There is no denying the fact that since you were declared the winner by INEC in the March 18, 2023, gubernatorial election, you must have received tons of congratulatory notes through various channels. It is not late, as nothing stops me from sending one through this medium, to wish you God’s guidance as you stir the ship of state.
Before they start to accuse me of patronizing you, let me put a caveat to this initiative: My job as a journalist places a burden or rather compels me to ask questions and interrogate leaders, so that they can with all honesty deliver their best the oath they take.
I am aware that there is an election case before the Tribunal brought by your main opponent, Dr. Nentawe Yilwatda Goshwe of the All Progressives Congress. Also, I am aware, everyone in the state is waiting with bated breath for what the outcome will be like.
Leadership, even in the case of truck pushers is ordained; the one as serious as that of a state governor cannot be any less. This letter would have also been written to Dr. Nentawe Yilwatda Goshwe, or Dr. Patrick Dakum had anyone of them been declared by INEC as the winner of the gubernatorial election.
Your Excellency, this is the second time I am writing the Chief Executive of the state; the first was the one I sent to Governor Simon Bako Lalong in 2019 when he returned for his second tenure. For me, it didn’t matter whether the government acknowledged it or not; my duty as a citizen is to raise concerns that may interest the people about what government should do for the state.
Let it be stated, I am not in the mold of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who has become ‘notorious’ for letter writing to those who succeeded him. I am only a loyal citizen who is interested in the good of the state, beyond this letter.
Similar efforts in the past
In the letter I wrote to Governor Lalong, titled: Dear Governor Alert, I raised several issues that were not addressed in his first tenure; however, realizing that he was being bombarded from all corners, we needed him to depart for the first. That letter to me was in good faith; to wake him up to certain stark realities confronting the state, if he must be seen to succeed.
I have since realized that government may not work the way we citizens envisage. Those in government seem to like being originators of ideas, only then can it find relevance in the scheme of things. It will appear that mine did not go beyond those who read it, or it did not get to the governor’s table. I took it in good faith, even as I have continued to add value through media advocacy.
Even if this effort is not complemented, my spirit will not be dampened; every leader has his style of leadership. Your Excellency, if you find this letter too long for your time, it is because the state has found itself in such a precarious situation that you need all the time in the world to attend to state matters so that the needed impact can be made to compete with its peers.
No matter how much advocacies may have been treated in the past will not stop some of us from raising concerns that may help the state stand in better stead, considering that many other compatriots may reach out in the course of your tenure, to contribute towards its development.
Your Excellency, it is not yet known what the policy thrust of your government would be; however, reading through your inaugural speech, there is no doubt that one of the things you intend to dedicate time and state resources to is security. But having listened to you over time, this may not be a walk through the park; hence as prepared as you are, you need to be armed to the teeth to deal with issues of governance.
Except the citizens of Plateau State have changed, and indeed, there is a need to; they are prepared to criticize no matter how much they are well represented by the government. It is oft said in local parlance, the leader is a dustbin (Governor Jonah David Jang had in the past refused such usage on him); and truly it may be so, however, it is hoped that what may have happened in the past would be for all a lesson to criticize only when it is necessary.
Division in the land
Your Excellency, your administration came at a time when people in the state are heavily divided on several lines, no thanks to the animosities that were exhibited during the last elections. As an individual, I felt embarrassed on several fronts that as a people we became instant enemies of one another on account of the choices we make as a people.
During the elections, it was clear that our diversity worked against the unity of the state. The development was a symptom of what had been planted by the older generation over the years, waiting for its manifestation in the lives of younger persons. We can’t deny that, the state came face to face with the monster, if not properly handled may consume our heritage.
The process of nation-building can be herculean, yet very easy to achieve so long as among us are people who are regarded as local enigmas that are saturated with all manners of tribal sentiments. On this account, your government has a big task to be a unifying force across the state, to draw all the tribes under an umbrella of peace and development while relinquishing our penchant for tribal sentiments and building our trust only around our heritage.
In the course of our history, we have had leaders who worked and died for the cause of the state, as they saw themselves as the property of the people they were sent to serve. One of such was the pathfinder for the cause of the Middle Belt, late Police Commissioner, Joseph Dechi Gomwalk, while the other, Chief Solomon Daushep Lar superintended the affairs of the state, by emancipating all sections of the old Plateau thus giving everyone in the communities a sense of belonging.
