I had intended it to be a brief stopover on my way to Yola to visit my friends. My classmates and former colleagues who had relocated to Gombe upon retirement had pleaded with me to consider spending a day with him when I told him my travel plans to Yola. Following his passionate, relentless plea, I decided to oblige him. It was a decision that I was not to regret from the wonderful experience I had in Gombe, the capital of the state known as the "Jewel in the Savannah", where I ended up spending a week instead of the one day I had planned.
What makes Gombe tick? First of all it is a state where its various ethnic groups exist in harmonious relationship. There are Fulanis, Hausa, Tangale, Awak, Pindiga, Ngizimawa, Bolawa and Terawa in addition to the sizeable communities of Yorubas and Igbos long in existence in the city all with little or no acrimony. In Gombe, such harmonious relationship is visible among the adherents of the Muslim and Christian religion such that the uninitiated would hardly recognise by face or outward looks who belongs to which religious faith.
But that apart, some of the salutary and unique things I noticed while in Gombe was that peace and security reigned, salaries and entitlements to civil servants are paid promptly, and massive infrastructural developments are noticeable. Roads in Gombe the capital are wide and solidly constructed.
Virtually everyone gives the credit to the Governor of the state Ibrahim Dankwambo for this salutary state of affairs. And from his pedigree it is not difficult to see why.
A chartered accountant, he was the Accountant General of the country for two terms of eight years and a seasoned administrator in the federal civil service. When he got elected as Governor in 2011, not many gave him a chance to replicate the feat of his predecessor Danjuma Goje whose tenure brought quite a lot of development to the state. Apart from the issue of internal insecurity raging in the state with the murderous activities of political thugs sponsored by political figures, there was also the clear and present danger of the Boko Haram insurgency ravaging the entire Northeast region which was filtering into Gombe state. It was also observed that at the time of Dankwambo's ascendancy, Gombe state was one of those states where a razor thin difference existed in terms of followership between the two major political parties. All in all the view was that Dankwambo had his work cut out for him when he took over in 2011.
Today, six years after, it is clear to see that Dankwambo has not only navigated deftly through the daunting challenges he faced upon coming to power, he has risen above them to etch himself in the positive reckoning of all Gombawa irrespective of ethnic, religious and political leanings.
While the Boko Haram scourge had been ravaging neighbouring states, in Gombe the zero tolerance posture of Dankwambo had checked them from further progress and driven them out comprehensively. Again the prevalence of internal politically related acts of violence was tackled through a multi-pronged approach; consultation and consensus building among political stakeholders in the state across the political divides; rehabilitation of the young men and women engaged in violent political activities willing to accept the state governments offer of rehabilitation programmes, and application of the full force of law in arresting and prosecuting those among the youths and their sponsors who elect to continue in their violent, criminal ways rather than accept the governments admonition to turn a new leaf.
The result is that Gombe under Dankwambo is an oasis of peace, relative safety and security in a region characterised by lack of it. A clear example of this has been demonstrated when the issue of the Biafra agitations and the counter action embarked by northern youths asking Igbos to vacate the nineteen northern states by October 1 this year. Because he had already set a score of non-tolerance of such acts, and mindful of the sizeable number of Igbos and southerners who live and have made Gombe their home, Dankwambo promptly not only condemned the statement publicly and unambiguously but took decisive, proactive steps to nip any untoward action in the bud. He arranged for a series of confidence building meeting with all stakeholders in the state; meetings with leaders of the various ethnic groups assuring them of their security and safety as well as their businesses and properties and stepping up security awareness and consciousness in the entire state.
With all these security and confidence building measures among the various stakeholders, Dankwambo has been able to surmount the daunting challenges he faced when he came to power and deliver the development for which Gombe is now reckoned with. All this I noticed during my stay in Gombe.
Fortuitously after my return from Yola to Abuja following my unplanned extended stay in Gombe where I recorded all this, I ran into Governor Dankwambo at the offices of the Daily Trust where he had gone to honour an invitation for a media chat, some times last year. He certainly had no airs about him as one often sees with elected, public office holders in Nigeria. He did not come with a large convoy of vehicles and certainly not with an accompanying large retinue of hangers on. He walked briskly and simply into the interview and submitted himself to an open session with the journalists answering all questions thrown at him without any preconditions.
Afterwards he moved around shaking hands most humbly with all present including yours truly and exchanging good humoured banter.
In my mind's eye, I saw an intelligent yet humble personality, a powerful, confident but self-effacing leader, a bridge builder, a goal setter and getter who like his states appellation as the Jewel in the Savannah qualifies also to be called a Jewel in Governance.
As the Peoples Democratic Party has zoned its Presidential slot to the North and there is a strong consideration within the party to hand it over to candidates from the north east, I will not be surprised if Governor Dankwambo becomes one of the strong, favourable contenders. With all his track record in Gombe, going forward, Governor Dankwambo is certainly a star to watch in this regard.
Lukman wrote this piece from Abuja.