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Why Lalong, Assembly’s crisis festered during Jos crisis

Some weeks back, the people of Plateau were thrown into a state of confusion and uncertainty following the news that the state House of Assembly…

Some weeks back, the people of Plateau were thrown into a state of confusion and uncertainty following the news that the state House of Assembly was plotting to sack Governor Simon Bako Lalong over the recent crisis that led to the killing of many people and destruction of property.

Before the recent upheavals, the relationship between the executive and the legislative arms seemed to have been very cordial looking at the atmosphere of politics in the state. But digging underneath, the governor’s interplay with the state lawmakers is sour.

Though many have not foreseen the grudge between the two arms, political pundits say there were clear indications that the governor was not in good rapport with the majority of the 24 members of the State Assembly since the beginning of his second tenure in 2019.

The wrangling which set tongues wagging between the governor and many of the legislators got tough after the recent attack in Yelwa Zangam, a community in Jos North LGA where 37 members of the Anaguta ethnic group were killed, and by the reactions from the legislators especially the speaker, Hon. Abok Ayuba Nuhu, and other influential figures in the House, observers say the lawmakers were just waiting for an opportunity to paint the governor in a bad light. They noted that they used the crisis to unleash their anger probably for his refusal to fulfil certain promises made to them.

A day after the attack, the Assembly during a press conference gave the governor two weeks’ ultimatum to act on their resolutions or face the next line of action.

Though the speaker was quoted as saying there was no plan to impeach the governor but unimpeachable sources within the House told Daily Trust that one of the actions planned against the governor was to impeach him if the majority of members of the House voted against him. He added that already, seven APC members in the House had concluded plans to dump the party for PDP. That would afford the opposition the majority of seats with 16 out of 24 lawmakers if eventually, the APC members agree to leave the party.

The source also said pressure was mounted on many of the members to act against Lalong; with irresistible promises made to them including assurance of automatic PDP tickets in the forthcoming 2023 general elections. There are speculations, however, that the suspended state APC chairman, Latep Dabang who is believed to be at loggerheads with the governor has been playing persuasive roles on most of the 15 APC members of the House to the governor’s disadvantage.

Dabang did not pick call from our correspondent and an SMS sent to him on his alleged role in the crisis between the two arms was not replied to.

The source further disclosed that the suspended party chairman is perfecting plans to defects to PDP just as he remained closely in touch with the lawmakers of the ruling party in the state since all the party structures were built when he was the chairman of the party for more than six years.

“The governor may not take it seriously but I tell you that Latep would go to any length to destroy APC because he felt that he was suspended illegally and would become irrelevant if he remained in the party. He does not want to lose his 2023 ambition. So, what remained for him is fuel the crisis between Lalong and the lawmakers,” the source said.

After the Assembly’s press briefing, security personnel was seen stationed by the House complex, a development that pundits said was part of the attempt to initiate the impeachment process. The claim was however refuted by the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr Dan Manjang.

Following the House’s press briefing, two groups – pro and against the impeachment of the governor – stormed the House chanting songs; one group was calling for the governor’s impeachment, while the other one was saying Lalong must continue in office.

The anti-Lalong group was suspected to have been sponsored by some members of the House including the PDP while the pro-governor group was believed to have been sponsored by Hon. Ibrahim Baba Hassan, a member representing Jos North who was said to have sympathy for the governor.

However, efforts to reach out to Hon. Baba to respond to the allegations didn’t yield fruit as series of calls to his line were not successful and he did not reply to text messages sent to him by our correspondent.

Some observers say that priority was given to commissioners and other government appointees over members of the House of Assembly which was another issue that provoked the legislators against the governor in the wake of the Jos crisis.

A source close to a member of the House told our correspondent that “the governor’s recent directive to bar all members of the House from getting into the Government House without prior notice and must get approval to see him had undoubtedly contributed to the fight between the two arms.”

The directive, according to the source, was given following a claim by the member representing Rukuba/Irigwe constituency, in the House, Musa Agah Ivia (APC) on a radio programme that he went to the Government House to see the governor regarding the insecurity in his constituency but was told to go back because the governor was asleep.

An APC member told Daily Trust that to show their clear face-off with the governor and their party, APC, the House members refused to honour the first meeting organised by Lalong, adding that “when APC as a party called another stakeholders meeting, the members also refused to attend to show that they were not happy with some of his approach towards them.

“Apart from that, whenever APC wants to have any meeting, the governor does not allow the meeting to be held at the party office. The governor often directs the meeting be held at the Atukum House, which serves as the SSG’s guest house located at the Government House and many APC members, including members of the House are not happy with that arrangement.”

Lalong and APC, however, accused PDP of all the crises in some parts of the state and fracas between the executive and legislature. In the wake of the killings, the governor was quoted as alleging that some individuals “are planning to see the state in perpetual crisis using religion and ethnicity to incite people against one another,” but PDP has refuted the allegations.

Observers say the latest developments within the party showed that the majority of the members in the House may not be loyal totally to the governor. But events at the last APC stakeholders meeting at the government house showed how some of the members, including the chairman, House Committee on Information, Philip Dasun, who earlier read the House press statement on the security situation in the state, as an attempt at fence-mending. He had moved the motion to pass a vote of confidence on Lalong.

This according to them was an attempt to get back some of the party members to the governor’s camp.

The many feuds between Lalong and the speaker

Hon Abok, who hails from Jos East LGA of the state, is a first timer in the state House and became the speaker without a day of legislative experience. Pundits say his success of becoming speaker was entirely the handiwork of Governor Lalong who stood firmly to see him at the helm of affairs of the House.

A reliable source close to the speaker said the governor’s feud with Hon Abok started during the election of Plateau Youth Council where the candidate of the speaker was thrown out by the governor who supported another candidate said to be selected by the state commissioner of Women Affairs, Hon. Rebecca Adar Sambo and the Vice-Chancellor of the Plateau State University, Prof Yohana Daniel Izam.

This, according to sources, irked Hon Abok and caused him to go after the governor during the last crisis.

The source said during the recent primaries for the upcoming LG election, the governor supported all the candidates vying for councillorship and chairmanship positions loyal to the Secretary to Government of the State, Prof. Danladi Abok Atu, who also hails from Jos East LGA as the speaker. The source added that even in the last APC congresses, none of the speaker’s political associates scaled through, an indication that the speaker has lost his grip of the party in his constituency.

He said: “As a politician, if you don’t have loyalists in the party structure of your constituency, you have already lost out and you are no longer significant in the party because nobody will listen to you. So, what happened to the speaker is completely not fair because a politician wants to remain relevant in his party and constituency.”

Now that the situation in the state is relatively calm, and in politics, they say, there is no permanent friend or enemy, the question is will the governor and speaker now embrace each other or will Lalong, who supported Abok to become the speaker, trust him again?

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