Why Taraba Holds The Key To Socio-Political Development In Nigeria.
By OFFOMATA PEACE CHIAMAKA
To most Nigerians, Taraba State does not immediately ring as a place rich in valuable resources. Taraba is in fact more popular for being the second largest state in terms of landmass in the Federation than it is known for housing some of the most important human and natural resources critical to the robust development of Nigeria. Nigerians can be forgiven for their blissful ignorance. Current affairs and elementary social studies did not exactly do justice to this beautiful swathe of land nestled delicately between the River Benue and the Mambilla Plateau.
But as River Benue courses through the land, leaving in its tracks rich sediments that make Taraba so fertile for agriculture, and as the mountains of the Mambilla range erode, driving to the valley below fecund soils that feed the lush vegetation around the state, the peoples of Taraba are hard at work, farming and reaping the benefits of a gift that keeps giving. Here in this 54,473 km² of unspoiled land lies the likely solution to many of the developmental problems Nigeria faces today.
For one, Taraba has just enough natural resources to help Nigeria engineer its way out of the over-dependence on petroleum resources. Embedded within the State’s lands are solid minerals and precious stones that are useful for a broad range of industrial applications. There are limestone, bauxites, uranium, barytes, and more than ten other solid minerals including gemstones for ornaments and manufacturing electronics. Agro-based raw materials are in abundance owing largely to the fertile land in the State for farming activities. Carefully harnessed, the State alone can feed the whole of the country while giving Nigeria a competitive advantage in the agricultural value chain.
Where there is a political will, there is always a way. Taraba is a microcosm of the Nigerian state in that it entertains within its borders dozens of diverse ethnic and religious groups who have found a way to coexist harmoniously based on commerce and a political understanding fostered by Arch. Darius Dickson Ishaku, current governor of the State. One wonders how Taraba has managed to remain an oasis of peace and coexistence even in the middle of the heated religious and ethnic crisis that has come to characterise life in the north-eastern corners of Nigeria. The answer lies in a good leadership embodied by Governor Darius Ishaku, who works in the interest of the collectives rather than the vested interests of individual groups. Tarabans also take the credit for seeing themselves as their brother’s keeper and ensuring that instead of incessant religious and ethnic squabbles, misunderstandings are settled in their community via a common feeling of camaraderie.
Without a doubt, Taraba has a lot to teach Nigeria about harmonious coexistence and why diversity holds strength and beauty and not strife. Of course, a lot of the work that has gone into preserving Taraba as a bastion of peace and tolerance in a turbulent region has not gone unnoticed. The State has received a lot of national and international plaudits and has often been cited as an example of how peace is possible in a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country like Nigeria. The governor has equally been recognised by the Constitutional Rights Awareness and Liberty Initiatives, an NGO, as the “Most Human Rights Friendly Governor” in the whole of northern Nigeria on International Human Rights Day. He was cited as, among other things, tolerating opposition parties, ensuring freedom of peaceful assembly, and fostering rights to collective bargains. Governor Darius Ishaku has in response promised to do more to keep the peace and democratic progress the State enjoys.
It is possible to draw a straight line between peaceful coexistence and economic output in human society. Where there is peace, broad-based development is more often than not present. That is why the governor is marshaling efforts to bring the much-needed development to the State by partnering with local and international organisations like the USAID and World Bank to embark on developmental projects and increase the economic outcome of the State. This developmental intent is also captured in the revised 2020 budget that at ₦176, 616, 318, 475, is targeted towards initiatives and partnerships that would improve the standard of living of the average Taraban.
Purposeful leadership has often been recalled as the major problem Nigeria faces on the path to development. Taraba and Arc. Darius Ishaku epitomises this trait, and if other political actors and leaders across the Federation borrow a leaf from the State, we just might start to witness the all-encompassing growth the country clearly needs. While there are major rooms for improvements in Taraba State, the positive takeouts in agriculture and solid minerals with the peace and security the State constantly enjoys are pointers to even better days ahead for the land that flows with grains and precious stones.