Seriki Adinoyi engages Mr. Yakubu Dati, Plateau State Commissioner of Information and Communication on a wide of issues including the chances of Governor Lalong at re-election.
Would you, in all honesty, say that Lalong has done well to deserve a second tenure?
Yes, Gov. Lalongâ€™s administration has done very well in the past three years. We have restored peace. People are going about their businesses. Plateau State is gradually becoming conference capital of Nigeria. You will recall that National Association of Travel Operators (NATO) had their first meeting in the north in Jos.
These are people who influence the movement of tourists across the country. The Nigerian University Theatre Art Students (NUTAS) also had their festival here in Jos where about 25 universities across the country, including their lecturers participated. All these show that confidence has returned and people are trooping back to Plateau. To us, that is huge.
Secondly, the civil servants are receiving their salaries promptly and the backlog has been paid. It is not just about payment of salary. It also means that about N2 billion which is the salary that is being paid is poured into the economy of the state. That has stimulated economic activities because people have money to operate.
Thirdly, a lot has been achieved in the area of agriculture. The Fertilizer Blending Plant has been opened, tractors have been purchased and distributed to farmers; fertilizer was launched and distributed at highly subsidized rate. Plateau has been selected for the Potato Value Chain programme. We are about to secure about USD11 million from African Development Bank midwifed by the federal government. All these are indications that we have put certain structures in place. The federal government has also approved a refund of N12 billion as money spent on federal roads.
Apart from the Miango junction/Dung/Rafiki road, which the governor started and completed, which other road project has Lalongâ€™s administration executed?
Road construction works are currently going on in every local government of the state. These include Dilimi Street, Angwan Rogo/Masalachi Juma Bridge.
Our priority remains the payment of civil servants. Its after the civil servants are paid that the remaining of the lean resources are distributed to other areas like infrastructure.
One aspect we feel is more important that infrastructure is the issue of peace. If you have the block and bricks in place and there is no peace, it is useless. Therefore, so much has gone into peace building, including the launch of about 50 vans recently for security agencies, the launch of Early Signal System done in collaboration with the United Nations is also very key. These are things that are huge because they help to sustain the peace that has been achieved.
I must say this, the government believes that every project is meant for the Plateau people, and that what is important is continuity so long as it is relevant to the people of the state; the government is not concerned about whether its Mr. Aâ€™s project or Mr. Bâ€™s project. That is why this government decided to continue with the projects that were started by the last administration. For instance, Highland Bottling Company which has been abandoned for over twenty years has now been resuscitated and reopened, and its currently producing water.
Lalong believes that we have to move away from the archaic idea of personalizing projects. We have to look at what developed nations do; they have 20 years development plans. With that projects that of benefits to the people are completed by any government in power, because in the first place the money belongs to the people and the projects are also for the people.
Lalong recently said that the new government house is built on grazing route. We hear it might be demolished. What is government’s position on this, and on every issue regarding grazing?
Governmentâ€™s position has remained consistent, and as we approach elections there is bound to be a lot of misinformation mischievously picked and played out of context. He was explaining that modernity has taken over the relevance of grazing such that the routes for grazing have been taken over by primary schools, highways, peopleâ€™s farms and so on. And as an example he included Government House. But people have now quoted him out of context. The point he was trying to make is that population growth has expanded to disrupt grazing routes. Government position is that ranching is the answer.
There are insinuations that the governor falsely hiked the number of tractors to give credit to himself.
The tractors are 400, and we have even started to distribute them. At first, it was said that there were no tractors at all. When the tractors arrived, they said they were not up to the number. When they saw that the tractors were packed at the Government House and some other places, they now changed and said there were no implements. When the implements came, they now said they will not be distributed. Now that the distribution has started, we are waiting to hear what next they will say. We understand that these are political era, and these things cannot be separated from politics.
Is it true that the state government supplied adulterated and toxic fertilizers to farmers?
No, it is not true. I know that I discussed with some of the chairmen, and they said they were waiting for NPK and other combinations, and I also know that the process of distribution has started. And the Commissioner of Agriculture also set up a task force to ensure that there is no diversion of the products.
There is peace in Jos, the state capital, but not so in the rural communities where there are still pockets of killings. What is the state government doing about this?
It takes the resolve of a people to live in peace. That is why the greatest strategy we are using is the Peace Building Agency. This is because the peace we are enjoying in Jos is because the people have agreed to live together in peace. The agency is now working round the clock to ensure that the peace is extended to these communities. Secondly, we are strengthening security agencies. We have also opened two Mobile Police Force units in the state; one in Shendam, and another one in Plateau Central zone. Wd have strengthened the capacity of Operation Rainbow for intelligence gathering.
We are definitely sad even if its only one community that is affected because government has the responsibility of protecting all lives and property, even in the rural community.
As 2019 approaches, where does Lalong have his strengt, where does he fear that his challenges are high?
We have our strength where people are receiving their salaries, and that cuts across the whole state. Donâ€™t forget that we inherited a state that had a backlog of seven months of unpaid salaries. And the governor did not only pay the backlog, but also paid pensions to those that have served the state. I mean, if you go and ask those people they will tell you. That is why the workers are championing the re-election of the governor. That is why they nickname him â€˜Governor Alertâ€™. Other Governors who received such monies were not able to meet up with such obligation.
Following the zoning arrangement in the state, Joshua Dariye from the Central zone has done two tenures; Jang from the Northern zone has done two tenures; so automatically as the system is developed, Lalong from the Southern zone will also do his second tenure for fairness.
Supposing another person is coming from the Southern zone to complete the second tenure?
The concern most of people is that if a new person comes, he will want to do two tenures because the constitution gives the right to two tenures and does not recognizes zoning. So, most people are concerned that if you bring in a new person from the Southern zone, the person is entitled to two tenures and you canâ€™t stop him because it his constitutional right. By the time you start giving three tenures to a zone, youâ€™ll dislocate the arrangement, which is the basis for the peaceful co-existence