Plateau: Sango Closes In On Lalong

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Recent inauguration of the Plateau State Executive of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has extirpated the political space in the state, setting trends and tendencies in motion which the present governing All Progressives Congress (APC), should be weary of. CHAMBERLAIN ODEY, reports

Wearing a solitary picture of a desolate house of a trounced and overwhelmed actor since its humiliation and capitulation in the 2015 general elections, the old-fashioned State PDP secretariat, opposite the NTA, along Yakubu Gowon Way, Jos, came alive once more in the morning as party faithful trooped in from all over the state to behold in a change of guards ceremony which eventually doubled as the party’s rebirth. For a passerby who mistook the event for a mini convention, it was understandable and excusable. The event was a veritable union service, with most of the party reactionaries, renegades, and all who dissipated into oblivion and obscurity after the electoral defeat of 2015 emerging from their cocoons to be part of a Risorgimento army working to recapture power. With the die-hard low profile rungs of the crowd reeling out melodies and dancing as if celebrating a return from some Diaspora, amidst shouts of ‘change the change’, it was certain, as one poet will put it, that ’war has begun’. In the modest hall of the secretariat which housed the event proper, the atmosphere was businesslike, controlled, but no less warlike and eclectic. The former chairman of the party, Raymond Dabo, who was holding his last, but first major party event after losing the 2015 general elections and all tribunal cases and appeals subsequently, was sure that there is a great task ahead for the new state executive council of the party, and accordingly called on all party faithful to give it the needed cooperation and sincerity of purpose it requires as it rebuilds and strategizes towards 2019. Regretting that the PDP lost especially the gubernatorial election, Dabo dismissed the APC government in the state, saying, so far, the government is dysfunctional and unfit to steer the affairs of state. Damishi Sango, former minister of Sports, who took over as the new chairman of the party, agreed squarely with Dabo on the quality of governance offered by the subsisting government in the state, pointing out that the problem is so enormous because “Lalong is a slow learner who does not seem to have imbibed anything as proven in the last one year”. To dislodge Lalong in 2019, Sango said, is certain, and wished the state could have a moot election now to demonstrate it, as “2019 is too far”. According to Sango, easy and certain as the recapture of state control appears, the process cannot be deferred anymore, as he has the experience, the energy, the army, and arsenal to deploy immediately to critical areas to begin to plant artillery and itinerary of fireworks. Another former state chairman of the party, Professor Dakum Shown, who took the floor amidst a thunderous ovation as Sango reminded him that it takes the man who tied the hyena to untie it, was convinced that that day was in fact a new beginning for the PDP as a whole, as he quipped delightfully that “the PDP wind is blowing across Nigeria”. Admitting that he disagreed with former Governor Jonah Jang and the emergence of the PDP gubernatorial candidate in the last election and fomented opposition against the PDP, Prof Shown declared that the storm is over and it is time to work to restore calm in the party’s chemistry. Accordingly, the emeritus political science professor harped on the virtues and imperatives of reconciliation, forgiveness, understanding, sincerity, commitment, and, above all, cohesiveness and internal democracy to entrench a new spirit and ethos. These, he said, should shape the focus and daily workings of the state working committee, and should constitute the framework of the rebuilding process. Titus Alams, immediate past speaker of the State House of Assembly, was in tandem with Professor Shown in spirit and letter as he used the occasion to announce the dissolution of the Plateau PDP Patriots, a platform he had convened and coordinated as an intervention and conciliatory apparatus to patch and tag loose ends within the party especially in the dizzying and disconcerting aftermath of the 2015 general elections. Alams explained that, with a duly elected and properly constituted executive now in place, the Forum headed by him stands dissolved to allow the executive concentrate and focus on party affairs, and for the executive to function as the only duly constituted body to determine and steer party affairs. Similarly, former minister of Water Resources, Sarah Ochekpe, who spoke on behalf of the women group, was happy that the event did not only hold, but indicates a new and promising beginning for the party and called on all stakeholders to close ranks, cooperate and work with the new leadership of the party in the state to stabilise processes within the party to make it victorious in 2019. Like a call to duty, the event saw the coming together of former