BEVERLY HILLS, March 22, (THEWILL) – A multitude of gubernatorial contenders are gathering and agitating in Plateau State. The jostling for who to succeed the incumbent governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, is more pronounced in the state chapter of the All Progressive Congress, (APC). It is seen that the race will be determined by templates predicated on ethnic considerations, minority’s fears and age-long stereotypes, more than incumbency perquisites and privileges. UKANDI ODEY, reports.
As of today, the clock is still ticking and the register of gubernatorial aspirants on the platform of the APC is still open and enlisting. Many of those who have been sharing the APC broom with Lalong are jostling to replace him in Government House, Little Rayfield come 2023. The early race in the APC is not surprising given the fact that the incumbent governor, Mr. Simon Lalong, is from the APC and is already serving his second and last term. The ante is fixated in the Plateau Central Senatorial zone – the same zone that produced the now embattled former governor, Joshua Dariye, at the inception of this Republic in 1999. Of the five local government areas that make up the zone – Kanam, Kanke, Pankshin, Mangu, and Bokkos – the picture so far is that of a looming political ‘war’ between the dominant Mwaghavul ethnic group in Mangu Local Government Area and the Ngas cultural group that dominates Southern Pankshin and Kanke Local Government Area and the Mupun ethnic group in Pankshin North. Yet, some relatively obscure minority groups located intricately between the Mwaghavul majority in Mangu and the sizeable Mupun people of Pankshin North are also asserting their interest and stake, as one or two of their own have indicated interest in the race. When the chips are down, even without the chicks coming home to roost, the main contest is going to be situated within the three local government areas of Mangu, Pankshin and Kanke. Bokkos Local Government Area may be out of calculation because it produced Joshua Dariye in 1999. Kanamis may also be veritably out of it due to certain peculiarities that characterise its population, identity and to that extent shapes its demography. Those that are authoritative confirmed to be in the race are Barrister Garba Pwul (SAN), (Mangu/Mwaghavul); incumbent deputy governor and emeritus Professor, Soni Gwanle Tyoden (Mangu/Mwaghavul); Latep Dabang, currently caretaker committee Chairman of the State APC (Pankshin/Mupun); Dr. Patrick Dakum (Pankshin/Mupun), Barrister Dakas Clement Dakas, (Mangu/Keirang); Dr. Danlami Lenkwot (Kanke/Ngas), and the current INEC resident commissioner in Benue State, Nentawe Yilwatda (Kanke/Ngas).
All the aspirants so far are as varied in their pedigree as their chances of winning the party’s ticket differ in labyrinth and scope. Governor Simon Lalong’s deputy, Soni Gwanle Tyoden, is prominently in the race to succeed his principal. Unlike what has obtained in a few cases since 1999, Tyoden, who has not been a happy deputy under Lalong, does not seem to have his principal’s blessings or approval to emerge as the party’s candidate, let alone become the state governor in 2023. Like some graffiti, the writing of Lalong was manifest on the wall when Tyoden’s delayed birthday celebration held last December. A few days to the event, which was marked as a grand slam which combined his wife’s 60th birthday with launch of the deputy governor’s two published works, Lalong, in a much disputed and controversial development, tested negative to Covid-19, and, invariably, was justifiably in quarantine while the birthday bash that adorned all the trappings of a political declaration, held at the Victoria Gowon Hall, Government House, Rayfield, Jos. Although Lalong was represented at the event by the Secretary to the Government of the state, no one can say Lalong’s presence or lack it was some endorsement of the Tyoden ambition and gubernatorial project. Thus, Lalong’s opposition and other issues are problems already working against ‘Tyoden 2023’! Garba Pwul, SAN, is the first Plateau State indigenous lawyer to be honoured with the legal practice privilege of senior advocate. Well known across the state and in legal circles across the country, he has been counsel to former governor Joshua Dariye; and was also lead counsel that countered the petition of the PDP against Lalong in the 2019 gubernatorial elections tribunal. He has the wealth and means to run the race, but his political short-comings include being a Mwaghavul from Mangu Local Government Area that has the highest number of aspirants in the race.
Latep Dabang, a former chairman of the State independent electoral commission,PLASIEC, has been the Chairman of the State APC from inception to these anomalous times when he was again converted to ‘acting’ chairman of the state ad hoc executive committee. His long stay as state chairman has not translated to peculiar advantages that will see him through his new ambition. He is of the Mupun minority in Pankshin North; and during his tenure as state chairman of the APC, he made and marred some interests that may have found a vital opportunity in his gubernatorial project to take their own pound of flesh by frustrating his ambition. Besides, the mostly reactionary elements of the Joshua Dariye political orphanage seem not to be at home with a possible ascendancy of Dabang to the headship of the disparate Dariye boys.
Not even Governor Lalong has been rumoured to be supporting Dabang to emerge as the APC state flag bearer in 2023. Former commissioner for information in the Dariye administration and now director, Centre for Human Virology, Patrick Dakum, may not be boasting of infinite respite and high points as he waxes strong at the range. The Dariye elements in the APC seem to prefer him; but as a minority of Mupun stock in Pankshin North, he is certainly walking a tight rope in a contest that will be determined more by the arsenal of ethnic clout than pedigree and role of the old fashioned Dariye political war machine.
The recent appointment of emeritus Professor of international law, Dakas Clement Dakas, SAN, as member of the APC national constitution review committee appears to have also heightened his political valuation in recent assessment of his chances to emerge as party candidate. However, Dakas’ ambition has a fundamental set back as a victim of identity. While the erudite scholar claims he is Mupun by tribe which is in Pankshin and part of Shendam LGAs, he actually hails from Keirang, host village of the popular SWAN water, which is in Mangu Local Government Area. Quite a well-accepted scholar, he is not likely to benefit from Mwaghavul or Mupun sentiments that will reign and run the show during the gubernatorial congress.
Dr. Danlami Lenkwot is a well established medical practitioner. Having been elected as executive chairman of Kanke LGC in 2006, he has some political structures to lean on as he goes into the gubernatorial race. He is also of the Ngas stock that populates Kanke and Pankshin substantially. His tenure as executive chairman of Kanke is going to be re-appraised as even the Ngas nation has not made a statement on his endorsement.
His branded campaign vehicles are increasing and making waves around. It has been audio without visuals in the case of the resident INEC Commissioner in Benue State, Nentawe Yilwatda: neither posters, nor campaign vehicles, nor office. Of Ngas stock from Kanke, his opponents are apprehensive that the mischievous hand of officialdom may wade in to service his ambition, saying anything can happen. Whatever happens, whoever wins the Plateau state APC ticket, the greater truth is that the gubernatorial election in 2023 in Plateau State is going to be driven by geopolitics and zoning; but it will be decided by sentiments that include majority mobilisation, minority fears, and sundry sensitivities heightened or worsened by the acts of omission or commission of the outgoing Lalong administration such as branding Plateau farmers falsely as carriers of Ak-47 rifle.