The battle for Little Rayfield- Plateau State’s seat of power-has begun. In this report, ACHOR ABIMAJE captures the intrigues as political parties and contenders engage in wheeling and dealing in a bid to ascend the throne.
With 2019 general election fast approaching, political activities at both local government councils and at the state level is picking up in Plateau State with the council poll which will serve as a litmus test for the ruling All Progressive Congress APC slated for February 18, 2018.
Against this background the secretariat of the All Progressive Congress, APC, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and that of the ADP have become beehives of activities as all the political parties mentioned above have conclude their local government election primaries in anticipation of the February 18 poll.
Indeed the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC and its incumbent governor, Simon Lalong has the re-election campaign secretariat of the governor opposite the secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP code named VOLA, (Vote Lalong Again), preparatory for the governor ship election showdown in the state.
While the PDP secretariat is flooded with posters of governorship aspirant such as Sen Jeremiah Useni, the incumbent senator representing Plateau Southern, Sen Victor Lar, Barrister Timothy Parlong, former chairman of Shendam LGC, Kemi Nshe, Godfrey Miri, as well as Danjuma Siman, who is said to be a serving officer of the Nigeria Customs Service.
According to sources at the PDP secretariat in the state, other contenders are Hon George Daika, former speaker of the Plateau House of Assembly, Sunday Hassan, a staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN); Ibrahim Ponyak and Nanzing Nden, both of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA); and Gregory Dakyep, who is the serving director of Finance and Supplies in the National Assembly, Abuja.
However, the scenario is a bit different in the APC, where the incumbency factor enjoyed by the governor might make the gubernatorial bid for the party’s ticket less competitive. Not even last year’s grand reception for defectors mostly from the PDP appears to have changed the situation.
Governor Lalong’s incumbency factor will likely play out as he is entitled to two terms as guaranteed by the constitution. He is in the race to complete his second tenure in office. Although he has tried to keep his second term ambition modest, it is learnt that he is consolidating his political structure.
He has won over the state civil service as salaries, pensions and gratuities have been paid up to date. He also has some projects like road construction and the resuscitation of ailing industries to his credit. He also enjoys a good relationship with the presidency. His contributions during the Edo and Ondo states governorship election also put him forward as the president’s man. Also governor Lalong is among Mr. President’s 2019 campaign team.
Apart from paying salaries to the state’s civil servants, the governor had further consolidated his grip on workers by commencing the payment of the arrears of slaries backlog from the policy of no-work, no-pay owed staff of the 17 local governments of the state by the previous government.
It would be recalled that former Governor Jonah Jang had in 2014 refused to pay workers their four months’ salaries when they spent four months on strike in protest over non-implementation of payment of their minimum wage. Chairman, Plateau Central Zone Committee on payment of No-work, no-pay for the local governments’ staff, Paul Seku gave the disclosure during the committee’s visit on the chairman of Pankshin local government area.
“We are in this council today to commence the payment of the no-work, no-pay to all the local government staff of this council and the remaining four local governments within the Plateau Central Zone including, Mangu, Bokkos, Kanke and Kanam.
“This is in fulfillment of the promise made to the staff by our loving Governor Simon Lalong, when he asked the workers to withdraw the court case in Abuja for amicable settlement.
“We in starting with Pankshin local government, and thereafter move to other local governments where we hope to complete payment within this week,” Sheku disclosed. Sheku, who is also the director general, Plateau Debt Management Committee, explained that the verification exercise would give the committee the opportunity to pay one month out of the four months owed the workers in cash. According to him, “after this payment, the remaining three months salaries will be paid to them through their accounts in their respective banks.’’
Responding, chairman, Pankshin local government, Mrs Naomi Golmwen expressed happiness over the magnanimity of Governor Simon Lalong, which she described as “very encouraging.” She expressed hope that the payment of the no-work, no-pay to the staff would go a long way in mobilising the people of Pankshin to retain the governor come 2019.
“This is a long awaited goodwill of the governor that has become a reality today. Our community depends largely on salary, and I believe the payment will touch many homes and build their confidence on the government, Golmwen said.
The determination and surge of the opposition are no doubt, forcing Lalong to reshape and reposition several political structures and permutations to enable him actualize his 2019 ambition.
For instance, pundits believe that he tactically delayed local government elections, citing legislative hiccups. Apart from that, it is said that he is in the process of assessing his appointees, evaluating their electoral value and their ability to deliver at the critical time, a move which will determine the changes he has to make to strengthen governance and his political future.
Within the APC, however, it is said that Governor Lalong will have the Youth and Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung to contend with.
Indeed, governor Lalong and the serving minister slugged it out in the 2014 maiden APC gubernatorial primaries in the state that eventually saw Lalong emerg victorious. Dalung was the first runner up.
The minister has not relented in his effort to clinch the ticket from Lalong in 2019. Little wonder Lalong and the APC kingmakers in the state are alleged to have been uncomfortable with Dalung’s nomination and eventual appointment as minister in the Buhari cabinet. Dalung incidentally equally enjoys the confidence and trust of President Buhari. The governor and the minister clashed early last year at Shendam, when the former was said to have accused the latter of breaking protocol and proceedings during a Goemai cultural event.
