HE just returned from receiving President Goodluck Jonathan who was in the state to campaign for the April 2011 elections. From all indications, Governor David Jang was not in the mood for a chat particularly when he believes the Media has in more ways than one escalated the crisis in his state. The Media is the culprit was his refrain and a Federal government that has ‘refused’ to implement several reports including the just concluded committee report.
“I can’t grant an interview because I’m on my way to Kaduna and wouldn’t be back until Monday. As we speak, my wife is in the car waiting”, he said by way of an explanation. But for the less than 20 minutes he spoke, revealed what he feels is at the root of the crisis in his state and how it can be stopped. Excerpts
By JUDITH UFFORD, Features editor
IS Jos crisis religious or ethnic?
It is a religious, ethnic, political and economic crisis. Honestly, these crises are traceable to all these factors but more fueled by religious zealots. For instance, we were amazed when people argued that the November 2008 crisis was a political one, but incidentally the hoodlums did not burn any political office during the mayhem.
The killings and burning took place in churches and mosques. In the same vein, the results of the local government election often cited as the cause of the crisis were never challenged by anybody in Jos North local government. We set up electoral tribunal after the council election but no single person from the said local government disputed the outcome of the exercise, even the councillorship posts.
It was only about three other local governments that didn’t have problem with the election that the results were challenged at the tribunal and it was peacefully resolved even in favour of the opposition parties before we swore them in.
So, it was strange to hear that the 2008 crisis was caused by the local government election conducted by the state government. How can that be when the said local government that witnessed the crisis had no disputed results and the candidates who won that election are still serving their term? They are just looking for an excuse to launch attack on innocent civilians.
That is why even when we set up a panel of inquiry headed by Prince Bola Ajibola to actually investigate the matter and come out with the truth they kicked against it. They cannot say Ajibola was bias because he is a devout Muslim and also has a track record as an international acclaimed jury, having served the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands meritoriously.
Yet they did not accept that report because of the truth it contained. Why didn’t they support the panel of inquiry, because they felt the report may not shield them?
How much of the reports of the commissions of inquiry set up for Jos crisis has been implemented so far?
I have been shouting this thing all along but nobody wants to pay attention to what we are saying. How do you implement reports when the very people who are caught in the act are ferried to Abuja and released? That has been the problem and I have been shouting about it to no avail. In 2008, over 60 Chadians/Niger were arrested in the state in connection with the killings and since they took them to Abuja nothing was heard about them again.
Nobody has ever been brought to book so far by Abuja who controls the entire security apparatus. The governor is just a mere chief security officer for nothing. He has no control over the police commissioner posted to his state; neither are other security chiefs answerable to him. The governor relies on the Federal government for the security of his state.
However, the painful aspect of it is the mysterious escape of those caught in the act and the manner they beat federal securities. The question that bugles the mind is how those rag-tags from Chad or Niger who don’t even feed well could afford to purchase sophisticated weapons like the A.K.47 riffles? To buy such a gun, one needs at least N200,000. Where on earth did those young boys with poverty signs on their faces get that kind of money?
These are the things that Nigerians should ask their leaders to shed more light on.
That is why the people of Plateau state recently protested against the operations of the federal security forces in the state. But thank God all these things are already being taken care of with the latest restructuring of the security apparatus. Now they are changing the security personnel at the interval of three months because when the same type of people stay too long in one place they tend to compromise on certain things.
What we are doing now will also allow us to improve the neighbourhood watch so that there will be security right to the grassroots.
We are also instituting a group composed of religious leaders, tribal leaders that I will chair to meet either fortnightly or monthly to deliberate and carry out assignments that will engender peaceful coexistence and development in the state. We believe that such forum would help us to understand each other better as well as work collectively to move the state better.
Apart from that, our concern remains the role of the federal government in resolving the matter. In that regard, one should ask, why are they taken people who fomented trouble in Plateau to Abuja without results?
