As Yobe State emerges from nearly six years of acute security challenges, Governor Ibrahim Gaidam has stayed true to his commitments, stepping up effort to cover lost ground and make it a little easy for a people so thoroughly traumatised to get back on their lives.
For, while Gujba and Gulani local government areas of the state are the hardest hit by Boko Haram’s senseless violence, all of Yobe State was directly affected; there were Boko Haram violent incidents in 12 of the 17 local government areas but there were ripple effects in all 17 local government areas of the state.
As the Gaidam administration focuses attention on bringing water supply and sanitation, healthcare and education services back up, for example, its focus on a key ingredient in the service delivery mix – civil servants – has remained unwavering.
Even at the height of the Boko Haram scourge, at a time when a large chunk of Yobe’s revenue earnings were going into supporting military, police and other security agencies’ counter-terrorism campaign against the insurgents, the Yobe State Government, under Governor Ibrahim Gaidam, has regularly paid workers in its employ.
When some sections of the country, as the now ebbing recession set in, initially resorted to asking for ‘bail out’ funds from the federal government to pay workers’ salaries, Governor Gaidam kept paying Yobe workers without fail. And part of the reason he was able to do this was that, as someone who knew what it meant to keep a balanced sheet, he avoided taking unnecessary bank loans to finance projects; loans that, when deducted at source, left the indebted state governments with virtually no money to fulfil basic obligations, including salary payments.
While workers currently in the employ of the Yobe State Government always smile home with their take-home pay at the end of every calendar month, retired workers too smile home with their pension payments. They also unfailingly receive their gratuity payments once verification processes were fulfilled.
So consistent has the Gaidam administration become in the payment of retiree pension benefits, that the governor set aside a rolling N50 million-per-month fund from which to pay the pensioners every month.
The result is that Yobe State has emerged as one of the handful of states in the country where workers remain confident in the knowledge that after a life of service, their labour and strivings will automatically and immediately be rewarded and recognised; that 35 years of working for the state government will never go to waste.
This is what informs the award that the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) is conferring on Governor Gaidam and five other governors at their 10th triennial delegates’ conference in Kaduna today. All six of them are recognised for staying true to the obligations of their workers who have spent a lifetime of service and who, as they retire home to a full time with their families, require all the support they would get to settle down to a normal life.
The Gaidam administration has gone a step further. Recently, the Yobe State Government, for the very first time, organised a workshop through the office of the Head of the Civil Service for workers on the verge of retirement. It was designed to awaken them to the realities of life after retirement to help them plan, organise and execute a successful transition out of the civil service.
At a time that an unofficial study elsewhere points to a disturbing trend in which many senior civil servants die within five years of their retirement because many couldn’t possibly make ends meet, the workshop organised by the Gaidam administration for would-be retirees was a smart way of averting a catastrophe before it happened.
Such is the investment of the Gaidam administration in the welfare and wellbeing of government workers who are the vehicle through which government policies and programmes are conceived and implemented.
Going forward, Governor Gaidam would sustain the tempo of his kind-hearted approach to retirees and civil servants generally.
In return, the governor expects workers, currently in government service, to continue to give in their best and help make his dream of moving Yobe to heights of socio-economic development come true.
The governor wants healthcare workers to take advantage of the wide-ranging improvements in the sector to deliver the best possible care to patients; he wants teachers to take advantage of ongoing incentives and the retrofitting of schools to give Yobe’s children the best possible education. In short, Governor Gaidam wants every worker to take pride in what they do in the service of the people and, in the words of former US leader General Eisenhower, to do “what they can, where they are, with what they got”.
Mr Bego is Governor Gaidam’s spokesman. He wrote in from Government House, Damaturu