Media Chat: Alfred Dapal speaks on indices of development on the Plateau

Alfred Dapal has distinguished himself and added far-reaching value in the Oil and Gas sector over the years. He hails from Mangun District, Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State. As an Oil and Gas expert with countless years of experience, he has brought his vast knowledge, wealth of experience and indomitable humanitarian spirit forward in order to help promote a better Plateau. In this interview, Dapal maintained that bringing peace, fostering Human Capital Development and Youth empowerment are essential ingredients of good governance. Excerpts…

How would you rate the quality of governance in Plateau State under Governor Lalong?

Yes, you know Governance sometimes they say he who wears the shoes knows where it pinches most. One is not there (in the seat of governance) you may not know what exactly he’s passing through but we know that every system comes with its own challenges, certainly Governor Lalong is in in a better position to tell us exactly how they are but one thing for sure we know he has his own challenges. But by and large the state has been relatively peaceful because without peace one can’t talk about developments or anything good. It is worthy to commend him for the maintenance of peace.  Looking at the developments within the State generally, we have been hearing and seeing some legacy projects which are going to bring some good fortunes to the State, when the projects are completed, we can assess properly and ascertain the performance of the Governor by strictly speaking, I think he is doing his best.

You been rated by at some quarters to possess good leadership qualities and that you will make a good political leader. Speculations are widespread that you will run for Governorship in 2023. What’s your perception and perhaps level of preparedness?

This is good news that people see qualities in me, that’s something really good, 2023 I can say there’s still time. This is 2019, nobody knows God’s plans for 2023 but at the moment, we will continue to do our best within the larger society where we work and keep on doing our best to humanity and to support the government and the entire system but regarding 2023 it’s in God’s hands, we don’t really know what will happen but when the time comes we’ll all know whether to contest or not but at the moment, I would like to appreciate those who believe in me for seeing the qualities of leadership in me but for the contest, at the right time and with God’s direction I will make my position known if I am interested or not.

2019 elections have come and gone, what are your thoughts and reflections on the general elections so far especially in Plateau state?

2019 general elections have come and gone and a lot of surprises were seen. Many people who were apolitical are now interested in politics to some extent which is a good omen for National growth unlike in the past when an average Plateau man had no much passion about politics as it was seen in the last elections. It was clearly in the last elections that people didn’t queue up behind sentiment but their feelings and beliefs. This generally explains how the tunes and direction of votes were not same in Governorship as it was in the presidential elections. It shows some level of maturity and awareness unlike what we use to have in past, I think this is the right way to go about, people have that mindset of their own to think and reason before they vote. The elections were an eye opener, things have changed and we hope it continues improving for the better.

If you are given an opportunity to present three policies on a postcard on the improvement of governance in Plateau. What would they be?

Yes, I think before I respond to this question let me first congratulate Governor Lalong on his victorious re-election. Now in every society there has to be vision drivers and it’s our prayer that he has such to help drive the state properly and set the right track towards developing the State. But there is one other thing we always miss which is learning to keep up with the pace of global dynamics and trends. So first, I will say education. This is very key, we must keep learning, human resource development is very eminent and fundamental. The state’s civil servants and the general citizens of the state must be properly equipped with modern working aptitude, for the progress of the state.

The second one will also be education, why do I say so? One can’t stop learning looking from the economic views, our government officials, workers and the general public need more orientation, education, exposure and awareness. All these form part of education. We have to keep educating the old, the young at all times. Educating the workers on their work specifications, the contractors on the expectations and aspirations of the contracts. This is basically primary whether formal or informal which is in form of reorientation of the workers. As we see in our public service today where lackluster attitude is very prominent especially in Plateau state as a civil service state. So, if you want to make and impact such attitude has to be changed, team orientation has to take a different dimension without which we will remain stagnant because keeping the old tradition cannot be in tandem with the pace of global trend where it moves at 100 miles per hour, you can’t afford to be tripping at 10 miles per hour. Workers re-orientation is very key here and with my private sector experience, performances remain key, this is captured in the working culture of the private sector entirely different from the public sector. It’s important to note that working tools and equipment are not adequate and if you are bringing them in; they have to be educated on how to use them.

The third one I will also say education, we have to study what every state is doing in this country, we need to understand for example Lagos is moving at a different pace and how do we tap in the idea into our philosophy of development to enable us move at that pace too. There’s no any cluster of restrictions that says we must remain the way we are not moving even as any European States. We must think outside the box, beyond Nigeria or Middle Belt setting, we have to see ourselves as people ready to set a foundation that our Cities and villages will compete with those in Europe. No matter the remoteness of our localities, with proper orientations our thinking even housing patterns will change. So, if you ask me again those three major things that I can bring about change I will say Education, Education and Education, because education can come in different faces and types.

