How Lalong lost out in 2015 and 2019 ministerial nominees
In 2015, the All Progressives Congress (APC) broke the jinx in Plateau to upstage the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that had ruled for 16 years, as it clinched political power, both at the federal and state levels.
When it was time for ministerial nominees, Governor Simon Lalong forwarded a list of names, but none was endorsed. Rather, Barrister Solomon Dalung from the southern part of the state got nominated. He was eventually made the Minister of Sports and Youth Development.
Prior to that time, Dalung was a lecturer in the Faculty of Law, University of Jos and a lover of Langtang tradition and culture. Besides, he had a soft spot for the North, which was greatly appreciated.
Indeed, he was protecting the Hausa/Fulani oligarchy’s interest in Plateau State, and working with northern establishment, headed by a former Vice Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Professor Ango Abdullahi. He was also unequivocally pro-Muhammadu Buhari. It was, therefore, not surprising that when the issue of ministerial nominees came up, President Buhari ignored the names forwarded to him by Lalong and single-handedly appointed Dalung a minister. Aside him, nobody else was chosen from Plateau.
Again in 2019, Lalong lost out, as none of the names he submitted made the ministerial list. This time around, former state Deputy Governor, Dame Pauline Tallen got nominated, apparently through her association with the First Lady, Hajiya Aisha Buhari.
Lalong is very much aware of the agreed zoning formula in Plateau Central, Southern and Northern Plateau Senatorial Districts. The governor comes from the Southern zone.
As noted by political observers, since Lalong and Dalung are from the Southern part of the state, it seemed unfair to have the Governor and minister from the same zone and same local government of Shendam. What gave Lalong the political edge in 2015 was the anti-Berom agenda, which he himself championed, together with other social critics of former Governor Jonah Jang.
When Jang was in office, he forwarded the name of Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe as his ministerial nominee, which President Goodluck Jonathan endorsed. She is from Barkin Ladi. Jang and Ochekpe are from Plateau North Senatorial district and of Berom tribe. Tallen and Lalong are of Goemai tribe, and also from the same local government.
So, analysts are of the view that this seeming lopsidedness will alter Lalong’s political calculation if he has any come 2023. The people had expected Lalong to nominate Architect Pam Dung Gyang, the Director-General of his Campaign Organisation in the 2019 election for ministerial appointment.
Observers feel Lalong did not utilise his enormous position as Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum to influence nominations from Plateau, even though he would not have nominated Dalung for a second tenure.A social commentator, who pleaded anonymity, said Lalong was shortchanged in 2015, when his preferred ministerial candidate was jettisoned for Dalung, with whom he was not so comfortable.
He said: “It could be said that Lalong did not support Dalung’s appointment. And knowing this, throughout his four-year tenure, Dalung did not hide his feeling and reservation for Lalong. People say Lalong would not have appointed Tallen, knowing that they are from the same local government.”
So, this time, it was alleged that Lalong forwarded the name of the state APC Chairman, Latep Dabang.But before now, Dalung had avoided state functions of the party, especially when Lalong was in attendance. His attitude and actions showed that he was anti-Lalong. At other occasions, not attended by Lalong, Dalung was usually prominent and outspoken.
Another factor that militated against Lalong’s ministerial nominees as it appeared was the clash with the First Lady’s interest in Tallen. The latter has represented the First Lady on several occasions, making her the preferred choice in the state.
So, even in his second term, Lalong has not enjoyed the privilege of successfully nominating a minister.During the Nzem Berom Festival early this year, Dalung featured prominently to the admiration of all Berom sons and daughters, who honoured him for it. But this did not go down well with the Governor’s loyalists.
Indeed, some watchers believe it was an open confrontation and affront to Lalong and the APC government. He was still banking on the goodwill he enjoyed at the Federal level and thought he would be nominated again and sail through, but unfortunately, he too miscalculated.
So, in the political permutation playing out in the state, Lalong and his rival, Dalung, lost out.Recently, an online social medium reported that Dabang’s supporters were planning to stage a protest because he was not nominated.But Dabang had refuted it, saying he was not lobbying for anything, as he was very comfortable with the APC as a family. He said the online report was a calculated attempt to smear his hard-earned reputation.
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