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How Nigeria’s problem started with coup that overthrew Gowon – Jonah Jang

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3 weeks 4 days ago #7991 by patrickd



Jonah Jang, a former Plateau State Governor and ex-military governor of Benue and Gongola states, takes JAMES ABRAHAM back to the time Nigeria got independence and how things became worse

You are in your 70s and was a teenager when Nigeria got independence, what was Nigeria like at the time?

Nigeria was far better than what it is today. As a teenager in a secondary school then, I never paid school fees. I went to a boarding senior primary school. We used to have boarding junior primary schools from class 1-4 and senior primary schools from class 5-7. Here in Plateau State, every district had a junior primary and every province or division as it was called, had a senior primary school. Ours in Jos Division was in Riyom and it was a boarding school. We were fed and provided with uniforms free of charge. I lost my father when I was in primary four and my school sponsorship was never a burden on anyone. I don’t know whether I was on scholarship but what I did know was that nobody ever asked me to pay school fees.

Thereafter, I went to the Provincial Secondary in Kuru, now known as Government Science Secondary School, Kuru. We were given uniforms free of charge and soaps to wash the clothes. We were also given pocket money. During holidays, we were reluctant to return home because we couldn’t get at home or elsewhere the good food, fresh milk, eggs and others that we were given in school. That was Nigeria when I was growing up as a teenager and you could see that things were good in the country. When I became the state governor, I visited the school and saw the kind of food the pupils were being fed; it was a sorry sight while the school itself had deteriorated to something else. I know what I did in the school and other schools in Plateau State as governor to give them a facelift. After independence, Nigeria was doing well till the time I joined the Air Force and became an officer.

How excited and hopeful were you and the adults around you at the time?

We were always excited as teenagers because we would go on parade and take part in march-past. But the truth is that we did not know the meaning of independence beyond the few activities we usually took part in during the celebrations. It was after I was grown that I understood its meaning. Independence Day anniversaries in those days were like Christmas as they came with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm.

Where did people see Nigeria in the future?

I did not even think of having a future for myself let alone Nigeria as a country. I did not know I could have a bicycle because I thought having one was beyond my reach.

You were in the military, what was the security situation like at the time?

There was no security problem anywhere in Nigeria. There was discipline. People could be jailed for stealing one shilling.

So, how would you describe the state of security across the country now?

I’m very much concerned about the present security situation in Nigeria. Things are not done the way they should be done in most cases. As a governor, I suffered the same fate for eight years after inheriting the problem from my predecessors in office. Former governor Joshua Dariye, who was in office before me, had to be suspended because of the security challenge. The powers in the Federal Government felt he could not control the situation. But then, his removal was a misuse of power by the Federal Government because the President has no power to remove a sitting governor. Dariye did not realise his rights early and by the time he did, his tenure had elapsed and he handed over to me as governor.

Even during my time, they wanted to do the same thing to me as they were suggesting in the National Assembly that Governor Jang should be removed on account of the security situation but I stood my ground and told Mr President that he could not remove me because it was against the constitution. During my time as governor, we arrested a lot of people causing trouble at the initial stage. Some of them came from Niger Republic and Chad and we documented them. But the Commissioner of Police in my state told me he had an order from the Inspector General of Police that he should send those arrested to Abjua. This again was misuse of power because they knew the position of the law on such matters – an offender should be tried within the jurisdiction where the offence was committed and investigated. After they took them to Abuja, they disappeared, till today.

I can say boldly that there are highly placed people in Nigeria who are behind the security crisis in the country. I cried out about it when I was governor. There was a day the Vice President called us all – governors experiencing security challenges in their areas at that time. I said there was no point calling us there because I believed they knew the people behind the crisis. They said why would I talk like that and I made it clear that if the police IG would tell my police commissioner to bring people who committed an offence in Plateau State to Abuja and when he did eventually, the matter was swept under the carpet, who then should we say was behind the crisis? It was unthinkable that the Inspector of Police of a country would back such illegal actions. But God is a righteous judge. Some people think it would end here on earth but God will judge each of us.

So, the crisis in Nigeria has persisted because those behind the problem have the backing of those in authority. Today, they are dragging the former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr Obadiah Mailafia, here and there for exposing the security situation in Nigeria but what his informant told him is the reality of the Nigerian security situation. Instead of disturbing, intimidating and harassing the man, I had expected security agencies to call him to give them more facts to work with. A serious security organisation in a country interested in addressing its challenges would have investigated the revelation and act accordingly instead of the unhelpful approach they took. So, the security challenge in Nigeria will come to an end if those in authority decide to be sincere and deal with the situation.

You were military governor of Gongola and Benue states, but the North Central, North-East and North-West are currently home to so much violence, attacks by herdsmen and cattle rustlers, kidnapping and banditry now. How were things different in those days?

We know a lot about the crisis in the North-East of the country and the involvement of people behind it. This is the first time a governor is being seen taking up Boko Haram. Have other governors (in the region) done that and has anyone cared to find out why they have not been doing what the present governor of the state is doing? Some people say he (Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum) is not a politician and that politicians are not enjoying him. But he was elected as a politician. If they are not enjoying him, it is probably because he is not sharing money with them but the man is doing his job. He is the one challenging the military. Who has ever done that in Borno? We need to tell ourselves the truth for our country to move forward.

Looking at the crisis and killings going on in Southern Kaduna, why do you think the problem has suddenly escalated?

The issue in Southern Kaduna is not new; it has been there for a long time; it is like that of Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Zamfara, Katsina, among others. Every time the issue becomes heated in a place, we start behaving as if it is just happening for the first time in that area. These crises come with all manner of connotations. There are religious and political undertones involved. Whether Islam or Christianity, God has not told anybody to fight for him and he gave people their various places as their inheritance. It was God that did it and not human beings. Today, land areas belonging to indigenous people are being taken over by other people and occupied by force and the government is not saying about it.

