It is said that thunder does not strike twice in the same place. That age-long aphorism has been proved wrong on the Plateau. It is no longer news that all is not well between the Governor of Plateau state, the Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong, and the Minister representing the state, Barr. Solomon Dalong.
The two key figures in the state have some things in common: they are from the same senatorial zone. The similarity in their surnames is so striking that you will pass one for the other: Lalong and Dalong. What separates them is a thin tribal line. Lalong is from is a Goemai by tribe; Dalong is a Taroh. What is more, the two gladiators belong to the same political party, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Both of them are learned men to boot.
I have (since) been aware of the running battle between the duo but I did not know the extent of the feud until I came across the story about the efforts being made by the former deputy governor of the state, Mrs. Pauline Tallen, to get the two high profile politicians to sheathe their swords their tongues!
Mrs. Tallen has been shunting from pillar to post, attempting to wage peace between the governor and the Nigerian version of the late Argentine Marxist revolutionary and guerrilla leader, Ernesto Che Guevara, so called because of his (official) mode of dressing. In fact, I must confess here that at the early stage of Dalong’s emergence as the Minister of Youth Development and Sports, he got me a bit confused. Here is a man on the cusp of middle age but he has chosen to “disguise” as a youth ostensibly to appeal to the ministry he was appointed to.
Mrs. Tallen, while responding to questions on her mediatory role between the two political gladiators, said had made personal attempts to reconcile them.
These are the words of the peace maker: “I am still talking to them. I will never be tired as a mother in the state because it is unhealthy and it is uncalled for. We can’t all be governors at the same time and we can’t all be ministers at the same time. God has placed every one of us in a position that if we work together, we can help Plateau and the people.
“Once there is no peace or understanding between the governor and the minister, most of the things which we would have enjoyed at the federal level, we will miss them.”
The peace wager urged the seemingly immiscible duo to war no more and called on other well-meaning people of the state to ensure that there was absolute understanding between the two prominent sons of the Home of Peace (and Tourism).
The Lalong-Dalong feud is not the first thunder to strike on the Plateau. The thunderous showdown between Chief Joshua Chibi Dariye and Chief Damishi Sango, first occurred in the early 2000s when Dariye held sway as the executive governor, while Sango was the minister of sports. Like Lalong and Dalong, Dariye and Sango belonged to the ruling party at the time, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Like Dalong, Sango coveted the Government House in Jos. Their feud got to a crisis point when the convoys of the two gladiators clashed on the highway somewhere in the state. I can’t remember the exact location.
Dariye’s security details flexed their muscle because they were the ones in power. Sango’s men counter-flexed their own muscle because as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the battle ground was a federal road and as such, Dariye’s convoy should show some respect for the owner of the highway. It was such a shameful spectacle. Thank God, Sango did not live up to his name in Yoruba (the god of thunder). He would have annihilated Dariye and his recalcitrant convoy with lightning without any trace. Believe me!
What is currently playing out in Plateau state is, therefore, not strange at all. It is public knowledge that Dalong nursed the ambition to become the governor of the state in 2015. But he failed in his bid. So, like Sango, he chose the path of war. And as Mrs. Tallen put it, “most of the things which we would have enjoyed at the federal level, we will miss them.”
She is absolutely on point here. Plateau state has accounted for three of the eight or so sports ministers the nation has had since the return of democratic governance in 1999. But owing to unhealthy rivalry between them and their governors, there has not been any federal impact on sports in the state. The only sports minister who was not combative with his governor was the late Mark Ishaya who was killed in a plane crash in 2004 or thereabouts. This was because Ishaya was not a professional politician.
Do you know that Plateau state is home to the proposed but long-abandoned High Altitude Training Centre located at Kuru?
The site was acquired by the defunct National Sports Commission (NSC) way back in the early 70s for which compensation was paid. Guess how much… wait for it: one million naira! But that was good money in those days when the annual budget of the commission once stood at N3.6m! If the warring sports ministers were to be interested in the development of the state rather than being power-drunk, they would have used their good offices to breathe life into that project long before now.
I have written several articles elsewhere urging the federal government to save the Kuru dream because of the benefits it holds for the country. By now, the centre would have produced middle and long distance runners capable of shaming East African racers. I would be surprised if Sango and Dalong know about the existence of that project that would have turned the nation’s athletics fortunes around, with Plateau runners in the forefront.
There is another federal government sports complex located somewhere in Rayfield, near Jos. I can’t even tell you anything about that multi-million naira facility now. And I would be shocked if Dalong can volunteer any information about it as you are reading this piece.
Everyone knows that Dalong has not perished the thought of becoming the next governor of Plateau state just as his kinsman, Senator Jeremiah Timbut Husseini, an apostle of not-too-old-to-run, is also eyeing the seat in 2019. But I think Jerry Boy or JB should be gunning for something higher than the office of the governor. Having been the governor of the defunct Bendel state, transport minister, minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and de facto second in command to the late maximum ruler, General Sani Abacha, JB should be coveting Buhari’s seat instead.
As for Dalong, it is understandable if he is so desperate. If he does not actualise his dream in 2019, it would take another 20 years before the gubernatorial pendulum would swing back to his Plateau Southern Senatorial Zone. This is because Plateau Central would be the next to rule for eight years, followed by another eight years of Plateau North. By then, our own Che Guevara might be too old to run again!