Following this development, analysts are of the opinion that the Plateau State Governor, Simon Bako Lalong should brace for intense battle as several aspirants, on different platforms, are poised to unseat him.
However, the two major political parties, ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have all agreed that Plateau South should produce their governorship candidate for the gubernatorial race come 2019.
However, Southern Youths Vanguard has called on citizens of the state to support Governor Lalong if he decides to contest the 2019 governorship election, stressing that he is the best man for the Job . The group’s president, Nantim Bongos and secretary, Biyai Amos, made this known in a statement made available to newsmen in Jos.
The group said “in as much as Gov Lalong has not indicated interest to contest the 2019 governorship election, we the youths of the southern zone feel he should contest and continue with the good work he is doing.” The group also called on youths from both the Central and Northern zones of the state to support Lalong if he decides to contest the election.
They declared that recognising any other candidate other than Governor Lalong would distort the unwritten power rotation equation of the state.
“We don’t want a situation where a new candidate would come and alter any equation on ground. A fresh candidate may start saying he would also do eight years in office. That would leave the other zones short-changed because in 2023.
We hope power would shift again from the southern zone to the central zone. “A governor may say he doesn’t want a second term but the truth is that it is their right and privilege to seek reelection. A change of candidate means you would have a new governor who wants eight years. The other zones can’t afford to take the risk and remain irrelevant. “We all unanimously voted for Governor Simon Lalong on the ground that he would transform our state and he has been doing very well in spite of all the lack of funds in the past two years.
“We commend GovernorSimon Lalong for his efforts at bringing in development and for his efforts at revamping the agricultural sector which has led to a bumper harvest of grains this year in Plateau.
“Our governor did a lot in encouraging farmers this farming session by providing improved seedlings of rice, maize and other cereals to farmers as well as he provided fertilizer early to farmers this season. “We call on him to continue to do the good work he is doing for the state as the people of the state are with him.”
The group also called on the people of the state to vote massively for the All Progressive Congress in the forthcoming local government elections in the state .
Similarly, Regeneration Group, also called on the people to solidly stand behind Governor Simon Lalong and to support him if he decides to contest the 2019 governorship election.
The group commended Lalong for his good governance in the state, observing that he has not failed Plateau people since he assumed office. They also said the governor deserved a second term in office.
Reiterating its loyalty to Lalong, the socio-political group also appealed to the people to continue to support the governor in his determination to unite Plateau people and provide the dividends of democracy, adding
that his re-election would give him the opportunity to complete the work that he started two years ago.
The group maintained that the governor has executed projects across the state in fulfillment of his rescue agenda and commended the people of Plateau for the confidence reposed on Lalong, while appealing for their continued support.
The group in a statement jointly signed by its national president, Nagelu Garba, and made available to newsmen in Jos also hailed the Lalong-led administration for initiating a series of dialogue session at various levels to foster peaceful co-existence in the state.
“We commend the people of Plateau State and Governor Simon Lalong for maintaining peace during and after the clash with respect to the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, in Jos North local government area and environs recently .
“The step that the governor took, which was the declaration of curfew in the affected area, saved lives and property and it shows that he is in tune with issues of the state.
“As a group, we say Plateau is still the most peaceful state in the country and we commend our governor for his efforts in carrying all tribes along in governance.
“The ‘Rescue Government’ in Plateau is working with a clear vision of securing a legacy of peace. We commend our governor for completing some projects that he inherited from the previous administration and for the prompt payment of workers’ salaries and his efforts in reviving moribund companies.’’
Also speaking, the APC chairman in the state Hon. Latep Dabang said in Plateau state, our governor Simon Lalong is also doing excellently well in providing dividends of democracy to the people of the state.
He said “Gov Lalong has not failed the people of the state since he took over as governor of the state over 27 months ago. Lalong has done excellently well and is keying into the mandate of the All Progressive Congress APC which is to better the lives of citizens of the country.” The All Progressives Congress (APC) government in Plateau has done well by returning peace to the state, and has earned the support of majority of the people and initiated development projects across the 17 local government areas.
“Gov Lalong has reinvented governance in Plateau state in a manner that has astounded even his opponents.”
Although the PDP lost the leadership of the state after the 2015 gubernatorial elections, the party members believe all hope is not lost as some party members who stayed back are rebuilding the party.
The state chapter of the party recently convened a reconciliation meeting where the father of the party, Senator Jonah Jang; former deputy Senate President, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, Prof Dakum Shown and other party stalwarts were in attendance to deliberate on the way forward.
At the meeting, the former chairman of the party, Prof Dakum Shown appealed to members not to repeat the mistakes of the past, saying if they were to make any meaningful impact in 2019, they should always allow the wishes of the people to prevail and not impose unpopular candidates on the people.
Hon. Damishi Sango the PDP state chairman also appeal to the aggrieved party members who had left the party to return as every thing humanely possible is being done o ensure PDP takes it’s rightful place come 2019 in the state .
Another challenge Lalong may face in his party’s primaries may likely come from the Taroh, another majority ethnic stock besides Lalong’s Goemai tribe in the Plateau South Senatorial Zone, whose eight-year or two-term rotational tenure will come full circle in 2023.
AS it stands, it promises to be a decisive contest between the PDP and APC, going by the prevailing scenario in the state’s political space.
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