As Taraba celebrated its Silver Jubilee anniversary on 27th, August 2016, many Tarabans have spoken. Taraba has reached a milestone with mixed fortunes. As it prepares to begin the next phase of its journey, our Correspondent, Nick Dugba, sought the opinion of a Civil Society Activist in the State, Joseph Gimba, on how the State can move forward. Gimba, who is the Director of the Jalingo based Centre For Citizenship Education, gave his objective views from the civil society perspective. Excerpts:
Taraba at 25, What is your take as a Civil Society Activist?
We have a long way to go. If you look at the years from when Taraba was created, the expectations of the people and the dreams and aspirations of the founding fathers, compared to the quantum of resources accruing to Taraba state, you will say we should have gone much farther than we found ourselves today. Having said that, let me congratulate Tarabans on the 25th anniversary and also tell them to do their best to make our State developed. Compare Taraba with States that were created much after us, you will discover those States are doing better. Look at Gombe; there are so many cottage Industries in Gombe. In collaboration with Bank of Industry, Gombe was able to do a lot of things for the teeming youths of the State.
What are the contributions of CSOs to the State and their relationship with the State?
The Civil Society Organisations in the State have been working on all fronts to see to it that they make their contribution to the development of the State. At this moment, apart from the few offices that identify with the CSOs, most other agencies have ignored our inputs.
Can you assess the rate of development in the State in relation to its potentials?
We have outstanding resources that could help in developing the State, but as it is now, apart from the Tea factory that is wholly owned by Taraba state, other industries should have ordinarily come in taking into consideration the agricultural potentials of the State. In fact, the rumour going on is that Taraba does not wholly own it. You expect all these years that if we couldn’t get a full-fledged industry, we should have cottage industries that would help in manufacturing or processing most of our agricultural produce. We still have localities where there are a lot of foodstuffs that couldn’t get to the market because the roads and other infrastructure were not developed that would enable the transfer of these food items to the ready markets. One wonders for how long we can wait.
Do you think the State is hit the hardest by the economic crunch in the country?
You expect the State to have a systematized way of collecting revenue rather than looking up to the federal allocation. We have a lot of opportunities in the State that could help in developing the State without looking outward. Unfortunately, because of lack of planning or the political will- successive governments did not have the political will of planning and sustaining the plan. No continuity in policies. Policies should be institutionalized and maintained. As long as we don’t have that, we would have a problem on how to develop our State. If that was put in place and it had been accepted by the people, we would have gone far, but there was no such thing on the ground. Every government that comes has its plan within the tenure. When a new government comes, they are full of promises, but when they grow old in their tenure, the focus is lost.
In the context of Taraba at 25, how can you assess the present government?
Let me say that this is the first government that feels it can solve the problem of Taraba in a scientific manner. I have been involved in developing the Rescue Plan which was Chaired by the Commissioner of Finance, and some development partners were equally involved in fashioning the plan. If the present government of Darius Dickson Ishaku would follow this plan to the letter, I am sure, after his tenure, Taraba would have been placed on a pedestal to be reckoned with in the North East and Nigeria. I would equally use this forum to advise the governor to request a meeting with the Minister for National Planning where donor agencies can be assembled, where the governor can talk to these agencies and parties by presenting his rescue plan for them to negotiate, collaborate, where he needs to give counterpart funding in areas of economic empowerment, establishing industries, capacity building for civil servants and other political office holders to key into the Rescue Agenda. In the time of lack of resources, ordinarily, collaboration is the best. There are investors that are interested in BOT- Build, Operate, and Transfer. If such investors can be invited and allowed to bring proposals and government sets up machinery to look into these proposals, you will have them coming at no cost to the government.
Your advice to Tarabans and the way forward?
The State should look inward regarding generating revenue, and all citizens should put their hands on deck and help with the efforts of the present government, but again the current administration should not in any way leave their citizens behind. I know the governor is talking about Town Hall meetings. I expect that the Town Hall meetings should start in earnest, and people should be allowed to air their views, taking into consideration those promises he has made. I think, from the time that he was sworn in as governor to this period, there is the possibility that individuals could have done observations, and these observations were being done in good faith so that he can better perfect the plan he has on the ground. If you must criticize the government, you must have facts and figures and not overheat the polity. And again politicians must play the game by the rules; sentiments should be set aside. And to the governor, he must remain focused; he should open his ears to people’s complaints. All the complaints emanating from the various quarters of his government should be considered because such complaints when not attended to, can make or mar his administration.