadership. Nigeria's first premier, Tafawa Balewa, came from Bauchi. In the decades past, before independence, Bauchi was the home of the "Discussion Circle", whose members, mainly teachers and journalists, came from other parts of the north. The group provided a counterpart to the southern leaders of thought and political agitation.
It was also from Bauchi that new ideas about political awareness and education filtered to other parts of the north. Little wonder, therefore, that the state has enjoyed relative development since its creation.
Today, the Governor, Ahmadu Mu'azu, under Nigeria's democratic dispensation, remains an activist true to Bauchi's tradition of putting people first.
In one dramatic gesture after a recent radio phone-in programme, the governor hurriedly travelled unannounced to a remote village in the middle of the night to investigate a problem that someone had complained about on the radio programme. The villagers, young and old, literarily mobbed him for showing concern for them.
The state's motto declares that it is "the home of peace". It is also sometimes described as the pearl of Nigerian tourism, because it is the site of the famous Yankari National Park, possibly the leading natural reserve in West Africa.
This vast and under-utilised reservation area is a haven for several endangered species of wildlife as well as the site of a complex of warm mineral springs that are reputed to have wonderful medicinal properties. One of the warm springs so far developed is the Yankari Spring which has already attracted many visitors, including presidents, kings and locals.
Governor Mu'azu has vowed to seek National Assembly backing to recover ownership of the park from the Federal Government in Abuja, and to create a world-class tourism industry around it.
Already South African, Kenyan and Namibian experts and Bauchi state officials have been involved in studies and exchange visits aimed at further developing the Yankari National Park.
Governor Mu'azi's performance during his first term is highly visible, especially in rural development. …