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We must be more nationalistic to resolve Plateau crises, says Senator Plang

Senator Diket Satso Plang represents Plateau Central Senatorial District which consists of Pankshin, Kanke, Kanam, Mangu and Bokkos Local Government Areas. He chairs the Senate Committee on Employment, Labor and Productivity and serves as the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs. In this interviewed with MUSA PAM, he expresses sadness over incessant killings in parts of his constituency, Bokkos and Mangu, and offers solution especially under the the Renewed Hope Agenda

How do you feel representing your people?

It is with deep appreciation and thanks to God, because God is the owner of time. He gives time and opportunity to people to serve. And I know that in my service to humanity, I thank God for the privilege given to me to represent my people. And I work towards ensuring that at the end of the day, God will be happy with me and that people will be happy with me. I thank God too that we have been able to pass from 2023 into 2024. We stepped into the Red Chamber with a lot of challenges and we thank God we’ve all been able to acclimatise. Because as far as I’m concerned, I have tried to lead well, with my colleagues, our ranking members in the Senate that have been there before me, there are those who have been in the Senate for the past 20 years. And again, you also know that we’ve had the Appropriation Bill, leading to the budget now signed into law.

It was an opportunity for me to participate in the appropriation, being a member of the Appropriations Committee, and being a member of several committees and chairing and vice chairing committees. I think it’s an opportunity for me to learn, I am sure I have learned. I know there were challenges with the new government coming in. We’re also new to the Senate. We have a President who is trying to learn from the different Ministries and his dream for Nigeria, and therefore, those are some of the reasons why the Appropriation Bill may came a little bit late, because he needed to learn the needs of Nigeria.

So far, what are the challenges in the Senate?

Yeah, there are challenges, especially leadership. We came into the Senate, our Senate President wanted to be the Senate President and others wanted the same position. But it finished well, after winning, we harmonised and leadership is moving. I think that at the moment, we have a Senate, we have a National Assembly that is committed to stability. We have a Senate and National Assembly that are willing to cooperate with the executive. But you know, we have strategic roles, and the strategic role of the various arms of government is the progress of the system. The executive allows us to do it according to law and it will allow them to execute according to law. And by the time everybody operates, according to the law, establishing each arms of government, things will move, I believe that we are succeeding.

What is your focus in Plateau Central?

Now, as a person, I must thank God, having passed through all the processes of election, because in Nigeria, the processes of election are many. You have to show interest in your party that you want to contest after showing interest. You have to go to the primaries of your party and even when you win at the congress, you still can be challenged in court. So I luckily won at my primary level, went to court. Luckily, I was taken to a tribunal I won too and then I went for the general election, I got the general election. As usual, after the general election, I was taken to appeal court and I won. Now it’s time to work. And for those who contested with me, it is time for me to bring them closer, because we need one another. It’s about our country and about dreams and visions for this country. And anybody who would contest must have something in him that he wants to offer, I may not know what he has in him.

Therefore, I need to be closer to those who aspire so that we will tap into what they intended to do for the people. And I add to my own so that my people will benefit. We had attacks on the Plateau. And these attacks have been there for some time. But I would want to use this opportunity to thank President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. For his swift reaction to the Plateau issue is unprecedented, it is different from what it used to be. When the attacks happened on the eve of Christmas, and within 24 hours, an unprecedented very powerful delegation was led to Bokkos to contact the affected victims. For us, it is very consoling. And you will see subsequently af- ter it. The Vice President came with the Chief of Defence Staff and some top military or top security officials, including the National Security Adviser to the President. They were all there with us. Former governors, serving senators, and House of Reps members were there.

We all return to finish our budget deliberations. Subsequently, the Inspector General Police was on site. And you could hear the passionate commitment of the Vice President, Senator Kasim Shetima; you could see the perfect condemnation of what has happened, and then to the Inspector General of Police come, he promised to go into another system of intelligence gathering, and also establishing a different model of policing the crisis place. Nigerians are very hopeful. You could hear the North Central governors talking about coming together for the issue of Plateau, when it happened, and it become a Nigerian issue. It makes us have a sense of belonging. I’m sure that our people are calm and we are hopeful and our people are hopeful. Our trust in government has increased because when it happens and the government is close, it gives you hope. And I want to say even what happened in Mangu.

