By Pius Datti
Ever since Senator Jonah Jang, the immediate past governor of Plateau State, was defeated in his bid to install his protégée, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP candidate, the late Senator Gyang Pwajok as his successor in the 2015 gubernatorial election, the ex-governor has failed to come to terms with the reality of that historic defeat, three years after his inglorious exit.
The former governor seems to have deliberately chosen not to forgive the incumbent, Governor Simon Lalong and the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, for inflicting on him a bloody nose and “abruptly” terminating his eight years of nepotism and impunity. Jang had obviously sought to perpetuate his vice grip on the state till eternity, until Plateau people caught him pants-in-hand and rightly voted for his handpicked candidate with their feet instead of their thumbs.
Instead of the former governor to remain an elder statesman and join other erstwhile governors of the state in giving constructive advice to the incumbent that would help in building a prosperous Plateau and move the state forward, Jang has unfortunately chosen to be the face and champion of a vicious opposition and political chicanery toward the incumbent.
This is quite odd but understandable, though not justifiable. The ex-governor had tasted power and all its paraphernalia and found it irresistibly sweet, so he desired to have it for keeps, perhaps, forever. Who wouldn’t? Once upon a time, at the zenith of his dictatorial leadership, Jang’s word was the law and he was the state. Coupled with his military background as a retired Air Force General, he behaved as though he had conquered the territory called Plateau State and not elected by the people. Power they say corrupts and absolute power perhaps intoxicates absolutely!
For almost three years now since Governor Lalong assumed the mantle of leadership, Jang remains the only erstwhile governor and critical stakeholder of the state who has not for once attended the regular consultative stakeholders’ meetings held at the instance of the Governor. He has never visited the Governor for a one-on-one discussion to give a constructive advice or share with him his experience or register his reservation or dislike for any government policy.
Rather, Jang is always standing aloof awaiting any slip by the Lalong government, be it real or imaginary, so as to, like a wounded hungry lion, ferociously attack the Lalong Government in the media, ostensibly to score cheap political points. As a matter of fact, the former governor sees absolutely nothing good in the Lalong administration and mischievously picks holes in virtually everything the administration does or stands for. Every curious observer of Jang’s body language and utterances knows that all these actions are dressed in the garb of clandestine political shenanigans of seeking to rubbish the incumbent government in the eyes of the people as a subterfuge to pave way for his return to political reckoning if his party dislodges the ruling party in the 2019 elections.
One of such tricks by the ex-governor is his hypocrisy over the ranching policy of the Federal Government which commenced when he was governor and to which he had fully subscribed, gazetted and even made budgetary provisions for it in three consecutive years, from 2013 to 2015. Like the thief who they say will catch the owner if the owner is slow in catching the thief, Jang has been doing everything possible through media campaigns, political and ethnic blackmails to create the false impression that it was Governor Lalong that initiated the ranching policy in collaboration with the Federal Government with the aim of forcefully taking over the people’s ancestral lands and giving them to herdsmen.
The truth is that Governor Lalong only inherited the ranching policy, which had already been subscribed to, gazetted and budgeted for by the Jang Administration, which saw merit in it, embraced it and was set to implement it, especially considering its immense socio-economic benefits to the people. Incontrovertible confidential documents available to us have proved that the Jang’s administration embraced, subscribed to, gazetted, collected money from the Federal Government and made state budgetary provisions worth millions of Naira for “Grazing Reserve Development,” specifically in Wase and Garga in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 fiscal years.
The question is: how come Jang did not see the ranching policy as a land grabbing agenda by the state when he was governor until when Governor Lalong inherited it and merely tried to revisit same in 2016? Why has the former governor and his now largely depleted political associates deliberately gone to town with the mischievous and misleading story of land grabbing? Of course, twisting the facts and likening Livestock Ranching to Cattle Colonies is only a figment of the imagination of a warped mindset which is whimsically orchestrated as a weapon of political propaganda deployed to confuse and mislead the people to score undue political points.
Jonathan Ishaku, a veteran journalist and erstwhile aide of Jang succinctly captured this scenario when he wrote in his column recently, “Governor Jang had not only allocated fund for grazing reserves in the state but had gone ahead to approve grazing reserves as a government policy in a gazette dated 2009. So what was amiss now? Politics was at play as the same Jang came out to condemn grazing reserves!”
As a response, Lalong set up a committee to look into the issue. This was followed up with public hearings. In the end the verdict was a resounding “NO” to grazing reserves and “YES” to grazing ranches. Lalong never tires to reiterate his government’s commitment to ranching as a modern livestock development policy.
As a matter of fact, Governor Lalong, as meticulous and consultative as ever, in line with his inclusive governance style, had only commenced consultative stakeholders meetings with all interest groups in the state to gauge the people’s pulse and see if they could key into the ranching policy and its attendant benefits when the Jang-led opposition took to the streets and social media to condemn it! It is a shameless display of incurable hypocrisy that should be exposed forthwith.
Also, while contributing to a Senate hearing on Food Security Bill recently, Senator Jang in a volte face, categorically submitted that Nigeria does not need grazing lands but ranching as a means of guaranteeing food security in the country. (YouTube.com/oaktv/watch). This, therefore, implies that the distinguished Senator is playing the Ostrich Game with the ranching policy, which clearly smacks of political mischief as he continues to speak from both sides of his mouth or with his tongue in his cheek or both at his own convenience.
Right now, the Plateau State government is currently working assiduously towards developing a legal and policy framework that will culminate in an all-inclusive modern livestock ranching scheme with all its attendant tremendous socio-economic benefits. This will first come on stream prior to considering enacting an enabling Law to prohibit open grazing in the state because, as it is said, the cart cannot come before the horse but it is rather the other way round.
Datiri, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Jos.