When the revered Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese recently referenced Prof. Sonni Gwanle Tyoden, the erstwhile Deputy Governor of Plateau State as one of the editors of his publications, many wondered how the two got connected against social, geographical, political and likely cultural barriers that literally exist between them.
However, for Tyoden, leadership – one governed by impact and positive inter-personal relationship is innate. Perhaps because of his humble background, Tyoden is nearly completely humanized. From the testimonies of many including the lowest in society that those in power hardly get to associate with because of class difference and probably the long protocols one has to pass through to see them, Tyoden is an accomplished gentleman.
The highly reputed Professor of Political Science is kind, humble, easy-going, quick to smile and amiable. He is at home everywhere, from the farmlands of the middle belt, to the red carpets of Government houses, and to the blue rugs of international diplomacy. For many that know him, he has lived out his middle name –Gwanle- meaning struggles make possible, being able to meet people half way, able to share the burden of others and inspire hope against all odds.
This perhaps underscores his choice by the Mwaghavul Traditional Council in 2013 to bestow him with its highest traditional title – JARUMI (KOGHORONG) in 2013. In like manner, the Ndigbo of Enugu conferred him with the title UKAM MUTA NDI-ICHIE. It means first class scholar, in affirmation of his exceeding scholarship. The Pushit Traditional Council have not been left out. In 2017, they conferred Professor Sonni Gwanle Tyoden with the tittle ZAR (meaning star).
Professor Tyoden is a respected leader and loyal servant, a rare combination for an accomplished scholar and politician, who is both humble and courageous. His leadership records are far more in the unspoken stories of impact that he has left in the lives of over 3000 men and women he has raised throughout his academic career.
He started off as a humble and dedicated Teacher in Primary School Jiblik, Plateau State from 1970 to 1971 and later, Teacher, Primary School Panyam, Plateau State, 1971, grooming leaders who are today transforming lives in different sectors of the society. This he did till 2006 when he became Vice-Chancellor, University of Jos, Jos – Nigeria, where he left impeccable records.
Without mentioning his role in Nigeria’s policy development process having groomed many serving and potential public servants in the National Institute for Policy And Strategic Studies, (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos, it is evident that the internationally reputed Professor of Political Science did not just grow in knowledge of theories but practical leadership qualities.
But by and large, he is rarely the type to celebrate his achievements as he is evidently still, and will always be loyal and humble as to learn from the least of all people and improve on every area he has achieved. Let’s therefore skip the profiling and hit the issues as they affect the common Plateau man.
Since 1999 when democracy returned to Nigeria, the common Plateau man has faced social, economic, political and cultural deprivations, some of which result from internal conflicts of interest. The choice of leaders has therefore been largely guided by the quest for liberation from all of these forces. Rt. Hon. Barr. (Dr.) Simon Lalong, since emergence as Governor in 2015 has successfully unified different opinions and interests, leading to remarkable improvements in the area of peace, human capital, educational and among others, infrastructural development which underlie the core aspirations of the Plateau people.
All these have been achieved with the loyal and supportive collaboration of his Deputy, Prof. Sonni Tyoden. This is a virtue he has maintained since his youth, and is determined to do more.
Needless to stress that SGT is a dedicated lover of God, a respecter of humanity, a detribalized Nigerian as well as a loving father and husband. In fact, he is believed to have a tripartite personality – the official face characterized by sterling commitment to duty, with specific focus on result delivery; the regular face characterized by uncommon humility and respect for all manner of people regardless of class or stature, and the tender, loving and caring family face which sees him dedicating much of his free time to interacting with and organizing his household. Little wonder then, Prof. Tyoden hardly attends public functions especially unofficial ceremonies and gatherings without his wife.
Such deep sense of responsibility can only be found in a man that can be trusted with both human and material resources, which the majority of Plateau people can attest to as having been unarguably manifest in the person of Prof. Sonni Tyoden. His 70th birthday therefore is an added gain to the Rescue administration, the All Progressives Congress and the entire Plateau State because age comes with experience. And as the saying goes, Experience is the father, and memory the mother of wisdom.