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OPINION

A note for Delta Gov. Okowa, By Jerome-Mario Utomi

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Gordon S. Black of The University of Rochester, in his theory of political ambition; Career choices and role of structural incentives’’ posited that; as a politician rises to new positions of power and prominence, his motives for seeking political advancement becomes subjected to intense public scrutiny. In most cases, politicians try to promote the fiction that their motives are unsoiled by private ambitions, that all they wish is to serve the public and to pursue the ‘public good’.

Deltans in the just concluded election subjected your political ambition to serious scrutiny- of which the outcome has made you both lucky and unlucky.

You are lucky because you won your second term bid as the governor of the oil-rich state of which I congratulate you. But unlucky because like success that brings new problems, the result has thrust yet another responsibility on you an extremely important destiny; to complete a process of socioeconomic rejuvenation of the state which we have spent far too long a time to do.

If accomplished, it will be your most powerful accomplishment for earning new respect and emulation.  And if you fail, it will equally go down the anal of history.

Certainly, we have as a state made some advancement under your leadership.  But despite this success, there are also great disappointments- a frustration fueled by the peoples’ economic plights and uneven.spread projects in the state.

It is still not too late to act. But a solution to the present challenge will not come until you abandon doing good for doing well.

To explain the difference, ‘doing-good entails charity service or so-called selfless service where one renders assistance and walks away without waiting for any returns. On the other hands, doing well describes reciprocation and ‘win-win’ because the doer is also a stakeholder and has an intention to benefit at least in goodwill and friendship’.

Without much labour, from the support structure in the just concluded gubernatorial election in the state, you will agree with me that your ability to reciprocate the kindness Deltans extended to you via the provision of  creative leadership that will place the state on a healthy socioeconomic pedestalwill portray you as doing well, turn your relationship with the people to a ‘win-win’ arrangement while promoting goodwill and friendship- a feat you will disproportionately benefit from.

Concretely, the keys to this victory lay in allowing your actions to be guided by reason and reality, re-investment in education, infrastructural development particularly in the coastal areas of the state, employment generation and injection of young Deltans who have integrity, intellect, energy and drive into your administration as the success of any group or nation depends on the quality of people in charge.

Next to these basic principles of equal opportunities are your realization that with sound educational institutions and infrastructure, a state is as good as made, as the institutions will turn out all rounded manpower to continue with the development of the state driven by well-thought ideas, policies projects and programmes’.

When you train a man, you liberate him.

It’s not as if you have not made an appreciable effort  in this direction during your first term in office, however, the statistics of children classified as the children of fishermen and other less-privileged that are not cared for educationally, are still high, staggering and mind-numbing.

They need attention particularly in the coastal region of the state.  And it will be highly rewarding if your attention is redirected to education in the state to take care of this group of people.

Specifically, today, many children are out of school in the state not because they are not willing to be educated but because the cost of education is beyond the reach of their parents. The public schools as you are well aware are short of teachers with dilapidated buildings- on the other hands, the private schools where the environment is conducive for learning is cost intensive.

Very instructive, why you need ample courage to fund the educational sector in the state is that aside from averting another ghastly experience as recorded at Okotie Eboh Primary school, Sapele area of the state, any plan that the government has for the youths without a quality education is a share waste of time. Second and most fundamental, without accessible and affordable education in the state, the children take to the streets where all forms of criminals and other social misfits who pose the actual threats in the forms of armed robbery thugs, drug abusers and other social ills that give bad names to the society are bred.

The plight of deltans living in the coastal part of the state is another issue that will in structure and context demand that you abandon romantic illusion and do well concerning their situation. A visit to that part of the state will reveal that they have not vanished physically but only exist in the frames.

You will recall that just recently, an open Letter  dated May 20th, 2019 was forwarded to you by the Riverine communities in Delta state where the group bemoaned the non-presence of government projects in the coastal areas, lamenting the Niger Delta Development Commissions’ (NDDC) and The Delta State Oil Producing Development Commission (DESOPADEC) choice of cities and towns for their   projects, and advocated for the creation of Coastal Area development agency (CADA), as a way of ensuring a sustained development of the area

Though faced with interminable socioeconomic and environmental challenges, one point I would like to draw your attention to is that these coastal dwellers are that they are troubled but not despondent. A situation that makes it easy for them to be managed and contained if only you could come up with a plan and will to tackle the challenges as currently faced.

