By Ismaila Uba Misilli
The critical point to note as Gombe State marks its 25th anniversary is that the ideals behind its creation have been largely defined and shaped by the power of leadership and vision over time, making it imperative to contend with the relevance of these development factors now and in the future.
It is important to go down memory lane to recollect the patriotic endeavours of the founding fathers, who, against all odds, ensured Gombe was created out of the old Bauchi State for the essential concern to bring development closer to the people and move as quickly as possible in the ladder of progress. It is therefore adequate to salute the vision and courage of these founding fathers.
From its creation on the 1st of October, 1996 till date, the leadership of the state had changed in quick succession from the military era to the civilian and in particular those who have led the state in this 4th Republic and whose commendable efforts deserve some appreciation at this momentous occasion even in relative terms.
In tune with this season of silverjubilee, therefore, we extend our profound gratitude to the pioneering military leaders in the persons of Group Captain Joseph Orji and Col. Mohammed Bawa ( late) who though had short stay in office but were important part of our history.
Due recognition also goes to the civilian leaders, namely, former Governors Abubakar Habu Hashidu, Mohammed Danjuma Goje and Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo as well as the current Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, who, no matter the differences in the level of evaluation, contributed to the development of the state.
Now, the question arises: can we justifiably celebrate Gombe at 25? This may be subjective but certainly, I think we can and should roll out the drums and celebrate because Gombe State, based on the gigantic development efforts and expanded big vision of contemporary leaders in particular, is living up to its promise as a model state and in quantum leaps of socio-economic progression to the greater happiness of the people.
From the earliest days, the conviction was very clear even to the founding fathers that Gombe was brimming with human and material resources and justifiably this position was at the heart of the spirited proposal to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha on the need to create the state. As a matter of fact, the viability of Gombe State at creation and as presented to the late head of state hastened its approval even though without any take-off grant like other states.
The rest is now a matter of historical revelation as the state has moved from one development trajectory to the other with particular attachment to the leadership at a given point in time, emphasizing the leadership question as a major factor in societal regeneration.
Gombe, the state capital, like most of the other towns around the state, has now grown so phenomenally big as modern city with mind-blowing infrastructure and amenities as envisioned and we are certainly making history.
To some development experts, 25 years may not be so long a period in the life of a state or nation but what counts indeed is the level of achievements relative to expectations.
While it is appropriate to recognize the various roles played by the successive leaders and allied patriots, I cannot but pinpoint the new vistas being heralded and engineered by the current leadership in the state chiefly on the fundamental issue of real growth and development.
In particular, there has been a strategic inter-linkage between the then Goje’s administration and the current governor who was a key member of the Goje administration as Commissioner of Finance and Economic Planning and indeed consequential to the reforms and development trajectories of that era now bolstered under his watch as Gombe State chief executive.
However, we have also seen a marked shift and expansion of good governance in the state, a desirable shift which essentially has changed the attitude of how government business is conducted in deft appreciation of the people’s mandate for renewal and the zeal to develop the state. Governor Inuwa’s strategic leadership is confounding in the context of the array of accomplishments during his short stay in government.
Yes, this is an important component of assessment of Gombe at 25: we need to have an objective retrospective look at what Governor Inuwa Yahaya met on ground at the assumption of office and compare with the realities today in terms of basic levels of development not only in the state capital but also across the state and in major strategic areas and indices. He has actually made a world of difference in changing our collective narrative amidst socio-economic and political stability.
Since he took office in 2019, Governor Inuwa has matched effective leadership with a broad vision, imbued with hard work, sacrifice and innovative thinking and thus turning the tide even in a challenging political environment as well as a tough economic climate.
Governor Inuwa Yahaya is moderating a new clime of conscious idealism placed side-by-side with realism on the journey so far especially on the challenge of translating the great potentials of the state into real socio-economic enterprise. He’s evidently delivering on the promise envisaged at inception to make Gombe a model state.
Indeed, in 2021, Gombe State, by a landslide, won the number one position in the Ease of Doing Business Index as certified by the National Economic Council under the chairmanship of the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
By major parameters, Governor Yahaya has excelled and even surpassed the records of his predecessors in all critical aspects of the state’s economy: roads, rural infrastructure, pipe borne water, health, education, power, transportation, urban renewal, agriculture, civil service reform, manpower development and women and youth empowerment. The specific cases of roads construction across the state as well as health centres, greater access to education and water provision will forever be reckoned to be the high points of life changing development incentives of the administration and indeed lasting legacies.
A new clime of possibilities is booming as Gombe State has become the most favoured destination for high net investors who have taken advantage of the relative absence of bureaucratic bottle necks in the issuance of business permits, contract awards, procurement process and tax payments in the state. The high level of partnerships with several agencies of the Federal Government, international bodies and multilateral agencies and development partners is also a huge mark of leadership integrity and performance by the administration as agent of positive change. Indeed the state’s GDP has quadrupled while the GDI has similarly reached record high especially with a newly improved civil service witnessing a momentous leap in workers’ morale and productivity occasioned by incentives, modern work tools and ethics, adequate remuneration and punctual payment of staff salaries and emoluments.
But all these did not happen by accident but a product of painstaking preparation. As a practical and innovative leader, Governor Inuwa Yahaya had prior to his election as governor understudied the Asian leadership and economic revitalization and he was fascinated by the Singapore model under the legendary Lee Kuan Yew as a fitting example of what modern Gombe State should look like.
He had then come to the conclusion that the most effective way of guaranteeing the fast track of economic growth and infrastructural transformation of the state was the enthronement of a virile, productive, efficient and incorruptible civil service, without which any policy or structural reform would be a waste of time akin to erecting a structure on shaky foundations. Thus one of his first priorities was urgent civil service reform and this was kick-started with the establishment of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR) which took the lead in identifying those sectors in need of drastic reform and implementing them without let or hindrance and at full capacity, a feat unprecedented in Gombe history.
The Gombe 10- year development plan, is another initiative of Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya with the mission to create an enabling environment for sustainable peace, cohesion and an all- inclusive development for the people to leave lasting legacy for succeeding generations.
Governor Inuwa has also led by example as an apostle of peace amidst diversity, as he continually preaches peace, tolerance, co-operation and peaceful cohabitation among the diverse ethnic, religious and linguistic groups in the state. That Gombe State has not turned into a haven for Boko Haram terrorists, bandits and assorted kidnappers as other states in the North-East can be ascribed to Inuwa’s One Gombe, One Destiny philosophy which has permeated all nooks and crannies of the state, thus translating into a peaceful, prosperous and progressive society. Just a couple of days earlier, the conference of state directors of security, North East zone declared, rising from their meeting, declared Gombe as the safest and most peaceful state in the sub-region.
Thus, as Gombe marks its 25 years of existence, it is gratifying to note that the state has delivered on its promise at inception to be a model state to the greater good of the people through accelerated development in a stable polity. Gombe is certainly racing to the promised land.