PLATEAU: JANG'S JAUNTS
Just a week after Governor Jonah Jang led all arms of the state government to a summit to reshape the pattern of governance the old ghost of religious acrimony returned to engulf the state last Monday. Can the resolution from the summit be salvaged?
The recent retreat for top officials of the Plateau State Government held at the Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River State has elicited different reactions from citizens in the state. While some see it as an unnecessary jamboree and a waste of public funds, those in government and their supporters see it as a beneficial exercise to prepare the officials for the task ahead.
Whichever way it is perceived, it was an opportunity for those concerned to appreciate the moral burden placed on them by the responsibility of their respective offices to work to make life better for the people.
The retreat tagged, 'Agenda Setting for the Transformation of Plateau State' which was organized in partnership with the German Technical Cooperation (GIZ) brought together officials of the three arms of government to 'brainstorm' on how to work together to make life more meaningful for the people without compromising their independence.
Sessions and topics for the five-day retreat included, 'Transformational Leadership and Stewardship', 'Balancing Power with Responsibility: Reflections on Executive-Legislative Relations', 'Peace and Security', 'Resources Mobilization and Utilization for Transformation', 'Transparency and Accountability', as well as, 'Righteous Governance'.
Setting the tone for deliberations, Governor Jonah Jang in his opening remarks challenged participants not to view the exercise as a recess but as 'serious business' which they should maximize 'to add value to yourselves and governance in Plateau State.'
According to him, 'The deliberate choice of these topics and issues to be addressed at this retreat point to our desire to make the best use of this opportunity. They cut across various aspects of governance that should climax the policy direction for the state in the next four years.'
He said bringing together members of the three arms of government who constitute 'The Plateau Family' to brainstorm on issues concerning the state was instructive and stressed the need for openness and sincerity in their contributions.
'How we interact and relate with one another no doubt speaks of how far this family bond will go. It means that we must strive to imbibe the true spirit of working as a team which I expect to carry on beyond the retreat', he said.
Jang further charged the participants to appreciate the privilege in holding leadership positions which must not be betrayed. He said: 'I need not remind us that we are here for the sake of Plateau State.
I equally need not remind us that God has bestowed on us today leadership positions. I need not remind us that some day we dill give account before the Almighty how we served when he called us'.
He later presented a paper on the Three-Pillar Policy upon which his second tenure will be anchored. The three pillars, according to him, are Human Capital Development, Infrastructural Development and Financing Options.
He said the first pillar seeks to ensure the utilization of the creative potentials and abilities of the people for improving the way things are done and attention paid to impact assessment. The second pillar, according to him, is concerned with clearing the state's infrastructural deficit by concentrating on physical and organization structures needed for accelerated growth and development.
The third pillar, he added, is to adopt a sustainable economic model that would guarantee fair generation, distribution and allocation of resources. The pillar he said 'ensures that our economic growth maintains a balance with the Eco-system and supports initiatives for sustainable agriculture in fisheries, organic farming; recycling and better waste management, amongst others.'
The retreat which was divided into 10 sessions included presentation of papers on diverse issues relating to governance, theoretical and policy issues and setting agenda for the second tenure of the Jang Administration in the next four years code-named 'Redemption II'. Participants also broke into syndicate groups where sectoral reviews and projections were made.
At the end of deliberations, the retreat came up with what was termed 'The Obudu Re-Affirmation' which captured what could be described as the administration's second tenure agenda.
In the eight-point document, participants agreed to among others, put the interest of the state above personal and parochial interests; dedicate time and resources to the rapid transformation of the state; promote a robust culture of public debate on the administration's programs and institutionalize integrity tests to promote zero tolerance for corruption and discipline in the conduct of public business.
Probably aware of the criticism of his administration as carrying a 'know all' mentality, Governor Jang was said to have openly admitted that he made mistakes during his first tenure which he would strive to avoid in the second tenure. He also called for openness from all to ensure that every stakeholder in the state is able to contribute ideas to taking the state to higher heights.
In this regard, he directed commissioners to organize similar retreats in their ministries to be able to elicit contributions from all and sundry on the way forward.
Justifying the importance of the retreat which critics have described as a jamboree, the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Yiljap Abraham said the involvement of the Legislative and Judicial arms of government was significant because it was the first time the three arms came together to discuss the problems of the state.
He said apart from setting targets and parameters for monitoring them, the planned set up of an economic team which would involve the private sector was vital for the actualization of the the three-pillar policy of the administration.
Similarly, Special Adviser to Jang on Media and Publicity, Mr. Ayuba Pam said the retreat was not a waste as some have insinuated. He said it provided an opportunity to consider other financing options which were key to actualizing the administration's plan for the state in the next four years.
As some observers have noted, the true test of the relevance of the retreat would be in how it is translated to improving the welfare of the people in concrete terms at the end of the tenure. One cannot agree more.