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Plateau State: Before We Beat Another Commissioner – By Othman Nanpon Alalmin

Gov. Jonah Jang

By Othman Nanpon Alalmin | NNP | Dec. 21, 2012 – It is not every time that I write about a particular state, an individual and the leadership encounters in my exhortation as I call it.

For one Star General in the Nigerian Air Force, a onetime Governor of former Benue and Gongola States at the age of 40, two states that have become four. Politician, and a Pastor, a Middle Belt activist, who means different things to different people, hate or like him, it’s only a question of where you stand.

I chose to engage him in the light of very recent issues that has hit his state, I will put our encounter in the following paragraphs in a judge yourself manner.

On being accused continually of fanning the embers of war between indigenous people and settlers, fulanis, Hausas and Muslims. He responds “the Plateau case is a complex matter, not as straight as one would have loved. This is why it seems to have defied solutions and as if one person or the other is solely responsible. People don’t like me because now I say natives should be put on the alert. That we must resist any further attack on any of our population. That I want to use this opportunity to call on the Federal Government that we have the right to be protected, that we cannot be left at the mercy of marauders and terrorists. Though as a government, we continue to strengthen the structures of dialogue at all levels and ask stakeholders to step up peace-building efforts to assist the government”.

“I think rather than be accused of being discriminatory; I wonder why there are lots of discrimination against the people of Plateau State at the federal level”.

“The issue on the Plateau is that certain people forget if you stay here you must respect the customs and traditions of the people. We do not stop anybody from contesting elective offices, contrary to false impression created by those who did not wish the people of Plateau well. But you must respect us”.

This writer believes that Plateau is a miniature Nigeria, with all its problems, so I asked the helmsman what it portends for Nigeria, any hope in the midst of all the altercations. Jang says “Nigeria has all it takes to become a great nation and take her rightful place in the comity of nations in years to come.

God was set to transform the country and make it achieve its potentials as a great nation that could become the envy of all for positive developments”.

“Nigerians need to move closer to and have the fear of God for the expected positive changes to materialize. If it is well with Plateau, it will be well with Nigeria, vice versa, we are just battling external enemies, but we are overcoming.

But how does a man accused of so much hatred speak of God, so again I took on him, on the accusation of hatred and wickedness against Muslims in the state who say there is a bias against them. He says on the contrary “Plateau and her people have been victims of all types of machinations. The state has been divided and so it’s obvious to see and hear such. I lived much of my youth with Muslim benefactors and friends so cannot afford to hate Muslims”.

“I run a government, my government has good intentions for the Muslims in the state but some people say I hate the Muslims, it is not true. I want cooperation with government by both faiths so that everyone will enjoy the dividends of democracy. It’s been over 10 years of civil unrest, we keep pursuing peace…I am in government to serve everyone regardless of differences in faith and even development of all parts of the state irrespective of who inhabits such parts is my aim”.

I asked him, pointblank, are you the problem of Plateau…? He smiles and tells me “I wish I was the problem of Plateau, I would have just stepped down and then all the problems would go. We have had unending crisis for almost a decade plus in state starting from when I was not head of government.

Plateau is a very virile and diverse people with different perception. We see things differently but that doesn’t negate the Plateau dream or project”.

“Some of the statements and conflicts at certain levels are just political and for others, so that they may be heard. On personal levels there are no such conflicts. We cannot be drawn into dragging ourselves into problems we should collectively be solving. For example Gen.

Jeremiah Useni is an elder not just in the state but the nation and as such I can’t be joining words with him”.

At this point, how can I not ask about the strike, the salaries, the fights and the no love lost between him and the Plateau working class, why? With a frown he tells me “it seems, you only see my enemies or perceived wrongs. We are not the only state that has faced challenges with our workers in terms of remuneration and such matters. Teachers, civil servants everywhere in Nigeria are faced with same primarily because of competing demands for scarce resources. But I must say that we have equally tried in giving our workers the available best in many ways”.

“Training, promotions are just a few. There are equally times when the issues have been people just resisting change or being used by enemies of the state to pursue selfish agendas. It’s not just about workers, as a government we acknowledge that poverty is a reality in Plateau State and affects us all. Poverty levels have risen from 25% in the early 1990s to between 60-70% in the millennium”.

“One outstanding feature of poverty is its dynamism in terms of impact and spread. Consequently the poverty agenda has climbed the ladder of priority issues requiring government intervention among other matters. So salaries matter, but in relation to income, to earnings. There will be squeezes here and there. It may not have been all cordial, but as a government we acknowledge the good intentions of most members of organized labour. However, some of them have allowed themselves to be used as political tools rather than agents negotiating for a better wellbeing of members, with honour and integrity”.

“Sadly for every violent act we wind back the forward moving hands of peace. We tell others we are a problem to ourselves…it hurts as it seems that when the aggressor is not from outside we have those from within to contend with”

We know that barely a handful make themselves available to be used. But the impact can’t be understimated, governance halts, fear reigns and progress retarded. Need I say we may not agree on all things but violence won’t/can’t and has not been the panacea”

In governments dealing with labour, we have strived for transparency and openness while always appealing for understanding from labour. As a government, we remain committed in our concern for labour issues and welfare of our workers. In return government and employers yearn for respect, loyalty and commitment to duty. In order to promote this harmony and partnership in development, government is determined to pursue the path of dialogue in resolving contentious issues between her and labour instead of adopting confrontational pastures. We also expect same from organized labour.

This writer smiled at the pain with which the governor spent in explaining the labour stand-off; however there are other issues such as a commitment of the current group of leadership to organizing services and developing partnerships with others to take positive action to tackle poverty together in Plateau State.

The government has also looked at massive investment towards addressing Plateau’s infrastructural deficit especially through the massive construction and expansion of our roads. Having a good transport network and systems can alleviate poverty since it involves the application of labour-based technology which necessarily creates employment; transfer of skills and with constant maintenance, empowering communities through social upliftment and poverty reduction.

A lot has and keeps changing, there’s the Jos Transportation Master Plan and in no distant time the state capital will witness the construction of fly-over and dualisation work beginning with the Secretariat Junction, British America Junction, Old Airport junction, Miango Junction amongst other urban and semi urban interventions in line with the Greater Jos Master Plan.

I gathered the challenge in this regard is the availability of funds. That is why the state is overhauling her revenue generation machinery with the earlier inauguration of the Revenue Task Force.

Accordingly mechanisms are being developed for entrenching civil society consultations through the projects like the Plateau Oneness Dialogue and the Tackling Poverty Together Project which is not only envisaged for greater participation by the private sector but I gathered is yielding results.

Including tackling other critical areas such as agriculture, addressing health and educational inequalities, improved infrastructure, land administration, fiscal transparency amongst others. The state is also laying a solid foundation for sustainable poverty reduction, wealth creation, value orientation and stable democratic governance structures.

I wondered why the governor had a poor media perception, wondering if it was a case of misinterpretation or it is true, and that he is a difficult unforgiving man.

He says he is aware, “I know, if you have principles you are called wicked. The media is only being manipulated, though not all of them”.

“You are painted as they want, they create what they want. There are characters that can’t do any bad by standards set by the media. But really I have a good relation with the media, the rift is one that naturally occurs once in a while, but we get over it and move along. The media has a role to play in reconciliation, teaching, informing the people, and I think they are trying”.

This writer concludes by saying Plateau has witnessed considerable peace in recent times, dialogue has stepped up, despite teething challenges, there is a hope, the government can surely get better, the state is strategically positioned for greater heights….

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Posted by on Dec 21 2012. Filed under Articles, Columnists, NNP Columnists, Othman Nanpon Alalmin. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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