Dalung’s Reaction to Governor Lalong’s Action on the Visit of President Buhari to Plateau State: Political Implication and the Theological Question.
To say that Nigeria is in a BIG mess is an understatement. And to say that the APC-led government under President Muhammadu Buhari has failed to deliver is to state the obvious. Sycophants and praise singers whose only interest is ‘stomach infrastructure’ will certainly like to argue this. What we are talking about here cuts across all levels of the nation. Ours is a failed state. Admitting that with the view of confronting and solving the issues will probably pave way for a roadmap that will take us out of the mess. So, whether critics, sycophants and the like agree or not, the fact is, President Buhari has failed Nigeria and Nigerians woefully! Just to cite one aspect of Buhari’s failure – security.
Across the length and breadth of Nigeria, uncountable number of people have lost their lives. Of course, we know that it is not only during Buhari’s time that the country has lived under the tragedy of political killings and ethnic cleansing. But let us be reminded that it was against the backdrop of issues of corruption, violence and killings in the country that Buhari promised Nigerians that he would tackle security problem/others if elected as president. Suffice it to mention that Buhari promised to end Boko Haram within 30 days on coming into power.
How many years has APC been in power? What is the situation of Boko Haram? Needless to mention the shameless political coloration by Lai aka ‘Lie’ Mohammed that the group has been degraded after several months of unsuccessful operations. The question is, was that what APC promised – to degrade Boko Haram?And has the terrorist group really been ‘technically’ (whatever that means) defeated as the ruling party continued its media propaganda? Instead of defeating or degrading Boko Haram, President Muhammadu Buhari has not only spared the group, he has used tax payers’ money to empower them in the name of ransom settlement. Besides that, the President has also paved way for another dangerous offshoot– Fulani herdsmen. All of this is happening right under our nose! Unfortunately, Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong does not give a hoot about the atrocities of this group being pampered by his Boss. That is why in the wake of one of those Benue killings where over 70 human lives were wasted, Lalong sent an uncharacteristic message to his Benue State counterpart, Governor Ortom, that he warned him against enacting anti-grazing bill. But, what do we expect when men arise from dining and wining from the royal table? Daniel understood the politics and danger of that. He knew what men ought to do in times like that (Daniel 1:8).
This write up is not about Buhari. But, given the situation in the country and particularly the context of the discussion here, there is no way we can engage such conversation without providing a background that touches base with Mr. President’s self-induced draconian leadership. So, having said that we will move on to the main issue at hand.
Plateau State Politics: Reality of Mediocrity
Going by political history of Plateau state, there is no denying the fact that we have scarcity of men and women in the land who have sincere interest of people at heart. We are talking about leaders who would govern to meet the dreams and aspirations of people – fight for their security, education, empowerment, health, welfare and other social and economic needs.We may point to one or two examples in the remote past (which is not part of the discussion here), but, right from what we celebrated as the return of democracy in Nigeria from 1999, Plateau State has suffered the absence of quality leadership.The scope of the discussion exempts other offices of governance like councillorship, chairmanship etc.The searchlight is on the number one office in the State –that of governorship.
Generally, politicians in Nigeria take advantage of three major factors that characterize the populace – illiteracy, poverty and unemployment. These three areas largely constitute the reasons for so much lack and hunger in the land, and that makes people to do anything just to have bread on the table. Religion and ethnicity which are extensively maximized by politicians for selfish interest wouldn’t count if the public are empowered in the above three areas.Unfortunately, religion and high percentage of its practitioners endorse political rascality so long as‘brown envelop’ ministry is flourishing. Same with ethnicity. A particular people group or community will maintain a culture of silence against an untoward conduct of a political leader so long as they enjoy a share of ‘crumbs’ from that politician.I think this alludes to the sub textual meaning of what Wole Soyinka described as ‘eater of left overs’ in his play,Death and the King’s Horseman (The lusts/desires for material things of this life which hinder us from acting honorably). The story of Hezekiah is instructive here (II Kings 20:12-19). The king had not only welcomed emissaries from Babylon into his palace, but he showed them all the treasures of God’s house. When prophet Isaiah confronted the king and told him of God’s judgment of taking everything including his descendants to Babylon to become servants, Hezekiah responded thus, “the words of the Lord you spoke is good”. Verse 19 which reveals the heart and motive of the king shows that he did not care about the consequences of his action since there would be peace and security in his lifetime. For Lalong and most