The truth is that they are afraid that if they are tried here, they are not likely to get away with their crime. If we want peace, we have to really stand up and stop these people who think they want to make money out of arm dealing or using them to achieve their selfish goals. It is because nothing tangible has happened to them that is why they keep importing arms into the country. It is sad that up till now the federal government have not disclosed to Nigerians the real owners of container loads of arms cache intercepted at the Lagos port since last year. They should be apprehended to face the law of this country”.
As he pulsed again he went to talk about love for the country:
“Nigeria belongs to us. Whether we like it or not, this country is a beautiful one. No matter how bad things might have degenerated so far, it has never affected my love for my country and I will always prefer it above any other countries of the world. And I have done everything within my power to maintain my love and loyalty to this great country. When I was in the Air force, I had virtually all my trainings Overseas and places far better than Nigeria.
But I was never attracted to those countries. Immediately after my course was over, I return to Nigeria because I want to stay in Nigeria, live all my life contributing to making the country a better place and die in the country. I love Nigeria because it is a beautiful and wonderful country; if only we can make it so and that is why I am using the opportunity of presiding over the affairs of Plateau state to make things better for Nigerians in the state. Incidentally, people who believe they have the exclusive rights to control the affairs of the country are after us. But by God’s grace they will never succeed because evil don’t triumph over good”.
“The honest truth about the recurring crisis in Jos is that if I have been recognised by the federal government as the chief security officer and given the actual power to manage the internal security apparatus,0 the situation would have been brought under control. If we had been allowed to deal with the situation, it would have been a different thing all together.
It is only now that they have recognised the fact that the military is sub-ordinate to the civil authority in a democratic system. I believe things are changing for the better following the realisation that the state has an important role to play in bringing the security situation under control. Very soon the operation rainbow would provide the needed security stability in the city.
One important thing I would also want to remind you of is the never give up attitude of the people living in Jos.
In spite of the ceaseless attacks on innocent citizens and the resultant killings and destruction, the people have refused to leave the city. This is not an accident. They love the city and believe that once external forces fueling the mayhem are dispassionately dealt with in accordance with the law, Jos would become the usual haven of peace and hospitality for people from all walks of life. They know that once the federal government takes a decisive action against those behind the attacks, the city will become a better place for all of us and they would start enjoying the benefits of our development programmes.
Despite the crisis that have bedeviled the state and meagre resources at our disposal, we still managed to deliver on our key mandates. And we are ready to do more provided that we have a sustained peace and security stability in the state. Even though we don’t trumpet our achievements like other states do, we are really blazing the trail in infrastructure development. But these things have been overshadowed by negative publicity we got about the crisis. But thank God that those things are there for people to see and appreciate.
Why are governors silent over the issue of state police?
I have been speaking about this matter. I have been calling for enactment of a new law for the governors to either have control over police forces in their own localities or they form their own police. It has become absolutely necessary for our great country to have a decentralised police formation. We either have state police or police forces within a state put under the control of the state governor.
But the case now is that police commissioner are sent and withdrawn from states by the federal government at will. You wake up one morning and hear that a new police commissioner has been posted to your state and by the time you are trying to understand him, they take him out for one reason or the other you as a governor would not know.
They don’t discuss with us before sending commissioners or withdrawing same. There is absolutely need to change that because it does not augur well for governors in a country as vast as Nigeria with increasing security challenges to still rely on the federal government entirely for the security of lives and property of citizens under their jurisdiction.
Some argue that incumbent governors may usethe state police to intimidate political opponents. What is your view?
Are the federal chief executives sangels? Were Goodluck Jonathan and Namdi Sambo not formerly governors? Are they saying that it is only when they get to the presidency that they become responsible and make use of the police wisely? I can be president of this country, just like Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan who rose from governorship to the presidency. If I decide to run for president will they say because I was a governor I will be irresponsible? So that argument does not fall in line.
Police forces are not meant for witch-hunting anybody but to protect lives and property and what we are saying is that allowing state executives to exercise a control over such important security task is absolutely necessary and the earlier we do that the better.