As Darius Floods Taraba With Fertilizer, Tractors, A New Dawn Begins, By Emmanuel Bello

I was in Jalingo at the weekend to be part of the spectacular dinner hosted by the correspondents chapel. The Wole Ayodele-led body had spent three hardworking years in office and thought it wise to invite friends to an evening of good food, music, dance and wine. I left Abuja Friday and got to the venue in time for the occasion – I’m not one to turn down a chance to hang out with friends. It turned out to be a great evening with the Speaker, Hon. Abel Peter as the Chairman of the day. He sent the member from Ussa to represent him. Earlier , Wole told me they believe Abel Peter is one of their best friends in the state. And in that regard, I’m even second place to my former classmate! I jokingly told Wole that I plan to “impeach” the speaker to become the number one friend of the correspondents. Obviously, the administration in Taraba holds the media in high regards. The Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Bar Akirinkwen, was in attendance. The Permanent Secretary, Bureau for local government, Bello Yero, was also at the event. A representative of the new Lamido of Gashaka, Prince Hamman Gabdo added royal colours to the start studded event.

The governor, who was out of town, eventually told me he wants to see a greater partnership with the media. According to him, and rightly so, the media in Nigeria has been in the forefront of protecting democracy.

Yet for all his regards for the media, it seems to me there has been a disconnect somewhere. The deluge of bad press, mostly opposition fuelled, casts him as someone not committed to good governance. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. Darius Ishaku is perhaps among the top performing governors of the dispensation. Unlike some of his colleagues, Darius came into office literally in a whirlwind, inheriting a backlog of liabilities from past regimes. The political upheavels apart, he was faced with a daunting legal war that lasted for a year. A fierce battle was waged to secure his mandate that was faced with all sorts of court actions. In the face of all of that, he remained focus, even at times when it appeared the opposition was actually going to steal the mandate.

Working over time, Darius was able to keep the ship of state afloat throughout the turbulence. Principally, he worked tirelessly for peace. It was a time of great upheavels in the ever touchy communities of Taraba. The southern zone was a theatre of internecine wars. The central part was dissimated by Fulani herdsmen activities. The refugee camps were getting filled up. On top of all these was the abiding problem of debts and the reality of a recession.

The situation obviously called for systematic planning. Darius Ishaku immediately embarked on tackling the challenges. The initial move was to promptly restore peace and security through prompt responses; open up economic opportunities through a vibrant transport system; reinvigorate the civil service through some sanitation exercise aimed at transparency; ensure electricity was improved upon and work hard for political cohesion. His entry had actually led to some tough political challenges.

Opening up the Jalingo airport was a masters stroke as it reintegrated Taraba with the rest of the world like never before. Business men and tourists found it easier to access the state hitherto seen as far flung. The governor also opened up the highland tea industry by restarting the hydro electricity dam up at kakara on the Mambilla.

As a civil service state, the governor knew the centrality of salaries as a major plank of daily existence. But he also needed to get it right. There is a biting recession in the country and earnings from the federal purse has dwindled. A searing verification exercise was embarked on to curb waste and bury the proverbial ghost workers. Of course, the virulent opposition media and the the governor’s hell bent critics stole the narrative and imposed theirs. Yet, the governor is committed to getting it right.

Bad press too has not allowed many see the giant stride of the governor in practically ending the thirst for water in Jalingo and environs. Water provision has always been a challenge in Taraba. To cut a long story short, Darius in conjunction with the World Bank has ended that menace. Today, even people who are not Darius fans, hail him for what he has achieved in the water sector.

Back to the media, it is ironic that the sector has not fully appreciated the billions Darius has sunk to digitise media installations in the state. Rolling back obsolete equipment of close to two decades, Governor Darius has already sank in close to two billion to bring modern gadgets that has shot Taraba media into the twenty first century. Either no one has heard of this or the hostile section of the media has refused to give this some publicity. Yet with 24 hour broadcast almost now a reality in Taraba, with an FM station afoot, media has changed forever in Taraba state courtesy of Pinnacle Communication, the company Darius hired to do the job.

But it is in agriculture that Governor Darius is etching his name in gold. An agrarian state, the governor who himself is a farmer, has started a revolution there. I’m writing this on a Sunday. Tomorrow Monday, truck loads of fertilizer would arrive the state. One may be tempted to say, so whats the big deal? After all, all governments have bought fertilizers before. What makes this one unique is that at 20,000 metric tonnes, this is the largest cache of fertilizer in the history of Taraba. With half a billion bags flooding the state, Taraba state is about to become the food basket of Nigeria. For tractors, there was never a time Taraba farmers got 150 units of the farming implement in one fell swoop. In the pasts, tractors were bought and kept at the hiring unit. Of course, it was not effective. The current tractorisation policy would put the units directly in the hands of farmers. With improved seedlings, food security is certainly assured as the yield would make up for the draught.

Of late, even the governor’s bitterest critics are starting to understand the direction of the man at the helms. They however still want him to do more, even as they question his team whom some said should be tinkered with for effectiveness. The salary debacle has continued to take its toll on his image. Although even some critics are starting to sympathise with the governor on th matter. They are aware of how the opposition has politicised it. Yet,  even Darius fans also wants him to overcome the salary logjam.The governor hears all of that and knows what to do but an architect’s mind works like a machine – meticulous and methodically. He once looked at me with a wink in his eyes (when I was lamenting about a certain area in the administration )and said, “Emma. I know what I’m doing and I would do it well.” I promptly believed him.



Bello is the senior special assistant to Governor Ishaku on Public Affairs.