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Governor Gaidam’s Town Hall with Yobe elders

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By Abdullahi Bego

Since his election to a new four-year term back in April 2011, Governor Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State has remained consumed by a passion to meet the numerous developmental challenges facing the State, prove the widespread goodwill he continues to enjoy from the people and show that where its lessons are learnt correctly, history can be more than the path left by the past.
For, while the administration had strove to do so much from 2007 when it first came to power to renew people’s confidence in the capacity of leaders to serve those who elected them to public office, there are many teething, largely spill-over issues that often affect the pace at which the Governor wants to turn around the fortunes of the State.
One of such issues, for example, is the burgeoning personnel costs at the local government level which remains a hamstring to Gaidam’s desire to extend the positive reach of government at the grassroots. It is a problem, investigations show, which was incubated since the creation of the State back in 1991. Irregular appointments and insertion of ghost names in the payroll meant that by 2010, Yobe with 17 Local Government Councils had more workers in the local government system than Kano with 44 Local Councils or Borno with 27.
It means that despite its best efforts, more money was going to the pockets of individuals than the government would have channeled to providing services to local communities.
Determined that this was unacceptable, Gaidam moved to clean the Augean Stable. He set up verification committees not just for salary payments but also for the payment of pensions and gratuity. In one instance, the bill for the payment of pension and gratuity to over 500 retired and deceased local government employees over a certain period came down from N560 million to N406 million because of the verification exercise. The government continues to make modest savings sanitising the local government payroll and cutting and consolidating non-essential spending.
As the exercise achieved its objectives, however, people understandably began to complain. Beneficiaries of the misdeed would naturally not take it easy. But there are a few genuine complaints, as well, which the Governor promised would be looked into.
This was among the many issues that surfaced during Governor Gaidam’s Town Hall with select elders and community leaders from the 17 Local Government Areas which took place at the WAWA Hall of the Government House Damaturu last Tuesday.
The Town Hall was called to provide an opportunity for Governor Gaidam to interact directly with people at the grassroots. The last such major interaction was during the campaigns, when the Governor visited 32 towns and villages all across the State. At that time, the Governor heard the people speak about their problems and needs; about roads they want built, schools they want renovated or hospitals they want upgraded. They spoke about their frustrations with promises made but not fulfilled by previous regimes in the State and also about their confidence that their votes would matter this time around.
Gaidam would often listen attentively to the people as they make their minds known, taking down notes like the roads engineer keen not to miss any contours observed during a survey work.
In eight months since he was sworn-in to office, Governor Gaidam has moved to meet many of the promises he made to the electorate. A Township road project was completed or nearly completed in the five major towns of Potiskum, Damaturu, Gaidam, Gashu’a and Nguru; a 55-kilometer road project is ongoing from Bayamari to Yunusari; the ‘Trans-Saharan’ road project extending from Kanamma to Machina which will cover 230 kilometers has been awarded; and Jakusko and Buduwa towns have their demands for extension of the national power grid fulfilled.
Yobe’s education sector has continued to receive attention with students regularly receiving their scholarship and bursary allowances. Girls’ schools are being upgraded and those without perimeter fence for decades since they were established are currently being fenced. The State University continues to remain the ‘fastest growing’ in the North. The promise of free medical treatment for pregnant women, children from five years and below and accident victims is holding steady. And new infrastructure and equipment are being provided at existing hospitals.
Although Governor Gaidam is going ahead with these and many more, his belief that leadership is a bottoms-up approach rather than the other way round meant that whenever circumstances allowed, he would reach out directly to and hear from the people to whom he made many promises.
Tuesday’s Town Hall was a free exchange of ideas between the Governor and those in attendance. For elected officials, the Town Hall drives home the message that whether they represent their people well or not, the Governor can and will continue to hear directly from the people. For those who attended, the Governor has re-affirmed that his doors always remain open. And for the people of Yobe state, the Town Hall was a renewal of the commitment of the Governor to serving them as faithfully as circumstances would allow.
The Governor also used the Town Hall to add to the list of services he vouched to provide – the dredging of parts of the Kumadugu-Yobe River that traverses Jakusko, Bade and Nguru Local Government areas to increase water flow and support farming and fishing activities, provision of free primary and secondary education and student uniforms from the middle of the year, provision of more solar-powered boreholes to improve water supply and the resuscitation of the government-owned Dofarga Spring Water Company in Gulani Local Government area for which the Governor has approved N40 million.
Governor Gaidam’s active desire to transform Yobe State and the successes his administration continues to record proves that despite years of missed opportunities, Yobe can and will rise yet again.
Bego, reachable on This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , writes from Government House Damaturu

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