After so much misunderstanding, the governance template of the ‘Rescue team’ of Taraba state Governor, Darius Dickson Ishaku, is beginning to attract confidence of the people.
At least this was what the Chief of Staff, Government House administration, Rebo Usman, had said. He was also optimistic of the fact that the government was not owing any staff salaries.
In this chat with Nick Dugba, the Chartered Accountant, who is reputed to have worked with almost all democratic regimes since the creation of the State, gave an insight on the direction the Ishaku’s administration is going.
Sir, we are in the new year. What is your assessment of the ‘Rescue Watch’ so far since inception?
So far, quite a number of people are getting to understand what Rescue Watch is all about and for us it is very important.
Before now people did not understand what the governor was trying to do and all of us are aware that Rescue Watch is basically about trying to be in touch with our people at the grassroots level- the governor being in touch with them and we have been doing that consistently.
The governor has been receiving reports from the various teams in the sixteen local governments and Yangtu. On the 22nd December, he had to sit and receive these reports.
He had to postpone his trip that day in order to receive that report fully. So you can see that he is committed to the Rescue Watch program because for him, this program is helping to reach out to the people at the grassroots level. People are beggining to understand the heart of the governor and that is very important to the people of Taraba state. Of course the issues that we intend to address using the Rescue Watch; we are having a lot of progress in those areas through interactions that the various teams are having with our people at the grassroots; every month we receive reports of things happening. Remember, the Rescue Watch is a concept that has been put in place by the governor to access the people.
He has an agenda for the people of Taraba state to let them know that this is what I have in place for you and assess how he is faring.
We have the team members going round government facilities to see what is happening in these facilities and then relate with pictures, what is happening, to the governor. I mean, it is something that people are saying has never happened in this country.
You have a governor who listens to the voices of his people. And of course, we have a situation now where people who are working in hospitals, schools, now know that the eyes of the governor are on them.
One, they have the Ward Contact persons who visit them any moment and every month. The teams led by Special Advisers, visit them, meet with them to see what is happening. So, it keeps them on their toes. Now, they know government can assess them directly, not just the Ministry of Education.
Every month you have public office holders coming to see you. Teachers who use to abscond now know that there is somebody in that electoral ward that is watching him. There was one report that was presented on the 23rd December, about a particular school.
The governor was sickened and he couldn’t believe that a school as big as that would have just four teachers. He gave an instruction immediately in the last report presentation. He instructed that all the commissioners and deputy governor should meet him.
There and then he directed that our reports should be submitted to all ministries. The commissioners who were there for the first time were astounded by the kind of reports they were receiving from the grassroots.
So we are beginning to coordinate these things properly so that the whole governance system is now involved in receiving reports from the rescue watch team. We have this team which goes and does intervention on the spot.
Boreholes that are broken down, they do intervention immediately using their allowances to fix the boreholes for them. You go to a community, because of one thousand naira, they have no water to drink.
So certain problems are tackled instantly! We received such reports from the local governments each time these teams go out and the people are beginning to feel that this government is coming closer to them.
The ultimate is for the government to come closer to the people. Before the December meeting, we had the November meeting during which the governor directed that we should submit reports to the various ministries to incorporate those things in their budget for 2017.
So, through rescue watch program, we are now beginning to approach governance from the bottom- up and the people would be happy that you were able to put certain things in the budget as a result of the discission you had with them. So people are beginning to participate in governance.
Congratulations sir? But the problem with policy formulation in this country is sustainability. What plans have you to sustain this program beyong the lifespan of this administration?
That is a valid point you have raised but unfortunately, this rescue watch thing is politics based. It is the vision of the governor- this is how I want to relate to my people!
If another governor comes and says, wow! The way this man is relating to the people is good, I want to continue with it; the template, the examples, everything would have been on ground already and he would just take off from there.
But if he says, I don’t want to relate to my people the way this man is doing, it would be unfortunate. We can only hope that that person should have a better approach.
But I am sure if anybody comes in and has an approach that is not good as this, people will complain because this thing is reaching out to the grassroots. I am sure who ever comes would like to do something similar.
This administration is doing something unique from the previous governments with its ICT and e-governnance policy; with the establishment of a government website, www.tarabastate.gov.ng. what do you intend to achieve from this
Information is the in-thing now. We live in an information age. When this governor came in, he understood the value of communication, and when we talk about communication, we are talking about two- way communication and it is only with ICT that you can do effective communication in this era.
That was why when he came and discovered that the Taraba state website was not working, he was not happy. So he was able to put it in place.
Right now, you remember that his wife actually spurred him through her own program. Immediately she started her Hope Afresh project, she went full blast ICT in reaching out to the people and getting feedbacks, and the whole thing is snowballing into the activities of his office and that was why he was prepared to set up a state-of-the-art ICT unit in this office, and that is what is used to facilitate the Rescue Watch program which is now linked up with what the wife is doing.
You can see that he values that and that is why he is taking it up seriously. We would continue to improve because he intends that we do more through ICT because these feedbacks we get, apart from the physical ones, the comments from the people also help in governance because it is through that that you get to know that things are happening in places you don’t know. ICT is something that you can’t do without.
The 2017 budget has been passed and it was discovered that last year’s budget implementation was below average….
(Cut in…) the implementation of last year’s budget was close to 50%. Considering the financial situation of the State and what we went through last year, I thought you would say the government has really done well because some states did not even come close to that.
So we can say that was quite appreciative because budget implementation is based on availability of funds and you can see that with paucity of funds and the condition under which we met Taraba state, it wasn’t really easy for us to even generate funds even internally.
You know that Taraba state has been affected by cases of crises here and there. Thank God peace is returning now and with some of the policies and strategies being put in place by the governor, business activities would pick up in the state hopefully.