Dakwon Longgul of ViewPointNigeria was opportune to catch-up with Dr Daniel Meshak of Plateau Intelligentsia. And Below are excepts of the short interview
1. VPN: Please could you introduce yourself for the benefit of our readers
My name is Daniel Meshak, I grew up largely in Bukuru, Jos south local government. But I hail from Panyam, village of Mangu Local Government Council.
I attended St Jallarths primary school in Bukuru, before proceeding to Government Science School Kuru for my secondary school education and later to the University of Jos where I studied medicine and surgery (MBBS), ultimately specializing in family medicine in my post graduate studies.
I am a fellow of the West African College of Medicine. In 2017, I was among the Nigerians that were selected for Chevening scholarship to the United Kingdom (out of the over six-thousand that applied that year). I got the opportunity that year for an MSC in Public health and Development at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
I am currently a lecturer at the Department of Family Medicine in the University of Jos, and also a honorary consultant with the Jos University Teaching Hospital. Apart from my professional life of a doctor, I am engaged in a number of community activities, notable among many, I am the convener of Plateau Intelligentsia which we started around 2011, this is a group with a virtual presence on Facebook and also physical engagement through which we have the opportunity to organize health outreach and a number of community organizing for action here on the plateau, some of these engagement is enabling space for government to carry out research through the social media, holding public officers to account through debate organized by the Plateau debate group which I chair, we organize debate in 2014 and 2019. It is my believe that the debate has added Value to Governance in the state.
2. VPN: Are you aware of the Plateau project?
Yes, I have heard of the plateau project
3. VPN: So, what is your understanding of it?
The Plateau Project is the vision of Plateau that we anticipate in the future, or at some point in time in our life time. Specifically, a state where everything works, vis a viz good welfare for citizens with high standard of living because there will be access to the basic amenities that will make life and living a comfort.
A plateau where there is peace and the security and the heritage of citizens is guaranteed, a self-reliant and sustainable economy, which feeds itself and its neighbors and also invest in futuristic research so that value is added to existing God given Natural endowments.
4. VPN: That description sounds rather utopian –what would you say is the bane of realizing such a lofty dream?
There are quite a number of factors that stands in the way of achieving such, one of such is the issue of good governance. By good governance I align my thoughts with the principles of the UNDP, this include: participation – meaning, let the people have a say on how they are to be governed, the situation today is a top bottom approach, which is not ideal.
The second is accountability, you find out that when you demand for accountability from a government, they tag you as “anti-Government”. The third is transparency, government should be open in its dealings, both in its policy formulation and financial transaction because governance is a responsibility of trust. Right now, I cannot say we are running a transparent government because of the many ills we see.
Another major problem I see on the plateau today is that of politicization of every sector. In development, there are key sectors that are very important and most not be roped into politics, these include education, health, transportation these sectors are very important and must be given a healthy level of independence from politics. Unfortunately, in almost all that we do today, it is based on who you know, which means that the quality of these sectors will drop, and the state suffers for it.
In addition, the issue of disunity on account of our multi-ethnic nature seems to be a major bane to a united plateau. People pursue tribal agendas against a collective plateau project –and you can see how this has affect the security state of affairs on the Plateau.
5. VPN: Could you expatiate a bit on education and security, vis a vis how these impact the Plateau Project?
When I was growing up, I remember vividly that plateau state was a pace setter in education in Northern Nigeria. At that time Plateau’s competitors were typically Benue or Kogi states, but over time, there has been a massive underfunding of the educational sector on the plateau and this has led to infrastructural decay and a drop in learning standards.
Even when government contracts are awarded for the renovation of certain schools, what ends up happening is that sub-standard materials are typically used and as such after 2 or 3 years we are back to square one after spending so much money.
In addition, teachers are poorly paid and looked after and as such most of the individuals who end up teaching are those who were hitherto rejected in top professional courses. This has a big impact on the quality of students that are produced on the Plateau. And if you couple that will Government’s nonchalance to invest in research information and planning –so we know how many children are born and how many are in school, then you have quite a dire situation.
With respect to security, there are many multifactorial issues that relate to it and it will be simplistic of me to claim that it can be solved easily by a few clever policies here and there. But at the core of that, is the issue of social justice and equity. Basically, unfairness and impunity ember crisis and mutual suspicion. It must be a given that when the law is contravened, consequences are meted out. Where this is not the case or criminal or being shielded or abetted –trust is broken and it is difficult to regain it.
6. VPN: How does plateau intelligentsia align with the plateau project?
When you take a close look at the plateau intelligentsia, you will realize that it has provided an avenue for the citizens to hold government accountable andalso advance citizens participation. It enables the government to get feedback, we have succeeded in adding value to governance because issues on the news are discussed, it enables the government to take feedback and accountability in many instances. The plateau debate have accorded the people the platform to gage their leaders and make inform decisions.
7. VPN: On a final note, with this vision and articulation, are we expecting you in the political space soon?
Well for me, I believe that the highest calling of a human being is service and I don’t think I must be in politics to do that and for now there is no intention whatsoever.
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