It all turn-out that Governor Caleb Mutfwang of Plateau state, an enthusiastic, and a great leader who is eager to set the ball rolling with great intention for the state was what inspired the adoption of this catchphrase for the government from the onset: THE TIME IS NOW.
Gyang Bere, Director of Press and Public Affairs to the Governor writes that, There is a ring of urgency about the activities of his principal is that now. Therefore, there would neither be delay nor procrastination for there was too much that had been left unattended to that needed to be done. That was why he made this solemn pact with the Plateau people on that fateful day of May 29, 2023: “We know you are expecting much from us. Today, it is not just my inauguration; it is our inauguration as it marks the beginning of our collective quest for a new Plateau”.
No doubt, the governor has set out in earnest towards living up to those noble words, now cast in stone. That is, despite the debilitating challenges he met on the ground in the first one hundred days of the emergence of THE TIME IS NOW administration.
Insecurity was the number one problem confronting the State when Governor Mutfwang assumed office. Thus, only two days after his swearing-in, he visited Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Riyom and Mangu local government areas. That visit gave hope and confidence to the already despondent women and children who were abandoned for years in the IDP camps and he reassured them of the commitment of his administration to address their plights.
Plateau citizens and indeed the entire country still recall the massacre of more than 100 people that took place in some parts of Mangu Local Government Area on May 15, 2023. Others have since followed in Heipang and Kwi, among others.
The governor did not mince words about this ugly state of affairs when he assumed office. During his inauguration, he put these attacks in proper perspective and outlined the direction his government would take in bringing them to a definite end: “It is an undeniable fact that much blood has been shed on the Plateau for close to two decades now which has retarded the pace of our development. The time has come and The Time is Now, when we MUST say enough is enough,” he had declared.
“We must break this vicious cycle of hate and attacks and refuse to allow people to brand us negatively. That is not who we are. They even labelled such genocide as farmers/herders clash to the chagrin of the whole world. I wish to assure you that the government under my watch will be committed to peaceful coexistence and will work assiduously to secure the boundaries of Plateau State. Criminal elements/invaders hell-bent on destruction will be decisively dealt with.”
That was the first time in the last eight years that the government was taking such a tough and decisive stance against such carnage that had almost become a daily routine in some parts of the State. Moreover, it took no small courage for the governor to officially debunk, for the first time, the familiar narrative that had gained ground during the previous administration that what was happening in the State was a conflict between farmers and herders.
It was in the light of these that he interfaced with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who graciously gave him a listening ear and promised to do everything possible to help out.
The governor also had a one-on-one interactions with the National Security Chiefs when he visited the Defence and Army headquarters in Abuja on July 12, 2023. As a result, he extracted their firm commitment towards stepping up the campaigns, both kinetic and non-kinetic, against the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.
One of the outcomes of such initiatives was the relocation of the GOC, 3 Division of the Nigerian Army, Jos, who also doubles as the Commander, Operation Safe Haven, OPSH, to Mangu in the wake of the May 15 attacks. The presence of the other arms of the security apparatus was also beefed up in Mangu, Barkin Ladi, Riyom and Bassa local government areas.
During the August 21, 2023, meeting with Plateau Elders, Governor Mutfwang expressed his gratitude and shed more light on the results of these high-level interactions: I want to thank Mr. President and the Security Chiefs because they immediately swung into action and I want to particularly salute the new GOC and Commander of the Operation Safe Haven who came and demonstrated professionalism and didn’t stay in his air-conditioned office for close to a week, he was commanding the troops from the front.
As a further mark of the administration’s commitment to practically confront the hydra-headed monster of insecurity head-on, the governor has convened four Security Council meetings in the last three months. The fourth was held on Tuesday, August 22, 2023. These meetings are very crucial and strategic because they assess current situations on the ground and proffer immediate and long-lasting solutions, among others.
The State Government is further boosting the security architecture of the State by revitalizing the moribund State-owned security outfit, Operation Rainbow. The nation’s relevant security agencies would be fully involved in retraining its personnel. The governor has likewise appointed an experienced and renowned expert on Security and Homeland Safety, Brigadier-General Gakji Shipi (retired) as Special Adviser on Security to guide him appropriately in that very sensitive area.
The administration has unveiled the State Security and Information Center where citizens report security concerns through a toll-free line. It has provided an opportunity for the government to get prompt information on burning security issues in rural communities for swift intervention.
It has also set in motion policies towards ameliorating the conditions of the thousands of people forced out of their ancestral lands by the attacks and are currently living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and homes of friends and relatives within and outside the State.
On July 12, 2023, Governor Mutfwang visited the headquarters of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in Abuja where he made a strong case for the welfare of the IDPs. Based on the promises made by the Director-General, Mustapha Habib Ahmed, some relief materials have started trickling into the State. It is hoped that, soon, the tempo will pick up so that the victims of these attacks can get succour pending their relocation to their ancestral homes.
Also, the Agricultural Services Training Company (ASTC) has been fully mobilized to farming communities in Mangu, Barkin Ladi and Riyom local government areas to assist the farmers in continuing with the farming season which was abruptly interrupted by these attacks. Deploying 29 tractors, about 900 hectares of land have already been ploughed. This intervention is fully complemented by the security provided by the agro-rangers of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps.
Plans are underway to increase the quantum of land and extend the exercise into the dry season to enable farmers to continue to ply their trade even after the rains cease. Subsequently, the Plateau Agricultural Development Project, PADP, and other related government agencies have joined in these efforts.
