In this media chat with the Plateau state APC chairman, Hon. Letep Dabang, ViewPointNigeria sought to know the state of affairs under the APC-led Government and balance the report of the allegations against the chairman by some party stalwarts.
ViewPointNigeria: How would you assess the performance of the APC-led Government from May 29th 2015 to date?
Hon. Dabang: APC has performed excellently well. The system, both Federal and state was at a state of collapse particularly with the level of insecurity. It was getting to a point where nobody was safe any longer particularly in the North East and North Central part of the country. There was massive lawlessness but today within a period of 1 and half year of this administration, The Federal government has virtually depleted the activities of insurgents and this country is beginning to enjoy peace again. Coming back to Plateau state where I belong, the story wasn’t different. It was becoming a news item daily to hear of families being wiped out after going to bed or people going to farms and they are being attacked. A lot of people perished for no justified cause but when Governor Lalong came on board, he made it clear that he won’t tolerate any form of insecurity. So he put machinery in place for reconciliation between the Fulanis and the Beroms and any other disputing community. Today, it’s over a year now, we hardly hear of gunshots. The streets of Jos are very quiet. People can travel to anywhere within the city which wasn’t the case. So security is key to anything worthwhile. Secondly, this government with the slim resources available has been able to continue with the zeal of addressing some ailing problems of government. Some of the abandoned projects have been tackled. Backlog of salaries and arrears which were being owed for no justified cause by the past government but APC cleared them all. I consider it like a miracle story because today, no civil servant is complaining in terms of salary.
ViewPointNigeria: What do you consider the biggest achievement of the APC government in Plateau state?
Hon. Dabang: I would say peace. I consider that as the biggest achievement because without it, any other thing you are talking about can’t be possible. The APC government is committed to peaceful co-existence.
ViewPointNigeria: Your leadership style has been described by some stalwarts as autocratic and singular among other allegations. Can you comment?
Hon. Dabang: In what manner? When you say my leadership is autocratic and you don’t explain further in what manner this leadership is autocratic, then they are just being mischievous because there is no decision that has ever been taken without the collective will of the state working committee because the constitution of the APC provided that it is the state working committee that has the responsibility for the day-to-day running of the party. I’ve never seen where I’ve single-handedly usurped the function of any body. On the issue raised that I’m cornering some SUBEB and MDgs projects for personal gain, let me make it abundantly clear that there is no iota of truth in these allegations. One journalist confronted me and I asked him: was the contract given to me Letep Dabang or my company? Given to whom? How do you walk into an organization and corner a contract? Was awarded to APC as a party? Does APC have a company? Even if they do, what is the name of the company that went and bided for the job? This is a clear case of mischief. The MDGs are there. As a press man, you can go to the MDGs and ask burning questions for yourself. They should be able to tell you the truth. This question shouldn’t even be answered by me because if the allegation that somebody gave me something on behalf of the party and I ran away with it, that person should be able to confirm if it’s true I gave him that contract and this was the amount, this was the name of the company. If there is a case, we will answer but it’s not for some people to just sit down and peddle baseless information. For me these are some of the political mischief and gimmicks you get when you are doing the right thing. They didn’t even stop there. I saw in one of the dailies that I went and collected 153 slots from SUBEB and distributed to my friends and families. It is not true. Even the Governor can’t give such instruction talk less of me a party man having 153 jobs for my associates and who are these associates? They didn’t mention them. What are the companies of these associates that got the slots? They didn’t mention anything. How can such an exercise be so mesmerized? Are they talking to fools or to educated people? So for me, I didn’t bother because I know anybody who is literate will know that these are some of the gimmicks people play in politics.
ViewPointNigeria: Many people at some quarters have accused APC of accommodating past PDP members who were alleged to have misled Nigeria. Could you comment on this?
Hon. Dabang: If you take the case of Plateau state for instance, a great number of PDP followers voted for APC against their own party because they believed what the party was doing was wrong. They worked against the impunity that was happening within their party and they also believed that autocracy and totalitarianism have taken over the party so if these are the people coming to the APC, it’s just a question of like minds, so for me, I’ve not seen any PDP person moving over to APC that has not at one point or the other shown disdain for the misrule of the party in the party.
ViewPointNigeria: In what areas do you think the APC leadership in Plateau state can improve?
