BY GEORGE AGBA
Hon Umar Ahmed Nafada is the Commissioner for Information in Gombe State. He was also chairman of Nafada local government area in the state before he was voted by the people of his constituency to represent them in the House of Representatives. In this encounter with GEORGE AGBA, he explains why Gombe has joined the league of fast developing states in Nigeria.
Your governor has won many awards and it is only through those awards that we get to hear of his monumental achievements. In terms of publicity, Gombe has not been so much in the news. Don’t you think you, his information managers, need to do more to keep Gombe people and Nigerians abreast with the huge developmental strides thr Dankwambo administration has recorded?
It has not been long that I was appointed commissioner for Information in Gombe State. I am about a year old in office, but you will agree with me that, with what we can see on ground in Gombe State, His Excellency, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, deserves every award he has gotten. My predecessor did his best in terms of publicity on the governor’s achievement, but going by his style, he does not believe in propaganda. Be that as it may, I agree with you that we have to tell our own story and that is why we are here today.
Gombe State has been very calm in the face of rampaging insurgency in the North-east and was able to record monumental achievements. What is the secret?
Gombe State, popularly known by its slogan as ‘Jewel in the Savannah’ was created on October 1, 1996 by the regime of Gen Sani Abacha. Since then, the state has witnessed different leadership style but the triumph of His Excellency, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, as governor of the state in the 2011 governorship election and his subsequent re-election by a landslide in the 2015 general election, despite the ‘buhari effect’ changed, forever, the political trajectory of the 21 year old state. You will agree with me that Governor Dankwambo is an experienced leader, haven worked as an Accountant General at both the state and federal levels before he was elected governor. By that, couple with wide range of experience, he is not new to the governance system in the state. Besides, he has also enjoyed massive support from the people of the state. You know, where there are not too many distractions, work becomes very easy. In the area of insecurity, because of Governor Dankwambo’s deft public service experience and friendly working relationship, he has access to intelligence information that helps him in collaborating with the security agencies. Don’t forget that the ability to tackle insurgency has a lot to do with information sharing.
Again, the governor has so far taken the welfare of security personnel as a matter of priority. Much more importantly, is the cooperation the governor is getting from the religious organizations in the state, both Christians and Muslims. This is why despite the fact that Gombe is bordered by Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States where insurgency has been so severe, Gombe State has so far remained peaceful. In addition to this, the governor understands the dynamics of the state.
I am asking this question based on the fact that in our world of today if you don’t blow your trumpet, no one will blow it for you. May 29 is around the corner. How do you assess the performance of your governor in the past six years of his administration?
We want newsmen like you to visit Gombe; you don’t need to be told. Rather, you are the one that should tell others about what you will see in our state. The last time we celebrated 20th anniversary of the state, we had many important dignitaries, including former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was in the state. Chief Obasanjo was full of very high commendation for Gombe during his visit when he featured as a guest lecturer at the anniversary lecture. He saw things for himself and compared the scenario with when he was in power as president. He gave a vivid comparison of what Gombe was then and now that Dankwambo is there as governor. Of particular note is Chief Obasanjo’s comment that he was not surprised that Gombe had become what it is because of the charisma, character and personality of the person leading the state. He said in the course of working with Dankwambo, one striking thing he discovered about him is that he is very interesting to work with. Even those who have worked with Governor Dankwambo at the federal level have the same impression of him. Chief Obasanjo, on the occasion of his visit, said irrespective of political affiliation, he won’t mind supporting Dankwambo for greater assignment.
Now, you will agree with me that if there is any Nigerian leader who should give candid assessment of Governor Dankwambo, it is Chief Obasanjo. Recall that the duo worked as president and Accountant General of the Federation respectively at the Federal level during Obasanjo’s tenure.
In fact, it is Dankwambo’s performance that qualifies to be called real ‘change’ and not the APC kind of ‘change’. I said this because we are yet to see APC’s remarkable change or any of its governor who can beat Dankwambo’s record. In Gombe under the PDP-led government, we have seen the true kind of change in both human resources and infrastructure. Take the Gombe International Conference Centre for example. It is the first of its kind in this country. Even Chief Obasanjp commended it when he likened it to a Lagos. This has attracted influx of investors into the state. One important aspect of development is for investors to be attracted to any state and one of the first consideration is security, which we can say is part of enabling environment.
