By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The friction between Governor Simon Lalong and the minister of sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung had long simmered to the discomfort of members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC on the Plateau. Penultimate Thursday’s visit of the president to the state blew the bubble.
Governor Lalong and Barrister Dalung took positions long before circumstances threw the two of them into government in 2015. Lalong, who served as speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly during the Joshua Dariye era was especially helped during the 2015 elections by the seeming folly of Governor Jonah Jang’s trying to foist his kinsman as his successor.
Dalung as he has portrayed through his dressing and many other idiosyncrasies was an everyday activist and lecturer at the University of Jos.
Both men stood on opposite sides ahead of the APC presidential primaries though they subsequently joined hands to canvass for Muhammadu Buhari after the party’s presidenital primaries.
However, following the election of Buhari as president and the nomination of Dalung as minister representing the state, the two men turned against one another. Dalung was picked as minister despite the strong opposition of many leading stakeholders in the state that it was against the principle of state character as the governor and Dalung come from the same Plateau South Senatorial District.
Some other APC stakeholders were also peeved by the fact that Dalung got the ministerial position despite the fact that the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP swept his local government area of Langtang South. Indeed, Dalung is taunted that he was not able to deliver even his ward during the 2015 general election.a
So, from the beginning, Dalung for one reason or the other convinced himself that Lalong was against his ministerial appointment. Indeed, Saturday Vanguard gathered that major stakeholders from the state had towards the end of last year reached an agreement with very powerful presidential forces for Dalung to be replaced with a minister from either Plateau Central or North Senatorial District. That proposal it was gathered had been sealed and was only waiting to be delivered anytime there was a cabinet shakeup.
Whether Dalung suspected Lalong of involvement in the coup against him could not be ascertained as to have caused his open attack on the Governor after President Buhari’s two day state visit to the Plateau last week.
Dalung’s angst were poured out once the president returned to Abuja. The minister took to Facebook to lament the governor’s handling of the state visit.
Among the Minister’s reservations were the governor’s decision to name a portion of the road leading into Jos from Abuja as Muhammadu Buhari Way as he quarreled that the road had previously been named after General Yakubu Gowon, an icon on the plateau.
The minister who prefaced his posting last Sunday on his authorised Facebook page with the biblical injunction “that you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free,” 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. It was morally wrong for Lalong to fail to acknowledge that it was 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.”
Dalung had also quarreled that as a minister from the state that he had been repeatedly ignored by the Governor in the affairs of the state. He particularly observed that the Governor did not initially invite him for the presidential visit and even when he got a belated invitation, that he was ignored during the town hall meeting as he was not allowed to speak.
Dalung’s assertion was also echoed by other political stakeholders as they alleged that it was turned into a rehearsal session for the Lalong Praise Choir.
“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 recognized or allowed to say a word at the town hall meeting.”
“No other person was allowed to speak except chairman PYC, President NCWS, CAN Chairman, Chairman, JNI and Chief Jethro Akun, who spoke for the elders. Sen. 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 minister followed by accusing the governor of financial misdeeds, though he did not produce evidence.
Reactions were swift. Among those who reacted were the chairman of the state chapter of the APC, Latep Dabang, the State Commissioner of Information and Communication, Yakubu Dati, the Senior Special Assistance to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mark Longyen.
Dabang in his reaction articulated to an online medium, said:
“For Dalung to make such nonsensical remarks, it shows that he is just like a mad man on the street. As far as we are concerned, governance is about continuity not about personality. President Buhari came to the Plateau to commission projects that have and will better the lives of ordinary citizens. He did not simply come to commission only projects initiated by Governor Lalong alone.
“Is Dalung suggesting that because we commissioned some projects that Jonah Jang initiated, that we bring back Jonah Jang to commission them? That’s just silly.
“So for a minister in the capacity of Dalung’s standing to ridicule himself by making such ridiculous remarks –and by countering what his boss (the president) has said is frankly, very pathetic. It shows that Dalung is a man who is not well, he is sick in the head.”
The state commissioner for information, Datti was also dismissive of the minister saying:
“This is a minister who has been a monumental embarrassment to Plateau State due to his illogic and asinine comments in the past like when he said Nigeria can never win the World Cup or when he said Nigerian athletes do not need to prepare to win tournaments.
“It is instructive to note the APC has never won election in his ward or his local government of Langtang South.”
“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.”
Datti’s taunt of Dalung hit a raw nerve and it was not surprising that the minister quickly responded.
“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 economical with the truth. May be to satisfy his employer or because he is still battling with resettlement. He lacks the moral burden to address the issues.
“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.
“In any case, can Yakubu Dati answer those questions I raised about the loan profile of the state? Where is the $2 billion (#720 billion) loan collected from African Development Bank for Potatoes processing factory payable in 25 years? Where is the factory located? Or where is the money kept and whose account? Why did the state government keep the issue of the loan secret? What is happening to LG funds? What is happening to 5% meant for the traditional council?
And if peace has returned to Plateau, why was the LG election suspended because of security concerns? Is it not true that Governor Jang constructed all the roads in Jos and Bukuru metropolis except for state low cost -Dong road?”