|Thursday, February 21, 2019|
HIS WORD IS HIS BOND
09/03/18, Biodun Omojola
MILE SIX WATER TANK: Governor Ishaku has solved water problem in Taraba state
During electioneering in 2015, Darius Ishaku promised the people of Taraba State that if elected their governor he would transform the state. Nearly three and a half years later, what Ishaku promised is what Governor Ishaku is delivering, as EK'ABO found out.
Nigerians, generally, are easy going people. Give them the most basic things in life - power, housing, security, water, health - and they are your friends for life. On the flip side, however, starve them of these or make it difficult to get, and you'll discover that they are well-informed and knowledgeable but with long memory. Years to come, where two or more are gathered, they would still be talking about one's adequacy just as they are talking about the failings. In the African setting, the power of the mouth does much more to build or tear down more than anything else. Nowhere is this more factual than in the political arena.
Nigerians have long lacked the most basic amenities that whoever provides them - be it an individual in government or a private individual - becomes the Man of the People. It is no surprise that most governments strive to provide the most basic needs but most lack a workable strategy in achieving that. The process - from identifying the projects to execute in order of importance to the people, to looking for funding to delivering and inaugurating - is rather Herculean especially since most governments sing from the same hymn book - lack of funds. In Nigeria it takes a lot of creative thinking to deliver laudable projects.
In Taraba state, a lot of thinking outside the box has gone into delivering amenities to the people. Consider this: no portable water across the state, not even in the capital, Jalingo; no functional government hospitals including the state Specialist Hospital; road network in shambles; internally generated revenue gradually dwindling to the point of being almost insignificant and the education sector almost in disarray. Add to these, a challenging security situation, then cap it by adding a huge debt profile that according to Governor Ishaku, "if all the monies that are coming into the state for the next four years were given to me it would still not pay off the debts."
It is this situation that confronted Governor Ishaku in 2015. But luckily Taraba elected a person who strives on challenges - I "like challenges" and "don't cringe because of problems," says Governor Ishaku - who see challenges, not as permanent or insurmountable obstacles but simply a temporary blockage which can be removed with determination to get to the objective. He came to the Government House, Jalingo with a strategy, a game plan if you will, to rescue the various sectors that needed rescuing, in order to make a meaningful impact on the people of the state.
During his electioneering campaign, Governor Ishaku traversed the state. On one of his many trips he saw what made a lasting impression on him: students, at the mercy of the elements, learning with a blackboard under a tree! He wondered how comprehension could be possible in that condition. As he told Africa Today in his office: "I had to stop, and I asked my special adviser to snap the picture of students who were sitting under a tree that had no shade with a blackboard and the teacher was teaching. And he was asking me what I would do with the picture. I said I would hang it in the office of whoever becomes the Commissioner of Education." With that picture gracing the walls of his office, the incoming commissioner of education must have had one of the most challenging job descriptions of all new commissioners!
Under Governor Ishaku's administration, students now learn in modern buildings, shielded from the elements, with blackboards and school furniture. So far, over 400 classrooms have been rehabilitated, with about 10,000 classroom furniture provided. Over the years, 3000 new teachers have been employed to drive the governor's ambition for qualitative education. This has resulted in improved performance at regional examinations at the secondary level. At the tertiary level, various schools have either being established or upgraded to meet the educational challenges of Taraba youths. There is the Taraba State University, the College of Education, the School of Nursing and Midwifery, The School of Health Technology, the College of Agriculture and the Taraba State Polytechnic. Incidentally, it was under the Ishaku administration, that courses offered at the Taraba State Polytechnic have now being accredited by the national body responsible for technical education in Nigeria.
Everyone can now get water. Governor Ishaku loading his card at the water vending machine, which is now made widely available to the people.
Particular interest is being given to the Taraba State University. This is no surprise as Governor Ishaku was a former university lecturer who knows what makes a university tick. Under his guidance, the university has been transformed. As he told Africa Today, "I got some of the retired professors emeritus that I know and collected them together to get me a very good candidate (to serve as Vice Chancellor). They assembled and graded three candidates. I had to get another set of emeritus professors to cross check. They told me that these are the three best candidates I have. It was a very difficult task to decide who among the three should get the job (so) I gave the job to the candidate that scored first. And I thank God that I took that decision. Within one year, the present Vice Chancellor has turned the university round. We now have more faculties."
