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Lessons from the Taraba Council Elections

Lessons from the Taraba Council Elections

Those who say that Nigerian politicians are poor students of history cannot be faulted. They are perfectly right. Nigerian politicians are indeed, an excellent example of this brand. They forget the past very easily and often recourse to those things that they had condemned and consigned to the dustbins of history as inimical to the survival, growth, and maturity of democracy in our country.

They insist when it is convenient for them to do so, that elections must be free and fair and that nothing should be done to impede that expressway that leads to the dreamland of electoral freeness and fairness. But when the tide of the political cyclone turns against them, the drumming will change and so will the dance steps too. The rest of their actions, thereafter, can only be better left to the imagination. They will turn hitherto cherished principles of electoral perfection on their heads and unashamedly insist that it is the right way to go.

The most recent example of this contradiction was experienced in Taraba State where local council elections were held Saturday, February 25, Ibi Council Area in particular. Chairmen and councilors were being elected into the 16 local government councils to succeed caretaker committees that have been running their affairs for some time now. The elections were meant to enrich the nation’s new culture of representative governance whereby only those that the people have freely chosen through the instrumentality of the ballot box will occupy elective positions.

The Government of Governor Darius Ishaku, determined to make the elections a positive contribution towards strengthening the country’s incipient culture of democracy, took all steps necessary for this goal to be achieved. Despite all these, there were people who did not want this to happen. They were the All Progressives Congress, APC, leaders in Ibi, one of the 16 local government council areas in Taraba State, and the only council area where the recent council elections did not hold on the scheduled date. They came out on their evil mission to stop the elections in the local government and they succeeded but only because Governor Ishaku declined the option of using the machinery of law and order to disperse them from where they had laid an ambush for electoral materials meant for that day’s election.

Before the day of the elections, electoral materials were moved by the State Independent Electoral Commission, SIEC, to police stations in all council headquarters for safe keeping, Ibi inclusive. That had been the practice, even in the case of national elections. It always worked out well. Even in this case, everything looked perfectly right until what became a contest between the good and the bad took the centre stage in Ibi in the early hours of the polling day.

A group of politicians and their supporters belonging to the All Progressives Congress, APC, thought the best thing to do was to prevent the elections from taking place since they were sure that their candidate was unpopular and would ultimately lose if the election were allowed to hold.

They devised a trick to achieve that. They arrived early at the gates leading into the police station in Ibi where electoral materials were being kept and blocked it, insisting that the materials would not be moved out to polling venues. And so, the elections did not take place there. When they were certain that it had become too late in the day to hold the elections, they vacated the entrance to the police station. At that point, the only option feasible was the postponement of the elections and the return of the materials to Jalingo. And that was what SIEC did. The incident which was condemned by many

The incident was condemned by many well meaning Nigerians in and outside Taraba State, a sad reminder of the stiff and unaccommodating attitude of our politicians to elections. That attitude is that all elections must end in their favour otherwise, the process is demonized and truncated. That was what played out in Ibi on February 25. In case those who were behind those unfortunate events in Ibi haven’t realized yet, they need be told that they only succeeded in drawing back the hand of the clock and this will affect their Council area in a negative way for a long time to come. Today, Ibi is the only council area still being administered by a caretaker committee.

Today, Ibi is the only council area still being administered by a caretaker committee.But besides that incident, the council elections were peaceful, adjudged as very free and fair by electoral observers and other independent groups that witnessed it.

Governor Ishaku was commended by the monitoring teams (and there were many of them on duty that period) for creating the atmosphere that enabled the success of polling. The National Orientation Agency, NOA, in Taraba State even wrote a commendation letter which was addressed to Governor Ishaku. In the letter, the Agency’s Taraba State director, Dr. Robert Gulkawi, said the governor demonstrated through the elections a rare “spirit of sportsmanship.” Dr Dulkawi said NOA officers who covered the elections submitted reports to the effect that the process was “incontestably transparent.” This, Gulkawi said stood out the elections as hugely credible, unstoppably convincing and widely acceptable.”

The contest was no doubt, fierce with about ten registered political parties in the race. At the end of it all the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, won in all the 15 local government council areas where the elections were held. It was a well-deserved victory for the party.