ministers, commissioners (especially under Jang), local government chairmen, federal and state parliamentarians, councillors, and sundry political appointees who expressed a lot of hope, and are enthusiastic that they would be able as a group to work the party back to power. Forefront gathered that Sango has begun closing in on Governor Lalong, who, curiously, appears to be in a fit of errors and free falls. From flip to flop, Lalong has been dimming in the opinion polls precipitately in the last two months. His problem has been careless talk, policy indulgence, and programme somersaults. During a media chat to mark his one year in office, he over briefed himself, and went to the unsavoury extent of saying publicly that even if the estranged local government chairmen win in their suit against the state government regarding their arbitrary and unconstitutional ouster from office, nothing will get them back into office – “they are gone and gone”, he said. Yet, he won’t stop burrowing the ground for the opposition to ease its way through with his unnecessary comments on faith matters and festivities thereto on the eve of Ramadan. And, unluckily for Governor Lalong, he proceeded without instructive political calculation in his enervation and wholesale buy into the tendentious grazing land policy which has hit the emotive depth of the average Plateau indigene. Although the state executive, after a meeting presided over by the deputy governor, Sonni Tyoden, sometime in June announced that the government is putting the matter on hold subject to consultations and dialogue with stakeholders, 24 hours later, during a solidarity march to the old Government House by an ad hoc, amorphous, and rag-tag group Known as the Plateau Peace Vanguard, Director-General, Research and Documentation, Government House, John Wade, contradicted the position of the state executive council by insisting that the Lalong government is going on with the grazing reserve policy, and the programme is on course, adding however that government is going to engage different stakeholders in consultations. Certainly an experienced political war horse, Sango is reported to have set out predatorily to feast on the socio-political miscalculations of Lalong to offer Plateau people fresh and refreshing alternatives in the political engineering of the state. With the Plateau Project as the template and message of his war song, Sango has embarked on a house-to-house appeal to his foundational ‘mates’ in the PDP who had cause to leave at any point in time. And it was gathered that, just as Dakum Shown promised, “the storm is settling”, and the ‘old boys club’ is blossoming. Quite recently, the Plateau PDP Patriots, a post-election, self-appointed overseer group that worked towards the emergence of the present executive and successful congresses, was at the state secretariat to pay a courtesy call on Sango and the State Working Committee. On the occasion, leader of the group, Titus Alams, did not only acknowledge the success recorded by Sango so far, but presented the chairman and other SWC members with letters of commendation. Again, last month’s elevation of a House of Reps member (Jos south/Jos east) to the prestigious legal circle of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), making him the only SAN now in the National Assembly, brought much happiness to most members of the Plateau PDP who moved fast to cash on the celebration mood to promote the prospects and hope of the party. With the succeeding reconciliation of the factions of the party at the national level, and a possible national convention in Port Harcourt this month, the party will look set for electioneering politics. Grating on Lalong’s political fortunes are also the activities and mischief of those he has ‘offended’ or used and dumped who have found timely refuge in the Sango haven to launch sweet political vendetta. It is so far an intriguing build up and a heavily impregnated dawning of the next era. The opposition, in this case, basically the PDP, which is out of power, has enough time to think, network, strategize, and execute its plans against the party in power. On the other hand, Lalong has the challenge of government and governance on his hands and how he handles these will impact anyhow on his chances. His fortunes are worsened more because he is at the head of groaning troops more or less working with hungry stomachs, so decimated and demoralised that they can hardly get out of the short run where their psyche is dominated by thoughts of personal survival more than waging and winning a common war and mutual cause. Not to be discounted is the reality that Lalong and his group have a huge problem of perception and trust incurred from indiscreet factorisation into an incendiary federal government ‘agricultural’ policy which an average Plateau man perceives as a re-launch of an old threat and successful invasion of a long-standing menacing predator: the Caliphate. A source in Jos told Forefront that from erratic foreign trips and other body language indicators, Governor Lalong as a person may not be keen about 2019.

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