Chief David Sabo Kente is a Taraba State born Philanthropist, business magnate and a technocrat. Presently, he is on the board of the North-East Development Commission as Chairman, Education Trust Fund.  In this interview, he harped on issues that border on the politics of the state and his aspirations for the people. He spoke with Taraba NewMission’s Williams Ayooso and Zupai Ibrahim at his Wukari country home 

For some time now you have been on the board of North East Development Commission, as chairman, Education Endowment Funds. Can you share with us your experience on the job?

Actually the Endowment Fund came into existence in August last year. We were specifically inaugurated on the 4th of August. Since then we have been trying our best to put in place the structures that will support the endowment fund. We have our headquarters in Gombe State. The state government has donated a building complex to us to be used as our temporal headquarters. So offices will be set up in the next couple of weeks I will be in Gombe to set up the offices.

We are also going to have liaison offices in each state of the region. Once these offices and structures are on ground, we will start the processes of administering the endowment. 

How is the endowment going to be directed?

It basically has to do with scholarship scheme for the North Eastern students. We are going to be sponsoring close to five hundred students in each state per annum. That gives us about 80, 000 students for the six states in the North East. It covers graduate, undergraduate and even the Ph.G.  Programs.

We will also run another programme titled Technical and Vocational Trainings (TEVOT). This is targeted at those who already left school and have not been able to get employed. They will be retrained under this scheme. Those who are in school, especially those moving from JSS3 to SS1, will also be retrained under the program so that they will be technically and skillful enough to be self-employed, after leaving their secondary school education. So basically we are going to be dealing with those who have finished their Junior Secondary School and those graduates that have graduated but are not technically bias so that they can be on their own. This is in addition to some entrepreneurship programmes that we will be holding for them. The top segment of what we are going to be emphasizing is teachers and nurses training. We have enough of School of Nursing and Midwifery in the zone but we are still running short of nurses in our hospitals. So the endowment fund wants to address the shortages headlong. We equally have quite a number of schools but we don’t have qualified teachers. I know many agencies are dealing with all these things I have mentioned but our agency is also trying to contribute its quota. For instance the State Government has Scholarship Board for students but we are still taking up the scholarship scheme as part of our mandate to train five hundred people for each of the states in the North Eastern Nigeria per annum. For all these things, funds have already been provided and we have no challenge so far. All we are waiting is for documentations to be completed so that we will kick up the programs for the benefit of our people.

With the consistent insecurity bedeviling the North East, do you think the Commission will deliver on its mandate?

The government is doing a lot in trying to address the security issues in the zone but a lot still need to be done. Am sure you know what happened during the Christmas. Quite a lot of insurgents’ activities took place in several places. We had our machines burnt down in Yobe. We have another project in Garkida Township Road about six kilometers Mashun Road, our machines there were all burnt down. The governments are doing their best. We are also trying to do our best but with what is happening, we also need to adjust our system to be able to go to places. It is part of the strategy we are trying to adopt.

For sometimes now, Sothern Taraba is engulfed with persistent crises between one tribe and another. As a leader in the zone, what do you think is the solution to this mess?

To be honest with you, conflicts are products of injustice. Once there is unfairness in dealing with people, there is bound to be conflicts. So for me, there is no solution to conflicts rather than been fair to everybody. After all how long will it takes us to live in this world. What does it take to give and take. It takes nothing to give and take to have peace around. But when you deny a section of people what they are entitle to, they will not go and sleep and be watching you helplessly. So to me, as a requirement for peace, we need to be very fair to ourselves. Let’s give to Caesar what belong to Caesar at any point in time. 

There permutations that you are coming back to contest as the Executive Governor of Taraba State comes 2023. What have you to say about this?