The governor also undertook an official visit to the Executive Secretary of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) in Abuja. He drew the Agency’s attention to the urgent need to fund schools that have been adversely affected by the conflicts in the State. Most of the schools have been destroyed and others turned into shelters for IDPs.
Unwieldy debt burden/civil servants’ strike and welfare
When the governor assumed office and critically looked at the true state of things, he realized that the situation was far worse than he and his team had imagined. The rot was so deep and widespread in the civil service that government documents were being typed and photocopied at business centres, not minding their levels of confidentiality.
Upon that, civil servants were owed salaries of five months, amounting to over N11 billion, which was one of the reasons that had forced them to proceed on strike. Worst of all, there was an unwieldy debt profile of over N300 billion and many other outstanding financial obligations hanging on the neck of the State government.
The Plateau State Polytechnic was on the brink of collapse as almost all of its courses were long overdue for accreditation. The State government had to source the required N200 million to bail it out. The Mutfwang administration had to raise close to N300 million to save the Plateau State University from having the accreditation of some of its core programmes withdrawn.
At inception on May 29, civil servants who had been on strike insisted that their February and March arrears must be paid before they could call off the strike. When the government met this demand, they resumed work. As we speak, the backlog of June salaries has been paid and it is expected that in a week, the July backlog will be completed and that of August will commence. The State government is certain of continuous and seamless payments because it already has July and August salaries in the bank. Clearing the backlog of salaries, and pension arrears is also on course.
Plateau State was once reputed to be one of the cleanest and most orderly States in the country, along the line, things changed as refuse heaps became a common sight in the Jos city centre, its environs and all over the State.
By the time Mutfwang assumed leadership on May 29, 2023, the entire State was choked with rubbish and chaos became the order of the day in our communities, our roads and streets. As a result, the government immediately declared a state of emergency on the environment.
Some appreciable level of sanity, cleanliness and orderliness was restored as the government galvanized the moribund environmental sanitation machinery of government into action. Refuse disposal trucks did battle with the mountains of refuse that had piled up in the Jos/Bukuru metropolis and other parts of the state. The administration also reintroduced the monthly sanitation exercise which the governor personally supervised. This has had very commendable outcomes.
Citizens still remember the road accidents caused by pothole-infested roads that led to the loss of lives in the Jos metropolis and outlying towns. To curb this dangerous trend, the State government has commenced work on the maintenance of roads in the Jos/Bukuru metropolitan area.
Potholes are being patched and overlaid with asphalt to facilitate free movement of traffic. At the moment, the deep potholes that dotted the Polo Roundabout road to the Police Headquarters have been fixed. Likewise, those at the Gold and Base Roundabout, Rayfield, Dadin Kowa, DB Zang junction Bukuru expressway, Gada Biyu to Farin Gada in Jos among many others. Full maintenance work will be adequately carried out after the rains cease.
Traditional institutions/Plateau elders
At the inception of this administration, the State’s royal fathers, under the aegis of the Plateau State Council of Chiefs and Emirs, paid Governor Mutfwang a courtesy call. Led by their Chairman, the Gbong Gwom Jos, Da Jacob Gyang Buba, these custodians of the people’s cherished cultures and traditions urged the governor to remain focused on leading citizens; prayed that the measures he had put in place to curb the security challenges worked; and pledged their support to always offer wise counsel to enable the State to regain its lost glory as The Home of Peace and Tourism.
On that auspicious occasion, the governor had told the royal fathers: “We have high regard for you as individual royal fathers and collectively as a Council. Therefore, we will always consider you as fathers of the land and always turn to you for wise counsel whenever necessary.”
To further buttress this fact, he reiterated that their attendance at the August 21, 2023 meeting was yet another testimony that the State government can always approach them for their sagely and fatherly advice on burning matters of the State whenever the need arises. He assured the elders that he would strive at all times to keep all channels of communication open between both sides so that whenever they feel they have the necessary input to make, they can reach out.
Appointments/retreat and onboarding
The quality and nature of a government’s appointees determine its success or otherwise because they are the drivers of State policy. Governor Mutfwang had set his mind on using young and vibrant technocrats to drive his THE TIME IS NOW agenda. It is these well-motivated and vibrant Young talents that have been propelling the machinery of the State in the last 100 days.
To further enhance their capacity, a six-day retreat and onboarding was organized for them beginning on August 18, 2023, at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, Kuru, Plateau State. In the end, participants resolved to improve funding to meet the demands of the State by exploring alternative sources of funding, reducing the cost of governance and improving revenue generation for effective project funding.
They also agreed to practice inclusivity and mainstream gender in all government policies and programmes and rise above the years of socio-economic, political and security struggles, build on the legacies of Plateau founding fathers and attain a clear identity to ensure holistic comprehension of THE TIME IS NOW mantra, among others.
Surely, they came away from that retreat with renewed vigour and determination to ensure the attainment of set objectives to take the State out of its present quagmire.
Granted, Governor Mutfwang has personally admitted that the situation his administration inherited was far worse than he expected. But he has so far demonstrated that he did not allow such a bleak reality to dampen his initial resolve to restore to Plateau State its lost glory.
That much he has amply proven in the first 100 days of his administration. On that score, it would not be amiss to declare that, for Plateau people, the next four years promise to bring showers of sustainable peace and giant leaps in economic and social progress. THE TIME IS NOW to build a united and prosperous Plateau.