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Knocks for Governor Lalong over his commissioners




JUST like President Muhammadu Buhari who constituted his federal executive cabinet of ministers after about seven months of being sworn as President, Plateau State Governor, Simon Bako Lalong, last week constituted his cabinet of commissioners after their speedy confirmation by the State House of Assembly.

Lalong’s list of 17 commissioners came out with a big surprise, according to a cross section of Plateau people. From the seven months long-awaited list of commissioners, some of those who eventually emerged were neither democrats (politicians) nor technocrats (career civil servants).

For observers who took a close look at the list about 80 per cent of the commissioners were believed to have been appointed by the governor as compensation for supporting him during the campaign for the governorship. Some of them were said to be his political associates when he was speaker of the House of Assembly while some were those who supported him in his campaigns and eventual emergence as the All Progressives Congress (APC) governor.

The Governor, while addressing his supporters after assuming office said that the change mantra would inform the choice of his cabinet that would be grassroots based hinting then that whoever would emerged as commissioner would be a grassroots based politician. In keeping to that philosophy, five names each were nominated from the 17 local governments of the state by the APC and forwarded to the governor to pick one he deemed suitable.

But the pronouncement or criterion by the governor was more or less jettisoned. It turned out that the list of commissioners contained only those who were his political associates or those who contributed to the governor’s political struggle. Majority of the stakeholders who were said to have battled the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for change were eventually disappointed with the approved list that was made public.

For instance, the commissioner from Quaan Pan was alleged to have been a compensation for an APC strongman from the area. In Shendam, the commissioner is said to be a compensation for a former PDP leader who allegedly worked against his party in favour of the APC because he was said to have been nominated during the last council election by PDP to contest chairmanship, but PDP rejected his slot that brought about a crack in the party.

Sir Fidelis Tapgun, a former governor, Architect John Alkali and other heavy weights in PDP nominated Mr. Festus Fuanter in February 2014 during the administration of Dr. David Jonah Jang but the party (PDP) at the state level rejected his nomination. The stalwart then decamped to APC with other stakeholders who supported their move and voted en masse for Lalong as against PDP in the governorship election. Lalong won, hence the need to compensate them.

When Jang became governor in 2007, part of what brought about a crack in the PDP and stakeholders in Shendam was Fuanter’s rejection.

In Langtang South, the commissioner that eventually emerged was also compensation by the governor for his political associate in the past that worked with him during the administration of Senator Joshua Dariye as the State governor.

Similarly, in Kanam, the commissioner was one time member of the House of Assembly when Lalong was a speaker. They did not support the illegal impeachment of Dariye at that time. But in Kanke, the commissioner is a wife to a former commissioner in Rivers State during Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s administration. Lalong and Amaechi said to be good allies.

Also in Pankshin, it was alleged that the commissioner who contested House of Assembly election but lost during the 2015 election was compensated with the appointment, considering the fact that he is coming from the same ward as the Governor’s father–in–law.

In Mangu, it was claimed that one of the strong financial supporters of APC during the governorship election, was also rewarded. But it was alleged that the person who was to be given the commissionership slot rejected the offer personally and instead nominated a woman to replace him even though the woman has never been in active politics in any dispensation. It was gathered that the APC grassroots supports in Mangu are not too comfortable with the appointment.

In Bokkos, the commissioner was a schoolmate of the governor at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria. He was appointed as the legal adviser to the defunct Plateau Fertilizer Blending Company in Bokkos during the Dariye administration but when Jang came on board, he scrapped the company because of its unviability. The new commissioner then went back to his legal private practice till the emergence of Lalong where he worked as a member of the legal team in the campaign organization as well as a member of the legal team at the tribunal during Lalong’s case. It is believed that he has never been a politician.

In Jos North, the commissioner was picked by the governor as compensation for his contribution in supporting Lalong when he was the Speaker during the Dariye’s impeachment saga. His nomination as commissioner sparked off heated disagreement from supporters of Lalong particularly from Berom, Afizere, Anaguta communities, who alleged that the commissioner was not from Jos North but rather a member of Jasawa (Hausa community in Jos North). They also alleged that the governor’s action was not fair to other natives, citing the Management Committee Secretary of the Council and the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Governor’s office who were all from the Hausa community. They added that the commissioner should have come from other natives in the interest of fair representation.

According to Mr. Jatau Moses, who spoke for the people of Afizere in Jos North, it is most heartbreaking for the Governor to impose Nazif Ahmed on them as the Commissioner for Information.
“We are not happy with the Governor over this unjustified appointment. If the Hausa had helped to bring him to office; it does not mean they should be given all the juicy appointments. The Governor is setting an unprecedented precedent. In fact, he has shown that his administration in the state is skewed in favour of a particular ethnic group in the state,”

Moses added.In his remark, Mr. John Pam, a Berom resident in Jos North, said that the previous administration did not make such political miscalculation. He said to give such sensitive position to the Hausa is very unbecoming.

The commissioner from Riyom local government who hailed from Ganawuri was said not to reflect the popular support given to the governor in the local government, and that they had expected that one Senior Special Assistant on Media who stood firmly against PDP and his kinsmen to ensure victory for APC, would have made a better choice.

An aggrieved stakeholder told The Guardian that, “With this lopsided arrangement, it is clear that the majority of the people who fought for the emergence of APC are not comfortable or happy with the turn of events.”

To them, the appointments were not grassroots–based because they did not enjoy the popular support of those who worked for APC. “If not properly handled, it will bring a crack in the APC camp in the state because the key positions have already been announced. Advisers, board appointments and so on, are not as key as the other ones (commissioners),” an analyst said.

In 2007, when Jang came on board with a landslide victory across the state, what started the crack in the PDP was issues of appointments of commissioners and ministerial appointments which were allegedly personally carried out by the governor without any input from the party and the grassroots as he believed that he knew what was good for the state.

Local governments, like Bassa, Barkin Ladi, Jos South, Mikang, Langtang North, and Wase have no problem in the selection of their commissioners. However, out of these, Jos East’s commissioner is the only man that was said to be widely supported by the people because he was the Director–General of Deputy Governor, Prof. Sonni Gwanle Tyoden, when he was contesting the governorship under the PDP lost. He collapsed his structures and decamped to APC and eventually became the Deputy Governor. So, the commissioner, who was constant as the Northern Star, still remained the D-G of Tyoden when APC finally won. The commissioner played a key role towards the emergence of APC in Jos East, which the people acknowledged.

Apart from Wase, other five councils named above are strongholds of PDP. Whoever Lalong picked in the councils, as commissioners were not questionable.
Critics of Lalong claimed that he singlehandedly picked the commissioners because he did not have any stake. But they cautioned that there was need to be sensitive to the people’s feelings as well as the need for balancing to ensure peace and unity in APC and the state in general.

Efforts made to get the reaction of the Director of Press to the Governor, Mr. Emmanuel Samuel proved abortive, as he could not be reached. But an official in the Governor’s office who claimed that he was not authorized to speak simply said: “The appointments were well considered and well conceived. They are in order.

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