There is a scholarship scheme for both local and overseas training for Taraba youths in specialised areas of medicine, engineering, environmental sciences, aviation, agriculture and information and communication technology. These are areas where additional manpower is needed as the state moves into a competitive economy both nationally and globally. Effort is almost being made to further develop the vocational educational sector so as to produce more students who have an entrepreneurial bent.
Although the educational sector has transcended what it used to be three years ago, a lot is still being done to still make it better. Teachers are continually being trained and retrained and the capacity of the College of Education, Zing, is to be increased. In addition, there are housing benefits for teachers through the Teachers Housing Scheme while their tertiary counterparts will have access to funding for research. The interventions have translated into tangible results. In regional examinations, for instance, the state's position has improved significantly: from being near the bottom of the pile to topping the list out of all 19 northern states and the eighth best state out of 36 states in Nigeria.
The water situation in Taraba prior to the rescue intervention can be summed up with this line in the Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: "water, water, water everywhere. Nor any drop to drink." Rivers, lakes and ponds are plentiful in Taraba State, but portable water is lacking. The rescue mission on water began almost immediately Governor Ishaku assumed office in 2015 and that rescue mission is still ongoing. Prior to his election to office, Jalingo, the state capital had no regular portable water supply for months on end. It was that bad. With the capital practically without water, it wasn't hard to imagine the water supply situation in the rural areas. The poor water situation across the state led to a massive water supply initiative on a scale which had not been seen since Taraba was created. Within 30 days, the dry taps that were more like decorative ornaments in most houses in Jalingo, had water running through them. And since that first 30 days, the water supply situation across the state has improved dramatically.
The water drive led to the construction of the Jalingo water extension project which was recently commissioned by Nigeria's Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The project's aim is to increase water supply to the capital by about 26 million liters per day and to meet Jalingo's increasing water demand in the years to come. It was a massive drive that has led to the construction of massive overhead water reservoirs, pipe laying for easy distribution of water to houses within the metropolis, restoration of water supply to 30 towns including the capital, repair of broken down plants, pumps and equipment in all water supply stations in the state, installation of modern laboratory equipment for quality control and the installation of automated teller water machines for ease of delivery for this once scare resource.
The water supply initiative did not stop at the capital as the governor was particularly more interested in water supply to the rural areas. Under the water supply initiative, over 250 boreholes have been sunk in 250 communities across the state. The rescue intervention on water has placed the state at the forefront of water supply achievement so much so it came out tops as the best in the provision of water supply out of the seven states selected out of the 36 Nigerian states for water provision. This is no small feat for a state that, three years ago, was probably on the last rung of the ladder regarding water supply in Nigeria. Now water that was scare is now available across the state at the turn of a tap. Today Taraba is, literally, awash in water.
In villages after villages, across the state, pictures of women and children fetching water with ease can be observed, amazement on their faces on seeing water readily available and flowing freely just by operating a pump. Before this water rescue, women and children walked for kilometers to fetch from streams and rivers, which were not always flowing as they tended to dry up during the dry season. This is in addition to being unhygienic. Today, water supplied to the state for consumption goes through strenuous quality control checks to ensure that what comes out of the tap is clean, ready to consume water.
Water is probably cheapest thing in the Taraba state. The state is the only Nigerian state that has deployed automated teller water machine and water dispensed from this machine cost N0.03kobo per liter (less than 1cent).
Commissioning of the Magami Roads Network by General T. Y. Danjuma.
Prior to the administration of Darius Ishaku, the healthcare delivery situation in Taraba state had almost reached a near state of emergency. The state had only one Specialist Hospital which wasn't even operating at optimal level as it had almost no equipment to justify its status as a specialist hospital. The other general hospitals were mere consulting clinics. A minor medical incident anywhere in the state would require the patient travelling over bad roads to those hospitals. The poor state of affairs of healthcare delivery was one challenge Governor Ishaku noticed during his electioneering campaign. On assuming office, the paucity of funds confronted him and his plan to give the state's health sector a total revamped was almost derailed.
It took a whole lot of creative thinking and good old Lady Luck to put the state's health sector the better stead that it is today. With funding the major issue, the only viable and most cost-effective option was to take one hospital in each of the state's three senatorial districts and revive them. So, one hospital in Wukari in the south of the state was chosen as was another in Gembu and a third in Bambur in the north. A little bit of funding was found, and renovation work began on the hospitals. Today hospital renovation/construction project in Wukari has been completed and the hospital is fully equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment and has been inaugurated. Work on the Gembu and Bambur projects is nearing completion and the two will soon be commissioned.
