JAMES ABRAHAM writes on the battle for the senatorial seat of Gyang Datong, who was killed in the heat of the Plateau crises, holding tomorrow.
Tomorrow, the People of Plateau North Senatorial District, which comprises of six local government areas of Jos North, Jos South, Bassa, Jos East, Barki Ladi and Riyom will go to the poll to elect their senator, who would complete the term of late Senator Gyang Datong, murdered during an attack by gunmen at a mass burial of terrorist victims of members of his constituency. But the question presently on the lips of the people of the zone with over one million registered voters is: who will succeed the late Dantong?
No doubt, tomorrow’s by-election is dicey given the array and calibre of the candidates battling to fill the slot, many of who have consistently raised the expectation of the people with campaign promises, in the past few weeks after getting the nods to fly their parties’ tickets Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has indicated its readiness for the election.
According to the electoral body, six political parties are contesting the senatorial seat.
They include the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), Action Congress of Nigeria (AC N), All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and Labour Party (LP).
At a recent meeting with stakeholders in Jos, the Plateau State capital, INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Habu Zarma said there was no going back on the October 6 date which the commission earlier said was tentative.
According to him, the election will be conducted in the six local governments of the zone which have 73 registration areas and 1,212 polling units.
Zarma added that all sensitive materials have been delivered and are being sorted out for distribution. He assured the people of the state that INEC will do its best to ensure that all election materials are delivered in good time and in the right quantity to ensure free, fair and peaceful election.
A top official from the commission informed National Mirror that a total of 1,055,903 registered voters are expected to vote during the election. The breakdown of the voters showed that Jos North has the highest number of registered voters with 427,856, while Jos East has the least with 52,492 registered voters.
Similarly, Riyom has 67,294; Jos South, 287,019; Barki Ladi, 102,555; and Bassa has 118,686 voters. On their part, the candidates, have been traversing every part of the senatorial zone in their bid to win the people’s support.
From the look of things, all is now set for the major gladiators to slug it out and given the prevailing circumstances prior and after the emergence of the candidates, there is no doubt that it will be a keenly contested battle.
This is more so as the opposition parties in the state appear to have failed in their bid to present a consensus candidate to wrestle power from the ruling PDP as they earlier promised .
The state chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Alhaji Yusuf Kanam has come out to say that the APGA candidate, Chris Giwa, is the opposition’s consensus candidate, but judging from the body language of other candidates, it is obvious that they are not in agreement with the CNPP’s position.
For instance, a former military administrator of Delta State, Col. John Dungs, who is contesting under the platform of the DPP has described the purported endorsement of the APGA candidate by the CNPP as “ridiculous and balderdash.”
Speaking with National Mirror in Jos, Dungs dissociated himself from any plans to step down for any candidate and urged the people not to be deceived or distracted by what he called “fraudulent activities of the CNPP in the election,” maintaining that he remains the candidate to beat.
This implies that all the candidates are going into the poll to test their popularity and many analysts believe that this stance by the opposition candidates would only end up strengthening the camp of the PDP.
In fact, going by the utterances of the major gladiators and stakeholders in the race, there are indications that it is one election that might leave Plateau devastated, if adequate security measures are not put in place by the government to forestall any eventuality. Security sources informed National Mirror in Jos, that perhaps, it is in recognition of this fact that the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Emmanuel Ayeni, who was on leave had to be recalled to the state to ensure that the exercise does not undermine his peace efforts in the past months.
During a stakeholders’ meeting in Jos on Wednesday, the police boss warned that his men would not tolerate any act that could lead to a breach of the peace in the state during the election.
As part of measures to ensure a hitchfree poll, the state police command has equally announced a ban on movement of people from midnight on the eve of the election till Saturday midnight, warning that anybody seen carrying offensive weapons such as knives, machetes, rifles, arrows, swords would be promptly arrested and prosecuted. He also warned underage voters to stay away from voting centres, as anyone caught would have himself to blame.
Ayeni said that peace in the state should be considered paramount by all stakeholders during the conduct of the poll and as such, all hands should be on deck to ensure that the long cherished peace in the state is sustained during and after the election. Even with a level playing ground being created in the run up to the poll, it is observed that Gyang Pwajok of the PDP remains a major contender in the election while his major challengers are Dungs (DPP); Giwa (APGA);
Yusufu Pam (ACN), Dr. Danladi Atu (ANPP) and Hon. Lumumba Dah Adeh (LP).