politicians in Plateau state, they only care about their immediate ‘peace and security’. What they stand to benefit from now. That is why Lalong does not see anything wrong having “cowlony” in Plateau state. He is an ardent supporter of this evil policy that aims at grabbing lands to give Fulani herdsmen for grazing or ranching. It does not matter to him if upcoming generations will be taken as slaves in the future. So long as he is enjoying his ‘peace and security’ from PMB, he damns the consequences of insecurity and bad governance in the state. And this is the general character of politicians and the public as well in Plateau state. We careless about consequences of our ill action so long as we are benefiting from crumbs now. Regrettably, the traditional institution is not excepted from this malady.The culture of silence by the church, traditional institution and a large percentage of the population about incongruous behavior of politicians in Plateau State is worrisome. The book of Ecclesiastes cautions that when sentence against evil is not pronounced speedily, the heart of sons of men is set on doing evil (Ecclesiastes 8:11). On that note, let corrupt politicians on the Plateau and elsewhere be informed or reminded of God’s judgment and consequences of evil. A man by the name Joshua in the Bible whom God used to destroy Jericho made a solemn oath (Joshua 6:26): “Cursed before the LORD is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho. At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates”. Unfortunately, with all the glaring warning, Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. Of course, with the blood of his sons (I Kings 16:34). Sadly enough, we have the likes of“Hiel” (from Bethel – House of God), who are building and raising unrighteous foundations in Plateau state. If there is anything that politicians and every one of us need to fear; it is the judgment of God. Leaders, elders, preachers and prophets or members of the public who participate in raising unrighteous political foundations will not escape God’s judgment. That is why when a people/church turn away from God’s way, God allows evil rulers to deal with them. Several examples are there in history and scriptures.
Be that as it may, concerning the role of Church in the state and nation, I belong to the school of thought that the ministry of the church is two-fold: spiritual and social.Or what do we think Joseph was doing in Egypt – from Potiphar’s house to Pharaoh’s palace as Prime Minister? How about Daniel and his three friends (Shedrack, Meshack and Abednego)who were high ranking officials in Babylonian government? The mission that brought Jesus on earth was not only religious: “Get saved here on earth, do nothing and wait for the time I will fly you to heaven!”.No!!! Seek the peace and prosperity of the city…! (Jeremiah 29:7). Unfortunately, most of the time, the church emphasizes one side of the point – PRAYER. Sadly, the prosperity aspect of scripture does not get the deserved interpretation and balance either.
The foregoing scenario has not helped the church on the Plateau which is always knocking on the doors of politicians for help. The church in Plateau overburdens politicians. The same person can be on the list of every fund raising/special offering or anniversary celebration of several churches in the city and in the village. It will not be out of place to point out that this development has the tendency of invading the morality of leaders and push them to engage in corrupt practices in order to meet up with such soaring demands.
Part of the reality of mediocrityvis-à-vis politics in Plateau State and by extension at the national level, is that of opportunistic narrative:‘What I stand to gain for myself and my family’. Or ‘Heor she is from our village’ or my tribesman, hence, the need to support them despitea history of ill-performance or political criminality. This can be seen in the antecedents of some of the politicians in the state.Our attitude as a people towards politics and politicians is that of what we stand to benefit. Even when the land is in great danger, political stooges and eaters of left overs careless, except for their stomach. With this mindset, aspiring politicians in the state (from councillorship to the highest political office in the state/nation), are mostly governed by an appetite of self-aggrandizement, rather than community service and social development. That is why it is no surprise that most affluent politicians in the state can only boast of personal “assets” – cars, houses, lands (for more houses), travels abroad, additional wives etc. We can hardly point to out standing public/community facilities and services (schools, health care, companies/factories, foundations, scholarship initiatives and enduring empowerment programmes), provided by political leaders in the state. The resultant effect of this narrative is sustained redundancy and stagnation; a continuously dependent and parasitic populace who are always knocking on the doors of politicians as early as from 4:00-6:00am every day. Unfortunately, selfish political elite prefer this kind of scenario, so that at the start of next political season, they fall back on their money and the servitude IQ of the people. What a tragedy! What mediocrity! But, to be fair to the people of plateau with reference to 2015, there is a level of awareness that is setting in. we need to consolidate on that.Time and space may not permit us to exhaust the issues, but these are some the things that define the temperament of Plateau with respect to politics.
