By Abu-Ubaida Ibrahim Kuna
IT was with mixed feelings that the people of Gombe State celebrated this year’s Democracy Day anniversary. In the past seven years, Gombe people have known social peace, economic progress and visionary leadership under Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo.
But, the combination of sudden realization that May 29, 2018 marks Governor Dankwambo’s last active Democracy Day anniversary and thoughts about what the future holds for Gombe State made the 2018 Democracy Day both cheery and somber.
Governor Dankwambo built the state in harmony through his personal charm and leadership style. He did not behave like the typical Nigerian politician by taking advantage of the multiple language groups to cause disaffection among the people. Rather, he saw the differences in clans, dialects and demographics, not as basis to enthrone cronyism, but as spices for social harmony and political inclusion.
In the distribution of social amenities and government projects, the governor ensured equitable and fair coverage, thereby giving a sense of belonging to all segments of the Gombe population.
And, as Governor Dankwambo continued to perform the duties and responsibilities of his office, it did not take long before every indigene of Gombe began to see him as a father, friend, brother and partner.
Most importantly, Dankwambo’s leadership style, which has been severally described as inclusive and empathic, turned out as elixir to the combative and winner-takes-it-all politics that preceded his election.
One of the first steps the governor took immediately he came into office was to stretch out the hand of fellowship to political rivals.
In one of his first appointments, Dankwambo appointed the son of one of his political rivals into the state executive council. That singular gesture was a foretaste of politics without bitterness that remains the hallmark of his leadership style.
Dankwambo showed that the mandate he was given was not a personal property, but held in trust for the people. He has been performing his official functions as team builder and servant leader.
The foundation of what Gombe has become was laid in that fashion of teamwork. At inception of his administration seven years ago, Dankwambo selected patriotic Gombe professionals into various committees for the purposes of identifying needs, assessing financial implications and recommending effective strategies and action plans.
It was in the overall planning and project conception that Dr. Dankwambo’s expertise as a consummate Accountant came into great effect. Realising that Gombe State was not in the big league of states with fact receipts from the Federal Account allocations, the master planner and administrator devised a foolproof method of blocking all loopholes for fund wastage.
The parsimony and frugality of the governor’s style helped the administration to achieve much with less. The governor set the priorities of his administration and ensured that funds are tied to them appropriately.
For instance, payment of salaries and wages has never suffered delay in the state because the Dankwambo vowed that he would rather starve than have Gombe workers owed their monthly entitlements.
It was based on this regime of prioritization and planning that the Dankwambo administration recently assured that it would embark on upward review of workers’ salaries whenever the proposed increase of minimum wage to N66, 500 is finalised.
The governor told the leadership of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) during the last Workers’ Day that he would not hesitate to implement whatever amount was agreed as the minimum wage in order to boost productivity and improve workers’ welfare in the state.
His Excellency, Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo insists that the issues of regular payment of workers’ salaries and emoluments should not be made an item of partisan politics. That is why nobody has suffered punitive transfers or denied promotions in Gombe State for his or her political or religious beliefs.
As a young man with eyes set on the future greatness of the state, Governor Dankwambo has continued to put huge premium on the education sector in Gombe State. That is why after just three years in office, the pass rate of the state in national examinations rose from mere two percent to 76 percent, rising to 92 percent in his second term in office.
Through accurate research and workable strategies, the governor has been able to tackle the three fold challenges of education ranging from the learner, the teacher’s competency and capacity as well as facilities for enhanced teaching and learning.
Within the past seven years, education in Gombe State has steadily received the largest chunk of the state’s annual budgets. With that commitment alone, Dr. Dankwambo deserves plaudits for his efforts to make Gombe State as a reference point in education.
He has constructed befitting new Central Model Schools at Gombe, Dukku, Funakaye, Akko, Billiri, Kaltungo and Deba Local Government Areas, with over 502 blocks of class rooms in both primary and secondary schools across the state.
Governor Dankwambo also built up 51 laboratories to improve the standard of science and technology education in the state and constructed new secondary and primary schools at Gabukka, Herwagana, Abubakar Umar Memorial and Kurjale, among others.
In order to ensure encouraging learning environment for pupils, the governor decongested the classes from 100 or more to 40 students per class in all schools across the state. In the same breadth, the Dankwambo administration also constructed and renovated hostels, toilet facilities and supply of beds and mattresses in various boarding schools across the state.
The governor also showed his commitment to providing the best teaching staff in both pre-secondary and secondary schools by recruiting over 4, 000 university graduates and over 2, 000 National Certificated of Education (NCE) graduates to make up the shortage of teachers in both primary and secondary schools across the state.
He also mandated the purchase of over 4000 numbers of 3-in-1 desks for secondary schools, reading and writing materials to primary, junior and secondary schools across the state.
To also ensure high quality teaching and learning in schools, the Dankwambo administration created a Quality Assurance Department, as well as, training of 5, 000 teachers as part of professional development and 3, 918 teachers, comprising 888 junior secondary and 3, 030 primary school teachers.
In his efforts to control the number of Almajiris on the streets of Gombe State, Governor Dankwambo constructed Tsangaya Primary Schools at Nafada, Kwami and WuroLadde with facilities. Additionally, the administration has so far enrolled 2000 students for remedial programme with University of Maiduguri in which 55% have gained admission in to the University and Purchased and distributed JAMB/UTME forms to them and send 20 students for overseas maritime degree programme.
