The People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) in Plateau State is, typical of opposition everywhere, desirous of taking over power from the All Progressives Congress, (APC), the ruling party in the much troubled state. In fact, it could be said that the PDP has done considerable strategic reflections on how to instrumentalise power, come 2019. For Plateau PDP, the fundamental existential threat now is insecurity and their answer to the threat is to give power to a trained manager of insecurity. That explains the choice of General Jeremiah Useni, his advanced age notwithstanding. The idea is that Useni as a retired General can penetrate the insecurity thicket and make a better sense of what’s going on.
That done, they were looking forward to an easy ride, particularly that they also calculated that Gen Useni’s deputy would come from Mangu Local Government Area. Mangu has the third largest voting population in Plateau State, following closely on Jos North and Jos South. It votes close to 75, 000, a knowledgeable non-indigene told Intervention. According to his analysis, it was realising the voting power of Mangu LGC that gave the APC victory in 2015 when the LGA switched to the party following the selection of Prof Sonni Tyoden as candidate Simon Lalong’s deputy. Tyoden, a professor of Political Science and a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Jos is from Mangu. That move left the PDP high and dry in 2015. It is the approach the PDP had borrowed and refined in its desire to send the incumbent Simon Lalong/Sonni Tyoden administration packing in 2019.
However, that approach seems to be floundering. As at Saturday, the party Secretariat said the tussle and associated tension has been contained. A statement circulated by Mr John Akans, the PDP Publicity Secretary in the state charged members with leaving behind the past and working “towards winning the elections in 2019 in the interest of Plateau State” The statement came in the aftermath of an executive council meeting. But three different insiders who spoke to Intervention unaware of each other are speaking the same language of an idea short changed in implementation. Several discussions are still going on to resolve the crack but the fear is deep that it could inflict an unacceptable damage on the fortunes of the PDP in the state if care is not taken. The trouble is this.
The PDP machinery in the state met and listed some names for deputy-governorship. Intervention could not confirm the exact number of names on the list but it was more than three, all from Mangu LGA. However, a different name outside the list emerged as the choice for deputy-governor to General Useni in the person of Dr. James Dalok, an accountant with the Industrial Training Fund, (ITF). He is from Mangu LGA quite alright but his choice has so displeased some members to the point of referring to him as “a non party member and a civil servant unknown to Mangu”. Not only that, the claim is that the choice has had a demoralising rather than galvanising effect, with potential implications for unbridgeable gulfs soon.
Initially, Intervention understood that Dalok was a product of a recommendation by the largest religious denomination in Plateau. That has now been challenged by the current information suggesting that the said denomination has not only washed its hands off the document used but has also written to the Directorate of the State Security, (DSS) demanding intelligence scrutiny of the recommendation document itself. Beyond that, some watchers are connecting the resignation of Ambassador Fidelis Tapgun as Chairperson of the party’s Elders Forum to the tussle, suggesting unhappiness at the highest level with the selection. Although Tapgun himself spoke broadly of not being carried along, it is instructive that Elder Akson, a Second Republic legislator has stepped into his position while Tapgun’s protest is being resolved.
Pressure is still being mounted on General Useni but there is the fear that a pact already exists between Damishi Sango, the Plateau State Chairman of the PDP and General Useni and that the pact in question might no longer be breakable. Some of Sango’s critics suspect that he is building the electoral infrastructure for his governorship ambition in 2023 through, first, being a Minister from 2019 to 2023. At 75 plus, General Useni is a one-term governorship, certain to leave the stage by 2023. Against this background, it could be heard from within PDP hot contentions such as “if Governor Lalong plays his card well, he will remain in power”, depending on how the matter is resolved.
As unhappy as they might seem, it looks as if PDP players have sworn to an oath of secrecy on the internal feud. Most are keeping sealed lips on the matter. They neither respond to text messages nor picked their calls. They did not call back too. Mr Damishi Sango, the party Chairman, neither replied text sent to his MTN number nor picked his call on Monday morning, November 12th, 2018. Similarly, Prof Shedrack Best, one of those mentioned to be a key player in the tussle did not reply any texts sent to his number.
Intervention’s information is that what is playing out must have to do with the question of who supported who in the tough competition for PDP governorship last October. No less than a dozen aspirants vied for the position which was won by General Jeremiah Useni but who at that point was more or less a consensus candidate in the context of someone who can stabilise the state by unmaking its insecurity challenge in the last two decades. It remains to be seen by whom, from where and how the current rumblings can be contained to untie the fortunes of the party from hanging precariously in the balance. An APC social media warrior told Intervention that the party is keenly watching what is playing out in the PDP. Understandably so!
Deputy-governorship selection is also a defining factor in how the governorship election may turn out in Benue State. While the party having deputy-governorship crisis in Plateau State is the PDP, in Benue, it is the opposition APC. Seems interesting how deputy-governorship has crawled into a determinant factor.