By Godfree Matthew
As the days draw nearer, hopes and aspirations are getting closer to reality. A dream nursed and nurtured for decades is now coming in contact with reality in the minds of the aspirants.
In seasons like this, the phrase “the Plateau of My Dream” may characterize the contents of many manifestoes. An interesting aspect of these dreams by the aspirants is that all of them are dreaming on the same bed (Plateau State governorship seat). But how can we be convinced and vouch for the integrity of their dreams about Plateau State, since there are no witnesses to dreams? This question becomes pertinent considering the saying that “you can share the same bed but you cannot share the same dream.” The 2023 governorship aspirants can be said to share the same bed (Plateau State) but can they actually share the same dream (vision) for Plateau State? Let’s allow justice, ‘time’, to answer this question.
The vision of becoming the No.1 citizen of Plateau State come 2023 is gathering momentum and zest. Publicity stunts are serenading the air, rocks, hills, trees and buildings in Plateau State. To the supporters of the aspirants, each hears the breeze whistling and whispering the names of their candidates as ‘Your Excellency’. Thus, as of now we have many ‘Your Excellencies’ in Plateau State. Our only task now is to determine whom the cap truly fits so that we can let him wear it.
Prophecies and counter-prophecies are now echoing in the air, with ‘prophecy merchants’ (sometimes becoming students of current affairs) studying political events so as to sharpen their arrows of prophecies in order to hit their target with precision and accuracy. We wish them the best this time around as most of the prophetic arrows have been missing the mark on who will become the next governor of Plateau State or president of Nigeria. Oral and documentary accounts are testimonies to this adventure.
Again, we also pray that among the sons of the prophets in Plateau and Nigeria there will be one Micaiah who will have a dissenting voice from among the multitude of babblers invading the ‘Courts of Ahab and Jehoshaphat’, telling them to “go for the Lord is with you.” How I wish the Plateau governorship aspirants would be discreet enough to ask for the counsel of Micaiah in times like this. For it was the same Prophet Gad that told David, “go and conduct the census for the Lord is with you” but was not there or even mentioned when God was giving King David the option of three sentences.
Unfortunately, some aspirants may still not heed the voice of Micaiah in this age. They prefer to heed counselors whose voices satisfy their itchy ears. In times like this, motivational speeches that promote positive thinking appear more appeasing to people looking for political power than the purported ‘pessimism’ of Micaiah. Only the few wise can turn down the seductive adulation of ‘prophecy merchants’ in times like this.
Plateau Central Zone at the Center Stage
It is the turn of the central zone of Plateau State to produce the governor in 2023. Thus, the region is scheduled and assigned to bring one of its capable men to govern the state. The central zone is presently expected to provide Plateau people with a Deus ex machina to salvage the current horrid situation of the state.
However, it is unfortunate that none of the aspirants from this zone is assessed based on his/her antecedents, competence and proficiency. Rather, preference is given to tribal sentiments rationalized with subjective statements such as “now is the turn of our tribe,” “we have never ruled, despite our contributions to Plateau State,” “we have been marginalized since the creation of Plateau State,” and “our people have the best track record in leadership on the Plateau and beyond.” It is unfortunate that when it comes to politics in Nigeria, competence becomes a relative and subjective factor. But the same politicians who mystify competence don’t apply the same yardstick in the choice of doctors or hospitals for treatment. They want the best doctors and hospitals to treat them. They want the most competent lawyers to handle their election petition cases. The question then is, why is competence a threat in politics but not a virtue in sustaining the legitimacy of the office and personality of elected officials? In short, who is afraid of competence? It is sad that in Nigerian politics virtue is a threat while vice is a friendly guest.
Coincidentally, virtually all the aspirants from Plateau Central have the common anthropological and linguistic origins. The linguistic affinity of these aspirants is so obvious that it is very difficult for any of them to make a sentence without the other detecting a known word. It is simply difficult for any of these aspirants or their kinsmen to gossip about one another using their native languages. The question then is, if that nexus is so strong, why not settle for the best and most competent among them? The answer is simple: sometimes Nigerians are not ashamed to send a thief as a delegate to a meeting of saints once he satisfies the ‘ethnic criteria’.
Furthermore, why not rely on common geography as a basis of unity and consensus rather than tribe? I believe geography offers humanity better things than mother tongue. From human geography we have land, water, air, shelter and other necessities of life. But in mother tongue humanity becomes more divided. Is there any way we can attest to the fact that our tribes are in anyway among the factors of production?
A very noticeable feature of the Plateau gubernatorial tussle of 2023 among the aspirants from Plateau Central is that it is so masculine and patriarchal that no Amazon from that region has shown any interest in contesting. This is akin to the African folklore that when a masquerade is outside, only men are allowed to see it. Any woman who is found outside will be sanctioned. Maybe we can say in this context that in the 2023 gubernatorial tussles, the masquerades are out dancing so women should be restrained from coming out.
Perhaps, apart from financial challenges, the other reasons stopping women from Plateau Central from contesting could be the patriarchal climes in which they have found themselves. The absence of a female aspirant in the 2023 governorship election is a sign language reminding them of their cultural place among the contesting tribes of that region. I wish an Amazon from Plateau Central would come out to contest.