Zoning has become an intrinsic part of our political arrangements in the past and in the present. What’s your take and perception about it?

Zoning to a great extent is more of a blessing especially in a state like ours, it creates room for fairness and equity amongst every zone within the State. There goes to say that, in every zone in the state there are competent hands, people who have a lot to offer in terms of good Governance. Even in some remote areas you will be amazed to see people with great ideas but subdued by circumstances, so this people only need a little push. Zoning means everything is carried along politically and it has reduced a lot of tension and fear of dominance and marginalization. Imagine a situation where there’s no zoning the few influential ones with the party structure will continue to rule and drive the State, but with zoning it gives every zone to showcase their best that’s if such opportunity can be given to the best.

Over the years, Plateau has been confronted with the challenges of violent conflict and attacks especially in the rural communities. The government has set up a peace building mechanism by establishing the Plateau Peace Building Agency in their efforts to cement relationships between Christians and Muslim as well as Rural community Dwellers and the Herders yet the challenge keep persisting. What advice would you give on how this challenge could be overcome?

The state’s government effort is a good and commendable one but the reality doesn’t deny the fact that a hungry man is an angry man. Once a lot of our youths are hungry, it means there must be anger and you know what that means. So it’s very difficult to talk about security without development, the two work hand in hand, people should have food on their table and it will go a long way in fostering peace, people should engage meaningfully because a lot of our youths are jobless and that has contributed to a lot of crimes like kidnapping which reports have indicated a vast number of these perpetrators are young graduates. Conflicts with herders cannot be far disassociated from the poor economic condition where probably someone at the survival down line may go into different sort of crime including cattle rustling which as we all know how an average Fulani man values cow, it’s like life to them. So, until we look at taming insecurity through development, getting absolute peace will be difficult! While working to provide maximum security, people have to be engaged meaningfully to earn decent living at that point we can overcome the challenges.

Considering the enormity of the challenge of contesting either for Governorship or Senate as the case may even though for now you have not taken a definite position whether or not you are contesting but obviously pressure is being mounted on you given the fact that people have seen one or two leadership qualities in you. So, if this pressure later becomes consistent with your belief and possibly the will of God prevail and you later consider. How much preparation would you put on ground to ensure victory considering the tedious nature of Nigerian politics and how expensive it is to run for political positions?

 Politics in Nigeria is quite expensive and it is not good for one to jump into something without evaluating it and like I said earlier, 2023 is still far. Pressure will definitely come but what’s more important is the will of God and his clear direction, we will continue to suppress the pressure just as any other form that comes to one’s life! For now, I think our worries should be channeled towards encouraging and ensuring the present leadership put proper foundation for the development of the state and the country at large. We have to get it right because there are lots of potentials the state stands to tap from and exploring them is key, many states of this country do not have 1/10 of what we have here on the Plateau yet they are among the top leading in terms of human capital development, so it’s important we make a comparative study of our growth with other states and of course countries of the World who are faring very well and study what they have and what they are doing that we are not doing, study their history of development and learn from all those indices I think we will have a good starting point for this generation and generations to come.

Governor Lalong just won his second term to lead Plateau state for the next four years, it was really a tough battle but interestingly, he won. In your capacity as an oil and gas expert and an active political stakeholder on the Plateau. What three major advices would you give the present Government especially in terms of economic boost, health care delivery and other infrastructural issues?

