Despite the allegations of monumental rigging that characterised the just concluded Plateau state local government election, where the ruling party the All Progressives Congress (APC )cleared the polls, ACHOR ABIMAJE in this piece writes that the LGC election was a litmus test for governor Lalong ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Following the endorsement of governor Simon Lalong as the All Progressives Congress (APC’s) flag bearer for the 2019 governorship election by the party delegates at the Crest hotel on the 30th of September, 2018, the governor has consciously or unconsciously decided to test his popularity by conducting the long awaited local government council election.
It seemed a coincidence that the Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission PLASIEC, has fixed October 10th 2018 to conduct local government election. This comes after it was postponed more than three times, ten days after the APC governorship primaries or endorsement of governor Lalong by stakeholders of the party to fly APC flag in next year’s governorship elections .
Observers of Plateau politics opined that the just concluded local government election in the State, is a litmus test for the Ajikamai born politician to test his popularity, saying the success of the outing or its outcome will determine whether he has a firm grip on the people of the grassroots in the State.
Barr. Simon Lalong comes from the Goemai ethnic group of Shendam local government council in Plateau South Senatorial zone. The former speaker of the Plateau state house of assembly is the incumbent governor of the state.
Our correspondent reports that delegates of the APC in Plateau state at Crest hotel Jos venue of the APC governorship primaries, affirmed governor Simon Lalong as the party’s flag bearer in next year’s governorship election. Governor Lalong was the sole candidate of the party in the forthcoming election.
Moving the Motion to affirm governor Lalong, the speaker of the state house of assembly Hon Joshua Madaki, said because of the security situation of the state and Lalong being the sole aspirant, he should be affirmed. The motion was seconded by the former deputy Governor of the state Pauline Tallen .
Speaking after the affirmation, Lalong thanked the delegates for the confidence reposed in him.
He said “I see a very clear future for Plateau, we shall overcome all the challenges facing Plateau. I want to thank the people of the state for their support, and appeal to the people of the state to continue to support me.
The governor promised to support and promote programmes that would improve the quality of life and deliver the dividends of democracy to the people of the state.
“For those I have offended please forgive me.
“I would never let Plateau people down, I would always continue to stand by my people at all times.”
In the same vein the State Chairman of the party Hon. Latep Dabang commended the peaceful nature of the exercise.
He maintained that Lalong has done well enough to be affirmed and urged citizens to vote for the party come 2019, to build on his achievements.
Similarly, the Goemai Elders Forum has commended APC delegates for affirming Governor, Simon Bako Lalong for a second term of office.
Rising from a meeting in Jos, the Goemai elders cited the relative return of peace to hitherto troubled parts of the state.
Passion for workers and retirees welfare, detribalised and open doors disposition, youth and women empowerment, continuity of projects, sustained investment in the health, education, indeed, other critical sectors of the economy of Plateau, as some sterling attributes that informed their decision.
Vice Chairman, Goemai elders Forum, AVM Abass Umaru, said the Goemai nation, and indeed, the entire citizens of Plateau state, can only secure the future of their Children by giving Governor Lalong another 4-year term.
He advised the people of the state to ignore the political machinations of politicians who do not mean well for the state and vote for Lalong, whom he describes as an administrator and politician per excellence.
The group enjoins the electorates to participate fully and conduct themselves peacefully during the forthcoming local government and other elections.
The meeting also commended Plateau people for standing by the rescue administration in the past three years. And solicited for their continuous synergy towards transforming Plateau to the envy of others, in line with the vision of the founding fathers of the state.
They added that governor Lalong’s achievement in terms of frequent payment of workers’ salaries, pension and infrastructural developments has endeared him to the people of the state.
The Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission PLASIEC fixed October 10th, 2018 to conduct local government polls in 13 out of the 17 local government council that make up the entire Plateau state.
Fabian Ntung PLASIEC chairman made this known, while addressing journalists in Jos said following security clearance the hitherto postponed election will now hold in 13 local government council of the state on Wednesday the 10th of October 2018.
According to him, election will not take place in four local government councils, namely Jos South, Jos North, Riyom and Barkin Ladi council areas as a result of insecurity. He added that the Commission will announce a new date as soon as the necessary clearance is obtained from the security agencies in the state.
He assured the people of the state of the Commission’s determination to deliver a free, fair and credible election as adequate funding was provided by the governor to ensure a hitch free election in the state.
Indeed, true to their words PLASIEC did not postpone the elections again as being speculated. Election was held on the fixed day. Leadership Sunday discovered that voters turned out enmass to cast their votes for their preferred candidates as early as possible.
The election was held in the 13 council areas earlier mentioned by PLASIEC. The people of the state were waiting for the announcement of the results the following day which was Thursday October 11th with enthusiasm.
Following the announcement of the council poll by Plateau state independent electoral commission PLASIEC, there was simultaneous protest in all the 13 council areas that the election was conducted by the Commission.
The election in Langtang North was declared inconclusive. However, youths have taken to the Local government secretariat chanting solidarity songs, stating that their mandate cannot be stolen from them.
Fabian Ntung, PLASIEC Chairman had earlier declared that the APC won in 11 of the 13 local government areas where elections were conducted, leaving the results of Mangu and Langtang north as inconclusive. PLASIEC later declared the result of Langtang North and Mangu LGC in favour of APC.
There was total outrage at the results by PDP candidates and their supporters who condemned the results released by the Commission.
Shortly after the results were announced, in Basa, there were reported cases of burning of houses to include that of Hon. Sarah Bali, the transition committee chairman of Basa LGC and PLASIEC offices, while sporadic shooting could be heard as residents in the area protested.
