The meeting was so guarded it could have passed for the conclave of the cardinals in search of a Pope. It certainly was not a conclave of cardinals to elect a Pope. But it came very close. All, governors, serving and old, former ministers, elders of the party, professionals, respected public analysts as well as intellectuals and sundry public-spirited individuals who had been carefully selected across all divides, drove themselves to the meeting venue and left their security details in another venue. The session was intense and furious. In an attempt by different wings of the Nigerian elite to find who can lead the country to the future, this kind of nocturnal gatherings was expected. But nothing has probably ever come close to this high-level meeting as witnessed in Abuja that day.
For Nigeria, at least, the good news is that there is a serious search by the elite for a credible alternative to what many would consider the best turned the worst for Nigeria, one that has dashed hopes and smashed beliefs to smithereens. For the opposition, members of which actually convened this conclave, it is even much more. This is the time to retool for Nigera’s progress and remind Nigerians of the party of Alex Ekwueme, the G-18, the G-34, the party of Sunday Bolorunduro Awoniyi, the party of Isyaku Ibrahim, Shehu Yar’Adua, Umaru Yar’Adua Theophilus Danjuma, Solomon Lar, Audu Ogbeh (now in APC), the party that united all Nigerians. So, the meeting was to find a way of sending this message to Nigerians: the party that took Nigerians for granted is now ready to redeem itself and give the nation a purposeful leadership of knowledge and competence.
And the conclusion was that the kind of presidential candidate presented by the PDP for the next election would make or mar the party. Hence the seriousness of secrecy that day last week and the banishment of emotions, status and frivolities. Now, the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, has not come out with a presidential candidate Nigerians across all divides can relate to or identify with but the search may have been narrowed down to a few persons. Atiku Abubakar, the perennial and perpetually mobile candidate, who is well acknowledged as being well prepared as former vice president and an ideas man, is on the stumps.
Sule Lamido, former governor of Jigawa State is on the discussion table. Of course, there are others, currently in the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, who are being speculated on account of their political origins, as likely PDP candidates. But at the meeting in Asokoro District of Abuja last week, the name that dominated all discussions was Ibrahim Hassan Dankwanbo, current governor of Gombe State and perhaps the most successful Accountant-General of the Federation Nigeria has ever had the benefit of his service. And as the world moves towards knowledge-driven and astute leadership, in the matter of Nigeria’s future leadership, Ibrahim Dankwanbo’s name and life journey so far gave that meeting some serious food for thought.
Is he the breath of fresh air Nigeria needs now? In addition to his intimidating credentials as a professional, a technocrat, a financial expert and a political leader with a wide reach across Nigeria, he is young, at 56, and has the kind of worldview the nation needs now. Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, was born on April 4, 1962 at Herwagana Ward in Gombe town, Gombe State. He attended Central primary school, Gombe and Government Secondary School Billiri in Gombe State. He proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and graduated with Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting second class (honours) upper Division, being the second best result obtained by any individual in the then Bauchi State. He further enrolled for Masters of Science Degree, in Economics from University of Lagos. Dankwambo was not satisfied with academic pursuit, he decided to study Post Graduate Diploma in Computer Science at the Delta State University Abraka, Delta State. He finally caps it up with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree (Phd) from Igbinedon University, Okada.
Professionally, Dankwambo has proved to be exemplar. He has passed through the qualifying examinations of seven (7) professional bodies and consequently was awarded membership of those professional institutions. He passed the examinations of the prestigious Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and qualified as a Chartered Accountant only a year after his graduation from the university, a feat most professional chartered accountants will agree is rare to achieve. Today he is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (FCA), a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers (FCIB), a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (FCIT), a Fellow of Nigerian Institute of Management (FNIM) and a Fellow of the Nigerian Economic Society (FNES).
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Alhaji Dankwambo has had various international exposures by attending training programmes, which further molded and shaped him as a refined and seasoned Accountant, Economist and an Administrator. He started his career at the firm, Coopers and Lybrand International, (Chartered Accountants), now PriceWaterHouseCoopers where he was from 1985 to 1988. He later joined the Central Bank of Nigeria in 1988 and was there until 1999, The then governor of Gombe State, Alhaji Abubakar Habu Hashidu spotted the unique qualities in Dankwanbo and appointed him the Accountant-General of Gombe State. He held this position until April 20, 2005 when the then Accountant General of the Federation Mr J.K Naiyeju was retiring. Again the unique qualities of Dankwambo became obvious to all, having served at various committees at the Federation Account and President Olusegun Obasanjo, who noticed his brilliance as well as efficiency appointed him the Accountant-General of the Federation, the position he held until he was overwhelmingly elected the governor of Gombe State. Dankwambo has chaired and served in committees as well as served as board member of some government parastatals at various times.
