ViewPointNigeria presents an exclusive interview with the honourable senator representing the Northern senatorial zone of Plateau state, Senator Gyang Nyam Shom (GNS) Pwajok. In this exclusive, he talks about his achievements in his one year in office and then delves into other pressing Plateau issues, including the forthcoming local government elections. Below are the excepts;

Q1. Being a seasoned academic, how have you found the transition from the university lecture hall into the murky waters of politics, firstly as the Director of Research & Planning for the Government house, then as Chief of Staff and now as a senator of the Federal republic of Nigeria?

Thank you for your question: I am very fortunate to have had a very smooth transition from the classroom into the world of politics. Being an academic of political science background, I was already vast in the theory of Nigerian politics and how this interplays to governance. To underscore this fact, I had a fundamental understanding of the key challenges of leadership & governance and therefore when I was thrusted into the politics, the application of those theoretical principles into such practical roles came quite naturally. Of course there were certain things, which I had to learn quickly in order to execute these high profile roles, but the basic requirements of the role were in place –and since I had such a supportive team of administrators and leaders behind me, the transition was very seamless.

 

 

 

 

 

ViewPointNigeria presents an exclusive interview with the honourable senator representing the Northern senatorial zone of Plateau state, Senator Gyang Nyam Shom (GNS) Pwajok. In this exclusive, he talks about his achievements in his one year in office and then delves into other pressing Plateau issues, including the forthcoming local government elections. Below are the excepts;

Q1. Being a seasoned academic, how have you found the transition from the university lecture hall into the murky waters of politics, firstly as the Director of Research & Planning for the Government house, then as Chief of Staff and now as a senator of the Federal republic of Nigeria?

Thank you for your question: I am very fortunate to have had a very smooth transition from the classroom into the world of politics. Being an academic of political science background, I was already vast in the theory of Nigerian politics and how this interplays to governance. To underscore this fact, I had a fundamental understanding of the key challenges of leadership & governance and therefore when I was thrusted into the politics, the application of those theoretical principles into such practical roles came quite naturally. Of course there were certain things, which I had to learn quickly in order to execute these high profile roles, but the basic requirements of the role were in place –and since I had such a supportive team of administrators and leaders behind me, the transition was very seamless.

For instance, when I was appointed Chief of Staff, I was lucky to have gained essential aptitudes from my previous role of “Director of Planning” and therefore performing such an executive role was not a herculean task. However, the move from the role of Chief of Staff to that of Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was quite step-change from the types of roles I played in the State Government. What I mean by that is that, it was a move from the “Executive arm of government” into the “Legislative arm” and therefore it presented different challenges. However, as I have said earlier the transition has been very smooth in all aspects.

Picture below: ViewPointNigeria reporter Satmak Dapar and Senator GNS Pwajok

Q2. Being a senator who came into the upper house through bi-election, have you found it difficult to make your mark? Given that most of the other senators were already in the house from 2011 and therefore may have already formed alliances and bonds?

Well, I came into the senate through a power vacuum, which was created by truly unfortunate circumstances, and only God fully understands why such happenings occur. However, to answer your question I joined the senate house at a time when the National Budget was being considered and having been involved in the preparation of the budget on a state level –I found myself standing on the senate floor less than 48 hours after taking oath of office. This therefore made it easy for me to put forward the position of my constituents and to also build strategic partnerships and networks with other senate members. It allowed me to make an immediate impression in such an important area of national discourse.

Also, being a former university lecturer, the senate floor reminds me of a lecture hall –a large audience of people listening to a presenter or proponent. As such it is never a daunting experience when I stand up to engage my colleagues, because I was privileged to be in a position where I lecture large audiences in similar arenas on a regular basis.

Of course the senate house is slightly different from a lecture hall, because it is full of older and more experienced individuals who have accomplished a lot in business (millionaires), the military (Generals), politics (Ex-Ministers & Governors) and the public & private sectors –but this only plays to the advantage of we younger ones because we can tap from this vast experience. So it is indeed a privilege to serve my people in this capacity and bring the desired change to them.

