BusinessDay

Why we are confident of victory in Plateau, by Labour Party guber candidate

Patrick Sunday Dakum is the governorship candidate of Labour Party in Plateau State. In this interview with ZEBULON AGOMUO, he spoke on the chances of his party, why the electorate in the state should vote for him and his party, how he would address non-payment of workers’ salaries if he wins, how his administration would collaborate with civil servants to move the state forward, among other issues. Excerpts:

May we know how far you have gone with your campaign to actualising your ambition since you were elected as the Labour Party governorship candidate in Plateau State?

Well, thank you very much because for me, it has been a journey of faith and right from the time I became the flag bearer up till now I have been seeing and receiving the favour of God, before people and communities. The journey so far is that I have already gotten a deputy governorship candidate (my running mate) in the person of the Hon. Barr. Edward Pwajok (SAN), and he comes with a lot of complimentary experience because number one, he was a former commissioner and attorney general of Plateau State. In fact, he was the longest-serving attorney general in Plateau State and he was also former member of the House of Representatives. So, he brings, not just an executive experience but a legislative experience and as a barrister who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), I think he also comes with a lot of experience and integrity and also in ensuring that the government we are going to form is a government that will be based on not justice, but on social justice and I think that was a milestone. And the other thing we have done so far in the Labour Party is to have a retreat that comprises our local government Labour Party officials and it also included Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress representatives at the Local government level. And it also included the representatives of the political commission of the Nigeria Labour Congress, then it also included representatives of a selected support group and then all the candidates of the party in the state including myself and my deputy.

It was hosted principally by the state executive team of the Labour Party for Plateau State. And the retreat organised at the national level was a download of that one, and the theme for Plateau State retreat was ‘Plateau State at a Crossroads and Labour Party the only solution’ and also we used the opportunity to review our strength and weaknesses; the opportunities we had and the threat we face both internally and externally and then proffered solution on the way forward. I think it was a very good retreat in the sense that it enabled us to look inward and then plan on how we were going to ensure we win the election at all levels.

And the focus of course, is winning the Presidential election as contributed by Plateau State, and we believe that Peter Obi and Yusuf Datti will win the Presidential election in Plateau State and then of course, I and Edward Pwajok will win at the state level. And we are confident that our candidates at every other level that we fielded at every other level will win the election. So, we have outlined our strategies and we believe that with God on our side we are going to push forward.

And the people of Plateau State are weary and they are tired of existing policies that are being initiated and they are also don’t want to go back to where they were coming from, that is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and therefore, a new platform they believe will provide a better opportunity for them to contribute.

Remember that the Labour Party is a party that was created by the Nigeria Labour Congress and the civil servants in Plateau State, the Trade Union Congress. These are people that really, really want to be practically involved in how the state is run and I think this is the opportunity for them. So, that was a very good milestone.

We have also been moving ahead meeting different kinds of stakeholders in the party and fine tuning the list that we have because so many people want to be on the state campaign council, like you know in Plateau State we are going to be working hand in gloves with the presidential campaign organisation because they have already identified two leaders in Plateau State that will stir the Presidential aspect of the campaign organisation because in Plateau State it is going to be a very integrated campaign where we are going to be talking about all our candidates from President right down to House of Assembly when we go out to campaign.

And when the Presidential team is having an event we will also be there to ensure that people see this as a movement, not just a Peter Obi movement but a Labour movement in Nigeria, and that is how far we have gone.

Our consultations are continuing and we are looking forward to concluding and releasing the list of people in our campaign council and then we are going to go ahead to flag off our campaign in a couple of weeks.

We also do have a director general for our campaign organisation at the state level, his name is Joel Gatau; he is a former Commissioner in Plateau State and he also comes in with a lot of grassroots experience and we are continuing. One of the things I am inundated with everyday is the request from people from different villages, I am not talking of towns who want me to come and commission the Labour Party office in their village and for me, it is a total departure from the public narrative that the Labour Party is a social media event and is a youth event.

I have gone to commission at least two rural-based Labour Party offices that were donated and also rebranded by local people who are desirous for a change; so the phenomenon is a Nigerian phenomenon for Labour Party in terms of its resurrection. It is a national phenomenon and it is not just some young people somewhere trying to make noise; no; it is not like that; it is real in Plateau State and I believe in Nigeria it is real.

You said that Plateau State people do not want to go back to where they were coming from- the PDP, but reports and some opinion polls show that the battle for the soul of Plateau State Government House is between you Patrick Sunday Dakum of the Labour Party and the PDP candidate. What is your reaction to that?

Well, I don’t know about the performance of every other candidate but I do know that we have taken a lead from all the opinion polls that are coming out. We have already requested for a more scientific opinion poll that will give us a true picture of what it is, not just in Plateau State but in Nigeria. And we are looking for an independent body that we are not going to fund but we are only going to ask them to do a very independent job and tell us where we are. Because I believe if an opinion poll says that you are not ahead; it is a good poll because it tells you that you have got work to do and we want to be challenged so that we will be able to work harder. If the PDP is the next party people are talking about, I really don’t know but I believe that the outreach or the sentiment that is here on ground a lot of times when I go out shows the fact that Labour Party is the one that is ahead and a few people also tell me that the Peoples Democratic Party is the one that is trailing in the second position.

But whoever that is trailing second or behind me because I am not going to be looking backward, my job is to look forward and ensure that I keep my eye on the finishing line because if you are running a race and you start looking backward to see who is following you before you turn your face forward the person behind you will probably would have gone ahead of you. So, we are very determined and we are going to work very hard, we are going to pray very hard and we are going to look on to God for several things including wisdom and also result.