He was the president/chairman of the forum of Accountants-General and Auditors-General in West Africa (FAAGWA), and had earlier served as the Protem Secretary of the same organisation, He was the co-chairman, standardisation of federal, state and local government accounts in Nigeria, a body formed by the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) to harmonise the Accounting and Reporting of Financial Statements by the three tiers of government. On assumption of office as the Accountant-General of the Federation, he became the Chairman of the Technical Sub-Committee of the FAAC, a committee saddled with the responsibility of determining how the national revenues are shared equitably amongst the three tiers of governments, that is, the federal, state and local governments. He discharged himself creditably and earned the respect of all. Dankwambo was also the chairman of the Audit Committee of ECOWAS, a board member of the Central Bank of Nigeria, board members of the debt management office. On the international scene, he was a board member, Royal Swaziland Sugar Company, Southern Africa and member of the board of Extractive Industries Transparency International. He also sat on the board of many successful companies across a wide spectrum of the nation’s or world economy.
Dankwambo’s reign as the Accountant-General of the Federation brought about very laudable unique and revolutionary reforms to the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation which includes the following;
The Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS) is yet another giant stride achieved by Dankwambo as salaries of Staff all over the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) started being paid centrally, using an automated system.. This eliminated the complaints of delayed payment of salaries by MDA’s and ghost workers’ syndrome got minimised. Nigerians applaud Treasury Single Account (TSA) today, but they need to know the real hero behind it. Dankwambo, as Accountant-General of Nigeria was the one who ensured that he completed the institution of Treasury Single Account which is simply an account or set of linked accounts through which government transacts its financial operations in such a way that its financial position can be determined easily for the facilitation and timely reconciliation of cash balances.
In his quest to evolve a very robust financial management system of the Federal Government he worked tirelessly to install a financial management system called the Government Integrated Financial Management System (GIFMIS). This is an ICT integrated system, which computerises the Public Financial Management processes from budget preparation, execution, accounting and reporting.
On assumption of office as the Accountant-General of the Federation, centralisation of Capital Accounts was a challenge to Dankwanbo. This centralisation had caused delays in implementing projects at the federal level. Dankwambo ensured that this centralisation was removed, thereby enabling ministries, departments and agencies to process and make payments for contracts awarded after obtaining due certification for the projects. Other reforms he embarked upon included the New Chart of Accounts, the Accounting Transactions Recording and Reporting System (ATRRS), which removed the stress of having to prepare and carry hard copies of Accounts by Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) to the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation for Consolidation. The International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (IPSASB) gap analysis was one effort by the Alhaji Dankwambo to upgrade the preparation and reporting of Nigeria’s Financial Statements up to International Standards.
He also embarked on the upgrading of the federal treasury academy to university standard for the training of Public Sector Accountants and affiliating it to a highly recognised public sector professional body in the United Kingdom, (the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) United Kingdom). On assumption of office, one of the responsibilities he was saddled with was the payment of severance benefits to members of staff of some erstwhile government parastatals and companies that were either privatised or were in the process of being privatised. Some of these included Nigeria Airways, Nigerian Telecommunications Company (NITEL), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) and many others. The office, under his leadership, also undertook successfully the payment of severance benefits to all right-sized employees of federal ministries, departments and agencies, as well as payment of pensions nationwide. He discharged all these creditably.
As governor of Gombe State, Dankwanbo has distinguished himself in the areas of education, which was his first, second and third priority, the provision of infrastructure, healthcare, water supply, environmental degradation control and economic empowerment. He is the first governor to create a cogent development plan for Gombe State and has gone ahead to implement the plan, thereby putting the state on the right track for sustainable development. An uncommon visionary, he is also the governor who conceived of a Marshal Plan for the development of the North-east and organised the Northeast Economic Summit (2013) to bring the plan into a regional development blueprint acceptable to all stakeholders, which is to bring about economic growth and permanently check the security challenges in the North-East sub-region.
A committed and principled politician, he is the one and only PDP second-term governor in the north of Nigeria who successfully stood against the so-called “Buhari Storm” and, as a result of his good governance, prudent financial management, justice, fairness and equity to his people, remained on his political platform to win re-election. As a banker, he set so much store of winning the people’s trust, as was in the days of the bankers of old, that he could be described as one of the real bankers, a sure banker or a man Nigerians can bank on.
Ikechi Emenyonu writes from Abuja