once more I want to congratulate the Governor for winning what I consider a fierce battle because we were all on ground and we saw everything that happened. We thank God he won. Having said that, for us as a state we are really lagging behind not only Plateau state to say the least but the entire Middle Belt and there is a need for us to move away from where we are and for that to happen we must look critically into some Federal Government policies especially in those areas that are business viable. The ease of doing business gives timeline subject to the Governor’s approval. I could remember when this ease of businesses policy came out, the country received international commendations but I doubt if this phrase ‘ease of doing business’ anywhere is practicable. If we want to grow and develop as a state and for the success of this present dispensation, Governor Lalong has to fully embrace the policy of ease of doing business because that’s what will give investors the guarantee and assurance to build their factories without manipulations and dribbling by the ministry of Land and Survey or whereby JMDB will cause them unnecessary delay for kickbacks to get the process done. These are some of the main fears that are entertained by business men. No matter how much we use the media to woo investors there must be feasibility of what we preach because any business inclined person run their background check and proper consultations to ascertain the level of challenges and impending danger to their business. The consultants check all issues associated with land acquisition, communities’ related matters, and power supply especially now that NESCO is losing ground in power supply and it is quite precarious for business of large scale to thrive on the Plateau. These are basically things every potential investor tends to look at before setting up. So, ease of doing business is expected to knock out all these bottle necks. Files must be well kept in the ministry of Lands and Survey, JMDB must be prompt with a maximum ultimatum of days (not months or years) to issue permits and clearance as it’s obtainable in Lagos. These agencies ideally are main to guide for example a structural engineer brings up a plan not to suitable or substandard building, JMDB specialist are meant to guide and put such in an appropriate standard. Ease of doing business is rooted in those fundamental basics. If these enabling environments are created, companies will be attracted to come in and by so doing, the locals will be engaged in both junior and senior carders of the work, so if we must grow, we have to embrace this principle of ease of doing business in both commercials as well as private sectors. A lot of our members wish to come home and develop their properties but always been frustrated and stuck into bureaucratic limbo given that the old orientation still prevails. There’s an urgent need of readjusting this ease of doing business on the Plateau because if such is attained, Government has a lot to gain from house owners as ground rents. But in a situation where Government frustrates the process, the land tenancy becomes difficult to realise by the government. Aside these to-dos displayed towards foreign investors, you find out that even within the Government circle, backstabbing is always prevalent  even amongst the Government employees which cause unnecessary delay or even denial of projects within the State. In summary, the Government should capitalize on that order of ease of doing business and make sure the entirety of civil servants embrace that spirit.

If you take a tour from Jos through southern parts of the state, you will discover there are no good health care systems, most of the facilities we have in the name of general hospitals are actually mere clinics because of the equipment available there, most them are first aid dispensaries those are basically what we have, there is no good medical system in the state. And if the Government must tackle this, it has to look in-depth on how other nations are able to handle their medical challenges. That explains why we have high rate of Nigerians on medical tourism to India and China not even UK or US anymore, this is because of the affordability. Have we asked ourselves why India is now the medical tourist destination of Africa and world at large? We have more enough competent medical doctors on the Plateau yet for Government to harness these human resources becomes the issue.

But there are many ways we can tackle this medical and health care challenges through borrowing models from China, India or even some countries in the US do it through their private sector driven partnership applying waivers to lure investors. Issue of capital may be a major problem for the Government but a lot of private sectors are ready and willing to form partnership in that area. It’s actually a nightmare to go through some of the general hospitals because even basic working tools and equipment are lacking. No drugs, diagnoses are not done and one wonders how proper treatment can be done without a patient proper diagnosed? But all these are within our reach and only if we sit and look deep and prioritize, share ideas and learn more. We have to keep learning and having other people to bring in new ideas, until we are able to do so the challenges will persist.

Now if you want to look at the economy as a whole, one will ask what’s the IGR of the state and how can me make improvements on the IGR. If the governor will take a holistic look at it and buy in new ideas and advice through proper consultations, be rest assured he will make a ground-breaking record like JD Gomwalk. It was because he was sacrificial and has set a good foundation for the State. This is our expectation and hope that the governor borrows ideas as they travel round the world especially Government officials. It is expected of them to consult, discuss and come up with templates which can reckon with great policies as in the case of Lagos. We can change the narrative through our tourism but given the level security challenges, the tourism business cannot thrive, thus, we have to tackle security challenges by engaging people meaningfully, bring development to the door steps of the masses with these, if the governor looks into setting a good foundation, the future will be bright. We all know he has a lot of work to do, it’s not going to be easy but we have to keep praying for God to guide and lead him through the challenges so that he can have strength, wisdom, courage to tame these challenges that comes with Governance because a lot of toes he has to step on to get things done appropriately for the masses. In the area of workers salary, he has been prompting with payment and we must commend him not to relent but to continue because the Plateau is more of a civil servant state and pensioners. We do appreciate the Governor but there’s still need for him to take further steps, think deeper even though it’s not easy but we believe the Lord will guide him through.

What have advice do you have for the Youths on the Plateau?

For the Youths I think we have a lot of work at hands and looking at things in the State at the moment, they appear to be more difficult for the Youths to thrive now than ever before due to lack of job and their productivity becomes dysfunctional making life hard for the youths and that’s a major issue to worry about. So, my advice to the youths is that despite the hard times, we should note that it doesn’t last forever only if we are determined and work in synergy with the government of the day, cross fertilize our ideas, I believe in due time we will achieve more and travel through the right path.

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Media Chat: Alfred Dapal speaks on indices of development on the Plateau

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