THE WASTED OPPORTUNITY OF THE PRESIDENTIAL VISIT TO PLATEAU STATE

By Maiwada Dammallam.

Ordinarily, presidential visits to states are windows of opportunities meant to be exploited to expose the President to sincere appraisal of performance, shortcomings and hindrances for possible FG’s singular support or FG/State joint-venture solutions. This window was left closed and heavily guarded in Plateau State where the President went visiting this week. I was privileged to be part of the advance team that went ahead the President to ensure a hitch-free visit courtesy of my Minister, Barr. Solomon Selcap Dalung. I attended all the events and from a very comfortable position to make proper assessment.

But for the huge turnout of the good people of Jos who came out to welcome the President, the visit could have a been a disaster going by the embarrassingly dismal outing of the Plateau State Government both in arrangement and in showcasing the state for the President to have a feeling of his CHANGE agenda impacting the state or otherwise. Of course, President Buhari was very happy with the befitting reception accorded him by the people but, there’s more to the objectives of the visit than witnessing huge crowd of people who are yet to be touched by the CHANGE agenda of the President in a real sense. I’m sure the President would have been happier with unambiguous narrative of performance from PLSG and how it impacted the people.

Even sadder, rather than dribble around the inconvenience of having little to invite the President to commission, the State embarrassingly poached projects left behind at advanced stages of completion by the previous administration which it invited the President to commission as projects it successfully executed from scratch. Left me wondering who is trying to embarrass the President. Is it not embarrassing enough that PLSG had to rely on road projects executed by the PDP administration which was sacked in the state for non-performance that the President had to be dragged into such a shady and outrageously dishonest scheme? I wonder how PLSG would defend the image of the President when PDP come calling for its projects.

I thought somebody would be smart enough to know that, going by PDP’s unprepared lost of traction, it would react to every issue like a wounded lion hence, there’s no room for such games as doing so would offer PDP a dangerous weapon to challenge the integrity of the APC on which, by the way, its whole structure is rested. Add this to the new political awareness and sophistication among the citizenry, the dangers of such political acrobatics could only be imagined. To attempt bolstering the acceptability (or suitability) of Governor Lalong for re-election in 2019 using the credibility and integrity of President Buhari as a bait in the manner Governor Lalong did was as repulsive as it was unfair.

But for Governor Lalong’s poor understanding of mutual co-operation between the State and the Federal Government in a democracy, Minister Dalung might have saved him the embarrassment of re-cycling old projects to convince the President how his CHANGE agenda is impacting the people. Almost simultaneously and not far away from the expansive Jos Government House, precisely at Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre, Shere Hills Jos, the Minister graduated another set of hundreds of beneficiaries of President Buhari’s youth empowerment programs anchored by the Minister through the Ministry of Youth & Sports. Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre is a parastatal under the supervision of Hon. Minister Dalung. I’m sure Hon. Dalung would have “dash” the program to PLSG to save its face and prevent the President from being ridiculed unjustly.

Plateau State is about the only black spot on the spotless skin of the APC. It’s about the only State that could fail the test of success when properly appraised. But for the constant support of the FG, I doubt if the State could afford to perform even the most basic administrative task of paying salaries going by the recklessness its resources is being plundered in a seeming gang-up between the government and few elites of the state with bottomless pockets and a ‘ yet-be-weaned-of’ insatiable appetite for scarce public resources. Not even States of the N’East (Boko Haram and all) could perform dismally with the amount of resources that accrued to PLSG from inception to date.

Beside the traditional monthly handout from the FG which is about N5bn a month, Governor Lalong has acquired multi-billion Naira debt burden for the State which is as hazy as it’s obscene. Actually Governor Lalong would have restored Plateau State’s to its known glory had the loans he acquired for the State been applied judiciously and with the people of the State in mind. Instead, all the state could show for such recklessness were few kilometers of a road that leads nowhere but to his personal residence and the personal residence of the Speaker PLHA and a cluster of personal houses of their aides and close associates. I was horrified at such flagrant insensitivity when I was taken to the area to verify.

I was embarrassed seeing the euphoria exhibited by PLSG on the 400 (I counted only 40) tractors commissioned by President Buhari during the visit. I doubt if the President would be impressed. His Katsina home state acquired and shared thousands of tractors without inviting him to commission the unprecedented feat despite the convenience of the fact that he always pass through Katsina city on his way to Daura.

Elders of Plateau State will not be spared for their conspiratorial silence to tell President Buhari the sacrosanct truth at the town hall meeting. They knew Plateau State is being scammed of most of its revenues through dubious contracts and security spendings yet, there are no projects to show and peace is yet to return to the State in a manner that could justify the spendings. The elders should have asked relevant questions that could unearth the truth about the situation in Plateau State. This is a “truth” they can’t wrap and keep under the pillow for long hoping it will die a natural death. It will help both the elders and PLSG if they could copy Minister Dalung and develop the culture of visiting and interacting with the people in their homes and places of businesses to feel the pulse of the state and avoid being caught off guard. Unless, of course, if they are still under the illusion that 2019 is going to be APC “SAK” not APC ” HALINKA”.

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