Lalong’s lonely walk on the plateau
By Marie-Therese Nanlong
IT is no longer news that Governor Simon Lalong was not originally a very popular choice when he stood for the gubernatorial election in 2015. His party, the All Progressives Congress, APC was not initially very welcome on the plateau.
However, the resolve of the people to go against the succession plans of former Governor Jonah Jang after he single-handedly picked a good product at a wrong time as his successor set people of all tribes and religion against him. In that way, fortune smiled on Lalong, the former speaker of the House of Assembly. Having become Governor in the last two years, pundits who have been following the trend of his administration allege that Lalong may have now destroyed the coalition that brought him to power. That has caused some bickering within his party. Among the factors causing the bickering is the recent dissolution and reconstitution of the Transition Committee Chairmen of the 17 local government areas.
Party members who felt it was their turn to be “compensated” were aggrieved with the manner the Governor chose the members and swore them in; in the night despite objections raised in many Councils. It would be recalled that the Governor had at a recent Town Hall meeting of the APC held at Yelwa Club, Bukuru, following the dissolution of the Transition Committees ordered the submission of fresh names for replacements. He, however, insisted the nominees must meet certain criteria before being appointed as Chairmen. Even more, he stressed that those appointed as Transition Committee Chairmen will not award any contract as there are lots of uncompleted projects spread across the state which needed resources to be completed. According to him, “Any candidate contesting Local Government elections will not be nominated for Caretaker Committee. The governor also decred that the minimum qualification for nomination as Local Government Chairman is a degree or its equivalent. The qualification for Councillors is Diploma or a minimum of SSCE also those to be appointed, as Chairmen must reside in the Local Governments while Councillors must reside in their wards so as to function properly.”
Party supporters who were not in support of the governor’s stance at the meeting opined that he would have looked beyond academic qualifications in the choice of the people’s Transition Committee members. They expressed fear that with the recent end of the crisis in the PDP on account of the Supreme Court judgment, that the PDP in the State may be well organized to exploit any loophole in the APC to create havoc in the expected local government election.
A party member who was not happy with the stance of the Governor but refused to be named said, “The Governor thinks academic qualification is everything, someone may not have such qualifications he mentioned but can read and write and knows how to mobilize the people, should we now say we cannot vote for him if we know he can deliver? “The Governor should think through especially now that the PDP is trying to put its house in order, those of their members who stood with us in the past may not be willing to do so now and our members who are not happy may also not want to support the party in the future, we should just be careful.”
But Mark Longyen, the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Media questioned the rationale behind the grumbles.
“What is the problem with the minimum qualification of First Degree or its equivalent? It is simply aimed at appointing people who are academically equipped enough to run the Local Government Areas in the interim,” he said in a response.
“Even before now, the minimum academic qualification for appointment as Secretary to a Local Government” he said.
been a First Degree or its equivalent, so I do not see any reason for the hullabaloo over the requirements as announced by the Governor.”
However, as events unfold, one would see if the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP can take advantage of the recent Supreme court judgment and the seeming crack in the All Progressives Congress, APC to put its house in order and make a good show in the anticipated local government election whenever the Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission, PLASIEC decides to conduct it.