Mr. Emmanuel Bello a young but experienced journalist with varied experiences at the senior editorial level at some of the nation’s leading newspapers including Daily Trust, Leadership among others is the Commissioner of Information, Culture and Home Affairs in Taraba State. Bello who was before now the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor in this interview previews the agenda of the new administration in Taraba State led by Gov. Danbaba Suntai.
The opposition has alleged that the election that returned Governor Suntai to power was rigged. What is your reaction?
That is their charge and so they have to prove it. But just as it was in the presidential election, this was one of the most transparent elections I have ever seen in my life. There were many factors at play but in the end, what helped the people to make up their mind for Suntai was his performance. The people were particularly impressed with his effort at providing peace and security.
What is your assessment of the new cabinet just announced by Governor Suntai?
He did well. His choice was based on what each one of us will bring to the table as we strive to build Taraba together. Governor Suntai loves Taraba and has continued to place the state above his own desire or persona. He is probably the only governor in Nigeria who does not make Abuja his home. He is always flying back to Jalingo after every engagement in Abuja as his demonstration of his love for Taraba people. So when he picked his team, service to Taraba was paramount on his mind and he carried out the posting knowing that he would achieve result for the people. That wasn’t how it was done in the past.
In those days, people got appointed based on some primordial reasons like who you know and what not. But the current governor is a practical man. His selection was squarely based on scientific postulations. Of course, the names came in from the stakeholders, but it was the governor who took the final decision based on the competence of each one of us. Even the people feel good about his choice and they have demonstrated this by continually hailing his choices both at the commissioners and other aides’ levels.
Already, our people believe that this team will deliver. You have to know that on his first meeting with us, the governor thoroughly touched our hearts. He told us to eschew sudden wealth. He practically preached to us, telling us that if we don’t put the people first in all our dealings he would be forced to reconsider our appointment. It was a touching moment, because he told us point blank that amassing wealth is vanity. He urged to embrace contentment and look forward to leaving our mark on the history of the state. Now, when you are working with someone like that; someone who respects transparency and decency, well you know the administration is set to be different.
There are complaints that the governor is not taking the opposition along and that he is rewarding only those who worked for him.
No, the governor is getting faithful people in place. He gave the parable of the talent as contained in the Holy Writs. He said that he would do the same thing that is reward every one according to his or her work. He is not speaking only of people’s work as politicians, but also their contribution at work. You were given a job to do. So have you done it well?
Are you ripe for elevation? Will you do it with all of your heart?
That is the sort of thing he is working on. And I believe it makes perfect sense to reward people who have worked for a cause and who stand out in their field. This is how to encourage excellence.
How much do you think your team can really accomplish?
You know, the governor had already achieved much in his first term. If you knew Jalingo- the state capital- and how it was, then compared it with what we have now you would better appreciate what I’m saying. Jalingo used to be a one road town. That is one road came into the town and went out the other. It was just horrible. Today, Jalingo is fast catching up with the rest of the country as a befitting capital, complete with street lights all over the place. We now have many roads criss-crossing the city.
He did all that in three years of effective governance. Yet some folks had been there for the last twelve years and had nothing to show for it. Elsewhere in the state, the governor also started opening up roads. Like the Mararaba-Kurmi road. For years, the people from that part had nothing but tears and woes from the bad road there. Immediately he came in, Suntai opened that road. In education, he was the governor who gave the state its first university. The federal government also gave us a university.
Overnight, our dear Taraba had two universities. We were almost in tears. We remembered when we used to travel very far for university education. Now our sons and daughters can stay back home and get a good certificate. It was Suntai who revolutionised the civil service in Taraba by improving on the welfare of the workers. When he came some permanent secretaries didn’t even have a means of transport. He changed all that. He gave them befitting offices and better rides.
That was in the past. What can you people do now?
I was coming to that. The point is that if Suntai achieved all that in a matter of two to three years with all the troubles of his first tenure, you can imagine the good we would do to Taraba people in the next four years. Already his first action in office is to approve the construction of the Garba-Shede road. Once that road is fixed, it would link up over fourteen local government areas with the state capital and as far as Adamawa state. That is the sort of visionary leadership he is giving the state.
He is also thinking of giant stride in tourism, culture, information and other sectors. So our people can expect more roads, more rural electrification projects and all the other indices of development.