It was the first time within the political era, but the Chief of Army Staff, took a trip to Mangu. He was even doing physical training himself, that demonstrates concern. That demonstrates that this government is very sensitive to any issue of Nigeria that has to do with life. So, I am sure that from there we can pick from it. I also had the motion raised in the National Assembly concerning these issues, and I had about several prayers that I made, all the prayers were answered. An additional prayer was added by a Senator Adams Oshiomhole, that the service chief should even appear before us. And report what they are doing about the insecurity on the Plateau, I believe, and my people, I believe that our cry has reached heaven. And that’s why these responses are the way they are.

I want us to trust this new administration of President, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. You could see his wife, she was around on the Plateau with a lot for the people of Plateau. And you could hear compassion in him. You could see an original mind talking to us, even when he is talking to us on the phone on 1st January. And when he came to deliver the budget to us, it was quite indigenous, you would know that the budget coming from the owner is not like somebody whose speech would be written for the person to read. It comes from inside, you could see how he feels for Nigerians you could see how he was talking about minimum wage for Nigerian workers that Nigerian workers have worked hard, they should be able to earn, I believe in that We are preparing in 2024 full of hopes, the Renewed Hope, there was hope. But we need to keep renewing our hope. And I feel that we are actually renewing our hopes.

I believe that we’ll be having Nigeria that would be growing economically, in terms of unity, in terms of patriotism and infrastructural development, I believe so. I also know that if you would hear the responses of my colleagues regard- i n g t h e issue o f t h e crisis o n t h e Plateau, for instance, Senator Ningi, a Muslim, probably from far Hausa/Fulani extraction, you c o u l d hear what he said. You could hear what our brothers both Muslims and Christians are condemning the issue of the crisis on the Plateau. If we’re on the same page, there’s nothing we cannot achieve. We resolve that instead of having a temporal palliative to the issue of security is good for us to attain a permanent solution to security. Instead of when it happens, you’ll call the military to come when flush them out, they will go back. We need permanent station military at all the flash points. And that’s why I said we have two points.

We have the point of entry of criminality from Barkin Ladi, Bokkos. We have another point of entry and getting out of the criminal act between Mangu Gindiri and Bauchi. If we are able to establish permanent security outfits at those places, when the criminals come, the ability to come in and to escape will be a problem. Therefore, we will reduce criminality. Those are our prayers in my mo- tion that were accepted. And honestly, I want to commend the Chief of Defence Staff, he is accessible. You call him on the phone, he responds; you tell him about unsafe places, he sends troops immediately. I think that the security agencies are on their toes. They need more and more appropriation. They need more and more cooperation. They need all of us to help them fish out criminality amongst us, even if it is our son, that is wrong, we should be able to expose him. I believe that we are hopeful in 2024.

I said again, I participated in the screening, and all the processes of the Appropriations Bill that came to us, has now been signed into law. We may not be attaining perfection now. But I want to assure you that the budget is very inclusive, it will touch Nigerians in no small measure, there will be a lot of programs that will touch the common man in no small m e a s u r e . I just wish that my Nigerians and particularly my constituents should make sure that they are fully equipped with all that will take for them to enjoy all the privileges that will come their way. such as every Nigerian must register and have his own national identity number.

What do you think are the solutions to end these attacks?

All Nigerians must be sure that they are properly identified as themselves as indigenes of Nigeria. That way, they would be able to register as Nigerians to benefit from all gov- ernment programmes. Sometimes you bring programmes and you want to register them, they don’t have NIN. Nigerians should register. And that is another way for us to get the statistics for our country. From the national identity number registration, it has to give the statistics of Nigerians that are in Nigeria, but when we don’t do it, It does not give us good information about our population. Also, it does not restrict us to assisting only Nigerians because anybody who comes can benefit.

So I want to encourage that our clergy, our leadership, from the religious point of view, and from the community point of view, all Nigerian citizens should try as much as possible to register. And have their NIN; it will benefit them in no small measure. I do know that there is a lot of work that will go around. because there’s a lot of desire for local content in Nigerian jobs. So our carpenters, our masons, our artisans, our local professionals, let us deep in our own profession, prepare our papers well and we will participate in the infrastructural development of our country Nigeria, these are some of the things that I can tell you.

