Can Lalong Break Succession Jinx In Plateau?
By Isaac Shobayo
No fewer than 20 gubernatorial aspirants on the platforms of both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have indicated their interests to succeed the incumbent Governor of Plateau State, Mr Simon Lalong whose second term in office expires in 2023. The political temperature in the state is gradually being raised with anxiety coupled with delve political moves in various quarters, while aspirants have started traversing the state for consultations with various stakeholders.
The scheming to succeed the incumbent in the state is coming against the background of unique history in the state. It is obvious that since the inception of this dispensation in 1999, no incumbent government has been able to install a successor. As the second term of Governor Lalong is gradually coming to an end, political observers have been asking if the governor can break the jinx and successfully install his successor. Another puzzle is: who will be his anointed candidate among those who have indicated their interests so far?
Going down the memory lane, Senator Joshua Dariye, who governed the state from 1999 to 2007, could not hand over to the person of his choice on the platform of the PDP. Various interest groups ganged up to frustrate his plan in this regard. There was a huge opposition against him. The situation was so tensed he had to abandon the platform for another political party. Yet, he couldn’t make any head way. Senator Jonah Jang won the 2007 election.
Senator Jang had a good time in office as the governor of Plateau State with a solid political structure. His achievements while in the office are reverence points to date. But despite this, he failed to plant a successor.
His choice of the late Senator Gyang Pwajok as the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP did not go down well with certain stalwarts and members of his party who opposed his choice of successor from Plateau North which produced him.
For this reason, there was a huge and thick opposition against him. The party was fragmented, some notable members of PDP kicked against his succession plan. Before the election, some jettisoned PDP and openly worked against the candidate of the party, while a good chunk of others stayed back to sabotage the party within.
The ability of the late Senator Pwajok to govern the state was not in doubt. He was an intelligent young man and played a formidable role in Jonah Jang’s administration. But his albatross was being from the same local government with Jonah Jang. Governor Lalong attested to this when he openly declared that the wrong political calculation of Jang gave him victory while receiving his certificate of return at Hill Station Hotel in 2015.
Though there is no written agreement to back up zoning arrangement among the three senatorial zones in the state, it is sacrosanct and strictly adhered to. Currently, it is the turn of the central zone to produce the next governor, hence the reason no aspirant from both the North and South has shown interest.
Among the array of aspirants that have shown interest to contest the gubernatorial primary in APC, it is not yet apparent who Governor Lalong wants to support for the ticket of the party. Observers opine that the incumbent is being careful and trying to avoid the pitfall of his predecessors. His body language at the moment is causing hiccups while some members call it a pretentious posture.
Watchers of Plateau politics would want to see whether Governor Lalong would stand aloof and would also want to see whether he would throw his weight behind a private sector or a career politician or if he will allow the process to throw up the most popular candidate.
A former Nigeria Ambassador to Ukraine, Ambassador Ibrahim Kasai, said the governor is well-informed as a lawyer to know that imposition of a candidate might have undesirable effect on the party. “I know him very well he will not impose anyone on the state, his background would not allow him to do that,” he said.
In contrast to the Kasai’s position, a member representing Pankshin/Kanke/Kanam Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Yusuf Gagdi said that only the candidate that is chosen by the governor would be supported to succeed him in 2023.
He noted that the governor would consult widely with relevant stakeholders and bring out an acceptable candidate that would not be rejected by the APC as well as the people of the State.
Gagdi insisted the governor bringing a successor will ensure that “by the will of God that we have a governor that can determine and decide who succeeds him on the Plateau.”
A political analyst Dr Victor Danjuma said in Nigeria political context no governor or president will fold his arms and stand aloof over who succeeds him no matter how pious and democratic such a governor is.
“Governor Lalong holds the ace as far as APC in the state is concerned. He is in the full grip of the party. Those who could be considered as opponents within have been cut to size and some frustrated out of the party. He has the party in his palm, the bulk of delegates who will determine who pick the gubernatorial ticket are his cronies. So he has what it takes to determine who picks the ticket but who becomes the next governor of the state is a different ball game,” Danjuma said.
Another analyst who preferred to be anonymous declared this:” From the body language of Governor Lalong, especially over the recent political developments in the state, it is crystal clear that he will follow the tradition of other state governors in ensuring that his preferred candidate gets the party’s ticket.
“Let us be honest with ourselves. Who would not want him to prefer the person to take over from him? Who would not want a successor that would protect and consolidate his achievements? It is either he succeeds or is frustrated. Governor Lalong cannot be an exception in this regard. Moreover, there is an insinuation already that he is in support of this or that,” he said.
Though aspirants are trying to curry the favour of the governor for possible endorsement, a source close to the party told Sunday Tribune that there are aspirants and groups within the party working independently not minding the influence of the governor.
At the moment, those who have shown serious commitment and interest in the platform of APC are the Chief Executive Officer, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) Dr Patrick Dakur; former Dean Faculty of Law University of Jos, Professor Dakas C J.Dakas (SAN); the deputy governor of the state, Professor Sonny Tyoden; Garuba Paul (SAN); Senator Hezekiah Dimka; a retired Assistant Controller of Customs, David Dimka; and former Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Benue State, Nentawe Yilwatda, among others.
The question now is that who gets the nod of Governor Lalong for the gubernatorial ticket of APC? Sunday Tribune learnt that every one of the aspirants has notified the governor to contest for the primary and as well-received his blessing.
A source close to the governor disclosed that Lalong is determined to break the jinx by not only ensuring that a candidate of his choice emerges, but also that APC wins the 2023 governorship election in the state. He quickly dismissed the speculations in some quarters that the governor is standing aloof or planning to impose a candidate on the party.
“The governor is just being careful not to fall into the mistake of his predecessors. I can assure you that a strong candidate will emerge without much interference in the process,” said the source.
However, whoever picks the ticket will determine if the governor will be able to break the jinx or not. Sunday Tribune findings revealed that the wrong choice of candidate couple with poor performance have always robbed the previous incumbents of the chance to produce their successors.