What is worrisome to me is that our leaders in the state and, particularly, governors do travel outside this country. They see the level of development out there. Yet, the state remains backward in development. What is more annoying is our claim that Plateau is a Christian state (with the phrase,‘Jos is the Jerusalem of Nigeria’)! Please permit me to say that Europe, America and other developed nations in the West are ‘post-God’ (God is “not” part of their culture and programmes anymore). I say that in the context of how religion (particularly the Christian faith is so much attacked and antagonized in the West. Religion is not allowed in public schools, government establishments/offices, work place, court rooms or any public space at all.Statistics has it that 70 – 75% of Christian youth in America leave the Church after high school. But strangely, these nations which have no regard for religion, especially the Christian faith have social systems that work – education, social welfare, technology, tourism, sports, entertainment industry, transport (land, rail, water, air), you name it. I don’t understand. I can’t reconcile the irony. For example, how can we explain this? In Plateau State and Nigeria, God must be invited at the start and end of every occasion – political rallies, schools, government functions, offices and everywhere. As a matter of fact, it is considered sinful not to start and end an occasion with prayer. Government resources go into sponsoring of holy trips overseas. In the words of J.S Mbiti, “we carry God with us to every place we go”. But, what has that produced in the state and Nigeria? Perpetual mediocrity! Endless corruption and stagnation. Our religious confession and practice has not moved us anywhere. But understand that it is not that there is anything wrong with the Christian faith. But, there is everything wrong with the way we live and practice it. “These people worship me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from me…” (Matthew 15:8). For long we have lived in perpetual mediocrity of failed leadership in Plateau state: greed, corruption, selfishness, tribalism etc. And what is the resultant effect – Under development,backward thinking, surviving on crumbs, inferior mindset and mediocre spirit that is not visionary and cannot see beyond where we are, except to continue in the vicious circle.
Dalung and Lalong’s Political Rift: Basis of Engaging the Debate.
In terms of theological convictions, I am not sure the Honorable Minister of Sports and I are on the same page (I don’t say that with any sentiments, whatsoever). I must confess too, that our ethnic identity as far as the conversation at hand is concerned is a coincidence, made possible by media (print). But with respect to political, particularly in the context of the discussion at hand, I tow the same path with him. So, the thrust of the conversation under this segment resonates withand informed by social and political proclivity rather than theological or ethnic union.
We will not like to belabor the point about the issues raised against the Governor on Mr. President’s visit. Details can be accessed at this link:(https://viewpointnigeria.com/opinion-timdi-nkat-plateau-peace-dolorous-smile-consolidate/). But basically, the issues range from fraudulent claim of projects, lack of accountability of certain funds, constant accusation of previous administration, renaming of General Yakubu Gowon Way, insecurity etc.
Except for those areas that bordered on personal matters, I think the Governor, his cabinet and the people of Plateau state ought to pay attention to what the Honorable Minister has raised. Again, it is interesting to note that the Honorable Minister, the Governor and Mr. President are members of the same party, and the duo (Minister and Governor), are subordinates of and owe their allegiance to the President and APC ruling party. Thus, for Dalung to openly confront His excellency on matters of governance as it affects the entire state is commendable, unless there is more than meets the eye. The consequence of this is the possibility of losing his ministerial portfolio. We have established earlier that political leaders, political appointees and a large percentage of the public have an element of Wole Soyinka’s ‘eater of left overs’ syndrome. As such, they hardly raise issues with their political fathers, cronies or allies. Most of the time, what happens in Plateau state is that,opposition criticize and disagree with the incumbent to gain support of the public that has the power to replace the incumbent. But when they are there, the very issues they had condemned previous administration (s) would become the order of the day in their own time. By then, they would have long lost their tongues, lips and voices!Government officials and political appointees will defend their political patrons even on very unpopular issues. Of course, what do we expect? One cannot bite the finger that feeds him. Several examples are out there to attest to this.
Back to Dalung and Lalong. Let me pose the following questions for reflection: What is the justification of renaming Yakubu Gowon Way? Why hasn’t the Lalong’s government not given accounts of billions of dollars received from the Federal Executive on behalf of the state as alleged by the Minister? Isrenaming of Yakubu Gowon Way a commendable achievement that deserves a standing ovation?Or is it really truethat Baba Jang did not bring any development,butleft Plateau in a state of comatose?“Baban zunubi Baba Jang guda daya” (Loosely translated: One major ‘sin’ stands out against Baba Jang: His imposition of late GNS on the people of Plateau). Because of that one-sided decision the people of Plateau made a clear statement that ushered in a Lalong that is taking us backward!But, again, I think ‘Baba’ owes people of Plateau and his party a public apology for his action. For whatever we are going through now as a state can be traced to that single action of Baba Jang. Hear the voice of the wisest man that ever lived: “The end of a thing is better than its beginning” (Ecclesiastes 7:8a).