You know, power comes from God. I tried twice and I was not successful. In 2015, I was well prepared to be a governor and somewhere along the line, I was technically pushed out. Not because I was not qualified but just out of emotions and some personal reflections and interests from some cabals. In 2019 I tried but could not go to the secondary election. Again you are aware that there was a hijack in our party the APC. 2023 is around the corner and am still consulting my people to see how possible it will be for me to run. But I think I will listen more to the people than deciding to run personally. I will listen to the people first because I believe the voice of the people is the voice of God. That is why I am one person that has not come out to do any declaration. But all gubernatorial aspirants are already in the field. Am just one out of the few that have not come out because am waiting for the outcome of my consultations with people. Once am convinced to a level, I will roll out my programmes.

It seems that you are very close to the father of Taraba State, General T Y Danjuma (Rtd) recently, as such, many people believe that he will support you this time if you decide to contest.

Well General T Y Danjuma been the father of the entire Nigeria not only Taraba State, does not like meddling to power issues. He has for several times rejected to be the president of this country.  It is we politicians that cook these things and take to him. And sometimes when he sees these things, he believes in them like the developments that occurred in the past. It is not as if he doesn’t like David. I have been very close to him but because a set of persons who felt I was a threat to them, ganged up and went to him and sold dummies to him. He bought the dummies ignorantly and acted on them. They were not even prepared for the seat. I was the only one who was prepared adequately for the seat.  But today am sure he knows that a big mistake was made because if I were made the governor I don’t think the state would have been where it is today. It would have been a different thing all together because I actually get prepared to be the governor at that time.

You are astute politicians, one of the finest brains in state. Aside these, you have contributed tremendously to human development and capacity building to the people of this state. Yet, you are always unsuccessful any time you come out to contest for governorship. What is really the problem?

Those of us who are not typical politicians are always misled by the typical politicians. What I mean by typical politicians is those who troop into politics most times because they are unemployed. Some are not well schooled, they have nothing doing and therefore they took to politics.

Such caliber of politicians will never allowed the technically sound people to lead. I retired as a Director of Finance in the Federal Civil Service, National Assembly Service and I ventured into politics. Of cause you know that they will not allow such people that have these nationalistic experiences to come into the scheme of affairs because they feel they will be aged out.

Be that as it may, we thank God that the cabals who tried to prevent people that have the stuff from coming in are all alive watching what is going on. I know if I become the governor of Taraba State, it will take the grace of God for the person who will take over from me to beat my performance. Tarabans will regret why they had not elected me as their governor long ago because of what I will put on ground. God has been very good to me. If you check my performance list you will understand what am talking about better. There are some of the things that you don’t have to wait for money to come before you will do them. In fact, in the coming years, we are not going to be having subvention coming from the Federal Government. In fact, the little that may be coming will not be enough to even pay our monthly bills like recovery of loans that we took and stuff like that. So an agrarian state like ours needs somebody with a holistic knowledge of the economy of the rural setting in order to be able to put a mark on the ground. I don’t need the government to pomp money for us before we will be able to do a project. We need just synergies. We will need to go into Public Private Partnerships and other sources to have a lot of infrastructure on ground for our people. So we are on it again. Am sure this time God will do the best for the state because it has gone through pains in the past few years.

What kind of technology will you use this time to outsmart those typical politicians that always stand on your way?

The technology lies with Tarabans. Once Tarabans knows that they have been bamboozled in the past with words rather than action, the onus is now on them to look around and look at sons and daughters of the state and bring out the ones that can put smiles on the faces of Tarabans and bring them to bear. They might not be the best in terms of the assessment. I always tell people that if you are going to the war you don’t go with your most loved child or your most handsome child but you go with your most rugged child. So if you are going to the war front, the soldiers that you are sending to the war front should be the most rugged ones not the most well dressed and the best in terms of word or been loved by the commander of the Army. It should be rugged soldiers that will go and deliver and come back safely. So I think I count myself as one of the rugged soldiers. I may not be loved by quite a number of people for very obvious reasons, may be because of my outspokenness, my bluntness and uprightness. 

