“Give me peace and I will give you development”- Darius Dickson Ishaku
The above statement is the Taraba State Governor’s most cherished statements and the social contract between him and the people of the State. He does not fail in emphasizing this each time he has the opportunity to meet with his people.
Taraba, ‘Nature’s Gift to the Nation’, is coming from a turbulent past occasioned by the fatal accident involving former Governor Suntai mid-way into his second term. Apart from that, there were a lot of anomalies in the entire system which include but not limited to, Executive recklessness, Ghost workers syndrome, Ethnic clashes and low morale in the Civil Service.
All these have stunted the growth of one of the youngest States in Nigeria and almost completely taken it off the development trajectory.
Consequently, as this administration has discovered, a greater percentage of the meager earnings of the State has been going down the drain due to sharp practices in the system. For instance, sometime last year, the State Universal Basic Education Board (TSUBEB) was able to save about N52 million after a verification of teachers carried out to get rid of ‘fake’ teachers. In fact, that was a tip of the iceberg compared to what obtains in the Local Government system.
However, the coming of Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku, was perceived by Tarabans as a welcome development, having weathered the storm after the general elections which came with a rerun against his opponent, Hajiya Aisha Alhassan, the current Minister of Women Affairs.
The Court cases that trailed his victory which stretched up to the Supreme Court even labelled Governor Ishaku, the Governor with the most litigations in Nigeria.
However, as part of his plan for the State, the Governor came with a policy thrust called the ‘Rescue Mission’. The vision of the Rescue Agenda ‘is to transform Taraba State into one of the top two leading vibrant Economies in the North – East Sub Region by 2025′. The mission is “to create and maintain an enabling environment conducive for the optimal participation and sustainable engagement of key stakeholders and partners, by developing a sensitive and responsible political class, a vibrant and purpose driven bureaucracy, a veritable resource base, and a broad based economy”.
Indeed, the vision and mission are ideals which carry with them great challenges considering the political and Socio-Economic situation the State found itself.
A comparative analysis of what Taraba State earned before and after the coming of this Government, may give an insight into the economic challenges the current Government is likely facing. It is also supposed to be a wake up call to explore the huge potentials the State has in agriculture, tourism and mining in order to meet those challenges. (January 2014 and February 2017 were taken as a case study).
A data by the National Bureau of Statistics and Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, shows that the revenue allocation to Taraba State for January 2014 was N4,807,942,732.70 compared to that of January 2017 which was shared in February 2017: N2,525,965,659.07. The difference is over N2 Billion and an over 100% drop.
Governor Darius Ishaku, an architect, a former Minister of State for both Niger Delta and Power, must have mustered the experiences gained in the organized private sector where he was before, to achieve the present gains in the State. Some of the values that make the organized private sector stand out are: discipline, profit- oriented goals, hardwork and excellence, which to some extent he has instilled in the system.
Some of his achievements are the revival of the AfDB/ World Bank funded Jalingo water project which has been there before the coming of the administration. His partnership with the Greater Nairobi Water and Sewerage Agency, is yielding fruit as 67 Tarabans are presently in Kenya on a hands- on training.
The Jalingo-Kona-Lau road was dualized up to Kona and would subsequently be extended to Lau and up to Karim Lamido- a great rice farm belt along the Benue river axis.
Incidentally, the Government recently signed an MoU with Dangote Group for the commencement of the Dangote Sugar factory in Lau thereby justifying the road construction to Lau. The factory will no doubt create employment opportunities.
The Greenhouse Project is an agricultural masterpiece which was established in August 2015 at the cost of N2 Billion. It is presently at 70% completion.
In addition, for the first time in a long time, fertilizers were supplied to farmers before the commencement of the farming season.
The sum of N1.5 Billion has been expended for the digitization of the State TV while that of the radio is on going.
Governor Ishaku has introduced e-governance in the State with the active collaboration of his wife, Barr. Anna Darius Ishaku. To this end, a functional ICT office has been established and the Government Website, www.tarabagov.ng reactivated, to fully track Government activities and showcase the potentials in the State.
This is setting the pace for the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to key into the policy. According to the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on ICT, Grace Amaefula, there was a vacuum that needed to be filled since the Government Website then was either not functional or outdated.
Government activities were only carried on national newspapers which was not dynamic enough. In addition, she said an online news medium TaraVoices was also established to bridge that gap.
Adding credence to the innovation, Amaefula boasted saying, “ there is no government function that is not taken online. We have been able to reach 300,000 people. On the google search engine, we have grown with over 600,000 ranks in the last three months alone. We are the 19,000th most visited site in Nigeria”.
According to her the website is the fastest growing website of Taraba origin in the world and hardly would you not find any story about the State on the website. She assured that there are so many opportunities to be exploited in the State using ICT.
