From Gyang Bere, Jos
The Governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Plateau State, Caleb Mutfwang said he will effectively manage the diversity of Plateau State and secure rural communities that have been dislocated over the years to revitalize the state’s economy for the prosperity of the people. He speaks on various issues in this interview including the insecurity situation in the country.
What will be the first challenge you would want to tackle in the state when you become the Governor?
The issue of insecurity will be the first thing I would want to tackle as the governor of the state. The entire country is under siege with the recent attack on Kuje prison. In Plateau, despite all that the government has been saying about bringing peace, we all know that it’s a graveyard peace; particularly in Jos, where people hurry back to their homes when day gets dark. My priority will be how to rework the entire security system, and maximize the resources we have on ground to secure our people.
How do you intend to rework the security?
The truth is that a comprehensive plan on how to tackle security is not what should be discussed on the pages of the newspaper for obvious reasons. But I can tell you that having served as a local government chairman in the state, I will be approaching it from the point of practical experience. There are two aspects of security; kinetic and non-kinetic dimensions. But clearly, one of the key things will be uplifting the spirit of the security personnel. The security personnel have to be able to trust that the leader is interested in their own welfare. Come to think of it, these are human beings that put their lives at risk. But when they see that the leader himself does not place premium on their welfare, and takes that for granted, I tell you, they are demoralised. As at this moment, I can tell you that a lot of security personnel on the Plateau are demoralised. Beyond that, there are specifics that will be considered in dealing with security on the Plateau, and these include intelligent gathering. During the tenure of Governor Jonah Jang, the Federal Government permitted the state to set up an intelligence gathering security outfit called Operation Rainbow, and I worked with them while I was local government chairman, and I witnessed the tremendous benefits they could bring on the table, especially on the area of intelligence gathering, as it helped us to be proactive. Unfortunately, Operation Rainbow has practically died. One of the reasons perhaps is inadequate funding, which brings me back to the issue of welfare of the personnel. I will look for a way to revive the Operation Rainbow. We have to be able to engage vigilante groups within communities. Today, the communities are left to themselves. The roles of traditional institutions too are very vital in managing security in their communities. We must also deal with vices that corrupt and distract the youths; proliferation of drugs and alcoholism. This is because the youths have to be alive and alert to secure their communities as vigilante groups. Deployment of technology too is another way, and we are already having suggestions on how to go about this.
How do you intend to manage Plateau diversity and plurality if elected as Governor?
For me, having stayed out of Plateau for a good number of years before returning home gives me a bit of a detached perspective to look at things more objectively. One of my key objectives as governor will be to become a rallying point for our people in the state. We need to harness our strength. Therefore, unity becomes a key priority for me. One of the corner stones for unity is that everybody must trust and lookup to the leader, and I intend to be that kind of leader. I can tell you that they will trust you when they see your disposition to justice, equity, and inclusiveness. So, managing diversity is not impossible. On indigenes and settlers, we have to look at the reality of the 21st century moving forward. We cannot wish anybody away. The only thing we can do is how to find the most acceptable way that we can live together peacefully and acceptably, respecting boundaries and making sure that people also have a sense of belonging that allows them to at least pursue their reasonable expectations. I intend to be fair, I intend to be just, I intend to be equitable. But we must of course operate within the boundaries of the law. We cannot take laws into our hands.
What effort have you made to reconcile aspirants that were aggrieved after the party primaries?
The reconciliation became one of my immediate priorities when I emerged as candidate of the party, and I swung into action by visiting the core governorship contestants one by one. Some had called to congratulate me, but also the same I went round to see them, and I was able to visit most of them, as much as it was convenient to all of us. To the glory of God, I was able to visit most of them. At the last count, it was only about two or three of them that I could not visit, but I called them and we spoke on phone. So, out of the 18 persons that contested with me, I have visited about 14 or 15 of them, and we were able to have meaningful discussion. Those that I could not visit in their houses, we were able to meet and interact. For the governorship contestants, this is the effort I have made.
For those that contested other positions, like Senate and House of Reps, the party chairman and I met with them for a total of about five hours, and we spoke extensively. We have also met at several fora. Recently, Baba Jang also met in his house with those that contested governorship position. A good number turned up. The ones that could not make it as a result of short notice tendered apologies. I have also personally reached out to General J. T. Useni. I had visited him two days after I won the primaries. I also paid him another visit recently. The difference between the APC and PDP is that the grievances that emanated from their primaries are not the same; for the PDP, even though one can’t adjudge the primaries as perfect, the grievances are more or less normal grievances of losing at party primaries. Some accused Baba Jang of imposing me. But that in itself is contradictory because what they meant by imposition is that he is effectively in control of the party. How could he have imposed me when he had no interactions with the delegates? We contested free and fair primary elections, which is evident in the distribution of votes. But the grievances arising from the APC was that of manipulation of the delegates list. The list was kept secret from the contestants. In APC, you can talk of imposition because there is a sitting governor who wields power, and also got the local government chairmen to be able to control the delegates. There was also the question of whether delegates’ elections held in the first place, which is becoming a subject of litigation even. In fact, most of the aspirants allegedly walked out of the congress. So, the grievances emanated from the process that led to the primaries. But I can tell you that for us in PDP, there has not been a single petition. The appeal committee sent to Plateau went back empty handed without a single petition.
How much consultation did you make at arriving at the choice of your running mate?
Consultation is very relative; you don’t consult for this kind of thing on the pages of the Newspapers or radio station. One thing we did was a strategic decision to zone the position to Plateau North Senatorial zone, and also to micro-zone it to the Berom ethnic nationality. After much consultation with critical stakeholders, we decided to go with the women voting block on the Plateau. One of the reasons we decided to go with the women voting bloc is this, it’s a very large bloc, and cuts across the entire state. Women particularly don’t vote on the basis of ethnicity, they will hardly vote even on the basis of religion. For them, gender is a point of solidarity, and we decided therefore to pick a woman. I must however say that there are people that are important enough to have been consulted, which we couldn’t consult. Honestly, it was not deliberate. But at least our consultation was wide and extensive. It is true that we may not have consulted enough. It was not meant to sideline them at all; it’s just that it was difficult to reach out to all, more so that the exercise was time bound. Once we zeroed in on the women, we consulted on the choice of persons from the immediate catchment area it was zoned to, and the name of my running mate, Mrs. Josephine Piyo came out consistently and highly recommended. Now, I am glad to say we made a choice of a woman of dignity, with a wealth of experience, having served in the state House of Assembly. She had also been a party official and as a Special Adviser to Baba Jang during his first tenure. She also served as an elected local government chairperson. So, she is a woman of pedigree in her own right. She is a mother and grandmother. I am glad to tell you that for every attack I have received over her choice, I have probably received over five commendations. I have received commendation over her choice from across the entire state and the country, and even outside the country. Some got disappointed because they had hoped that either they or their supporters would be chosen.
How much support are you getting from your Mangu Local Government Area and other parts of the state?
Since my emergence, the support has been massive. This is to be expected with the population of Mangu within the contest of Plateau State; this is the first time that somebody of Mangu extraction is picking the governorship ticket of a major political party. So, the people are excited and enthusiastic because they believe that we can do it, and make Mangu proud by bringing good governance to Plateau. The enthusiasm goes beyond the local government to people of Mangu extraction outside the state, across Nigeria.