Penultimate week, the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) flagged off their governorship campaign. ACHOR ABIMAJE reports the backlash and throwback that ensued from the rallies.
The leading parties in Plateau State, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently flagged off their campaigns in Jos and Mangu respectively.
APC set the campaign season with its rally at the Rwang Pam township which was attended by a large crowd of supporters.
The state governor, Barr. Simon Lalong, the APC national chairmam comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the director general of President Muhammadu Buhari campaigns organisation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, Senator George Akume and Dame Pauline Tallen, among others graced the event.
Lalong while addressing APC supporters and party stalwart took a swipe at the PDP and it’s candidate, thereby setting the stage for the fiery campaign.
He said, “I looked at my left and right, and I said I was looking for the man. It turned out that I am contesting an election against a boy. Can we contest an election with a boy and expect to lose ? It means that the election is finished,” Lalong said.
Apparently the governor was mocking the PDP governorship candidate Sen. Jeremiah Useni who is popularly called Jerry Boy by his admirers and supporters in the state.
The governor further provoked the PDP when he said, “People asked why was I dying for Buhari and I told them that I will die for Buhari because he is my helper. He has helped in addressing insecurity in Plateau and gave us bail-out to clear workers salaries, there is nothing more than that; he will win Plateau far better than 2015.”
Other dignitaries also took turns to lambast the PDP, blaming it for the unpalatable state of affairs in the state and the country at large.
The PDP fumed back through its state chairman, Hon Damishi Sango. While he was preparing the ground for the party flag off campaigns rally in Mangu, Sango couldn’t contain his hurry to lash at the APC.
Speaking with newsmen in Jos he said “We are dealing with an administration that has not only betrayed the trust freely given by the people of the state, but one that has risen against them.
“We are dealing with a leader who instead of being prepared to die for the people of the state, he is ever ready to die for an individual.”
Sango added that it is unfortunate that the governor made those remarks at a time some communities around the state capital were attacked leaving thousands, particularly women and children, in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps.
He also pointed out that the incumbent governor will be in for surprises on the day of the election adding that Lalong will know whether or not the PDP Governorship candidate is a boy.
Senator Jonah Jang Representing Plateau North, also reacted. Speaking at the PDP flag off rally in Mangu, he gave Lalong quit notice from little Rayfield government house, vowing to lead the campaign to ensure PDP clears all the elective positions in 2019 general elections.
“After being the governor of Plateau State for eight years, nobody knows Plateau better than me, nobody knows the secret of winning elections in Plateau State better than me. Let governor Lalong and the APC start backing their rags from Government House Jos, I didn’t build that Government House for him, that is why he cannot rule the state, he has been governing Plateau State from Abuja.
“Even where he lodges in Abuja, I had to rebuild it. Therefore Gen. Jeremiah Useni should get ready to take over the seat of governorship of Plateau State 2019 and you will see PDP in action again.”
Jang accused the APC administration of President Muhamadu Buhari and Lalong, of putting more hardship on Nigerians, saying the fight against corruption instead of reducing is increasing.
“When APC came in 2015 they were just making noise on the fight against Corruption, but the corruption that is going on now in Plateau and Nigeria has never been seen in this country”.
“I want to assure you that PDP was destined from the beginning to rule Nigeria, but when Nigerians wanted change, we are witnessing the worse change ever. The PDP Presidential candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar will bring back unity, peace and progress to Nigeria.
“Plateau State has never put PDP to shame, and this year again Plateau will vote Atiku Abubakar as the President of Nigeria.
“PDP will clear Plateau State in the Presidential, Governorship, all our National Assembly and State Assembly, PDP will clear Plateau State,” he said.
In his remark, during the flag off, the PDP Governorship Candidate in the state and Senator Representing Plateau Southern Zone, General Jeremiah Useni pledged to focus on sustainable Peace and security of the state.
He said he will only spend four years in office in line with the zoning arrangement adopted for the purpose of the 2019 General elections.
“My Beloved people of Plateau State, I am painfully reminded of the fact that many of our people, particularly women and children, are still out there in internally displaced people’s camps.
“If given the mandate, we shall not only pursue a programme of reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation, but take adequate measures to address the incessant attacks on our communities and villages”.
He also said he will rebuild all communities displaced by terror herdsmen in the state.
He said the PDP is driven by patriotic zeal to reverse the downward slide that has become the order of the day in the last three and half years of APC.
In reaction to the comment of Sen Jang, seeking to sack the governor from office, the Plateau State commissioner for Information and Culture, Mr. Yakubu Dati, said it is unfortunate that Jang could face the people of Plateau and make claims to good governance, when his tenure as governor was one of the worst in the history of the state.
The commissioner said it is rude of Jang to talk down on the same people he had caused untold hardship and suffering through the harsh policies of his administration which recognised only his family and friends. And to remind them of the arrogant and divisive manner he governed the state.
