BEVERLY HILLS, April 18, (THEWILL) – A highlight of the governmental intrigues that occurred within the officialdom in Plateau State last week was the announcement of the extension of the tenure of four local government councils’ caretaker committees by two months with effect from April 12; just as the development also saw one of the caretaker committee chairmen being sacked in the same swoop ostensibly for being a bull in the China shop or veritably not conforming to ‘house rules’. UKANDI UDEY reports from Jos.
The affected local government councils are Jos North, Barkin Ladi, Riyom, and Jos South whose ‘erring’ chairman was sacked while the management committee had its tenure extended.
It was after several deferments before the Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission, PLASIEC could hold the councils’ polls on October 10, 2018, The Lalong’s government bandied several reasons, ranging from logistics outlay to PLASIEC’s preparedness as reasons why the Government pleaded that tempests were rampant in the state’s politics sphere, and to that extent, the security situation and reports were not permissive, with the security chiefs in the state sounding to the effect that going ahead with the elections was foolhardy. Within the same period however, a ‘minority’ security report on the state of affairs in the state reportedly indicated to the state government and its bearer, the All Progressives Congress, APC, that conducting the LG polls at that time will see the APC suffering a comprehensive statewide defeat; noting that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP was menacing and kicking at the grassroots across the state with a huge potential to win the polls.
Between April and October 2018, it was believed that the ‘security situation’ had improved passably, at least in 13 of the 17 local government areas, so the PLASIEC could go ahead with conduct of the elections on October 10, 2018. In the pre-election press briefing, PLASIEC Chairman, Fabian Ntung Ari, announced that elections would go ahead in 13 council areas except four – Jos North, Jos South, Barkin Ladi, and Riyom- where security reports restrained the exercise because some sectarian landmines were heating and booting for explosion into electoral violence in those areas.
The empirical veracity of this report was disputed by many, including the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, especially because Bassa Local Government Area, where bestial killings and savage nocturnal attacks on homes and families were subsisting and recurring, was included in the list of council areas where polls would hold. And, on elections day, the exercise was held in Bassa and results successfully declared in spite of the strife in its recesses and scope.
With the election conducted, ballot collated, results declared, and inauguration conducted in byzantine traditions in the dead of night all within 24 hours, the other four local government councils had no option than to capitulate to over-lordship, and be lapsed into comatose from democracy and determination of their own affairs.
Thenceforth, the four local councils have been a big pot of honey around which party patronage and reward for loyalty have been spinning. In a questionable and even dubious regime of appointing, dissolving, and appointing another set of caretaker management committee members, the state government has been exploiting the branded councils by using them as reward conduit for party faithful and contractors. All efforts by citizens of the affected council areas and political commentators have not pricked the adamant Lalong Government to ‘let the people go’. With six months to the expiration of the elected councils, the four local government councils have lost more than three years and a huge fortune in terms of democratic rule and dividends of democracy. The real situation that is evincing is that while Lalong’s fears remain, and the claim of insecurity becomes bare, over flogged, or old fashioned in the circumstances, the sentiments and aggregation of emotions by the people of the affected areas continue seething and fomenting, as it is clear that continuing to impose caretaker committee on the councils is undoing the All Progressives Congress as the time ticks in the build up to 2023.
A lot of political book makers in the state are of the opinion that Lalong has done himself and his party, the APC in politically. Like the farmer who planted his maize inside the house because of fear of monkeys in the farm, Lalong ate up the APC’s 2023 fortunes especially in the gubernatorial and senatorial elections by waging a war against the same population that is the swing and decider of who wins the gubernatorial and Plateau North Senate elections. The four councils being kept under democracy’s lock and key by Lalong are all in Plateau North district, and is dominated up to ninety percent by the Berom ethnic group.
In the 2015 gubernatorial elections, Simon Lalong on the APC platform, contended with the colourful and vibrant late Senator GNS Pwajok, a Berom, who was PDP’s flagbearer. Even having been declared winner of the elections, Lalong has not lost grip of the dynamics and dimensions that shaped the contest and characterized the patterns. Curiously, Lalong did not win in the Berom local government areas, apart from Jos North that is flavoured with stranger, non-indigenous elements.
It is also contended in some circles that the real security available to Lalong and his APC indicates that the Berom people, who have also been decrying ethnic profiling in the Lalong government, are being ‘unrepentant’ and recalcitrant, rebellious, and will ensure the APC loses if council elections are conducted in Barkin Ladi, Jos South, and Riyom and Jos North. Only recently, the APC re-registration exercise held in all local government areas, including the suppressed four, to put a lie to the plea and theory of insecurity ravaging the areas and rendering conduct of elections there impossible. As the tenure of the elected councils expire in October, it is not likely that the Lalong administration is contemplating another round of local polls to bring in new elected councils. For one, he would have good reason to maintain and sustain the status quo in the branded four. Two, the process and exercise will generate ‘extraneous’ variables that might ease the APC out of the state in 2023. However the cookie crumbles, the chestnut is already at fire.