As a professional accountant the governor also made the payment of students’ scholarship easy by introducing E-Payment of scholarship allowances and computerization of the Scholarship Board. Dankwambo’s determination to give the best in higher education is immeasurable.
Similar bold and ambitious strides have also been deployed by the governor in repositioning the healthcare sector. This noble vision led to the upgrade of urban maternity at Idi to a full-fledged Women and Children specialist Hospital.
The administration also installed X-ray equipment to specialist hospitals Gombe and General Hospital at Kaltungo and Bajoga, constructed a dialysis centre at the Specialist Hospital, Gombe. And in a bid to increase manpower and build capacity for the healthcare sector, Governor Dankwambo constructed the College of Nursing and Midwifery at Dukku, as well as setting up of snake bite treatment centre at Kaltungo.
That is in addition to quarterly disbursement of N8million for purchase of anti-snake venom to the snakebite centre and free geriatrics medical care.
In the area of youth development and economic empowerment, Dr. Dankwambo has in the past seven years made a huge impact on the lives of young people in Gombe State. One of such great initiatives is the rehabilitation and reformation of streets urchins, otherwise known as Yankelere.
Those who knew the menacing and ubiquitous presence of the YanKeleres in Gombe before the coming of Dr. Dankwambo appreciate the enormous work done to clean up the state and wean the youths away from life of violent crimes and anti-social behaviours. Apart from offering himself as a model on how the future of young people could be better if they pursue their education conscientiously, Governor Dankwambo set the youths on the path to responsible behavior by empowering them with skills.
And in a space of two years, the results began to show as those who took advantage of the skill acquisition programme became a source of envy to others. The scope began to expand as young people willing turned up to register for the programme.
As the number of trainees increased, the governor expanded the programmed through purchase and installation of necessary gadgets to equip the youth with hands-on knowledge to earn a living for themselves.
A total of 3, 000 youths have been trained in various vocations and acquired different skills, while 3, 200 others were trained under the Talba Youth Re-orientation and Rehabilitation programme as traffic, environmental, ward and security marshals with another 1, 000 as Educational Marshals to provide securities to the various primary and Secondary Schools across the State.
Additionally, another batch of 330 youths was trained at the Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre, Shere Hills, Jos as supervisors to oversee the 3200 marshals.
While that was going on, another set of 150 youths were trained on sourcing of renewal energy, even as different tools and machineries were also imported from Pakistan for use at the four skill acquisition centres.
Then a tricycle Assembly line was constructed in the state capital for the assembling of Completely Knocked down (CKD) parts of rickshaws (kekeNAPEP). Also there a Technology Incubation Centre was also established in the State capital for small and medium scale enterprises and skill acquisition centers.
On the score of Agriculture and food production, the overall vision of the Dankwambo administration is to promote the sector as the main driver of economic diversification and stabilization. Towards that end, Governor Dankwambo has scaled up the value chain of agro-products by establishing agro-processing industries and increased the penetration of mechanized farming. Grants have also been given to small-holder farmers to increase food production for the state, leading to increased internally generated revenue.
Another wonderful initiative of Dr. Dankwambo in the agricultural sector, is the construction of a veterinary hospital in Gombe and veterinary clinic in Yamaltu-Deba local government council in addition to re-demaracation, survey, documentation and mapping of major stock routes in the state.
The programme is unique, because at a time when herders and farmer clashes are becoming national pastime, the visionary administration of Governor Dankwambo took a proactive step to avert such skirmishes.
The governor also deployed such forward looking thinking in the development of works and infrastructure in Gombe. Based on his exposure and achievements in public offices he had held before, there was a lot of expectation from the people when Dankwambo became the governor.
It was as a result of that he assembled a team of patriotic Gombe citizens irrespective of religious or political persuasion and developed a workable plan of action ranging from short-term, medium and long term.
Perhaps the most outstanding benefit from Governor Dankwambo’s 11-Sector Committees that laid the foundation of the seven superlative years of mandate delivery is in the works and infrastructure sector.
Dankwambo’s administration has set a standard by the stone-base 4 centimeters specification for asphalt overlay of roads, which has improved interconnectivity among various communities and local councils of the state. Unlike what career politicians usually do, Governor Dankwambo embarked on the construction of earth roads and surface dressing of others to ensure that the roads conforms to the standard set for durability.
The construction of central motor park and tanker has also helped to maintain security and reduce road traffic accidents in the state, particularly the constant falling down of articulated vehicles with attendant carnage and loss of income.
More importantly, the prestigious Gombe International Conference Centre, stands out along with well ornamented roundabouts as testimony to Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo’s vision of a millennium city.
Based on the myriads of positive and life impacting projects and programmes of the Dankwambo administration, as they celebrated the 2018 Democracy Day, Gombe people showed concerns about what the future holds in store. Since the constitution does not permit a third term in office, the worry among the people was, would there be another Dankwambo.
However, the consolation for the people is the likelihood that the next Democracy Day in 2019 would offer double joy in the possibility that Dankwambo could be taking over in Abuja for a national assignment to replicate the magic he wrought in Gombe.