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Sunday, 18 March 2018

Continuity As A Tool For Rapid Development: The Plateau Example

A common trend among new governments in Nigeria is the tendency to initiate new projects and abandon those inherited from preceding administrations.

All levels of governments – the federal, states and local governments – appear guilty of this.

Many reasons are responsible for such attitude, but the major one is pride. Leaders of every new government want to avoid completing projects initiated by the predecessors for the simple reason that the initiators would always take the credit for it, even if they were not responsible for the eventual completion.

Other leaders also believe that continuing projects started by previous administrations was an indication that the new lords do not have vision and mission, and therefore lacked original ideas.

Over the years, therefore, billions of naira sunk into white elephant projects have gone down the drain in a vicious cycle that have left the society as the loser.

But Plateau Governor Simon Lalong has chosen to approach governance differently, opting to complete and put to use, projects initiated by his immediate predecessor, and even those abandoned by past administrations several decades ago.

Among key projects initiated by past administrations which were completed by Lalong is the Secretariat Junction Flyover Bridge, which was initiated by Sen. Jonah Jang’s administration.

The project, which was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari, when he visited Plateau on March 8, has drastically reduced the traffic snarl in Jos city and eased vehicular movement, especially during rush hours.

Also completed by Lalong was the ever busy Mararaban Jama’a – Secretariat Junction – British American Junction road, a 22-kilometres project, which was equally inaugurated by Buhari.

Other roads included the Miango-Wild Life Park – Rafiki road with a spur to Tudun Wada and Old Airport Junction.

But Lalong will, perhaps, be best remembered for the enormous efforts he put into reviving the Plateau State University, Bokkos, and restoring life to what many had thought was the end of a beautiful dream.

Established by the Chief Joshua Dariye administration in 2004, the university did not enjoy much attention during the eight years administration of Jang, Dariye’s successor..

By the time Lalong assumed office in 2015, the institution, according to pundits, was gasping for breath after 11 years of establishment. It had produced four Vice Chancellors but without a graduate.

For the confused students, nothing was certain. Their future was bleak, black and blank.

Lalong had an option to ignore the institution since it was not his idea, and especially since reviving it was going to be a very costly venture, but he chose to pour the whole of his being into restoring life to it because he believed that its completion would yield a lot of fruits to the state.

He started by courting and appointing Prof. Attahiru Jega, an erudite scholar and former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as the Chairman of the institution’s governing board.

The governor then sank in lots of resources that ensured the accreditation of 17 courses, completion of a conventional and e-library, construction of lecture theatres, hostels, laboratories, road network and offices.

He also linked up with TETFund and facilitated the building of many structures, purchase of computers, and many other facilities required by the institution.

As at last year, government had sponsored 64 lecturers to obtain doctorate degrees to boost the quality of manpower, while efforts are currently at an advanced stage toward securing accreditation for 15 other courses.

For many observers, the efforts have indeed yielded the desired results, especially with the holding of the institution’s first convocation in February 2017, 13 years of after it was established !

When Buhari visited Plateau penultimate Thursday, Lalong said that his administration was also working on the multi-billion Zaria Road Stadium started by Col. Lawrence Onoja, then Plateau military administrator, in 1987.

The project, which was abandoned by subsequent Plateau administrations, was revived by Jang who, however, did not complete it. Lalong has promised to complete the project and put it to use.

He said that government had also completed the Plateau Governor’s Lodge in Abuja which was abandoned by successive administrations, while the Plateau Geographic Information Service (PLAGIS), which is expected to be a great source of internal revenue, had also been completed, decades after it was abandoned.

The governor has also promised to revive many projects that had gone underground, and named some of them to include the Jos International Brewery and the Plateau Hotel.

“Such companies used to employ a lot of youths. We shall revive them so as to bring the Plateau economy back on track,’’ he said.

Lalong later told newsmen why he had opted to complete projects he inherited.

“People say I prefer to complete other people’s projects because I do not have a vision. They say I do not have ideas and cannot originate anything which is why I can only depend on the ideas of past administrations.

“But, I have always told them that the projects should not be personalized. I have always advised them to see the projects and the monies already sunk into them as all belonging to the people of Plateau.

“What it means is that if the projects are abandoned, it means billions of Plateau monies are being wasted into non-functional projects, leaving the state and its people short-changed.

“What I am doing is what will benefit the state. We are making effective use of resources and knocking off waste,’’ he said.

Buhari agrees solely with Lalong on this.

“I honestly respect your commitment to completing inherited projects; this spirit of continuity is beneficial to society and should be emulated by all leaders,’’ Buhari said in a speech at the town hall meeting during his visit.

Buhari added: “by completing projects you inherited, you have saved Plateau from massive waste and the menace of abandoned projects,’’ he said.

The president advised leaders to complete and put to use, projects that had the potential to improve the living standards of the people irrespective of those who initiated them.

Mr Paul Jatau, Chairman, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Plateau State Council, agrees with Buhari and blames Nigeria’s stunted growth on the lack of courage by successive administrations to continue with ideas, policies, programmes and projects initiated by past leaders.

“There have been laudable visions by successive administrations that died immediately the initiators of such visions exited office.

“The founding fathers of Nigeria had a vision of what they wanted Nigeria to be. That vision has been killed by successive leaders who did not see the need to pursue it to fruition in the corporate interest of all,’’ he said.

Jatau said that reasons adduced for abandoning the visions were usually selfish as leaders appeared more interested in vain personal glory instead of the common and lasting good. He called for a change of attitude.

Mr Bitrus Kaze, a former member of the House of Representatives, who represented the Jos South/Jos East Federal constituency on the ticket of the PDP, is also impressed with Lalong’s spirit of continuity.

“There is nothing like Jang project. There is nothing like Lalong, Onoja, Dariye or Lar project. I see the projects as Plateau projects executed with Plateau people’s money,’’ he told newsmen in Jos recently.

He said that the people were the ultimate beneficiaries of the projects, adding that such public interest must be considered above any other personal sentiment.

Kaze explained further: “Gov. Jang’s `Redemption’ regime may have initiated projects that it could not complete. Gov. Lalong’s ‘Rescue’ administration owe it a duty to Plateau people to complete these projects for the benefit of the public. No one should see the projects as personal because they are executed with public money.’’

He noted that the Zaria Road Stadium in Jos was conceived by the military regime of Lawrence Onoja, saying that such laudable dream should not be left to die simply because the initiator left office in the 1980s.

But, while governments try to complete inherited jobs, Dr. Sylvestre Ade, a university lecturer, has advised successive administrations to always be wary of the antics of contractors seeking constant review of contract sums after “deliberately delaying’’ the execution of the projects.

“Most contractors usually delay jobs when a government is about to change hands. The ploy is to ensure that the job is carried over to the next government and a fresh negotiation will begin.

“I would advise new governments to always dig deep into what transpired between their predecessors and contractors before entering into fresh agreements with such contractors because some job handlers have often been found to be mischievous,’’ he said.

On the whole, analysts see Lalong’s continuity agenda as a laudable initiative that is a tool for rapid development. They say that it will minimise the waste of very limited resources and advised other Nigerian leaders to emulate such attitude to governance.

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