By Seriki Adinoyi
Celebrating Jonah David Jang’s birthday has for me become virtually a vocational pursuit. It’s always on my mind at least a week ahead I feel this compelling desire for laying of hand on my pen. It does not matter whether or not he’s in government; a great man deserves an honour.
He’s indeed quite simply a great man. By this, I do not refer to his eminence as a distinguished Senator or as a former governor that transformed every state he had the opportunity to govern. I speak of the person of Jang himself, his essential person that truly set him apart and on the path of greatness that he has walked on this long 75 years.
He did not “develop” it, he had always possessed it; a dogged attitude to stand with his people through thick and thin. As a young military officer, he had shared his vision to truly and passionately serve Nigeria and of course, his people. That became his focus and drive.
Then, he was in considerable measure, the man he was to become: tough, yet considerate and balanced, modest, intelligent and unostentatiously secure, and also very careful to discern the mix multitude that crowds around him.
You will agree with me that it is simply the grace of God that can make a complexity of attributes such that Jang has, all resolving into a strikingly simple consistency as found in him. He is definitely a rare breed amongst us.
To a very large extent, looking back one would say that at 75, Jang has every reason to be thankful to God’s graciousness in enabling him fulfill his dreams; not everyone that dreams have them so fulfilled like the celebrant.
I have heard of Jang for many years even as a youth, but I have only known him closely a few years ago. One striking attribute that endeared him to me is standing on the side of the truth. This is rare among politicians who will on several occasions bend over backward to accept and politicise injustice.
Of course, this attribute has been misunderstood by many to mean stubbornness, especially those that expect him to understand that remaining relevant in Nigerian politics requires substantial compromise. This has earned him true friends, and likewise arch enemies.
The fear when he became a civilian Governor was that unlike in the military when a leader holds unto what he feels right and performs it with zeal and impunity, democracy requires of leaders to listen to all and pick out what will benefit their government and the people they govern.
This multitude of advice has in many occasions, derailed leaders, who only regret after their times in office. But how Jang was able to manage the multitude of counselors around him, to perform credibly well as a civilian governor, still remains a miracle. Indeed, he has shown that whether as a military or a civilian leader, he posses that quality. That’s why he could hold his head high today at 75. Today, it’s on indelible records that Jang raised the bar of governance to an enviable height in Plateau and in fact elsewhere he had held sway- such records that may not be surpassed anytime soon.
Strong feelings stir within him, but there is little evidence of this on the surface, except perhaps when he conducts! He is always outwardly calm, though never cold. His approach to people is unfailingly receptive, friendly, wherever possible. He always understands the situation in which he finds himself. He is always just, not in the sense of being “fair,” but in that he stands in the exactly fitting relationship to each of his own experiences. He instinctively avoids all intemperance; he never goes “overboard.”
There is mystery in Jang, but no ambiguity. He says what he feels and means. He would make a great diplomat (indeed, he is one) not because he ever prevaricates, but because he tells the truth–nothing more or less. He is not given to overstatement of any kind.
This was particularly evident during the Jos crisis, when he had to do everything to calm fray nerves, especially of his people that had been provoked beyond measure. He needed to reassure them that he was with them, yet without asking them to take up arms against the obvious enemies. And knowing that he has their back, the Plateau man has never stopped to believe in him. He remains the father of a modern Plateau. Little wonder why the entire people took to the street of Jos to condemn the obvious persecution mated on him by the government of the day through its agent, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), the same agent that gave him medals for his prudence while he was the Governor. The people believe that a good man deserves honour and not persecution.
With all this, he is endowed with great sense of humor. Sometimes he pretends surprised; that is his little joke. But the truth is he is prepared for everything. His wisdom consists of having learned how to make himself ready for all contingencies. In Jang, we meet a total man. All rise for him as he climbs on the top of 75 today! Hurray!
PIX: Jonah Jang.jpg