The name Chris Kwaja is popular with the youth in Plateau –especially those on social media networks e.g., facebook etc. As such, for the benefit of those who may not know you, who exactly is Chris Kwaja?

Thank you, Chris Kwaja is a young man from a very humble beginning. I was born in Jos, schooled in various parts of the country (including Jos) and presently I am the Director General, Research and Planning of the Plateau State governor’s office. Prior to my current appointment, I was and still lecture at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Management and Peace Studies, University of Jos. I trained as a political scientist and my research areas are basically focussed on the politics of identity in Africa, the privatization of security, governance, peace and conflict and strategic studies. I am currently doing my PhD. in the area of security sector reform and peace building, which I am rounding up. I have been in the civil society work for quite some time and I am also a member of several civil society organisations as well as a member for board of trustee for some. I have also benefitted immensely from exposures both nationally and internationally in the area of governance, leadership, and research. The whole idea of planning and research, as I do in my current capacity, is to expose myself to developmental models that are working in other countries so as to determine how to replicate same back in Plateau State, particularly in the area of leadership and how citizens contribute to the development of their society.

ViewPointNigeria presents an exclusive interview with Mr. Chris Kwaja, the Director Research & Planning for the Government House, Jos. In this exclusive, he talks about the following important issues:

1. The ethnic rainbow of the Jang administration

2. The strategic nature of the office of the Director General of research and planning of the Governor’s office

3. The Jos master plan, what it is, how it is being implemented and his role in the implementation.

4. The position of the government on the adultration of the names of some settlements in plateau state.

The name Chris Kwaja is popular with the youth in Plateau –especially those on social media networks e.g., facebook etc. As such, for the benefit of those who may not know you, who exactly is Chris Kwaja?

Thank you, Chris Kwaja is a young man from a very humble beginning. I was born in Jos, schooled in various parts of the country (including Jos) and presently I am the Director General, Research and Planning of the Plateau State governor’s office. Prior to my current appointment, I was and still lecture at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Management and Peace Studies, University of Jos. I trained as a political scientist and my research areas are basically focussed on the politics of identity in Africa, the privatization of security, governance, peace and conflict and strategic studies. I am currently doing my PhD. in the area of security sector reform and peace building, which I am rounding up. I have been in the civil society work for quite some time and I am also a member of several civil society organisations as well as a member for board of trustee for some. I have also benefitted immensely from exposures both nationally and internationally in the area of governance, leadership, and research. The whole idea of planning and research, as I do in my current capacity, is to expose myself to developmental models that are working in other countries so as to determine how to replicate same back in Plateau State, particularly in the area of leadership and how citizens contribute to the development of their society.

One interesting thing I have experienced is the transition from research into policy. It is a fact that researchers commonly talk about speaking truth to power while those of us who are policy makers whether in the executive or legislative arm of government always emphasize the fact that we are speaking truth for power. Balancing that tension between speaking truth to power or speaking truth for power has been an interesting experience for me but overall I have come to terms with the fact that whichever way truth is spoken, the focus is that we must work towards improving the living conditions of our people; because we have been to school and are working today to add value to the lives of people in our community.

I remain grateful to the Plateau State government under the leadership of Dr. Jonah David Jang who did not look at my age (I am under 40) but he looked at the capacity in me and others working within the government and gave us this rare opportunity to key into the vision of his administration. The vision of his administration has always been to build a plateau where diversity management will not be an issue but people regardless of their religion, tribe, political inclination, gender or age are given a chance to participate based on what they can contribute. An interesting philosophy that has come to bear in the leadership of Dr. Jonah David Jang is this whole question of securitizing development and securitizing governance which implies that to make governance sensible and development to work there is need to see things from a security stand point i.e. economic security, psychological security, political security and cultural security which are all important components of our everyday lives and we must work assiduously to protect. The first law of life is not “love your neighbour as yourself” rather it is the law of self-preservation, which means when you do everything to protect your people and give them everything they need, then they will be able to love one another and live together in peace. We believe that we have the responsibility to provide for our citizens and that is where the link between security, governance and development comes and that has been the driving force of this government since 2007. I joined the government in 2011 and by the grace of God we are walking on this path, the governor is on the driver’s seat and we his co-worker and the plateau state people are working with him to ensure that we get it right. Because if we don’t get it right now then it will be a major problem for the people of plateau state; in doing this we need to ensure the right reforms needed to make productivity work in the civil service and politics place.

As Director of Research and Planning for the plateau state government house, how does your job role fit in with the structure of the Jang administration?

In some societies, this office is typically called the Office of Research and Development and the sense is that whatever policy plan you have in place is usually a function of the type of empirical research you have undertaken. Now what research does for you is that you move away from rumour/hearsay to focus on what is actually happening on ground. What you get from the research is what you report, you don’t politicize the findings but you present the findings the way they are to enrich public policy. What we do in Plateau State is periodically look at key issues within the Plateau State economy, do some research on the area and then make recommendations to the appropriate ministry or department. We basically act as a source of information for ministries and government parastatals on new trends and best practices. A typical example is education and agriculture, where we research successful and new models that have worked in other countries and make appropriate recommendations to out local ministries or parastatals.

