Wednesday GUEST COLUMNIST By By Abdullahi Bego
Over the recent period, more people in more places are increasingly acknowledging – and lauding – what is now clearly self-evident; that under Governor Ibrahim Gaidam, Yobe State has made significant, measurable progress in healthcare despite obvious security and fiscal hamstrings.
It is a view that points to the breath-taking infrastructure upgrade in the healthcare sector and the governor’s commitment to capacity building, as demonstrated in the setting up of a College of Medical Sciences for the training of doctors, amongst others, as evidence that the arc of Yobe’s healthcare is bent towards progress.
As we mark Democracy Day and Gov. Gaidam’s third year of his second term in office, it is worth mentioning that Yobe, under the governor, has made significant, albeit less mentioned, strides in other sectors as well; sectors that touch on the lives of everyday people in all the nooks and crannies of the state.
Take education for example.
This is a sector that has taken the worst hit from Boko Haram’s deadly campaign of condemnable violence. From 2011 until well after the 2015 elections, Boko Haram deliberately targeted and set our education sector back several years. From the cold-blooded murder of students in their dormitories to the setting on fire of classrooms and libraries, the degree of harm inflicted by the insurgents is beyond measure.
According to one estimate, Boko Haram has destroyed more than 300 school classrooms across Yobe State from just two years of their monstrous violence.
By any stretch of the imagination, rebuilding education infrastructure – and the confidence of students and teachers – from the ashes of Boko Haram’s attacks will certainly not be an easy task and will surely take years to accomplish.
But that’s exactly what Governor Gaidam has repeatedly set himself to doing. With significant investments in primary, secondary and tertiary education and a working partnership with stakeholders, including the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (ETF) and others, the governor was successful in rolling back the setbacks and placing this vital sector on the path to revival.
Today, classrooms that were set ablaze have been rebuilt, destroyed inventories, such as chairs, tables, books and other basic supplies, have been replenished and expanded and at least five secondary schools in Fika, Gwio-Kura, Nguru, Nangere and Yunusari towns were totally rehabilitated and furnished.
The Yobe State Government now spends around N240 million monthly in student feeding across schools in the state and, for the first time in a long time, teacher awards were instituted to fire up – and incentivise – those who mentor our kids.
Governor Gaidam’s investments in Yobe’s education have also ensured that the State University, with its growing number of academic offerings, has retained its position as one of the fastest growing universities in the North.
The governor has also opened up Yobe State and connected communities with the largest investment in roads development since the state was created nearly 30 years ago. I have said this before – but it bears repeating – that the governor has built more roads within and between towns than all previous governors combined.
The tally of roads that the administration has built now stands at over 1, 100 kilometres – and still counting. It includes the 77-km Damaturu-Buni Yadi-Madgza road which was first built by the federal government in the early 70’s and never had any major repairs since. Before it was rebuilt by the governor, an entire swath of the state, comprising of three local government areas on the border with Borno State to the south, was effectively cut off from the rest of the state; a situation made worse by Boko Haram activity in the area.
Gov. Gaidam’s road intervention also included the 50-km Nguru-Machina road. This was a sandy, impassable terrain where motorists take a whole day in the Sahara for what is supposed to be a 30-minute drive between Nguru and Machina towns.
Today, what used to be a daily logistical nightmare for the people of that area has long since been painted over. The people who ply the road will bear this out. Those who ply the recently built Gashu’a-Yusufari, Bayamari-Yunusari and Gaidam Bukarti roads, among others, will also bear it out.
The capping of it all for Yobe North is the construction of a 300-km long ‘Trans-Sahel’ road stretching all the way to Machina from Kanamma. Now at nearly 50 percent completion stage, this road will link more communities in more ways than anyone will ever imagine. It will also end the geographic isolation of the area and open vast agricultural communities.
Governor Gaidam’s signature work in restoring confidence in the civil service is also an issue that is widely recognised.
For all the recession that our country went through – and all the bailouts that ensued – Governor Gaidam remains one of the truest of his colleagues in meeting worker obligations. He continues to pay salaries, pensions and gratuities without fail even without the bailout funds. As a result, Yobe is today a reference point for how the civil service can be made more effective by tending to the welfare of workers.
When news broke, over a year ago, that Yobe had signed a deal to build an N11.5 billion cargo airport, some of my friends started to wonder where all the money was coming from. “Where is Gaidam getting all these billions from? How is it that at every meeting of the state executive council, we hear of these billions in project spending?”, one of my colleagues once asked.
Well, the answer is simple. Monies that accrue to the state government are well managed and are being put to good use.
The cargo airport under construction is now at slightly over 50 per cent completion rate and the contractors are determined to ensure that the first cargo aircraft lands at the airport before the year runs out.
When fully operational, the cargo airport is envisaged to prop up economic activity not just in Yobe State but across the Northeast with the likelihood that international trade in livestock and agricultural products will open vistas for businesspeople and bring in much-needed IGR for the state.
Governor Gaidam is also finishing his third year (of his second term) in office strong with the commencement and continuation of urban renewal projects in the state capital. This extends from the construction and renovation of roads in various parts of the town to improvement in water supply. Everyone who knew Damaturu before the governor came to power knows that the town’s landscape is changing. With even more investments over the coming period, Damaturu’s fortunes will surely keep improving.
All told, Governor Gaidam has set our state on the path of progress.
Of course, it is trite to say that there is still more work to be done. With the governor’s commitment to ensuring that change happens, however, the next 12 months, which will mark his last year in office, will see even more projects and services because, for him, it will be service to the people to the very end.
Bego writes from Damaturu, Yobe State