Don’t you think there is a lack of political will on the part of the government especially on the implementation of the several commissions of inquiry reports of the Plateau crisis?

Your question is very critical. So, Nigerians normally set a commission of inquiry into issues when it comes to implementation it becomes very difficult what you’re saying is very right. I want to think that we may be more nationalistic in resolving The plateau crisis. I’m saying so because at the end of the day, most of the crisis on the plateau ends up either being a religious coloration or ethnic coloration. And sometimes when a commission is established, you will discover that there are some distrust about them. My prayer this time around is that the resolution that will be made, I desire a nationalistic resolution. Plateau is a place where Igbo, Hausa, Fulani and even South- South people cohabit. I would want Nigerians to look at Plateau as a miniature Nigeria, therefore, the input of all Nigerians on the issue of Plateau will help us to go a very long way.

That’s why I spoke at the National Assembly to my colleagues in the North that each of us will need to say something on the issue of Plateau. If all of us are on the same page and you want to implement a decision made, it may be easier to have that decision implemented. If you wake up and Jonah Jang sets a committee, number one, people see Berom in the committee, when you want to execute that resolution. People have an idea that it is favoring a particular side. I would wish that the President of the Republic of Nigeria and Nigerians, where we need to rebuke let’s rebuke. If you have a Fulani man, telling a Fulani man that you are wrong, that Fulani man will believe that truly he is wrong. But if a Plateau man is telling a Fulani man that he is wrong even when he is wrong, he will not see the wrong, same goes with Plateau man. But if an Igbo man from the east tells a plateau man that he is wrong, maybe we’ll be able to listen.

I would wish that the plateau issue should be more nationalistic because the facts are there, indigenes are chased out and their lands are occupied. It doesn’t look like a clash. It looks more land grabbing when you chase me and I run away and you are staying in my place and I can’t come back home. It means it is not a clash But let Nigerians say it. Let our brothers let fellow citizens say it. When you are the one saying it alone, sometimes it’s very difficult for someone to see facts in it. But I want to thank the President, the service chiefs where there are Muslims, there are Christians. There are non-Plateau people talking about facts and I feel that our issue on the Plateau has stayed very long. If we are to go into judgment, it may be a very difficult issue.

We must have a forgiving mind in whatever we’re discussing. We must have a forgiving mind. People of Plateau have accommodated Nigerians peacefully for a long time. I don’t think it’s time for them to change. So what am I saying? I believe that the magnitude of attention of the Federal Government on the issue of Plateau will bring a very robust, inclusive and permanent decision.

You also spoke about having all that permanent solution…

In my first motion at the National Assembly, we agreed, except, they added a prayer for me. And the prayer they added was that the Plateau State Government should be able to come up with a vigilante that will assist the conventional security to succeed. You well know that the motion was made by a senator from Zamfara. If a senator from Zamfara believes that the local village vigilante can work with conventional vigilante, you know, it is the beginning of trust. I want us to build trust. Now, if you have a local vigilante and you don’t have a conventional outpost of security, the local vigilante will not have strength. But the local vigilante can have courage and strength, because behind him, there are supporters. We need conventional, well established conventional security around. It will add strength, courage to the local vigilante. A criminal always makes sure he looks for where he can come in smoothly and go out smoothly.

But if those places have traffic, you know, it becomes very difficult. I will move very strongly for the construction and finishing of the Pan- yam Bokkos and Wamba Roads. You know roads are roads to security and wealth. If our villages are ventilated, it will reduce criminality. But if there is difficulty to get to our communities, criminals enjoy the day, they will execute and leave before any assistance comes. So let’s ventilate the country. I just want to tell you, it is not as if the resolutions of the previous committees were wrong, but we need to create more confidence among ourselves. And then let us be on the same page on agreeing on what needs to be done so that we’ll have permanent peace, not just on the plateau, but in Nigeria as a whole.

What about State Police, don’t you think is the best solution?