We are not done yet. The exit of Baba Jang and Lalong’s entry into the state house was not incidental but fundamental, considering the circumstances at the time. The way people of Plateau demonstrated their level of political consciousness by resisting monarchical dictatorship shows that there is an impending repeat performance ahead. The only difference would be that while PDP lost in 2015 not necessarily for lack of performance, Lalong’s APC ruling government on the other hand, will be booed out of office for some of the following reasons: non-performance, perceived conspiracy against the people they are leading (issue of ranchingor grazing colony as it were), and his unholy romance/allegiance to a president that has no concern forhuman lives. Our earnest prayer is to have a credible candidate in 2019 from whichever party that s/he will emerge. The people of Plateau look forward to having someone with a true and sincere heart for Plateau. Enough of the mediocrity!
It is unfortunate that Nigeria and our state prefer to continue to have sycophants and praise singers who like biblical Esau have sold their birthrights and will always defend the ‘sins’ of their ‘ogas’ at the top.Consequent to that, it wasn’t surprising to read about the State APC Chairman’s response to the Minister’s allegations. His response was bizarre, to say the least. We do not expect leaders who are supposed to be role models to use very insulting and abusive language in private or public space when responding to issues of grave concern.In his ‘madness and sickness’ (to use the words of the Chairman), Dalung brought out issues on the table one after the other. But, the chairman just emitted anger and emotions. Such uncouth, foul language from a leader of his status.No linguistic decorum at all!Out of the minister’s ‘sick head’ flowed intellectual presentation of issues that deserve attention rather than outright castigation.
Be that as it may, serious allegations have been labelled against Governor Lalong and the state government, we expect an action – from the State House of Assembly. We, the public need to know. Are these allegations true or false? The House stands as the jury on this matter. We had expected a response from government on the issues; a more responsible statement than what we got from the party’s state chairman. But there was none and there is still none yet to the best of my knowledge. We hope that the matter has not died a natural death like the usual culture we see with events in our national polity.
Conclusion: Politics in Plateau State – The Theological Question
As a state that is predominantly Christian and very churchly, what has been our role in politics in the state? What impact have we made and are making? As a Church and being the light and salt of the earth, how many sons and daughters have we produced to live out this responsibility in politics and public offices? How many people have we intentionally disciples and groomed with the goal of sending them into politics? How many of our sons and daughters have we scolded or called to order when they are misbehaving in the political arena? Part of the responsibility of the church is to teach its members the word of God. In turn, it is expected that members will live and practice that teaching and lifestyle everywhere they go. So, we push the question further: individuals whom the church has taught, discipled and nurtured in the word of truth, how many have really lived up to expectations in the political scene? To be fair to those who may be doing their best, we say keep on with the good works. We are also aware that when occasion demands that leaders take the path of truth and stand against evil policy/decision, sometimes this is met with stiff resistance by the same sons and daughters of the light! Again, we say to those who will sincerely maintain the path of righteousness, do not faint. Slowly, but surely victory shall come!
As a church on the Plateau, we must not be part of the problem of mounting unnecessary pressure on politicians with our endless lists of needs (sadly enough, such lists are not even for lost souls, but mostly they are for building cathedrals, pastorium etc.). As a church, we need to go back to the beauty of the old-time religion that renounced evil men irrespective of their money or status. As a Church, there is a need to deliberately engage a strategic structure of raising God-fearing leaders in the state. As someone has mentioned elsewhere, “anything without structure has no future”. So, if the church must make impact and influence the political scene in Plateau, there is a need for coalition among churches, ministries, CAN, PFN etc. to build a structure (It may be require establishing a leadership centre or institute for preparing and equipping future leaders in the state and nation).
Plateaus state is the only place we have. We have no where else to go. Thus, every one of us must be involved in seeing its peace, prosperity and security. So, I conclude by reminding his Excellency, Governor Lalong that it is unfortunate that you did not consider the circumstances that brought you into office. If you did, you would not have been insensitive to the plight Plateau people. Rather, you would have taken advantage of the circumstance and won the heart of Plateau. It is sad. It is very unfortunate. I am afraid, Lalong came to add more problems to Plateau. Be that as it may, the question is, “who will deliver Plateau out of this mediocrity?”.
Jos, Plateau State
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