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We’re on a rescue mission in Plateau – Lalong

How will you respond to people who say you have not been campaigning, that you are not as visible as they expect you to be?What…

How will you respond to people who say you have not been campaigning, that you are not as visible as they expect you to be?
What is happening on the Plateau requires you to be careful before you start your campaign. Initially, we were preparing to campaign on the basis of political parties, but I suddenly realised that the problem in Plateau is beyond party politics.
People of Plateau are united against a cause; the level of impunity of the present government is bringing people together. You will realise that within a short time, there is a significant swelling in the APC.
People are moving from the PDP. So, as a politician, I need to harness that advantage in planning my campaign, but you have to also be careful in such situation, because there can be infiltration of people who are not genuine. We are sieving them and that is partly why it is taking us time to be visible. But now that we are ready, you will see our visibility.
What do you mean by ‘the level of impunity of the present government?
I mean this government has failed, and secondly, the man is introducing a new development in Plateau. We had a concept of zoning, which is why APC zoned the position according to the wishes of the people of Plateau, but in PDP, the governor changed the dimension to suit him and his clan.
He is introducing his nephew to take over from him; from father to son. His son is now a commissioner and also a special adviser, so Plateau people are of the belief that he is creating a dynasty and that kind of development is dangerous to the unity of Plateau State. We already have crisis and this creation of dynasty is a development that if it escalates, we don’t know how we are going to control it.
Is this not why some people raise the point that APC is waiting for PDP to implode so it could cash in on protest votes?
It’s not waiting, it’s planning. Politics is all about planning.
Don’t you think that intense campaigns, as PDP’s Pwajok is doing, will give him an edge?
Civil servants have not been paid and I have also said that local governments are not working. This was a man who swore that he would not tamper with local governments’ funds. By the time we start breaking them up, you will find that all he said were lies.
Today, local governments are not paid salaries, no employment in the last seven years. It was only last week he started promoting teachers but without agreement on salary arrears. He is promoting them for political reasons.
Also, our debt profile is N156 billion, and there is a request for additional N58 billion, I stand to be corrected. The PDP candidate is attaching himself to the government, so I wanted him to defend that at the gubernatorial debate we had.
Some say that for the loans the government has taken, there is infrastructural development. What about that?  
People are dying; there is crisis because of unemployment, and you are constructing roads. Why can’t you invest the billions in tourism that would have generated employment and revenue for people? Why can’t you invest in the main market (Terminus Market)? The main market used to be the source of much revenue for this state.
Before I left office as speaker, there was a contract for the rebuilding of the market; build, operate and transfer at the cost of about N3 billion. When Dariye left, Botmang awarded the contract and advance payments were made, but when Jang came in, he stopped it  and said it would not be secure to build the market and today they are applying for a loan to start building a market outside the town around Du, his village. When will he finish the market? In the next six months?
So what I am saying is that while there is glaring exhibition of failure, the man is further compounding issues by incurring debts for the subsequent administration.
What will you do about the debt profile if elected?
This is the debt that is created within the eight years of this administration. It is a sad situation, but we are on a rescue mission. We will provide the right environment for investors. The main market was not going to be built by government money. It was to be a build, operate and transfer arrangement.
What will be your first development project if elected?
The first thing is to create a favourable environment for investors and for unity among the diverse people of the state. If you unite this state, you will have peace, which will attract investors, because many people now are afraid to come here. It is the revenue from investments that will reverse the decay in other sectors. Nothing is moving apart from construction of federal roads.
He is not issuing certificates of occupancy (C of O), which is a way for people to do business, because they use the C of O as collateral to get loans. Of the total of 3007 Cs of O in this state, about 2000 were issued to WAYE Foundation, the First Lady’s NGO.  They have not been issuing it since he became governor while about 500 are given to a traditional ruler.
People were building houses but not given Cs of O in the guise of protecting Greater Plateau Master Plan. So, for the past eight years, only a few people that are close to them have C of O.  And the worst is that they have disengaged a lot of people in the Ministry of Lands and Survey, because they wanted to create a fertile ground for the son to come in and start issuing C of O.
He read sociology and today he is overseeing land and survey (in addition to being the special adviser on special duties). This is a government that does not respect rule of law. Look at the local government election in Langtang North where DPP won and the courts have insisted that the man won but where the governor swore in his PDP candidate.
You mentioned uniting the state. Jos has been peaceful but attacks still occur around Barkin Ladi, Riyom and sometimes in Wase; what will you do to address this?
That is why I am saying this election is between Plateau against certain individual and that individual is the one that has generated the crisis. You know that the crisis of 2011 started with the conduct of the local government election in Jos North.
Against security advice, he conducted that election. So, there is loss of confidence in the state. If I become the governor, I will run an inclusive government and ensure that developments are not one-sided. When you run an inclusive government you are building the confidence of people, because in Plateau, you can’t start anything until you get that confidence right. You will otherwise be investing and crises will be destroying.
Before the crises, we were not seeing one another as enemies. My younger sister is a Muslim; a younger sister to my father is a Muslim. In my house, we are Muslims and Christians who celebrate Sallah and Christmas together. That was how we used to live in Plateau. That is the kind of confidence we want to build back so that a Hausa man can feel free to come and invest.
The big investors in this state are not indigenes, but when they invest, they employ a lot of people and the government benefits from tax. In the Plateau that we used to know, the Urhobo, the Fulani were the major investors. In the 1970s, if you go to Ahmadu Bello Way, you would think you were in London. People are still interested in coming back.
Ours is to fashion out the right setting and the only way we can do that is to bring peace.  I also have very strong confidence that Gen. Muhammadu Buhari is going to win the presidential election and the APC manifesto will flow from the federal downwards.
One of the things I will do is to rebuild the Jos main market either through build, operate and transfer or public private partnership. You will not spend too much. Misplacement of priority is a major problem with the present government. You carry N15 billion to build a new government house. That is a luxury for just two persons: the governor and his wife. If I have that opportunity, that place is a luxury for me. I don’t need that to govern the state.
So, you are not going to stay there?
I don’t want to stay there because I know that my people are living in abject poverty. They are not comfortable and it is not my comfort that will give them comfort. The people will decide what will be done with it.

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