By Abdullahi Bego
As 2018 rolled in and the Gaidam administration positions itself to turbo-charge Yobe’s economy for even better service delivery, the people of the state can look back on the preceding year as one in which the prospects for a brighter future were reaffirmed.
With a record 82 percent budget implementation rate by the state government – and its evidence in the people’s lives – 2017 will go down as a tipping-point year in the annals of Yobe’s socio-economic recovery. First, the economic recession in which the country was stuck for most of the year was a pivotal, defining moment. The recession depleted the nation’s revenue earnings and meant that many states across the country, at some point, were unable to meet certain basic obligations to their people, including their obligation to their workers who are at the front and centre of every service delivery effort. With less going into workers’ pockets, local businesses took a hit, with many of them finding it hard to replenish their inventories.
How Governor Gaidam successfully navigated the state through that difficult period still puzzles many keen observers of the state’s socio-economic development. The governor, for instance, not only did not take any bank loans to finance expenditures such as salary payments, he achieved visible impact in the lives of the people while never slowing down on the projects he was executing. Projects in healthcare, road construction, school renovation and expansion, water supply in communities across state, etc., were carried on with unbelievable consistency and panache.
Part of this has to do with his background as an accountant and auditor who knows what it takes to maintain a balanced sheet but most of it is about his commitment to the values of transparency and accountability in the conduct of government business. These ensured that the governor remained faithful to the provisions of the 2017 budget and the budgets before that; they ensured that he measured every single move that the government makes according to the strength of its purse and this resulted in never making any expenditure or spending unless he was sure the government could properly finance it. As a consequence of these measures, Yobe emerged stronger. In healthcare, for example, 2017 marked the formal opening to the public of the brand new Yobe State University Teaching Hospital (YUTH) that Governor Gaidam built. The government recruited more than 500 doctors, nurses and other professionals to work in the hospital well ahead of the commencement of clinical services. The year also marked the completion of most of the rehabilitation and expansion works carried out in major government hospitals across the state. It marked the procurement and installation of new and badly needed equipment that those hospitals in Gashu’a, Gaidam, Potiskum and Damaturu need to provide quality services to the people in those areas. It marked the start and completion of the construction of a new College of Medical Sciences complex based inside the Yobe State University campus in Damaturu.
More significantly, the year marked the expansion of Yobe’s drive in maternal and child care, topping the third straight year in which no case of polio was reported throughout the state because of the measures being taken to prevent its resurgence and those of other child-killer diseases. Indices for maternal and child health also improved significantly. In short, in 2017, Yobe’s healthcare sector got better than in the previous year.
Professionals wowed by the governor’s effort to transform a sector so vital to the lives of everyday people expectedly took notice. First, the Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria (SOGON) conferred its honorary membership on the governor for his efforts at improving the health of women and children in the state. Then, two weeks later, the umbrella body of all medical and dental practitioners in the country, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) through its Yobe State branch, followed suit by honoring the governor at a well-attended ceremony in Damaturu.
Outside of the health sector, 2017 was also historic for Yobe’s education sector. It’s the sector that was the hardest hit by Boko Haram violence. So much of Yobe’s education infrastructure was destroyed during those insurgency years by a ragtag army of crazed fanatics who hold fundamentally distorted – and demonstrably wrong – notions about the place of western education in Islam.
As a result of these setbacks, primary and secondary education, for the most part, had to be rebuilt across the state from the ground up. Progress, of course, wasn’t easy. But because of Governor Gaidam’s determination, many primary schools have been rebuilt and expanded and provided with the basic learning tools and supplies that the pupils enrolled in them need.
In secondary education, five secondary schools were selected and worked upon by the Gaidam administration. The schools were totally rebuilt, expanded and furnished with new classrooms, staffroom, hostel and staff quarters, furniture, laboratory equipment and chemicals, and other vital supplies at over N2.8 billion.
Six more secondary schools are slated to be totally rehabilitated and equipped this year. This means that by the end of 2018, an environment more conducive and more amenable to great teaching and learning would be fully secured for a lot of Yobe’s secondary school students. The preceding year also marked the start of Yobe’s International Cargo Airport project. When completed in November this year, the airport will not only be Yobe’s first, it will be the first of its kind to be wholly dedicated to cargo and freight services in the Norrtheast, a move likely to accelerate business and other economic activities in a region now recovering from so much devastation from Boko Haram attacks.
Governor Gaidam will surely build on these and other milestones of his administration in this ‘legacy’ year. As he nears the end of his eventful two-terms in office and the start of the rest that he so richly deserves, the governor will seek to achieve even more impact on the lives of the people by, amongst others, completing ongoing projects and starting new ones. He will consolidate on his feats in security, healthcare, education, water supply, agriculture and the civil service, amongst others, and make the APC, his political party, an even stronger political platform around which to rally the people.
He has already started the year strong with a donation of vehicles worth N350 million to the military as they make their final push to defeat Boko Haram. He has paid N1.1 billion as gratuities to retired workers. He is saying, by these actions, that 2018 will be as action-packed as the preceding year and the years before that.
Bego writes from Damaturu, Yobe State