By Henry Umahi
Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State ran for office at a time the force of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was sweeping through the North East and North West geopolitical zones in 2015. He however, proved that he was a political colossus, as he emerged victorious on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In fact, Taraba was the only state that survived the political tsunami of the APC in North East at that time.
On assumption of office, he had a vision to make his state the leading economy in the North-East sub-region. He met a state where physical infrastructure was lacking even as the state had one of the highest number of Internally Displaced Persons in the country due to ethnic clashes. The Jukun/Tiv conflict had been recurring since 1959 and over the years, blood flowed in southern Taraba.
As his administration winds down, Ishaku has largely accomplished his vision. He has not only eased the suffering of the people, but also the story of the state is like a song worth singing because of the infrastructure revolution and his profound crises-management skill.
Ishaku has constructed and rehabilitated roads and bridges across the state and opened up hundreds of farming communities to boost agricultural production. He has also enhanced revenue generation for improved development of the state. His aim was to make it easier for investors to access areas that were hard to reach such as Kurmi where cocoa, plantain, palm kernel, ogbono and other farm produce are produced in large quantities.
His administration distributes farm inputs, provides extension services and sells fertilizer at subsidised rates to farmers. Today, Taraba State is reaping the dividend of the governor’s foresight. At a production level of 80,000 metric tonnes of rice per annum, it has become the pride of the country and the international community. And the state’s annual contribution of 21,000 tonnes of cassava to the national domestic market is worth over 33 million US Dollars.
Human capital development is one of the legacies of his administration. Since the creation of the state in 1991, Ishaku is the first governor to have embarked on massive employment as well as skills acquisition programmes. He also created thousands of direct and indirect jobs by revamping various government businesses, such as the Taraba Beverage Company, makers of Highland Tea, and Taraba Oil Mills, which were dying when he arrived.
Despite lean resources, Ishaku’s administration recorded milestone achievements with the upgrade of health facilities in the three senatorial districts of the state. He changed the face of Jalingo, the state capital, by building the first ever flyover bridge in the North-East. The aim is to tackle the increasing traffic problems of the capital city. His administration also provided streetlights in the urban and rural areas. Healthcare system is also top priority to Ishaku’s administration. Hospitals have been renovated and upgraded, particularly in maternity and paediatric areas. His government has recruited over 3,000 teachers, increased the number of professors at the state owned university from four to 56, increased faculties in the university from four to eight and ensured the accreditation of many courses. The state has the best WAEC performance record in the North-East.
In politics, Ishaku stands like a rock, commanding respect and ensuring political harmony, even in the face of partisan politicking.