The twin challenge of water and power - which are usually major issues in most government-operated hospitals in Nigeria - at the Wukari hospital would not be an issue going by what is available on ground at the medical complex. Three new boreholes have been sunk to complement the existing ones while solar power and new generators will complement power supply from the national grid and serve as standby so the issue of no water or power disruption does not arise in the Wukari hospital. The implication is that the normal excuse of no medical personnel on call or lack of water or power will not hinder first class healthcare delivery in Wukari. With medical personnel on call 24-hours with the necessary tools available to give the best healthcare, the Wukari hospital, for now, is the pearl of Taraba's health sector.
Staffing the Wukari hospital also requited a little bit of creative thinking. Governor Ishaku told Africa Today that with the work nearing completion "We suddenly found out that to get qualified doctors and nurses was a problem. So, what I did was to ask my Commissioner of Health to advertise for those doctors who have retired and are not yet tired. I asked him to get me a consultant surgeon, consultant physician, consultant pediatrician and a consultant gynecologist. If we had all these four professionals, any other consultant was an addition." With an excellent remuneration package and other mouth-watering benefits including housing and transport, the Wukari hospital got the best in medical professionals and is, today, staffed by competent people in specialised areas in medicine who live on hospital grounds. It is this strategy that will be used in the other hospitals once renovation work is completed.
Deputy Governor Haruna Manu (left), General T. Y. Danjuma (2nd left), Governor Darius Ishaku, Mrs Ishaku, PDP Chair Kona, and Senator Lau at the road commissioning
While government was giving detailed attention to providing quality healthcare, Lady Luck, with all her charms, bestowed an unexpected dose of good luck on the state's health sector. The T.Y Danjuma Foundation, an independent philanthropic organisation committed to improving quality of life of disadvantage children, commissioned the Danjuma Maternity hospital. Situated on six hectares of land donated by government, the aim of the hospital is to provide enhanced delivery of maternal and perinatal services to people in its primary location and environs. This is a major addition to Governor Ishaku's effort to bring the state's health system to modern standard.
As regards drugs, the state has spent over N150 million for the procurement of quality drugs, established the Primary Health Care Development Agency to monitor the sector. In addition, it has built various cottage hospitals and comprehensive health centers to serve as the first contact with patients. Because of the state's excellent work in healthcare delivery, Taraba was one of the states selected from Nigeria to go to Rwanda for better understanding of healthcare delivery. Rwanda has some of the best healthcare facilities in Africa.
Under Ishaku, there has been a boom in infrastructure development in Taraba state. The rescue mission's focus on infrastructure has led to the construction of government buildings including housing estates, township roads construction with effective drainage systems, erosion control in the Gembu area, urban beautification including restoration of landmarks and provision of solar power streetlights and rural electrification. However, it is in road construction that the rescue intervention is felt more.
Hand water boreholes dot the villages. The people are amazed by the provision of clean water for them by the Governor Ishaku administration
Crisis-crossing Taraba state today is now easy because of the impressive road network that now traverses the state. Road construction and rehabilitation is a major priority for the Ishaku administration. As such, not only are new roads built, existing ones, which include neglected federal roads, are improved and upgraded at considerable cost. The road development is not limited to the urban areas. Various rural roads have also been built and improved upon. As at the last count, over N29 billion has been spent on various roads projects and the result are there to see.
Among the road projects executed by the Ishaku administration are: the Jalingo-Kona road, Takum-Katsina-Ala road, the Jalingo-Abuja phase 2 road and reconstruction of Jolly Nyame road in Jalingo, among others. Other ongoing major road projects include the 230-kilometre Bali-Serti-Gembu road, the Wukari-Tsokondi road (30km) and the Pantisawa-Yorro road (20km). Overall 350 km of road newly constructed and rehabilitated roads have been executed by the Ishaku administration.
As a past federal minister of power, Governor Ishaku knows the importance and the economic gain of communities having electricity. Today various communities including Monkin, Yakoko and Kunini have been linked to the national grid. However, it is at the Mambilla plateau that the effect of electrification is being felt the most. Located there is the 400KW Tunga dam hydro power plant. The plant's commissioning has transformed the area and brought a new lease of life to the once sleepy community. As a result of the power plant, the Mambilla Beverages Ltd, makers of Highland Tea, have been revitalised and over 10,000 citizens living on the Mambilla plateau now have electricity all day long. In fact, Governor Ishaku said the rustic communities on the Mambilla plateau enjoy more electricity than the country's urban areas including Abuja!
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