The victories were seen in many quarters as evidence of Ishaku’s ever rising popularity rating in the political firmament of the state. It was the people’s way of saying “Thank You” for the marvellous job he has done on the roads, at the Jalingo Airport, in the provision of water to the state capital and other towns and communities, in repositioning educational institutions and in renovating hospitals and equipping them with drugs to improve the quality of healthcare delivery and in stabilizing electricity power supply in some areas of the state. The party’s victory was also a way of acknowledging the regular payment of workers’ salaries by the Ishaku administration and many other things that the government has achieved in less than two years in office.
Those elected have already taken their seats in the various council areas.

At the inauguration on Monday, February 27, 2017, in Jalingo, Governor Ishaku urged the new council helmsmen to discharge their duties with humility and to ensure prudent application of resources. The event was witnessed by a cross section of PDP chieftains from all the council areas in the state. It was a happy ending to an exercise that people had feared would lead to unending crisis. Those fears failed to manifest. Rather, it further united the people behind the resolve to maintain peace. Some people, particularly, youths came out in their thousands in a solidarity rally with the Governor and the efforts he is making to put the state on the path of development.

Taraba: Re-Writing the Tale of Rot and Neglect

Taraba: Re-Writing the Tale of Rot and Neglect

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.

Gov. Ishaku’s Rescue Mission in Taraba and Expectations for 2017.

Gov. Ishaku’s Rescue Mission in Taraba and Expectations for 2017.

 By Justin Tyupuusu, Jalingo.
Gov. Darius IshakuAs the curtain for year 2016 gradually winds off, giving way for year 2017,  it is imperative to take a look at some achievements of Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku’s Rescue Mission in the outgoing year and the prospects as well as expectations of Tarabans in the new year.

His Excellency Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku rose to power in Taraba State in 2015 defying all odds. Not even the wind of change that swept through the North to the South that saw many PDP controlled States falling to the APC’S change mantra could stop him.

Ishaku traversed the nooks and crannies of Taraba, telling Tarabans to entrust him with their mandate and he would rescue the State from the shackles of poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment among other challenges being faced.

The people of Taraba agreed and delivered Ishaku at the polls in an election many Nigerians predicted would produce the first female governor in the country, particularly when President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC displaced former President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP at the Aso Rock Villa, using the “Change Mantra”.

But that prediction failed to come true. The sound of Ishaku’s victory at that election echoed from Karim Lamido to Takum, Wukari to Zing, Ardo Kola to Kurmi and Lau to Usssa. Ishaku’s victory which was later consolidated on April 25 after a run off election following the cancellation of the election in some local governments clearly vibrated in Donga, Yorro, and Ibi.

Tarabans’ love for Ishaku was clearly shown in 11 Local Governments Areas out 16, where he won with landslide, while his main challenger and candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) Hajiya Aisha Alhassan won in five Local Government Areas.

IMG_20160527_160246-e1464414358364As it is usual with politicians in Nigeria, the APC candidate Aisha Alhassan went to court to challenge Ishaku’s victory and finally on Thursday February 11, 2016 the Supreme Court put to rest election dispute between Aisha Alhassan of APC and Darius Ishaku of PDP when it affirmed the election of Governor Ishaku and threw out the appeal by Aisha Alhassan for lack of merit.

Interestingly, even when the litigations were ongoing, Governor Ishaku who had not left anyone in doubt that he was on a Rescue Mission in the State embarked on people’s orientated projects to better the lives of Tarabans who overwhelmingly voted him to power.

For instance, in less than 10 days on assumption of office, Ishaku approved money for the overhaul of water facilities in Jalingo the State capital and immediately residents of Jalingo started enjoying potable water supply in Jalingo.

Before the coming of Ishaku, access to potable water by residents of Jalingo was a major problem forcing residents of the city to rely on local water vendors popularly called (Mai ruwa) in Hausa and few streams stretching through the city and its environs for water, while public water supply remained exclusive for a few, despite efforts by successive administrations to provide water for the people.

Bente Galea Community, Kurmi LGA.

During his campaign, Governor Darius Ishaku who worried that this God given commodity to mankind could be so scarce in Taraba, sank boreholes in more than five communities even before elections were held.

To further consolidate on this gains, Governor Ishaku within the first three weeks in office, met with the African Development Bank, AFDB, where formalities were completed for the commencement of 47,273m3 per day of water supply target by 2035, which agreement for the contract was signed in 2012.

Work on the multi-billion Naira water project has reached 95 percent completion as the engineers have completed major work on the project while laying of pipes in the city has reached advanced stage says Engr. Musa Buba, General Manager, Taraba State Water Supply Agency.