Succeeding on this assignment will apart from creating jobs for the youths require you rededicate your energy to doing well and not being just politically correct. Job creation is vital as the large unemployed youth population is a threat to the security of the few that are employed.

The future of the state is full of promises as it is fraught with uncertainty. And the conventional leadership the system is giving way to the one based on knowledge, and for us to build the Delta state of our dreams, we must learn to be part of the knowledge-based world.

– Jerome-Mario (jeromeutomi@yahoo.com)  is a Lagos- Based Journalist 

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OPINION

Race against public good, By Jerome-Mario Utomi

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Race against public good, By Jerome-Mario Utomi

The out-of-the-ordinary political interplays and considerable uncertainties of the past weeks created by new and returning members of the 9th angling for principal positions in both the Senate and House of Representatives, have in a well-defined order exposed a systematised interest the Executive arm and the ruling party have in the 9th Assembly – a development attributable to the imponderable experience from the unfinished ‘war’ with the outgone 8th Assembly.

What, however, makes the present situation very disturbing is that an exercise like the election of principal officers which constitutionally remain an internal affair of the Assembly has suddenly against all known logic got characterized by national intrigue with non-members of the Assembly underlining the advantages, and otherwise of having a particular lawmaker in a given position.

To understand more fully, the objective of this piece, it is important to clarify that like the vast majority of Nigerians, I am not interested in who becomes the President or holds whichever position in the 9th Assembly, I am also in agreement with the wise words of Elie Wiesel, a Romanian-born American Jewish political activist and Nobel Laureate, that in every issue, people must take sides as neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. And silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented!

These facts notwithstanding, it is important that as a nation, we must ensure at all time that, ‘the means we take to achieving a defined intention must be as pure as the purpose we seek.

As an illustration, I read with real curiosity a remark credited to Senator Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe Central), announcing his decision not to contest the Senate presidency.

In his words; I should be able to appreciate the leadership coming from our elders. So in spite of all these calls, in spite of all the support, I have among my colleagues in the Senate, I have decided to in deference to the loyalty I have for his Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari and in deference to the loyalty I have for my party, the APC, in the interest of our party and the development of this country, in order to assist Mr President to deliver his promises, I have decided to respect his wish by not declaring to contest this senate presidency. Instead, I am supporting the party’s position thereby endorsing the candidature of Senator Ahmed Lawan.

Ordinarily, this should not have come as a total surprise as Senator Goje is at liberty to withdraw, and enjoys constitutional right to support any candidate of his choice. But there is in my understanding, something fundamentally new and different about the announcement.

Aside from the fact that what happens before the elections have a lot of influence on how the government treats its people, Senator Goje by his  own admission that he dropped his ambition  in deference to the loyalty  for his excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari and in deference to the loyalty  for his  party, the All Progressive Congress,(APC), has barefacedly confirmed  the position canvassed by  a leadership guru, Professor  Sydney Finkelstein, that flawed decisions by leaders start with errors of judgment and fueled by the presence of inappropriate self-interest, distorting attachments and the presence of misleading memories.

Regardless of whether the decision which some has described as ‘statesmanly and patriotic’ was taken to achieve a particular purpose, the truth is that the world is in agreement that the survival of democracy depends on the rule of law. And the rule of law in turns depends on the respect each of the arms has for one another.

Admittedly, it is important for political office holders to respect Mr President and their political parties, but, I hold an opinion that the greater good/loyalty of any public office holder must go to the greater number- the Nigerian masses.

With the above fact in view, turning down support from colleagues who are convinced of your leadership capacity, just because of the so-called loyalty to Mr President and his party is but synonymous with robbing over 200million Nigerians their right to vibrant, more deliberative and productive 9th Assembly.

