Taraba State of Nigeria is perhaps the most endowed state in northern Nigeria due to several distinguishing economic potential features that place it above the other northern states, and perhaps the country as a whole.
With a foreign and domestic debt profile of over 60 billion naira as of 30th June 2018 according to the Debt Management Office, it is a state in dire strait, with nothing developmental to show for the effects of such crushing debts. Even though it is celebrated as one of the states with the lowest debt profile in the country, we are faced with a sad tale of mediocrity and lacklustre leadership, especially in the present state government.
The governor and his handlers often gleefully point to the State’s debt profile as an achievement but are unable to even have a blueprint for self-sustaining talk more of a robust economy. The pertinent question is what investments were made from the loaned funds apart from salary payments? Loans are meant to fund investments and not incurring the cost. Do we continue depending on the hands-out from the federation accounts or are willing to create an economy second to none in the country with our enormous potentials? Taraba as a State can grow an economy far greater than Dubai; it had one major natural resource at its disposal, but solid visionary leadership. Does Taraba State want to conquer the world or keep celebrating mediocrity?
According to Google, Taraba State is the third-largest state in Nigeria landmass wise, but it is one of the poorest in terms of economic and infrastructural development. Its unique blend of climate makes it perfect for Agricultural endeavours. With the state having both temperate and tropical climatic features, different varieties of plants will naturally grow in it. After all, what does one need for farming? Good climate, fertile land and enabling the environment. Out of the few mentioned factors above, what is lacking is the enabling environment. I daresay its agricultural potentials are second to none in Nigeria.
With a large and fertile landmass, and big water body stretching across the length and breadth of the State, both rainy season and dry season farming are a huge goldmine, however, they’re in need for good incentive to be put in place by the government to motivate its teeming army of unemployed youths to venture into farming and other agricultural venture.
It is perhaps one of the biggest producers of yam and has a huge prospect for rice farming, even bigger than what Kebbi State has, that attracted Lagos State into a mouth-watering partnership if the right steps are taken. The several grains and crop markets across the State can provide unlimited foreign exchange to the State and boost the agricultural value chain.
The state is home to some of the highest income-earning foreign exchange cash crops and a blend of rare ones in the West African coast. It plays host to cocoa, coffee, palm trees and even rare ones in this clime like tea. Fruits and many other plants adequately dot the landscape that can provide flourishing industries for the State and willing entrepreneurs who dare to exploit.
Taraba State can become the agricultural hub of Nigeria with focused leadership and reap bountifully from such endeavour. However, it is held in bounds by poor leadership, lack of vision and the crippling evil of recycled leadership with nothing to offer but the debilitating effects of cronyism. A little more attention and investment in it will generate huge returns on investment, create jobs to many people, and generally provide serious revenue to the coffers of the state.
A shift to tourism shows how natural resources can be wasted when met by the unfocused government. A visit to Sardauna LGA with its captivating scenery and beautifully carve undulating contours is a recipe for tears, as one is hit with the effect of visionless leadership. For those not familiar with it but admire the beauty of Obudu, I assure you, that the ranch is no match for Sardauna, except in infrastructural facilities put in place by the respective state government. Gashaka Gumti National Park with over six thousand square kilometres is the largest park in Nigeria and one of the largest in West Africa. It has a huge collection of wild animals that will whet the appetite of tourist interested infauna. Other tourism potentials are splayed all over the State for those that have eyes in the right place to see.
A cursory look into mineral resources deposits in the state will yield an amazing prospect in both gemstones and industrial minerals. Out of the thirty-four (34), solid minerals said to have been discovered in Nigeria as a country, Taraba State is blessed with a sizable deposit.
It is not like there is a complete dearth of capable leadership in the State; however, those that have been privileged to hold sway over its affairs have displayed an unusual penchant for ineptitude. That is why the citizens of the state constantly shirk in their civic duties, especially that of voting for good leaders.
Political parties and their leadership in the state have all conspired to throw to the face of the citizens’ weak and wrong persons as candidates during elections. Take the 2019 elections, for instance, the two major political parties both featured candidates with poor leadership capacities; Architect Darius Dickson Ishaku for the Peoples Democratic Party and his major opponent in the All Progressives Congress, Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi.
For the people of the state, it was an issue of simply voting the lesser evil, as elaborately demonstrated by the people of Kurmi Local Government Area, during the electioneering campaigns when they stoned the governor on his failed promise of constructing road for them, but still told him openly, we will vote for you, having tasted Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi dismal and irksome performance as Executive Governor of the State for six months when he replaced Alhaji Garba Umar (UTC). The rest, as they say, is history.
With the dearth of economic development comes a lack of social investment. Apart from the regular salary paid to the state civil servants, no tangible social investment is being made. According to the first quarter report of the year 2019, National Pension Commission indicted Taraba State as one of the States lagging in the remittance of the contributory pension. Little wonder pensioners are sweating it out in the State.
Taraba State can become the next economic wonder of the world if the Government and people can work to turn its fortunes around. Vision and purposeful leadership are the missing virtues in high demand here.
Akwa can be reached via [email protected]