Gyang Pwajok (PDP)
The former Chief of Staff to Governor Jonah Jang is from Jos North Local Government Area, one of the two local governments in the zone that is yet to produce a senator. Apart from being the youngest of all the contestants, he was the first to declare his intention.
The former university teacher enjoys the support of Governor Jang and other PDP bigwigs. This came to the fore during the party’s primary, when he overwhelmingly defeated the former Deputy Senate President, John Wash Pam to emerge the party’s flag bearer.
The governor had also during one of the campaign outings in Barki Ladi Local Government Area, ordered the chairmen of the six local governments and other political appointees in the zone to deliver the PDP candidate during the poll or be sacked. Added to this was Pwajok’s intelligence and knowledge on issues affecting the state, which have also endeared him to the people.
But those who feel that he is from the same Du District as the governor and want power to shift to other districts have teamed up with the opposition to truncate his ambition. Besides, some PDP members, especially from Riyom, where the late Dantong comes from, who are still feeling short-changed for not being allowed by the party to choose Dantong’s successor may vote against his candidature.
Some have also accused him of not being accessible during his days in government .The fact that he is not the only candidate from his Berom ethnic group, who are dominant in four out of the six local government areas that make up the zone, means that he will share the votes with his other kinsmen.
Chris Giwa (APGA)
A philanthropist from Jos South and former chairman of the Plateau State Football Association, Giwa, is banking on the sympathy of the people to win the election, having contested the governorship election in 2011, but lost to the incumbent.
Though his party is relatively unknown in the state before now, his popularity among the people may work to his advantage. He is also counting on the Igbo, who may vote for him because of the reverence they have for the late leader of the party, Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu. Besides, his endorsement by the opposition CNPP may boost his chances.
But Giwa’s lack of a robust and aggres-coalisive campaign to sell his vision to the people, unlike what obtained during the 2011 governorship election may rob him of his ambition. Many have also pointed out that he might find it very difficult to make any headway, since many of his supporters in the ACN, his former party, have refused to join him in his new party. He is also considered inexperienced in some quarters, since he has never held any political position.
Yusufu Pam (ACN)
Barrister Yusuf Pam is a man to watch in the Plateau North senatorial election. He hails from Du district in Jos South Local Government Area. As a former Commissioner for Justice during the Joshua Dariye administration, a position he also occupied in 2004 during the emergency rule in the state, his rich political experience is not in doubt. Many believe he will bring his experience to bear if elected.
During the selection process, the way and manner he outstaged the former governorship aspirant, Giwa, to emerge the party’s flag bearer also portrays him as one who is ready to fight to finish. As a lawyer and activist, he has also left no one in doubt of his persuasive ability, which he has demonstrated throughout his campaign, but whether this will translate to electoral victory remains to be seen. Also, those championing for power shift from his Du district may not vote for him.
John Dungs (DPP)
The retired army officer and former Military Administrator of Delta State is another candidate to beat. From all indications, the former PDP chieftain is not leaving anything to chance in his determination to clinch the post. Dungs, who hails from Riyom Local Government Area, had earlier contested the seat under the same party in 2011 but lost to the late Senator Datong.
Coming from the same local government with the late Datong, those who believe that his successor should come from the same area as a compensation to the people will vote for him. He is also said to be a philanthropist and in touch with the grassroots. But having contested the seat and lost, some people have accused him of being desperate for power, a development which may threaten his ambition. Some also believe that as one who has seen it all when he was a military administrator, he should give others the chance to contribute their quota to the development of the state
Lumumba Dah Adeh (LP)
The former member of the Federal House of Representatives hails from Bassa LGA.
He may spring a surprise because of the popularity he enjoys in Jos North, the local government with the highest voters population, apart from the support he enjoys from his local government area and a few others. But the process that led to his emergence, against Danladi Atu, who was earlier chosen as the party’s candidate has polarised the LP. It has also pitched him against some notable party leaders like Senator Dariye, who it was learnt has threatened to withdraw his support, a development which many believe will definitely affect his chances. His financial muscle to prosecute the election may also be a restraint to achieving his goal.
Danladi Atu (ANPP)
The former chairman of Jos North Local Government Area is a close ally of former Governor Dariye, now a senator. He first emerged the LP flag bearer and afterward abandoned the party and pitched tent with the ANPP when it was clear that the party was bent on fielding another candidate. He is, no doubt, popular within the zone, but many accuse him of not reaching out to the people. The crisis that trailed his exit from the LP may also dwarf his chances at the poll. Except his posters which dot some streets of Jos and environs, it is not clear if he has other campaign strategies, like many other contestants in the race, fueling speculations that he is in the race just to fulfill all righteousness.