Buba explained that the Chinese companies handling the project Apex Height, CGC, Ghasalaz and China Zhonghao have finished drilling and rehabilitation of existing boreholes totaling 40 across three locations in Jalingo, as well as laying of transmission channels for conveying water to reservoirs covering 250 km in Jalingo and other new Jalingo settlements. Some of the key indicators of the Rescue Mission’s successes are presented below:

Aviation and tourism

taraba-state-airportTo unlock the keys of investment opportunities in Taraba and woe investors and tourists to the State, Ishaku opened up commercial flight at the Jalingo Airport, the first of its kind since the creation of the State in 1991.

The Airport project which was conceived in 2005 by former governor Jolly Nyame’s administration did not commence commercial flight until Ishaku came on board in May, 2015. On December 7, 2015, six months into his administration the Governor in partnership with Overland Airways commenced commercial flight operations at the airport.

“We are optimistic that air transport will greatly enhance the comfort of commuting passengers and facilitate the influx of tourists, business tycoons and investors by providing swift and safe access to the state for tourism, commerce and industrialization,” Ishaku told the people while flagging off the commercial flight operations.

With Overland Airways now operating on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays every week, conveying passengers to and from Abuja and Lagos, Taraba has now been launched to the World.

Gov. Ishaku’s Chief Press Secretary, Hassan Mijinyawa believes that with the Jalingo Airport now functional, investors and some of the Governor’s friends outside of the country would soon begin massive investment in the State, jumping in and out easily using the airport.

Roads construction

construction2In the area of road infrastructure, the Governor who promised in his inaugural speech to consolidate on the  projects of the Danbaba Administration that met the yearnings and aspirations of the people, quickly mobilised the contractor handling Bali-Serti-Gembu road, PW construction company to site when he paid them N300 million.

Despite the lean and dwindling Federal allocation coming into the State, Governor Ishaku is not only up to date in the payment of workers’ salaries, he has embarked on massive road construction to open up the rural road networks in the State.

For instance, the Jalingo-Kona-Lau road which was awarded by the Federal Government eight months before Ishaku assumed power was still begging for attention. But on assumption of office, the Governor took over the construction of the road because of its importance to the people of the State.

The 6.5 kilometre single lane road awarded without drainage construction has now been taken over by the State Government. The contract was reviewed and expanded to a dual carriageway with super drainage system giving the volume of water and vehicular traffic that flows on the road.

The Michelin-Magami road within Jalingo township is receiving attention. The ministry of works roundabout-Main Market road has been completed even as the Premier Hotel-CSC road, still in Jalingo has also been completed.

Another 6.5km Takum-Katsina-Ala road, a Federal road  which was in a dilapidated state and a source of worry for people plying the road has been reconstructed.

To minimise cost, the State government engaged the services of the State owned construction company, Taraba Road Construction and Maintenance Agency (TARCMA) in constructing the road. This is even as the N154 million contract has been awarded for the assessment and design of Mararaban Baissa-Abong road.

Beautification of Jalingo City

Round -About

Jalingo the State capital is today wearing a new look as the Governor, himself a professional architect has moved to restore the Jalingo master plan.

All Illegal motor parks and shops have been demolished and the monthly sanitation restored in the city which now hold every first Saturday of the month.

The gateways in and out of Jalingo the state

capital have been renovated, just as major roundabouts like the Road Block round about, ministry of works roundabout, are today wearing a new look.

Major roads in the State capital such as Donga road, Danbaba Danfulani Suntai road among others have been adorned with beautiful solar streets lights which illuminate the city at night.

Today, repairs and rehabilitation work on Hammaruwa way in the city centre has been completed, giving residents a smooth ride in the city centre.

Youth and women empowerment
Rescue MissionIn a bid to check youth restiveness and empower women in the State, the Governor in June 2015, few weeks after assumption of office went into collaboration with the Bank of Industries(BoI) and signed a memorandum of understanding with the bank where both parties committed N700 million for disbursement to Micro, Small and Medium Scale Entrepreneurs targeted at creating at least 10,000 jobs in the State, especially among youth and women.

To the Governor, the initiative is in line with his “Rescue Mission” for the State aimed at creating job opportunities to reduce poverty among the people and would stop at nothing to ensure the objectives of the scheme is achieved.

Economic experts including the Managing Director of Bank of Industries, Mr. Rasheed Olaoluwa have commended the Governor for the initiative saying that the Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSME’s ) accounted for half of Nigeria’s labour force, contributing over 50 percent of the county’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and urged the beneficiaries to take the scheme very seriously to grow the country’s economy.

