We Must Take Hard Decisions To Move Taraba State Forward – Gov Kefas

By Sylvanus Viashima,

JALINGO – Taraba State Governor Dr. Agbu Kefas has taken some tough decisions as the head of government including fixing the crisis of a “town without a King”. In this interview with journalists, he disclosed his plans for opening up Taraba to investors, tackle insecurity, while insisting that Taraba is not and can not be poor under his leadership.

You have taken the posture of a revolutionary leader since assuming office in the state. What is the motivation?

Well I am committed to good governance and democracy. My strong conviction is that good governance is only possible with the support of the people. After all, democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people. So our policies are centered on the people. Every thing we have been doing is for the citizenry. Free Education Policy for instance is to open up the space so that every child can access qualitative education that will release their potentials. We are building people and are energizing the state.

Every policy comes with its own challenge but we keep improving on it with good leadership and technology. Free Education at the lower levels is complemented with slashed tuition fee at the tertiary level. This has greatly cushioned the effect of the current economic downturn as wards and parents are really grateful. Leadership exist for this kind of things: improving the lives of people.

People have reservations about the capacity of the state to fund all these projects, considering the cost implications and present economic realities.

Yes, but then Taraba state is not a poor state. We refuse to be on a lockdown like when Covid locked the world down. We managed to come out of that lockdown. In Taraba state, we refused to be locked down again and will find every available means to pull out of any labeling. We reject the appellation of a poor state. We are tapping into our God given natural resources.

With the diligent work we are doing in mineral resources and agriculture, we believe we can earn more to be able to meet our commitments. Our focus is very clear: opening up the state for investment drives. And our seriousness is starting to yield fruits. Investors have seen our sincerity of purpose and are showing strong interest. It is only a matter of time we shall start seeing the dividends.

How are you addressing the issue of supporting security agencies in the State to tackle security challenges?

Yes we need to support their work. My over all goal is the peace of the state and its unity. When we came in, it was easier to start trading blames but we did not. Ours is to conceptualize ideas and begin to find creative ways to achieve them. Not a cheap way. I believe in conflict resolutions. Peace and unity is one way to achieve many things. So while we have law breakers, we also have law enforcement agents. Funding their activities and providing tools for them to work well is very key and we have been doing our best. We carry everyone along because security is a collective thing.

Recently, the polity has been heated with the issue of Ukwe Takum, an issue past regimes basically avoided because of its magnitude. What pushed you into tackling this issue at this time?

Well past governments, I believe, did not ignore it. I think it is safe to say they saw the problem and tried to micro manage it as best as they could. To be clear, here is a problem that has lingered on for over two decades and hindering any meaningful development of Takum. Basically since the last traditional ruler passed on, Takum local government has remained a town without a first class ruler. And traditional institutions are very important. They are the natural rulers that we go to for advice and even to pass on government policies that affect the local communities. We also partner with them for over all security in their domain. The current situation of Takum is there is no such ruler. Who do you hold responsible for any breach of peace? Who is the custodian of the people’s culture and heritage?

But since Takum seemed to have managed well without a first class ruler, why change the situation?

No, Takum hasn’t been fine without a well defined traditional institution. I disagree with you. Today, the people have been displaced from their homes due to banditry attacks. I want to return IDPs to their ancestral homes. Only peace can make this happen. If you knew Takum before all these crisis, you will agree it was a beautiful place. Takum was so full of life that many people flocked in there but what do you find now? Hatred and mutual suspicion. That’s at a personal level. At a general level, Takum is going through serious insecurity crisis, creating refugees everywhere.

When I came on board, I started making my findings. I then noticed the cause of the problem. In fact the youths themselves helped me with an answer. They said in a press statement that the problem of Takum emanated from this Kingship issue. That it is because the place has no paramount ruler that Takum has become a very dull place to be and scattered by insecurity. So all the crisis could be traced to this one phenomenon: empty throne.

Now solving this problem won’t be easy. The years have come and gone. And three different tribes are genuinely convinced that it is their right to ascend the first class throne. The Kuteb in particular have latched into history and records to continue to make a case that they “own” Takum. Don’t forget that the Kpanzo and Chambas all also made a good case. It was then clear to me that they all could not agree and that has been the basis of this problem. Everyone has his own history to tell. Histories are great but they are basically meant to help in solving problems. We can not be stuck in history in the face of prevailing realities. So while history will guide us with relevant information, we have reality to also contend with. And the reality now is government needs to intervene to end the merry go round problem.

The Kuteb are alleging that you want to favour the other tribes over and above them.

This is no longer an issue of favoring one tribe against another. We had to find a creative solution to the crisis. The tribes themselves can not find a solution as they are all fighting each other over the issue. What to do? Decision making! First and foremost, we decided the three ethnic groups should first have a third class chief each. Then government will decide on the first class position among them on a rotational basis.
We have since passed a law at our state House of Assembly on the issue. All these are geared towards finding amicable resolutions to conflicts.

But is this the only solution?

Do you have another? Only government can solve this problem and the rotational system is one that can do it. All the three contending tribes will have a third class chief and government will decide among them who to make the paramount ruler. When the King passes on, another tribe will ascend the throne. No one will be marginalized. Often times, we have to make sacrifice to be able to solve problems. This time calls for greater sacrifice and I’m calling on everyone to be their brothers keeper. Let’s be sacrificial.

But were the stakeholders carried along on this solution?

Very well. We have consulted widely. Like I have been saying, I owe the elders respect and the youths an explanation. But as governor, I have a problem to solve. I have been having series of meetings with them. In all my meetings, I tell them these things. They all agreed with me that we must find a solution to the problem. And I have told them that peace and security is very central to the development of Takum.

Many things are taking place in Takum. A university is coming up. An airport and a three star hotel is being planned. The Kashimbilla dam is there and many other things. The town needs peace and security. It would be irresponsible for government to sit back and not do anything about it. We now have a solution backed by the laws and historical facts. I have been saying that let us give this solution a chance. If it doesn’t work, we can actually re do it. It is within our powers to the right things. Moreover, development is above all: jobs, facilities and progress.

Takum local government can be revived again to be the center of peace and unity. My aim is to foster this and restore Takum to what I used to know about the place in my childhood days.

Kuteb are alleging marginalization and persecution because they did not vote of the PDP in the last election..

No. But let us assume that they did not vote for us, we still won the election. That also tells you a lot. That is politics for you but now it is the time for governance. Government belongs to all. Like I said, the problem has lingered over time and a solution is needed. The people themselves can not be left with the crisis alone or the management. Government must wade in and that is what we have done. As for marginalization, I have Kuteb in my government and we are working together. I have a commissioner from Ussa local government. We have many highly placed Kuteb sons and daughters in government. This is not vendetta or ethnicity. I have a problem to solve and I’m solving it to the best of my knowledge and abilities. I said in one of my meetings that I should be given the benefit of the doubt. No need taking up arms to fight when aggrieved because the law will take its full course. No one has been denied their natural rulers but the first class office is a decision by government and we are taking it.

On a personal note, this is not the first time I’m encountering these issues in my work. At the Niger Delta, I met such crisis with tribes at logger heads. Today, largely through our interventions back then, they are relatively living in peace together to make way for development in the region. Unity and peace are very essential for development. That’s my mission in Takum.

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