Billy Graham Abel Yola
In the last few years, Adamawa State has been in the eye of the storm with seven of its local governments in the Northern part of the state heavily pummeled by the Boko Haram insurgency and its local governments in the Southern part of the state became a happy hunting ground for some gunmen. Secretary to the Adamawa State Government, Bashir Ahmed revealed the above and more in this interview.
This administration would be clocking almost a year since coming into the office, and you came into power on the wings of a popular campaign mantra of Fresh Air, how would you say this mantra has shaped the policies and programmes and the running of this government even up to this moment.
I will thank you very much for this very specific audience and yes fresh air is a slogan we used during the campaign and the governor of Adamawa State, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, rightly chose that mantra after considering a lot of other options for his campaigns after weighing the level of developmental struggles in the state, the horrible state of the economy and the level of insecurity in the state over a sustained period of time, which have stifled citizens.
There were some kind of high level of suffocation and there was obviously the need for a fresh breath into the system and lives of our people.
And if you are to give anyone a new lease of life, what he requires first is the puff of fresh air and that was how the slogan was arrived at.
And lo and behold, we looked at it and saw how we can place it on the fulcrum of developmental strategy of the state.
Like I said before, practically all the socio- economic facets of the state had been grounded, so it became true that whichever aspect of state you intended to improve, it would almost most certainly be requiring a new lease of life and it is not just one aspect but almost all aspects of the socio-economic lives of citizens.
As such, fresh air was infused into all of the socio-economic sectors of the state in terms of education, health, infrastructure, agriculture, youth empowerment, women development, because all these sectors have been grounded and every aspect that we were able to revive, it was actually the bringing of some breathe of life into it.
So, fresh air was the slogan for campaign, and also fresh air was or has been used as a way to actually drive policy and strategic development plans for the state
But looking critically into the issues of a strategic development of Adamawa, why was it important to prioritise and place premium on education, because right from the onset of this government, education is one of its key focal points?
A philosopher once said, that ‘No community will develop beyond the level of its education.” I began this interview by telling you that our review of the socio-economic development of the state at the beginning of campaign shows, that Adamawa is at a level far below what it should be.
So, we decided that if we are to bring development to the state and then one of the most important things we needed to do for our community is human capital development.
And the best form of human capital development is to educate the folks. And looking at the state, Adamawa is one of the states that have a group of highly educated individuals.
So, we’ve always been rated among the most educated states in Northern Nigeria or Nigeria as a whole. But the population is so large that those educated, compared to those that are not, is skewed negatively.
The children of the low and middle class citizens in the state are not getting a fare share of education because their parents cannot afford to pay for private schools.
So, we have marked out education as a priority, with the goal of getting the neglected public schools up and running again in order that the children of the common man and those of our village residents will be able to attend good primary schools and also good secondary Schools wherever they are and obtain a universally standard basic quality of learning from primary schools and then get a good, solid foundation in education at the secondary school levels too.
This is the only way we can create a civilised society and with a level playing field for everyone. The intention is give every son of Adamawa, that awesome opportunity to compete favourably with the children of those that are in the upper middle class and the higher class, because that is how it is in all civilised societies around the world.
Because life is not going to separate between the haves and the have nots and it is the responsibility of government to bring them at par with opportunity to education for all.
So, we placed priority on education because it is in a fulcrum position in changing lives and empowering the individuals for a better life.
This, we see, is a responsibility that must be done, and it can only be done by government that knows how to develop human capacity
Towards this government marking its one year in office, generally speaking, what would you enumerate as the difference this government has made since coming to office?
I think one thing that as a government under Governor Fintiri, that I would say that we’ve been able to do remarkably, is rebuilding trust and confidence of the citizens in government and governance.
We have been able to match words with actions and have brought back to the people that believe that a government they voted is good enough to stand for their welfare and dignity.
As said before, there are quite an enormous job being done in primary schools, quite a number of great work are being implemented in secondary Schools and a whole lot will be done in the Health sector and agricultural sector.
There are some silent achievements that have been recorded by this government in security and economy.
But before this administration took over, the Adamawa state government used to borrow a minimum of N2.5 billion every month to be able to pay salaries.
But through prudent and astute management of resources by the Fintiri-led government, this practice has been stopped.
