18 March 2019

Nigeria: Lalong, Useni's Kinsmen and Unfinished Guber Race

Jos — The presidential and National Assembly elections had come and gone except where there were pockets of electoral irregularities for which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has ordered supplementary elections to be conducted on Saturday, March 23 in the affected areas.

Equally of interest is the fact that governorship and Houses of Assembly elections throughout the country had also been held and all supplementary elections are also fixed for the same Saturday. Of most significance is the governorship election, which most people consider to be closest to the people, as they regard it a grassroots election.

In Plateau State, apart from the incumbent governor, Simon Bako Lalong, who is seeking re-election for a second term on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), other political parties' candidates also indicated their interest.

Some of such candidates and their parties include the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Senator Jeremiah Useni, a serving Senator representing Plateau South Senatorial District.

There is also the governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), General Jonathan Temlong (rtd) from the same Langtang North Local Government Area of the state where General Useni hails and who is his in-law. That was why there was the initial rumour that he was brought in and sponsored by Governor Lalong in order to play the spoiler role against Useni's chances. But Temlong promptly punctured that insinuation as baseless.

Apart from Temlong, there were other gubernatorial candidates like Dr. Godfrey Miri of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Mr. Alex Ladan of Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Lt. Commander Jerry Ishaya Mangai of People's Party of Nigeria (PPN).

So, when the governorship election results were announced, it was a rude shock to Useni because it was a unanimous decision by the Tarok nation that he should go for the governor's seat this time around which he accepted.

The overall governorship results showed that while the ruling APC had 583,255 votes, PDP had 538,326 votes. The winning margin was 44,929 votes in favour of APC.

What irked Useni most was the betrayal of his Tarok kinsmen and women. Langtang North and Langtang South could not give Useni the desired bloc votes.

In Langtang North, Useni had 40,519 votes as against APC's 18,979 votes while in Langtang South PDP garnered 17,644 votes as against APC's 13,495 votes.

The Tarok nation cannot be completely exonerated from Useni's not too impressive outing because they are expected to mobilise and vote their son. But the two local governments, owned by the Tarok, gave APC over 30,000 votes which is closer to the margin of Governor Lalong's total win. This led to some observers to remark that a prophet ought to have honour in his home.

Another fundamental issue that did not work well in favour of PDP candidate was the controversy surrounding the choice of his running mate, Dr. James Dalok.

At the initial stage, it was alleged by the stakeholders in Mangu that Dalok was a civil servant and not a politician who had no acceptance and political structure at the grassroots, but was imposed on the people of Mangu by outsiders.

It was clearly decided that Plateau Central was to produce a running mate to Useni and the lot fell on Mangu council to produce the candidate. The current deputy governor, Prof. Sonni Tyoden, is from Mangu too.

So, the people of Mangu believed that Dalok was forcefully imposed on them, which led to a crack in the party, and eventually some members defected to the ruling APC, which included the presumed winner of the last local government election in Mangu, Mr. Ayuba Gofwan.

There are five local government councils that make up Plateau Southern Senatorial District, namely Langtang North, Langtang South, Qua'anPan, Shendam and Mikang.

Another point that worked against Useni was the refusal of the two Tarok councils to concede PDP's senatorial seat either to Qua'anPan, Shendam or Mikang. It is not possible for Langtang North alone to produce the governor, Senator and House of Representatives' seats.

General Useni, Beni Lar and Barrister Kefas Dandan Peters are for Governor, House of Representatives and Senate all from Langtang North without considering the remaining three councils.

Again, PDP lacks the capacity to source funds to match the incumbent governor at the electioneering campaigns. It is believed that Useni is rich but that he is rich only in assets not in cash.

Another point that also worked against him was his pledge to rule for only one term of four years and step aside. But people claimed that that declaration could not be substantiated because after tasting the sweetness of power for four years, it will not be easy to redeem. Should he desires to continue for a second term after the first one, he would automatically change the zoning formula which would cost the central zone the opportunity of producing the governorship candidate in 2023.

People of central zone concluded that since their fate was not clearly defined, they would be at an advantage if they supported the incumbent governor who has only one tenure before he vacates the scene and power shifts to the Central zone.

Why the governorship election was suspended to March 23, according to INEC, was the fact that the margin between the winner APC and the loser PDP was 44,929 votes, which is less than the number of votes cancelled, put at about 49,000 votes.

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