by JAMES ABRAHAM
Ahead of the May 29 handover date in Plateau State, the governor-elect, Barrister Simon Lalong, is already looking forward to his inauguration as the third democratically elected governor of the state since the return of the nation’s democracy in 1999. He follows after Joshua Dariye and Jonah Jang respectively
Checks by Sunday Mirror reveal that although none of the two committees set up by both the incoming All Progressives Congress, APC, and outgoing Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, administration for the purpose of handover has been officially inaugurated, it was however learnt that members of the Transition and Inauguration committees drawn from both parties have, nevertheless, been working to ensure a smooth transition amidst bickering.
Director of Media and Publicity Committee of the Lalong Campaign Organisation, Mr. Festus Fuante, who confirmed the development to our correspondent in Jos said:
“Honestly, both committees are just working because we are tired of complaints here and there. I can tell you that as a member of the committee, we are not receiving enough cooperation from the outgoing administration as if they are not willing to go. But one thing is certain, I can assure you that Plateau is going to have a new governor come May 29th”.
However, a source close to the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Shedrack Best, who is the head of the Transition Committee dismissed the notion that government was not keen on handing over to the incoming administration, insisting that everything had been put in place to ensure a smooth take-off of the incoming administration
Interestingly, as both parties continue to clash over the transition and more than one month after Lalong’s electoral success on April 11,the euphoria thrown up by his victory has not waned in the state as various stakeholders have continued to troop to his residence to congratulate him.
Sunday Mirror further learnt that as the traffic of people increased, surpassing the capacity of his modest private residence located at the Low Cost axis of Jos, he recently relocated to Green House, one of government’s property located in Millionaires’ quarters within the capital, which now serves as a temporary office/residence where he has since continued to receive the people preparatory to taking over the reins of governance in the state.
But one major concern which has preoccupied the mind of the governor-elect is the numerous misconceptions which the people have about the APC, most of who were handed down during the electioneering, a development said to be worrisome to the party.
For instance, to many people in Plateau State, the incoming APC is not only peopled by those seeking to loot the state treasury rather than serve the people, it is also viewed as a party surrounded by enemy supporters on a vengeance mission.
The mission, according to information which has gained ground in the state, ıs that the governor-elect, after his inauguration would waste no time to wipe away every known legacy of the outgoing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led administration under Jang, who has been on the saddle for the past eight years. It is also being speculated that Jang’s associates and loyalists have been marked out for persecution by the APC administration
This impression was further reinforced by the vociferous manner which the victorious APC conducted its affairs as a party during the recent governorship poll with Jang singled out for attacks at every gathering by the APC and their supporters.
At a point, some critics had condemned the alleged approach to gain access to power, saying that such was unbecoming of a party desirous of genuine change in democratic governance and development alternative to the people who are yearning for more dividends of democracy.
Conscious of the way the party is perceived by some people, Lalong seems determined to change the negative image as he has been using every opportunity to clarify certain issues that tend to portray the party in bad light and instilling confidence in the minds of the people that the incoming APC administration under his leadership meant well for the state.
The need to address some of such misconceptions and put them in proper perspective presented itself recently when the 17 council chairmen in the state under the auspices of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) paid him a solidarity visit in Jos.
Lalong assured the council bosses who had come to congratulate him on his victory that he was not going to dissolve them when he finally assumes office contrary to widespread speculations that the council chairmen and known PDP chieftains who only assumed office last year would not be allowed to serve out their three-year tenure once the APC administration comes on board.
Urging the chairmen not to entertain any fears, the governor-elect said:,”I tried to meet with you before the elections, but it was not possible; freedom of choice is the business in Nigeria, you have the right before the election but that is gone now,whether you choose Mr. A or B after that you are bound to serve the people of Plateau State.
“One thing they said is that I would dissolve the local government councils in Plateau State after our inauguration, but am not dissolving the local government councils in the state,” maintaining that his administration would be anchored on the rule of law.
Not only that, the governor-elect had earlier allayed the fears of not a few stakeholders in the state during his acceptance speech when he told the people that his administration was determined to establish a state of Plateau where everyone can have equal opportunity and fair treatment.
His words: “The declaration of the 11 April, 2015 gubernatorial election results by INEC in Plateau State marks a significant milestone in our political and democratic journey as a people. The choice you made clearly captures the desire for change which to my mind will ever remain sacrosanct and sacred.
“Responding to the clarion call to serve our people makes me feel humbled and indeed honoured to accept this mandate. I believe that God who started this journey on the Plateau will surely lead us to the full realisation of our vision and mission as a people.
“We must derive strength in our diversity even as we build the Plateau of our dream. Peace building and even development will be one of our core values. This is a prerequisite to maximise the dividends and fruits of our democratic labour. You laboured hard to elect me and my deputy to lead you. We are indeed highly indebted to you for this honour. Your unquantifiable sacrifices and support will never be taken for granted.
“To INEC, as well as other important stakeholders, including the press, security agencies, Civil Society Organisations and organised labour, we salute your courage and dexterity in upholding the tenets of your profession which have contributed significantly to the success and peaceful conduct of this election. I urge my fellow citizens to regard this victory at the polls as our victory.
“As we celebrate, you must do it with decorum, moderation and love both in words and deeds to usher in the dawn of a new era while showing ourselves as people of positive change. This victory is for the whole of Plateau State as there is no victor, no vanquished.
“We cannot afford to lose you in the name of post-election celebrations, bearing in mind that there should be no harassment, intimidation and provocative statements against any person or groups in the course of our celebrations.
“To my fellow contestants who stepped down along the way and to Senator Gyang Pwajok who contested with me, I wish to congratulate you on your mature conduct during and after our campaigns. I extend my warm hands of friendship in building a virile Plateau with the view to bequeath a positive legacy for the younger generations. I accept this responsibility with all humility and equally solicit your cooperation and partnership even as we execute this mandate.”
However, pundits are of the opinion that for the governor-elect and hıs party to achieve their objectives, they must be frank and open about the present situation of things in the state
“I think the governor-elect has started well by allaying the fears of stakeholders but he has to do more to change the negative perception Plateau has about the party. I think they can only succeed to the extent in which the key power brokers in the party like the chieftains, commissioners, special advisers and members of the state assembly agree to change. If the governor-elect is talking about rule of law, equity and farness and those powerful groups remain adamant and insist on doing things the old way, I doubt if any success would be recorded,” Mr. Theophılus Danjuma,a Jos-based public commentator said.
He added that the governor-elect and his party need to set the ball rolling immediately by tackling the numerous challenges that are already threatening to shut down the state.
“Even before his swearing-in, the governor-elect appears to have his cup already full judging from the myriad challenges begging for attention in the state.
“The workers in the state are currently on strike over non-payment of salaries. Pensioners are groaning over unpaid entitlements. There are also challenges of abandoned projects in the state, especially the uncompleted road project that litter the state capital that impede smooth movement and causing untold hardship to the people, among other pressing challenges
“The primary objective of a good government is to impact positively on its citizenry through polices and programmes that would have direct bearing on their day-to-day living,” Danjuma insists.
As the clock ticks towards Lalong’s inauguration, these are certainly some of the pressing issues that would form the basis upon which Plateau people would weigh the capacity of the incoming APC administration.
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