Now that the euphoria of inauguration is over, the people of Taraba are keenly watching to see if he would hit the ground running with his promise of ‘rescuing Taraba’.
Ishaku had, on his campaign tours across the 16 local government areas of the state, assured the people he would ‘rescue Taraba’ from its socioeconomic, infrastructural and security challenges if voted in.
Hence, the people expect the administration of Governor Ishaku to give topmost priority to the issue of security, given the fact that violent clashes within the southern and central zones of the state had left many dead, properties destroyed with scores of people displaced.
Many people from communities in Wukari, Gassol, Bali and Takum who lost their homes and sources of livelihood to herdsmen attacks and communal clashes are now living as refugees in their own state.
These set of people want the new government to rehabilitate and return them to their original places of abode so as to begin normal lives again.
Catholic Bishop of Jalingo, Most Rev. Charles Hammawa, said the new government must give attention to the issue of security, peaceful coexistence, reconciliation and rehabilitation of internally displaced persons in the state, amongst others.
“Government generally is supposed to look after her own people in all spheres of life, but we can say at one point or the other, there would be priority. So, in my personal opinion, I will say for Taraba State, his first point of focus should be to restore peace and stability in the state. I think we have had an undue share of troubles; whether they are considered ethnic, religious or political. It has not helped Taraba State and for me, let him work towards that.”
“We need to restore peace, and as it has been said always, no meaningful development can take place if there is no peace. So, while the governor tries to settle debts staring the state in the face, pay teachers salaries, settle the state university lecturers to call off their strike, I think peace is the number one issue amidst all these challenges,” he said.
Another area the new administration must look into is the issue of high debt burden bequeathed by the outgone administration which has grounded virtually all facets of the state.
The situation in Taraba before the coming on board of Governor Ishaku can be likened to that of a sinking ship in dire need of rescuers.
Many sectors of the state economy are now at standstill due to the high debt profile incurred by the last administration.
Contractors handling various projects in the state, especially the N17 billion Bali-Gashaka-Gembu road construction, have since moved their equipment due to non payment of contract fees.
The financial situation of the state became so precarious that government had to depend on bank loans and overdrafts to be able to pay workers’ salaries.
The debt burden of the state is put at over N22 billion even as the monthly statutory allocation to the state has continued to dwindle with low internally generated revenues (IGRs).
Speaking on the debt burden of the state, Commissioner for Finance, Emmanuel Gowon, said the new administration would not find it easy at the start but expressed hope that things will stabilize in the long run.
He said to ensure that salaries were paid, government at a point had to negotiate with banks to convert a N7.5 billion debt of overdrafts into a term loan for a duration of 20 months.
Governor Ishaku in his inaugural address to the people acknowledged that the task of governing the state and meeting their expectations in the months ahead would be tough under the present situation, calling for support and patience from the people.
“With these realities stumbling over each other, it indicates a crisis. With these looming crises on the horizon, it will be impossible to attain the vision; it will be impossible to accomplish the promises; and it will be improbable to rescue Taraba until and unless we put all hands on deck to surmount these challenges that are genuine, serious and numerous,” he said.
With the ugly financial situation of the state, expectations are that Governor Ishaku must, as a matter of priority, fashion out ways of boosting the internally generated revenues to bring the state out of its precarious financial condition.
In the same vein, people of the state want Ishaku to quickly address the issue of labour unions currently on strike in the state over non payments of salaries and allowances due to them.
For over three months, students of the Taraba State University have been forced to stay at home following the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in the institution over unpaid allowances.
Observers say if nothing is done to ensure students return to classrooms, they would occupy themselves with social vices which will not augur well for the state.
Judicial workers in the state under the auspices of Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) have also been on strike for over five months over issues bordering on financial autonomy for the judiciary.
Workers at the state owned newspaper, The Nigeria Sunrise, who are being owed over seven months salaries want the new administration to pay them and also ensure the newspaper resumes publication.
Water supply has remained a serious challenge for people of Taraba over the years. Many of the people who depend on private boreholes and water vendors to meet their daily water need, expect the new administration to focus on providing potable water for the state.
The health sector in Taraba deserves to be given attention, especially improvement in access to health facilities, equipping health centers with adequate health personnel in the rural areas and improving maternal and infant health.
The education sector also needs to be given attention by the new administration especially in the recruitment of qualified teachers and provision of school structures/learning materials.
The army of unemployed youths in the state expect the new government to create more jobs and empowerment opportunities just as the women and people with disabilities also want to be given due consideration under this administration.
Constructions of feeder roads, building of bridges and overall provision of infrastructural and social amenities across the state, no doubt are the things people of Taraba expect from Ishaku’s administration in the months ahead.
Given the low internally generated revenue in the state, Ishaku has been advised to explore the untapped potential of the Mambilla Beverage Company so as to make it a big source of revenue generation for the state.
Besides, the moribund Taraba State Transport Corporation (TSTC) and other comatose government concerns could equally be revamped to serve as a means of revenue earnings for the state.
Observers believe that the multi-million naira ultra modern market built by former governor Jolly Nyame in the state, if put to use will boost economic activities in the state and generate more revenue for government.
Stakeholders also suggest that the Taraba State Board of Internal Revenue must be overhauled and all loopholes plugged to ensure that all revenues generated are actually remitted to government to enhance rapid development in the state.
“Obviously, the new administration of Ishaku has got a lot to do to fix the state and as such, he must get the right kind people that will work along with him in his rescue mission to Taraba,” a stakeholder observed.
He must resist the temptation of recycling into his cabinet, the same set of people that failed to deliver the much needed dividends of democracy during the previous administration as that will not help in his ‘rescue mission’.
The three appointments the governor has made so far have been greeted with criticisms by the people and as such, he must watch out in his subsequent appointments because those in his cabinet will, to great extent, decide whether he will succeed or fail.
Ishaku in his inaugural speech gave hope to the people of Taraba, adding that he would harness all the untapped potentials of the state to meet the development needs of the state.
“This administration will harness the potentials and endowments in agriculture, tourism and commerce and industries, as well as pay attention to education, health, water and sanitation and strategic infrastructure, using leverage from development partners and engaging public-private-partnership (PPP) options, to enhance this pursuit.
“As we depart from this arena today, I charge you to go forth and tell your kinsmen that we are on a rescue mission. Together, we will rescue Taraba State from the stranglehold of illiteracy, disease, poverty, unemployment and social vices. Together we will rescue Taraba State from the inertia and ineptitude that has held all our potentials and natural endowments hostage for over two decades; together, we will rescue Taraba State from our financial misery; and together, we will rescue Taraba State from the clutches of ethno-religious hatred, nepotism and cronyism,” Ishaku said.
Observers are now watching to see how Ishaku will turn into tangible reality, all the great promises he made during his campaigns as well as those he made in his inaugural speech on May 29.