Notably also, if not errors of judgment and distorting attachments on the part of the Senator, he should have remembered that it was a similar relationship in the past that set the stage for situations in the Senate where constructive debates were given no chance and seen as unnecessary and divisive. Deferring political ideas and strategies perceived as destructive to the nation’s interest, open discussion is seen as a challenge to the leaders. And outspoken lawmakers, with a different set of ideas, values or organizing technique addressed as the enemy within.

As an incentive, instead of making loyalty to the President and the APC a reality to worry about, what needs to be the preoccupation of the members should include; how to make a difference for Nigerians of every social class and in every field of endeavour, how to do something worthwhile in the venerated space as well as how to internalize the advice by Senator Bukola Saraki, the immediate past Senate President, who during  the valedictory service of the 8th Assembly cautioned thus;

‘My advice to whoever succeeds me is therefore along the same vein: be there for the people. Act in the interest of the average Nigerians, keep the legislature always at the behest of the citizens, let it be a people’s parliament. Whoever succeeds me, that person will still be a product of the 8th Senate. We did it together. Let there be continuity. When Nigerians cried out for help, we did not turn deaf ears. Where there was contention or strife, we were agents of peace and helped to find the way forward.

That, in my opinion, is the way to go.

For the 9th Assembly to, therefore, move forward there should be a small shift in policy that will guarantee a visible change. They urgently need to remember that there is little hope for us as a people until we become toughminded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truth, and downright ignorance. As any nation that produces softminded men purchases, its own spiritual and socio-economic death at instalment plan’.

I end in this manner; when asked to share his thought about leadership, Lee Kuan Yew, a one time Prime Minister of Singapore stated that; leadership is more than just ability. It is a combination of courage, determination, commitment, character and ability that makes people willing to follow leaders.

I think the 9th Assembly needs people with these attributes and more

 

Jerome-Mario Utomi (jeromeutomi@yahoo.com) writes From Lagos.

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OPINION

Yahaya Adoza Bello and memories of Mohammed Abdulsalam Onuka, By Debo Alabi

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Each time I see television reports, online videos and snippets from the actions, activities and pronouncements of Yahaya Adoza Bello, the governor of Kogi State, I cannot but draw comparisons between him and Mohamed Abdulsalam Onuka. Not many remember the latter, but he was a lieutenant colonel in the Nigerian Army, who was deployed to serve as military administrator of Edo State, during the administration of Gen Sani Abacha.

In a state brimming with top class military talent across the services at the time, Abacha favoured the young Onuka at the time and made him chief executive of one of Nigeria’s most politically sophisticated states. Just in case you have forgotten, Edo State is the home of Brig-Gen Samuel Osaigbovo, who as military governor of the Old Midwestern State, was easily one of the greatest success stories of the Yakubu Gowon dispensation. Edo State is also the birthplace of Admirals Augustus Aikhomu and Mike Okhai Akhigbe, who served at various times as Nigeria’s Number Two citizens, in the official designation of Chief of General Staff, CGS.

Onuka was famous for intemperate language, abrasive comportment and unbridled arrogance of power. He was brusque, brash and impulsive. He traversed the expanse of Edo State, with his trademark swagger stick, barking orders, spewing threats, sacking and dismissing workers in tow. He seemed overzealous to impress his masters in Abuja, who were even more discerning and genteel than he was, as the Abacha gang strove to legitimise itself in the immediate post ‘June 12’ era.

I cannot forget one of Onuka’s televised appearances on Nigerian Television Authority, NTA Network news, in the course of his visit to one of the many state-owned parastatals, sometime in 1994. I recall I was visiting a friend in his Oregun, Lagos accommodation that day and like the newsmen we are, we tuned to the news telecast to catch up with the day’s events. And there was the voice of Onuka belching out of one of the news reports, his eyes blazing like the furnace of the bronze casters on Igun Street, Benin City: ‘This is the last time I want to see things this way. The next time I have cause (to) come back here, you will see the redness of my eyes.’ Then he stormed out, military escorts and security personnel fawning over themselves to clear the way for him…

I don’t know if Abacha watched that Aminian dramatization by Onuka. I wouldn’t know if it was the CGS to Abacha, Lt. Gen Oladipo Diya who did. Better still, I can’t recall if it was the revered royalty in Benin, the Omo N’Oba N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, N’Ogidigan, Oba Erediauwa II himself who put a call through to Aso Rock, Abuja, seeking an end to the continued repression and mistreatment of his subjects by Onuka. What I know for sure is that a few days after that inglorious outing on national television by Onuka, his tour of duty as military administrator of Edo State, came to an unceremonious denouement.

