By Ismaila Uba Misilli
It was the Scottish writer, Thomas Carlyle, who famously stated that the history of the world is but the biography of great men, reflecting his belief that heroes shape history through both their personal attributes and divine inspiration. But Carlyle had only popularized ‘The great man theory’, an idea which explains history via the impact of great men or heroes on society.
For obvious reasons, the above represents a fitting narrative of the life of Gombe State Governor, Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, as he turns 59 today, 9th October.
As we rejoice with him on this historic day even as we also pay attention to his enviable public service and altruism, we are confronted with the remarkable impact which an individual could make in regenerating society.
And expectedly, politics and governance have dominated his public persona in recent times as many know him mainly as a politician without acknowledging him as an astute technocrat who served for a considerable period in the old Bauchi State civil service rising to the position of Principal Accountant and later as a trailblazing Commissioner of Finance in the administration of then Governor Danjuma Goje.
For me as a close observer of this ingenious man from Jekadafari ward, we cannot fully evaluate his current standing without recourse to his solid academic background as a brilliant accounting graduate from Ahmadu Bello University and vast experience in both private and public sectors, garnering in the process, a diversified knowledge base which have been most useful in leadership positions especially as Governor of Gombe State.
Since he took over office in 2019, Governor Yahaya 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. Everything has, however, worked as planned.
It is important to reckon with the tough realities he met on assumption of office, a situation which required some realistic stand on the urgent need for reforms, and a basic step that had since led to the expected renewal in the state. From cleaning the proverbial Augean stable by instituting a pragmatic ethical standard and integrity in the governing process, building requisite institutions, thereby overcoming the profligacy of the past to the spectacular civil service reform and policies and programmes, it was too clear to the governor the right route to foster efficiency and enhance qualitative and result-oriented services to the people of Gombe State. Of course, this became imperative for instilling probity, public accountability and transparency required in any modern administration if government were to be effective and efficient. This is also the basis for public trust in a democracy.
Although he is still running the course of his first term in office, the record of achievements in relation to his campaign promises is giving hope to a greater future he has always said his administration embodies, particularly in the areas of education, health, infrastructure, security, agriculture, water provision, job creation and responding vigorously to the enviromental degradation and challenge of climate change in the state.
In achieving on these issues, one strategy he has employed aside some fundamental home-grown development initiatives has been exploring ways and means of creating and strengthening ties with development partners.
Of course, partnership is a strategic step in contemporary development thinking, considering the fact that Gombe is not a rich state in relative terms coupled with the pressing economic and financial challenges even before the Covid-19 pandemic threw most local and international economies off balance with the attendant development constraints.
So far, Governor Yahaya, symbolically, seems in good stead with these partners cutting across multilateral organizations, government agencies, ministries and parastatals as well as renowned foundations and thereby making Gombe State a sort of preferred destination of development partners.
It is noted here that government and governance generally can be enhanced by bringing it into partnership with other critical stakeholders and upholding some basic policies that can encourage public investments. In this regard, the core as the Gombe State experience has shown is that government’s involvement in partnerships is predicated on the benefits of strengthening social capital. Issuing from the foregoing are two premises of interest: that government has the potential to institutionalize sustainable development in ways that few other organizations can manage and that government also has the potential to do this on a large scale. However, there’s a caveat here: government must exhibit a sound organization and responsibility to attract partnerships.
This is the propelling force behind Governor Inuwa Yahaya’s almost restless engagement with such development partners as the UN, UNICEF, USAID, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Taj Bank, NDE, ECN, Ministries of Agriculture, Environment, Water Resources, Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and Communication. Among others are the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT), Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), SDGs and most recently the Nigerian Airforce.
A common thread binding all these partnerships is that they are crucial in the strategic interest and development concerns of Gombe State and in consonance with the government’s central vision of service delivery to the people.
For example, from UNICEF and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a lot of help had come for the good health of Gombe children, where like in most parts of the country, a vast number are vulnerable but receiving some good attention. Similar collaboration is playing out in the Ministry of Agriculture where Gombe has keyed into all federal government’s agricultural programmes and projects for the benefit of farmers and the entire citizenry. Closely related here is the new partnership with the Taj Bank, a non-interest financial institution setting up a branch in Gombe which could boost financial inclusion and unlocking opportunities especially in agricultural development and small scale enterprises.
Collaboration to strengthen social inclusion and protection programme at home, support to strengthen social safety net and poverty reduction had also led Governor Yahaya to the Humanitarian Affairs Minister, the UN Resident Coordinator (RC) and Humanitarian Coordinator (HC), Mr. Edward Kallon and SDGs offices in Abuja respectively where very positive resolutions were made to support the cause of development in Gombe State. The governor was particularly delighted that the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has thrown its weight behind the state’s 10-year (2020-2030) Development Plan and other initiatives aimed at improving human capital development in the state.
Water as a crucial issue in the state is also on the front burner of collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources, with specific support to the second Gombe regional water projects which will ensure effective work on the Balanga Dam, extend support to the Dadinkowa Hydropower project with concomitant effect on the Gombe Industrial Park, urban water supply and improve irrigation farming in the state. Although the ambitious Gombe Goes Green project, now in its second phase, is meant to address the challenge of desertification especially in the northern parts of the state, more efforts are needed like the collaboration with the Environment ministry to tackle the incessant menace of flooding in the state.
While education as a priority has gotten much attention from the state government with strong collaboration from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC)/Better Education Service Delivery (BESDA), Gombe State has also keyed into the Federal Government’s digital economy policy and strategy to deal with its socio-economic challenges as evident in the recent virtual commissioning of eleven projects executed by the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy in the state.
And Governor Inuwa Yahaya’s relentless quest to build partnership has now assured the birth of the Forward Operation Base (FOB) of the Nigerian Airforce in Gombe. At a recent visit to the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Baba Abubakar at the headquarters of the Nigerian Airforce in Abuja, the air chief assured of the plan to set up school, medical facility and special unit in Gombe as part of the FOB package. An elated Yahaya equally assured the airforce high command of the state’s preparedness to receive its men and platforms, noting in particular the relevance of the airforce base in boosting security in the north east.
Clearly Governor Inuwa Yahaya’s partnership drive is affirming a good purpose for achieving the needed transformation in governance, social capital and sustainable development. His focused partnerships are addressing the existing gaps in integrating the various dimensions of development and ensuring full commitment from these partners. However, as hinted earlier, partnerships with such a sundry organizations and in particular those from the private sector can only work as we’ve seen in the Gombe example if there is firm commitment, sound leadership and organization and indeed the expected responsibility. From payment of counterpart funding in some cases to good policies to the critical accountability and transparency, Governor Inuwa Yahaya has demonstrated acute resourcefulness amidst leadership creativity.
Of course, we have to reckon with government’s incentives for private sector to contribute to development priorities. It is recognized that the private sector has acted as a contributor to achieve development by mobilizing resources to support sustainable programmes, fostering inclusive economic growth, creating opportunities for employment and serving as a driver for technology and innovation like the Gombe partnership with NIGCOMSAT. Gleaning from the record of achievements in the various partnerships with Gombe State, it presupposes that this is a viable means through which the state could still make greater progress in the quest for rapid development and this is especially so in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic which has ravaged economies with strains on available resources for development purposes. It is hoped that the pivotal good governance structure which had attracted these partnerships will subsist as a paradigm shift of the Inuwa Yahaya-led administration in Gombe State.
Happy Birthday to a super prudent and uncommon achiever!
Misilli is the Senior Special Assistant to Gombe state Governor on Media and Publicity