Fortune often favours the enterprising; the trip to Abuja to obtain a copy of the Taraba State Tribunal judgment yielded an extra dividend. A chance meeting with Sylvanus Giwa, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku, DDI, resulted in this interview. Giwa is a professional broadcaster. He started his career with CHANNELS TV before moving to Taraba to serve as GM, Taraba TV, Jalingo and SSA to three governors.
What do you consider as Governor Ishaku’s top priority in Taraba State?
Peace and ethnic harmony. Governor Darius Ishaku considers peace as a key factor in his Rescue Agenda because, without it, nothing else will work. Taraba, as a multi-ethnic state, has experienced a couple of violent clashes on ethnic grounds and he started by working down to the roots of these clashes. So far, it is a success story.
What would be the second most important item on his agenda?
Provision of potable water. This is a chief concern of the governor and he demonstrated it right from his first day in office. He was worried about the lingering water crisis in both the rural and urban parts of the state where he witnessed humans sharing water source with animals. Within 48 hours, water was flowing in pipes within the metropolis. His pro-active step led him to seek collaboration with the African Development Bank on a water project across the state. As we speak, work is is progress and the rural communities will soon feel the impact in no distant time. Governor Ishaku often says “water is life”. So he intends to give life to the people of Taraba State.
Economies run on power, but most states depend on the Federal Government for power supply. Is the governor doing anything different?
Many businesses are suffering greatly due to insufficient power supply. Many investments cannot be made because the cost of providing power is excessive. The governor made contact with his former constituency, the Federal Ministry of Power, and a boost from two to 18 megawatts was recorded. Residents have testified to improvement in power supply and business men and women are smiling to the bank now. The Governor intends to turn the State’s fortune around through its economy and power is a key factor. He also fast-tracked the counterpart responsibility of the State towards the completion of a 400 megawatt hydropower project in collaboration with United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, UNIDO.It is located in the Manbilla plateau and it currently supplies an indigenous tea plantation and factory from where HIGHLAND tea is produced, distributed and even exported. The power plant also supplies the surrounding communities with uninterrupted power supply. The idea is to expand these benefits to the rest of the state. Taraba might become the first state to achieve uninterrupted power supply if all goes according to plan.
Diversification of the Nigerian economy has become an imperative with declining price of crude oil. Some experts think tourism is a money-spinner. How is Taraba State planning to tap into this?
The Governor is working on exploiting the Tourism potential of the Manbilla plateau. As you know there are millions of mountain and hill climbers in the world and they will travel any distance to tackle a new challenge. However, to make this possible the road leading up to the top is under reconstruction, PW has been remobilized and funded and work has started again. In addition, efforts will be made henceforth to ensure that the road, once rehabilitated will not again fall into disrepair. The intention is that once access is made possible, even the hitherto obscure Gasha Gumti National Park will attract tourists and open up the state to many socio-economic opportunities.
Small and Medium Scale Enterprises provide most of the jobs in developed countries. How is the Governor planning to expand the access of men, and especially women to credit for their micro-enterprises?
A new approach is underway to accessing micro-finance loans for small businesses under the Governor’s watchful eyes to depart from the past rocking chair pattern where much is said but less is done for growing small businesses.
Unemployment is a chronic problem fuelling other social maladies. Yet, governments alone cannot employ everybody. What is being done in this regard?
Aware of the teeming population of job seekers one of the Governor’s plans is to provide avenues that could absorb these job seekers outside government employment. He has been canvassing for private investment by multi-national companies and planning creation of conducive operational atmosphere for them in the state. So far some have made advanced moves in acquiring land to set up structures for businesses in the state. Dangote Group is one of such companies and many more are on the way.
Most governors concentrate their attention on the state capital and the major cities and towns. But, Taraba has a lot of rural communities. Any plans to integrate them into the transformation agenda?
The rural population is at the heart of the administration of Governor Darius Ishaku and they are set for full attention including improved infrastructures, electricity, water, social and health amenities.
The Civil Service holds the key to any government’s success. What are the plans to ensure that the service performs optimally in support of the agenda?
The Governor understands the rot in a typical civil service where some privileged few highjack the system for personal gains through over-blown payroll and ghost workers. A staff audit was commissioned by the Governor and the outcome is already telling positively on the state’s resources. Leakages are being blocked.
Getting to Jalingo is a tedious exercise. The nearest airport with regular flights is Yola – more than three hours drive away. How long will this continue?
In the next few weeks Jalingo airport will start operating regular commercial flights. Arrangements have been concluded with an airline to start operating Lagos-Abuja-Jalingo flights and bring Taraba State into the Age of Aviation.
The question on everybody’s mind right now is: do you believe the Tribunal was wrong in its verdict?
Absolutely. How can someone who won in only five local governments be declared winner when the other party won in eleven local governments and fifty-seven per cent voted for the PDP and rejected the APC candidate?
Finally, do you miss the media and are you anxious to return to it?
I considered leaving until Governor Ishaku emerged, His leadership style changed my mind and I strongly believe he will succeed in making Taraba State the envy of other states in Nigeria.