Longyen: Why Lalong Dissolved His Cabinet


Mark Longyen, Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong explains why the governor recently sacked his‎ cabinet. He spoke to Tobi Soniyi who presents the excerpts:

Governor Simon Lalong recently dissolved the State Executive Council, what informed that decision?

The decision to dissolve the cabinet was a routine exercise taken basically to reinvigorate governance in the state in line with the rescue agenda of the governor. It’s like you buy a brand new car, you know that routine servicing of the car is mandatory if you don’t want the engine to knock.

Prior to the dissolution, the commissioners had served for about 25 months and, obviously, the governor must have observed some governance gaps and realized the need to dissolve the cabinet and later swap some of them or bring in new ones with a view to putting round pegs in round holes. The fact that the governor immediately submitted the names of three new commissioners-designate to the state’s House of Assembly after the dissolution for screening further reinforces his desire to place round pegs in round holes. They have all been cleared to be sworn in soon so as to man key strategic ministries -information, justice and agriculture, while others are underway.

The governor’s decision was greeted with loud applause with people saying that it was an action long overdue due to some of the commissioners’ poor performance. Isn’t that the case?

Performance rating is relative. If, for instance, 17 of us are students in a class, you don’t expect all of us to perform at the same level. Somebody must come first, another second, third, last and so on. But you don’t blame anybody for that because our brains, backgrounds, creativity, education, experience, exposure, etc, are different. Some are gifted and creative, while others are not. Political patronage was also the reason behind some of the appointments, ab initio, that is, the need to carry along those who supported the campaign to ensure the victory of the ruling party. There are people who also worked for the party, who are equally good or even better than those who got appointed but missed out. So, strategically, the governor has to strike a balance between merit and patronage to ensure that nobody is left behind by the Rescue Train.

The governor’s media team has also been criticised as comprising of square pegs in round holes. Will this be addressed in the new dispensation?

The change that the governor wants to bring about is holistic in dimension and revolutionary in nature, so the information management aspect is just one out of a plethora of others. Call it the Lalong Revolution, if you like! In this digital age, information and communication is key to positively projecting government’s policies and programs to the public. You can’t take that for granted, especially with the advent of the Social Media, which allows for fake news and hate speech to fly out at the speed of light with devastating consequences. If the media managers are not professionally, proactively, savvy enough to do their job, then there’s trouble in the horizon.

I’ve been a journalist for the past two and a half decades so I know what I’m talking about because I clearly understand the essence and the nitty-gritty of the media component of governance. Right now, with the appointment of Mr Yakubu Datti, the most articulate, most eloquent and most vibrant ever former Plateau State Commissioner for Information and immediate past spokesmen of FAAN as the incoming Information Commissioner, I think with his wealth of experience, we ‘ll have the most robust media team this time around.

Controversy has continued to trail the indefinite postponement of the local government elections in the state with the opposition pointing accusing fingers at government and the electoral umpire, Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission (PLASIEC). What’s amiss?

I do not speak for PLASIEC, but suffice it to say that it is uncharitable and absolutely wrong for the opposition to accuse the Lalong government of underhand efforts in the postponement because government was not responsible for the postponement of the elections.

The truth is that PLASIEC postponed the elections based on a credible security report that was too scary to ignore and go ahead with the elections. Security report is not something that you treat with levity, you only do so at your peril, especially for a state that has recently been the target of isolated attacks and killings by unknown gunmen. We stood the risk of reversing and rubbishing all our gains in bringing about peace in the state if the elections were conducted without first heeding security advice and guaranteeing security before elections. The opposition should please stop their political mischief of playing politics with security issues. The question is: what is the essence of conducting elections in an atmosphere of insecurity where many lives will be wasted, the results cancelled or declared inconclusive and the hundreds of millions of naira spent on the elections also wasted?

Which federal government’s agricultue policy has Plateau State keyed into? Is it cattle colony, grazing reserve or ranching?

It is simply ranching and nothing else. Following a series of consultative stakeholders’ meetings in 2016, Plateau people opted for and adopted ranching, which is the modern way of livestock farming with lots of attendant socio-economic benefits as obtained elsewhere in the developed world. Even though government inherited an April 2009 gazette by former governor Jang that favoured and approved humongous funds for grazing reserves, we’ve jettisoned it and opted for ranching. It is noteworthy that the report linking Plateau State with cattle colony is absolutely false and mischievous.

Right now, government is working on a policy and legal framework for the implementation of ranching for livestock farmers who are interested in animal husbandry. The economic benefits of ranching are so enormous and irresistible especially now that we’ve embarked on economic diversification with agriculture as the mainstay of Plateau State’s economic future.

The report linking Plateau State with cattle colony is absolutely false and mischievous.