In Langtang north local government council, there was heavy protest over the declaration of the election as inconclusive by PLASIEC. Langtang north and Langtang south is said to be the strong hold of PDP which has Hon. Beni Lar and member representing Langtang north, Langtang South in the federal house of representative and Sen. JT Useini the PDP Governorship candidate.
In Mangu LGC the Youths barricaded the road while they laid siege on the local government secretariat, insisting that their votes must be counted and their wishes be respected in the results collated.
Sources told our correspondent that the Deputy Governor, Professor Sonni Tyoden who was in his ward for the election, had to be delayed from proceeding to Jos as a result of the protest following the barricade mounted by the youths.
It took the intervention of Operation Safe Haven, to persuade the youth to reopen the road before he was able to pass to Jos after the election. However, following the blockage of the road in Mangu local government Council as at that time, the governor was in his country home Ajikamai in Shendam local government council . He was advised by security to stay put until a helicopter Chopper was sent to take him to Jos where, without wasting of time he would perform the swearing in ceremony of the 11 council chairmen.
Ahead the 2019 general elections viz a viz the recent LGC election which has served as a litmus test for his popularity in the state, findings revealed that the governor lost to PDP in Shendam. It was also gathered that other top government officials too, it was alleged, had failed to deliver in their various ward or council areas.
It was also alleged that a Paramount ruler whose son is in government, voted for the opposition party openly adding that the development is an indication that some of the governor’s Aides are not in control and their principal is in for trouble come 2019 general elections.
Observers of Plateau politics believe that the monumental rigging that characterised the October 10th local government election, clearly shows that the governor is not in charge and may lose at the 2019 elections since it is not the Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission PLASIEC that will conduct the election.
The state commissioner for information and communication Hon. Yakubu Dati disagreed with this line of thought, saying governor Lalong is walking to victory and has consolidated on the gains already achieved in the last three years.
According to him the local government election conducted by PLASIEC is free and fair, devoid of any rigging and manipulation in the state according to the election observers who also scored the election as very credible.
He pointed out that in every election there must be a winner and loser, stressing that people should accept the results of the election as announced by PLASIEC, or else those who lost in the election and were not satisfied with the out come should seek for redress in the tribunal instead of taking the law into their hands.
“It is not true that governor Lalong lost in his polling unit. As you can see from the result announced by PLASIEC, the ruling party the All Progressives Congress, APC won in all the 13 council areas that election was conducted in the state” .
He stressed further, “This has shown that the party APC is seriously accepted by the people of the state, as they are going to repeat the fest in 2019 general elections in the state.
Dati added that in the past almost four years, the Lalong Administration has evidently and creditably rescued and restored and saved the state from what was ostensibly a steady slide to abyss and oblivion.
Prior to that intervention; organised labour in the state was in strife, ethnic tension was a tidal surge, internal security had busted at the seams, the state economy was raped and precipitately impoverished, there was stagnation in education just as the health sub-sector was in decay and derelict. The entire State was veritably in a state of despondency, with despair and frustration everywhere and everyday as if Golgotha was here.
Once the Lalong Administration was inaugurated, the governor moved dutifully and ended the crisis the organised labour had with the state, leading to several weeks of closed shops and offices, and grounding of the entire public sector business.
The Administration, having identified the civil service as the catalyst of government programmes and policies, quickly restored confidence and motivation in the service by initiating a process of offsetting salary arrears which contributed in no small measure to knock down the local economy and impoverish families who had to starve.
The Administration was so successful in this regard that a combined effect of the bailout funds and the Paris club refund soon cleared the backlog of salaries, and excited the army of civil servants who renamed His Excellency as ‘Governor Alert’.
“Under the Lalong Administration, there has been a considerable restoration of peace. There is evident in the boom of social activities and even socio-economic initiatives such as the repackaged and rejuvenated trade fair fiesta, the Plateau Youth Carnival, and 24-hour access to recreational life and activities.”
According to him this is owed substantially to Lalong’s institutional approach to peace building, rather than the adhoc, spur-of-the-moment approach that defined the efforts of past administrations in the state to peace building and security, way back to 1994. It was a unique initiative that Lalong set up the Plateau Peace Building Agency on February 2, 2016, for the steady engagement of stakeholder initiatives on peace building and security.
He noted that a similar feat was recorded with the Plateau State University, Bokkos, which was rendered comatose, and left anomalous in spite of the official claims and development aspirations of the state and her citizens.
The Lalong administration, it was, that swung into action immediately it came on board, to put necessary administrative and academic structures in place to get the university programmes upgraded through technical accreditation, recognition of status by the National Universities Commission, NUC.
Speaking on the economic front, he said the administration has been holistic in its industrial and bursaries drive and blue print. It is on record that the administration has revived some moribund state-owned investments such as the Plateau Bottling Company, and recapitalised and upgraded the Jos Hill Station Hotel, and getting investors’ interest in then revitalisation of the Jos Interactional Breweries Plc, and setting in motion a process for the re-acquisition of the extensive Barc Farms.
The commissioner noted that the governor showed great understanding of the critical link between industrialisation and raw materials supply by revolutionising agricultural production through the introduction of tractors, which have been made available, as is the care with fertiliser distribution, to farmers across the state.
Dati also noted that these initiatives are further strengthened by the ANCHOR’S Borrowers’ programme which provides loans to farmers across the state, to the effect that besides Irish potatoes, Plateau State is emerging as one of Nigeria’s leading producers of rice in export scale.
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