In this exclusive interview, Longgul Dakwom of ViewPointNigeria was privileged to sit down for a tete-a-tete with Dr Patrick Dakum, CEO of the Institute of Human Virology of Nigeria. A variety of topical issues bothering around politics, governance and the future were covered –see excerpts below.
i. ViewPointNigeria: Sir, could you introduce yourself for the benefit of our readers?
Dr. Patrick Dakum: Well, It is a great pleasure to interact with you. I am Dr Patrick Dakum, a native of Jiblik village of Pankshin Local Government Area. My early beginnings started in Bwanzuhum Tilengten a boundary settlement between Mupun and Mwahavul tribes. Much of my early life was shaped there, before we moved to Zaria (from 1959 – 1960), where my father worked as a staff of the Institute of Agriculture of the Ahmadu Bello University. Following that, we returned to Plateau, where he worked briefly with the mining company till 1967 etc.
What I have just described above, is what defines much of my childhood and upbringing. However, if I am to elaborate on the true essence of my being, I will say that I am a child of God –driven by my faith in Christ and his ultimate sacrifice for humanity. And so, as a man of conviction and faith, I believe that one’s faith must show in good works and deeds. If that is not the case –then such a faith is as good as a ritual. Furthermore, I believe that “Faith”, “Family” and “Friends” –these three “F”s are critical in shaping one’s outlook. And to illustrate this point more simply, “faith” gives one the capacity, empathy and ability to relate to humanity, “family” gives one the social enablement to pursue all demands that faith requires and “friends” are the support pillar because God never intended for one to be alone (else he would have created individual planets for everyone).
The other facet about me is of course the professional side. I am a medical doctor –who has specialized in public health. I completed my medical training in 1982, which means I have been practicing as a medical doctor for the past 37 years. My long and illustrious career has enabled me to pursue one of my cardinal passions –which is working with people and meeting their needs. On a day-to-day basis, I work with the Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria. A non-governmental organization that was established by the University of Maryland USA, with a mandate to contribute to supporting the private sector in mitigating disease of epidemic nature. We started-out working with HIV, then we did quite a lot of work on malaria and now we continue to work on non-communicable diseases.
Socially, I am a family man –married to beautiful wife and I had 5 sons –but unfortunately, one was called to be with the Lord a few years ago, so now I have 4. But beyond being a husband and a father, I am a grand father to a gorgeous grand daughter who is now 3 years old.
ii. ViewPointNigeria: Have you heard of the Plateau project? And if so, what is your understanding of it?
Dr. Patrick Dakum: I am conversant with the mantra “Plateau Project” –as a theme which has been used repeatedly over the last few decades to drive home the philosophy of “exuding” or representing Plateau interests. But over-achingly, the mantra underscores the need to bring people together to pursue Plateau-centric developmental interests etc. I doubt that its exact meaning has been fully codified, defined, or standardized in books, cyber articles or other text forms, but its meaning and importance to the typical Plateau man is unambiguous and clear.
That said, the extent to which this philosophy of the “Plateau Project” is fully functional or abided-by, remains a work in progress. But I must say that its unambiguity was demonstrated during the tenure of Governor Jonah Jang, when the generality of the Plateau populace determined that against the odds, power had to be rotated for reasons of equity and justice. If you recall, the late GNS Pwajok was put forward against the will of the people –leading to a clarion call on all Plateau to come out and undertake what was termed the “Plateau project”. And the essence of that call, was that everyone should leave their political, tribal and religious affiliations aside and come together to pursue and agenda that will maintain the Plateau moral principle of justice, fairness and equity. Therefore, “Plateau project” as a mantra became a loud drum that beat across the state to produce Governor Simon Bako Lalong. And so, if you want to relate anything in practice affiliated to the Plateau Project, then refer to that incident that brought Governor Simon Lalong.