Appointed as chief executive of the state on December 9, 1993, Onuka got the boot on September 14, 1994, after barely nine months in office. He was promptly replaced by a more mature, more charismatic, less noisy and controversial Bassey Asuquo, an army colonel. And trust the military with its punitive, if not vindictive reward for misdeamenour, Onuka was flung, with immediate effect, to the battlefields of Sierra Leone on a peacekeeping mission in a nondescript capacity. And that marked the beginning of the end of an otherwise promising career, the same pedestal on which the Hamid Alis, the Jafaar Isas, the Olagunsoye Oyinlolas and the Buba Marwas, among others, rode to subsisting national acclaim and relevance.

I have been checking Wikipedia recently and it tells me Yahaya Adoza Bello of Kogi State and Mohamed Abdulsalam Onuka, are indeed first cousins! Maybe herein lies the uncanny congruences and affinities in their destinies, persona, official carriage and administrative demeanour.

Yahaya Bello loves the military swagger stick. It is a part of his customary sartorial make-up. The only times I have not seen his walking stick with him, are in those short video clips of his boxing trainings where the gloves he wears, prevent him from adorning the stick. From the biography of him in the public space, he was most probably still in secondary school when his older cousin was military administrator and strutted about with that trademark stick. And he loved it.

Very much like Onuka, Bello was awarded the governorship of Kogi State on a platter of platinum. Here is a man who didn’t campaign to be elected governor, whose name was not on the ballot paper, who didn’t contest to be governor, but who was woken up by a phone call and presented the position as a fait accompli! Yes, Abubakar Audu, a two-time governor of the state and candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was coasting home to victory in that November 2015 gubernatorial election, when the unexpected happened and he died just before the conclusion of the election. Against all electoral and political permutations, a strange legalistic invention to the effect that the runner-up in the primary election which produced Audu as candidate, become beneficiary of the votes cast for Audu, and by extension, ‘duly elected’ governor of Kogi State! And thus entered Yahaya Bello. Bello, before then was totally unknown in Kogi State.

Yes, he contested the APC governorship primaries in the state in 2015, but he walked away as soon as he lost. There is no record of him accompanying the campaign train of the APC in the build up to that election, because he was sore and bitter from his predicted loss at the primaries, and he opted to abstain from the process.

Onuka, his cousin, was as well an unknown quantity in the Nigerian Army, probably serving as Staff Officer or Battalion Commander in Bama or Bakassi, retiring to a bottle or two of kunu or Trophy lager beer at the close of work every day, before fate catapulted him to the leadership of Edo State.

And what has Yahaya Bello done with this fairy tale opportunity since his inauguration as governor of Kogi State in January 2016? He has striven assiduously, committedly and consistently to make the state the headquarters of national scorn and public opprobrium in all ways possible. Kogi State is easily the capital of mass suffering, pervading misery, palpitating insecurity, inestimable despondency and crippling despair across the country.

Workers’ salaries and emoluments are unpaid. Labour unions have been unanimous and consistent in saying that the salary backlog is in hovering around the 40-month mark. The civil service has been phenomenally degraded and debased such that permanent secretaries at the topmost echelon of the bureaucracy commute to work on motorbikes! Pensioners who gave their active and productive years in the service of state and country are deprived their gratuities and entitlements.

The economy of the state, largely powered by the civil service, is virtually crippled. Sales are low, businesses folding up. Many businessmen have indeed folded up and left the state. Hunger walks on all fours in the state, poverty has become a way of life. Kogi State today holds the infamous national medal for the state with the highest rates of depression, stroke and suicides.

