As a new governor, how prepared are you for the task ahead?
I will not say we are not prepared, we came into the campaigns, we have a manifesto, and we have a blueprint for the people of Plateau state. This is not my first time of being in government, I was the Speaker of the State House of Assembly for six years and as a Speaker, I had full knowledge of some of the problems we had.
Of course, in the last eight years, it hasn’t been easy for the people of Plateau state with the kind of governance that we went through and as we were campaigning, we were also aware of the enormous problems we are coming to meet on ground but we are not afraid because as politicians, it is when you come in, if you have some good ideas and then you can change the game. We are prepared.
Talking about the just concluded elections, how would you rate that exercise?
The election was very free and very fair in some places I would say but in some places where they refused the use of card readers, it was very glaring. The first election, that is the Presidential election, we understand that a directive came in that people should use manual so some people took advantage of it. Those who had gone to court to say they will not use the card reader, the same people who were protesting that they will not use card reader now took advantage of it and went into thumb-printing discarding the card readers.
That is why we lost in some places in the National Assembly election, the Senatorial election was a good example in the Northern zone where we lost, they didn’t use the card readers, and they didn’t follow the rules.
When we got to the gubernatorial, it was very clear again that we were going to use the card readers, Jega made it very clear that everybody must use card readers but some of us in my own Party kept to the rules and insisted that we must use the card readers but surprisingly again, only God saved us because many of the places where PDP won the election, they were not using card readers. They were thumb-printing and writing but I think that will be exhibited at the tribunal.
We have records of these and we are hoping that when the tribunal starts, it will unveil itself. Above all, since there were no crises, I would say that we thank God that it was a good election.
You consistently raised alarm about the debt profile of Plateau state, in a few days; you will be the Governor of the State. How do you hope to address this issue and bring relief to the people of the State?
You know in the election, I told people that it was the miracle of God and the collective resolution of the people of Plateau state. For the first time, people were coming together to vote, civil servants taking risks in their jobs saying we damn the consequences, people coming together and deciding that we need a change.
If we needed a change because there are so many problems on ground; God brought the change, we were seeing a lot of problems; I mentioned that we were in debt but they kept denying saying they will not leave any debt but today, they are trying to correct it by employing additional civil servants from eight thousand, we are getting to nine thousand; additional civil servants being employed in the last two weeks.
That means there is a problem, there is a deliberate attempt to cover what they had done. We mentioned that we have huge debts, quickly; they took a bond saying that they used it to clear the debts but if you use 28 billion to clear a debt, a bond is also a debt so you have not cleared anything but adding to it. However, we are waiting for our Committee to finish their assignment and then the truth will come out, revealing what we are facing as a State to see whether we are telling lies or not.
Governor Jonah Jang assured he will not leave any abandoned project but the reality on ground shows otherwise. As you resume duty, will you complete all the projects or will you initiate new ones?
No, I won’t say all the projects will be completed because we are also going to prioritize because you know that he is leaving huge salaries arrears and salaries of civil servants are very important. We will have to start looking for money to pay salaries first and then we will prioritize the projects that will serve the people of Plateau State. Projects are for the people of Plateau State but we will definitely not go into those he believed they are good for him. Some of those projects were not evenly spread, they were concentrated in one area and as a government of the people, and we intend to spread our projects.
We will initiate our projects and pick some of his to complete depending on the advice we get from the Committee. The present Committee which is on ground, when they finish their assignment, they will make recommendations to us, we will look at those projects and see what we can do for, the ones that we can’t do, we have our reasons but we will take time to look at them.
Considering the importance of Plateau in Nigeria, how will you tackle insecurity and what assurance will you give investors to come and invest in the state?
From the time of our campaigns, we knew it; it is like a family in your house that have crises and you say you don’t know some of the reasons or the crises, it means you are not the head of that family. We are Plateau people, we know where some of these crises are coming from and the best way to address them is to get the people united. The last administration got their way in that kind of thing because they survive on crises; divide and rule.
There are divisions here and there among the ethnic groups so you have them fighting here and there and the governor will be comfortable but in our own case; this is a thing that we will not want to do. We want to bring the people together and we will give everyone some consideration and embarking on unity campaigns, taking care of the 53 ethnic tribes on Plateau state; running inclusive governance.
That way; we will change the mind of the people. The next one is security; I have also approached the President-elect because they say governors are the Chief Security Officers but answerable to the President. We need the cooperation his cooperation in the area of security. There are many measures we are going to put on ground to ensure we have security and we are united, these are the reasons people will come to Plateau.
After the elections, you can see the change, areas that people were not going, on their own, they are feeling that with this new change, there is hope and there is need for reconciliation, there is hope for unity and there is hope for security. So, on their own, they are mending fences, it is just for us after the inauguration, the concepts that will further cement these relationships will be unveiled.