By Ibrahim Faruk
Plateau state, Nigeria’s Home of Peace and Tourism, has since the return to democracy in 1999 been governed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Despite the occasional clash of egos between the state and federal government executives, Plateau has long been considered a stronghold of the PDP. The recurrent crisis in the state, notwithstanding, the amiable, loyal and truly hospitable people of Plateau state have remained true to the party that had a onetime Governor of the state, late Chief S.D. Lar as its National Chairman.
Fast forward sixteen years after a young Chief Joshua C. Dariye (now a Senator representing Plateau Central in the National Assembly) first took the oath of office as the governor of the state; the tide has turned against the PDP on the Plateau.
In September 2014, as political parties began preparations for their primary elections to choose flag bearers for the gubernatorial elections, I pointed to a ‘quiet storm brewing on the Plateau’.
All election predictions and forecasts prior to April 11th pointed to a victory, albeit close and by a narrow margin for the PDP in Plateau state.
The two leading gubernatorial aspirants presented a choice between uniting the Plateau people under the leadership of Barr. Simon Lalong of the APC or installing the widely perceived competent Sen. GNS Pwajok of the PDP.
As both camps campaigned, the messages became clearer, while Lalong and his running mate, Prof. Sonni Tyoden campaigned as ‘The Rescue Team, Pwajok and his running mate, Arc. Yilji Gomwalk adopted the mantra, ‘Greater Together… Redemption Continues’.
Sen. GNS Pwajok, having served as Chief of Staff to the Governor, Director of Research as well as a lecturer in both the University of Jos and the Plateau State polytechnic was largely perceived as being imposed by the so called Jang dynasty while Barr. Simon Lalong became the darling of the proponents of maintaining the zoning arrangement in the state.
Considering his antecedents and past positions, the ability of Sen. Pwajok to understand issues, articulate solutions to problems, manage resources and provide leadership is definitely unquestionable.
The campaign message of Sen. GNS Pwajok, a seeming continuation of Gov. Jang’s 2011 ‘Redemption Agenda’, however did not go down well with many, especially civil servants who have not been paid salaries for over 5 months, neither did it appeal to the ethnic groups in the Southern, Central and parts of the Northern zone where the people have felt marginalized by the Beroms (Jang and Pwajok are both Berom).
In my previous analysis, I stated that support for the zoning of the gubernatorial candidate to the southern zone, may help to allay fears that Gov. Jang may seek to impose an unpopular and unfavorable candidate from his party and ethnic group, thereby harming their chances of retaining power in 2015.
The decision of the delegates at the PDP’s January primary election where GNS Pwajok emerged as the party’s flag bearer was not without contention, as many contestants including the state deputy governor, Amb. Ignatius Longjan felt Gov. Jang backed and ensured Pwajok’s emergence as the party’s candidate. In retrospect, the emergence of Pwajok (who is from the same senatorial zone and ethnic group) as the PDP candidate did more harm than good in the party’s chances of retaining power in the state.
On the other hand, the APC leveraged on the feeling among the people in the state, that in the interest of unity and fairness, the next governor should come from the southern zone (Barr. Simon Lalong is from Shendam LGA in the southern zone). Even though the APC primaries had its own fair share of contentions, the delegate’s choice truly reflected the choice of their people.
In the days leading to the gubernatorial elections, the candidates of the Labour Party, Amb. Bagudu Hirse and the Mega Progressives People Party, Mrs. Elizabeth Yerse, dropped their ambitions for the All Progressives Congress candidate, Barr. Simon Lalong.
Probably even more worrisome for the PDP candidate must have been the statement from a group within his own party known as The Reformed PDP, urging its members and voters across the state to vote for the opposition candidate.
With the votes having been cast and the winner having fulfilled all requirements of the law and declared winner, the choice of the people is clear.
The campaigns have left behind them broken friendship across ethnic lines, acrimony as well as deep lines of division and distrust. The situation is however not totally gloomy as The Rescue Team has the opportunity to write their names in gold for posterity to judge by not just uniting the groups in the state but also proving their competence beyond reasonable doubt.
As Barr. Simon Lalong takes the oath of office on May 29th, 2015 he will swear to ‘do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will’.
So help him God.