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April 14, 2018 will ever remain a memorable day for the Executive Governor of Taraba State, Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku, FNIA, as it was a day he was 2bestowed with the honour and award of ‘Personality of the Year’ by one of Nigeria’s reputable newspapers, The Vanguard Newspaper.

The award which took place at the prestigious Eko Hotels in Lagos was well attended by politicians, top civil servants, Taraba citizens based in Lagos and his colleagues, including Gombe state Governor, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo.

It is convincing that the governor deserves this award. There is also no doubt about the credibility and reputation of the awardee- Vanguard Newspaper. The newspaper has been on the front lines of objective journalism in Nigeria. It has stood for the truth and participated in the struggles against military dictatorship and bad governance since the inception of democracy in 1979 till date. Therefore, it’s credibility is never in doubt.

The media is said to be the mirror of the society. This means that inorder to understand the society, one needs to go through the media. In essence, it is a reflection of the society. Therefore, a society is as developed as its media.

The media is also the watchdog of the society-meaning it guards the system to make sure that things are done right. In essence, it holds those vested with the responsibility to govern, accountable.

It is in this light that no organisation can be said to be more credible enough to honour people in leadership position, than the media itself.

Having said that, let’s look at the recipient, Gov. Darius Ishaku. What has he done to deserve an honour from the media. Was he media-friendly? Did he embark on developmental projects or could he have  bribed his way to this honour? What is special about the Taraba State governor?

In the media, we are not moved by projects embarked upon by politicians in leadership positions, neither are we excited when the leader claims he is up to date with salaries and pensions. All these are the constitutional rights of the citizens as provided for under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. As a matter of fact, a leader is guilty of constitutional breach if he fails to pay salaries, provide healthcare, water, education, recreation, food, roads and rural infrastructure to the citizens.

However, the true test of a leader is in his ability to fight for the people against oppression of the entrenched elites and protect the state against certain vested interests in our national polity. The true test of a leader is in his ability to do what others before him have not done through creative means for the benefit of humanity. Ultimately, the true test of a leader is in his ability to live up to his responsibilities in the face of scarce resources.

We are not interested in physical projects he embarked on, even though may have achieved much in that aspect. We are however interested in the people centred philosophy he has engendered in the state.

Taraba, since its creation in 1991, was run by persons who were more interested in physical development. An élite system emerged were a few called the shots. A system existed where the commonwealth of the state was shared among those in power and their cronies.

The politicians became so spoil, thuggery became the order of the day. The legislature, which was supposed to protect the interest of the people, suddenly went into a romance with the executive thereby abdicating in its responsibility as watchdog of the executive. The media in the state became a tool in the hands of these politicians and so, politics became the largest industry at the cost of agriculture- the mainstay of the state’s economy.

Today, Ishaku has brought some sanity into the system and it is no more business as usual. A thoroughbred private sector player, an architect and former cabinet member in the last federal government, Ishaku is gradually infusing the doctrine and philosophy of the organised private sector into the public service in the state, and it is paying off.

It is no wonder that he had some grouse with some entrenched elites in the state. At one point, it was either he went with the élite or with the people. But he chose to go with the people at the cost of his political career.

Governance and politics in Taraba now is a game changer! For instance, the ultra-modern greenhouse in Jalingo, worth N2 Billion, is an innovative project that is supposed to trigger some benefits along the agricultural value chain. But it was heavily criticized because a lot of the people are ignorant of this innovation and would prefer the old ways of agriculture presently in practice. The political elites too were critical of the project because the monies invested in it should have been shared for them.

The empowerment of over 1,400 men and women in the state through skills acquisition, is a people centred programme where millions of tax payers money was used for the benefit of citizens.

The Rescue Watch, is a grassroots based-people centred policy which is geared towards engaging the citizens to take part in governance. It  covers the area of revenue, grassroots infrastructure, resource management and so on.

It is important to state here that, Gov. Ishaku hardly takes hasty decisions but weighs every idea on its merit. He is very practical and pragmatic- a situation which gave rise to the widely held impression that he is too slow. He is very energetic and so many Tarabans do not know that he often “burns the midnight candle” in the interest of the state.

Gov. Ishaku’s wife, Anna Darius Ishaku, has also proven to be the ready complement in his rescue mission. She single handedly discovered a people (The Ndola people) almost at the mercy of nature, drew the attention of her husband and today, the Ndola people of Kurmi LGA, once on the fringes of human development are now proud owners of a Development Area. Through her influence, Taraba state won an international award on ICT innovativeness in far away US, competed by countries the world over.

It is believed that these sterling principles were what attracted the media to want to honour him. Gov Ishaku is not interested in only building physical structures, which others have done before him, but wants to build a foundation upon which the state would develop. He is interested in changing the mindset of the average Taraban for good. According to a former US President, “Africa doesn’t need strong leaders, what it needs is strong institutions”. It is believed Gov. Ishaku is trying to build strong institutions that would stand the test of time.