By Nnamdi Odumody
The Northern Eastern Savannah region of Nigeria is a region which spans 30.8 percent of Nigeria’s landmass, with Chad Republic to the East, Niger Republic to the North and shares boundaries with Jigawa, Kano and Kaduna States to its NorthWest, and Plateau and Benue States to its SouthWest. With 15.3 percent of Nigeria’s total population, it has a density of 96 people per square kilometer compared to the national average of 219 people per square kilometer which has made it the most sparsely populated region in the country. Its life expectancy is 46 years which is the least in the country and GDP per capita of 171,000 naira is also the least in the country.
These factors coupled with a shrinking Lake Chad has forced herdsmen who depend on it for survival of their cattle to migrate down to other regions, and the Boko Haram menace which has plagued the region, for over 10 years, has compounded its woes, making it to contribute less to national productivity as investors will not invest in a place where insecurity is the order of the day.
But in this troubled zone, Gombe State under the visionary leadership of Dr Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, a former Accountant General of the Federation, has been transformed to the beautiful bride of the region despite receiving the second least federal allocation of all the states.
On resumption of office on May 29 2011, he declared Education as one of his cardinal objectives. He constructed over 502 classrooms across the state and recruited over 1,000 degree and NCE graduates into the state’s educations sector and then trained over 5,000 teachers to increase their productivity. To boost access to tertiary education for the citizens of his state, he established Gombe State University of Science and Technology (Kumo), College of Education (Billiri), Gombe State Polytechnic Bajoja which will provide manpower to the Lafarge Cement owned Ashaka Cement manufacturing company, and College of Legal and Islamic Studies Nafada. These institutions are equipped with modern facilities such as e-libraries, e-learning centres, ICT Centres, laboratories, expansive and conducive classes, etc. Also 25 indigenes of the state were sponsored by him to India and the United Kingdom for Maritime Studies.
In Healthcare he upgraded the Urban Maternity in Idi to a Children and Women Hospital, completed a newly constructed Dialysis Centre within the Gombe Specialist Hospital, constructed College of Nursing and Midwifery at Dukku, Snake Bite Treatment and Research Centre, Kaltungo to tackle the prevalent scourge of snake bites in his state, and other parts of the region. Patients from Cameroon even come down to Gombe to receive treatment at the centre.
To make his state a destination for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions, he constructed a 3,500 capacity Gombe International Conference Centre. This conference centre is currently ranked among the top three in the country with state of the art facilities and a parking space for 2,000 vehicles at a go to make your event memorable. Also, he built a state of the art tankers parking bay to prevent accidents caused by indiscriminate parking of petroleum trucks which Lagos can learn from. Lagos continues to experience paralyses petroleum tankers perpetuated on its roads especially in Apapa axis and environs.
To tackle the scourge of youth restiveness which was prevalent in his state with the Kalare Boys, he established Talba Youths Reorientation and Rehabilitation Programme which saw over 1200 of them being turned to become useful citizens in the society. Also repentant Boko Haram members are de-radicalized and trained in different skills in Gombe. Over 3200 youths have been trained by his administration in six different professions at the four skills acquisition centres located across the state. A total of 330 supervisors were trained at the Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre in Jos, and over 1500 youths were recruited to serve as traffic, environmental and security marshals in Gombe.
In Social Security he empowered 1500 poorest of the poor through the Conditional Cash Transfer and also for the physically challenged beggars in the state with cash, and making sure they send their dependants who assist them to school.
To also boost Job creation in his state, he established in conjunction with private investors, the first tricycle assembly plant in Nigeria while Gombe has been earmarked as one of states that will have a Special Economic Zone for the North Eastern Region due to its peaceful environment as part of the Federal Government’s plan to diversify the economy through industrialization.
The crisis-ridden states of Northern Nigeria and some in the South should learn from the Jewel Of The Savannah why peace is the foundation for sustainable development.