Digitisation of the State broadcast media

ttvThe Governor has awarded a N1.7 billion contract for effective switchover from Analogue to digital broadcasting of the State owned Taraba Television (TTV) and Taraba State Broadcasting Service (TSBS).

This the Governor said is to ensure that the State broadcast media outfits are not left behind in the planned digital switch over. Already procurement and installation of digital equipment has commenced and work on the TSBS transmitting station along Mile Six is in progress.

A new studio for the State Television is almost ready for commissioning while the digital equipment for the television is already on ground for installation. With this Taraba is poised to be the next State after Plateau to switch over to digital broadcasting in the Country.

Health, Education and the Judiciary.

Nursing

An Overview of the College of Nursing and Midwifery, Jalingo.

Health, Education and the Judiciary also enjoy the attention of the Governor. The State Specialist Hospital benefited from the Governor’s Rescue Mission as funds were approved to maintain the facilities at the hospital. During the outbreak of Lassa Fever in the State, the Governor released funds which helped in containing the spread of the virus.

The Judicial staff who were on strike before the Governor took over office are now back and smiling to banks, but the Governor also procured new vehicles for senior judicial workers.

The story was same in the State University as lecturers down tools in protest for non payment of their salary arrears. The lecturers are now back to the class.

Resuscitation of Kakara Tea
Kakara highland tea
The story of Kakara tea has changed courtesy of the Rescue Mission of the Governor. Ishaku pushed for the completion and commissioning of Tonga Dam Small Hydro Electric Power Plant which now supplies power 24 hours to the factory.

The Governor also procured and commissioned new machines at the tea factory to maximise productivity. To get the best out of the tea project, experts advised the Governor to push for a tea policy in the country to brighten the future of the company.

Nigeria as a country has no tea policy and is not recognised internationally as a tea producing country. A tea policy in the country will benefit Taraba more than any other State in the country as the Mambilla beverages remains the best in West Africa, experts argued.

Security

Vehicles

Donation of 10 Hilux Vehicles by Zenith Bank PLC to Taraba State Government.

The Governor who came on board when the entire Central and Southern parts of the State were under siege by suspected armed Fulani herdsmen has worked assiduously to ensure that all displaced persons return to their homes. 

Despite the Governor’s persistent call on the people of the State; “Give me peace and I will give you development,” killings have continue in some parts of the State.

However, the Governor through his Deputy, Engr. Haruna Manu when he visited IDPs in Sabon-Gida in Gassol Local Government recently said, Government is determined to end the killings in the State soon.

Expectations for 2017
Given the achievements of the Rescue Mission in 2016 and the presentation of the 2017 budget of over N110bn, Tarabans are convinced that in the coming year, more roads will be opened , more communities connected to electricity, more people will get jobs, farmers would be supported and small businesses will continue to grow.

Rev. Fr. Julius Ioryue of St. Patrick’s Catholic Parish Sabon-Gida in Gassol Local Government is worried and wants the Governor to tackle head long the security situation in some parts of the State, so as to save lives and guarantee food security.

“Our expectations are high, but first the Governor as the Chief Security Officer of the State should go all out and put a stop to incessant killings every now and then in the State especially in Taraba Central as witnessed in the outgoing year.

“The State is losing on a daily basis because of this insecurity and if we must develop, the Governor should shun all sentiments and set up a committee to investigate the remote and immediate causes of these crises with a view to ending the incessant killings.”

For some civil servants, who preferred anonymity, the Governor should clear issues relating to disparities in salary payment and payment of Pensions, Local Government and Teachers’ salaries.

“He may be a super Governor by doing projects, but he will not win our support if he continues to deduct our salaries and neglect teachers,” one of the civil servants told Taravoices.

A cross section of Taraba citizens who spoke to Taravoices want the Governor to ensure the security of lives and property as well as  launch the State on the path of peace and development.

To them, the Governor as the Chief Security Officer of the State knows exactly where the problem lies and should tackle it head on to ensure a peaceful Taraba where investors would not be afraid to come in and invest.

“More jobs will be created and poverty reduce to the barest minimum if the Governor invests more in agriculture and tourism.

“Taraba has a comparative advantage in agricultural production and tourism and I will like to see more action in these sectors to boost the State economy, Mr. Sunday Ogwu of Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa said this in an email from Lagos.