Four wonders of Adamawa, by Dele Sobowale

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Permit me to declare upfront that the trip to Adamawa State was entirely financed by me; and the State Government provided no guided tour. This is my honest assessment of one of the least reported states in Nigeria. The N400, 000 bill was, to me, money well-spent. I will do it again if the opportunity presents itself.

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“See Paris and die” was a popular expression during the last century when the French capital was indisputably the most beautiful city in the world.

A lot of people still regard it as the city to beat for the first position.

Most Nigerians, being generally home-bound, seldom travel out of their states or zone; and when they do, assessing the aesthetic beauty of the towns and cities they visit is often the last thing on their minds. Adamawa is a state people should visit. As a constant traveler until struck down and disabled by cancer in March 2020, I was a bit different. Having spent nearly 40 years working in various parts of Nigeria, actually living and working in thirteen states, every place soon became a home away from home. Adamawa State was my last Northern stop in February 2020; which I visited on account of a late friend who lived and died in Numan. He was seriously ill with cancer; but hopeful of recovery. We parted with a promise to link up in Abuja. He passed on in August 2020 while I was fighting for my life against cancer. So, my last impression of the state, and especially Yola the capital, was based on my visit in 2020.

However, in order to put this article and a follow-up report in May in the proper perspective, it needs to be stated that Adamawa, before it was carved out of Gongola State in August 1991, has been one of several states which literally developed “under my feet” since April 18, 1975 when I was stuck for two days on the Benue River bank on account of acute fuel scarcity and no diesel to run the pontoon to carry our vehicles across. As the National Sales Director of a multinational company, it was mandatory for me to visit every region at least four times a year and send reports to London. That was how quarterly trips to Yola started.

Instead of reducing, the tempo increased with my appointment as Marketing Manager of North Brewery Limited, Kano. Gongola, being our fourth largest market, a visit a month was the minimum. Thus, for fifteen years, Yola was a must visit place at least once every quarter. When Adamawa was carved out, it shared borders with Borno, Yobe, Gombe and Taraba states. I have entered and exited Adamawa from all possible routes in the state – both before and after the bridge was constructed. Finally, my first personal car bought in Nigeria was supplied by my friend and dealer of Peugeot cars Danjuma Tsokwas – who licenced, insured and delivered the vehicle – GG4978YL – to Kano before asking for money. Adamawa was truly a home to me.

To be honest, I was very reluctant to go when the recent opportunity presented itself. To reassure myself, I called a long time friend in Gombi, belonging to the Lala ethnic group in Adamawa Central, who could be relied upon to tell me the truth about his state, to find out if it was safe to go. He asked me to “come and see wonderful things in Adamawa”. I went; and thank God I did. The new Adamawa State is light years away in terms of development from the old. Apart from the scorching heat, which remains unchangeable, anybody who visited Yola four years ago would not believe his eyes about the transformation in just four years. I was not alone.

With me were Nnanna Ochereome, Chairman of the Editorial Board, Babatunde Jimoh, Assistant News Editor, and our State Correspondent, Umar.

Umar, an institution in Adamawa State, had covered the state for a quarter of a century or more. Umar was an eyewitness to the gradual changes which took place over the years. But, even he was impressed with the changes since 2019. Nnanna and Jimoh were there long before and it is doubtful if they had an idea what to expect. I was sandwiched between them. I was here before all of them and took an unavoidable leave of absence. I was also not sure about what to expect. My sense of wonder started within the first 30 minutes after disembarking from the plane, collecting my luggage and getting into Umar’s car. From the airport to our hotels, we were driven on the smoothest and well-built roads I have seen in any state capital – except Uyo (thanks to Obong Victor Attah). What made the roads so remarkable was the fact that many of them were different from four years ago. A flyover and an underpass had been created to manage the traffic at one of the most chaotic junctions I ever knew, not only in Yola but in the entire country – where fists, curses and maledictions fly frequently. In three days in Yola, no traffic hold-up was experienced anywhere; leading to the question: how did the current Governor, Fintiri, manage to solve a problem which has defeated most of his Southern and Northern colleagues?

The second surprise occurred when our team met with the Governor, later in the day, to officially present the VANGUARD letter of Award. As usual, the first port of call was the office of the Chief Press Secretary, CPS, Mr Wonosikou, a Bachama man. Readers will find out presently why and how ethnic-balancing, under Governor Fintiri, a Margi (pronounced MaRgi; emphasis on the R) has made Adamawa, with over 30 ethnic groups, one of the most peaceful states in the North-East zone of Nigeria. In my 30 years of meeting with Press Secretaries, Wonosikou would rank among the very best for his professional approach to his assignment as the government’s bridge to the media and the world. His office was the most orderly I have seen in a long time in any government office – Federal or State. His manner reflects that of his boss, the Governor, who was also business-like and polite in equal measures.

Our meeting with the Governor revealed the third wonder of Adamawa State. Fintiri was just rounding of another engagement when we were ushered into his office. Sitting right in front of him was a remarkably beautiful lady, neatly but modestly dressed. From common experience, I thought she was the Governor’s Secretary. Both of them later moved to join us at the long conference table. It was time for introductions. Then another Adamawa wonder occurred.

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The dainty lady was not the Governor’s Secretary, as I had thought. Professor Kaletapwa G Farauta is the Deputy Governor of the State; and she was sitting on the right hand of the Governor in the same room. Fortunately, nobody in the room noticed my surprise at this revelation. I have visited dozens of elected Nigerian Governors since 1979 in their offices. Seldom was the Deputy Governor there. On the two occasions when he was present, he would dare not sit down unless told to do so. One was kneeling throughout his short period in the Governor’s office. The amity on display between the Governor and Deputy Governor of Adamawa is a first in my years in the media. She deserves the respect as you will discover in a follow-up article in May.

If an economic renaissance occurs in the NE in the future, Adamawa will lead it.

ETHNIC DIVERSITY AN ASSET IN ADAMAWA

About 30 indigenous ethnic groups exist in the state. Those I can be sure of include (not in alphabetic order): Marghi, Bachama, Bwatye, Fulbe, Chamba, Lala, Higgi, Sukur, Fali, Gude, Nzanyl, Kilba, Ga’anda, Hona, Bura, Ngwaba, Yungur, Mboi, Lakka, Verra, Tambo, Mbula, Bilo, Bali, Kwa, Wanja, Kaarn, Lunguda, Kanakuru, Peere, Koma and Yangtang. To these one must add others: Fulani, Hausa and some Juguns whose forefathers had drifted or posted to what is now Adamawa State. A modern Tower of Babel different from this would be difficult to imagine. It is a minor miracle that the state is the most orderly and peaceful in the North-East of Nigeria…

To be continued in May.

KADUNA: DIVERSITY TURNS STATE TO HELL

“I inherited $587m, N85b debt; reason Kaduna can’t pay salaries – Uba Sani” – THE NATION, MARCH 31, 2024.

To begin with, $587 million is N763 billion at N1300/$1. So, total debt load inherited from Malam El-Rufai, the former Governor, stood at N848 billion when he handed over. El-Rufai mortgaged several decades of the state’s future before he left office. But, that was not his greatest misdeed. Like Fintiri, El-Rufai governed a multi-ethnic state, with as many, if not more ethnic groups than Adamawa; and he turned the most metropolitan State in the North to the hell on earth we all behold today.

I also lived and worked in Kaduna and touched all its Local Governments. The destruction of the peace of Kaduna started early. El-Rufai openly ran a government for Fulani, Muslim, Suni people. The rest could go to hell. Well, hell is here…


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