Seriki Adinoyi writes that in spite of the seeming overwhelming security challenges that confronted the administration of Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State last year; he still kept faith with his promises
The year 2012 was not particularly pleasant for the Plateau State people and their government. This was on account of the series of terrorist attacks believed to have been instigated by external forces. Hundreds of people were attacked and killed in their sleep while others were attacked at relaxation spots and some, on their way to the farms or market places, and indeed, places of worship.
The attacks that left hundreds of people dead and many others permanently incapacitated certainly had effects on the government and kept it on its toes in the quest for lasting solution to the menace.
Perhaps, the most painful and devastating of the attacks were the deaths of Senator Gyang Dantong and an Assemblyman, Gyang Fulani, who were murdered, during the burial of some victims who were earlier attacked. Jang was devastated so much that during the period, he did nothing but received sympathisers who had thronged the state from across the country on condolence visits.
Before this, a newly promoted Deputy Inspector General of police, Mr. John Haruna and three other officers had died in a helicopter crash which had thrown the state into mourning. The officers died while on peace keeping assignment to the state.
The Governor's church was equally not spared. In a manner that suggested Jang was a target, his church was brought down in a violent attack by suicide bombers which led to the death of many worshippers. His Commissioner for Information, Mr. Abraham Yiljap, who was in church during the attack, was also affected.
The torrential rainfall and the attendant flooding that wreaked havoc across the country did not leave out Plateau. Although, it was a national disaster which affected many states and attracted federal assistance, restoring sanity by state governments came at a huge cost.
Yet, the pains and distractions on all fronts had left Jang heavily burdened and consequently drew back the hands of development. Not so much could be achieved as attention was redirected to restoring peace in the state and dislodging the terrorists who had their base in the villages from where they launched attacks on the people.
However, in the midst of the challenges, Jang was able to take up two major projects that drew either both commendation and condemnation in the state. One was the N 4.4 Billion new Government House at Little Rayfield area of the state while the other was the rush to complete the Zaria Road Stadium to an Olympic Standard.
Particularly, the new Government House had drawn condemnation from critics, who believed that government did not set its priority right, knowing that there were more pressing needs by the state than a new Government House, moreso that the state already has two. But the stadium drew commendation from all and sundry, including the Governor's critics.
Dr Aliyu Tilde, a hard-line critic of the Governor, who said it was nearly impossible to fail to notice the ongoing construction work at the stadium site, added that he could not help but take pictures "for the sake of history, and for you my friends and readers who live outside the Tin City."
He said "after the project was abandoned for 28 years since 31 December 1983, the administration of Jonah David Jang has gone back to work in earnest and, as with all construction projects that he embarks upon, the completion of the 44,000 Spectators Stadium, as it is called, is almost ascertained. It is a priority project, just like the new Government House that I saw yesterday near his village of Du.
"For the people of Plateau and the surrounding states, this is a plus for us and the governor deserves our praise for it. A stadium of such capacity will help us in no small measure. It will attract spectators from outside Jos, thereby opening opportunities for trade and tourism. Any day there is a national or international competition for example, I will send my van of yoghurt and I will be sure to make at least a profit of N100,000 daily. If it lasts for a week, it will seduce me to nursing the dream of being a Dangote soon." Tilde observed.
The respected writer saw beyond the economic prospects that would accrue from the stadium when completed, adding that it would offer the opportunity for interaction amongst the youths from the different divides of the state.
"Here, they will meet to train together on various sports. Here, they will learn to sit side-by-side. Here, they will watch hundreds of competitions together," he noted.
He also believes that during many of the competitions, the 44,000 spectators will share the same feelings and say the same prayer, adding that individually, they would leave their homes, ride on the same buses and filled with the common hope that their home team- Josite, Plateau or Nigerian- would win.
"They will sit side-by-side in the stadium and together they will cheer their home team, sharing the joy of its success moments and the pains of its loss. They will share its fate as they disperse back home, their faces brightened by happiness or darkened by sorrow. Only sports can accord us this social symphony."
He noted that such experience may seem brief but its impact, especially when it is repeated many times over, would help in bringing the now warring communities together.
"Anyone with whom you have shared the moments of joy or sorrow becomes your friend almost instinctively. When you meet him the following day or after a week, say at Ahmadu Bello Way, he is most likely to greet your known face with a smile, then a handshake, then a question on how you have been since. Friendship has taken off."
Observing that the stadium could eventually become healing grounds for many, psychological and social ills, Tilde noted: "It will bring us together, makes us share a common feeling and gives us the opportunity to become friends forever. It will also offer us, albeit temporarily, a vacation from the harsh realities of life and its daily demands that we often find difficult to meet, especially these days."
Having enumerated the many benefits, Tilde, perhaps for the first time, congratulated Jang for the good job. "Kudos to Baba Jang; I wish our dream on the new stadium in our city of Jos will come true. I also hope that as the stadium plays its part in uniting us, other sectors of the Plateau State government will also play their roles in that direction.
"Otherwise, the stadium will turn into another battleground and it would not take more than three skirmishes before it becomes deserted by spectators. No competitions would be allocated to it at the national and international levels for security reasons. The aim of completing it would have been defeated.
"This is a fate we must work jointly to avoid. In doing so, the role of the governor is the most determining. On the stadium, the Governor deserves my praise, which I have readily rendered, just as he earned my quick condemnation in some other ways in the past," he said.
Also, there are those who believed that if Jang could achieve as much feats despite the security challenges that almost enveloped the state; he could turn around the fortune of Plateau people if peace is given a chance.
Affirming this recently, a government official described the Governor's stride as a tip of the ice bag. He was sure that the New Year would be an explosion of infrastructural development in the state, as witnessed during Jang's first term.
He noted that in spite of the recent workers' crisis in the state, the remaining part of the Governor's tenure would witness so much developmental projects that when he finally rounds off in 2015, the people would be tempted to ask him for a third term.
"Plateau people are generally good. They know and love good things. They are kind hearted and they don't hold grudges for too long. They only need to be persuaded that you care about them and that you are not taking them for granted, and you will win their total support. That is what we are out to do this year till 2015. Those that got their gains from the crises would get frustrated and find elsewhere to go from Plateau because the end has come to crises in the state," said the official who pleaded anonymity.
Indeed, the crises last year were overwhelming. Opposition did not also help matters as they were believed to have resorted to blackmail, and deliberate attempt to undermine the Jang administration.
But despite all, Jang pulled it through, albeit modestly, latching onto his promise to bequeath a peaceful Plateau to the next rung of leadership come 2015. And this, he has begun to actualize following his recent inclusion of a section of the Hausa community in his government as Special Advisers- a class of people who had hitherto accused him of marginalisation.
As a result, many believed that if the gesture is reciprocated through peaceful co-existence, it would enable the Governor concentrate on his transformation agenda for the state and in the overall interests of all.