Since this government came into power, we have not borrowed a single kobo to pay salaries.
And this Government under the leadership of Ahmadu Fintiri, has vowed never to borrow for any recurrent expenditure.
This is a milestone achievement that you can’t see on ground but that single move has displayed transparency and changed the economic landscape of this state.
This government has been able to reschedule loan repayments on overdraft and long term loans in such a way that the repayment does not bite hard on the funds available for physical development.
This administration has been able to raise the entire internally generated revenue profile of the state to almost two and half to three times what it used to be, and we are still moving forward.
This administration is a government that is focused on both physical and social economic development of the state.
And we have done that, we are still doing it, and urge citizens to keep faith in us to take Adamawa to a greater height.
We want them to keep the faith that what we have promised in the area of education, Health, infrastructure (in terms of both rural and urban roads), agriculture, women and youth empowerment, security and the economy, these are the areas that at the end of the tenure of this administration, we would as citizens of Adamawa stand to be counted among those states that have developed these parts of their lives.
You are the chairman of the COVID 19 containment committee, and we cannot conclude this interview without talking about it. How were you able to do the magic and keep the virus from spreading the way it has been going in other places?
I think first we owe all gratitude to almighty allah because He has shown mercy on us mercy in the sense that He did not visit us with the Coronavirus ailment.
But early at the beginning of the outbreak, God has allowed us to get ready for it and when Coronavirus came, it met us fairly prepared to handle it.
This is because our amiable governor, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri is the first in the whole of Northern Nigeria to set up an isolation center, and this is being proactive.
Proactive in the sense that at the time when many people believed Coronavirus was a falacy, our governor was able to look ahead and say Coronavirus is an ailment that if we’re not prepared, will actually take us by surprise.
He set up an isolation center and later inaugurated the containment committee.
We were among the first states to set up and inaugurate a containment committee in Nigeria.
So, it places us in good speed to actually do some studies and also prepare.
So, we had quite a number of alerts which initially were negative but when we finally got the index case in Yola North, that again jolted everyone, both citizens and us members of the committee, that ok, now it is true, we have it here with us.
But the good thing is that Adamawa citizens, not withstanding our population are a highly enlightened society.
So people were disciplined enough to stay and carry out the measures that were instructed, regular washing of hands with soap, the use of face mask is a recent thing because we have to make it a law but people obeyed to a large extend, social distancing and physical distancing that were preached.
And these are the three main measures that we adopted, to be able to keep our society free of this ailment; the regular washing of hands with soap and when you can, with alcohol based hand sanitizer, social distancing and the wearing of face mask.
Once you adhere to this, to a large extent you will keep Coronavirus far away from the community.
The second thing that has worked naturally for us is the nature of our settlements.
We are a people that live sparsely. We are not compacted in one place. So it is very easy to maintain social distance.
Not just the individual, but even the dwellings and so it was naturally, we were ahead in containing the virus.
That is why when this thing came first in Yola North, an urban center, fortunately it was not even from a citizen that has been here.
He is a traveler who came from Kano. He came with the symptoms, he knew he had it because we picked him just three days after he came to town. And to show you that it has not been an ailment that has been here, of all the contacts of that index case, none was found positive. Not even his friend that drove him from Kano to Yola.
All of them were negative. The only place where we had issues was Mubi. Because the index case in Mubi is a medical doctor.
So naturally because he is a point of convergence of different people from different parts of the area including Kano, it was possible for others to contract the disease.
So, of the contacts we traced around him, about ninety four, about seven or eight were found positive, all in all which spread to Hong area Hildi, so, Mubi appeared to be the hot bed, the epicenter for us and we were even considering setting up an isolation center at Mubi general hospital.
We went there last week, inspected and came back. But as God will have it, with what we are seeing now, the trend is drastically going down, we have stabilized the curve for the past three to four days, we never picked even a sample because there are even no alerts.
For all the contacts that we have traced, we have picked them. The once we need the samples, we have obtained them and out of almost 200 samples that we have collected in Yola north, Numan, Ganye, Toungo, Jada, lamurde, Gombi, Hong, Mubi, Madagali, out of all these locations, we only had 21 patients so far, out of which 13 have discharged as at today.