A chicken can never turn itself into a duck, no matter how much it tries. Unfortunately, this has been the hallmark of Governor Simon Bako Lalong’s political career since 2015 when he assumed the leadership of Plateau State – once the illustrious hub of the Middle Belt.
The governor erroneously presumes that assuming the identity of another people would automatically transform him into one of them and, therefore, smoothen his political path. He is one of those Nigerians who believe that such people control the levers of political power in Jos North Local Government Area, just as they do in the larger Nigerian polity.
To demonstrate his allegiance to his latter-day identity, he announced, soon after assuming office, that it was the Hausa and Fulani Muslims of Jos North LGA that ensured his victory in the governorship vote. Later, he stated that he had brought lasting peace to the state by his singular, deft, move of appointing a Fulani man from Jos North LGA as commissioner. The reality on the ground, then and thereafter, however pointed to the contrary.
Still on that obsequious attempt to show that he perfectly fitted into his identity as core northerner, the governor went on national television to gleefully condemn the heroic Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State for daring to defend his people by boldly standing up to the same Fulani terrorism and expansionism that were likewise decimating indigenous communities in Mr. Lalong’s own state.
It is such denials of verifiable, objective, truths that have continued to fan the embers of jihadi and all manner of terrorism that have now become the bugbear of an entire country.
Then on January 4, 2019, in a moment of public self-acclamation, he vowed to make the supreme sacrifice for a President Buhari whose leadership had, even at that time, already kicked the country down the miry lurch.
SAHARA REPORTERS quoted Governor Lalong as proudly saying: “People asked why I was dying for Buhari and I told them that I will die for Buhari because he is my helper. He has helped in addressing insecurity in Plateau and gave us bail-out to clear workers’ salaries, there is nothing more than that….”
Today, most Nigerians, even rabid supporters of this discredited president, would concede that those words were the feeble attempts of one man to ingratiate himself into the hearts of his new masters to shore up his personal worth. According to a recent survey conducted by Africa Polling Institute (API), as at January 2022, only one in ten Nigerians (8%) are happy with the state of the nation under Governor Lalong’s ‘helper’.
PREMIUM TIMES explained that, according to the survey, 78 % of Nigerians said they were either ‘sad’ or ‘extremely sad’ about Buhari’s Nigeria.
In a predominantly Christian LGA such as Jos North, the governor has over the years allotted the Fulani and Muslim settler communities undue political patronage to the detriment of the major indigenous tribes (Afizere, Anaguta and Berom) and the other main settler communities – the Igbo, Yoruba and the South-South peoples.
He calls this ‘political inclusiveness’ which, he purports, has ensured the peace and progress of the state.
However, the APC by-election into the Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency of the House of Representatives held on February 1 and 2, in Jos, has soured the relationship between Mr. Lalong and his long term allies. Finally, their respective, selfish, interests have clashed.
While the governor was said to have supported an aspirant from Bassa LGA, the majority of Jos North LGA Hausa and Fulani Muslims and their sympathizers from Bassa LGA rooted for a different aspirant from Jos North.
Sources claimed that the governor had some weeks earlier appealed to party faithful to concede the vacant position to Bassa LGA because the deceased hailed from that area. In fact, Governor Lalong was said to have pointedly indicated his preference for one of the aspirants from Bassa. But he has continued to deny this.
However, UNITY FM, Jos, reported on January 3 that representatives of the state government shared $100 to each of the close to 900 delegates to secure their votes for that particular aspirant while the contender from Jos North was said to have doled out N50,000.00 per head.
Apparently, Jos North had openly defied the governor. But that was just the beginning of the drama. When the ballots were finally tallied, after very much delay, it emerged that the two leading aspirants had tied. The Jos North aspirant cried foul.
In a press statement, he said, “I am confident that I won the election overwhelmingly with 349 votes against 344 votes announced by the Chairman of the electoral committee…. Despite the cancellation of my votes… I … still won the election with 345 votes against … Hon. Joseph Abby Aku who scored 344 votes.”
