ViewPointNigeria was opportune to catch up with Hon Bitrus Kaze to discuss sundry issues including the state of affairs on the Plateau, the upcoming 2019 elections, killings by herdsmen etc.
In the interview, he outlines the key steps the PDP needs to take to win back the confidence of Plateau electorate to fully consolidate its hold/position on the Plateau.
Below is the full text of the interview.
VPN: Give us your assessment on the current state of things on the Plateau?
The state of affairs on the Plateau is desperate, deplorable and challenging. In particular, insecurity has become rife and a constant pain. Killings and attacks have been normalised in a way that many citizens have come to accept it as a usual occurrence.
To that end, I am not certain that enough confidence building has been done by lieutenants of the current administration to make citizens feel safe in their abodes. If there is one area that I have faulted the current administration, it is in the area insecurity, where they have contradicted themselves severally, adducing “the return of peace” as their greatest achievement, yet cancelling Local Government elections because of insecurity. Bear in mind, the primary role of government is that of the protection of lives and securing of property etc -I don’t feel as though this has been wholly achieved.
That said, credit must also be given to the administration for being courageous to carry-on with the projects instituted by the past administration. Without a doubt, there were one or two projects initiated by the past administration that conventional practice in our politics would have been to abandon and initiate new ones – but the fact that the administration has treated government as a continuum and progressed these projects is worthy of commendation.
Undoubtedly, confidence has still not been built within the generality of Plateau – particularly as relates to making citizens feel secure and able to go about their businesses without fear of attacks, but the completion of projects like the secretariat junction flyover (which would have been a nightmare if abandoned), because of the traffic gridlock it would generate – means we should give the Government some credit. That project of course was at 70 – 80% completion stage and so the value added to get it completed needs to be applauded – kudos to them for that.
VPN: With the 2019 gubernatorial elections fast approaching, what is the preparedness of the PDP?
As you are well aware, PDP in Plateau has domesticated zoning – meaning, the position of Governor has been officially zoned to the Southern Senatorial Zone. You’d recall that, that was the position many of us took ahead of the 2015 election, where we advised on instituting zoning because of our peculiarities of our politics (of course this was rejected at the time and it led to the punitive outcome of losing the coveted seat to the APC).
So I am glad that the leadership of the party has deemed it fit to correct the past mistake and be guided by the will of the people. For me, I think there are 3 key steps that are critical to winning back the confidence and trust of Plateau electorates:
1. The logical step is that having zoned the seat to Plateau south (and invariably accepting that a mistake was made re: 2015), the leadership of the party needs to come out and apologise to the electorate in order to win back their trust and confidence.
2. Following that, it then needs to make it clear to the electorate that since the present Governor, Simon Lalong has done the first leg of a two terms, the Southern Zone only has one term remaining after which the governorship will return to the central zone.
3. Furthermore, the party needs to go ahead and give the directive to the Central Zone to go and commence preparing for the return of the Governorship to it in 2023.
These 3 steps I have outlined above will build immense confidence, trust and equity in the minds of the electorate – leading to healing, forgiveness and confidence building.
With regards to the third point, i.e., “directing the Central Zone to go and commence preparations for the return of the Governorship to it in 2023” – this is such a critical step, because many in the central zone are already saying “why should we support a new candidate from the PDP (knowing fully well, that they may come and want to do 2 terms, taking the turn of the central zone to 2027)”. To re-assure the central zone, our party must be clear in telling them to go and commence the process of finding a suitable candidate for 2023. This will enable the Plateau electorate to buy-into the PDP vision.
And like I said in my first point above, our party must sum-up the courage to apologise for the mistake of the past. We must realise that we are dealing with people and people are embodiments of emotions, so any hurts of the past may still be fresh in their minds and many may still be nursing grudges which we must seek to do away with.
Lets not forget that two months ago the national chairman of our party heartily apologised to Nigerians for the party’s erroneous position on zoning at the Federal Level, where-upon it did not zone the presidency to the North and ultimately suffered great defeat. Well, Plateau must also follow that cue and do so by apologising to the electorate.
VPN: With the escalation of killings and the tepid representation in the National Assembly, do you wish you were still in the house of reps?
I wouldn’t necessarily say I wish I were still in the house. However, seeing how things have degenerated, if I were still there, there are several things I would have done very differently.
That said, I am not oblivious of the fact that leadership is a revolving door, “you come in, do your best and one day you exit for someone else to contribute their own quota”. With that understanding, I don’t have any wish to go back – just immense thanks to God and my constituents to have given me such an opportunity to serve. And I did so to the best of my ability, so I am amply satisfied with how I represented my people and shall leave it to them to assess my performance.
Like I said, if I were still in the House of Reps, there are several things that I would have done differently. And one of those is that I would have taken advertorials in newspapers to drive awareness about what is happening on the Plateau. I say advertorials specifically, because when you grant interviews, sometimes your views are watered down and the message is not succinct. However advertorials are your words verbatim -hence I think they are more effective. And in the past few years, I have seen less advertorials, as such I would have prioritised those as a means of getting the message out – that’s what I would have done differently.
Still on the subject of these attacks, the number of killings reported in the press are typically a small fraction of the real number of casualties. When you speak to people in the villages, they will tell you about numerous silent attacks and killings that have largely gone unreported. In fact, the real number could be of the same magnitude of reported attacks. That is a big problem which we have to find a solution to.
VPN: When you speak, there is a glaring passion which is unmissable, where does that come from?
Frankly, I don’t know – all I can say is that deep down inside of me, there is a resolve and an uncompromising urge to stand for the truth. That has always been my temperament and outlook growing up, so frankly I cannot tell you why it is so or where it came from – it is simply God given.
And as you can imagine, in a legislative role, you hear and see all sorts. Which tests you character, morality and compromise and it takes conviction and a strong morale compass to not compromise your principles – I thank God for his grace.
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