Whoever is going to challenge the Plateau State incumbent governor, Simon Bako Lalong in the 2019 general election must be a powerful political personality.
No doubt, the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) governorship candidate in the state, Senator Jeremiah Useni is equal to the task.
But the PDP has a major challenge. The choice of Useni’s running mate does not enjoy the blessing and popularity of major stakeholders, especially the local government that has the responsibility to produce the deputy governor.
It all started, when Senator David Jang disagreed with Useni over the issue of Northern Consultative Forum (NCF) and Middle Belt Forum (MBF).
Jang believed that if Useni must contest on PDP platform in the state as governor, he must be ready to pursue Middle Belt agenda, which speaks for the minority in the north.
However, it seems Useni might have disagreed, preferring to go with NCF, which has a structure over which he once presided as chairman.
During the party’s governorship primaries, Jang allegedly threw his weight behind another governorship contender, Hon. George Daika at the last minute, which divided Jang loyalists, as some voted for Useni, while some went for Daika.
The PDP members in Plateau Central Zone, comprising Bokkos, Mangu, Pankshin, Kanke and Kanam local governments had met to choose which of the councils should produce Useni’s running mate after the primaries.
It was at that forum they unanimously agreed that Mangu local government should produce the running mate, where the incumbent deputy governor, Professor Soni Tyoden comes from.
Mangu has the largest number of registered voters in Plateau Central Senatorial District. Mangu PDP supporters, youth, elders and party officials met, and over 70 people were said to have attended the crucial meeting.
According to sources at the meeting, five names were forwarded. They included Professor Shedrack Best, Benedict Shignugul (the current Central District PDP chairman), Barrister Caleb Mutwang (former PDP chairman for Mangu Council), Barrister Simon Barry (former Plateau ANPP chairman) and Engineer Danladi Mwantok.
The names were submitted to the party’s state working committee, headed by the state party chairman, Hon. Damishi Sango to nominate one of the five and submit to Useni as his running mate.
For about a month now, the working committee has met a brick wall, as the state party leadership is sharply divided. While some favoured Shignugul, others were against it.
The same week, the party went again in search of a running mate, and later submitted Dr. James Dalok’s name to become Useni’s running mate. Dalok, an accountant at the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) at the time of his nomination, hails from Mangun Ward in Mangu council.
When PDP stakeholders in Mangu met, it was decided that a nine-member committee be set up to query how the name of Dalok, who is not a card-carrying member of the party, found its way as a running mate through the backdoor.
It was at this juncture, it was gathered, that the faction against the nomination, presented a petition, addressed to the party leadership written by Mr. Dakas Dakas from Bwonpe state Ward in Mangu.
In the petition addressed to PDP Mangu chapter, they expressed dissatisfaction over the five names earlier brought forward, and instead recommended Hon. Moses Tangsan, Mr. Jerry Gushop, Dr. James Dalok and one other person for consideration as running mate. The petition was signed by Dakas and a Reverend.
The Guardian also gathered that PDP members in Mangu met and deliberated on the position of the party in the state, resolving that a petition be written against Sango, urging him to resign his position as the state party chairman.
Useni was also confronted at the party’s national secretariat, where they expressed their displeasure over the way the committee’s impartial involvement in the nomination of deputy governor without regard for PDP stakeholders in Mangu council.
When the nine-man committee met Useni in Abuja, they told him their desire was to win the 2019 election by choosing a popular candidate. The committee then forwarded the name of Barrister Ayuba Gufwan, because he had tested his popularity in the just concluded local government election in the state and won Mangu for PDP, though was denied, but that he still remains popular in spite of the denial.
However, a group in Mangu condemned and replied the petition asking Sango to resign, describing the five nominees as the ‘rejected five.’ Three people whose identities were not known signed the letter.
The five nominees, led by Best, also responded, saying the group should come out and show itself in Mangu, if it has any electoral value. To Best, the group was only hiding under non-existing name just to whip up public sentiment.
It was unclear how Useni managed the contentious situation, as the window for Dalok’s substitution lapsed yesterday.