Plateau: Transfer of Power
By Ukandi Odey
For the outgoing governor, Simon Bako Lalong, the dirge may not have been composed; but it is a complete story and eloquent rendition of how not to die;
For not even in fairy tale is it common for a man to behold in his own obituary announcement, or listen to the orations at his funeral united in symphony, synch, and rhythm of the people’s happiness that an affliction has finally vacated its people, and departed the land.
In the old Oyo Empire, once in a while, if the king ran into such lethal infamy and the Oyomesi was no less hard put and helpless to redeem and remedy his predicament, the remaining option was unambiguous, damning, brutal, and non-negotiable: “the gods reject you; the people reject you; go and hang”!
Like in Vince Flynn’s work of political fiction, Transfer of Power, Simon Bako Lalong will neither hang nor die, as he is inextricably caught in the inevitable forces of time, public perception, twist of political fortune, vicissitude, the people’s will, and, of course, time’s revenges.
The stage is set: the drammatis personae have gone beyond dress rehearsal, the costumes are resplendent and unmistakeable, and all acts and scenes have coalesced and condensed into the reality that change has come with its inevitability – and there must be transfer of power. It is time for political traditions to service the urgency of political expediency.
Unlike in Vince Flynn’s setting in which the decider is a combination of the horror of terror and internal sabotage contrary to the thinking and mindset of Washington’s influential power elite, Lalong’s transfer of power is a decision and 'voice' vote of the people, devoid of terrorism and hostage taking; a fait accompli that ushers in Caleb Manasseh Mutfwang as the Executive Governor of Plateau State; and this is for real!
Once the Independent National Electoral Commission, on Monday, March 20, declared that Caleb Mutfwang of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, polled 526, 299 votes, against the All Progressives Congress, APC, Nentawe Yilwatda Goshwe with 481, 370 votes, a frenzy was let lose state wide as celebrations erupted throughout like never before in its political and electoral history.
That the celebrations were most remarkable and resounding in Simon Lalong’s Shendam local government area was not so much because of the preference of the Peoples Democratic Party and its amiable candidate, Caleb Mutfwang. It was more because of the disgust and anger of the people with the apparent incompetence, betrayal, and lack of direction of the Lalong government and the people’s desire to relegate it to the trash can of history.
Having managed his way back into a second term, after squeezing through a keenly contested election, a gruelling rerun, it was clear since 2019 that Simon Bako Lalong will not survive another election in any capacity in Plateau again - or, at least, not so soon.
Some of his aides even state and argue as much that he did not even deserve a second term; or did not even earn it if his main challenger, Jeremiah Useni of the PDP had been more circumspect and cursory in deploying his electoral arsenal.
No sooner did he begin the second term than he ran fowl of public perception and continually appreciated in courting the wrath, regret, and desire of the people to do away with him. With lack of cohesion and synergy in his government, visible enrichment of a few while majority wallowed in want, poverty, decay, and abandonment, Lalong has been tumbling in a free fall, with his unprincipled public pronouncements, fumbling policies, and disconcerted development programmes worsened the state’s debt profile, than create wealth.
His claim of restoring peace in the state remained at best a toy souvenir for only passers-by and absent-minded troubadours.
The State continued to witness attacks and violent conflicts all through his tenure, to the point a traditional ruler in the Southern part of the state had to cry out that criminals, especially bandits, had annexed the area, and were about to over-run the place.
While killings and nocturnal attacks continued to ravage parts of Bassa, Riyom, and Jos South local government areas, and herders’ ambush and incessant attacks kept farmers and natives on the run in Bokkos LGA, and banditry hooliganism emasculated the fabric of peace in Wase, Kanam LGAs, leaving Quaan Pan as exclusive destination for kidnappers and armed robbers, Lalong proved consistently that he is a stooge of the interloping aggressor and predator, and to that extent a ‘leader’ who cannot stand up for his people and secure their patrimony and heritage.
During the debate on anti-grazing and herder trespass, he betrayed the position of the people of Plateau by humming tunes complimentary to the interests and intrigues of the initiator and proponents of grazing routes policy.
He subscribed to it, and proceeded to say he warned his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom against being ambivalent to the policy, creating the unfortunate impression that that could have been responsible for the mass murder that saw Ortom burying about seventy of his people in a single day.
The people of Plateau viewed his failure to conduct local government elections as not just a suppression of their right to self rule and determination of their own affairs, but a grand betrayal which ultimate objective was to deliver them and their aspirations to age-long ambush and captivity contrived by the conservative northern establishment.
Other acts of commission by the Lalong administration such as attempt to pass the control of the burnt Jos Main Market to Jaiz Bank in a doubtful concessionary arrangement, failure to be decisive and unequivocal in condemning the perpetrators and enablers of violent crisis in parts of the State, inability to deliver on infrastructure provision, creating disharmony and communal tension among communities in the name of creating chiefdoms and upgrading some traditional stools, are among teething issues that pitched Lalong against the people of Plateau who waited and used the occasion of the recently concluded elections to ‘sack’ him and his ‘obnoxious’ APC.
The post-election happiness of Plateau people is that they have effectively ‘sacked’ Lalong. The celebrations that greeted the emergence of Caleb Mutfwang of the PDP on March 20, which reverberated last Thursday as he was issued his certificate of return as winner of the gubernatorial election, are remarkably to mark an era of failed hopes, miscarried aspirations, aggravated poverty, worsened hunger, depleted heritage, muddling of cultural identity, and general stagnations.
The happiness in Plateau now is that with Mutfwang and the PDP, all oddities have faded away and Plateau is on the way to recovery and self-actualization.
After allegedly distributing eight (8) billion naira on the eve of the last elections before some of his doubtful foot soldiers reportedly switched off their mobile telephones, Lalong is already in enmity and unspeakable terms with his SSG, some commissioners, special advisers, and other political aides.
Yet, in some socio-political circles, more are ruing the disastrous electoral outing of the State APC as a function of Lalong’s disastrous political leadership.
More things are still likely to throw up with a potential to enrich and prolong the gist. Anyhow, such are the trepidations on the eve of transfer of power; the morning after may yet suffice.