We are lucky in Taraba to have Darius Ishaku as our governor – Mamman
John Mamman is an elder statesman and chairman Taraba State Civil Service Commission. In this exclusive interview with our Correspondent NATHANIEL GBAORON in Jalingo, he spoke on the lingering Jukun/Tiv crisis and other issues. Excerpts:
Despite the security and financial challenges confronting the state, the state government still boasts of some modest achievements. As an insider, can you give us insight into what the government has done?
Yes, the government can really beat its chest and say it has done very well. Because despite the economic challenges and crises in the state, this government has achieved something and this is because of the prudence of the governor who is a technocrat. He has been able to balance the needful and what he considers very important for the state. He is a good planner and you know if you don’t plan very well you cannot achieve anything. This governor is not just an architect, he is also a planner and he has developed a scheme whereby he can balance things that are necessary and cast out those that are not necessary for the development of the state.
Some of the basic things are payment of salaries and pension which are done regularly unlike most states in the country that are not able to pay salaries. And with the meagre resources that is left after the payment of salaries, pensions and management of crisis and other challenges he has been able to channel these resources to development projects. Now, we can boast of good water supply; he has been able to stabilise water in Jalingo and most of the urban centres in the state. Most of the rural areas now boast of boreholes and people are no longer complaining of water-related diseases and that has reduced rate of diseases in the state.
In the area of road construction; three roads are going on now. We have the Pantisawa road in Yorro Local Government, the Mararaba Baissa road is ongoing and the Wukari–Tsokundi road in Wukari is equally going on. The one in Wukari suffered a small set back because of the crisis there. In education he took the school from less than 30 percent to 70 percent, we are about the highest in the north and 4th in the country. So, I think we in Taraba can boast and said our governor has done very well.
One of the problems this administration inherited was ineffective civil service; now that you have been made the chairman of the state civil service commission, what reforms do you intend to bring to reposition the service?
This is very difficult area, because you don’t change people overnight and you don’t teach an old dog new tricks, but what we are trying to do here is to restore some sanity in the civil service. We want to see that there is sanity and discipline in the service, people must learn to do their work diligently. Secondly, we will focus on training and retraining of civil servants so that they will understand their duties, this is our hope.
We want to also see that people earn and merit their promotions. Very soon, we are going to introduce a system where before you are confirmed, you must pass confirmation examination and before you get promoted you must pass promotion examination as is done in the federal service. These are the things we are trying to do so that people will sit up and know the rudiments of their duties before they get promoted to higher responsibilities.
There seems to be a gap in the junior and medium cadre of the state civil service; how do you intend to address this issue?
Yes, the governor has actually noticed that. There is gap in the junior and the middle cadre. Even at the top level of civil service, there is gap because the most of the experienced civil servants we inherited from old Adamawa State are retiring, the experienced ones are going and in two or three years most of the civil servants that came from Adamawa at the creation of Taraba will be going, so he has graciously approved that we should employ over 300 people which we are about to start.
We have already interviewed some people since 2017, we brush over the exercise and get people whose services are needed based on their discipline and areas we need people and we will employ them. It is very necessary we do this otherwise we will wake up one day and discover that we have only pensioners left because many of them must have retired.
Sir, the Tiv/Jukun crisis has lingered for so long, as an elder and somebody from that area, what do you think can be done to bring a lasting solution to the crisis?
You see, the issue between the Jukun and the Tiv is an old story and they lived among themselves for long. In fact, we grew up and met them there and I think it will be difficult for us to say we can find a solution that can separate the Tiv from the Jukun; that is not workable. The only thing now is to learn how to live together amicably, tolerate one another and be able to respect one another. The issue here is that we allow politics to come and interfere with things that actually don’t have political bearing. Like the issue that sparked crisis in Kente in Wukari Local Government; under normal circumstances these are two people who had misunderstanding and it became something else. If you ask people who are fighting now what the actual genesis of the crisis is, they will not know. You see, in life there are three classes of people; we have those who are called the ‘Idiots’.
The idiots are people who do not concern themselves with politics or anything other than themselves. The second category of people are called ‘tribesmen’. These are people who are concerned with their tribes. Anything that has to do with their tribes they are ready to die for it; whether they know what is happening or not provided their tribesman is involved they go for the defense of their tribe. The last group of people are called ‘citizens’. These are people who reason and think beyond their tribe. They are concerned with what is happening in the world. What is happening in southern Taraba is that most people there fall in the second category of ‘tribesmen.’ You come and see a Tiv man fighting a Jukun man and you don’t ask ‘what did the Jukun man do to you?’ you just join the fight and when you are asked later what did the Jukun man do? He will say that the other person should explain, and vice versa. We have allowed ourselves to fall into this stupid clannish category of people. We must resist the temptation of being tribesmen, other than citizens and this is not only applied to Jukun and Tiv, but across Nigeria.
A Fulani man who takes his cows to your farm, when his fellow Fulani man comes he will not ask why do you take your cows to the farm? He will just join him in fighting the farmer. Similarly, when a farmer is fighting a herder and his fellow farmer comes around, he joins the farmer to fight the herder. This is the mentality that we in Nigeria have evolved and we must avoid this. As long term measure we must try and cleanse ourselves with this tribesman mentality. We must reform our thinking and re-orientate our worldviews about humanity. We must first accept that we are human beings capable of making mistakes. We must start thinking as citizens and as citizens we must be responsible to everybody’s behaviour. As it is now, the only way is for us to start thinking as citizens otherwise there is no solution as long as we remain, tribesmen, the fight will continue.
What more should the people of Taraba expect from this government?
The governor has always said, ‘Give me peace and I will give you development’. So, if there is peace, this government will do more, provided we don’t keep spending money to keep soldiers, support police and hunters to go after kidnappers. So, the people of Taraba should expect meaningful development provided we are not spending money only on maintaining peace.