Dati said people expect the former governor to be contrite and show remorse for the damage he did to the state and to hide his face in shame for allegedly failing to live up to the promise he made before he became governor.
“You will recall that the former governor had made a similar out burst when he was in office to the effect that he will not hand over the keys to the new Government House to anyone outside his family circle.
“But the people of Plateau in 2015 reminded him through their votes that he did not build the Government House with his money and that they know the essence of democracy and cannot allow one man dictate to them who should govern them.”
The commissioner said it is also rather sad that a man who has been governor for eight years will speak of governance in the most pedestrian manner.
He said while it is not true that Lalong governs Plateau from Abuja (whatever that means) the point should be made that the importance of getting the support of the federal government to complement the efforts of the state government towards bringing development to the state cannot be downplayed.
He said: “Governor Lalong, well aware that the state stands to benefit from interfacing with other tiers of government has not shied away from taking the Plateau Project to a higher level and exerting his skill of persuasion as a lawyer, to attract attention and development to the state.
“That is why in less than two years after he assumed office, Governor Lalong has been able to complete the projects abandoned by the former administration, clear the backlog of seven months salaries, pension and gratuity left by the Jang administration, reopened the Fertiliser blending plant and Plateau State University, revived the Highland bottling company, Panyam fish farm, supply tractors and fertilisers to farmers and achieve sustainable peace in the state.
“These are welcome departure from the tenure of Jang where, due to lack of capacity and inability to interface beyond clannish cleavages, the state was thrown into needless crises to the extent that many agencies and parastatals of the federal government with presence in the state were being relocated to other parts of the country.”
The commissioner said Governor Lalong runs an all inclusive government and that unlike his predecessor, does not in any way regard himself as being above the people of the state so cannot dictate to the people.
He said if however, recent developments in the state are anything to go by, then Jang should be reminded that the people of Plateau have rejected him and his party and that the disgrace and humiliation they suffered in 2015 would be a child’s play compared to what would come to them in the next elections.
The commissioner said the former governor was also reported to have said that after being governor for eight years that nobody knows the ‘secret’ of winning elections in Plateau better than him. Governor Lalong on the other hand does not believe there’s any ‘secret’ or act of voodoo to winning elections other than serving the people well.
“It is obvious that Jang believed more in this secret way of winning elections in the past and that was why he neither served the people well, nor submitted to their wish and that was why he suffered a humiliating defeat in 2015.
“Lalong is serving the people well through well thought out programmes and policies of his administration and has been able to put viable projects in place, endearing him to the well meaning people of the state. There is no other ‘secret’ to winning Plateau other than this,” he said.
But director of publicity JT Useini campaigns organisation, Mr Yiljap Abraham, weighed in on the matter.
He wondered why APC members are restless anytime they see or hear about Jang. He noted that it is impressive that for all the crowd gathered in Mangu, and all the speeches delivered by scores of great Plateau personalities, only Jang’s utterances will unsettle and tickle Dati, Lalong and APC.
According to him, it shows that even when Lalong sees Jang’s shadow anywhere he will panic and call out his attack dogs to howl.
Jang appears to be the APC’s real nightmare in Plateau. He is Lalong’s big, unhealed headache. And by Jang’s name, Dati will keep eating from Lalong’s table! He needs the good meal – just for four more months!
“Lalong has every reason to hunt Jang. I have often said it is terribly unfair to compare Lalong with Jang. You can only *contrast* them. They are absolutely apart in basic orientation, philosophical convictions and development outlook. Lalong is so so very unlike Jang. And his time is already up. “
Yiljap further said that Lalong works in the office Jang built, he drives on the roads that Jang constructed. “Even in his native Shendam, he is confronted only by the Jang projects. And Dati thinks he can hack down this social engineer? Come off it Dati!
“Lalong is seeking relevance in his ‘legacy projects’. Jang didn’t have to start ‘Me-Also-I-Was-Here’ projects. Jang simply poured his heart out – and Plateau is the better for it. This is what Plateau people cherish and appreciate everywhere they see Jang.
“And Lalong’s disastrous outing; his pledge of misplaced allegiance to a Buhari who is clearly anti-Plateau heritage and Dati’ s disrespectful reference to Jang as ‘rude’ will continue to haunt Lalong while he desperately but fruitlessly continues to hunt Jang. They don’t get it!”
However, the Plateau State chairman of the APC, Latep Dabang, revealed that stakeholders of the party and over 20 political parties in the state have endorsed the candidature of Barr. Simon Lalong.
He said in light of Lalong track record in the area of workers welfare, infrastructure development and building peace among the over 50 ethnic tribes that constitute the state, there is no doubt that come 2019 election governor Lalong will be reelected to take the Government House.
The campaigns have just started but there is little doubt that it will be intense and full of unsavory disclosures, with little or no recourse to issue-based campaigns.
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