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What is your reaction to Governor Lalong’s threat to deal with any political party that didn’t play by the rules of political engagement in Plateau State? There is the allegation that plans are afoot to rig the election in the state; is there truth in such insinuations?

I don’t know what the state government is planning and I don’t know what informed the governor’s statement that people should play by the rules, but I can tell you that Labour Party is one of the parties that is very, very committed to play by the rules, not just the rules that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has set for parties but moral rules; meaning that as we politic we know that you are your brother’s keeper and therefore, no Labour Party person will do anything that will lead to anything that will cause a breach of peace; that one we are sure and certain of.

And if you watch all our outings we have had, there has been no breach of peace in Plateau State. We did a one million match, and if supporters of Labour Party and Peter Obi will organise a walk that over one million people participated in and we did not have a single case of breach of peace, then if we can also welcome Peter Obi to Plateau State on September 28th and he came in, peacefully visited the traditional Council, then went on to commission an office donated by an individual for the Presidential campaign and went on to Rampam stadium and address the crowd that filled the whole place and he went back safely, well, I don’t know if this is not supposed to be a pass mark for Labour Party. Well, we are looking forward to other parties also copying from what Labour Party has done by being as peaceful as Labour Party. If APC will be as peaceful and PDP will be as peaceful as Labour Party then we don’t have any reason to be worried about for the governor’s call.

But I want to believe that the governor probably is doing what he should do as the leader in terms of maintaining peace and order. He is the Chief security officer of the state; so calling on everybody to play by the rules is playing his role as the chief security officer of the state. But if he has any information of anybody that is threatening the peace of the state, I guess he is the best person to be able to call such people by name and call them to order.

As for whether the APC is planning to rig the election is not what is worrying the Labour Party in Plateau; we are going to be out there and we are going to make sure that our votes count and we are going to do it peacefully. We have asked all people that are prospective party agents that we are going to train them on what they need to do and I am sure they will do the needful including alerting security officials that are at every polling unit when there is any threat or any suspicion of a rigging election. And by the way; we already have raised the alarm over the fact that a group of people were going round asking innocent vulnerable people to provide them with details of their PVC including number and some instances taking picture of their PVC. We do not know how this will be used if it comes in rigging election but we have raised the alarm and we have sent out teams to market places to villages to educate people that their PVC is much stronger than their ATM card. And they should not allow anybody to take picture of their ATM, so they have no business allowing anybody to take a complete pictures or number of their PVC. And we believe that this is already taking effect because recently we understood that some women completely chased some people out of their community who were trying to cajole them by telling them they were going to give them some money if they provided their PVC details.

If you are elected the governor of Plateau State in 2023, how are you going to handle or solve the non-payment of workers’ salary because we learnt that civil servants and pensioners in the state are suffering from non-payment of their salaries for almost three months now?

I did make reference to that fact and I want you to link it to what I am saying and the fact that the Labour Party is the party of the Nigeria Labour Congress. The Nigeria Labour Congress has a lot of its members as civil servants and the first thing we are going to do is to review the situation because right now I cannot vouch for what is real and what is not, whether it is two, three or four months’ salary arrears and by the time we take over government we will definitely sit down and review it and I can tell you that the review will include the active participation of civil servants, those who are being owed salary will be part of the review so that whatever it is they can vouch for it and whatever we are taking over from they can say this is it.

And they can proudly say this is whatever we are taking over in terms of money; therefore, they will be part of it; we will sit down together and plan how we will overcome it in the shortest time that we can. And I believe it will block loopholes and it will ensure salaries are paid as first line charge; then we will be able to make a mileage until we get over that and then begin to see what other things we can do to make a worker enjoy his work. A salary is only a little part of what gives satisfaction to a worker. A worker will feel satisfied if the input that he is putting in matters in the state and that his input is contributing to the progress of the state. You know that Plateau State is also one of the states we are having deficiency in the middle cadre of the civil service.

There are lots of things that we are already looking at and we are already setting up teams to provide us with bullet points of what the first line of action will be. I believe that by the special grace of God we will get over it.

The insecurity situation in Plateau State is still critical. What will you do to fight the menace if elected the governor?

I think it is a million dollar question, but I think if I am going to answer it, it is going to be one phrase because our security efforts will be community-based. Community-based in the sense that we are going to ensure that first respondent in terms of crisis management are adequately provided with all the resources they need. But we are also going to strengthen the peace building agency for conflict prevention. If we prevent conflict then it reduces the stress of managing crisis when it comes.

And if we are going to be involving the communities right from the traditional rulers, community leaders and community-based organisations, then I think that type of policing, response is going to reduce the turnaround time for help to come in the event of major crisis. You cannot also address the issue of kidnapping especially if there isn’t active participation of the community. So, let us just leave it at our strategy and our approach to community-based.

What is your message to Plateau State people as you are about to kick off your campaign?

My message to the good people of Plateau State is the fact that they shouldn’t lose hope, we are surrounded by quite a lot of challenges, but we are also a blessed people that God has not abandoned and there is hope for Plateau and there is hope for Nigeria. And there is hope for a better Plateau, and there is hope for a better Nigeria.

One of the key steps we need to take is to vote the Labour Party and I believe working together ‘Baba, Mama and pikin’ we will be able to take Plateau State and Nigeria to a point where we will say we are proud of our country.

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