ViewPointNigeria caught up with Rt. Hon George Daika at Sheraton Hotels and Towers Abuja, to discuss sundry issues bordering his 2019 ambition, wanton killings on the Plateau and the upcoming LG elections in February 2018. Below is the full text of the interview.
Q1. There are insinuations that you are one of the PDP forerunners for the 2019 gubernatorial race –could you comment?
For a lot of reasons my name keeps coming up with respect to the Plateau governorship equation, first in 2015 and now in 2019 –which is very humbling. But frankly, I am yet to fully make a declaration in that regard. And the reason for this is that I am patiently waiting for the “thumbs-up” and the consent of our top hierarchy of party leaders/stakeholders to set things in motion by giving me their blessing.
This blessing and consent is so pivotal and critical to my ambition, that I feel I cannot take any decision without it. And the reason for my reticence is because these leaders are my mentors/role models and because they have also ran the same political course, they bring a wealth of experience, expertise and political nous which will be callous of me to ignore/discount. Undoubtedly, if they throw their weight behind me, it will make all the difference in this highly complex race. And as an obedient servant of the party my inclination is to wait patiently for that “green-flag” and approval.
Q2. If you were to be governor of Plateau State, what would you do differently?
Firstly let me start by saying that in developmental terms, Plateau state has been set back at least 50 years. The numerous conflicts and attacks from 2001 to date have meant that the state’s running costs/expenditure on security alone is one of the highest in the country. Now, if you couple that high expense with the fact that Plateau’s revenue accrual is one of the lowest in the entire nation (because all serious investors have left and companies closed down), then you can see how dire the economic situation is. And with these dire circumstances, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to posit that Plateau is on the verge of being a dysfunctional state –since its monthly outgoings almost surpass its incoming revenue.
To further explain the points I made above; take your mind back to the 1970, 80s and 90s and think about how Plateau was thriving economically –think about the Jos wild life park, the Jos main market, the Jos international breweries, BARC farms, NASCO, PIPC, Makeri Smelting and Melting Company, the Jos Steel Rolling Mills etc. Think about how money was exchanging hands in the economy and how businesses were expanding, think about how there was a vibrant middle class that was not dependent or linked to Government, think about how buoyant the state was. Unfortunately, all those are now only nostalgic and things of the past –crisis and attacks have brought the once thriving Plateau to its knees, barely able to survive.
And so, if there were an opportunity for me to govern Plateau, what I intend to do differently, is to prioritise security over everything else. I will work to solve the security problem that has blighted Plateau for almost a quarter of a decade. I will draw on my unique upbringing of being birth by a Muslim mother and a Christian father, to bring all opposing parties to the table of dialogue and genuinely sue for the end of all hostilities. Being a product of such a unique (Muslim + Christian) union/cooperation, I am confident that peace is attainable.
Once genuine peace returns to the state, all aspects of the economy will begin to thrive naturally. Investors will feel more confident to put their monies in Plateau, farmers will be emboldened to return to their farm (increasing yields and productivity), students will have less disruption to their education (meaning they will excel) and the general morale and economy will begin to thrive.
Once these are in place, my focus will then be industrialisation, youth empowerment and the lot.
Q3. Give us your thoughts on the anti-grazing/ranching debate raging on the Plateau
Before I answer this question, let me start by saying the first thing to do with regards the troubles on the Plateau, is to end the attacks which is still decimating our brothers and sisters in the villages.
Since these attacks are occurring on a weekly basis, the most pressing agenda should be to curb them and protect the lives of citizens. And I fully concur that promulgating some sort of a people oriented law can assist in ending the killings.
However, one of the most immediate and practical things to do to end the attacks is to re-activate Operation Rainbow (i.e., the security outfit which the past administration in their wisdom set up for intelligence gathering, local terrain knowledge and security support to the STF). As we saw when the outfit was set up, it was instrumental to assisting the STF with intelligence gathering and navigation, which led to several laudable successes.
However, the “politics of security” which happened after the last PDP administration left office is what caused its disbandment and the current gap in intelligence gathering. Operation Rainbow, working with the STF will bring in-depth knowledge about the Plateau terrain that ordinarily the STF do not have –which will save lives –as was proven in its hay day.
Now about the grazing or anti-grazing law –let me be clear, the voice of the people must be heard. Any law that is promulgated without the will or buy-in of the people will not stand, the people need to be carried along and their views heard as opposed to the view of a few politicians. So essentially, all parties must be brought to the discussion table and each of their views heard, respected and incorporated into a unified position which the people then ratify and sanction.
Q4. How do you assess the chances PDP in the upcoming LG elections?
It goes without saying, that on the Plateau, PDP is more formidable than ever. The party has evolved; it has matured and is running a highly inclusive and egalitarian philosophy. The testament to this, is our primaries, where democracy was seen in its “finest” in virtually all local government areas. There was no impunity, imposition or underhand dealings –everything was plain, transparent and democratic. In fact in many cases, consensus was already struck ahead of the primaries –as such, only hand-shakes and clapping of hands were the order of the day. Such is the level of maturity currently in the PDP.
Now, contrast that with what happened at the APC polls –problems of impunity, imposition and underhand dealings were witnessed in virtually all the local government areas. In fact, in some local governments, the youths have protested the results because candidates were virtually selected without consideration to the people on ground. That is a recipe for disaster and as such, I am very confident that the PDP will sweep the entire local governments in a free and fair election.
If you couple the above with the fact that the APC government has not executed a single project in Plateau in its 2 years of existence –you can be confident that the Plateau electorate will return a “no thanks” verdict in the upcoming polls.
The level of negligence is so shocking, that even in the cases were the last PDP administrated left projects at 80% completion stage –the current administration (even with higher borrowings) has been unable to finalise these. And therefore I make bold to state that our chances are very high and we shall sweep all the LGAs.
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