“I’m starting afresh”, said the latest sensation in Taraba state, Governor Agbu Kefas. He was responding to questions on the spate of policy pronouncements he has been making lately. Since he took over, the retired soldier turned politician has continued to drop surprising changes like a man in a hurry. He’s an iconoclast too. The decisions appear abit drastic with some wondering if Kefas has finally jettisoned the old template. He’s a non conformist, an artist keeping his audience in suspense. And yet, a closer look shows a keen mind at work, a focused effort to redeem a rather bleak situation.
Take the education sector for instance. Kefas met schools that were more or less centers of decay and despondency. Facilities were at their most deplorable conditions with the staff practically on its knees. He had to do something fast and novel: he slammed a state of emergency on the sector. The governor did not stop there. He did something revolutionary: he declared free and compulsory education. This was something he mentioned in passing during the campaigns seen by many as mere campaign rhetoric. But, in what has now become the watershed of his administration, the free education policy is now set to be operationalised from September.
And while some Universities are increasing tuition fees, Kefas adroitly slashed that of the Taraba State University by half – a move that’s left everyone in near disbelief. But the students and parents are astounded especially in a clime frustrated by the fuel subsidy removal agony.
Security is Governor Kefas- a retired intelligence officer- main area of strength. So, immediately he came in, he revived the Taraba Marshall and reignited the cooperation of the civil force in the protection of communities. It’s working. Ancient fears are beginning to give way to a renewed sense of safety.
A populist, Kefas has endeared himself to everyone. The appeal is bipartisan as he has decided to bury old rivalries and reinvigorate new alliances. And the applause keeps coming as the fresh face knows how to wave at the crowd from the convoy; appears in schools, offices unannounced; meets with prospective investors; takes quick but sound decisions and, in one case, jumped high over a wide puddle in his path- a jump symbolic of the leap of faith he’s taken so far.
The results are starting to show: renewed belief from the public in government’s sincerity, cleaner state capital (as he dealt a death blow on filth), confidence in leadership and the strong sentiment that Taraba is now on a new path. Kefas campaign mantra was Moving Forward. But, giving all that’s happened in the last few weeks, the mantra might as well be : Starting Afresh.
Bello is Special Adviser on Media and Digital Communications.