What is happening with your empowerment drive in your DSK Foundation? Activities appeared to have stopped since you failed in your bid to make it as Governor

You are getting it a bit wrong. I have been active even after losing election. Thirty percent of what so ever God gives to me goes into humanitarian services. I may not be very active in the media and publicity. Even as I speak to you, there is a training going on in the DSK Foundation office in Jalingo. In fact we are one out of the five authorized training Institute recognized by NASA for training on skill acquisition. We have only five of such institutes in Taraba State. Kano has over seven hundred

The people of Southern Taraba agitated for power shift to the zone. Now, one of your own, Architect Darius Ishaku is there for close to six years now.  Can you proudly associate with him, looking at what he has done so far? 

Normally I wouldn’t want to talk on such issues but for the avoidance of doubt, Southern Taraba happens to be the most enlightened zone and normally we should produce the best things. We are educationally a bit more than our brothers in the North and Central Zones of the state. We are also economically more endowed than them but unfortunately the processes of selecting who governs in this region was distorted and people got agitated and produced governor Darius who may have not prepared to govern the state because ne never bided for it. When you get to bid for something you get to plan for it. My humble self and few of our brothers had bided. We thought we would have somebody who have drawn up his programs and has gotten prepared; somebody that has a work plan to offer good dividends to his people. Unfortunately the process of selecting fall on Darius Ishaku, who might have not been prepared for it. It is not as if he is not good. He has been managing his private businesses very well but has not given his time for the leadership of the state that he does not know very well so the power was imposed on him and he took up the responsibility. Those who did that thought they could remote control him but when he came on board he could not allow them do it. So they go all over the places trying to run him down and he himself has been trying to resist and at the end of the day, we have abysmal performance from him. But that should not be used as a yard stick to judge all of us in Southern Taraba.

In the last dispensation, power shift ideology was used as a political tool to win governorship position to the Southern part of Taraba, this time, which zone, in your own calculation, is taking the slot?

I agitated that we should have power shift in the three regions. As I speak to you I support power going back to the North or Central Zone of the state because we have done six years and in two years from now we should be done with our tenure. But we found ourselves in a very terrible situation that the zoning might not be all the result. Especially in the APC we want to leave it open because in our party we didn’t do any zoning. So when we were running in 2019 we tried to consider zoning but our colleagues said everybody should bid for it. Now we are back again so we don’t even have zoning issues in the APC, though PDP may have theirs.

But for equity and fair play, power is supposed to shift to another region because having spent eight years in ruling the state, what is good for the gees is good for the gander. So power should be shifted to the North or Central. This is because if you see the power agitation, central has only done six years. Late Pharmacist Danbaba Suntai ruled for only six years when he had the mishap. His remaining two years were completed by Garba Umar (UTC) and Alh. Sani Contact all of them from the northern zone. So if you add up the two years with the ten years done by former Governor Jolly Nyame also of the Nothern Zone, you will discover that the Northern Zone has ruled for 14 years. Central has done only six years and the southern Zone will have eight years if Governor Darius has successfully finished his tenure. So if you go by ranking, the north has the highest number of years, followed by the South and Central. So central can equally bid for it. But for fairness, power is supposed to shift to the north that has not had it for the past number of years.

Taraba has being a PDP state all these while. Do you see any hope for your party, the APC in 2023?

That is what we have been trying to do. In fact in 2019 if we had gone through a credible process to select a candidate, maybe we would have won the election. But the processes were thwarted, hijacked and were deliberately masterminded by even people from the PDP to ensure that we have a candidate that we may not be able to sale. That was where our problem came from. However, now the party leadership both at the national level and the state level are doing their best to ensure that they have a salable candidate, a good and credible candidate that will be able to deliver on the dividends of democracy. If the processes are transparent and the person emerges, of course you know we are going to win the election. You are aware that Taraba is almost becoming an APC state from all indications. So we are determine and are preparing to take over the seat by the special grace of God comes 2023.

What is the Taraba state of your dream, do you think the dream is realizable?