Amidst such despair and hopelessness, ‘GYB Boys’ as the clique of like-minded characters around Yahaya Bello brand themselves, live in such grandeur and opulence, with contrasts so disturbingly sharply with the overall morass around and about them. They ride the choicest, automobiles adorned with women procured from tertiary institutions in the state, move about with bands of police escorts and live large like tomorrow will never come. They virtually talk down the people by their body language, as though saying: ‘This is our time, to hell with you.’ Kleptocracy is at its despicable best, even as a recent intelligence report indicated that an attempt to convert the sum of N7 Billion for a serving, top government official in Kogi State, to USD, was discovered, blocked and reported to the President.

Gangsterism, thuggery and lawlessness have become critical aspects of governance and statecraft by a governor so power-drunk he’s ever taking an aim at critics, enemies and antagonists, real or imagined. The Office of the Deputy Governor has been virtually abrogated and the powers transferred to the Chief of Staff. Even as the National Judicial Council, NJC, found no merit whatsoever in the governor’s petition seeking his summary removal, Bello has since instigated the pathologically genuflecting state assembly to orchestrate the ouster of the Chief Judge. Such is the reign of terror foisted on Kogi State by Yahaya Bello.

You descend into the lounge of your hotel in Lokoja, and you are greeted by gruff-looking, gun-wielding fellows in unfamiliar uniforms pacing about. They are operatives of the private army of the Bello government, christened the Kogi State Vigilante Services, whose very activities as they patrol in unmarked vehicles is a recurring source of trepidation for the people.

The recent general elections witnessed a new high in provocative, state-sponsored illegality and brigandage, where state appointees, notably commissioners, advisers and local government administrators personally bore arms and targeted hapless citizens, as they fell over themselves attempting to impress the Capone in the hall of infamy. This is the abyys into which Yahaya Bello has dragged Kogi State, in the last 40 months.

Traditional rulers who were once the conscience of the people, who spoke truth to power in the service of their subjects, have become an integral part of the propaganda machinery of the administration. Except for the revered Ohinoyi of Ebiraland, Alhaji Abdul Rahman Ado Ibrahim (the paramount ruler of Bello’s home ethnicity by the way), who has been typically blunt and courageous in telling the governor some stinging truths, the others have been cringing and caterwauling before him, for fear of being deposed or not being presented their staff of office, for those who haven’t been installed.

Those of us who believe in the energy, the vibrancy, the resourcefulness and the creativity which the youth can bring to any sphere of human endeavour and have always canvssed youth inclusiveness, as well as members of the younger generation themselves, must be thoroughly disappointed and embarrassed by the below par outing of Yahaya Bello in Kogi State. Yet, our democracy has thrown up genuinely youthful bright lights across the political spectrum who left positive imprints on the sands of time. Donald Duke was 37 when he was elevated governor of Cross River State in 1999. His legacies still echo around and about the state. Nnamani Chimaroke became governor of Enugu State at 39, Bukola Saraki became chief executive of Kwara State at 41, we can go on and on with examples.

My mind just keeps going back to how people stroll into irredeemable oblivion, after handcrafting the mismanagement of providential opportunities, very much like Yahaya Bello.

There are loud insinuations that he may not get the governorship ticket of the APC at the August 2019 primaries. If the party desires to begin the process of salvaging whatever is left of its battered reputation in Kogi State, that would be strategically face-saving. Yahaya Bello is a grievously unsellable brand.

If the courts rule that his sack of Haddy Ametuo-led APC executive last year and his singlehanded installation of a new executive is null, void and of no effect like we’ve witnessed in Rivers, Delta and Zamfara states, that report card of his conquest in the last elections, culminating in two senatorial positions, seven House of Representatives seats and 25 State House of Assembly offices, becomes ash dust.

If perchance he survives these two landmines and confronts the rage of the people at the polls on Saturday November 16, 2019, not even the fear of guns, bullets and machetes will break the resolve of a people he has so Pharaonically suppressed.

And Yahaya Bello, head bowed, shoulder dropping, takes the long walk to join his ageing kinsman and mentor, Mohammed Abdulsalam Onuka, on the vacant, lonely roadway to Agassa.

* Debo Alabi is a public affairs analysts

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OPINION

What Ibrahim Dankwambo left behind in Gombe State as Governor, By Nkechi Nnmadi

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Writing from the perspective of ‘Corper Wee’, a first time traveler and youth Corper to serve her fatherland, carefully perusing the list of applicants for the skills acquisition program, I let my thoughts drift to that exact day I received what I had perceived to be a terrifying news.

