By Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo
The Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku believes that for justice and equity, Nigeria should have a president of Igbo extraction in 2023. Among other issues also in this interview, he proffers solutions to the deteriorating security situation in the country and the growing tension between herdsmen and farmers in the Southwest.
You have just returned from a medical trip abroad and this is the beginning of a new fiscal year. What should the people expect?
Let me first of all commend the media in the state for being so objective so far. I hope you will continue on this path as we continue to strive for excellence. First of all, I would want the people to continue to believe in my administration that we will deliver on our promises and implement the budget religiously to make sure that our people get the best from this administration.
What is your take on the growing tension between herdsmen and farmers in the South West?
You will recall that we had serious issues between herdsmen and farmers here also and that led to the law prohibiting open grazing to encourage the establishment of ranches which is a better system of cattle rearing. We also dialogued with both parties at various levels and the robust discussions guided us in the decisions we eventually took to ease the tension. What needs to be done is to create a platform for discussion. This is not something that can be forced because like it or not, we must all live together as a country. We must do everything to protect the current structure of the country and giving notice that one group should quit a certain section of the country is not going to be good for anyone in the long run. It is a sensitive matter that should be handled with care. I think it is also important for the Federal Government to objectively wade into the issue in a bid to providing lasting solution.
What’s your take on the agitation for a president of South East extraction come 2023?
I think that politics as a recruitment process for political office is number-based. The best thing is for the best person to be given the opportunity to lead irrespective of where they come from. But then our democracy is still at the formation stages, so we cannot just leave things to their normal course. It should be guided. To that extent, I will support rotation because it has been quite helpful in encouraging participation. So yes, the Igbo have a point since they have not been given the opportunity to participate since the beginning of this present political interregnum.
However, I must say that they have not helped themselves either. This is because they have not stopped the agitation for Biafra and whether the elders are involved or not, their inability to stop the youth agitators who do not even know what it means and the experience of the civil war has further complicated their case for many Nigerians. They need to accept that Biafra is no longer tenable and to be trusted with such a high political office, people need to see their patriotism to the nation and not their region.
Having said that, I still maintain that they should be given a chance. But then, I don’t see any region or group relinquishing their right to gun for the presidency to another region. Political parties can have their internal arrangements but that won’t stop candidates from other clans from also contesting. And then again, the Igbo people also need to organize themselves and really go for what they want as one strong unit. You see, they have their own problems too. They compromise quite easily whenever the election process is in force. They should not allow the people to manipulate them because nobody is going to surrender to another zone. It is not going to be that easy.
Do you think the Taraba State governorship seat should be rotated also?
I believe that at the appropriate time, the issues will be put to proper perspective. For now, this administration is seriously focused on delivering the dividends of democracy and not the succession issue.
What is your take on the appointment of new service Chiefs?
This is an exclusive prerogative of the President and we are happy that he has listened to the people and has done the needful in line with the yearning of the people who saw them as having failed to deliver on their mandate. What I will expect from the new Service Chiefs is for them to take the necessary lessons from their predecessors and build on their successes.
So far, what are the projects that are most dear to your heart
All the projects are dear to my heart because we have achieved a milestone more especially in health care sector; today you will agree with me that the cost of medication in the state has reduced drastically and the three zonal hospitals in the state namely Wukari, Bambur and Gembu are all state of the art hospitals and are carrying MRI machines. This makes them more than an average hospital which can handle more serious cases.
Infrastructure has made me so popular today even more than I ever thought especially the dualisation of the road from Welcome to Jalingo through Kpantinapo which comes with a flyover bridge and 6 pedestal bridges attached to it. Talk about the Mararaba Baisa Abong Road, this is also so dear to me; despite all odds, it has kick-started and will be in a sharp shape soon. Pantisawa to Yoro is on lane for completion. Talk about the Wukari Tsukundi Road; this road is being given a qualitative touch and when commissioned, it will stand the test of time. All these roads I hope to commission them before the end of my tenure.
Another area of pride to me is Education; when I came into office, education was less than 30 per cent and I saw it for myself with my two eyes because students were sitting under mango tree to receive lessons, but today, the story is different; we are first in the North and fifth in the country. Our university is ranking among the best in the country with reasonable increase in professors and accredited faculties. This is a plus to us and a thing of pride.
How did you tackle the various crises in the state and what will you do before leaving?
I’m indeed happy with our achievements on this aspect ; when I came on board, the atmosphere was really charged with communal clashes etc. I went to work and began to engage the people. In 2017, the greatest hit came up in Gembu Sardauna LG and I set up a panel and the committee brought in their reports and I decided to go through the reports page by page and finally found the constant which was missing and I initiated a means of bringing these clashes to a final end. I created 6 additional Chiefdoms and a year after a group of Fulani returned to say thank you and since then, there have been absolute peace in the area; this I applied to many other areas and you can attest that peace is gradually finding its roots once again in Taraba.
One thing I won’t stop saying is, there must be a split of the security architecture of the country that is to say, until the security outfits are split possibly into Federal, State, and LG police, there still won’t be a solution to this insecurity rocking our country. Taraba is an agricultural state and with the nature of insecurity in the country, an average Nigerian wont risk his life by putting his agricultural might into practice by going to the farm only not to return. How do you call a state governor the chief security officer of his state when he has no control over a single security establishment or personnel? It is not fair. Until we allow the people to police themselves at the various local levels, we will just be going around the problem of insecurity without really addressing it.
The situation where the people are not allowed to own arms and yet, other people come to their villages armed with sophisticated weapons and murder them and they go free without being arrested is totally unacceptable and must stop. We are also aware that some of the problems are as a result of economic frustrations. That is why we are doing everything within our powers to boost the economic capacity of our people using the meager resources at our disposal. You will agree with me that rich people don’t quarrel and they don’t even want to hear about crises because they know they have much to lose. Same cannot be said of the poor who are already frustrated and are just looking for the right opportunity to vent their frustration on others destructively. That is why we are doing everything within our powers to make sure that our people are gainfully engaged
Your anti-grazing law was tagged as a target to some group of people when it was established. What are you doing to succeed in the establishment of the modern ranching?
Before I go ahead I must inform you that before I gave birth to this, I went ahead and send my members to Nairobi Kenya where they saw for themselves what ranching was all about. And by the time the bill was on their desk, they already knew what I was talking about. Listen, if you move a cattle from Mambilla to Lagos, by the time you arrive, it becomes tasteless and weightless but when you ranch, you make far more money and more profits; is it the milk from the cattle ? Let’s talk of just 10 cows; you will be making N1.5million just for milk in a month because after I was told, I came back and did the experiments. Though some people contributed in frustrating the moves by stopping those who were trained to handle the ranching but later found out that it was the best and some of them are practising same today.
Will you be contesting for Senate come 2023?
Talking about 2023 Senate ambition, I Darius Dickson Ishaku always wait on the Lord. I never go into hustling for anything because I was really rigged out in 2003 when I ran for same senate not until I was called after some years to return to Abuja where the journey to being a Minister began and when you look at all the ministries I handled, I was well empowered and that was God hands. And it is same way I came into being a governor and until God speaks, I won’t be like Jonah who ended up in the belly of the fish . So concerning whether or not I will contest for Senate in 2023, let’s wait on the Lord for he will surely direct me when the time comes.