I believe in having state police but also, how nationalistic are we? If Nigerians are more nationalistic, the national police helps a lot. But again, the national police need to learn the terrain. If we create state police, I desire that we have state police and we have national police where the two work together, harmonise and be able to come up with results. I pray that when we are more nationalistic. I was in Rwanda. Rwanda has decided that their tribe is Rwanda, not another tribe, but Rwanda and all local governments, you can originate from any local government of Rwanda. They are more nationalist. When you’re offering services, you’re offering services to your country called Rwanda. How I wish that we will be more nationalistic. When we begin to say there is a Bauchi State Police and there is a Nassarawa State Police. I don’t know whether if I enter Nassarawa from Plateau, the Nassarawa Police will treat me differently.

Why can’t we look at the country called Nigeria and think Nigeria, look at humanity. Look at our nation. I wish that we will develop the attitude of being more nationalistic when we think Nigeria. We work Nigeria. We have love for Nigerians. I think it will be a way forward. I pray that even our reportage, our preaching, in our academic curriculum, can we talk more of Nigeria, a country that we love so much, a country that we can all die for, first of all, not talking about a tribe or ethnic group? Can we see Nigeria as a universal set and our little tribe as a subset making the universal set called Nigeria. State police, I wouldn’t say no, but if we are nationalistic, whether state or national police, we’ll get to those. In my request and prayer, I said the issue of palliative and soldiers coming and going, when the military comes and they return, the people become very unsafe again.

Now, people are chased out of their places and their land is occupied and it becomes land grabbing. So, what I am saying is that the Ministry for Humanitarian Service and all agencies that assist should provide building materials to the affected victim to return. But these people cannot return if they don’t have station security around them. Now when we establish security around them and then they are assisted with building material to return, the man who desires to grab, if he does not get an inch to stay, he will be demoralised. But if he sends you out, and he occupies the land and nothing happens to him, tomorrow, he will expand. So the issue of people staying in IDPs and giving them food to eat is begging the issue. Yes, they need food, yes, they need medicine, but the most fundamental is that they need to return. How will they return?

They need building materials to go back and reconstruct their houses and subsequently they need protection. And that protection cannot be a momentary protection, but permanent, by way of ensuring that the routes where these bandits, criminals and terrorists come from must be blocked. When they are blocked, confidence will come and people will walk back happily and continue. I think that’s my own feeling. All we know is that it’s not about fighting Fulanis but fighting criminality. But when crime is committed,we need to deal with the criminal from the criminal point of view. Now, there’s a problem between the Fulani man and a herder, and the Fulani man gets supporters from outside the village, or the Mwaghavul man gets same you will shift criminality to tribal or religious part. Sometimes, it starts from criminality point of view and then it leans on tribe and religion and then it expands.

I just want by the time we create confidence in ourselves, I believe that most of the people we be picking up on the rural places. It will not be about one tribe, but will be people staying in that village, it will not only be one religion, but all affected. Interest groups that reside in that community will be partaking in the information gathering. But first of all, we must build forgiveness. Do you know why? So many innocent souls from both sides are affected. So many innocent Fulani have been killed. So many innocent Plateau people have been killed, who knows? But it is happening because it looks like Fulani and this tribe are fighting. So when you see the other tribes, he becomes an enemy, not even knowing what is in his mind. So there must be a very high level of forgiveness. At the National Assembly, we also raised the issue of the constitutional role of the traditional rulers who are currently powerless.

They cannot punish anyone. They cannot gather people by force because they don’t have any constitutional role to bring people together, pass a judgement and pass punishment to anybody. So I think in the next amendment of the Constitution, we must create statutory and constitutional law for traditional rulers because it happens within their domain. They are killed. They see it before reporting, but they don’t have the power, I think we need to empower them constitutionally. It is going to help a lot.

Do you support the call for the establishment of the North Central Commission?

The North Central Commission has been in space and the North Central Commission has passed first reading. I’m very glad that my dear brother, my elder, my ranking member Senator Lalong stressed it because you know the money that is deducted and given to the Commission can do what it wants to do with it. There are many developmental things that you can do. You can go into real estate from the profits you get; you can build for the people and ask them to turn back. So I think it’s needed. We need a commission. And if they’re establishing commission for crisis, I think that one for North Central should have come even before the one in North-East because when it comes to crisis, it lasts much longer in the North Central compared to North-East.

And I believe that whatever level that bill is, we must work towards making sure we succeed and get our Commission, so that we’ll have a way of developing our region in such a way that a lot of people will have some sort of protection and then welfare directly to them by the Commission.

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