Those days took flight as soon as they passed on. Today, we are surrounded by numerous local tribal champions, who pretend to love the state while ready to hoist their tribal flags above the collective interest of the state. Herein lays our predicament, which many have used against us to their advantage. This much you alluded to in your speech on May 29, 2023.
You have a big task to be a rallying point, for which God has deemed fit for you to be its harbinger. History beckons on you to carry that mantle, being Governor at this critical point in the state’s history.
It is gratifying you stated this a week before you took the oath of office: ‘Together, we will work towards healing any divides, promoting understanding and building bridges of cooperation in all communities.
‘Plateau State is a melting pot of diverse cultures and traditions, and we believe that our diversity is our strength’.
Security of the State and What to Do
It is no longer news that we have ‘walked through the valley of the shadow of death’ for over two decades. Plateau has been pounded from all sides by all manners of enemies and situations, thus destabilizing it beyond comprehension.
Today, communities all over the state have relics that stand as witnesses to what they have gone through, even as they are reminded always that they are a people hated by what they stand for Peace. But beyond this clearly stated disposition, there is a grand design to take over communities through land grabbing; thus exposing in detail what the attackers are out to achieve.
No need to state much, your local government of birth came under intense attack which left over a hundred dead according to reports from the theater of the attack. I heard your comments about it, and it gladdens my heart that you aptly called it genocide without mincing words. There is no other name other than what it has been referred to as.
I am not sure you had experienced any sad development other than to see the people who share the same history come under this attack. The attacks in other local government areas were equally horrifying. But even at that, it is a sad development that you will be heralded into Little Rayfield with carnage on the people you will govern. No leader will be happy with that.
What is the way out?
I am sure it will not be business as usual. Your predecessor was variously accused from all fronts, especially from the home front of ‘dining with the enemy’. You know for a fact that each year during the rainy season, communities in the state sleep with their two eyes opened for that is when the enemy comes crawling to attack.
As the governor, when the people weep, you should be able to wipe their tears by providing them with a shoulder to lean on. If you lead by visiting the victims after any attack (may God protect us), you would have told them in plain language that you will be there always for them.
They are tired of condemnatory statements from the Government House; they need action that they matter. Your visit to Riyom and Mangu recently is an indication that you will be available to wipe their tears whenever any misfortune visits our communities.
The security agencies may have done less given the asymmetrical nature of the attacks; and let’s not hide it, they have been accused variously of complicity. The communities cannot take care of themselves so long as it is unlawful to carry arms and ammunition for self-defense. They need to be told what to do in such circumstances.
Two important agencies created by the state have remained moribund without attention for funds. The Plateau Peace Building Agency has been largely not funded; and by the act that established it, we can’t continue to underutilize it. The solution to the attacks can be found through its activities.
Secondly, Operation Rainbow has also remained largely non-existent, even though it was established to stand in the gap during security situations as we have had. For over eight years, it remained without mention; only remembered when citizens lament the activity of conventional security, they wish it was still alive to complement their services.
If they must play their respective roles, they need to be resurrected and armed to the teeth with funds and responsibility. Some regions have marched on leveraging security outfits they have created to protect their communities and people. Plateau cannot be treated with levity, as the people are always vulnerable to attack by bandits and other enemies.
Roadmap for the development of the state
It is not for fun that nations and states are guided by the mission a government comes to the state with or wants to implement for the good of the people.
You have been in the office for about three weeks now, and a lot of things have taken place. I am not aware I know what you have come to the table with; all I know is that there are a lot of expectations from Plateau citizens.
I have always cited the administration of Commissioner of Police, Joseph Dechi Gomwalk as one that had a clear vision of what the state wanted; even so though at the time he was the governor of a larger administrative area. He knew the path he wanted to lead the state to; and truly, his mark has been light to succeeding governments.
Sadly, over the years, one government after another enters the Government House with turbulent ferocity insisting ‘it is their time’, hence whatever was started is kept at bay. Even at that, the governors are often persuaded by their followers to jettison certain initiatives but to start their own and run with them.
I have heard a lot of insinuations from several quarters about what you will do. I don’t want to believe any of them. They are quick to point to certain developments within your first two weeks with a conclusion.
Your Excellency, the state needs a development plan that may outlive your tenure. Even if it dovetails into another regime, it will be a people’s plan for the state, which should not be abandoned by any government.
END PART 1