On the non-involvement of any Amazon from Plateau Central in the 2023 gubernatorial contest, contemporary Plateau Amazons such as Hon. Beni Lar, Hon. Olivia Dazyam and others should know that the impact of their mentorship is yet to be felt across Plateau State.
Metaphor of a Political Governor within the Plateau Paradigm
The choice between a political governor and an economic governor is a decision that Plateau people must not compromise. It is an irreversible opportunity that comes but once. Presently, the decision we are about to make is like a marriage oath before the altar. It is like the final decision before pulling a trigger. It is like the final decision taken before dying a white cloth black. This decision is like throwing a dice which thrower is anxiously hopes would yield a good number. Will the choice for a political governor be more productive for Plateau people than an economic governor as the die is cast in 2023?
A political governor is not necessarily needed in 2023. This is because Nigerian politics has revealed that a political governor is mostly interested in sustaining political power rather than using it to robustly impact security, health, agriculture and bring transparency and accountability into governance. To a political governor, loyalty to his party structure supersedes state interests; celebrating the founding fathers of his political parties is more honourable than honouring the sons and daughters of Plateau in Nigeria and in The Diaspora who have distinguished themselves through hard work and candour. To the political governor, honouring political loyalists is more important than honouring a first class graduate, a young inventor or thriving business ventures in the state. An economic governor will reward the labour of private businesses that have thrived over the decades. These may include private schools such as Mafeng Private Schools, St. Louis College, St. John’s College, Ejideke Bread and other private businesses. This is how to prod the ‘spirit of capitalism’.
To the political governor, the cult of god-fatherism and political prebendalism are more essential than the spirit and heritage of the people that elected him, including his tribal apologists. A political governor can compromise and sacrifice the destiny of his people for a bowl of porridge. Because of irrational loyalty to his political party, a political governor, when intoxicated with power, would prefer to be a Chief Mourner at the funeral of the grandfather of his party chairman but when there is carnage in his own state, his tears of empathy and sympathy would be on strike.
The political governor is sometimes averse to constructive criticisms. He abhors objective corrections from the opposition and sometimes refers to them as enemies of the state and will not hesitate to use the apparatus of state to harass and intimidate them. Even when members of his political party correct him, they become ‘the enemies within’. To a political governor, only praise singers and charlatans last long as commissioners, special advisers, personal assistants and other administrative staff. Only a few competent ones have enduring tenures.
A political governor is a liability to the commonwealth of the state. His office is an expensive venture to maintain. It is one of the greatest beneficiaries of the recurrent expenditure of the state budget. His loyalty to political allies in the form of medical tourism for tooth decay, birthday celebrations abroad, wedding anniversaries abroad, etc., takes a toll on the state’s treasury. In office, a political governor becomes Mother Theresa, but to the rich – a feat that the political governor could not afford when he was an ordinary citizen. But since he now has access to the commonwealth, he has suddenly become a Father Christmas on any other day and acts with the extravagant exuberance of a Mansa Kanka Musa returning from pilgrimage.
Also, a political governor is a chief strategist in the area of manipulating government institutions to repay the loyalty of his supporters. One of these strategies is through setting up committees and organizing and sponsoring less impactful functions. A story was told of a political governor whose Special Adviser observed to him:
“Your Excellency, the public has observed that there are too many committees under your regime, no government has ever had such number of Committees. It is costing the state so much. Let’s do something to reduce this.”
After some moments of silence and deep thinking, His Excellency responded thus:
“Mr. SA (an acronym for Special Adviser), the best way to address this problem is to set up another Committee that will look into the proliferation of Committees under my tenure. After that, another Committee will be set up to dissolve those Committees that are not necessary.”
A political governor is an adventurer in bequeathing debts to his successor. As at June 2021, the debt profile of Plateau State was about N32.7 million. One should clap for the Plateau State Government because we are at number 30 out of 37 States with Lagos coming first, Kaduna second and Edo third on the national debt profile. Sometimes the adventure in obtaining loans could be genuinely justified or rationalized in financing another second term. The irony of a political governor is that once his tenure elapses, he will be accountable to anti-graft agencies on how he squandered public funds. Most worrisome is that a new political governor may sue his predecessor for corruption which may cost more than the amount to be recovered. And, surprisingly, he could even borrow to do that, especially if he is bent on settling scores with his predecessor.
A political governor is one inspired by using his accumulated wealth to become a political leader. His psychological impetus towards leadership is that “I was once poor, now I have made it. Hence, let me contest.” Such motivations are usually prod by the ego of revenge against the society that once mocked him. Let me cap this segment with a very interesting discussion between two Plateau indigenes.
Young Man: Mummy, how is the preparation for the Governorship Election of 2023?
Old Lady: I don’t know who will even be selected as everybody that has N50 million Naira wants to become a governor so that they will know that he matters.
Young Man: Must every rich man be in politics in Plateau State? Why can’t they invest such monies in economic ventures that will bolster the economy of the state?
Old Lady: Hmm! I don’t know for them, my son.
Young Man: Why can’t they be captains of industries and business moguls so as to solve the unemployment problems that they are claiming to go and address when they become governor?
