By; MUHD EL-BONGA IBRAHEEM
It was around late October 2020 when I met the charismatic Gombe State Governor in his Maitama residence in Abuja for the first time since his victory. While I would go on to meet him again in November of the same year, that particular meeting remains fresh in my memory for many reasons of course.
The Governor was on an official party visit as it is the norm with most Governors in Nigeria to travel to Abuja frequently for party reasons. Beautifully dressed in his light-blue kaftan, with one of his legs crossed on a sofa, and with the AC blowing at an average room temperature, the Governor talked so passionately, nay eloquently, about development in Gombe— particularly education.
In the room were his aides: Ismaila Uba Misilli, SSA Media and Publicity; Usman Aliyu Garry, SA Abuja Liaison Office and Architect Aliyu Kombat. The Inuwa Yahaya we had about an hour-long discussion with was full of energy and passion towards anything Gombe and its development. We talked generally on quite a range of issues like Donald Trump’s election, Zulum’s Borno reforms and, most importantly, we brainstormed on how to model our new media engagement reminiscent of what Kaduna has been able to achieve under Governor Nasiru El-Rufai. Several ideas were discussed of which my brother Ismaila Uba Misilii has been brilliantly implementing most of them.
Of course, on the one hand, the media aspect is far from what Ismaila Uba et al. envisage; but, on the other hand, one thing is cocksure: they are building fresh media structures and institutions—which were previously absent– that will be enjoyed by those who would come later. The job of a political flick is stressfully daunting, but Mallam Ismaila Uba, in spite of his tight schedules, keeps weathering the storm and clearing the sludge to pave a berth for quality and timely information delivery. Just like Reuben Abati’s famous article: the phone no longer rings, so did Ismaila Uba’s phone almost all the time during the short but important meeting.
Contrary to what many think, politicians are well-informed. They follow everything with keen interest. They know names and accurate circumstances. They follow all social media activities with utmost alacrity. They know the names of influencers and those stirring discuss. In fact, they have every piece of information at their finger-tips. What I saw in Governor Inuwa Yahaya that very day was a man well-informed about issues not only regarding Gombe but other states. He was equally well-acquainted with international politics.
Furthermore, what impressed me most during the meeting was the fact that Governor Inuwa kept re-iterating his desire to fix education in Gombe. A seemingly exasperated Inuwa Yahaya bitterly lamented about the disturbing state of education in Kumbiya-Kumbiya– being the only ward without a primary school in Gombe. “My major concern is to construct a befitting school for Kumbiya-Kumbiya ward for it is the only ward without primary school. During the 2019 electioneering, I promised them a school and I won’t relent until that promised is fulfilled.” The school part made my day and which succeeded in forming a lasting impression on my head till this very day because at least, I know that my Governor knows his onions. More importantly, the fact that he sits down with aides and common people like me to talk and brainstorm on important issues relating to our state and its development is indeed a huge privilege I hold in high regards, and that gesture equally shows he is indeed open to accepting transformative ideas from all and sundry.
As a mark of honour towards fulfilling his promise, just like week, I saw a beautiful picture of a fully erected three story-building in Kumbiya-Kumbiya ward in order to match words with actions. The deluge of emotional comments I read were absolutely touching. For some of us privy to happenings in Gombe, it is not surprising because the man I saw, and interacted with, on that particular day would go to any length just to fulfill his promise of constructing a primary school for his passion on education is indeed unrivalled. In retrospect, however, one thing that keeps ringing in my ears ever since is the fact that the previous administration spent eight good years in office without deeming it fit to provide Kumbiya-Kumbiya with a school. Ironically, that was an administration that championed education as its major hallmark and yet, it neglected a whole ward given its importance, history and strategic location in Gombe.
Right from the incipience of his administration, albeit with serious financial challenges, Governor Inuwa Yahaya has either renovated or constructed more than 300 hundred schools across Gombe State to exemplify his altruistic passion to boost education so as to bridge the widening gap between the children of the elite and that of the hoi polloi in light of the fact that education is unquestionably a leveler in the society. In addition to the several State Universal Basic Education (SUBEB) projects seeking to transform education in the state, the Gombe State Government has established a biometric system of attendance which compels teachers to be constantly around the school premises or face disciplinary measures unlike in the past where teachers always put up a nonchalant attitude to work. Interestingly, inspectors from the Gombe SUBEB always tour the schools to make sure there is strict adherence to classroom timetable as well as prompt punctuality. It suffices to equally add that the administration of Governor Inuwa Yahaya has succeeded, albeit with active collaboration with BESDA, in mopping up more than 200,000 out-of-school children back to the classroom in its attempt to solve the problem of Almajirism, as well as fill the prevailing huge educational void brought about as a result of low school enrollment rate.
It is therefore not a coincidence that the education sector in Gombe is receiving so much attention and face-lift. This is because the new sheriff in town prioritizes education, and is undoubtedly ready to fork out hefty sum of money to rev-up productivity in order to expedite general performance.