He nevertheless assured his supporters that he had petitioned the national secretarial of the APC and that his next line of action would be determined by its outcome and denied knowledge of the February 4 re-run of the primary as announced by the APC national secretariat. This time around, the venue was moved to Jebbu Bassa, in Bassa LGA.
The so-called government aspirant subsequently won with 809 votes while his challenger polled 74. Unconfirmed sources say that he is contemplating court action.
This state of affairs has, doubtless, infuriated the Jos North Hausa and Fulani members of the APC. Some of their leaders are alleged to have sworn to abandon the Party along with their supporters to protest what they perceive as the great injustice done them. In fact, one of such aggrieved members, said to be a key stakeholder, Hon. Gwani Adam Alkali, has already dumped the APC for the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP).
Many more are said to be either contemplating the same move or staying put and working from within the APC to deliberately sabotage its interests – which they see as an extension of Mr. Lalong’s selfish ambitions.
Ironically, this sense of indispensability among these ‘aggrieved’ members that once they leave the APC it will certainly collapse had over the years been engrained in them and repeatedly re-enforced by the actions of Governor Lalong himself.
Sure enough, the governor invented his own Frankenstein’s monster through his disingenuous attempts to change his identity to suit certain interests so as to push through his personal political ambition.
And in its own desperate efforts to consume him, this monster will surely exacerbate the ethnic, religious and political tensions created by the same Governor Lalong through his selective and exclusionist policies, particularly in Jos North.
Some of these tensions are partly driven by the feeling by the three indigenous tribes that the Hausa and Fulani Muslims’ agenda of domination, executed through subtle political manipulation, has been aided and abetted by the governor. Thus, they see him as a most willing accomplice in the age-long plan to rewrite the overall history of Jos North to fit the 1804 jihadist narrative.
The chief purpose is to foist on Jos North an alien emirate identity – precursor to making further inroads into the state’s hinterland.
The same people and elements whom the governor used to churn out and implement the myriads of repugnant and retrogressive policies which have given the Muslim Hausa and Fulani an upper hand in the political, economic and social spheres of Jos North are now crying foul because the same rod that was mercilessly applied on the wretched of Jos North is today being used to whip them. Now they can also feel the sting and taste the bitterness of injustice.
All these years when Governor Lalong submissively did their bidding, they praised him to the high heavens, proclaiming him to be the best thing to have happened to Plateau State. But now that their mutually self-aggrandizing interests have clashed, they are demonizing him, threatening to withdraw their ‘support’ from him.
But that is the price he has to pay for not using a long spoon while their dark feasting lasted.
Certainly, that controversial APC by-election and the subsequent re-run have thrown up a major challenge for the governor, his government and the APC in the state. And with the planned defection of their one-time state chairman, Chief Latep Dabang, and a host of key stakeholders along with their followers to another Party, coupled with the governor’s relatively lackluster performance in the almost seven years he has been in power, the APC may be heading for the doldrums.
Political commentators further say that, going by Governor Lalong’s disastrous gambling with the sensitive matter of identity in this staunchly Christian state (which has always viewed the core north with great suspicion), it will take a miracle for him to survive the onslaught from this Frankenstein’s monster he has spawned in Jos North.
They contend that he had abandoned the very masses of the state who would have weathered this storm along with him in his hour of need. His fair weather friends in Jos North may as well discard him now that they know that he will soon outlive his usefulness, come May 2023.
Analysts believe that Governor Lalong will soon realise that this ogre he has created will go to any length to protect and promote its own agenda. Also, this Frankenstein’s monster will unfailingly and jealously protect its own and all the values they stand for; just as it will always view the puerile attempts of any chicken spoiling to become a duck with a large dose of suspicion and derision.
This is because Governor Lalong’s erstwhile strange bed-fellows in Jos North do not delude themselves that a chicken can ever turn itself into a duck, no matter how much it tries.
(GYANG is the Chairman of the N.G.O, Journalists Coalition for Citizens’ Rights Initiative – JCCRI. Emails: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com)
Jos North: Gov Lalong’s Frankenstein’s Monster
By Chris Gyang