My office is also saddled with the responsibility of designing the policy trust of the government for example, in 2007, key documents like the Kuru declaration, the 10 point agenda as well as the strategic plan all came from part of the work this office did. In 2011 we had the Obudu re-affirmation, which gave us the opportunity to review the 10-point agenda in terms of how far we had faired with the implementation of government policies. This gave us the insight to bring in the “three pillar policy” which reinforces the 10-point agenda and is a policy that focuses on human capital development, infrastructure and financing options. We have done very well in these 3 areas (human capital development, infrastructure and financing options) which has helped us to ensure the realisation of the 10-point agenda e.g. agenda-1 which focuses on security is the key issue we discussed in 2011 as to how government will work, the kind of partnership the government should seek both at the level of inter governmental relations, the media and the international community. On the basis of that kind of discussion, we have seen government strengthening its strategy to ensure peace and security; we’ve seen the international community supporting civil society organisations in plateau state with respect to dialogue and peace building. We have the Canadian government that is working with the centre for humanitarian dialogue in Geneva, Switzerland working with communities and traditional rulers and religious leaders on mediation on plateau state. We have the European union that has just introduce a project called the “instrument for stability” working again with civil society organisations which was launched last week to ensure economic strategies are supported at the community level. We also have the Mark Arthur foundation, which also supports an organisation called community action for popular participation that has been working with communities facilitating peace building in the state. The British government through the DFID also recently launched a program called the Nigerian stabilization and reconciliation project (NSRP) which is a huge 5 year project, this again supports the civil society organisations in the state and it is one of the biggest funding the UK government has ever committed to peace. These are some of the success stories we have been able to record. These achievements have all been recorded because of the level of openness and commitment shown by the government.

Being a member of the committee for the implementation of the Jos Master plan, could you tell us what exactly the implementation involves and of what benefit would it be to Plateau people when fully implemented?

Well, the Jos master plan is just like any other plan you can think of, if you want to go to school tomorrow, you plan, if you want to get 100% in school, you plan. So in effect it is like any other city planning project in the world, like you’ll find in the UK or US or other developed countries. It is about controlled building, or putting in place the right infrastructure to ensure that development undertaken by individuals is not just done haphazardly but with some sort of sense and plan. All slums in the world arise as a result of poor adherence to planning. For instance, lots of the flooding issues that we have in Plateau State is as a result of the fact that people ignore planning regulations and plans. For instance people typically build on designated drainages, pipelines, waterways etc. and this results to real issues. Also, with proper planning, immigration and crime is properly controlled because all houses will be numbered and people are easily identified as such. Also with proper planning people in the neighbourhood are better informed about their neighbours etc. Even the police will be able to do their work a lot better because they can locate individuals a lot easier. There are several important components to this.

The media recently named you as the person directly overseeing the implementation of the Master plan; for the benefit of those who are not familiar with these tasks, could you expand on your role within the project?

Yes, the media in a recent report falsely named me as the person directly in charge of the implementation of the Jos master plan. I have no direct role in the implementation of the Jos master plan because it is a huge technical project that requires the input of several professionals. I am only a member of the committee on street naming and house numbering which the chief of staff of the government house chairs. We have two strategic sub-committees (Technical and Research) and I chair the Research sub-committee. On a political level however, my office monitors the implementation of the Jos master plan, ensuring that the targets we set for ourselves are achieved in good time. We also make it a point of duty to ensure the media sensitizes the people of plateau state on the importance of this project, how it will benefit the state and why they should all co-operate with government to ensure a smooth implementation. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, Ministry of Lands and Survey and the JMDB spearhead the core implementation of the Jos master plan.

Considering the fact that the Jos master plan was developed during the late J.D. Gomwalk administration will people not question the motive of the government in wanting to implement it now? Especially because the implementation will see a lot of people being relocated/displaced?

Yes it has been there for a long time, and successive governments have not mustered the courage to implement it, but we in the present dispensation are saying it is time to implement it because Jos is still remains a mega-city regardless of the crisis situation. The crisis situation in the northern states has made Jos city a viable and safe option for many and we have seen a lot of people thronging into the city of Jos in droves. This change in immigration pattern into Jos has left the city unable to cater for the needs of everyone in terms of infrastructure and this requires adequate planning. So Government has elected to have a framework (i.e., the Mater plan), under which this urbanisation and expansion will take place. The implementation has involved input from all stakeholders, i.e., the citizenry, traditional rulers, opinion leaders and community experts etc. The implementation of the master plan is in the interest of all and we are optimistic that people will support it.

