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Nigeria can’t do without state police -Pwarjok
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed October 6 this year for the senatorial election in Plateau North following the death of the senator representing the district in the National Assembly. One of the candidates for the election on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Gyang Pwarjok, also the immediate past Chief of Staff to Governor Jonah Jang, speaks with Isaac Shobayo on his chances, state police and sundry issues.
WHAT informed your aspiration for the Plateau North Senatorial District seat?
My aspiration has been people- driven, especially as it took series of meetings by stakeholders to arrive at my nomination. I responded positively to that, conscious of the fact that this is an office with considerable responsibility, the responsibility of representing the entire zone. This is one of the sensitive zones in the entire country. Like I always say, representing Plateau zone is like representing the entire country and given my adventure in the political terrain and experiences garnered coupled with the challenges I have seen within the zone, I believe that coming out at this material time is in response to a clarion call.
The zone you want to represent has been a theatre of crisis in the past ten years, what do you intend to do to arrest the ugly trend?
I believe that the call is the solution because this is a zone that has compelled both national and international attention as a result of the crisis that has bedevilled it recently. There have been series of Commissions of Inquiry that have been put in place both by the state and federal authorities, some administrative and some judicial.
There must be some high levels of collaboration between the state and federal authorities in the resolution of the crisis. We cannot continue to have discordant tunes between governments at both levels: I believe that my experience will bring about the bridge that would enhance better understanding of this. Added to that is that I have been a community person, I have had cultural relationships in my upbringing. Jos has always been a safe haven for all communities and that is what we want to restore. Though conflicts are normal in human lives, there must be a time for people to dialogue to live in peace and harmony. I believe that as a senator representing all communities, it would make sense to always create constituency platforms where people can air their opinions, which will bring about a harmonious relationship.
You will be entering the National Assembly at a time the legislative arm is pushing for constitution reform. What are the reform requirements of your zone?
Within the entire northern Nigeria, Plateau State seems to be speaking a particular language, more so because of the experience we have passed through. We stand by security sector reform, we believe there is the need to decentralize the manner police is being handled and enhance policing in the true sense of the word and giving states certain responsibilities that are constitutional guaranteed and protected. So, the kind of reform that I believe needs to be pursued at the national level has to be security reform. Another area is that we believe that there must be reconstruction fund that would help to rebuild ravaged areas because states cannot shoulder the enormous responsibility of reconstruction.
The Federal Government has a role to play in this regard, and there was a Jos Re-construction Fund committee that was headed by Chief Rochas Okorocha, who is now the governor of Imo state. I believe there are questions to be asked whether some funds were generated. Added to this is the plight of the communities within the Plateau North senatorial zone that have been ravaged by ecological challenges as a result of years of mining. I believe these are issues that need to be further looked into. In the course of constitutional review, all these issues can be revisited. There are other series of constitutional reform issues we can pursue at the national level. I am prepared to listen to my constituency, to feel their heartbeat on issues that confront them, so that they can be properly represented at the national level.
The grouse of some people about your aspiration is that you hail from the same local government and village with Governor Jonah Jang. Don’t you think this might be a minus to your aspiration?
I am not sure that is correct. If you go to nearby Kwara State, a family has produced a governor, House of Representatives member and senator; that is just not too far from us here. When people want to dwell on sentiments rather than addressing issues, these are the kind of points they want to raise. The issue we are concerned about is the issue of representation; whether I come from North, East or West, the fact remains that people should look at the issues to be presented at the national level and how they should be represented, who are the people with the requisite qualities that can do that representation.
I grew up in Alikazaure and have lived all my life in Jos North Local Government Area and those who decided to present me felt that other local governments had actually produced senators; they were more interested in the quality of representation. But I still believe that some people want to make political capital out of such issues, I would rather not join in such a debate because I believe what is key are the issues to be presented at the national level.
There have been clamours for more devolution of powers to states of the federation as part of the reform agenda. What power do you think the Federal Government should concede to the states?
There are a number of issues at the national level that the Federal Government should begin to lay off, issues that have to do with power. The sector requires the involvement of state governments; we have been having major problems regarding that, we expect that they would liberalize the environment for the states to also play a role. The commanding height of the economy that is largely controlled by the Federal Government needs to be revisited and added to that is that there are certain provisions in the constitution that don’t allow total control by the state, even local government administration.
We believe that the structure of governance at the local government should be determined by the states. The mining sector, which has largely been controlled by the Federal Government, should also be liberalized, so that states can also venture into this area to improve their revenue generation capacity.
We have seen some level of over indulgence of the Federal Government even in education. If the Federal Government reduces its responsibilities and takes care of international relations, it would strengthen the nation and serve it better. On the issue of police I mentioned, I believe that centralized control reduces the level of rapid response to security challenges in various states. If the Federal Government is able to lay off its hands from this area, it will further help to guarantee further peace. People have argued that security can never be too much; there is the need to liberalize the environment to ensure that communities can actually police themselves under the guidance of the states. Those states that don’t want state police should continue to operate the federal police, but if they liberalize the environment, it would definitely help to stem insecurity in the country.
Some northern states said they don’t want state police but they have something similar to that, especially in the form militias. For example, in Kano, there is what is called Hizba, don’t you see this as contradictory?
You have said it in clear terms. Perhaps that explains why they may not want to have state police; if they have been able to establish such structures in spite of the constitutional restrictions, I believe that in due time, they would have a change of heart because of the enormous benefits of having a state police.
Do you believe in the autonomy of the local government?
There must be an attempt to strike a balance. Relative autonomy, yes, Certainly, resources that are meant for the local governments should be released to them for their developments. What I am trying to say is that states should also be able to create local government but that is not guaranteed in the constitution, which is why you have states creating development areas rather than calling them local government. It is proper for such arrangement to be properly liberalized.