Picture below: ViewPointNigeria reporter Satmak Dapar and Senator GNS Pwajok

Q3. What have been the key challenges of being a legislator saddled with the difficult task of representing a contentious state like Plateau?

As you alluded to earlier, given that I came into senate through the most unfortunate circumstances –i.e., the heightened religious & ethnic conflicts, which culminated into the demise of late Senator Dantong. I always knew that it would be a herculean task overcoming the negative perceptions and publicity, which Plateau state was labelled with. I therefore had to go overboard, reaching out to the key stakeholders –showing genuine reconciliation and forgiveness as a means of fostering lasting peace. This has significantly alleviated some of the already held negative perceptions about Plateau and made our impact felt a lot more.

At that time, the image of Plateau as a state was completely misconstrued as a bigoted and troublesome state, which did not welcome or accommodate foreigners (or settlers as often referred to in the media). The image of the state was therefore in dire need of a re-branding and a make-over. Through active engagement and reaching out, we have been able to undo some of those negativities. Don’t forget that Plateau state is situated at the fault-line of the vivid divide between Northern and Southern Nigeria and therefore interests are rife in this area because it is a microcosm of Nigeria –anything that touches Plateau reverberates across the entire nation.

Q4. Tell us about your achievements in the senate so far.

Well first of all let’s put it in context –I have been in the senate house less than a year. And in this short time, I have achieved several milestones which I shall talk you through.

Firstly, in the “less-than-one-year”, which I have been in the senate house, I have tried to give people an idea of what “effective legislative representation” means, by maintaining regular contact with my constituents and taking into consideration their views and opinions on key issues such as the constitutional review process. Also, I have opened a constituency office in Jos, where I hold regular meetings with the people who have given me their mandate. I hold these sessions to understand their positions on national issues so as to represent them adequately. We also have vibrant representatives located in all the local government councils who have regular contact with people in the grassroots and to bring their opinions, concerns and challenges upwards to my attention.

Secondly, in terms of my constituency project, modalities are currently being finalized to set up “Skills Acquisition Centres” in a variety of areas in the zone. These multi-skill centres will be town-halls which will have computer and vocational skills acquistion capability. Constituents will benefit immensely from this project because it would provide them with lifelong skills which will equip them with income generation capability.

I have served in 6 different committees –including; Aviation, Health, African Integration and NEPAD, Solid Minerals and SURE-P. The experiences and contacts gained through this work have provided me with valuable aptitudes to better serve my constituents.

Also, in line with my mandate, I have delivered several lectures on topical issues which affect the wellbeing of my constituents. For instance I have delivered a lecture on the need for the creation of “State Police” and how that could benefit the Nigerian state.

On the peace and security front, I have instituted a framework which brings warring factions together i.e., Fulanis, Beroms and other tribes into one forum where grievances are aired, ironed-out and reconciliation effected. Through this forum, leaders of these warring factions have come together and pacts have been made to eschew violence and embrace dialogue and forgiveness.

Q5. The timetable for local government election has just been announced as December 7th, given the violence that ensued in Jos North after the 2008 elections. How can the repeat of such bloodshed by avoided?

Well given that my election into the senate is the most recent to be conducted in that area, we can use that as a “barometer” to check the political and security situation in the area. A large number of votes towards my candidature were received from virtually all Local government areas including some parts in Jos North which are often construed as Hausa/Fulani strongholds. Therefore my opinion is that people will not be voting along ethnic or religious lines, but across “cross ethnic and religious fronts –i.e., for the most credible candidate. As such it is my belief that the repeat of 2008 will not happen. Evidence to support my assertion, is that some areas which hitherto certain ethnic groups could not venture in because of fear of retribution and attack have now become open areas to all ethnic groups.

