Jang: Portrait of a Statesman at 75


By Seriki Adinoyi

True statesmen are not so easy to find; they do not litter every street. They are men that have paid their dues, having contributed immensely and in diverse ways to the building of a nation and have stood by the people through thick and thin. That is what Senator Jonah David Jang represents not only in Plateau State but also throughout the country. His love for his people and, by extension, Nigerians is impeccable.

As a young military officer, he fought to keep Nigeria as one entity. It was not for any personal gain but for the good and the unity of the nation. He said, “Although, the Air Force was relatively young, we went into the war with full force. We were making bombs there in Kaduna, and using every aircraft available to us. In fact, there was a time the Biafrans came and attacked us in Kaduna. That day, we were also loading our aircrafts to go and bomb them, but they came first. But thank God, none of their bombs fell on our base.

“I was directly put in charge of aviation fuel for the aircrafts going to the warfront. That was where I started my logistic work. We did exceptionally well as Air Force, considering that we were just starting.”

He, however, lamented that the nation they fought, with their blood, to preserve has now been bastardised by a few selfish politicians. As a Military Governor of Benue and the defunct Gongola states, Jang served selflessly and did so creditably well that the states refused to let him go when he was posted out. His track record in military made him the desired choice of officer Nigeria sent to the prestigious Royal Military College of Defense Studies where he graduated in flying colour.

As a civilian governor of his state, Jang has left an indelible mark in Plateau, raising the bar of good governance and infrastructural development that his successor is still struggling to match. As a Senator, he was a vehement voice against frivolous borrowing by state governments that were determined to impoverish their hapless citizens. He said that if the governors were allowed to continue to borrow without caution, generations after now would have to starve to pay for the debts that would be left for them.

All these were some of the rare attributes that stood Jang out at every facet of his public life in these 75 years. He did not become a statesman by wearing the tag of statesmanship. He earned these attributes by way of life; by his essential person that truly set him apart and on the path of greatness that he has walked on these long years. Jang is reputed, not just for the richness of his itinerary while he was in public offices, but also for his rare courage and the constancy in his conviction and political choices, which have remained unchanged even when they contradict the main stream opinion and fashion.

He is a model of rectitude in his personal relationships; and in most of his dealings, he is straightforward, candid, and resolute, perhaps due to his military background. He is also absolutely reliable; he never dissembled, never recant his words. Yet, he is humane, and concerned with other people’s interests, sympathetic and compassionate, discreet and understanding.
He does not give undeserving gratitude; when he thanks you for something, you have no doubt that he really meant it, he will also not thank you when you don’t deserve it.

He gives everything he has to anything he believes and is involved in; his enthusiasm is contagious. If there is a single personal characteristic that has set him apart, it is the desire to probe, insatiable curiosity-wanting to get reasons why justice should not be served equally to all parties. He continually seeks the why and the how; the reasons and the motivations behind everything. These become a way of life; which constitute not only a fountain of knowledge and feeling, but also a pursuit of excellence. Wisdom, they say begins in wonder. That is Jang.

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 that shot him to the height he attained before retirement. In political circle, where pride regularly dwarfs dedication, his career was shaped by the abrasive action between his steely sense of the right, as he saw it, and the politician’s inclination to temporise things. He has stood firm, not forgetting the people; never abandoning his dedication to their needs. He has not lost faith in the dream of a great Nigeria.

These rare characteristics, rather than endearing him to many, have unfortunately pitched people that have failed to cope with such straightforwardness against him. But for those that understand him, he is a treasure and a mentor. He tends to think ahead of others; so, his suggestions may somewhat not be accepted immediately because many do not see what he has seen ahead of them.

Of particular reference in this regard is the State Police that government at all levels now clamour for. He had suggested this in 2008 when foreign mercenaries were imported to wreak havoc in Jos during one of those periods of crisis. But his idea was simply dismissed. Thirteen years later, government is back to that same idea of state policing.

When he talked about foreign mercenaries imported from neighbouring countries and called for tightening of borders, it was seen as rhetoric, but today, it’s a common knowledge that foreign herders have invaded the borders and constituted majority of Nigeria’s security challenges; raping, kidnapping and killing innocent Nigerians.
It can only be the grace of God that can make a complexity of attributes such as Jang has, all desolving into a strikingly simple consistency as found in him. He is definitely a rare breed amongst men.

One would think he is only good at public life, but not until a visit to his home, where his children seat with him at the dining table, and his grandchildren clamour around him; pulling him on every side, some asking him to attend to their complaints, and others trying to feed Baba with their biscuits and noodles. They love him, he loves them too.
Baba, the Military General, Executive Governor, and Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic is also a family man; he is a husband, he is a father, and he is a grandfather. He feels the pulse of his home and cares about everyone’s worry.
You are a worthy statesman; in public and at the home front. Happy Birthday to Baba at 75!