Plateau guber: When Useni could not count on fellow Generals
When reference is made to Langtang Generals, those that readily come to mind include General Domkat Bali, who is now the Ponzhi Tarok; the former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt-General Joshua Dogonyaro; the former Commander, 31 Airborne and Paratroopers Brigade, Makurdi, General Yakubu Rimdan, who also served in the Guards Brigade, Dodan Barracks, Ikoyi Lagos during General Yakubu Gowon’s regime, as well as General Jonathan Temlong (rtd) a military strategist who served in many foreign peacekeeping missions.
When the group is being mentioned, reference is also made to late General Joe Garba, a former Director-General of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, near Jos, and the late General John Shagaya, former Minister of Internal Affairs under General Ibrahim Babangida among others.
Of the surviving retired generals, Bali, the Ponzhi Tarok is not expected to be partisan because he is father of all, while Dogonyaro and Rimdan, who are not known to be card-carrying members of political parties could have had their political interests, which they articulated discreetly.
So, when Useni, who is currently senator representing Plateau South on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), indicated interest to govern the state and went on to defeat about 15 other aspirants during the party’s primary, there was no Langtang general of note that stood out boldly to support his ambition.
While General Dogonyaro is more involved in the Christian ministry, other living generals from that flank are not active in politics except Useni and Temlong.
Consequently, Useni had to pitch tent with Senator Jonah Jang, who was able to deliver to him Jos South, Barkin Ladi and Riyom local councils from where Useni had the highest number of votes, and not the Langtang axis where he hails from.
The mythical Langtang Mafia of old has over the years gradually fizzled out, even though it was not a political association, but a group that appeared “relevant” during the military era, especially during the regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
Plateau as a state did not also benefit much from the mafia because it never contributed so much to its infrastructural development as all the roads from the state capital to Langtang, home of the mafia, were, and are still in bad shape, one of which caused Shagaya death on his way home.
In fact, the mafia is said to have only succeeded in building an airstrip in Langtang so that when the generals are coming home, they would have where to land and takeoff conveniently.
The Langtang Mafia, however, ensured that youths of Tarok ethnic group were massively recruited into the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA).
One of the ways that Useni was allegedly betrayed was when General Temlong joined the gubernatorial race in the dying minutes on the platform of to Action Democratic Party (ADP).
Since both Useni and Temlong are from Langtang North and Useni is Temlong’s in-law, many concluded that Temlong’s joining the race was an act of betrayal.
The matrimonial relationship between Useni and Temlong notwithstanding, it was alleged that Governor Simon Lalong of the All Progressives Congress (APC) played the spoiler by sponsoring Temlong in order to break Useni’s votes, even though Temlong has since denied that.
According to him: “As you are all aware, Plateau State is crying seriously for good governance and development. The complicated security situation in the state has robbed it of socio-economic and political development. It is pretty clear that the current government in the state lacks the capacity to articulate effective response to the worsening security situation. Plateau people are helplessly at risk of deadly attacks by armed bandits, particularly marginal communities.”
Temlong added: “My motivation to contest for the governorship of the state is to ensure inclusive government and equitable development in all constituent parts of the state. My vision is to build a Plateau State that is peaceful and secure, socially inclusive and cohesive, politically stable and progressive, and economically vibrant, resilient and equitable.
“This is not a decision that I made lightly. More so, as a General who has led men in battle, alongside my accumulated post-military experiences, the Plateau situation has been worrisome to me. I was inundated with visits and calls by respectable men and women of goodwill from all over Plateau expressing concerns about the grave security situation on the Plateau, which has led to incessant killings and displacement of communities from their ancestral lands, underdevelopment, unemployment, etc.”
He also said that he consulted God before taking the decision. “I prayed over the situation. I did a lot of thinking and carried out many consultations and I came to the conclusion that indeed, my security credentials make me the best-qualified person at this point in the political history of Plateau State to step up and offer my experiences as a military strategist, an astute administrator and a security consultant with over 40 years of experience at the local, national and international levels.”
But the people of Plateau State see the issue of Useni’s alleged betrayal by Langtang generals differently. In fact, they blame Useni’s poor outing on the state PDP chairman and former Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Damishi Sango.
According to a former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, who was also a guber aspirant, George Daika, the state PDP chairman had sold out the party even before the election, right from the primary as the exercise turned out to be “cash and carry.”
Daika, who questioned Sango’s credibility alleged that such concerns forced former President Olusegun Obasanjo to drop him from his cabinet.
Daika, who also was a member representing Shendam, Qua’an Pan and Mikang Federal constituency in the National Assembly, contended that Sango orchestrated the defeat of all PDP governorship aspirants from the start, by imposing Useni as the main governorship candidate in the farcical primary.
“The leadership of the party is solely responsible for this catastrophe and nobody should mince words about it. With the declaration of the APC as the winner of the contest, it is time for the PDP to lick its wounds; we have to lick our wounds as PDP, the party of Plateau State, founded on the Plateau, costumed with Plateau’s sweetness and given to Nigeria.
“Today, and the days ahead are days of mourning and lamentations for the PDP on the Plateau. It is time to blame. It is time also for people who caused this to take responsibility because we had no business losing the governorship seat here. But we did,” Daika stressed.
Reacting to the allegations by Daika, Sango, said that Daika and his protesting colleagues were bad losers at the primaries, adding that there has never been a transparent primary election than the one he supervised in the history of PDP in Plateau.
He insisted that he had no regrets whatsoever in the conduct and outcome of the guber primary, stressing that, “this time, the party will deal with them. They are not going with it. They did that during the late Senator GNS Pwajok’s time when he emerged the gubernatorial flag bearer of the party. But they did not succeed and this time also they will not succeed.”
On the allegation of financial inducement, Sango wondered whether elections could hold in the country without money, as delegates and other people would have to be paid.
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