That said, let me move onto something I consider cardinal and important. My personal philosophy is that if you do not consolidate and provide linkages and continuity in governance, you will not achieve the Plateau of our dream. If you cast your mind back to the days of J D Gomwalk, when he undertook those giant developmental strides etc. He did so with a large vision and passion. That vision and passion was what Governor Joshua Dariye embellished in 1999, in the mantra “re-engineering”. In doing so, he laid down a solid framework in education, healthcare, agriculture etc. I was part of that Government and can confidently point to key milestones recorded. Subsequent to Gov. Dariye, we had the “Redemption” administration of Governor Jonah Jang, who clearly focused much of his attention in the areas of capital infrastructure etc. And of course with Governor Lalong’s “Rescue” Mantra we see a government that is fully focused on promoting peaceful co-existence and unlocking the economic potentials of the state.
In all these three administrations, what remains the common denomination in their policy thrusts in my opinion, is the Plateau Project i.e., the passion they have for uplifting Plateau through service delivery. In that regard therefore, the Plateau Project has several important attributes, but at the centre of it, is the need to extrapolate best practice from different administrations. And if you look at the administration of Governor Simon Lalong, you’d see that a seed has been planted through the 5-year strategic plan which was released by the Government in the last quarter of 2019. The 200-page document, which was produced by international assessors (BCG), is extremely detailed, foresighted and extensively covers salient aspects of the Plateau economy and future potentials. I have read the document back-to-back and can authoritatively tell you that it is a compelling document that will benefit Plateau immensely if implemented.
There are of course certain areas for which I think other improvements can be made, but without a doubt the document is a comprehensive blueprint for maximizing the potentials of Plateau.
iii. ViewPointNigeria: So, you are advocating some sort of continous development framework from the 1999 administration into the present?
Dr. Patrick Dakum: Indeed, what I am advocating is some sort of continuity of governance, where best practice from each administration is passed on to the next and then it is matured into something truly big and magical. To give you an example, I have a tradition, that every commissioner of health who is appointed, I visit the commissioner to advice him/her on how best the health of the poor people of plateau can be a priority.
iv. ViewPointNigeria: How would you assess the efforts of the current administration in addressing the needs of Plateau?
Dr. Patrick Dakum: The blueprint that Governor Lalong has put forward is comprehensive, thought-through and all encompassing. I have reviewed the strategic pillars and I am confident that it has the potential to significantly turn Plateau’s fortunes around. Agriculture, tourism, infrastructure, peace & good governance etc have been identified as the cardinal areas that can unlock value for Plateau. For instance, in the areas of agriculture, Plateau’s productivity and output was benchmarked against regional peers and international players to quantify the productivity gap etc. In the area of infrastructure, road networks were adduced to be critical to unlocking much of the agricultural and tourism potentials in the state. The depth of the analysis is frankly quite impressive and with a lot of solutions to the teething issues faced by Plateau.
That said, one area that was identified as a challenge for Plateau, was in an index called “the-ease-of-doing-business”. And this is perhaps predicated on the premise of the security challenges that have blighted the state in the past –so I am confident that we should start to see a turn-around in that area with the security successes recorded in the recent past.
It is incredibly foresighted of the Lalong administration to commission such a study –as this sets down a pathway for Plateau to become self-sustaining, independent and viable –massive kudos for that effort!
My appeal of course is that, whatever party wins the next political contest does not throw away that critical body-of-work but rather that it is built upon, regardless of party differences.
v. ViewPointNigeria: What has been clear since we started this interview is your passion for Plateau and for grassroot development. In aspects of the interview, you sounded like a preacher, in others you came across as a technocrat and in others an advocate. What is the way forward for you –is politics on your horizon for 2023?
Dr. Patrick Dakum: Well, numerous people have asked the question of whether I am keen to contest the 2023 governorship? And I give the simple answer that “power comes from God –and he gives it to whoever he wills”. And with that in mind, I have told God in my prayers that “I am here for your service, use me as you please”.
If God asks me to go and contest for the Chairmanship position of Pankshin LGA, where I come from –I will happily do so. If he says it is the senatorial arm that he wishes for me to serve, again I will oblige. And if he says Patrick wait –“I want you to work alongside other people, supporting them to actualize a goal, then again I will oblige and work according to God’s plan.
Essentially what I am saying is that I work according to the dictates of God and will do what it takes to advance Plateau. But for now, I am praying, consolidating and engaging to see the direction.
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