Gombe needs help. It really does, but not just because available data says that it is the one state in Nigeria with the second lowest GDP in the whole of Nigeria. What this means is that Gombe people almost nearly depend entirely on the allocation from Abuja. There is nothing wrong with that – after all every state in Nigeria depends on an allocation from Abuja. But why will a people as hardworking and strong like the Gombe people continue to live from pay check to paycheck day-in day-out in their life as Nigerians? Gombe is known as the jewel of the savannah, but what good is being known as a jewel without that reflecting in the lives of the Gombawa?
If you visit Gombe today, you will mostly certainly be confronted with the false narrative that all is well as can be. This is because you’ll find the streets in the city lit with resplendent neon lights, and the gutters as clean as a jewel in the savannah. But as a matter of fact, this is a façade. David Landis, in his best seller The Wealth and Poverty of Nations says that one of the best places to find out about the wealth or poverty of a state is in their markets: according to Landis, a market is a place that showcases and defines the productive potential of a people or of a community. People who go there either go there to showcase their productive potential or their buying power. This two set of people are in a perpetual act of benign warfare and conflict that produces a certain energy known as economy.
So on a nice Wednesday afternoon, I visited a couple of markets within the city centre of Gombe. National Bureau of Statistics report in 2020 says that Gombe power is in her agricultural produce: sorghum, millet and allied seed-based produce. While the report said that an important sector of the Gombe economy is ‘others’, it also indicated that there is a service sector accounting for a single digit influence on the Gombe economy. Perhaps this is because this ‘service sector’ is one mostly dominated by the okada economy: lining the streets are rows and rows of motor bikes offered for sale apparently to absorb the teeming youth without employment, and the bike seemingly becomes the handiest option for an unemployed Gombe person to be of productive use to himself and his family.
This is the kind of circumstance that places Gombe as fourth among the lowest in the Human Development Index in Nigeria – there is very low life expectancy, low educational standards and the gross national income of Gombe is one of the lowest in the sub region. I hear that in places like Dukku Funakaye, Billiri, Kaltungo Shongorn, life is bare, very bare without potable water, power, schools and basic health care facilities. People drink the same water as their cattle, and in Kaltungo issues of insecurity and kidnapping reign supreme.
With a poor economy as the one in Gombe, one can hardly expect anyone in charge to perform many miracles. But as a matter of fact, some prudence in the management of the little resources, and with prioritizing the development of the human potential, Gombe can survive and thrive as a big player in the national economy.
But we must say this: a very strong wave of different thinking is blowing across Gombe. People say they are tired of living from hand to mouth and from pay check to paycheck They say formerly entrenched values and structures will be swept away very soon, and a new order and new thinking and a new template is just by the corner. In our interactions with Gombe people, one gets the feeling that they are neither ‘obidient’ nor unwilling to continue with the present administration, but have made up their minds to invest their votes in, and with someone else who has a very wide experience in the management of men, money and materials.
Looking around at the two major contestants for the Gombe governorship – Alhaji Mohammed Jibrin Barde of the Peoples Democratic Party and Alhaji Inuwa Yahaya of the All Progressives Congress – it is not so difficult to discern the direction the pendulum will sway, and in whom the Gombe people have in mind to pull them out of their present sorry passé.
Bob Etemiku, Abuja