A year after his passing, the life and times of the late Senator Gyang Nyam Shom Pwajok will not be forgotten so soon, writes Seriki Adinoyi
It’s been some time now. Three hundred and sixty-five days have gone-by, but there’s something on the minds of good friends, which must just be ventilated. Life hasn’t been the same since that cold October 28, when a dearly beloved son of the Plateau and a friend of all, Mr. Gyang Nyam Shom Pwajok, fondly called GNS, left for the great beyond.
It is generally believed that time could heal the wounds and fill the space, but it appears time could not. The only thing found in the past one year is that time was a mere empty space. No matter how hard anyone tries, GNS was always reappearing on the minds of friends and family.
Where do broken hearts go? Can they find comfort anywhere? Our only comfort in this case is in the tangible legacy our friend and brother left behind as a memorial. When we are about to miss his smiles and his love, then we hear his tangible words of wisdom and see the works of his love that he left behind, and we are consoled.
Indeed, life is truly all about memories. It is the only thing we are left with when flesh and spirit depart the earth, and we can do no more than remember the life of the departed, through memories of times and moments shared, and their deeds in their lifetime.
GNS, even in death, remains one of the most influential and re-occurring political figures in Plateau – an amiable governor we never had. His ideals were exceptional. Yet, what will be more deserving to a man like him at this moment will be not to play politics with this tribute; his life outside politics, and indeed his personal relationship with others are more rewarding than the tedious life in politics on which he died.
He will be embarrassed, even in death, to see us stand in clusters discussing rivalry and divisions among Plateau people in the name of politics; he will be heartbroken to see that Plateau still struggles and fights over political space when the people should forge a common front against the challenges of underdevelopment that confront us as a people. Those were the wishes that prompted him to want to govern his people; his wishes were to unite them and give them a better living together.
Unfortunately, his travails with complications arising from liver disease that dominated his last days didn’t give him the fortitude to do what he really wished for Plateau. Those at his bedside when he passed on said a wish for a united Plateau remained on his lips until he breathed his last. No wonder his campaign slogan was ‘Greater Together’. He lived above everything else except death; he shunned tribal sentiments and was intellectually gifted.
The records are there. As a Director of Research and Documentation and as Chief of Staff to former Governor Jonah Jang, and also his brief presence at the Senate as the Senator representing Plateau North were clear testimonies.
His fame was up in the air as an amiable young man that had touched lives and reformed the youths of the state. He was also known to have used his wealth of intelligence to contribute immensely to the success of the Jang administration, which is still adjudged the best in terms of performance after the era of J D Gomwalk.
At the National Assembly, Pwajok demonstrated class in his representation of the people. Paying tribute to him at his burial at Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN), Du-Jos, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki described him as a great Nigerian youth of the Middle Belt extract, who demonstrated astute intelligence and committed to sacrifice. Saraki, who was represented by deputy Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha further described Pwajok as a forthright colleague with a great sense of patriotism.
As a former university lecturer, the senate floor was reminiscence of a lecture theatre; a large audience of people listening to a proponent. As such, he was not daunted engaging his colleagues.
In a very short time, Pwajok had achieved a lot of milestones for his constituency. In less than one year, he gave the people of Plateau North a good idea of what effective legislative representation meant, by maintaining regular contact with the constituents and taking into consideration, their views and opinions on key issues such as the constitutional review processes. He further opened a constituency office in Jos, where he held regular meetings with the people to provide the opportunity to interact with them on national issues.
On peace and security front, Pwajok instituted a framework which constantly brought warring factions together i.e, Fulani, Berom and other tribes into one forum to ventilate grievances and achieve reconciliation. Through this forum, leaders of these warring factions had come together, and pacts made to eschew violence and embrace dialogue and forgiveness. All these had started yielding dividends when he passed on. But looking at those achievements today, rather than mourn him, Plateau has reasons to rejoice that Pwajok was part of us.
In terms of constituency projects, he established skills acquisition centres and MDGs structures in all the local government areas under his constituency, where his constituents benefitted immensely with lifelong skills that equipped them with income generation capability. The then Senate President, Senator David Mark was in Jos to chair the presentation of a donation of various items worth over N150 million to empower the people.
Mark commended Pwajok and noted that it was not how long a senator served in the senate that mattered but the impact he was able to make within the period he served.
Pwajok, on his part said “It is a journey that has been characterised by our collective efforts at peace-building and reconciliation through interventions directed at addressing the series of attacks within our zone. We must realise that we are each other’s brother’s keepers regardless of what is propagated in a bid to disunite us. What is worth doing today is worth doing today,” he said as if he knew he was racing against time.
In a testament by Jang, the former governor and Senator representing Plateau North said he had raised Pwajok among many other youths of Plateau from the three senatorial zones in the state, but noted that he was exceptional among them. He lamented that he had hoped the young ones he had raised would bury him, and prayed that God would preserve the living.
Incumbent Governor of the state, Mr. Simon Lalong, whose voice was laden with emotions during Pwajok’s burial, recalled how he first met him as a young man at Ali Kazaure quarters in Jos in 1987. “We were both inducted into the Youth Council the same day. We were very close friends, but as you know, political race could put friends in different parties and separate them.”
Lalong said he had planned to engage Pwajok’s wealth of intelligence and experience to better the lot of his government but for his untimely demise. “We would continue with the legacies he left behind”, he added.
Senators Joshua Dariye, Jerry Useni, Nurudeen Abatemi, and five other of their colleagues at the funeral service took turns to pay glowing tribute to the deceased.
Truly, we lost a friend, a national asset and pride of the human race. The Berom community of Plateau State, Nigeria and indeed, the whole world is diminished by the exit of this colossus. But we are consoled that his foot prints are too big, too important, too bold and too relevant to be erased. Rather, they will continue to enrich us all minutely. May our land produce more Pwajok.
In tribute, we must remember his darling wife, Mrs. Pwajok, who stood by him all through the travail – in Nigeria, in the United Kingdom, and in India. It is believed that Pwajok actually survived longer than his death before he finally succumbed because his wife was there. Her courage was exceptional. Such love, dignity, and great lesson about sacrifice – that’s what Mrs. Pwajok represents. She is the heroine of the GNS story: There are not too many persons like her out there. Take heart, Madam; yes, he is sadly missed, but he lives on in his works and in our hearts.
GNS, you have lived according to your rules and as a great man of vision. You have wrestled like the champion you were. You have finished your course. Your works are dynamic seeds that can outlive all adverse circumstances of this ephemeral life and shall continue to speak for you. Indeed, you remain relevant even in death.