Hon. Dabang: Well! For now, because of the financial challenges that the government is passing through, they are on top of the security situation. Maybe, what we should be thinking about is the creation of job opportunities because for years, people have been graduating and no job opportunities for them. Government should be able to lay the foundation even for those who are going into private entrepreneurship. The APC led government swung into action and established the Bureau for small and medium scale enterprise agency and the Bureau is saddled with the responsibility of sensitizing our youths and directing their energies towards self-employment. I think if the government steps up its activities in that direction, it may reduce some of the restiveness perpetrated by youths, so I think this is the area I want government to put a lot of attention to.
ViewPointNigeria: The Plateau state chapter of the All Progressives Congress appears to be waxing stronger day-by-day. Recently, the party witnessed a cream of defection by some top political shots to its fold. What’s the secret behind the success story?
Hon. Dabang: That is to tell you that we don’t run an autocratic system because if that were the case, nobody would have been interested in wanting to join the bandwagon, but because we run an open door policy, we make sure that there is no discrimination against whoever that is coming in. there is no distinction between the founders and joiners, so people are encouraged to come. I am following strictly the directive from the National Secretariat that whoever is coming to join has equal rights with whoever started it. People are seeing APC as a party that is all embracing and all inclusive so that has encouraged them. People have also seen the fantastic work the Governor is doing across the state and the successes recorded by the Simon Bako led Government. These also encouraged people to jump from the PDP ship to identify with the success story of the APC government within this short period of time.
ViewPointNigeria: Recently when Sen. Joshua Dariye decamped to APC, people had mixed feelings that his defection may cause some political friction with you in the light of your speculated senatorial ambition in 2019. What can you say about this and in what capacity should we expect to see you in 2019?
Hon. Dabang: These are the activities of rumour mongers and speculators who will just sit down and begin to speculate and when they speculate, they will now convert it into fantastic rumours. As I am sitting before you, I’ve never told anybody that I want to contest for Senate and even if that were the case, in APC, the room is open to everybody. I don’t have any problem with Sen. Dariye contesting for senate in 2019. If the people of Central zone wants Dariye to go back to the senate, who are you to say it shouldn’t happen? In APC, we don’t believe in blocking people from exercising their franchise and expressing their ambitions so I don’t have any problem in Dariye wanting to contest in 2019. It’s a matter for the central zone people to decide. If by then, it happens that Letep Dabang is going to be a candidate, it will also be subject to the will of the people, but the fact remains that, I’ve never told anybody that I have a senatorial ambition in 2019. For now, I am still the party chairman. Let me finish my tenure first before thinking of having an ambition or not. When we get to the bridge, we will know how to cross it.
ViewPointNigeria: What can you say about the relationship of the Hon. Minister of Youth/Sports and the Governor? Some feelers believe that that there is a cold war between both leaders because of the politics of 2019.
Hon. Dabang: I am not aware of any cold war between both leaders. The minister has never told me that he has an ambition to contest for Governor in 2019. Even if he does, it’s not a crime. Lalong as a democrat and a politician may not by any imagination begin to feel bad by anybody wanting to challenge him by 2019. I believe as a democrat, he will not feel threatened and envious by anybody who may challenge him. For me, none of them either Lalong or Dalung has expressed that attitude openly for me to say if there is a cold war between them. To the best of my knowledge, Dalung is a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and he’s doing his job. He has never told me he’s abandoning that for anything else and to the best of my knowledge, Governor Lalong has never told me either covertly or otherwise that he has a problem with the minister. For me, I believe the minister is doing well with his job otherwise, Mr. President would have asked him to go home.
ViewPointNigeria: Given the extension of the stay in office of Transition Committee chairmen, some people believe you have a hand, perhaps, to achieve a vested interest. What can you say about that?
Hon. Dabang: Let me tell you something. There is nothing like tenure of transition chairmen. If you check the constitution, there is nothing like transitions talk less of having tenure, so these are just arrangements for convenience between the executive and the legislature. Why it is even called tenure is because there is supposed to be a temporary arrangement and the House of Assembly had to come with a kind of modality to clear some grey areas so they made it last for two months and when elections were not forthcoming, they made it six months. So for me, are you saying that after two months they should been dissolved? Then what happens next? Another transition to be put in place? It doesn’t make sense. When you say the chairmen are not perfroming, what are your facts? I went round with the governor and inspected projects done by these chairmen and people will just sit down to say things that are not true. Let me tell you, we had cause to remove a Local Government transition chairman in Jos East last year when we realized that what he was doing were not in line with the manifesto of the party. People shouldn’t just sit down in a beer parlour and say chairmen are not performing. What are the facts? If they are embezzling money then you tell us. We will investigate and of course, show them the red card.
ViewPointNigeria: Thank you so much sir.
Hon. Dabang: You are welcome please.
count | 363