Gombe State Commissioner for Information, Hon. Umar Nafada, speaks in this interview with TEMITOPE OGUNBANKE on the Ibrahim Dankwambo-led administration and the clamour for him to contest the 2019 presidential election. Excerpts:
What’s your take on the recently concluded elective national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
From the look of things, the PDP is becoming stronger and stronger. From the convention that took place, members tried to ensure that all differences were resolved. All issues causing challenges within the party are being taken care of by ensuring a transparent convention. Looking at the way it was conducted, you will agree with me that people are beginning to understand that members of the PDP are getting united unlike what happened in the past when due process was not followed in terms of electing officials of the party.
Now that everyone is a witness to what happened at the just concluded convention, where things were done in a transparent manner, it shows that the PDP and its members are willing to ensure that we are united and once unity is achieved, we can truly face the so called ruling party.
Gombe State is one of the two PDP states in the northern part of the country; do you think the popularity and achievements of Governor Ibrahim Dakwambo can still retain the state for the party in 2019?
The answer is yes. I don’t think there is any opposition in Gombe looking at the level of political activities that have taken place in the state since 2011, especially if you look at the margin of the votes given to the PDP and that of the opposition parties in Gombe State.
PDP is the ruling party in Gombe State, and from the way things are going, I don’t think there will be any opposition that can overpower us as far as the PDP is concerned because we are united. We are one PDP and all members of the party are willing to ensure that we win the next election come 2019.
If you look at the way the All Progressives Congress (APC) is doing things in Gombe, you will understand that they are not in any way united. They are fighting each other and that makes them to be in disarray. And how can a party that is in disarray be able to face the ruling party which is the PDP? Although they have the federal government but at the level of this state, I don’t think there is anything they can do because most of them that are in APC today were former PDP members.
In fact, some of them could not add any value when they were still in the PDP. At the end of the day, they just moved out of the party. So, there is nothing to fear. I don’t think they are going to win in 2019; it will never happen in Gombe State.
Governor Dakwambo recently promised to pay N56,000 minimum wage if approved by the federal government; how easy has it been for him to manage the state’s resources in view of the numerous projects so far completed and the low statutory federal allocations accruable to the state?
We all agreed that all over the world there is economic meltdown, which eventually caused the economic challenge especially in African countries and Nigeria particularly because of our sole dependence on oil. That is basically the cause of all the problems, but despite that, Governor Dankwambo is a chartered accountant, an accountant per excellence. He is someone that has the experience of serving in higher capacities.
As a matter of fact, he had worked as the Accountant General of the Federation and he actually worked with three different presidents. He worked with the former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan. Based on that, you will agree with me that this is someone that has a very good financial background and who can manage resources to achieve the desired goals and objectives.
The governor as I am talking to you now has paid workers salaries up to date. Civil servants are paid as and when due. He is such a financially disciplined person and this factor has made it possible for him to ensure that the salaries of civil servants are paid as and when due as well as embarking on several laudable projects.
Can you tell us some the projects?
An example is the construction of the international conference center. We have seen a befitting edifice that was constructed by the present administration which gulped close to about N5 billion. The state government has taken delivery of the project from the contractor after its successful completion.
He didn’t stop at that; he went to establish health institutions because the major priority of this administration is education. That is the major priority of this administration and that is why the governor has embarked on establishing higher institutions across the state in order to fill up the gaps.
He established the College of Legal and Administrative Studies in Nafada, College of Nursing and Midwifery in Duku, College of Education in Ileye, and to sum it all, the establishment of a brand new university which is the University of Science and Technology which has just been established.
The state just got the certificate from the National Universities Commission (NUC) but the structures and everything that are required were on ground even before even securing the certificate for establishment of the university. So, you can see that this is a governor that has the people and the state at heart and the people of Gombe are reaping from his wealth of experience and knowledge. Dakwambo has been practicalizing all that he has studied while he has also taken advantage of all his educational qualifications to manage Gombe State resources.
If you look at the federal allocation that comes to the state, Gombe is the second to the last on the list of the states. The state’s allocation is about the least in the federation but that doesn’t stop His Excellency from embarking on different projects.
The governor has also constructed more than 500 kilometers of roads across the state capital alone while the government has connected many areas and states like Yola, Adamawa, Bauchi and Maiduguri. He has embarked on agricultural revolution in Gombe State by supplying agricultural implements, farm inputs, training of farmers and assisting the farmers with loans.
A group within the PDP is urging the governor to contest the 2019 presidential election. Do you think he has what it takes to lead the nation?
The answer is a definite yes. Presently what Nigeria needs is someone that has a good financial and management background.
If we decide to elect someone without a solid financial background, it will be very difficult for the person to turn around the economy of this nation. It is just like what is happening now, the president, Muhammadu Buhari is someone that is committed, but so many things need to be done to ensure that the economy is revived.
Unfortunately, the government is saying that we are out of recession but go round the town with a questionnaire or have interviews with the people; you will see how people are suffering. A bag of rice is how much now?
They are emphasising on farming now, but at the end of the day, how much is a bag of maize because what we are growing in the country is not sufficient to feed us. All the boarders have been shut, making prices of available food items in the country to go up.
This indirectly is affecting the masses, but if we want to have a leader that has vision; a leader that has financial and economic background; it is someone like Dakwambo that we need to be put in place, so that he can turn around the economy of the country.
I just listed some of the projects that have been achieved by his administration in Gombe State despite the small allocation that comes to us. Look at how this man has been able to manage the scarce resources to actualize our dreams in Gombe State. The constitution has stipulated those who are eligible to contest and to be elected or to be voted into the office as president, and as far as I am concerned, Dakwambo is eminently qualified.
So far, how would you access the Buhari administration?
In some areas, I can attest that he has done well while he needs to put in more efforts in some areas. Actually, more needs to be done in the area of the economy. He needs to revive the economy. His economic team should be beefed up because the economy is still sick and something needs to be done.
In terms of security, those of us from the North are happy with the federal government for its interventions and establishment of North East Development Commission. These are very good initiatives embarked on by the present administration.
But, there is the need to do more work because so many things are not working in line with expectations of the people. In some cases, it’s like the APC has failed the common man. We need to address the issue of hunger and diseases. These are some of the issues bothering Nigerians across the states. People hardly take three square meals because of high cost of foodstuffs. So, the government needs to do something either by importing to support locally produced foodstuffs or any other means of ensuring food security.
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