Seriki Adinoyi examines the power play currently trailing the recent death of the Senator representing Plateau South in the National Assembly
The recent death of an elder statesman in Plateau politics and Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, representing Plateau South senatorial district, Mr. Ignatius Longjan has not only thrown the entire Plateau into mourning but has set a new stage for political permutations that may have ripple effects into the 2023 elections, especially in the zone.
As condolences and tributes have continued to pour in politicians, on the other hand are not leaving anything to chances as they have begun to consult on the likely successor of the late Senator. It was gathered that serious political maneuvering has begun ahead of the by-election that may hold in less than 90 days.
The need for maneuvering is not far-fetched; the vacated seat is in the senatorial zone of the sitting Governor of the state, Mr. Simon Lalong, and it was gathered that the Governor, like many other second term Governors may be planning to go to the Senate after his tenure as Governor. Although Lalong has not made this public, many political observers have said that his body language constantly betrays such plans.
A similar scenario played out in the last administration of Jonah Jang when a serving Senator representing Plateau North, Gyang Dantong died. Jang smartly worked for his replacement with his then Chief of Staff, Gyang Pwajok. Pwajok simply gave way when Jang completed his tenure as Governor and wanted to proceed to the Senate.
Lalong would obviously want a similar arrangement too with someone that will not constitute a headache for him when the time comes for him to proceed to the Senate as has become the norm for past Governors.
It is, however, also believed in some quarters that Lalong is being penciled down for the position of Vice President 2023, but the Governor will definitely not trade with his senatorial seat over an unsure vice president position.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, who had contested for the senatorial seat in the 2019 elections but was ousted during the party’s primaries, is believed to still have an eye on the seat. She may want to take over the seat when her tenure as minister expires in 2023.
Tallen, it was learnt, lost to Longjan in the primary elections not because Longjan was a better or more famous politician, but because Lalong feared that if Tallen was allowed to take the seat, she may not be ready to relinquish it in 2023. So he preferred Longjan who was rather meek, loyal and not so ambitious, and would therefore have been an easy nut for Lalong to crack. But now that death has ultimately shattered the permutation, they both may have to go back to the drawing board.
Tallen’s ministerial appointment was largely attributed to Mrs. Aisha Buhari given that she was known to be embedded in the inner caucus of the First Lady. Her appointment definitely had no input from Lalong.
The duo have, however, been pretending not to be involved in the cold war. Lalong recently helped to bury insinuations of bad blood between him and Tallen when he made a bold appearance at her inauguration party in Abuja in August. Both the minister and the governor on the surface extended warm feelings for one another at the occasion.
The Governor had said at the occasion, “You should not listen to gossip from people who don’t mean well for Plateau. There are people who would sow seeds of discord between me and the minister for their selfish gains. Don’t listen to them.”
Tallen was also on ground to celebrate with Lalong on his Supreme Court victory.
However, the death of Senator Longjan has now thrown up fresh power play that may be unfolding in no distant time.
With their eyes on the senatorial seat, the Governor and the Minister are believed to be interested in having their candidates win the re-run; the candidates that will of course be loyal to them and will be willing to relinquish the seat to them when 2023 comes.
In doing their permutations, the two must put into consideration that they both come from the same Local Government Area of Shendam. They can therefore be described as kinsmen.
Having produced the Governor and the Minister, the Senator should go to other tribes in another Local Government Area (LGA) for fair share of power. One major tribe in the Senatorial zone that is large and occupying about three LGAs is the Tarok. They occupy Langtang North, Langtang South and half of Wase. Their population in the zone is a major deciding factor in the election.
“The reasons a Tarok candidate lost out in the senatorial election in 2019 was because they were vying for too many positions; they wanted to produce the Governor in the person of Jeremiah Useni, they fielded Mr. Kefas Lar for the Senatorial seat, and also wanted the House of Representative seat when they presented Beni Lar. So, the electorate felt they were asking for too much, and so they lost out in the Governorship and the Senatorial contest and were only able to get the House of Reps position,” a politician, Dr. Mark Dachom had observed.
Dachom, however, said that the game has now changed since they have lost out to Shendam in the Governorship contest and even the Ministerial slot has equally gone to the same Shendam. They will put their house in order this time, use the power of their number to ensure that they get the Senate seat this time.
With this reality, Lalong and Tallen may need to fraternize with the Tarok to make a choice of a candidate for the by-election. But the said candidate must be a loyal one that will be willing to hand over the seat in 2023. But the big question is who will this loyal Tarok man be, that will be ready to relinquish the seat in 2023? The Taroks are known to be strong-willed, and very independent in their thinking, and could pull a surprise at any time. So, in making their choice of a loyal Tarok man, they may need to be very careful.
Truth is that the crop of Tarok politicians that are currently parading the corridor of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state are very interesting chaps. One will need more than mere discerning power to read their mind and trust them to relinquish power in 2023. But it is a shot that the Governor and the Minister must take if they must have their candidates there going by the enormous voting power the Taroks wield in the Southern Senatorial zone.
In the event that both the Governor and the Minister settle on their choices of a Tarok, the Governor will be expected have an upper hand over the Minister in the by-election. Tallen is believed to play more of Abuja politics as against Lalong who is believed to be more on ground in playing state politics. Lalong’s Commissioners and local government Chairmen in the zone will be an added advantage for the Governor to prosecute his ambition.
A political observer had once said that Tallen has never won any elective position in Plateau. He added that she only rode on the goodwill of Jang to become the Deputy Governor in 2007, adding that the people actually voted for Jang and not her. She is, therefore, not seen as one that will be able to square it up against Lalong. But she can also not be underrated as she could pull a surprise.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will also be aiming high for the position, and could play the role of a spoiler in the game. Incidentally, neither Lalong nor Tallen will be willing to align with the PDP going by antecedents.
It is not sure if Kefas Lar will want to give it a shot on the platform of the PDP again. If he is willing to do so, he may garner more votes this time, especially if the Minister and the Governor decide to look elsewhere outside Tarok for their candidates.
Who knows, Lalong may want to try the current member of the House of Representatives representing Mikang/Qua’anpan/Shendam Federal Constituency, Mr. Alphonsus Komsol.
The death of Longjan, no doubt has upset the political dynamics of Plateau South and only time will tell how players in the zone will dribble their way through.
With their eyes on the senatorial seat, the Governor and the Minister are believed to be interested in having their candidates win the re-run; the candidates that will of course be loyal to them and will be willing to relinquish the seat to them when 2023 comes. In doing their permutations, the two must put into consideration that they both come from the same Local Government Area of Shendam. They can therefore be described as kinsmen. Having produced the Governor and the Minister, the Senator should go to other tribes in another Local Government Area (LGA) for fair share of power. One major tribe in the Senatorial zone that is large and occupying about three LGAs is the Tarok