About 15 kilometers 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 global editors’ bodies, I know that one of the major requirements for acquiring hosting rights of the annual gathering of world 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.
But one thing not many will probably realise is that the frequency of flights to Gombe is 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 permanent abode.
But then there is a little snag. Dr Dankwambo is rather reclusive. He is one governor who has received perhaps the least publicity in Nigeria because he does not go about beating his chest. He prefers working quietly and discharging the mandate that ensured his people defied the Buhari hurricane of 2015 to hand him a resounding second term of office. But then, a gold fish has no hiding place. The quantum of those achievements is so many that literally speaking, not even the blind could fail to recognise them. The projects themselves are shouting for recognition, and now they are being heard.
Not even passers-by to Gombe could fail to notice the unprecedented projects executed by Dankwambo. Whether an enemy or foe, you simply cannot go to Gombe and fail to benefit or utilise a project executed by Dankwambo. It is just not possible. But those achievements go beyond the physical. Now barely a year to the end of his second and last tenure of office, millions of Nigerians are coming to terms with the need for leaders like Dankwambo to seek the presidency of Nigeria in the next general election, to help save the Nigerian ship from total wreckage.
More and more Nigerians are coming to terms with the fact that the only way Nigeria could continue to survive as a corporate entity beyond 2019 is to enthrone a brand new national leadership that has a record of healing bitter wounds and managing heterogeneous societies. You cannot squander tremendous goodwill and expect to be given a second term of office. It is too risky for a country as important as Nigeria to do. We just must get it right in 2019, and that translates to replacing the present leadership that has woefully failed to live even half up to the expectations of Nigerians.
The failure of the present system does not stop in its glaring inability to deliver on many promises made, so much that in the social media today, a major issue trending is a challenge to Buharists to name one, just one project initiated and completed by President Buhari and earn a certain amount of money which keeps increasing. Till date, no one has been able to take up the challenge.
But even then, Nigerians are getting more and more worried about the fact that Nigeria is really tottering on the brinks. Never in our national history has Nigeria become more divided than at this point in our history.
Even before Father Mbaka made his famous declaration for Nigerians to go for Dankwambo as president from 2019, there are discerning Nigerians – encompassing the young and the old, the rich and the poor, individuals and groups, who, worried about the sad state of things, decided to take it upon themselves to look for the one person who is soundly educated, with deep knowledge of national and international economy; who has literally squeezed water out of stone by utilising meagre resources to achieve much, and who, in general, has a record of unprecedented achievements that go beyond the physical. It was too easy for them to narrow down the choice on Dankwambo.
The incumbent governor of Gombe has a record of political accommodation that is second to none in Nigeria today. The governor is a Muslim all round. But ask the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria, especially Gombe State Chapter, their opinion of Dankwambo. They will readily tell you he is the best that has ever governed the state. Even within the religions of Islam and Christianity, Dankwambo has ensured equal treatment of various denominations, accounting for why his administration has been established as the most peaceful and one that ha ensured religious tolerance and harmony in the country. Now, Gombe is about the only state in Nigeria where Christians and Muslims relate as true brothers and sisters, all because of excellent leadership.
As a political leader, Dankwambo does not believe in politics of bitterness. Ask former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Even as vice president of Nigeria, Dankwambo’s predecessor did everything, including the unimaginable, to stop him from going to Gombe to campaign in 2007. The roofing of the stadium venue of the Atiku rally was removed, and the gates were removed and closed with block work. All access points to the venue were totally blocked. And what is more! The runway at Gombe airport was also closed, with a fire fighting truck stationed in the middle of the runway, all to stop Atiku from going to Gombe.
But when the same Atiku, this time as a former vice president, was passing through Gombe to Bauchi, with Dankwambo as governor, he ensured the red carpet was laid for him. A befitting reception was organised for the man, and the governor escorted him to Bauchi, which he was visiting on condolence.
Such is the quintessential Dankwambo, a man who believes leadership can, and shall only be sought for the purpose of making meaningful difference in the lives of the people. This is one man who does not crave for power for the sake of it, and who has even been turning deaf ears to clarion calls for him to come out and vie for the presidency. But with more damage being inflicted on our national psyche, it would be a disservice of tremendous proportion, if Dankwambo continues to disregard such calls. It is about service to Nigeria, and rescuing it from total collapse. As a patriot, the Gombe governor has no choice than to throw his hat into the ring. And the time to do so is now, not later.
Nigeria is too big a country to be entrusted in the hands of a leadership that has been engaging in trial and error, and who, even more sadly, has since elevated grandstanding to an art of governance. The solution lies right in our hands, and we have a duty to God and the forthcoming generations of Nigerians to rise beyond primordial sentiments and get it right in 2019 by ensuring only the best governs Nigeria.
– Bako, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja