Plateau State governor, Simon Bako Lalong, is arguably under heat.Adjudged to have performed below average, and getting increasinglyunpopular among his people due to worsening insecurity and histhoughtless bootlicking of the Buhari presidency, and the waningfortunes of the ruling All Progressives Congress, and loss of footageof the APC in Plateau State, Governor Lalong is troubled and vulnerable as he gambles a second term bid.
Last week, the Minister for Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, reflected on the obvious, and invited the federal government todeclare a state of emergency in Plateau and some other states in theMiddle Belt region of Nigeria. Although Lalong has been claiming thathis administration restored peace in Plateau, dominant criticalopinion in the state indicates the contrary. Sources in Jos told thismagazine that insecurity in the state has worsened under Lalong, with the record of 2017 to 2018 indicating an all-time high.
The humanitarian situation in the state is abysmal and appalling, asinternally displaced persons, IDPs, camps capture and reflect an uglydistortion of socio-economic and political life in the central andnorthern axis of the state. In the last three months, especially afterthe massacre of about three hundred souls in Gashish District in Barkin Ladi and other parts of Bokkos local government area, orphanage, widowhood, destitution, and squalor have furtherdegenerated in these areas of the state, while global sympathy andalms have been focused and directed to yawning development in the state, as Lalong is mostly absent – opposition records indicate thatin more than three years in office, Lalong is yet to count fifty dayshe has spent in the state, having made a pastime of meaninglessglobetrotting, milling around the presidency, and volunteering to rundirty errands for President Buhari.
Lalong was frolicking with a retinue of club mates from the state inChina two weeks ago when armed men strolled into Doi area in Jos South, seat of the state government, and experimented a siege andreign of terror on innocent residents and passers-by, killing ahandful, and injuring scores who are still being hospitalised. This Doi massacre, it was gathered, preceded a week-long of killings especially between Barkin ladi and Mangu areas of the state, as the state deputy governor, Sonni Tyoden, gasped and groped for control, asaccumulated anger and mounting grief pushed the natives to rise in anaudacious confrontation of the Operation Safe Haven, popularly knownas the STF, in a hand-to-gun duel that left two casualties thatdepleted the military troops. All these when Lalong was away, and wasstill away when the Commander of the STF seized the initiative andliterally declared a twenty four hour curfew in Barkin Ladi when he announced in the media that “Barkin Ladi was under lock down”following the killing of two soldiers.
Yet, the overall performance of Lalong has been the bout of jokes andsneer campaigns among politicians. The surmise and baseline of the smear and ridicule of the administration is that Governor Lalong is by every measure a gubernatorial misfit. Addressing party faithful at thestate secretariat of the PDP in Jos last week, John Bull Shekaru, honourable and gubernatorial aspirant on the platform of the PDP and serving member of the House of Representatives representing Lalong’s constituency, dismissed the policies and programmes of the Lalong administration, and described Lalong as one “living behind time”, stating clearly that Lalong should be voted out if the state has to move forward.
Kemi Nicholas Nshe, another governorship aspirant of the PDP, is noless contemptuous of the performance of Governor Lalong, whose threeyears administration, Nshe said, has not achieved as much as Nshe didas executive chairman of Shendam local government council. The same sentiment and scorn are shared by another PDP gubernatorial contender, Godfrey Bawa, who said he joined the contest for the number one seat because “Lalong has failed to deliver” and “improve on thequality of life of the Plateau masses”.
Last week, while answering questions from press men at the PDPsecretariat in Jos, a member of the House of Representatives for Pankshin/Kanke/Kanam federal constituency, Timothy Golu, verily completed the nakedness of Lalong as he told the world that the Lalong administration had no hand or role in influencing the award of thefederal contract for the reconstruction of the Akwanga-Jos-Bauchi-Gombe federal highway recently announced by thefederal government. Against the bogus claim by Lalong’s commissioner for information and communication, Yakubu Dati, that the contract is afall out from the lobby and closeness of the governor to President Buhari , Golu said the claim is not only false, but that Lalong and his courtiers in Government House, Jos are bushmen with no understandingof the process of arriving at the federal government fiscal budget. Golou said rather, he and the PDP own the credit, as it took intenselobbying and persistence for the project to find a place in thefederal appropriation.
In spite of the phenomenal recovery and surging profile of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, and the obvious resolve of the peopleto remain with the PDP and vote out the APC which they perceive as herdsmen’s party, Lalong keeps pretending and running to Buhari as ifthe troubled President himself has a miracle stroke to whip in theballot for him in 2019.
Last week, while Plateau citizens were being killed at different locations and Lalong was returning gradually and relishing ceremoniesand fun fare on his way from China, the Plateau State independent Electoral Commission, PLASIEC, announced that it is ready to conductlocal councils’ polls on October 10, after it was postponed forseveral months due to security challenges. Again, according to thePLASIEC elections arrangements announced by the chairman, Fabian Ntung Ari, elections will not hold in four local government areas which arestrong holds of the Berom ethnic stock due to security constraints.
This is the second time the Lalong administration will take on the Berom, the largest ethnic group in the state, frontally. Last month, Governor Lalong announced the creation of new, and adjustment of somechiefdoms in the state, in which it denigrated the status of thechairman of the state traditional rulers council, the Gbong Gwom Jos,by chopping off a chunk of his traditional territory in Jos Northarea, and creating atmosphere for ethnic clashes and traditionalrivalry by putting some Berom traditional stools under minorityauthority of parallel status to the Gbong Gwom Jos in Ryom localgovernment area. As at press time, the fire was stoking underneath thegun powder.
Already, the opposition PDP has reported that it is aware and hasuncovered plans by the ruling APC to rig the LG elections it wants toconduct in clumsy circumstances, and has warned of the consequences asit is clear that the PDP will win the elections comprehensively ifthey are free and fair. In spite of the lacklustre state of things inthe state APC, including state-wide factions and bickering borderingon lack of internal democracy, imposition, and impunity superintended over by Governor Lalong himself, it is also held in some quarters thatLalong is insisting on holding the LG polls to enable him use same tofree some state funds into a dubious till to use in prosecuting hisre-election bid which is obviously and brazenly being ambushed by an array of compulsive forces.
By Oscar Nwogu