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Why Lalong’s senatorial ambition failed

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The fact that Plateau State governor, Simon BakoLalong, who is the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum and recently the Director-General of the All Progressive Congress Presidential Campaign Council, lost the bid to represent Plateau South in the Senate is no longer news, but many have been wondering how Lalong, with his pedigree and as a sitting governor, lost the election in such an astonishing manner.

Since the beginning of this democratic dispensation, it has become a tradition for serving governors to retire at the red chamber after their two terms of eight years in Plateau State. Former Governor Joshua Dariye and his predecessor, Senator Jonah Jang, were accorded the privilege of going to the Senate to represent Plateau Central and Plateau North, respectively.

The general expectation was that Plateau South, where Governor Lalong comes from, would accord him such privilege. The governor’s Senatorial Director of Campaign attested to this before the election when he stated that the senatorial district would follow the pattern and, just like his predecessors, Lalong would win the seat without much ado.

But like thunder out of the blue, the outcome of the senatorial election was a rude shock to quite a lot of people. The governor lost the senatorial seat to a retired military officer, AVM Napoleon Bali of the Peoples Democratic Party. However, quite a lot of people have been asking why the government lost the election, especially in a district perceived as the stronghold of the APC in Plateau State.

It is like a double tragedy for the APC in the state because, apart from the senatorial election, the governor, as director general of the APC presidential campaign council, could not also deliver the state for his party.

The factors surrounding this are numerous, but the most pungent of all was the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket adopted by the APC. Also, his acceptance to serve as the director general of the campaign did not go down well with the people of the senatorial district and the majority of people in the state.

Before the election, there was pressure on him to jettison the appointment. Some people argued that if the party did not deem him fit for the vice presidential candidate, why choose him as DG to drive the campaign? There were pressures on him on all fronts, but the governor was unperturbed. Different Christian groups both within and outside the state called on him to reject the offer to serve as director general of the campaign group.

Apart from the call by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), a group under the aegis of Concerned Christians on the Plateau then described the appointment as a suspicious assignment, saying that it was ridiculous that the APC, which did not deem him fit to be a running mate based on religious fact, could turn around and appoint him as the director general of the campaign council.

Despite the heat on him and the condemnations that trailed the appointment, Governor Lalong said there was no basis for him to reject the appointment as the APC presidential campaign director. The development elicited criticisms from various stakeholders, particularly the Christian Association of Nigeria.

The defence of the governor then, for which he later apologised, was that, as a Catholic, the Pope had not informed him that it was improper for him to serve as the director general of the APC presidential campaign team. This statement further infuriated the Christians, especially the Catholics, who chastised him for bringing the Pope into the murky world of politics. The Plateau governor was, however, criticized for accepting the role and supporting the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket.

Though he declared then that his appointments as the Director-General were not about religion or an attempt to ridicule Christians and the North Central, the entreaties and explanations put forward by his political associates in the state in this regard could not assuage the anger of many on the Plateau.

The campaign against the ticket was so huge, and the pressure on Lalong to back out was enormous. Most of the Christians in the state were livid that one of them was driving the process. A close associate of the governor, who craved anonymity, stated that the presidential and the National Assembly elections were like a contest between Lalong and the church on the Plateau.

According to him, more so because the Plateau South Senatorial District, where the governor comes from, is a predominantly Christian zone, he added that there was also a common resolution to reject anything APC on the ballot to punish the party for flying Muslim-Muslim tickets and that it would be difficult to expect APC to win under the circumstances.

The State Chairman of All Progressive Congress, Honourable Rufus Bature, responding to the defeat of the governor, attributed it to ganging up against APC or the church fighting APC, while the message was that don’t vote APC, adding that as the DG, the governor triumphed at the national level.

The Sunday Tribune findings further revealed that the situation was further compounded by those whom the governor saddled with the responsibility of galvanising support for his senatorial bid, while he was away on assignment as the Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council. From all indications, they acted like rookies; it was like they lacked the capacity or seriousness to handle such responsibility.

It was learned that the governor was deeply shocked during his senatorial campaign rally in Shendam Local Government Area that his coordinators in each of the six council areas that make up the zone, especially political appointees, could not mobilise enough party supporters for the rally. It was reported that many of them did not even show up for the rally. The Shendam rally was the poorest of the rallies organised by the APC in the state.

A source close to the party revealed that before the governor could realise the lethargic posture of his campaign coordinators, it was too late to salvage the situation. Last-minute efforts to turn the tide could not yield positive results.

It was gathered that some of his political appointees in the zone were overwhelmed by the prevailing circumstances at the time and chose not to champion the senatorial bid of their principal to avoid being tagged as enemies of the church.

Also, it is obvious that there are personality clashes among the major political actors in the zone; personalities like the Minister for Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, and Honourable Alphonso Kompsol, who is a member of the House of Representatives, are not on the same page with the governor and his supporters. The party in the zone is divided and could not put its acts together for a common course.

All these scenarios and political shenanigans were observed as an impetus for the acceptability of the Labour Party, which becomes a torn in the flesh of APC and PDP in the state.

The bottom line of the defeat was that the people of Plateau, especially Plateau South district, were resolute and determined to reject APC for flying Muslim-Muslim tickets, not minding that their son is the driver of the campaign and at the same time contesting for the senate.





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