It was supposed to be a unifying visit but last Thursday’s visit of President Muhammadu Buhari has raised tensions on the Plateau, bringing to fore, historic divisions among the supporters of the president.
By Marie-Therese Nanlong
The trigger for the dispute was Governor Simon Lalong’s decision to name or rename the Mararaba Jema’a Roundabout -Taen Junction Road after President Buhari. The road commssioned during the visit.
While some commended the governor’s action others fumed. Critics on the other hand claimed the road was part of Yakubu Gowon Way.
For a road believed to have been named after the state’s most famous citizen, it was bound to touch sensitive nerves on the Plateau.
There were other insinuations from the non-Hausa-Fulani majority in the state. It was seen as an insult on the people to name the road leading into Jos, after a Fulani man at the peak of misgivings over attacks on indigenes by yet to be apprehended herdsmen.
More controversies were raised after the town hall meeting as some alleged that critical issues affecting the state were swept under the carpet.
The failure of the participants at the town hall meeting to raise the issues of some Plateau indigenes who were murdered by herdsmen and their villages sacked besides the hundreds of houses and food barns burnt on the day of the town hall meeting was striking.
Dalung tackles Lalong
Remarkably, the division even went as far as the soul of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Among the first to criticise the event was the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Barr. Solomon Dalung who described the renaming of the Gowon Road after Buhari as “embarrassing.” He called on the governor to “publicly apologise to General Yakubu Gowon.”
Dalung also accused Governor Lalong of deceiving Buhari to commission projects earlier constructed and commissioned by the immediate past administration.
He said: “Another disaster of the president’s visit was the renaming of Yakubu Gowon Way to Muhammadu Buhari Way. To say the least, it is embarrassing. Gowon was the President’s boss how can he be stripped of a 40-year privilege and honour in his home state? This is the worst thing that can happen to a man like the elder statesman. I believe that General Gowon is feeling betrayed and abandoned by his own people.
“Also Mr. President was misled to believe that all the road networks in Jos metropolis were constructed by Governor Alert,” Dalung said in mockery of Governor Lalong who is famous for asserting his delivery of salary alerts to civil servants every month as his major achievement. “It was morally wrong for Lalong to fail to acknowledge that they were Governor Jang’s legacies. I was an ardent critic of Governor Jang’s administration but I will not fail to credit his legacies because of differences. The only projects Lalong did are the road to his house and 40 tractors,” the minister said.
“At the town hall meeting, Mr. President also launched the Plateau Peace Road Map. This was the guided town hall meeting where screened speakers were tutored to sing praises of the governor. Members of the state traditional council were not recognized despite their presence. Former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, Former Military Governor of Plateau, S.B Atukum and former Deputy Governor, Dame Pauline Tallen were on the high table but they were never recognised or allowed to say a word at the town hall meeting. Senator. Dariye spoke for the National Assembly but his reckless praises of Lalong, while dismissing the seriousness of the occasion was another mockery.
“All these speakers only sang praises of Governor Lalong. They also created the impression to Mr. President that all is well with Plateau because Governor Lalong has brought durable peace on the Plateau and paid salaries and pensions up to date. The following day, 400 tractors were said to be billed for commissioning but only about 40 were hauled into the new Government House under the cover of darkness.
The irony of the entire macabre dance called town hall meeting is that Plateau people presented themselves to the president as sycophants. Even as one of the speakers was telling the president that Lalong has brought peace to Plateau, little did he know that killing and burning of his village was going on. What a shame?”
Not done with the rebuke, Dalung also opened a can of worms adding: “Governor Lalong accused the previous administration of Jang of leaving a debt burden of N240 billion, but failed woefully to account for the loans he collected including bail out and Paris Club funds. “Were all these monies spent on payment of salaries or pensions or completion of projects? Why was Lalong silent about $2 billion loan equivalent of N720 billion collected by the state government from African Development Bank for potatoes processing factory.
“The FEC approved the loan for the state in November 2017, payable in 25 years. What about the N2 billon collected for the completion of Zaria Road stadium? The debt profile of Plateau as it stands today is getting to a trillion Naira if not more. What infrastructure does Lalong administration have to show for the ADB loan and other loans collected locally?”
Dalung out to incite people against govt – Dababg, Dati, Lonyen
In a swift reaction, the State Chairman of the APC, Latep Dabang, the State Commissioner of Information and Communication, Yakubu Dati and the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mark Longyen faulted the Minister saying he is out to incite the people against government.
While Dabang described the Minister as “a mad man”, Dati said Dalung was trying to “score cheap political points.” Longyen said that the minister “goofed and what Dalung deserves right now is the exit door out of Buhari’s cabinet and a proper replacement found, having become a political liability rather than an asset to the APC and the State.”
On the road renaming, Dati explained: “The existing Yakubu Gowon way starts at Ta’en junction through building materials – Zarmaganda junction, Miango – old airport junctions, through Secretariat overhead bridge and ends at Plateau Specialist Hospital round-about.”
“D. B Zang road starts from the Plateau Specialist Hospital round-about where Yakubu Gowon Way ends at Hill-Station round-about while Joseph Gomwalk road then starts from Hill-station round-about and ends at Polo Club round-about.”
But Dalung replied saying, “Let me appreciate the Chairman of my party (APC), Latep Dabang, for referring to me as a mad man, of course he is free to his opinions but certainly not correct, too. I am of a sound mind because mad people do not possess capacities to raise weighty issues; therefore as a leader he should be interested in reconciliation rather than escalating situations.
“The Commissioner of information, Yakubu Datti, also must be appreciated for his response which only attempted to relocate the weighty issues about the State to personality feud. It is pardonable, because he doesn’t know anything about the Party in Plateau State. His ranting effortlessly to demean my person is a character trait Yakubu Dati is known for. As the information machine of the government, I expected him to delve on issues and not attacking my person.
“I cannot thank him enough for his explanation of the renaming of Yakubu Gowon Way but again he appeared confused or deliberately economically with the truth. May be to satisfy his employer or because he is still battling with resettlement having been sacked recently as Public Relations Officer of FAAN.”
“This was the same role he played during Dariye which sank the state into incessant crises, I think we should watch him carefully. I am not surprised that since his compensation as Commissioner for propaganda, Plateau communities can no longer know peace. No wonder, during the guided town hall meeting, there were attacks going on in Daffo, Bokkos LGA.
“Thank God Dati knew that I am from Sabongida in Langtang South LGA, but can he show us his father’s house in Mikang LGA? It is true that I did not win my ward in the last elections but I am a founding member of APC, not a political refugee fleeing away from PDP into our Party to escape justice for dubious antecedents.