In another vein, one of his notable achievements was the creation of NGADA Special Development Area to give a people that once lived on the fringes of good human existence, a good life. Also he was able to conduct the Local Government elections when people at the grassroots could only make do with Caretaker Chairmen for over four years.
Besides these achievements, there has also been regular payment of salaries, rehabilitation of General Hospitals in Bali, Wukari and Karim Lamido, empowerment of 300 youths on Skills Acquisition, the employment of more nurses and midwives and subsequent lifting of ban on employment which was placed by previous governments in the State.
Also, the government approved the recruitment of 3000 teachers while for the first time in the history, several courses of the Taraba State Polytechnic, were accredited by the NBTE.
In essence, under the ‘Rescue Agenda’ is a grassroots mobilization and monitoring programme known as ‘Rescue Watch’. According to the Chief of Staff, Government House Administration, Rebo Usman, the programme is suppose to mobilize the grassroots towards maintaining basic Government facilities in the rural areas and ensuring service delivery.
“Rescue Watch is basically about trying to be in touch with our people at the grassroots level and we have been doing that consistently. The Governor has been receiving reports from the various teams in the 16 Local Government Areas and Yangtu.
“We are having a lot of progress in those areas through interactions that the various teams are having with our people at the grassroots. We have the team members going round Government facilities to see what is happening and then relate with pictures what is happening to the Governor.
“I mean it is something that people are saying has never happened in this country…they have the ward contact persons who visit them any moment and every month. The teams led by Special Advisers, visit them,meet with them to see what is happening. It keeps them on their toes”, says Usman.
As a private sector player, Governor Ishaku has revitalized the Kakara Tea Factory on the Mambilla Plateau, which perhaps, is the only major industrial presence in the State.
He has also initiated a Bill to establish ranches and ban open grazing, as a way of checking herdsmen/ farmers’ crises.
Of late, Communities have grappled with attacks by alleged ‘herdsmen’ in Gassol, Bali, Takum, Lau and Karim Lamido amongst others.
Even though farmers’/ herdsmen conflicts have become a national problem, some stakeholders feel the case of Taraba has been treated with levity for political reasons. They say the Federal Government is not interested in developing the huge potentials in the State.
One of such is the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Public Affairs, Emmanuel Bello. In one of his articles, Bello stated that, “the State is decidedly PDP since 1999 and this is the first time it found itself in the opposition. This fact, it seems has pit the State against the center to the extent the Federal Government always now merely pay lip service and has not really taken it seriously on many fronts.
“If it were not the case, I am wondering why, for instance, the Federal Government is not currently going ‘gaga’ over Taraba State’s expression that it could feed the rest of the Country with rice. I wonder why the Federal Government has not tapped into the State’s abundant tourism potentials…the only thing that seems to excite the Federal Government about Taraba is how to ‘capture’ it in 2019”.
On the security issue, he painted the grim reality this way: “But beyond all these is the current insipid reaction of the Federal Government to the fears freshly expressed by the Governor of Taraba State, Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku. The Governor was very clear about it when he declared last Thursday that the outlawed Boko Haram outfit is regrouping in Taraba.
“Now, that is a scary scenario on it own. But what is scarier is the mute silence and the unfeeling response from the Federal Government… Nothing, not even a whimpering Press Statement offering the usual sleepy assurances. The Governor must have explored other means to drag the attention of the Federal Government on this serious issue”.
But if the Federal Government has not looked the way of Taraba on the issue of security, it has done so in other areas with the Federal Executive Council’s (FEC) recent approval of N46 Billion for the completion of the Kashimbilla Dam and Hydro Electricity Project in Takum LGA of Taraba State.
Meanwhile, from the Civil Society point of view, the Government has done ‘extremely well’ in the area of water but they accused the Governor of not carrying them along in the scheme of things as is done in other parts of the world.
Joseph Gimba is the Coordinator, Coalition of Civil Society for Good Governance in Taraba State. He expressed their concern this way: “He has invested billions into the water sector, but as an NGO, we have our own concern. Our concern is when you spend such a huge amount in providing water to the people, what is the character of the people in wanting such service?
“In as much as we say water is life, do people have the discipline, do they have the mentality, do they have the interest of managing this water that is so expensive? That is the area that we as Civil Society Organizations have a question mark on. They have been doing this and the NGOs are not involved, so I am not going to report to you what I did not see”.
On the way forward Gimba said, “I think the Governor should be more engaging. He should be accessible to different shades of people. It is not who he wants to see but he should also make opportunity for others who want to see him. The present trend the world over is that Government does not work alone.They bring in the services of NGOs.
“I will call on him to involve NGOs in most of what he is doing…because NGOs are making tremendous contribution to the development of Taraba that Government is not aware of. There are CSOs in Taraba State that expend money on development that is more than an entire ministry’s budget and we really want to let him know the areas we are working on, the amount of money NGOs are spending in trying to effect change”.