Having said that, it is not to say that we are not bolstering and tightening up security in all areas of the state to ensure that the elections have a smooth sail. We are continuing to monitor movements of large groups of people into the state, to ensure that troublemakers from outside the state do not come in to foment trouble, as has been the case in the past. We are optimistic that the security frameworks which we have in place and the additional tactics being deployed will be sufficient to avert any trouble.

Also, channels for putting forward elections grievances are also being put in place to forestall the occurrence of the breakdown of law and order. So if any groups of individuals are aggrieved with the results of the polls, the proper channels for addressing such are in place. Religious leaders are being courted, the media is being engaged extensively and political stalwarts are also being used to ensure that the election and subsequent reactions afterwards are all done in the confines of civility. Operation Rainbow shall also be used in conjunction with security agencies to guarantee the safety of lives and property.

Q6. Who are your political Mentors?

As well as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Jonah Jang and Patrick Wilmott –my political ideologies have been shaped by a myriad of distinguish personalities. One of those who affected me from a very early age was my Grand Father, Da Moses Nyam Rwang who was in the Northern regional assembly in the 1950s and served diligently under that dispensation. He died afterwards are the age of 93, but before that he nurtured my political acumen and horned my social enterprise into what it is today.

It goes without saying that Da Jonah Jang has been a massive influence in shaping my political character and pedigree. Having worked very closely with him, I can say unequivocally that his convictions, self-will and beliefs are indeed worthy of emulation. Specifically, his forthright attitude and transparent manner has been something that has inspired me a lot. If you look at the affairs of Plateau state today, the fact that so much can be achieved by the Jonah Jang administration –with the meager state resources says volumes about the character of this elder statesman. The fact that he has been able to achieve so much and deliver so many capital projects with so little state resources is truly commendable.

Q7. How would you score the Jang administration?

Well, I am part of the administration and I don’t believe in self-appraisal, so I’d rather the citizenry assess the gains that have been achieved and score us accordingly. But I shall say this: the Jang administration has brought to fulfillment several things, which hitherto were thought to be impossible. The administration has moved away from the politics of promises to actually fulfilling them. The administration has moved away from “talking the talk” to “walking the walk”. Instead of celebrations of developments and achievements at the state level alone (as has been the case in the past), now development has reached the local government levels and these are being celebrated overwhelmingly.

In summary, this administration has set a standard for coming ones to aspire to. Just like the legendary J. D. Gomwalk set a standard in a variety of areas, this administration has scored key gains which even the harshest critics cannot dispute. These gains are tangible, they can be seen, touched and felt and will outlive the administration.

Q8. There has been an immense outcry from Plateau people about marginalization in appointments at the Federal level, what are you and other Plateau representatives in the national assembly doing to ensure adequate representation of Plateau people at the federal level?

Firstly, we must understand that the federal in-balance in the Nigerian system was implemented during the military era. So frankly, in terms of elective representation or employment, there is nothing federal about the Nigerian system. Certain states and zones have got far more representation in the house than others and that clear majority keeps swinging things their way when it comes to issues of appointments.

There is no doubt that Plateau state contributed immensely to instituting the current government, but unfortunately appointments at the Federal level have unfortunately not favoured Plateau people. As such, what we the leaders have done is to remind the government of the extent of our contribution and to demand more consideration. We have actively lobbied the government in certain areas and I am confident that the plight is somewhat changing.

Q9. With 2015 fast approaching, what are your political plans? In what political capacity shall we expect to see you?

Well, the future is as bright as the promise of God. “So what is worth doing today is worth doing today” –I never thought that I’d be senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (let alone this quickly). In fact to break it down further, I never imagined that I’d be the Director of Research & Planning or the Chief of Staff Government house.

So I am a Senator today by the grace of God and I believe that if I serve my people diligently and to the best of my ability, tomorrow will take care of itself. Even if I end up going back to the classroom after my political stint, I’d be going back better informed and equipped to do my job better.

 

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Exclusive interview with Senator GNS Pwajok, Senator representing Plateau North Senatorial Zone

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