(By Gyang T Dakwo)

All that is needed for us to do to restore our lost fortunes is a proper evaluation of who we are which brings us face to face with the grim reality of how we really are. However, it is worthy of note that this article is not in any way intended to cast aspersions on the Plateau people, but to highlight some of the factors militating against the development of Plateau, which will in turn stimulate the need for change.

IN recent times, many woes have befallen our dear Plateau State. It is therefore easy to blame such misfortunes on our “perceived enemies” and believe that we are “victims of circumstances”. However, this can be accepted only if we do not consider the fact that the circumstances to which we attribute our woes remain the same, being: we are still part of the “Monolithic North” we are a heterogeneous people, mainly civil service, accommodating and peaceful, etc.

Looking back at a not too distant past, we can see that Plateau was once a force to be reckoned with politically, economically and socially in Nigeria. In the Post-Independence years, Plateau was courted by all due to her “then enviable position of being the star of the Middle-Belt”. Everyone, Nigerians and foreigners alike relished the idea of having something to do with Plateau and so it continued to grow. At a point, if you did not own property in Plateau State you were not considered as being ‘savvy’. In the political arena, the middle belt politics which Plateau politicians championed was the zeitgeist. The economic landscape bloomed with indigenous and multi-national businesses/companies like NASCO, GBO, MDS, LEVENTIS, UTC, NBC, JIB, BARC FARMS and a host of others.

With the return of democracy in 1999, Plateau had a formidable political structure that pointed towards a bright future. The active participation of its sons and daughters in politics made it a choice destination for conventions by progressive political parties. All that has now gone down the drain and it is as if it never happened. The decline was so sudden that nobody saw it coming. The same influential politicians turned beggars in Abuja and when the clime became too hot for them, they focused their attention home. But before they returned home, they made sure they pulled down every Plateau politician in Abuja. When they were through, they came home to destroy what was left of the political force.    Gone now are the days when you were sure to meet a person from Plateau at the highest level in both the public and private sectors. This really tells a sad story of decline of a state that prides itself with having produced a Nigerian Head of State, deputy presidents of Senate, top military, police and para-military officers, ministers, bank executives, diplomats, academicians, top politicians etc. A state having the best potential in terms of tourism in the country, a state blessed by nature with fertile land, rich in minerals and a wonderful weather. What else can a people ask for?

All that is needed for us to do to restore our lost fortunes is a proper evaluation of who we are which brings us face to face with the grim reality of how we really are. However, it is worthy of note that this article is not in any way intended to cast aspersions on the Plateau people, but to highlight some of the factors militating against the development of Plateau, which will in turn stimulate the need for change.

It is true that a sound economic base is the bedrock of any society. Unfortunately, the economic base of our dear state is nowhere near solid. Cheap politicking has been chosen as preferred investment by our elite to the development of relevant sectors of the economy. The political class now leaves nothing to show for the terms it serves in office yet join the line again to be voted into other offices. Few have any meaningful investments within or outside the state. A look at their “so-called investments” as against their opulent lifestyles will give you a true picture. Perhaps that explains their decline from politicians to political beggars within a short span. With the decline of the political class into self-impoverishment, the food of the common man is taken from him leaving him helpless and in a position where he can hardly get enough to meet his needs, let alone invest beyond petty trading and subsistence farming. It is as if we do not see the potentials that others see in our state. In the face of this, we put undue pressure on the state government as recourse. How else can we explain Grand Cereals and Oil Mills, SWAN and JIB, BARC FARMS, PMC and Madara Limited to mention a few if our psyche has been fossilized on the government as the only source of livelihood?

As a result of a weak economic base due partly to over-reliance on government, we are no more considered as significant foes or allies on the Nigerian political scene. This explains the dearth of political appointments at the federal level post-2007. For a state that voted overwhelmingly in favour of the ruling party, one ministerial position is not enough. The story would have been different only if we had politicians who could negotiate from a strong point at the national level, politicians with a mission and vision to uplift Plateau State. Instead we have politicians who are so good at sabotaging each other and cross-carpeting for personal reasons, politicians who see politics as a way of building their personal fortunes. I can recall that we had a better deal in the Second Republic even when we were not with the ruling party. Our politicians lack or simply and selfishly refuse to exercise the ingenuity of finding ways to move Plateau forward.

Home of Peace… That aptly describes Plateau State, but of yesteryears. In today’s Plateau, people are first looked at as Ngas, Tarok, Berom, Mwaghavul, Irigwe, Afizere, Mupun etc. Your tribe determines how others relate to you. What is more worrisome is that this divisive behaviour is not only found among common people, but also among the political class and revered individuals like religious and traditional leaders who are supposed to be the apostles of unity. We have failed to see the problem of one Plateau man as being the problem of all Plateau people. We seem to go by the saying: “Every man for himself”. Individuals and groups take advantage of the security situation on the Plateau to score cheap political points, making injurious statements instead of helping to salvage the situation. It is on record that among states that have security problems it is only in Plateau State where elders have turned against their state government. In other state elders speak for the state irrespective of their political or ethnic differences. They know that if the state perishes, they perish with it.

Here is a question. What is the hope of tomorrow’s Plateau? Not much, going by the realities of the situation. Our youth who are supposed to be our hope for a brighter future seem to be toeing the line of their predecessors in disunity. Different youth organisations have evolved into mini acrimonious political groups as opposed to being platforms for integration and development. The youth have so patronised the political class that they willingly do whatever these politicians ask of them, whether legal or illegal. In fairness to the youth though, this is fallout of the greed of our leaders who starve the people of the dividends of democracy.

The way out: Unless the Plateau people begin to see themselves as brothers, things will definitely stay the way they are. We should learn to forge a common ground with our leaders as the fulcrum, try to understand the motives behind their statements and actions instead of showing them disdain and disobeying them. Our leaders on their part must show themselves to be responsible, uniting forces and trustworthy. We should learn from the past generation of Plateau men and women who had nothing but love for one another which enabled them leave the legacies we are enjoying today. Plateau belongs to all and not a select few and so we should all work towards making it the egalitarian society it is meant to be, where everyone has a chance. It goes without saying that unless we adopt a different attitude, we will unwittingly be acting the “divide and rule” script of our “common enemies”.

• Dakwo is of Abuja Broadcasting Corporation, Abuja.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”