It sits on vast proven but untapped reserves of oil and gas. It is a potential agricultural eldorado with capacity to feed the entire nation. It’s arable land can grow tropical and temperate crops in huge quantities. It is the home of the “Madrid” species of timber well sought after internationally.
And it has the potential to be Nigeria’s prefered tourism destination with the variety of cultures and the lush temperate Shangri-la of Sardauna Local Government. And in Gashaka-Gumti the variety of wildlife species can rival if not surpass those found in East Africa.
Without a shadow of doubt, Taraba state is indeed God’s gift to Nigeria.
So why is the state considered as one of the least developed in the country, leading from behind in virtually all parameters of human development? Why is our dear Taraba created over twenty years ago lagging behind states that were created long after?
The trouble is with us and not with our Stars. We cannot blame it on God because like the proverbial horse that was led to the river you cannot force it to drink the water. God has more than done his bit for us even among the states in Nigeria. We are our problem.
And what are our problems? Without doubt our problems are the recourse to religion and ethnicity to define our lives and development challenges.
The idea has gone round that Taraba belongs to a certain religion. It is often remarked rather flippantly as if it is a cardinal factor of life in the state. And subtly it has become the defining point in many policies and activities of government life in the state.
It may well be true that adherents of a particular faith are more in number in the state. But that has not translated into an appreciable level of positive human development for the adherents of that faith. Instead, while the narrative is that the state is being governed on their behalf to safeguard their religious interest, their condition is nothing to write home about.
The people who purport to rule the state on their behalf do not reflect that in their policies. They are denied salaries, gratuity, pension, and other emoluments due them by the very people who purport to rule on their behalf. They are subjected to the same pain and hardship that others are facing.
And on the other side, the narrative is that we are biding our time until we also get the reins of power to change things to suit adherents of our faith. Where we are stronger and have advantage we will ensure that we consolidate and deny the other people the chance to look in.
So in Taraba adherents of the two major religious Faith’s are locked in vicious mutual suspicion and recrimination. This is fueled by elites who use the faultlines as a stepping stone to power and it’s trappings. And once they get to power they all too often seek their own convenience not minding the sacrifices made to get them to power
As a result of this counterproductive approach to governance the state is denied it’s best on the altar of religious politics. Governance becomes one of deliberate exclusion consigning Tarabans and Tarabans to a state of mutual suspicion.
It has got to the stage that consideration for appointment and career progression is based on religious factors rather than merit in many cases. In some extreme examples of such dysfunctional approach, persons from outside the state are prefered for appointments above indigenes of the state just because they belong to the “wrong” religious faith.
Ironically in Taraba most families have adherents of the two major religious Faith’s. But because of the deeply entrenched factor of religious politics they often exist in a state of mutual exclusion.
How then can a state so richly endowed develop when emphasis is placed and reinforced more on differences in religion than in competence and ability? How can the state harness it’s enormous potentials when it does not welcome the contribution of those indigenes
it considers “enemies” and proceeds to profile them negatively because they belong to a different religious faith? Can’t Taraba borrow a leaf from what obtains in some states of the federation where these factors are not considered in appointments and government policies and actions?
If we are looking for factors that impede the development of Taraba despite it’s enormous potentials religious politics is at the topmost of it.
And if we Tarabans of desire to develop our state and enjoy the bounties that God in his infinite mercy has bestowed on us, then we must rescue ourselves from this self inflicted wound.
And the best place to start this rescue effort is politics and governance. We have all seen that religious politics in the hands of our elites is to feather their own nests and empower their families and cronies. It is not about development of the state. When they get to power they don’t consider any religious factor. They are more interested in their personal factor.
Having been at the receiving end of this treachery by our elites we must wise up in our political choices. We must reject any political prescription that has religious connotation. Any political prescription that seeks to use religion as a factor, must be rejected.
In the coming political we must task our political aspirants on development issues. We must ask them to give us a template on how they can pull every Taraban regardless of his or her faith to contribute their quota in the development of the state. We must vow to reject any political aspirants whose antecedent is on exploiting the fault lines of our people.
Going forward this is the resolve we need to rescue our dear Taraba from lack of development despite our abundant God given endowment.