When I was governor, they brought some Fulani people in trucks to Wase. When the security report got me, I told them to send the people back to wherever they were coming from and there were noises everywhere that Jang did not want people in Plateau. My former colleague in Niger was the one who made the loudest noise over the issue. Surprisingly, when the same people landed in Minna, Niger State, he also put them in trucks and sent them back. Now, it is happening everywhere and has even gone to the southern part of the country. The Yoruba speaking states in the South-West irrespective of party differences have united, established Amotekun security outfit and sending the Fulani and their cows out of their states.

The question is: where are these Fulani people from? We have lived with Fulani people without any problem. My father’s neighbours were Fulani and when I was growing up, out of curiosity, I used to follow their children to tend to cows in the bush and there was no problem. We know the kind of cows they rear. But the kind of cows we see today is different from the ones Nigerian Fulani used to rear; something is wrong somewhere. What is happening is not a secret; people are being brought from Mali, Chad and all over to come and occupy native land. Is it somebody’s agenda to create a territory for some people in Nigeria?

Has the Nigerian situation ever made you shed tears?

I think I have shed enough tears when I was governor over the situation of things, in the state and the country at large. Let the others who are now in office shed the tears if they love the people they are governing. I know how many times I shed tears in my bedroom as a governor. Sometimes, women would wake me up with a telephone call about people who had been killed. At a point, I had to ask God if it was what he made me a governor for – to always bury my people who were being killed and had no power to do anything about it. That was why I started crying out for states to be allowed to have their own police.

Unfortunately, some people thought it was because of the sin I had committed. But today, I know how people talk about me in glowing terms and the achievement we recorded while I was governor because they now understand better. Those who initially said I was stubborn for saying the truth now appreciate what we did to protect the people of the state. When former President Umaru Yar’Adua wanted to take over my responsibility as governor, I told him he could not. When he insisted, I went to the Supreme Court and we were advised later to settle the matter out of court and we did. They said ‘Jang was stubborn; he even took Mr President to court’. So, what is the constitution there for if we cannot use it to caution others? People who know me know that I’m the most gentle being you can relate with but when you give me a job to do, be sure I will do it to the best of my ability.

Where do you think we missed it as a nation?

After independence, Nigeria was moving. Around the civil war period, a lot of us who joined the military were commissioned as officers as we were cadets before then. And when the civil war ended, the then Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (now retired), started his 3Rs. I must tell you that Nigeria was good after the civil war and the future was looking very bright. Gowon had a development plan which he was implementing religiously and I remember the third national development plan which he announced before his government was overthrown. If the people who overthrew his government had continued with the third development plan, by today, Nigeria would have been a developed nation because it was comprehensive and was set to turn the fortunes of the country around completely for the better.

I believe some of these developed nations saw Nigeria developing faster than they wanted and they deliberately planned to overthrow Gowon’s government. At that time, civil servants were working with all their hearts for the good of the country. The regime that overthrew Gowon’s government started indiscriminate retirement of the workers; that was when corruption started in this country. Initially, people who were in the civil service did not bother about stealing money because they were sure that they would be paid their pensions at the end of their career but that changed completely when they started premature retirement of the workers.

The condition of service was also fantastic as young graduates in the workforce were given houses and car loans to start their lives. The same thing was happening in the military; once you are commissioned, if you are not married, you will stay in the single staff quarters and if you are married, you go to the staff quarters, which were fully furnished. I keep telling people that I have never used a second-hand car because you were free to approach a car company for a new car after being given a car loan. If you were posted elsewhere, you didn’t need to take anything to the place because a house that had already been furnished would be there waiting for you. When people ask at what point did we miss it as a nation, I say it was when Gowon’s government was overthrown.

The Gen. Murtala Mohammed regime created the problems we are facing as a country in Nigeria. When Gowon’s government was overthrown, his Minister of Finance (ministers were known then as commissioners then) was retired and he had nowhere to move to. The retired military officer would be seen loitering around Marina in Lagos, wondering if it was the same Nigeria that he had spent most of his life serving. Government eventually bought a house for him, otherwise he had no place to move to. That was the period when people were still giving their best to serve the nation. Today, we call some people heroes for creating problems in the country and making false accusations. Since Gowon left office as Head of State, have you ever been told of a house or houses owned by him which he acquired using the privilege of his former position? In fact, during the administration of Chief Solomon Lar, Plateau State Government had to build a house for him.

When I was governor, I was the one who ensured the road leading to the house was tarred and I don’t know if he has moved into the house or not. He was Head of State for nine years without amassing illegal wealth. But look at military officers that emerged after Gowon. They were business people. If Nigerians know that things are not working under the present regime, let them try the Peoples Democratic Party and return it to power again.

Do you see any hope for the future of the country?

Nigeria’s future is in God’s hands. Nigeria can change because I have faith in this country and we don’t have any other country to relocate to. Some people think that the solution lies in leaving the country but you can count me out of that because if you give me any amount of money to move out of the country, I won’t do it. That’s why during the struggle days of the National Democratic Coalition, a lot of people went on exile but I refused to go anywhere even when I knew my life was in danger. The truth is that we practise religion with our mouths but our hearts are nowhere near God.

Things have really degenerated for the average Nigerian in terms of security, quality of life, economy, and so on, what do you think are the solutions?

One thing I know is that God loves us as a country and unless we return to him, we may continue to lament the problems.

SOURCE: punchng.com/how-nigerias-problem-started...ew-gowon-jonah-jang/
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23-10-2020 05:01
 
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