A lot has been said about the giant strides of Gombe State governor, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, since his assumption of office. The mere fact that within a year of his coming to power, he had begun to attend to the major needs of the people as pertains to social infrastructure, education, commerce and industry, health and otherwise, which thrust him into the limelight and attracted so much plaudits from many who termed him “the green-horn of Gombe politics.”
This tag, though somewhat underrating, acted as a propellant for the committed chartered accountant to go the whole hog in bringing the dividends of good governance to his people, one which they had never known in the history of a state so young and greatly in need of development in all ramifications.
With the coming of Dankwambo in 2011, there were three pivotal areas which the state government had to tackle to bring about some sense of security and stability: The first was the threat of the errant Kalari youths which hung over the state like the sword of Damocles, threatening to destroy the moral fabric of the young and vulnerable in the state, as well as disrupt what little economic activity the state had going for it. The second was the need to provide gainful means of making a living for both the schooled and unschooled, while the third was to draw up an all-inclusive government that would cater to the every (by ‘every,’ this means in every way possible) need of the people.
On August 2, 2011, just in his third month in office, Dankwambo moved to better the lot of small-scale business owners in the state, by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Bank of Industry, to the tune of N1bn. The scheme which saw soft loans delivered to cooperative societies and small scale business owners (farmers, miners,etc) was a public-private partnership set-up, which saw the state government commit a matching fund of half a billion (N500m) and the BoI do the same. In all, 99 co-operative societies and SMEs counted their blessings, reaping positively from the articulately thought-out scheme, all receiving between N5 million and N8.5 million, per co-operative society.
To ensure that these beneficiaries were kept in line and put the disbursed funds to good use, the state government set up a committee to this effect. So far, 39 beneficiaries have been visited and overseen, and in all, they have provided more than 1,380 new jobs. Undeniably, this has given the economy of the state a boost – in terms of gross domestic products. This committee has postulated that by the time all 99 beneficiaries have visited, more than 3,193 direct jobs will be up for grabs, while another 6,000 will be indirectly created.
These emerging industries which include fertiliser blending, groundnut oil processing, rice processing, poultry farming, fish feeds processing,, tomato processing, cosmetics processing,, aluminium long-span roofing sheets’ manufacturing, printing, metal fabrication, furniture-making, concrete block-making, and the likes, all located within the Nasarawo-Bogo New Industrial Cluster Site, have added value to the domestic economy.
More so, the establishment of this cluster site, will help build up Nigeria’s drive to enthrone a degree of competitiveness amongst her industries, light up thousands of business clusters within the different states of the nation and, thus, spread the gospel of cluster forming amongst African nations.
These industries which exist alongside their various skill acquisition centres, will guarantee a principle of continuity and multiplicity in the long-run, besides being a means of pulling young people off the streets.
In the long-run, also, the programme will attract micro-finance and mainstream banks to these entrepreneurs in the state, all wishing to invest in a burgeoning dream. This imagination can only fail the faint-hearted.
Further more, having seen the need to help the state develop her undying urge to shake off her tag of ‘underdeveloped state,’ forefront ministries like those of water resources, rural development, works and housing, trades and investment (and others) will besiege the state, in order to be a part of the dream which will fast snow-ball and propel the state into an economic hub of huge proportions.
There is no doubt that these small beginnings which many have overlooked. In addition, though, it will not bode well for one to appear too delusional: plans are underway for huge campaigns to encourage and prompt the people in the state and all over Nigeria to buy these made-in-Nigeria goods, in order to encourage these hard-working small-scale entrepreneurs to expand their businesses and come to the realisation that all the months of hard work and commitment invested therein will not come to naught.
Also, as much as we might love to celebrate the unification of all SMEs in this cluster, some of them – the mechanics, timber processors and metal fabricators – are still scattered across the state. The only way to make the Nasarwo-Bogo Cluster a one-stop shop is to unify these independent businesses to unite to become something huge. Only so much more can be done. No less. There are plans already on ground to do this and encourage as many who are yet to move in to do.
Having observed the astute manner in which the state disbursed the accruing funds to qualified beneficiaries, the BoI stepped in once again, increasing the N1 billion facility it offered the state to N3 billion. This proved to be a silent testimony and certification of the state as a frugal manager of funds.
The most challenging of all these schemes (which has, surprisingly, showed the potential to be the most successful) is the Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme (CCTS) which will see old men and women, as well as the disabled, get cash transfers of N15,000 monthly for a year, while they undergo deep-grained rehabilitation.
These recipients are expected to enrol their children in schools or in skill acquisition centres (the children of the blind, for example, who act as guides for their parents). These children, upon graduation, will get these stored up funds as start-up capital for any vocation/venture of their choice, while those who opt for education, will have their academic pursuits funded for by this cash stack. Following the graduation of these pioneer graduates and vocation-trained youths, another set of beneficiaries will be enrolled. This scheme, designed to be a continual affair, will continue for as long as the governor remains in office, and if any other governor wishes to carry on the torch.
Over time, this scheme will see the streets of Gombe rid of all its indigents and truants, replaced by responsible, gainfully employed youngsters and adults who will have brighter futures, better purposes and profitable ventures, having little time for the vicissitudes of the crime life.
It has not been all smooth-sail for the governor, though, but he has called on a combination of reason and tact, when confronted with odd situations, to lead the way. He has never been one given to flattering and grand-standing. He has carefully approached the art of governance and its associated challenges with a measure of tact and reason that is applaudable. This, it has been discovered, won him the goodwill of the people. He has ridden these three factors to his advantage, never making a fool of the people, choosing rather to go the hard way and emerge victorious, than take the shorter road and come crashing down sometime in the process.
What this writer is saying is this: there is no need for boot-lickers and divisionists to use the state as their tussle-turf. Rather, it should be left to the people to decide if Dankwambo is the elusive hero they have always yearned for in their 12-year history. It should be up to the people to decide if he has done enough to return to office in 2015. It should be up to the people to decide if they desire continuity in governance. It should be up to the people to decide if they prefer a governance interruption to the continuance of a man who has enjoyed so much goodwill from the electorate, governed with so much shrewdness and tact and brought some semblance of sanity to governance in the state. This writer dares to state that the people will be doing themselves a favour if they stick with the man who has given them so much in so short a while.
Abubakar is special assistant to Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo on press, wrote in from Ajiya Quarters, Gombe State.
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