Metaphor of an Economic Governor within the Plateau Paradigm
Who is an Economic Governor? He is a governor who understands the political economy of his state. He understands the Marxist notion that the economy is the substratum of the society upon which other superstructures such as the polity, security, religion, education, commerce, health and other institutions are built. Thus, the preoccupation of an economic governor is wealth creation in order to stimulate the health, polity, education, commerce, security, agriculture, job creation and other positive dividends of democracy expected of a governor. An economic governor is a sine qua non for Plateau State, come 2023. He is expected to transform the security challenges of Plateau State into an economic opportunity by employing and encouraging the restive youths to serve as vanguards against the insecurity in the state. By doing so, he would be reducing unemployment. Also, he is expected to incentivize agriculture by ensuring that farmers’ lives are protected and secured via the conventional security and the local community policing structures.
An economic governor of Plateau State shall be able to address the challenges affecting the health care sector. Once he sees health as an industry capable of generating IGR, it shall be well with him. By equipping the health care system and constantly paying salaries and other staff entitlements, the system will be stabilized and may serve as another source of cash flow for the state. The economic governor should take exemplary steps to have his file opened in state health institutions. Government House Hospital should be for emergency purposes. This will serve as body a language and direction for his cabinet to follow suit.
Education is an industry that an economic governor should harness. There are a lot of foreigners studying in Nigeria. But can the Plateau State University, Bokkos, College of Education, Gindiri, etc, boast of any? Are the specialized colleges of health technology in Pankshin and Zawan still functioning and impacting the state? What about College of Agriculture Garkawa? Do these institutions still exist as functional entities or are they just relics of the past glories of Plateau State?
Commerce is another project that a prospective economic governor of Plateau State should take into consideration. Three viable institutions in Plateau State are now relics. These facts make one to sometimes wonder whether military is truly better than civilian rule in terms of infrastructural development. The three major state assets of Plateau Heritage that are now objects of nostalgia are the Jos International Breweries, BARC Farms and Jos Main Market. While previous political governors made little or no attempts towards the resuscitation of these commercial triumvirates of Plateau State, we urge the prospective economic governor of Plateau State to factor in these issues as he assumes the seat in 2023. The latest deliberate attempt made by this administration is the blasting of the Main Market Jos which, according to the governor, is the most difficult stage. Since the most difficult stage has been done with, the forthcoming economic governor should finish reconstructing the market.
An economic governor should also be preoccupied with the types of manufacturing industries that should be located in the different regions of the state according to the agricultural potentials of each zone. Plateau north, south and central are all in dire need of industries for the preservation and manufacturing of their farm produce. An economic governor should be able to create commercial opportunities by liaising with farmers for profitable marketing outputs for their produce.
The geography of Plateau State offers limitless opportunities for the economic governor to harness. The rocks, mountains, valleys, flatlands and waters are good for entertainment industries. They can be converted into tourist attractions and sites. The beautiful rocks and hills of Dilla, Jiblik and Shere Hills in Pankshin and Jos East local government areas are potential tourist ventures which, when tapped, could rival other global tourist attractions. The task before an economic governor is to delegate the prospective commissioner of tourism and a few experts to woo foreign investors to invest in the tourism industry in Plateau State. We don’t want to send His Excellency and his whole entourage abroad to get foreign investors because we don’t have enough “water to give them to wash their hands.”
One of the greatest assets of Plateau State is its human capital. It has developed galaxies of stars at international, continental, municipal and provincial levels. When this potential is fully explored, it will yield fruitful dividends. Institutions like Plateau State Sport Council should be resuscitated. It has been a long time since Plateau State organized the Governor’s Football Cup Championship and the Chairman’s Cup Championship the way it used to the olden days through which abundant talents were discovered. Recently, it appears senators have taken over such competitions without further pursuing the prospects of the best players, highest goal scorers and best keepers and defenders. It is due to the neglect of such human capital development ventures that Plateau State has now become the home for sophisticated abductions, banditry and kidnappings. For if the dog is not allowed to bark, it will certainly bite.
An economic governor is a galvanizer and unifier of people, irrespective of their tribes or religions. That’s what distinguishes him from a political governor who believes in divide and rule using ethnic and religious sentiments because he is afraid of the united reasoning capacity of people inspired a collective interest. However, an economic governor is a team leader and human resource manager. He is interested in getting the job done by prioritizing merit over mediocrity. Thus, while a political governor could be an ethnic nationalist and a mafioso of personality cult, an economic governor is a governor for all and sundry.
My homily to Plateau people is that history has blessed us with a lot of political leaders who have not impacted the state satisfactorily towards fulfilling our collective expectations. Rather, they have succeeded in dividing us. Therefore, 2023 should be a year to truly ‘ask, seek and knock’ for an economic governor. The year 2023 is no doubt an opportunity for another ultimate search for a good leader to salvage the state. Therefore, where an economic governor with a sound prototype of good leadership avails himself, Plateau people should not compromise on any parochial interest. A serious search for such governor should be the priority of Plateau State as 2023 approaches.
Matthew, Esq., is based in Jos, Plateau State