The NYSC postings had just been released and like the rest aspiring Corpers; I was excited about the new journey, but unlike most of them, I was pretty sure I had a clue where I would be posted to, which explains the raised shoulders I walked with, as I sauntered into the cybercafé that fateful Tuesday. Dad had pulled some strings and assured me I had nothing to worry about. I believed him.

My disappointment was incomprehensible when Gombe state popped on the computer screen for my placement, as opposed to Abuja I was promised. I muttered curse words as I made a quick exit and went straight to my father, who tried to remedy the situation but to no avail.

To cut the long story short, within few weeks, I found myself in Gombe State and I was convinced my one year stay would be the most traumatic experience for me.

It’s been two years now and I have refused to exit the beautiful City of Gombe, despite the pressure from the East to return and resume a job at my disposal. Why? I’ll tell you. As a young adult who had never been really in a position of responsibility, I had paid little or no attention to politics, the rulers and the Nigerian Government as a whole.

Call me privileged if you like, but I was clearly too comfortable, living off my parents’ pockets to break a sweat about the state of the country. It took the move to Gombe state to effect a change in attitude, especially because I was finally on my own and had to be faced with the responsibilities of being an adult.

I completed the compulsory three weeks camping exercise and resumed at my place of primary assignment as a Skills Acquisition trainee where I couldn’t help but admire the initiative by the Government under Governor Dankwambo to fortify hundreds of youths with the necessaries to learn and for some, hone their skills and thus, armed to embrace the entrepreneurial world.

I also marveled at the timely and prompt payment of the staff salaries as opposed to the numerous complaints from civil servants in other states in Nigeria.

My interest in the prodigious attainments of Governor Dankwambo was again piqued at our usual hangouts, where a couple of corpers met to connect and stay in touch. This particular corps member charted the lot about his younger brother who was being sponsored to the United Kingdom for Maritime studies by the Gombe State Government. I was thrilled as I drew closer to listen to a few others to authenticate his story, while adding that over 25 young people were beneficiaries of this initiative by Governor Dankwambo.

As expected, his good deeds and achievements became the topic of general discussion and for the first time in a long while, I heard little to no condemnation of a Governor of a state in Nigeria. From the renovation and construction of over 502 classrooms, to the recruitment of over a thousand graduates under Sure-P, and of course the empowerment of 1500 of the poorest of the poor through the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) and the Construction of Earth Dam at Bob, Shongam Local Government Area.

I listened in awe and veneration and of course chipped in a few from my personal experiences. I’m still here, will be here for a long while too. Who wouldn’t? A state, where it is the Jewel of the Savannah of the nation, diversity in culture and ethnicity is respected, and upheld to foster unity and peace, and most importantly, a place where the system works.

My stay has led me to conclude that the entirety of Governor Dankwambo’s political administration is grounded on his political philosophy of protecting people, providing healthcare and education, providing economic opportunities, propagating unity and harmonizing Gombe under one leadership, and generally influencing decision-making for the good of his people. In light of Nigeria’s teetering on the edge of economic catastrophe and the constant political upheavals, the good governance of Dankwambo shines through like a beacon of light in the dark.

Fuelled by his impeccable credentials and nonpareil pedigree of outstanding antecedents, Dankwambo utilizes his wealth of experience, exposure and exemplary attainments to bring about a paradigm shift from the status quo in Gombe state.

Today, I sit in the position of a skill acquisition trainer in Gombe State and I’m proud to say going back home is still not an option (for now at least). It is indeed sad to witness the end of Governor Dankwambo’s administration.

He would be greatly missed and I hope the new government, with Dankwambo’s guidance will be able to continue his good works.

In the meantime, I will extend my stay to give back to the community and most importantly the leadership that empowered me. Meanwhile, the new administration should emulate the outgoing government and let the incoming Corpers, and expatriates to have a good feel of the jewel grassy plain of tropical and sub-tropical regions, with few trees that make the state a beautiful savannah.

Nnmadi is a youth Corper serving in the capital city of Gombe

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