By Uba Gaya –
About ten kilometres after leaving Gombe Airport, on the way to the city, the first major landmark that tells you serious governance is taking place in Gombe State, is a sprawling edifice that looks every inch like a five star hotel. It is the International Conference Centre built by the incumbent government in the state, and it is an integral part of Governor Dankwambo’s strategy to take Gombe to the world and bring the world to the state by making it the conference headquarters of this part of the globe.
As a journalist and member of the World Editors Forum, I know that one of the major requirements for acquiring hosting rights of the annual gathering of global editors is a befitting hall that comfortably sits at least a thousand people. Many cities that vied to host the annual fiesta have missed out on that score alone. The next requirement is frequency of flights and availability of good hotels. On the second and third scores, too, Gombe is far ahead of its peers, with two major airlines operating to the city throughout the week, and with quality hotels dotting the state capital. My good friend and guide, Dahiru Kera told me there are good hotels in other local government headquarters, too.
But one thing not many will probably realise is that the frequency of flights to Gombe was also occasioned by the state government’s ability to provide first class infrastructure throughout the state. A core desire of Governor Dankwambo is to lift as many of his people as possible out of poverty, and his strategy towards ensuring that is making sure that trade and commerce are taken a notch higher in Gombe, inspite of the pervading recession that has taken a heavy toll on the finances of Nigerians and significantly weakened their spending power.
In other words, in the Nigeria of today, not many could afford air travel just for the heck of it. The fact that Gombe has been made attractive for trade and commerce to flourish is the reason things can only get better, as more airlines are also getting set to start operating the Gombe route, because more and more people are desirous of traveling to Gombe, or making it their home.
Governor Dankwambo was not born when the 33rd American President Harry S. Truman became US President on April 12, 1945, taking the office upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. But he was one American president who promoted the thesis that leaders make or mar the societies they lead, depending on their style of governance In one of his famous quotes, he said that “men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skilful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.
Another popular quote of President Truman that comes very true and relevant to Gombe is that “it is amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” In the typical Nigerian and indeed Third World concept, continuity is an anathema. Most leaders abandon projects or programmes started by their predecessors because they don’t want to ascribe any credit to them. When all you did is to complete a project, however the depth of your investment into it, people will most likely only remember the person that started it.
This has for ages remained one of the major factors informing the underdevelopment of our societies. Leaders will in most cases start new projects to make sure they alone take the credit. At the end of the day, either owing to poor planning or the usual paucity of resources, the new project will be abandoned, and resources thereby severely wasted. An analyst said recently that the monetary value of abandoned projects account for about a third of our GDP. Just imagine!
In Gombe, Governor Dankwambo has ensured that virtually all projects started by his predecessors were perfectly completed. A lot of people will think Gombe is an oil producing state that receives derivation funds in billions, when realising that salaries and pensions are being paid promptly, and almost every sector of the state economy is receiving unprecedented attention. Yet, Gombe is one of the least paid states throughout the Nigerian Federation. And eventhough trade and commerce have continued to pick up, the internally generated revenue of the state has remained rather poor, as the people often see government as free service, to which they do not need to contribute a dime.
In a region, the north-east, that is seen as the most volatile in the whole of Nigeria, owing to the dastardly activities of Boko Haram, one other commodity that is in good supply in Gombe is peace. The people love and trust their governor. He in turn has spared no efforts in ensuring only the best for them. It is a partnership that has been working, with the state as the biggest beneficiary.
Until Dankwambo assumed the mantle of leadership of Gombe, even passers-by to neighbouring states were almost always afraid of the state capital, owing to the dastardly activities of the Sara-suka cult that reportedly dispatched many innocent souls to the great beyond. This has since been brought under control.
Though there are the usual distractions from opposition politicians who desperately want to wrest power from, the one thing the governor ensures nobody has taken away from him is his sanity. Calmness has since become his defining hallmark, and it is the key to his hardwork and industry.
Without doubt, Governor Dankwambo has really made all people of goodwill that are interested in governance with responsibility very proud. This is even more so with his accounting profession. In Dankwambo, accountants vying for positions in the next dispensation have a solid example of what they can show their people that they can do.
Democracy is really working in Nigeria, with a few other states working like Gombe. But the difference could well be that those states have adequate resources with which to turn things around, something Gombe does not have, as mentioned earlier.
Inspite of all the achievements, it is interesting that for Governor Dankwambo, it is still a work in progress as far as his turnaround blueprint for Gombe is concerned. As 2019 beckons, Governor Dankwambo is surely one of the leaders Nigerians should rally round to, if we are serious about having the nation of our dream
– Gaya is the Deputy President, Nigerian Guild of Editors.