Like I said earlier, if I had the opportunity to be the governor of this state, it would have been a bit different by now. If somebody said he wants to give you a shirt to wear, you look at the one he is putting on to know whether the one he is offering you is worth wearing. I had been in the government service and have retired about six or seven years ago. When I retired people were saying oh! He had retired, he is finished! But you see when I was out there; I even did much better before my recent appointment into the Board Member of the NEDC about seven years ago. I am a part time Board Member. It is only meetings that take me to the board. The six or seven years that I have been out of the government, I have been able to put quite a lot of things together and as well survived all the onslaughts by all politicians on me and I feel in that capacity of surviving for seven years without having anything to do with the government, if given the opportunity, I will put these experiences of a private entrepreneur capacity into governance. And let me tell you, if you survive for a period of five years without been in government or without having a political appointment, it means you are either gifted or you are a highly skilled person. And so for me I thank God because I have the belief that Taraba will not be the same if I am given the opportunity. I employed more than a thousand people in my firm and I paid them up to date without any subvention coming from the Federal Government. So if one can manage under this hardship condition, taken that to governance will be a plus and a great opportunity for me to break in and put smiles on the faces of Tarabans.

And mark you, the world is changing. Governance is not all about collecting subvention and disbursing but is all about going there to show your ingenuity in terms of revenue generation and expenditure control. If you can’t do that effectively you cannot survive in the current dispensation. That is the system that works all over the world. The oil is already going down and the subvention from the central is not much. This is the time we should be careful in selecting who governs us. We must vote in somebody that has the capacity to govern, somebody that has the intellectual capacity to put in place programs that will better the lives of people.  We should note into office people that are used to subventions such that when the money comes or it doesn’t comes they don’t know what to do. Of course for me you know if the money comes or it doesn’t come, I know what to do since I have been able to survive the terrain for some years.

You have achieved almost everything in life; you are a millionaire, business magnate, philanthropist and an intellectual; where do you intend to go from here? In other words, what will be the focus of your life, starting from this New Year?

I thank God for what I am and where God is taking me to. But what does a man gain in the midst of plenty when you are in the midst of people that did not even have? I have excess food in my house. I have enough water in all my guest houses in this town. If you get to my village and turn a tap, water is constant. So at the micro level, I am contented. But at the state level, I imagined how people are passing through pains. I got to Sabon Gari the last visit I had in Jalingo, I felt so bad about what I saw. A lot of Tarabans are in pains. Where I get fully satisfied is when I have an opportunity to put smile in the faces of those who are in hardships. Let somebody enjoy at least half of what am enjoying, even if it is half. I’m not comfortable with a situation where the disparity is so wide. You are living in affluence while your people are living in pains is not acceptable. That is my driving force. That is what is taking me to politics. Otherwise, as an Ibo man, for that is how they call me, I don’t think I have anything to do with Taraba other than coming to do my best to ensure that I uplift my standard of living because I know, God has taken me to a level that I should be grateful to him and humble myself.

So my drive is service to our people. But again you know, even now, the little that God has given me, I have been doing my best to put smiles in the faces of many. For instance, I am one of the people that made Christmas worth celebrating in Wukari this year. It was one of my happiest moments as all the widows and the orphans around here had a dinner with me. The happiest moments in my life is when I see that I put smiles on the faces of the less privilege. So to me service to humanity is the basic thing while I am pushing myself into power but at the same time I know that power comes from God and if He doesn’t give me I am ok with who I am. 

What else do you have to tell your people? 

The message I have for Tarabans is that they should try as much as possible to live in peace with one another. How do we live in peace? We should try as much as possible to be fair to everybody that resides in the state. The issue of religion and tribalism must be down played and even the issue of the region that we are experiencing should be down played as much as possible. Let all Tarabans live as one indivisible family and with the cohesiveness, we can go places.

My second message is that Tarabans should exercise care and be very careful in selecting the next batch of their leaders. Because the only mistake we make on an election day last for a period of four or even eight years. So we should exercise restraints and care in selecting our next leaders because of the bad experiences we had as a result of the haphazard selection we did in the past. We should base our selection processes on capacity rather than religion and tribalism.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here