Will the Jos Master plan involve the development of transportation and public services –specifically will we have routes for emergency services in the roads, such as for ambulances, fire service vehicles, the police etc. to have ready access to these areas?

Yes the master plan will involve all of those. It is very comprehensive city plan and will cover all that. If you look at Jos today, the challenges posed by Okada riders has been eradicated and nullified, that too is part of the tasks, which touch on the Jos master plan. But along with that implementation, we seek to provide viable alternatives –so for instance if we abolish Okada, we provide alternative which replace such i.e., tricycles. So as the master plan is being implemented, provisions for these vital services are already being made. For instance, the contract for the fire service has already been awarded, because of its strategic nature to the master plan. So to summarise, it involves road networks, electricity, water, fire protection, new markets etc.

With the proliferation of illegal settlements within Jos, which have now come to constitute severe problems to Plateau state, specifically Tudun Wada and Angwan Rogo. Angwan Rogo posing security challenges to Students of the University of Jos and Tudun Wada being prone to flooding, should Plateau people expect the resettlement of the individuals in these areas when the Master plan is implemented?

Whatever policy we are trying to implement, we have to do a huge sensitisation programme. It would not be right to just go ahead and start demolishing people’s structures and buildings without consultation and sensitisation, but if ahead of any action we liaise adequately with the citizenry, there is a higher chance that we’d get people’s approval and cooperation. In doing that, government was able to set up a task force on City Renewal, which allowed Government to demolish structures construed as being not in line with the state’s development plan. The success recorded in Bauchi road (an area construed as being a no-go-area in the past) was phenomenal and I put that down to the sensitisation programme. No Government would want to sit down and see the lives of its citizens endangered due to poor planning.

ViewPointNigeria undertook a research on the history of the names of towns and cities on the Plateau (to be published soon). The research was undertaken with scholarly materials from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. The research found that a city like Barkin Ladi, was originally called Gwoll and Angwan Rogo was known as Gurra La-Manjei –with the implementation of the Jos Master plan, should Plateau people expect a re-naming or perhaps an amendment of these names?

My office –i.e., in the capacity of the Director of Research and Planning have equally undertaken such research and I shall be glad to get that information from you once its published so that we can add to what we have here. We want to advocate or make a case so that we can push for some of these names to be reverted back to their original names because these communities are still in existence today and the original names should not be altered. I will also like to appreciate ViewPointNigeria for lending yourselves to doing such state value research that is valuable to the government of Plateau State.

ViewPointNigeria recently commissioned an opinion poll during which approximately 1600 people were polled on the performance of the Jang Administration. The administration scored highly in all areas except for the area of tribalism where a lot of respondents argued that the government was ethnically baised. What do you have to say about this?

I am not from the same ethnic group as the governor, Dr. Jonah David Jang. I am from Bassa local government; the deputy governor is from Quan’pan local government, the SSG is from Mangu local government while the chief of staff Government house is from Barkin Ladi. With this line up, I’ve just mentioned from the Government house, there are no two people from the same local government. When you look at the cabinet and look at the 21 commissioners, 4 of them a Taroh, 4 are berom. Now when u analyse this carefully you see that 8 commissioners are already from 2 major tribes and you may want to accuse those tribes of marginalizing against the others. But it is not like that as the Berom as an ethnic group are spread across 4 local governments therefore if you appoint only one in Barkin ladi local government, then what do you do with the other LGs? You can apply the same analogy to the Taroh tribe, which are spread across Langtang North, Langtang South and Wase. We need to capture some of these dynamics and understand them first because that is what makes the difference between people who are shallow minded in their analysis and people who see beyond some of these issues. If we decide that on the basis of ethnicity we appoint only one person to represent each ethnic group then what do you do with the other local governments where the ethnic group is spread across all 4 local governments? If an ethnic group is mainly in one LG and have more than one representation in the cabinet then you can make such a case. There is also a tendency for people to say that the larger ethnic groups, which are spread across more than one local government, are by appointment marginalising the smaller ethnic groups but the most important point is that our state building project should not stop us from realising a strong plateau. Some of these little argument has already weakened our resolve to some point as a people in terms of understanding and appreciating who we are. These arguments about identity representation hampers on our ability to unite as one people to defend the cause of our state. But we are learning to accommodate each other and hopefully one day we will overcome just like Martin Luther King said in the 60′ s his dream was that one day his children would not be judged by the colour of their skin but because they are humans. Those of us who have been educated should understand that we have been save from illiteracy so that we can educate those who are not so fortunate. The question should not be about ethnicity, but can they do the job, do they have what it takes to deliver? We didn’t choose our ethnicities, God programmed it and we need to appreciate the fact that we are human beings first before having an ethnicity. Our focus in Plateau State should be fairness; equity (not equality), justice and plateau will rise.

VPN Nigeria correspondent, Mr Satmak Dapar with Mr Chris Kwaja during the interview

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Exclusive Interview with Chris Kwaja, Director of Research & Planning, Plateau State Government House

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