By Nick Dugba
On December 4th,1981, a group known as the Taraba Movement, made a request to the National Assembly requesting for the creation of Taraba state. It is however not a secret that Taraba state is well endowed with resources, both human, and material.
The only secret perhaps is the myriad of untapped human and material resources hidden in the State. What an irony!
Will nature by which we pride ourselves as our gift, forgive us if we fail to utilize its potentials?
Anyway, over the span of 25 years, Taraba has been able to create a niche for itself on the agricultural map of Nigeria, but it could have done more if there was better political will by successive governments.
The same goes for mining, trade, and commerce.
But for the intermittent conflicts between communities, Taraba state would have developed more than what it is today.
What about tourism? With the comparative advantage in tourism, the State could have generated more revenue to sustain itself.
However, kudos must be given to former governors of the State like Rev. Jolly Nyame and Danbaba Suntai for investing heavily on capital development with available resources.
Today, Taraba state is home to four institutions of high caliber, owned by the state government -The Taraba State University, The College of Education, The State Polytechnic and The College of Agriculture. We also have an Ultra Modern Sports complex in Jalingo and a three-star Motel too among others.
Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku administration, though too early to critically assess, has been able to construct some roads, digitize TTV and built a new studio, complete and commissioned some electrification projects and commenced the expansion of the Jalingo Water project among others.
Interestingly, successive governments, all this while have prided themselves with prompt payment of salaries, and compared to other states in the federation, Taraba state indeed has experienced little or no industrial crises concerning payment of salaries. As a matter of fact, Taraba state was among the first among its peers to implement the N18,000 minimum wage.
Citizens of the State too have often debated between themselves on who was the best governor in the past by projects execution.
But policy experts have said that mere payment of salaries and infrastructure development should not be used as an excuse by politicians and must not be criteria for judging performance as these are rights of the citizens and not privileges. Unfortunately, governments have often used these glorified achievements as a smokescreen to conceal their failure in government.
In Chapter two, of the First Schedule of the Nigerian constitution, under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principle of State Policy, government’s roles to its citizens have been stated which include among others: Social, Economic and Political Objectives.
Payment of salaries, provision of social amenities and security are part of these objectives. In fact, failure to carry out these responsibilities is tantamount to violating the laws of the land.
The Legislature and the Judiciary, in playing their roles of Checks and Balances, are supposed to ensure that the Executive did not violate these noble objectives.
As Taraba state celebrate 25 years of statehood, has it been able to achieve the dreams and aspirations of its founding fathers? Has it been able to meet up with the responsibility of statecraft? If not, what are the factors responsible and what is the way forward? This is the reality check done by an expert in Taraba Affairs and Political Analyst, Aaron Artemis.
Taraba at 25, Journey So Far.
Taraba has performed fairly well. Taraba should have achieved more than this given the kind of resources and potentials it has. Taraba has potentials than many states in Nigeria.
These potentials were not harnessed. But concerning infrastructure, Taraba is behind. For example, if you have local governments that are not linked with tarred road after 25 years of statehood, then it is a misery. From here to Lau Local Government is less than 30 kilometers, the road is not tarred. The local government is not linked to the National Grid.
There are many local governments like that. Out of 16 local governments, only about seven local governments are linked to the National Grid. Pipe bore water, perhaps only Jalingo, which Governor Danbaba signed an agreement five years ago with the African Development Bank for the project which is now completed. Taraba has a lot to cover regarding development.
Question of Ethnicity and Religious Sentiments
I do not agree. If you don’t know what you are doing, you will run down to primordial interest as an excuse for you not to perform. The first civilian governor of this State was a Reverend, Jolly Nyame. Since 1992, he was in power until Abacha’s regime collapsed and then he came back from 1999 to 2007.
He was a Christian, majority of his cabinet members were Christians. Members of the House of Assembly were Christians. So who stopped him from developing the State? After that, Danbaba Suntai came. He was a born again Christian, and despite the fact that Danbaba was a liberal leader who was very receptive and love everybody, he still overloaded himself with Christians. So, what stops development from taking place? So these are just excuses! When you do certain kind of things because you want to get to power, you play these kinds of pecuniary measures.
After getting to power, so what? Do what is required of you! This is the kind of politics they play in Plateau, in Benue, where predominantly they are Christians, but as soon as they get to power, they start discriminating against their ethnic nationalities. A Berom man would only take care of his own Berom people and refuse to do certain things and he would concentrate resources around his family and friends.
So when he doesn’t perform, he would jump into Hausa/Fulani politics. I don’t agree that there is any encumbrance. What we are suffering from is an inferiority complex. We are running, nobody is chasing us. You have the power; you don’t have the competence to execute the power.
I have been privileged to work with these governors. When we get money, all we do is go for the weekend. Pack money, put into boots, go and sleep in a hotel, drink beer and come back. We don’t sit down and plan and know what we are expected to do. We don’t take our brothers into confidence.
You don’t sit down and assemble a team of experts. I have had so many economic summits in Hausa/Fulani states, how many have been held in our state where you bring experts to sit down and brainstorm and give you a blueprint of what you intend to do.
Everyone come into government, the only excuse they use to cheat people is to whip up religious and tribal sentiments. So the problem is not the so-called cleavages we are talking about, it is the lack of confidence in ourselves.
Leadership Factor in Taraba
Taraba has not been lucky to have the right men at the helm of affairs. Leadership is the greatest tool for driving development in every part of the world. If you want to play football, and you don’t have your first eleven. You cannot win any match, and this has always been the case.
Taraba state has consistently promoted mediocrity, and this mediocrity is weaved around the politics of sectionalism and religious bigotry. So, the government has been bereft of the right people. We have not had first class bureaucrats; that would be able to right the wrongs, put round pegs in round holes.
When you bring somebody from the village and make him a Commissioner, and you know that person doesn’t have the capacity even to understand what he is doing, and you don’t even give him the tools… So, the major problem is the selection process of candidates previously practices in the State and country has denied the State of competent hands. Taraba state is one of the most educated states.
We have people who can be governors, who can move the State forward, who are of the right caliber. There are many of them who wanted to contest, but the system did not favor them. With the state of the imposition of candidates, how can the State move on? Taraba problem has been that of leadership. That’s all!
The Elite Politics in Taraba
The cabal we had were an informal and incidental cabal. It is not an institutionalized cabal. They came as a result of circumstances of power at that time. Why the cabal came about at that time was that after Danbaba’s accident, there was a power vacuum. Shortly before he had that accident, the deputy governor was impeached on the orders of Danbaba himself. A new person was brought in.
So when he came in, the intention was that he was going to take over. And some people that entrenched themselves in the power structure of government felt that this man is an outsider, why should he come from outside and reap what he had not labored for? So the cabal is purely incidental, there is no power cabal in the State.
And one of the problems is that the followership in the state has not helped matters because we worship our leaders to such an extent that we don’t see anything wrong with them. Most of us don’t have the capacity to question our leaders because of the nature they are brought in.
The Relationship Between The Executive And The Legislature in Taraba
As long as I can remember, the Legislature and Executive perform almost the same function. The Legislature mostly in the State is a rubber stamp. People are so timid in this area.
They don’t even understand their own powers. You see members of the House of Assembly drafted to do the function of the Executive instead of consigning themselves to the legislative function. If you want, perhaps, to be appointed as Permanent Secretary in the State, sometimes, you go to the Speaker to lobby.
There are so many ad-hoc committees, for example, Committee on Flood Victims. Most members of the committee were members of the Legislature. That is an Executive work. It has nothing to do with the Legislature. We have not seen a single incident in which the Legislature disagreed with the Executive, and I cannot say they should agree on every other thing. There are so many things that are detrimental to the government! They have not spoken which means that they are working in tandem.
So I can hardly draw a line between what the Legislature is doing and what the Executive is doing. I have been nominated to serve on several committees as a Civil Servant, and I have found myself working under a member of the House of Assembly as the Chairman of that committee.
The Way Forward For Taraba
I strongly believe in the reforms being pursued by Muhammad Buhari. I have been Buhari’s fan since 1984 when he became Head of State, and I believe he is one Nigerian that loves this country.
I believe that at the end of his tenure….i am not a pessimist, like those that believe the change has not come… I am not talking about one year. When you are talking about real change, you are talking about three years of four years; a little sanity would be restored in this country.
If the voting process is corrected, the masses would have an opportunity to elect people of their choice because electronic voting would allow people to sit in their communities and vote people they want, rather than go out and vote and some people would use Biro and change it and make people believe that you can’t beat a government party.
I see a Nigeria one-day where people can stand for election and win without a governor sitting down in his bedroom and nominating all members of the House of Assembly, all Chairmen of local government in such a way that all those people nominated have no say on what the governor does to them, and this has been happening all this while.
Recall that during the last constitution amendment; there was this issue that seeks to give financial autonomy to State Houses of Assembly. In Taraba here, the Speaker then who was Chairman of the Speakers’ Forum, opposed it on the instruction of the governor. That amendment did not scale through even though it was intended to give members of the House of Assembly freedom.
As soon as allocation comes to the State, the House is given what belongs to them whether the governor likes it or not. In that way, they would stand and oppose the governor if need be but they rejected it out of political slavery! So if these things are corrected, local governments have their autonomy, maybe we would have credible people who would emerge as governors. I have hope, I am not a pessimist, I am an optimist, I believe that this country, after four years, there would be a measure of change that will take a direction towards the positive.