In this report, Seriki Adinoyi pays tribute to Governor Jonah David Jang on his 70th birthday
Since the beginning of this year, and indeed the beginning of this month, Plateau began to feel the reverberation of the preparation for the 70th Birthday of its Governor, Da Jonah David Jang.
Indeed, the people had said last year that his 69th birthday celebration was only a rehearsal towards that of this year. So starting from January, the people began preparations for his 70th birthday. Both the young and old have been recounting the good things the governor had done to them, their families and their communities.
For those who are not as fortunate like others to have met him one-on-one, the laudable developmental projects he has executed in the state speak for him. They may not have met Jang, but they have seen and enjoyed the good roads he has constructed for them. Many farmers may not have been privileged to have the governor visit their farmlands, but they have seen the improved yields that his rich investment in agriculture has brought to them. Their crops are no longer swept away by erosion as in the past. Bridges have been built on rivers to enable them bring their crops to the markets to get profit for their efforts.
The students may only have heard the blaring of his siren behind their hostel perimeter fence, but they have seen the improved learning environment and the qualified teachers in their classes. They no longer sit under trees to receive their lectures, and they are no longer afraid that their classroom roofs would collapse on their heads. The Plateau students in various higher institutions across the country and abroad have also enjoyed scholarship. They may not have met him but they have enjoyed his goodwill.
Indeed, not all the alhajis, imams, pastors and bishops in the state may have got the reason to have a dinner with the governor, but their wives or children have gone to Mecca or Jerusalem on pilgrimage on the account of the government of Jang.
Never in the history of Plateau has any governor sent as many on pilgrimage to Mecca like Jang. In fact, Plateau sponsored more Muslims on pilgrimage than even some Muslim dominated states in the North. And for Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Jang has been a father to the church on the Plateau, and a stabilizing factor to the Christian faith in the state.
Also, retirees in the state now have reasons to smile. Their hunger is no longer endless; they now have more reasons to live longer in their old age. In the past, they groaned under the weight of backlog of unpaid benefits.
The women in the state have not only benefitted from the 30 per cent affirmation in which at one time or the other some have had to represent the state at the Federal Executive Council and have also had opportunity to occupy the various positions in the state – deputy governor, members of the state House of Assembly and many more.
The women and youths in the state have also enjoyed the goodwill of the First Lady of the state. Through Women in Agriculture and Youth Empowerment (WAYE) foundation, women and youths have been trained in large number and given means of livelihood. Today, they have become a blessing to their families and the society at large.
These and many more are what the governor and his administration have done to better the lot of the Plateau people. So it was only fair that they rolled out drums to celebrate a man who has come to be known as their hero as he turned 70, like they recently did. He has done it in Benue and former Gongola State. Now he has even done more for his people in Plateau.
But that is just one side of the Jang story. The other side that many do not tend to look at is what the governor has refused to do. But indeed, itâ€™s what he refused to succumb to that really made him the true hero that he is in the eyes of his people. Because if he had agreed to to do those things he would not have done what he has done today.
Indeed, many of his predecessors would have loved to do like he did, and even do more, but were unable because they could not do what he did not do. The first challenge Jang had to contend with when he newly resumed in office was the problem of refusing to â€˜carry people alongâ€™. The other politicians complained that the governor refused to run inclusive government like his predecessors. To them, carrying them along was to continue to share the treasury of the state among few individuals like many politicians would do. But unfortunately, his predecessors that fell for these antics could not achieve much for the state.
Another challenge that he had to contend with when he assumed office was the protracted problem of the right of indigene/settler in the state. He refused to allow the wrong precedence to continue. Of course, this didnâ€™t come without a price. His predecessors have had to cleverly avoid confronting the problem for fear of swimming in troubled waters. But the governor felt that the best way to achieve peace was by refusing to succumb to injustice, and he confronted the issue head long. That made him a hero to his people. Though it came with so much resistance from various quarters including the then federal government. But the governor refused to succumb when he dragged even the federal government to court for allowing injustice to be done to his people. Today, apart from occassional attacks, peace that eluded the state since September 2001 has returned, and the rights of both the indigenes and settlers are clearly defined.
For two consecutive times, Jang was acclaimed to have clearly won the governorship of the state. But he was denied. Many of his supporters had urged him to resort to violent protest to claim his right, but he refused. He refused not because he did not have the support of his people, but because whatever was going to bring mayhem on the same people he was going to govern was not worth it. The interest of the people was his priority.
Refusing to promote mediocrity is another quality that makes Jang the hero that he is. When he awarded contracts he warned that the era of abandoning projects was over. Today, most of the projects he started have been completed, and the abandoned ones he took over have also been completed.
Today, inspite of the crisis that ravaged the state, everyone sings his praises for transforming Plateau. But this was not without a huge cost. He made many sacrifices, made many enemies, and paid several other prices, all because of his love for his people. To them, he has become a rare hero, one that has carved a niche for himself not only for the many things he did for them, but also for those things he did not do.