By Emmanuel Bello.
Those who have an interest in taking stock would not miss the revolutionary innovations by the Governor of Taraba state, Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku. Apart from the fact that those are patently novel, they also have contributed in changing the fortunes of the state, moving it a notch higher than he met it. It goes without saying that everyone who ran Taraba had left legacies behind, some bearing their names as a testimony to their hard work. Who can forget Awoniyi quarters for instance! And as Arc. Ishaku nears completion of his first tenure, there is nothing wrong in highlighting those firsts in his glistening track record. Permit me to quickly add that they qualify as “firsts” because both in dimension and strategic imports, no other governor has done them.
I begin with this that has generated arguments in the past. Air travel, at a commercialised scale, as commonplace this might seem, is one of such revolutionary stuffs. Now this needs some explanations as someone might wonder what makes it such an achievement. I’ve even been heckled in certain discourse for making this a big deal. But let’s carefully examine it. And, of course, flights into these parts date back to the early days of our past history.
Missionaries and politicians had dropped from the skies into our areas decades ago. I grew up in Wukari in the 70s and 80s to the sound of planes that taxied at the “airport” somewere in town. Takum too had its share of avionic activities long before the runway at Kashimbilla. Jalingo itself had an airstrip with all its historic landings. What’s more, the good architect didn’t build the modern airport in discourse. That distinction goes to Governor Jolly Nyame. And late Governor Danbaba Suntai did more work on the airport. But what’s an airport if it provides only skeletal services? Gov Ishaku, it must be put on record, literally put the place to proper use and thus moved the state into the airport age.
Today, commercial flight into Jalingo is taken for granted. In the recent past, it wasn’t so. The airport in the past served only some big shots who could afford chartered carriers. What Gov. Ishaku did was to engage the Overland airline to begin commercial services as it’s done in other thriving capitals around the world. That was revolutionary and it is a first. A daily flight is currently being planned but, for now, an Overland aircraft lands here three times a week.
The effect of this has been magical. Businesses have been enhanced and Taraba has been practically engrafted to the comity of states. Jalingo, the capital, that used to sound like the end of the world to many, is now suddenly in bold relief and brought closer. You get a feeling of pride hearing the town mentioned at the Abuja airport among other big capitals around the country. It gave the city and our state a whole new meaning. In the past too, only Yola and Maiduguri enjoy such status in the North East. Gov. Ishaku changed that.
An airport economy translates into influx of more people. Thus the hospitality industry has blossomed in the state. Big names in the sector like the Suites 11, Elohim, Shield and Fasttrack are redefining social interactions among residents and visitors. Rural Jalingo is now a thing of the past as those real estate features have changed the city skyline. It is a new day altogether, thanks to the airport. Gov Ishaku himself envisions a day when more flight would happen especially other big carriers in the country.
Opening up the Taraba skies is a first, as earlier noted, because commercial air travel became a reality only under this regime. The airport itself has been upgraded to meet the best global practices in airports. Named after one of its main inspirations, Danbaba Danfulani Suntai, who loved flying, the airport has found its way into national consciousness. No more worries about how an investor; or a family member; or a political activist; or an entertainer seeking new audience; or a merchant; or an agricultural entrepreneur; and just about anyone. No more worries about how to get into the heart of the state codenamed “nature’s gift to the nation”! This has eased off the stress of road trips or the torture of finding alternative routes. Conquering time and space is one of the bedrock of development. And this airport, through has ensured this.
●Bello, a journalist, is Senior Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to Governor Darius Ishaku.