The recently conducted Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship primaries that held on 9th December, 2014 in Plateau State ended with lots of disagreements, accusations, arguments and counter arguments among the sixteen aspirants that contested to clinch the PDP gubernatorial ticket in the state.
Prior to the keenly contested primaries, the aspirants seemed to have been divided into two camps, with Gyang Pwajok, the winner of the primaries on one hand while Fidelis Tapgun, Victor Lar, Kemi Nshem, Dr. Haruna Dabin, Jimmy Cheto, Professor Sonny Tyoden, among others were on the other hand.
Pwajok, who is of Berom parentage, is from Plateau North senatorial district where the incumbent governor, Jonah David Jang, hails from. The other contenders, who belong to different ethnic groups in the state, are mostly from the Southern senatorial district who strongly believes that it is their time to lead the affairs of the state for another eight year since both the northern and central zones have ruled for eight year apiece. This division amongst the seekers of the seat has narrowed the fight between the northern and southern zones of the state, with the central zone on absolute solidarity with the south.
At the Ruwang Pam stadium, where the state governorship primaries held, confusion and walkout arguably marred the event. Prior the commencement of the exercise at the venue, aside Pwajok , all the remaining aspirants protested against the use of labels attached to each local government ballot box which according to them was a threat to the respective local government chairmen of the state and with few minutes to the end of the exercise, the aggrieved contestants who alleged foul play in the exercise, angrily walked out of the venue of the primaries, alleging that the process of the exercise had been manipulated to favour the candidate of the sitting governor, GNS Pwajok.
However, the bone of contention between the elected PDP governorship candidate who hails from Plateau North and the losers of the primaries who mainly hail from the southern senatorial district of the state has been the issue of zoning formula of the governorship seat in the state. This issue of zoning is yet another factor that undoubtedly tore apart the political class of the state, particularly within the PDP.
GNS has severally explained in his various speeches that leadership is bestowed by God and that zoning has no constitutional backup and therefore the process should be left open but for which according to the other aspirants was a violation of the agreed zoning formula that paved way for Governor Jang to lead the state from 2007 after Joshua Dariye had ruled previously for eight years, contending that the governorship seat must be shifted to another zone.
Before, during and after the primaries, the aggrieved aspirants and other party elders particularly from both Centeral and Southern zones of the state had bitterly complained in their several meetings about Governor Jang taking sides with his tribeman, GNS Pwajok, accusing Jang of being selfish. They claimed to have severally complained to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP about the alleged usurpation of their mandate by Jonah Jang by imposing his kinsman to clinch the party’s ticket. According to them, their cries were not responded to; threatening that if nothing is done to address the problem ahead of the February poll, despite Pwajok`s official recognition by the party NEC, the ruling party in the state may end up losing the 2015 general elections.
They kept emphasizing that for the purpose of peace and unity as well as to respect the gentlemen agreement subsisting, the governorship seat must be shifted to the Southern zone, saying that both the central and northern zones have ruled for eight years each and that this time, it is the turn of the southern zone to enjoy the leadership of the state, contending that the rest of the tribes would never be slaves to a particular tribe- referring to the Berom.
Eng. Jimmy Cheto who was a gubernatorial aspirant and hails from the southern zone in the concluded PDP primaries has recently declared that, “`the PDP in Plateau may lose 2015 general elections if the National Secretariat of the ruling party refuses to intervene on the matter. I do not believe that the citizens of Plateau State are slaves to one tribe. Right now as it stands my supporters are saying they would vote out PDP. GNS Pwajok did not win the election and so he is not our candidate. If somebody from Plateau south is nominated, we all support him. But if it is otherwise, it shall be well for the party.”
Shagaya, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from Plateau south has also shared same feelings with the other PDP aspirants who have contended the choice of a candidate from Plateau north. Expressing his dissatisfaction, Shagaya said, “Plateau State has 53 ethnic tribes, with their chiefdoms but the arrogant behavior of the sitting governor, who has determined to impose his cousin of the same tribe to be the governor, saying the Berom constitute about 40 percent of the population and therefore should continue to rule the state. “
In a continued struggle to fight the interest of the sitting governor, a group known as the PDP Equity and Justice Movement has also severally accused Jang of imposing his tribesman to create same violence that took place in 2008 crisis in Jos North local government poll which led to the killing of many people in the state. According to the chairman of the group, Professor Dakun Shun, who recently spoke to journalists on the matter, said, “It is politically annoying that that the state government is supporting someone that is from the same tribe and village with the governor. The history has never witnessed where the governor, the minister and all other key appointments come from same zones and tribe. We have tolerated him enough. We are not against governor Jang, but we stand up for justice. Jang should examine himself and not to blamed the elders. “
However, in responds to the allegation against Jang by some PDP elders, the governor has never come out personally and publicly to react against the accusation but severally had been quoted to have said God gives leadership to those he wishes and that whoever becomes the next Plateau governor even if it is his biological son, should be embraced as a will of God.
According to some political elites, the forthcoming governorship election in the state is going to be highly fractured along ethnic lines, adding that if Pwajok should win and also rule for eight years like the out-going governor, then the Beroms would be seen as dominating other tribes politically. However, the elites added that with the current political crises in Plateau, if both the central and Southern zones-constituting 11 local government areas out of 17 formed a formidable alliance and threw their weight behind the opposition party, the PDP would undoubtedly lose during the gubernatorial election, adding further that a good number of aggrieved PDP stakeholders are working secretly to ensure that PDP lose the election in the state.
But some pundits have argued that the PDP might still scale through despite the on-going crisis that has torn the party apart, saying that since the beginning of this dispensation from 1999 to date, the state has never supported the opposition party. However, with the glaring ethnicity and sectionalism that marred the current Plateau politics, a dominant question that makes the round has been that, can ethnic and sectional differences come into play in the 2015 general elections?