Former Governor of Plateau state and Senator representing Plateau North in the National Assembly, Jonah David Jang recently threw his hat into the ring to contest for Presidency in the 2019 General election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this piece, Seriki Adinoyi examines his chances
The northern Nigeria minorities are arguably the most marginalised and neglected in Nigeria today; they are only identified as northerners when the power of their number is needed by the core north for its gains. As soon as the value of their population is derived, they are immediately relegated to the background, jettisoned and soon abandoned to their fate. They are quickly forgotten in the scheme of things especially in terms of political gains. This has been the harrowing experience of the various tribes that make-up this group called the northern minority tribes, which are concentrated in the Middle Belt region of Nigeria, and are predominantly Christians.
In spite of the minorities’ repeated agitation for recognition, they have most of the times been pushed to the back seat by the majority tribes, who believe they are born to rule others.
It is instructive to note that though these minorities largely populate the states of Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Niger, Kwara, Kogi, Kaduna, and Taraba, they also control reasonable population in the other states of the North such as Kebbi, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, where they have often been treated as second class citizens when it matters. They are omly considered useful for numerical/population gains by the Northern Majorities.
Whenever power is zoned to the north, the majority tribes, particularly from the North-west quickly grab it, leaving the others in despair. The Middle Belt had advocated for rotation of powers among the tribes to give a sense of belonging to the minority tribes, but all to no avail. All the civilian Presidents ever produced from the North; Shehu Shagari, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and now Mohammadu Buhari are from a majority tribe from the North-west. They have refused to see why the voice of these minorities, who control a massive population in this cosmopolitan region should be heard.
Angered that their civility is being taken for granted and their agitation constantly dismissed, they have decided to make a point by bringing out one of them. After several consultations, they have collectively given the mantle to Jonah David Jang, who they has proven himself and has been certified to command an unalloyed integrity, and has performed credibly well in the high offices he had held in the past, both as military and civilian Governor in defunct Gongola, old Benue, Plateau states, and now as Senator where he has constantly defended the cause of the minority groups in the North.
Hailing from Plateau in the North-central, Jang has become eminently qualified to run for the position since the presidency has been zoned to the north where the North central is also a part.
His performances in Gongola and Benue states and indeed, Plateau state have left indelible marks in the three states. In Gongola and Benue, the bridges and other infrastructure today still stand across the states, and citizens still sing the praises of Jang.
In Plateau, his home state, Jang did not only open up the state with various infrastructure including roads, his enduring agricultural programmes still benefit the people of the state, along with other enduring legacies in health, education and other sectors.
Beyond the state and the region, as a young man Jang has joined collective fight to enthrone and entrench democracy in Nigeria. Having campaigned and worked for the M.K.O. Abiola’s presidency in the election that was eventually scuttled, Jang was one of those that formed NADECO to challenge the government on why the election was annulled. He challenged General Abacha and was one of those who opposed to the idea of his changing from a military Head of State to a civilian President without going through the normal process of politics.
Jang was one of the few that dared to advise Gen Abacha to retire and hand over power to an elected civilian government, the reason he was locked up together with the likes of Air Commodore Dan Suleiman and Chief Segun Osoba, and were charged to a federal high court in Lagos for felony. When they could not bring any charges against them, they were discharged.
He became a founding member of the famous ‘G18’ and later ‘G34’, then, a founding member of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and also became one of the members of its Board of Trustees.
In the National Assembly, where he currently serves as a Senator, Jang has constantly agitated for fairness to all Nigerians and all regions, a development that has pitched him against many.
The collaborations he has received from the South-south and South-east is awesome. His recent consultation in Ondo state, where he met with people of the South-west showed a growing support from the Yoruba region.
Perhaps the incumbent government at the federal level is beginning to see that Jang is capable of upsetting the usual permutation of votes in the north by garnering the support of minorities from across all the states in the region, and also seeing his overwhelming influence in the other regions, especially the South-west and South-south, and indeed other regions.
The curious and untenable slam of corruption allegation against him by the same EFCC, who had one-time given recognition to the same Jang as the most transparent Governor, who had prudently managed the lean resources of the state at his disposal to touch on the lives of Plateau people by his developmental projects in the state, leaves political observers wondering if the EFCC was not just being used to achieve government’s mischievous aim.
The recent refusal and failure by the crime fighters to present witnesses against Jang in the court on the claim of fear of security in Jos at a time citizens were moving freely on the streets, shows that the government had not cross-checked it notes before hurrying to slam the allegations, and is not having sleepless nights to decide where to attach the monies it claimed were stolen in order not to make a mockery of itself before the court.
But the indefatigable Jang has decided to move on by going ahead to do what many of the minorities would not dare. He has said that all he needed from them was their support which he is already getting, adding that victory belongs only to God.
At his declaration at the party secretariat in Jos, Jang had said that the time has come for the Middle Belt region to rule Nigeria.
Submitting his letter of intention to the state Chairman of the party, Chief Damishi Sango in the presence of a mammoth crowd, Jang observed that, “Our party, the PDP, has zoned the Presidency to the North for the purpose of the 2019 elections. The Middle Belt is at the centre of the north, it is the glue of the north, the bridge of Nigeria, the guarantor of national unity and oneness, and has sustained the north over time. Sadly, however, this zone has yet to produce an elected President under our Constitution.
“I have followed developments in this nation from its pre-colonial political life and the struggle of the founders of our democracy, to independence, and the giant strides made, as well as challenges that followed.
“The dreams of the founders of Nigeria were gigantic, the hopes were huge, but all of them were achievable. While we have come a long way, and we have made huge gains in different sectors, we have also suffered many distressing challenges in our nationhood. These distresses need not delay me here.”
Jang, who said he decided to join the race to restore Nigeria, added that the country urgently needs to bring back the founding dream, hope, aspirations and perceptions of greatness of Nigeria.
Identifying restricting as a major issue he intends to address as a President, Jang said, “Restructuring and reorganizing Nigeria to the comfort of all Nigerians is a task I will face with commitment. If we have operated a system for 58 years and Nigerians are asking for a review of the structures, there is no need to delay it further.
Representatives of his supporters from all the geopolitical zones across the country, who were given time to speak for the zones, declared their unalloyed support for his ambition, after which the Muslims and Christians offered prayers for him to succeed.
OFF THE CUFF
1. “If I am to step down, why would I be aspiring in the first place? I am here to run for the presidency and become the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Who do you want me to step down for? My party cannot ask me to step down because they sold that form to me.”
Jang vowing not to step down for any other presidential aspirant
2. “I believe the present administration has not been able to utilize the armed forces of Nigeria that are known to be the best in black Africa and they have proved themselves all over the world, when they were sent for international assignments.”
Jang promising to end Boko Haram menace if elected President of Nigeria
3. “For me being in prison is a great lesson in humility,” Jang said. “When I was at the EFCC office in Abuja, I slept on the floor, but here in the prison I have the privilege of sleeping in the same bed that former President Olusegun Obasanjo slept in at the Jos Prison.”
Jang speaking on his travails at Kuje Prison
4. “The Senate is not for good for young people, only the House of Representatives is good enough.”
Jang insisting that only people with pedigree and political experience not for young people without political experience should become senators
5. “Doesn’t that sound funny that Jonah Jang, a Berom man from Plateau State, is organising herdsmen to come and kill Beroms, or which killings are they talking about?
Jang denying reports making the rounds that he had a hand in the killings that claimed the lives of over 200 persons in some villages of the state.