MUHAMMAD BARDE: I’ll Leverage Courage, Integrity and Technology to Change Gombe’s Story
A financial services industry guru and governorship candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party in Gombe State, Muhammad Jibrin Barde, writes off the incumbent administration and lays out an alternative vision to accelerate the transformation of his home state – ‘The Jewel in the Savannah’. He speaks with Louis Achi
As a key member of the Northern political intelligentsia, what is your concept of governance?
First, the imperative of creating a new nation state defined by a genuinely progressive template of justice, fairness and inclusive development cannot be overstated. It is important to our future development – both for my state Gombe and Nigeria at large. It requires proper visioning, planning, commitment and courage.
Dealing with your specific question, I would rather focus on good governance instead of governance as a general term. Good governance has to be participatory, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective, efficient and equitable. It has to follow the rule of law. It assures that corruption is minimised, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society. Deficits in these areas give rise to conflict and set back human development. Incidentally, these deficits encapsulate the human development challenges confronting Gombe State today.
As the governorship candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party in Gombe State, you are essentially pushing an alternative vision of governance. Can you share the fundamentals of this vision?
First, for the sake of acquisition of updated first-hand information that cannot be controverted, I have undertaken a comprehensive journey of Gombe State and I am deeply worried and saddened by what I have found in my travels. I have seen widespread misery and desolation. Our state leadership have mismanaged our resources and unconscionably sown the seeds of discord. Never before in Gombe State have we lived in fear of the future as we do today.
Nearly N300billion of revenues accruing to the Gombe State government in the last three years has been shockingly mismanaged. The current government has failed in its most basic responsibility of ensuring the security and welfare of our people. There is puzzling lack of compassion and love for the people of Gombe State. There is an absolute failure of leadership. But things do not have to be this way. The people must take charge of their destiny.
I have arranged into seven themes the strategic pillars of my vision for Gombe State, to help sharpen the focus of the needed quantum leap in the fortunes of the state. These are: Governance, Infrastructural Development, Human Capital Development, Agricultural Revolution, Industry and Digital Economy, Rural Development and Urban Regeneration.
Having already defined what good governance means at the outset of this interview, I would simply, additionally, state here that governance fundamentally represents the enabling environment for growth and innovation to flourish.
Looking at the other six components of my development vision for Gombe State, while infrastructural development captures the physical foundation for development, human capital development will be actualised under my administration through quality education, quality healthcare, training and skills development.
Our agricultural revolution will maximise our land resources to feed our people, add value to farm products, create jobs and attract large scale entrepreneurs while the envisioned industry and digital economy will leverage leadership from the government to jumpstart the emergence of an industrial and technology base for our state.
My administration will deal with the rural development by improving the lives and economic wellbeing of rural communities while urban development will enhance the status of our urban centres as ideal places to live and work.You are not conceding any noteworthy development grounds to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) currently in power? Why have you emphatically written off the incumbent administration?
Let me repeat this – despite earning over N300billion in the past three years, 62 per cent of our people are living in poverty, hunger and deprivation. In Gombe today, there is collapsing infrastructure of schools, healthcare et cetera. 700,000 of our children are out of school. Our farmers are struggling to farm without any support from the government.
Gombe people are tired of empty promises and they have every right to be. We need fundamental changes. So despite the many challenges involved, I am committed to contributing towards rebuilding and transforming our state as a governor come 2023. Together we will work to deliver stability, opportunity and prosperity for our people.
In the first 100 days in office of our administration, we will fix dilapidated healthcare facilities with a focus on equipment, drugs and staffing. To reduce maternal and child mortality across the state we will build economic and climate-smart infrastructure. We will create an education fund to reinvent financing and commence rebuilding an equipping 500 primary and secondary schools to world class standards.
We will reopen all state-owned tertiary institutions including the State University of Science & Technology, Kumo. In addition, we will build technology hubs including enabling infrastructure – power and broadband internet leveraging on reinvigorated educational institutions.
I will work for the accelerated emergence of a prosperous Gombe State where all residents live in dignity in an environment that enables them to pursue and fulfil their potentials. Together, we will deliver stability, opportunity and prosperity for our people.
The agenda I earlier enunciated, which I call “The Wheels of Progress,” is built on effective leadership that understands the urgency of the tasks at hand. It possesses four key attributes: Competence, capacity, character and courage.
Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari kick-started oil drilling in the Upper Benue Trough’s Kolmani River field straddling Bauchi and Gombe States, estimated to add 1billion barrels, 500bcf of gas to national reserves. What’s your view on this?
The development is of course important in Nigeria’s economic history as she progresses to production of oil and gas in the Upper Benue Trough. According to the provisions of the Production Sharing Contract (PSC), while the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) is the concessionaire of the blocks, the NNPC Exploration and Production Limited (NEPL) and New Nigeria Development Company Limited (NNDC) are the contractor parties. Gombe is a stakeholder in NNDC.
The first phase of the integrated development project would entail an oil refinery of up to 120,000 barrels per day capacity, a gas processing plant of up to 500 million standard cubic feet per day, a power plant of up to 300-megawatt capacity and a fertiliser plant of 2,500 tons per day. You can imagine the job creation potential of this for Gombe State folks and Nigeria at large.
More importantly, this oil find with Gombe as a co-host state is accommodated in my enunciated development plan for the state in the areas of exploration and exploitation of solid and liquid minerals and the mining industry within subsisting constitutional templates.
Let’s have your message to Gombe State and Nigeria at large.
I offer myself in the first instance as a servant of my state and a servant of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. When I am elected governor next year, Insha Allah, I shall humbly and totally commit myself to use the good office to ensure that Gombe State as a whole genuinely benefits from the true dividends of democracy, not mere rhetoric. I intend to bring a sharper focus on pivotal human and physical development to drive the transformation I have envisioned for Gombe State. For Gombe and Nigeria, the future is indeed bright. We are stronger together.