Graciously, Gov Dankwambo has done just that and the state is beginning to reap huge dividends of his unparalleled achievements. Needless to mention again what my fellow commissioners have already said in terms of road infrastructures, education, agriculture, among others.
Let’s go political now. The political arena has witnessed gales of defections since the last general election. Most PDP members are decamping to APC because it is the government at the centre. What is the situation in Gombe?
Put it at the back of your mind that Gombe is the only surviving People’s Democratic Party state in the North because of the ‘Buhari effect’. Most people expected Gombe to suffer the same fate as other Northern states but it is not so.
How did Governor Dankwambo, weather the storm?
Like I told you, defection can never happen in Gombe. The people of Gombe know what they want. Even the election President Buhari won happened so because the people were able to separate the candidates. For instance, of the six House of Representatives seats, APC won three and PDP three. PDP has one senatorial seat to APC’s two. But when it came to the governorship election, the PDP won in all the 10 local governments except Gombe local government. And let me put it on record here and now that the people who are decamping in Gombe State are mere opportunists who have no political clout to contribute meaningfully to electoral victory. During the last election, most of them were involved in anti-party activities.
The economy, you will agree with me, is in recession and there has been consistent calls for diversification, even at the federal level. Even the allocation from the federation account has dwindled significantly. How has your state been able to stay above the waters?
First, the step Governor Dankwambo took was to automate the state’s revenue collection system. By so doing, he blocked all the leakages in the economy. This singular action scaled up the state revenue from about N110 million monthly to about N300 million monthly. Again, the governor setup a committee to look into the possibility of setting up some cottage industries in the state. The governor is eagerly awaiting the report of the panel so that he can hit the ground running. As an agrarian state, we want to take advantage of our comparative advantage. The governor wants a situation whereby agricultural produce in the state are processed here in Gombe before sending them out to other states. With that move alone, employment opportunity will be generated for the army of youths who are not employed. And you know that if youths are gainfully engaged, crime will reduce and people’s lives will be positively transformed.
Let’s go down to the ordinary man at the grassroots. In what concrete terms will you say the Dankwambo administration has touched the lives of the people at the local government level in Gombe?
The issue of provision of rural infrastructure is a priority for the Dankwambo administration. His Excellency had appealed in last year’s Democracy Day celebration that the people should reciprocate government’s gesture by cooperating and supporting its policies and programmes aimed at developing the state to enviable heights. He said that his administration will continue in the modest efforts to construct as many roads as possible to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the people and to create a conducive atmosphere for investors in the state.
One of the key interest and focus of this government is to reduce rural-urban migration and the first thing we have done is to open up rural roads. These roads are meant to ease movement between rural communities and evacuation of farm produce from rural communities to urban centers. This government is about the welfare of the rural people and no stone will be left unturned to make life better for rural dwellers. Like I said before, it will reduce rural-urban migration because if people have all they need like schools, health care and good agricultural intervention inputs, most people will prefer to remain in their localities.
The ongoing construction and upgrading of roads across the state are legion. They include Ngalda-Maina Mahdi-Mada-Jolle-Tukai-Jigawa Road of 42 km; rehabilitation and upgrading of Dukku-Wawa-Biri-Wuro Bapparu Road of 67km; Dukku-Dokoro-Jamari Road of 36km; and Kumo-Jauro Tukur- Jauro Bose-pandaya-Kalshingi Road of 13km. Other roads are Kaltungo Township roads as well as the construction of Kulishi, Lapan and Filiya-Gwandum township roads of Shongom local government area. Others are Talasse Township road network in Balanga local government area; Mallam Sidi Township roads in Kwami local government area; Dukku township roads and repair of washouts in Gombe-Abba-Hashidu-lafiyawo-Malala road in Dukku local government area and dualization of 4km of sections of Gombe Mile 3-Yola and Gombe-Bauchi federal roads as additional works on Gombe Township roads phase V. Some of this roads have been since been completed.
The 2019 election is around the corner. What is the administration doing to ensure continuity of the laudable work Governor Dankwambo is doing in Gombe?
Certainly, there is no government that doesn’t want continuity. With the record of our achievements and the foundation we are laying for the state, this government won’t have problem producing a PDP governor who will continue the good work of Governor Damkwanbo in 2019 and beyond. The APC has nothing to campaign with, so they cannot defeat us in 2019. We can’t afford this massive developmental strides in the hands of opposition party, which may not appreciate good governance at the end of the day. We want a tested, trusted and capable hand to succeed Governor Damkwanbo so that this legacy will be sustained.