By Jonathan Ajibade
I have just had the privilege of spending some days in some major towns and villages in Taraba State. The experience of visiting 13 out of the state’s 16 Local Council Areas in five days was quite thrilling. But what I found in most places that I visited awed me to no end. I was amazed, for example, at the sheer size of the state, the beauty in the diversity of its weather and nature’s benevolence on the state through the gift of highly valued agricultural and mineral resources.
The visit was also a fascinating eye-opener on the other side of success. It brought out the very painful fact that Taraba State was like a car on reverse gear for many years before the coming of Ishaku to the political stage. Some of the major infrastructural facilities in the state were in a state of decline and rot. Some of the roads, health facilities, educational institutions and even some government-owned business outfits bore the marks of neglect and decay of the past years.
The tomato processing factor in Lau is perhaps the worst victim of neglect in the industrial sector. It was abandoned by Gongola State Government nearly 30 years ago, a few years before Taraba State was carved out of it. The factory has remained comatose since then. This has negatively impacted on tomato production in the area. But fortunately, the factory is now about to be resuscitated under the Rescue Agenda of Governor Ishaku. Tomato processing experts from Germany have already visited the factory on the invitation of Ishaku and are soon to return to revive the business.
Tomato processing experts from Germany have already visited the factory on the invitation of Ishaku and are soon to return to revive the business. This has raised the hope for the return of the popular tomato puree brand that was then known as Kitchen Queen to the markets nationwide. For tomato farmers, the return of the factory to business will be the dawn of a new era. The demand for tomato will increase and so will the money they will realize from its sales.
In the health sector, the School of Nursing and Midwifery stands out like a sore thumb. Nothing tells the story of the rot in the sector more vividly than the institution. For more than 10 years, the institution admitted no fresh students and graduated no new nurses and midwives for the hospitals and clinics in the state. It was suspended by the Nurses and Midwifery Council of Nigeria due to lack of facilities. No governor before Ishaku did anything concrete to reverse that situation.
A few months after he took over as governor Ishaku intervened. The conditions given for the lifting of the embargo were met by the government. The Council, for example, wanted the institution’s permanent site project completed and students moved there. It also wants an ICT unit established in the institution.
The Council, for example, wanted the institution’s permanent site project completed and students moved there. It also wants an ICT unit established in the institution.
Today, all these and more have been accomplished by the Ishaku administration. The embargo has now been lifted by the Council and fresh students already admitted. The closure of the school for ten years is part of the reason hospitals and clinics in the state are poorly staffed today, a situation which Ishaku is determined to reverse quickly. With this development, the number of qualified nurses and midwives in hospitals and clinics in the state is set to improve. And so is the quality of services that will be provided in these health institutions. Patients visiting the hospitals are certain to get a better deal.
The Specialist Hospital in Jalingo is yet another traumatic case of past neglect. At some point, the hospital could not even render mortuary services. This came to a complete stop because it had no funds to continue with the services. So, it stopped accepting corpses. Some basic and critical equipment had also broken down. One of them is the Computerised Tomography.
The hi-tech equipment is critical to all medical investigations and is a necessity in any hospitals worthy of its name. It broke down in 2009 and nothing was done until Ishaku came and ordered the release of funds for its repair. Today, the equipment is in use. And the hospital is fully back in the service of the people who come from all parts of the state and other neighbouring states.
There is now generally a new atmosphere of freshness in the hospitals in the state with new items being purchased for use in serving the people coming for medical attention. For three times since the coming of Governor Ishaku, money has been released for new medical equipment to be purchased for use in hospitals and the staff members are today more professionally fulfilled than they have ever been for many years in the past. There is also a new attitude of self-fulfilment in the work place that is already translating into efficiency in service delivery in most health institutions in the state.
In all hospitals and clinics in the state, the story is told of the quiet but focused efforts of government to strengthen them to live up to their billings as healthcare givers. Running costs have been reinstated and increased for health institutions. Some General Hospitals are also being renovated and re-equipped. One of them is the Gembu General Hospital in the Sardauna Local Council area. Newly recruited nurses and midwifes have also being posted there to strengthen the professional arm of the workforce in the hospital.
During the trip, I saw excitement on the faces of the people, particularly farmers. It is now harvest time in the state and it is the best of the times for those who have worked very hard on the farms. Heaps of sacks filled with milled and yet to be milled rice were everywhere in the towns and villages in Taraba State. So also were yams, maize, millet and guinea corn.
Farmers were all smiles as they waved down trailers and other heavy duty vehicles to convey them and their harvests to markets in and outside the state. It has been a particularly good year for farmers, courtesy of the new emphasis that agriculture has received from the administration of Governor Ishaku. This underscores what Ishaku said recently about the capacity of Taraba State to produce enough rice to feed the nation. I can testify to the fact that it is not an empty boast.
But even in the midst of the joy of good harvests and improvements in the services now being provided by government institutions, the people have not forgotten the gory spectre of sectarian crises of the past. It is one regrettable chapter in the history of the state that they do not wish for again in their lifetime. Those days when friends and neighbours suddenly became sworn enemies and took up arms against one another must not be allowed to return to any part of Taraba State again.
They would want Governor Ishaku to make the sustenance of peace which he has already achieved for the state a critical part of his administration’s agenda.
From my own position on the sidelines, I can already see that Ishaku is determined to succeed beyond the people’s imagination. He has proved that he has a good understanding of the purpose of governance by making the people the centre of government’s agenda for development. His catch phrase of “Give me peace and I give you development” is an apt summary of what the state requires.
The people of Taraba State are peace-loving and hard working too. In addition to whatever government wants to provide for them, they are also ready to help themselves. I saw that much in them during my trip round the state. But they and even the Governor will not be able to achieve much if there is no peace and unity of purpose among all the critical stakeholders in the state.
That’s why the people must close ranks and become united behind the desire for peace. Religious and ethnic differences must give way to the common desire for peace and development, the twin concept that Governor Ishaku is promoting.
Ajibade is Public Affairs Commentator.